friends taking picture for selfie

“Peer pressure is the influence that a peer group, observers or individual exerts that encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform the group norms.”[1] In some ways, this could be for the better if the group had good attitudes, values, or behaviors that molded you into a better person. However, many times it is the other way around, a person is molded into taking on bad attitudes, values, or behaviors. First, you are responsible for what you say and do, as well as the values that you hold, no one can make you do anything. If the values of a group or a friend are outside of your biblical worldview, you should avoid associating altogether.

THE OUTSIDERIt is your human weaknesses and naturally bad desires that make bad associations look appealing. We as imperfect humans are born sinners (Rom. 5:12), we are mentally bent toward evil (Gen. 6:5; 8:21), our inner person is deceitful above all things, and is desperately sick. (Jer. 17:9-10) When we give into our desires toward wrong thinking, values, or behaviors, we become a slave to our desires.

Like many things in life, peer pressure can be avoided to a degree, but it cannot be eliminated entirely. You simply must be prepared for the moment you are moved to do wrong or be a part of a wrong crowd and listen to your biblically trained conscience telling you to flee. We need to be determined to obey the Father at all times. (John 8:28-29) The important thing here is, knowing what your values are and your being committed to upholding them. Think of a few pressures that you face daily, and then consider the best way to avoid them. Do not be pressured by others, know what is right. (Col. 3:5) Go to the Father in prayer in order to be steadfast in your resolution to remain faithful. – Matthew 6:13.

Loneliness can push you into the path of peer pressure because you are desperate for friends. You give into peer pressure because you want someone, anyone as a friend. You just want someone to like you. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey.” (Rom. 6:16) Peer pressure has the capacity to make good people do bad things. Individuals with bad moral character can ruin the lives of those with good moral character. Many times we know something is wrong, but we are so engulfed with the seeking of another’s approval we ignore our Christian conscience, the moral compass that God gave us. (Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14-15) We “are judged on the basis of the law in [our] heart and conscience.”[2]

You may have not considered this, but peer pressure can be you pressuring yourself. Even the apostle felt the pressure. He wrote of himself, “I find then the law in me that when I want to do right, that evil is present in me. For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man, but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and taking me captive in the law of sin which is in my members. (Rom. 7:21-23) What did Paul mean? “7:21–23. Here Paul uses the law motif to illustrate from another angle the conflict he experiences. Two laws are mentioned: the law of my mind (his desire to obey God’s law), and the law of sin (that which wars against the law of his mind). He states a principle by which these two laws conflict with one another: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me. All of us can identify with the apostle’s succinct summary of the spiritual experience.”[3] Many times the pressure will come from you, as you desire the things your friends are talking about, they make the imperfect physical, emotional and mental side of you excited.

Initially, it may seem like facing up to peer pressure was the wrong thing to do but in time, you will be proud of yourself, which will help you to feel better about yourself. The apostle Peter speaks to us about “having a good conscience.” (1 Pet. 3:16) This is an ongoing battle for the mind and heart that may get easier over time, but it will never go away until the second coming of Christ.

Approach to Dealing with Peer Pressure

The next time you feel pressured, ask yourself what the consequences of giving into the pressure are. How will you feel about yourself? How will you parents feel if they were to know? How would your peers view you? The apostle Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God is not to be mocked, for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) What did Paul mean? Anders writes, “Mocked means “to turn up one’s nose” or “treat with contempt.” One who turns up his nose at God and sneers at him doesn’t change this immutable “law of the harvest.” Disregarding God’s counsel, we will always suffer. Each of us by our thoughts, attitudes, and actions is constantly planting for a future reaping. Time may pass before the crop ripens, but the harvest is inevitable. Consider the harvest!”[4]

If you are to overcome peer pressure from either your own desires or that of others, you must strengthen your convictions. Think of the word or deed that you about commit, what makes it so wrong, how will it impact my life, for the better or for, the worse. Paul tells us, “But solid food belongs to the mature, to those who through practice have their discernment trained to distinguish between good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14) What did Paul mean?

5:14. Babies must have milk. Their stomachs have not yet adjusted to the digestion required of solid food. Mature adults need the varied nutrition which solid food gives.

The readers of Hebrews were compared to babies who needed to learn again the elementary truths of God’s Word. These truths involved the basic teachings of the gospel, particularly as seen in the Old Testament. The readers did not know and understand these truths because they had not applied themselves to them. The solution to this dilemma lay in developing their spiritual senses through practice.

The training they needed involved a steady application of spiritual discipline. Spiritual maturity would not develop primarily from a sudden burst of insight. It would come from dogged usage of spiritual resources.

God has given believers faculties to make spiritual judgments and to develop understanding. God gives Christians training in understanding (Heb. 12:11) so that it can produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).

Christians are able to distinguish between good and evil. The terms good and evil may have both a moral sense and a theological sense. Christians are those who can spot moral evil and avoid it. They can see moral good and attach themselves to it. Christians also can distinguish between true and false doctrine. They will turn aside from the false and faithfully follow the true. Living the Christian life demands the spiritual skills of stamina seen physically in a long-distance runner. Unswerving, relentless applications of Christian truth and practice will equip us for a lifetime of usefulness which will continue into eternity.[5]

Just how important is your Christian identity to you? What kind of Christian are you seeking to be? One that is blown to and fro by every desire, whose faith is weak, or one whose choices are governed by as biblical conscience. First, it is best to always pause and consider the pressure. Second, when considering each pressure, what type of Christian would carry out such a thing?

2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail to meet the test?

