1 Corinthians 15:33,34 “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’ Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”
When I first read this I thought Paul was referring to crooks and street thugs. Imagine my surprise when I came to realize that this was directed right at regular ‘church goers’! Evil company – in the church! How can that be?
The Forerunner commentary states: “This well-known proverb is strategically placed in the Resurrection Chapter. In verse 32, Paul reminds the Greek Corinthians of an example of the perverse, immoral morass that they left compared to the liberating and ennobling calling God has so graciously given them. He then verbally punches them in the nose by telling them the company that they keep is destroying them, meaning they are gradually reabsorbing the attitudes and culture of the surrounding world.” Some churches are toxic and hazardous to the spiritual health of its members!
One extreme of religious toxicity is when a church becomes cult-like closing off from the outside world and worshipping its ‘prophet’ not Jesus. So much damage is done within such an unholy assembly. These depraved fellowships share a characteristic with another widespread emerging mainstream perversion of Christian fellowship -the ‘market driven’ or ‘seeker sensitive’ church in that the Gospel is distorted. Market driven churches do just as much damage but in a different way.
Gary E. Gilley in his analysis of how market driven or seeker sensitive approaches distort the Gospel writes; “The premise of all marketing is that the consumer must be pleased; he must be kept happy; he must be given what he needs, or has been programmed to think he needs, if we are to succeed. . . . , the gospel message, altered and distorted in the process? Listen to these words by Wells, ‘The fact is that while we may be able to market the church, we cannot market Christ, the gospel, Christian character, or meaning in life. The church can offer handy childcare to weary parents, intellectual stimulation to the restless video generation, a feeling of family to the lonely and dispossessed — and, indeed, lots of people come to churches for these reasons. But neither Christ nor his truth can be marketed by appealing to consumer interest, because the premise of all marketing is that the consumer’s need is sovereign, that the customer is always right and this is precisely what the gospel insists cannot be the case’ (Wells, p. 82).”
Cults sink a malignant tap root right into the heart of its recruits sucking the life out of them. Market driven churches bathe their members in an eroding fake gospel that sickens from the outside in. Both are expressions of spiritual pathologies that damage the souls of those ensnared.The former pathology is internal – destroying from the inside and the latter works its way into the inner heart through externals first – poison absorbed through the skin! Both methods will kill a person just as spiritually dead as the other.
The Forerunner commentary concludes; “The world’s influences are, for the most part, subtle rather than overt. Being familiar to human nature, we find them easy to fall into or return to. What is the problem with the world? Its ruler, Satan, has designed it to lead people to live only for themselves. Therefore, we must fight and resist its attraction, which influences our hearts, because so much is at stake!” We all must resist the world and its influences upon us. We can’t look to a cult leader or a celebrity pastor of a ‘market driven’ church to defend out souls.
The Bible tells us; “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.…” (Philippians 2:2,13) Only God’s Holy Spirit can do the work in us with our permission. Be very careful about who you let into your heart and what ‘gospel’ you put your faith in!
Paul concludes, as all honest preachers do, by waking us up to Jesus Christ; “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:57,58)
And what is the work of the Lord? Jesus tells us; “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29)