When I was growing up, most people thought of me as a good kid, but that could not always be said of the friends I chose to spend time with. I remember my mother saying, “Maybe he’ll be a good influence on them.”
You know what though? It never actually happened that way. Any perceived goodness in me never seemed to rub off on anyone else. Instead, their bad habits always rubbed off on me.
I have heard a lot of theories through my life on why this happens. Yet, I have come to believe something radically different than all those theories. I have come to believe what the Bible say about my nature.
In Ephesians 2:3c, Paul wrote that we “…were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” There are many other verses that talk about our “old” nature, or our “sinful” nature.
Let me boil it all down for you like this: Your nature, in one way or another, is what determines most of the choices you make. Here is an example: If you were to place a tossed salad and a raw steak in front of a lion, his nature will always cause him to choose the meat. The same is true with humans.
It is true that your nature is not the only factor involved in the choices you make, but it is your predisposition. Think of it as the direction you naturally lean; and therefore the direction you are most likely to fall.
Now here is what the Bible teaches about your nature. From birth, you have inherited from Adam, a nature that leans toward sin. You may want to do what is right, but you will always tend to go the other direction, unless something prevents you.
Imagine you are an alcoholic, and you want to quit because it is hurting your family, your job, etc. However, everything in you loves the taste of it. You love the way it makes you feel. If there were no drawbacks, you would not even hesitate to drink, because you love it. No matter how much effort you put into it, you will have a difficult time not drinking if someone puts a glass in front of you. You might be able to resist, but your nature is pulling at you hard.
This is not only true for alcoholics – all sin is this way. We are all born with a sinful nature. In fact it is the only nature we have, until we are born again. When we are born again, God gives us a new nature. This new nature longs to honor God, more that the old nature longs to sin.
This is what Paul was describing in Romans 7:15-25. He describes this new nature pulling him on to please God; and his old sinful nature pulling him back toward sin. Paul describes it as a war; and so it is.
Now here is what I would like to talk to you about. What happens when you put together a person who only has the one old sinful nature with a person who has been born again, having now two natures? Who will affect whom?
The person with only a sinful nature, short of being born again, will always tend toward choosing sin. That is his nature. Therefore you cannot expect to influence him for good, unless he receives the new birth. So the primary contact point between a saved person and a lost person should be to share the Gospel, in the hopes that he will be born again.
Now let’s look at it from the other angle. How could the lost person affect a saved person when they hang out? Well, since the saved person still has an old nature, the lost person can influence him toward sin.
I want you to really understand what I am saying here. If you are saved, and you have lost friends, you need to understand that your righteousness will never rub off on them. It is opposed to the only nature they have; which is sinful nature. However, your lost friends absolutely will tend to rub off on you, because you do still have a sinful nature.
The obvious conclusion to this is that we should not be hanging around with unrepentant sinners. Some will say that Jesus hung out with sinners. Yes, but He commanded them to repent. The ones who refused to repent left Him. So Jesus hung out only with sinners who had repented of their sins.
As a side note, true lasting repentance can only happen when someone is born again; because that is when they get a new nature.
This very well could mean that some of us need to make some difficult decisions about the company we keep.
How about You? Are you putting yourself in a dangerous situation that can only result in tempting you to sin by hanging out with unrepentant sinners?
If so, I’ll give you some profound advice – Stop it! (Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.)