We learn by observation, association, and influence. And we tend to assume the habits of those with whom we have regular close fellowship.
In his book, Spiritual Leadership, Oswald Sanders made the statement that the person you are five years from now will be determined by the kind of books you read, and by the friends you entertain.
Paul mentioned this principle in 1 Corinthians 15:33 (Amplified), Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.
None of us are immune from acquiring the habits and mannerisms of our close friends. The key is to find godly friends who can sharpen you!
On the other hand, Jesus was the friend of sinners. He ate with the hypocritical Pharisees, and with the most despised of his day. We should never isolate ourselves from others just to be godly. Rather, we should insulate ourselves on the inside from the effects of sin and unbelief by staying full of the Word by staying filled with the Spirit!
Lot vexed his righteous soul from day to day by hearing and seeing the deeds of the wicked Sodomites. It cost him everything but the clothes on his back! King Saul was enraged with a desire to harm David, but began to prophecy when he hung around the prophets of God! Never underestimate the power of associations!
Here’s the balance I’ve found in my life. I’ll fellowship with anyone. But I draw the line when I hear or see compromise with the world or the flesh. If someone I’m talking to (who is a believer) says something off color or does something that is blatantly wrong, I won’t stand back silently. I will lovingly confront what I’ve seen or heard. And I’ll challenge the person about their behavior. If they continue, well, that fellowship time just ended! I hold a believer to a higher standard. Sinners are going to sin, that’s just what they do. And we need to carefully and lovingly use wisdom as we let our light shine.
We need the influence of godliness in our lives daily! I believe that’s the reason we’re encouraged to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as believers. We need the atmosphere of faith, love, and holiness we find when we’re together. Make sure you attend services at your local church, and make sure you fellowship with folk regularly who will stir you up in God!
What kind of character will you have five years from now?