Thomas Brooks helps us recognize when negative influence of wicked people and ungodly friends is too great for us to bear may draw us into sin.
This conclusion to chapter 2 of Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices is the briefest description of all these 12 devices of Satan. It is also one of the shortest segments. But Thomas Brooks still has many valuable tools left to share in his arsenal of weapons against our enemy.
“To choose wicked company, to keep wicked society. And oh! the horrid impieties and wickedness that Satan has drawn men to sin— by moving them to sit and associate themselves with vain people.”
Business guru Jim Rohn believes you are either like or will become like your five closest friends. This is debatable, of course, given that Mr. Rohn is not an expert in sociology or psychology. But negative influence of peers on individual behaviors and choices is observable anywhere you choose to pay attention. Positive influence is equally powerful, of course.
We who are parents know intuitively that the kinds of friends our children choose will affect them. We immediately know when trouble walks through the door in the form of a suspicious new acquaintance. Our kids’ futures depend on their exhibiting wisdom in this area of life. Lacking wisdom, it’s up to us to guide them.
We Christians must be salt and light to the world. We must be in and not of the world as we proclaim the gospel. But we also must discern when it is time to walk away from certain people for whom our message is nothing but bitterness and gall.
Remedy 1: Replace negative influence with truth
Brooks tells us to “dwell until your hearts are affected upon those commands of God.” It’s an interesting turn of phrase, a concept we don’t often grasp today.
Christians in Thomas Brooks’ day took time to drink long and deep from the fountain of God’s Word. They thought about it, considered it, ruminated on it. That word, “ruminate,” is what a cow does when she has had her fill of grass. She lies down, relaxes, and focuses her energies on digestion.
Take all the Scriptures Brooks provides here regarding avoiding wicked people. Use the cross references in your Bible to locate more. Read them. Then read them again. Take time to stop and consider them. Let their meanings and weight sink into you, to become part of you.
Eventually, as with any other Scripture, you’ll find them melding indelibly with your heart, affecting your decisions and actions.
As you encounter persons who openly mock God and his Word, who trample on his truths, who cast aside his wisdom, you’ll then find your heart longing for the company of your spiritual family.
Remedy 2: Avoid infection
Brooks’ story about the apostle John and the heretic, Cerinthus, lacks a particular detail. John fled naked from the public bath where Cerinthus entered, rather than be infected by the waters that touched the man.
Today we understand this to be an overreaction. But from a spiritual standpoint, we should rather be thought fools by the world than to keep company with wickedness.
Have you ever walked out on a sermon in full sight of everyone because the preacher was peddling bad doctrine? Shunned the company of even Christian friends when their joking becomes coarse and vulgar? Turned down a good-paying job because you knew the employees there would tempt you toward sin?
These are the sorts of decisions a mature Christian is willing to make for the sake of his or her own spiritual health.
Remedy 3: Remember Nabal’s name
Brooks does not mince words in describing the wicked. The point, though, is that is the Bible that does not mince words. Brooks merely lists the names Scripture uses to describe those who hate God and his laws.
It may seem especially harsh to refer to anyone in such terms, no matter how bad they are. After all, doesn’t God desire that all would come to repentance and faith? Doesn’t he extend his mercy to anyone who would run to him and lay hold of Christ by faith?
Of course. But Nabal and those like him would spit in the face of Christ, would openly mock God’s mercy. We’re not taking about your garden-variety sinner. We’re looking at the person who would willingly commit the unpardonable sin of attributing the works of Satan to that of God’s Son.
A national negative influence
A common skeptical argument against the Bible is how cruelly God appears to treat large groups of people. One thinks of the Canaanites, whom the Lord instructed the Israelites to wipe out utterly, not sparing even a woman or child. How could God call for genocide?
Turn back to Genesis, to the place where God places Abraham under a deep sleep as he recites the terms of the covenant he will make with his servant. The Lord explains it is this land his future descendants, Israel, will inherit according to God’s promise. But Abraham cannot yet have the land. This is because the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its fullness.
This means when Israel conquered its promised land, the Amorites had progressed to such a degree of wickedness that they deserved destruction. God’s judgment of annihilation was just and sound. Such a horrific level of evil is unthinkable. And yet, Scripture makes clear this is what took place.
“As Nabal’s name was, so was his nature.” What does this mean? Nabal was a Calebite who encountered King David and his men in the land of Carmel. David had just lost his beloved prophet, Samuel, the man who had anointed him as king. In his mourning, he sent men to ask Nabal to provide food from his sheep for a feast.
But Nabal behaved wickedly, heaping scorn upon David’s men and refusing their request. This man mocked the “root of Jesse,” the anointed king of the Lord. He was a fool.
And that is the meaning of Nabal: “The fool.”
It is the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.”
“Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse?”
“Who is this Christ? Who is this who calls himself the Son of God? The king of the Jews?”
The fool who mocks and rejects the Root of Jesse will not stand. He will be judged rightly for his wickedness. Thomas Brooks urges you not to keep company with such a person.
Remedy 4: Take your emotional temperature
Christianity is not a religion based on emotion, but on knowledge. And yet there are times when our feelings can be good barometers of spiritual health.
Answer honestly: How do you feel when you are in the company of people who mock and reject Jesus? What happens in your heart when you are forced to listen to the talk of those who could be categorized as wicked? Do you get that knot in your stomach, that restlessness, that longing for peace?
A pastor I know has been witnessing and conversing for many years with a friend who is an atheist. At some point in life, a church did something that deeply hurt this person. The response was to flee as far from God and Christianity as possible.
Then this person experienced a traumatic life event that resulted in close friends abandoning her. My pastor-friend and his wife were two of the only people that stood by with love and comfort.
The atheist friend sent them a message saying she had left a social media group dedicated to atheism, where members delightedly mocked Christ and Christians. This person could no longer stomach that kind of disrespect, the hatred, the vile reveling in wickedness.
That is the beginning of wisdom. It may be the first spark of heavenly light shining into years of darkness.
If an atheist can see such wickedness for what it is, shouldn’t we?