In this series of Dad’s Corners, we have been discussing a question a brother recently asked me concerning how to raise children who will not condemn worldly friends and won’t be drawn to their worldly lifestyles. If you haven’t read the previous Corners I would recommend you do so before reading this one.
We have already seen that Scripture teaches that there isn’t any way for our children to have worldly friends and not be affected by them. “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25). This verse deals strictly with the angry aspect of worldliness, but we have seen how all types of worldly friends will have the same effect. The closer a child’s heart is drawn to worldly friends, the more he will be changed by them. Therefore, it is dangerous to the souls of our children to have worldly friends.
The family that doesn’t believe worldly friends, Christian or unbeliever, will influence their children is headed for a rude awakening as evidenced by the e-mails we receive from families who are in the midst of just such a crisis situation. They will describe problems they are having with a child who wants to quit homeschooling, make worldly choices, or follow a worldly lifestyle. When we ask about the influences in the life of the youth, we will be told of a worldly friend. The justification the parents give for allowing the friendship in the first place is often that they didn’t want to offend the neighbor family to whom the child belongs.
However, parents should ask themselves if losing their child is worth the possibility of reaching the neighbor? I believe that Proverbs 27:12 has the answer. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.” There will be other ways to share Christ with a neighbor that won’t involve compromising the spiritual direction of our children’s lives.
In our quest to help our children choose not to have worldly friends, our example will be very important. If we have worldly friends, our children will also be drawn to those same kinds of friends. I am defining a friend as someone with whom you spend significant amounts of time. The book of Jude gives us an exhortation and pattern for our interactions with those of the world, and it doesn’t involve friendship. Let’s study it so that we can learn from its instruction.
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3,4). Those who are worldly and want to be our friends do not come up and identify themselves as being worldly or ungodly. They are as dangerous to us as they would be to our children because they can deceitfully pull our hearts away from the Lord Jesus by drawing us to their worldliness and ungodliness. The exhortations in Jude’s epistle apply as much to us today as they did when Jude first penned them.
What is the tool a worldly friend uses against a believer? He uses the same one that has been used through the ages. “You’re free in Christ. Go ahead. It’s okay.” The first steps of compromise may be small, but soon bigger ones will be offered, all under the cloak of “grace will cover it.” Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-17, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”
Looking at a man’s fruit and what he promotes is a good way to discern whether he will be a friend that walks after the Spirit or after the flesh. If he is after the Spirit, following his example will lead us to a walk that is holy, without blemish, and a denial of fleshly pleasures. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Worldly friends will not lead us down a path of self-denial but one of gratifying the flesh, lasciviousness, and worldly pleasure. Yet the walk of a believer is to be the opposite. “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12).
In Matthew 7:16, which was quoted above, Jesus said we don’t gather grapes (good fruit) from thorns. In Luke 8:14, Jesus tells us what the thorns of this world are. “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” The cares, riches, and pleasures of this life are the fun things that many believers are chasing today, perhaps because this is what their worldly friends are pursuing. It is probably no wonder then that there is little real spiritual fruit being produced from these lives. I find it deeply saddening that the pursuit of fun and pleasure is a “high place” today within the professing church. We now live in a pagan nation while the professing church has lost its savor as salt because of the pursuit of fun. (Side note: is it any wonder that youth groups and all their fun activities have not produced real dynamic fruit?)
As we lead our children away from worldly friends, we need to set the example for them. We want to evaluate the fruit in the lives of those with whom we spend time. Are they drawing us closer to the Savior or away from Him toward fun and entertainment? I want to conclude this series next month by finishing our look into Jude for direction in our interactions with those who are worldly.