************ Sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:33 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 14, 2015

Proverbs 13:20; 17:17; 27:17; Eccl 4:9-12; John 15:9-17
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:33
"Choose Friends Carefully"

Loneliness is a growing problem in our society. A study by the American Council of Life Insurance reported that the most lonely group in America are college students. That's surprising! Next on the list are divorced people, welfare recipients, single mothers, rural students, housewives, and the elderly.
Charles Swindoll mentioned an ad in a Kansas newspaper. It read, "I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without comment for $5.00." Swindoll said, "Sounds like a hoax, doesn't it? But the person was serious. Did anybody call? You bet. It wasn't long before this individual was receiving 10 to 20 calls a day. The pain of loneliness was so sharp that some were willing to try anything for a half hour of companionship."

I remember reading an article a few years back on arranged marriages. No, I am not talking about India, Egypt, Pakistan, or other foreign lands. I am talking about in the United States. There is a company that specializes in finding a mate for harried, isolated, stressed executives who claim they can't find the time to start a relationship.

According to the Bible, everyone needs a friend. That's why it tells us that "Two are better than one" (Eccl 4:9). Everyone needs to love and be loved. Everyone needs someone to watch over their soul. We all need someone who doubles our joy and divides our grief. We all need someone who understands our silence. We all need someone who comes in when the whole world has gone out. As the saying puts it, "No man is an island."

We all need friends. But we also need the right kind of friends. You see, not just anyone will do. That's the point of our text: "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor 15:33). In other words, bad friends lead to bad character. But the opposite is also true: Good friends lead to good character. Says Proverbs 13:20, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." If you have the right kind of friends, you will become a better person, a person of wisdom. But if you have the wrong kind of friends, it will cause your ruin and destruction.

Think, for a moment, what this means. This means the kind of friends you have can tell you something about your future. To foretell the future, people today use things like psychic hotlines, horoscopes, crystal balls, tea leaves, and palm-reading. We don't believe in such nonsense, of course. But to a certain extent you can tell your future just by taking a hard look at your friends.

The words of our text form a proverb. Now, you need to know something about proverbs. You need to know that proverbs are not promises. God does not promise that every teenager with the right kind of friends will turn out okay. Nor, does God threaten that every young married couple with the wrong kind of friends will have their marriage end up in divorce. Proverbs, rather, are general observations on life. A proverb says something that is generally true; but it may not be true for any and every situation. With this in mind let's take a closer look at what the Bible teaches us this evening.

I Get Other Friends
A "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor 15:33). Take a hard look at your friends. If your friends are leading you to wreck your life you need to get other friends. That's what the Bible is saying to us.

Let's say you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. You are not going to break free from this problem if you keep hanging around with others who drink too much or use drugs. So I say to you, get other friends, people who don't get drunk and don't use drugs.

Let's say you are head over heels in debt because you want to keep up with your friends. When they get a new car, you get a new car. When they buy a computer, you buy a computer. When they redo their living room, you redo your living room. When they purchase a boat, you purchase a boat. When they take expensive trips or go for weekends to the hotel, you take expensive trips or go for weekends to the hotel. When they get the newest iPhone you get the newest iPhone. If you are caught in a trap like that, the only advice I can give to you is this: get other friends. Get other friends, friends who are not materialistic, friends who accept you for who you are rather than for what you have.

Let's say your faith life and prayer life and church attendance are not what they should be. If you hang around with people who do not pray and do not go to church, people who make fun of God or never think about Him, your faith life and prayer life and church attendance cannot improve; in fact, they can only get worse. To improve your level of spirituality you need to get other friends, people who love the Lord Jesus and read the Bible and faithfully attend both worship services.

Let's say you have a problem with bad language or pornography or telling dirty jokes and stories. If you are buddies with people who do the same sort of thing, you can only be dragged further and further down the sewer. In such a situation you need other friends, people who don't use bad language, people who talk respectfully about the opposite sex, people who never use pornography.

B I want to ask you to take a close look at the kind of people you hang around with. I want to ask you to take a close look at your friends. Tell me, are you a companion of fools whose company is leading you into harm and is corrupting your character, or are you friends with the wise whose company is good for your soul and spirit?

I have always loved the words of Psalm 1 here. I quoted them this morning. But listen again to these words of the psalmist:
(Ps 1:1-2) Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
According to the psalmist, that man is blessed who avoids bad companions and makes the law of the Lord his companion.

What kind of people do you pick to be friends with? Boys and girls, are your friends kids who obey their parents and teachers? Or, do you pick friends who talk bad about their parents, their teachers, and all other grownups? Young People and Young Adults, are your friends people who study hard and stay out of trouble? Or do you pick friends who get drunk every weekend? Do you pick as friends members of youth group or do you choose those who hang around in vacant parking lots? Do your friends encourage you to do Bible reading and prayer or do they introduce you to sex and drugs and alcohol? And grownups, are your friends focused on God and His kingdom and His righteousness, or do they emphasize big houses, lavish decorations, and expensive vacations?

Don't forget what our text says to us: "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor 15:33). This means that if your friends are not the right kind of friends, you need to get other friends.

