I’ve been attending church gatherings one to three times a week since I was in 5th grade, with exception to the 2-year hiatus in college when I deceptively thought drugs and alcohol were an accurate depiction of a good time.
Over the course of the 18 years since 5th grade, I’ve been frequently warned how bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33), and that we need to be cautious. We must “guard” our heart (Prov. 4:23). “Casey, you wouldn’t have wasted those two years if you’d been surrounding yourself with good company.” They said. It’s as though we’re supposed to get close enough to reveal the goodness of God through a life lived, but not so close that those “wicked people out there rub off on you.”
Paul exhorted the believers in Ephesus to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). He instructed the church in Corinth to follow him inasmuch as he followed Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1). In John 20:21 Jesus told His followers, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Jesus didn’t avoid “bad company.” He didn’t separate Himself from the kids His mother warned Him about.
I can hear it now, “But Casey, look at what happened. You surrounded yourself with bad company and you got corrupted. You’re not Jesus, Casey.”
Well, you’re half right.
I’m not Jesus, but I do bear His image and nature. My spirit is one with His Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Because of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, I am a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:22, 2 Cor. 5:21), perfect (Heb. 10:14), holy and blameless (Col. 1:22), complete (Col. 2:10), forgiven of all sin (Col. 2:13, Heb. 8:12), accepted (Rom. 15:7), and a masterpiece (Eph. 2:10). Everything that is true of Him is true of me (1 John 4:17).
The disconnect is in the fact I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know who I was. No one taught me my identity as a son of God. No one told me how strong He is in me, and that all my sin was removed from me once and for all. No one taught me that I didn’t have to sin—in fact, no one told me that sin isn’t supposed to be normative for new creations and that walking in righteousness, joy, peace, self-control, and purity are the normal characteristics of a new creation.
What was the problem?
“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, for that is what I was sent to do.”
Jesus, Luke 4:43
This may be a surprise to you, but Jesus and His disciples never preached the gospel of salvation; they preached the gospel of the kingdom. One of those gospels gives you a purpose, a plan, and eternity while the other gives you an admission ticket. Jesus brings up the kingdom of God 124 times in the Four Witnesses (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
When we preach the gospel of salvation, we greatly narrow the message Jesus preached. Is the message of salvation important? Absolutely! Jesus came so that we could experience salvation, but that isn’t all He offered. Jesus offered transformation. In fact, when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray in Matthew 6, He revealed that it was God’s desire not to destroy everything and make it anew, but to transform it. This is what is meant by, “Your will be done, Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
I believe the gospel of salvation reveals your value, whereas the gospel of the kingdom reveals your value and your purpose. What’s more is that purpose is built upon identity. I didn’t know who I was and as a result, I didn’t know why I was on the planet. When you don’t know your purpose you’re destined to drift and squander (cf. the prodigal son).
Jesus is our big brother and He set a great example for us. Since Jesus never lived as though He were more than a mere man, and since He said we would do greater things than He did, it’s safe to say that Jesus is our standard and the measuring stick we’re to stand beside (Phil. 2:6-8, John 14:12). I believe a change is taking place in the American church. I believe we’re beginning to wake up and see the potential we’ve been missing.
Jesus was the light of the world and He thought it would be a good idea to play tag with it, and He tagged you! In Matthew 5:14 Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden.” Paul said in Philippians 2:15 that we “shine like lights in the world.”
We shine a bright light, but we don’t always know it. When you walk into a dark room, do you turn a light on or do you turn the darkness down? When you turn on the light, how often do you see the shadows creeping up to cover some of the light? What if we lived knowing that we’re the light and that when we walk into a room darkness has to flee? What would happen if we lived like we knew that better than we know the back of our hand?
To close, I find it interesting how Paul replies to the quote “bad company corrupts good character.” Paul states, “Sober up as you should, and stop sinning! For some have no knowledge of God…” (1 Cor. 15:34). I think it’s clear the Corinthian church themselves didn’t have some of God’s knowledge pertaining to their identity. They were hiding in their homes and “playing church” rather than stepping out their doors and getting on with it. I’d like to present a different paradigm to you today: The new creation transforms the corrupt company. Ponder the meaning of this: a little yeast affects the whole batch (hint: you’re the yeast).
You’re a world changer.
You’re the light of the world.
Friend, if you’ve not yet experienced the new life Jesus offers, if you find yourself resembling more of a thermometer than a thermostat, then ask Jesus to show you who He is. It is only when we see Him rightly that we can ever begin to see ourselves as He made us.