I remember a video we watched when our daughter was young. The little boy snuck out of the house and went to see a prohibited movie. When his deceit was discovered, his father reminded him, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
Today, I’d like to think about three things that really matter.
First of all, IT MATTERS WHAT WE READ. It goes without saying that Christians ought to read God’s Word. As we begin to add selections to our reading diet, wisdom is needed. At the far end of the spectrum are choices that most believers would shun as ungodly – pornography, romance novels, and books that depict violence or foul language. But what do we have between the Bible and the base? The possibilities are endless, since “of making many books there is no end” (Eccles. 12:12). Add to the menu the vast amount of media available in the twenty-first century. With our phone in hand, we have access to the words of the world. These words will do one of two things – they will either point us to the truth of God’s Word, the only source of truth and the only safe place to stand, or they will draw us away from that truth.
The most dangerous words are those which have the appearance of truth. We must discern if the words we read are aligned with truth, whether they are in a book or on Facebook. They are not true because they are written by an expert; they are not true because they are written by a friend; they are not true even because they are written by a Christian. They are only true if they are aligned with the Word.
Yes, IT MATTERS WHAT WE READ. Because we are influenced by what we read, and we must be on our guard against opinions that set themselves up against God (2 Cor. 10:5).
Secondly, IT MATTERS WHO OUR FRIENDS ARE. Friends impact our lives. There is nothing generic about our relationships. As we spend time interacting with others, we learn what they think and what they value. We ask their opinions. We listen to them. And in today’s world, we can have hundreds of friends with a few simple clicks.
Need advice? Ask for help from friends on Facebook. But who are all of these people? Are they mature in the faith? Are they wise? Do they point us in the direction of the Bible or do they pull us away? Sometimes we unwisely seek the wrong counsel. Remember King Rehoboam, who “abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him” (1 Kings 12:8).
Yes, IT MATTERS WHO OUR FRIENDS ARE. Because one way or the other, we will be led by our friends, in our thinking and in our actions.
Finally, IT MATTERS WHERE WE GO TO CHURCH. It’s important to recognize the distinction between just going to a church and going to the right church. What are the marks of a true church? They are the faithful preaching and hearing of God’s Word; the rightful administration of the sacraments, and the proper exercise of church discipline. You can read more about these in Barry York’s book, Hitting the Marks: Restoring the Essential Identity of the Church. In the introduction, Barry reminds us that peripheral things can become core issues, and “in the process, the activities of the church become more valued than its essential nature” (p. XX).
For many, a church is similar to a book club, an online gaming group, or a sports league. You have a similar interest, and so you get together. Many choose a church because they like to hear a good message, sing good music, and be with friends. Such things could define any group. We must focus on what is truly important, because the church to which we connect ourselves will lead us somewhere. This week, my husband and I have been reading in 1 Kings 12 about Jeroboam, son of Nebat. In this chapter, we see that when it came to worship, Jeroboam led the people to the wrong place, on the wrong day, to worship in the wrong way. A true church will always lead us to Christ, our prophet, priest, and king.
Yes, IT MATTERS WHERE WE GO TO CHURCH. Because the church will shape our view of everything, and we must make sure it is hitting the marks.
Why are these three so important? While all of them are external to us, they influence who we are. They shape our thinking; they shape our affections; they shape our commitments. And we must remember, garbage in, garbage out.
Just as we go to farmer’s market to buy choice produce, so we must also choose wisely when it comes to our reading, our friends, and where we worship on the Lord’s Day, the market day of the soul.
May we all seek to read, befriend, and attend with the goal of God’s glory and our good, because ... IT MATTERS.