C What is true of friendship in general, is especially true of romantic friendship. If you date or marry a godly person -- like I did -- you will grow wise. If you date or marry a fool, you will suffer great harm. Words cannot describe the grief and misery that usually results when a Christian marries a non-Christian. While dating, the unbeliever is often willing to go to church. But things change right after the wedding. Then the unbeliever becomes angry if you ask them to go to church and accuse you of nagging. Then they become angry because you always seem to go to church. To keep them happy you stop attending the second service, no longer teach Sunday School, quit the choir, and no longer give any money to the church -- this actually happened to someone in one of the churches I served. You started your marriage with prayer and Bible reading at the supper table but pretty soon you find yourself praying and reading by yourself and then you find you rarely or never do it anymore. The children go to church with you when they are small, but as they get older they give you trouble and want to stay home with the other parent and you have nothing to say. Do you see what happens? "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor 15:33).

Some of you might recognize a prayer that my records say I quoted 15 years ago. It is a prayer of a bride on her wedding day:
"Dear God. I can hardly believe that this is my wedding day. I know I haven't been able to spend much time with You lately, with all the rush of getting ready for today, and I'm sorry. I guess, too, that I feel a little guilty when I try to pray about all this, since Larry still isn't a Christian. But oh, Father, I love him so much, what else can I do? I just couldn't give him up. Oh, You must save him, some way, somehow.
You know how much I've prayed for him, and the way we've discussed the gospel together. I've tried not to appear too religious, I know, but that's because I didn't want to scare him off. Yet he isn't antagonistic and I can't understand why he hasn't responded. Oh, if he only were a Christian.
Dear Father, please bless our marriage. I don't want to disobey You, but I do love him and I want to be his wife, so please be with us and please don't spoil my wedding day."
That sounds like a sincere, earnest prayer, does it not? But if it is stripped of its fine, pious language, it is really saying something like this:
"Dear Father, I don't want to disobey You, but I must have my own way at all costs. For I love what You do not love, and I want what You do not want. So please be a good God and deny Yourself, and move off Your throne, and let me take over. If You don't like this, then all I ask is that You bite Your tongue and say or do nothing that will spoil my plans, but let me enjoy myself."
How do you think God answers a prayer like this? Most people who choose an unbeliever to be their spouse know they cannot expect God to bless them or to give them an enjoyable experience. In fact, it usually leads to their ruin. Because, "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor 15:33).

II How to Choose Friends
A To make a point, I am going to offer an exaggeration. To a certain extent, it is fair to say there are two places in our society where we can look for friends. We can look for friends outside of the church, or we can look for friends in the church.

The first place is outside of the church. I think of places like the bar, Facebook, and blogs. In the view of the world, these places are the best places one can go to meet the desire for fellowship and companionship that God has given to us. They all are permissive, accepting, color-blind, and inclusive when it comes to fellowship. They are unshockable. They are democratic. The bar and Facebook and blogs flourish because people need other people, because people want friendship and companionship. Of course, what the bar and Facebook and blogs offer are counterfeit. It isn't real friendship, it isn't real concern, it isn't real love, but it is close enough to the real thing that many people settle for this counterfeit.

The second place to look for friends is in the church. Not that long ago I read about a woman who, on the advice of her doctor, had gone to see a pastor to talk about joining the church. She had recently undergone a facelift and when her doctor dismissed her, he gave her this advice:
"My dear, I have done an extraordinary job on your face, as you can see in the mirror. I have charged you a great deal of money and you were happy to pay it. But I want to give you some free advice. Find a group of people who love God and who will love you enough to help you deal with all the negative emotions inside of you. If you don't you'll be back in my office in a very short time with your face in far worse shape than before."
This doctor knew something about the church: he knew the church is the best place to find friends who love you and care for you.

B When it comes to friendship, getting involved in the church isn't an option; it is a necessity. If you want to choose the right friends, then you need to choose among those who are friends of Jesus. I think of the stance taken by the psalmist: "I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts" (Ps 119:63). The psalmist made a point of looking for Christians, for believers, to be his friends.

Why? Why does the psalmist look for believing friends? I am sure the psalmist knew the truth of our text: "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor 15:33). But he also knew the most important relationship in life is a relationship with God and with Christ. So, let me ask you, where are you most likely to meet God: in the bar or in the church, in a beer tent or in a youth group meeting, on Facebook or at a Bible study?

C I want to end by asking if Jesus is your friend? Are you a friend of Jesus? Is Jesus your friend?

Jesus shows us the true measure of friendship. He says,
(Jn 15:13) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
If you believe in Jesus, He has laid down His life for you and He is your friend. He has laid down His life for your sins and your guilt. He has taken your place on the cross. He has borne your iniquities and your shame.

Jesus is the most important friend anyone can have. Can any of us find a friend so faithful and true as the Lord?

"Bad company corrupts good character." According to this proverb, your friends can either help you or hurt you. They can either help you and encourage you in your relationship with Jesus, or they can lead you away from Jesus. So I ask you again, what kind of people do you pick as your friends? But above all, are you friends of Jesus?
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