Think On These Things
This week, the elders were supposed to go to Louisville, KY for the Together for the Gospel conference, but obviously, Coronavirus kept this from happening. Instead, we gathered (minus Jim Eagle who was having surgery on his eye) at the church to watch the live streamed version of the conference. It was good, and I have a lot of thoughts as a result that will likely make their way into future posts, but something came to me over that time, mostly unrelated to the conference itself and more related to the nature of our "attending" this conference together: we tend to become like those we spend time with.
I found, and have always found, that spending a lot of time with the other elders, or with Aaron Jones, or with other church friends tends to make me think more about church things. Our conversations just naturally dwell on the things of God. And specifically with Ron and Jared during this conference, my mind dwelt on theological topics, and we often talked about such things over lunch or between sessions. To generalize this observation, my thinking tends to reflect the group of people that I'm with.
You're probably thinking at this point that I'm driving toward the "bad company corrupts good morals" platitude, or perhaps toward Jesus's parable about food, found in Matthew 15:17-18: "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart and those defile the man." Certainly, those are applications derived from this observation, but I'm not even necessarily talking about purity (or lack thereof) in speech and action. When I am at work (and I feel lucky to count my coworkers as friends), I think primarily of work related things, of programming and foosball. When I am with athletic friends, I think about soccer. When I am with musical friends, I think about guitar. No, what am I driving at is fellowship. We need one another in order to be the best versions of ourselves! So while "bad company corrupts good morals" is true, I would phrase my observation as "neutral company neutralizes Christ-centric thinking." If you've ever wondered how to achieve, in any practical way, what Paul encourages in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things," then let me assure you that the first step is to surround yourself with other Christians. And not just any Christians, but those who are striving after Christ, to be more like Him and to be known by Him.
Our small group has a long running joke that we "like to throw parties for ourselves," and while it may seem frivolous to get together just to enjoy being together (as opposed to other small group activities like prayer and Scripture study), it is an essential part of Spiritual maturity because our likemindedness drives us to introspection. In short, I'm saying, "Spend more time with the people that cause you to think about Christ!" Of course, this is a difficult time for that kind of challenge because we're not supposed to gather at all right now, but be creative! Find ways to fellowship with one another. Call your brothers and sisters and just have a conversation. If we are going to keep the cross at the center of our thinking, we need each other to inspire our thinking, to focus our distraction, and to challenge our natural self-oriented reflection.