When was the last time that we truly took a good look at ourselves? How did we feel about what we saw? When we ponder over our personality, what are we actually projecting to others? Most of us are very complicated people when it comes to our thoughts, feeling and beliefs so it might be difficult to lock down what kind of personality that we have. As a man, are we faithful like Abraham one moment and then blown back and forth like doubting Thomas the next? As a female, are we submissive like Sarah when we are in public and then like domineering Jezebel in private? As a Christian, are we devoted and energetic for the truth on Christian meeting days and then loving the world like Demas[6] the other days out of the week? As a Christian, have we entirely taken off the old person with its practices and clothed ourselves with the new person? – Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:20-24.

Some women are known to spend much time every morning, ‘putting on their face,’ as it is commonly expressed. So much so, it has been often joked about, and men know not to interfere until the project is over. However, truth be told, men are very much concerned with how they look when going out into public. Thus, all of us are conscious of whether our hair is out of place, if we have a pimple or a cold sore, or if there is something about us that is unkempt, ruffled, scruffy, or messy. We want to look our best. What we may have not considered is, our personality is always showing as well. The deeper question though is “are we putting on our personality to cover over before we go out in public while our real personality is on display in private?” Is what the public sees, who we really are? Does our true personality bring honor to God?

A man walking the roads of the countryside in a small European country comes to a fork in the road. He is uncertain as to which way he should go. Therefore, he asks several who are passing by for directions, but some told him to take the left fork, and others said to make the right. After receiving contradictory information, he simply did not know what to do, how was he to go on, without knowing for certain which path led to the destination. He was unable to move on until he knew what the right path was. Having doubts about our faith, our walk with God, his Word can influence us similarly. It can actually cause severe emotional turmoil as we go about our Christian life.

There was a similar situation on the first-century Corinthian congregation. Some known as “super-apostles” were actually taking the apostle Paul to task, as to Paul’s walk with God, saying, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” (2 Cor. 10:7-12; 11:5-6, ESV) Certainly, we can see how a Christian in that congregation could wonder if they were truly walking with God when the apostle Paul himself was being called into question.

Paul founded the Corinthian congregation in about 50 C.E.[7] on his second missionary journey. “When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’ And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:5-11, ESV) The apostle Paul was deeply interested in the spiritual well-being of the brothers and sisters in Corinth. Moreover, the Corinthian Christians were interested in their spiritual welfare as well, so they wrote Paul for his counsel on certain matters. (1 Cor. 7:1-40) Therefore, Paul, under inspiration offered them inspired counsel in what would be his second letter to them.

“Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you unless indeed you fail to meet the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5) If these brothers in the days of having Paul found their congregation, who spent sixteen months under the guidance of the greatest, inspired Christian, needed to self-examine themselves, how much more should we need to do so, as we are 2,000-years removed? If these brothers followed this advice to examine themselves, it would have offered them direction on how to walk with God and let them know if they were on the right path.

Remember, Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21) In other words, not every Christian was going to enter into the kingdom, even though they felt that they were walking with God. Jesus spoke of their mindset in the next verse, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” (Matt. 7:22) Yes, these ones, who felt that they were walking with God, on that day they were supposing that they were truly Christian, were in for a rude awakening. What is Jesus going to say to these ones, “And then will I declare to them, ‘And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:23) What were and are these ones lacking?

Jesus said they were not doing the will of the Father, even though they believed they were. Notice that in 98 C.E., the apostle John, the last surviving apostle, in one of his letters offered that same warning too. He wrote, “The world is passing away, and its lusts; but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Thus, we can see the wisdom of the apostle Paul’s counsel to ‘Keep testing ourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining ourselves!’ Thus, the next question is, what do we need to do to follow this advice? How does one test whether or not they are in the faith? In addition, what does it mean to ‘keep examining ourselves after we have tested ourselves?

Keep Testing Yourselves

In a test, there is an examination of a person or an object to find something out, e.g. whether it is functioning properly or not. In this test, there must be a standard by which the person or object is measured. For example, the “normal” human body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Therefore, if we were testing our temperature, it would be measured against the normal body temperature. Anything above or below that would be considered high or low. Another example is the normal resting heart rate for adults, which ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. However, our test in this publication is to see if we are truly Christian. However, what we are looking for when we ‘test ourselves, to see if we are in the faith,’ is not the faith, that is the basic Bible doctrines. In our test, we are the subject. What we are testing is, if we are truly walking with God. If we are to test our walk as a Christian, we need to have a perfect standard. Our perfect standard by which to measure ourselves is,

Psalm 19:7-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The law of Jehovah is perfect,
restoring the soul;
the testimony of Jehovah is sure,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of Jehovah are right,
rejoicing the heart;

Yes, the Word of God, the Bible is the standard by which we can measure our walk with God. On this, the author of Hebrews wrote, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) Thus, we must test our walk with God by examining our life course as outlined by Scripture, to find his favor, to be in an approved standing, to be declared righteous before him. Herein, each of the twenty chapters will have a text that they will be built around, a text that defines what we should be in the eyes of God. For example, several times Jesus says ‘if we are doing __________, we are truly his disciples.’ Well, the objective would be to discover what all is involved in doing __________.

Keep Examining Yourselves

The phrase keep examining yourselves is self-explanatory, but it involves a self-examination. We may have been a Christian for a number of years, but how many times have we had a spiritual checkup. Every six months we are to go in for a dental cleaning and unless there is a problem, we should get a health screening once a year. The problem with our spirituality is it is far more susceptible to injury than we are physically. The author of Hebrews warns us, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (2:1) One chapter later, we are told, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (3:12-13) This same author warns us about falling away (6:6), becoming sluggish (6:12), and growing weary or fainthearted (12:25).

Why would this be the case? If we are saved, why is it necessary that we keep examining ourselves? Why would we still be susceptible to bad behaviors to the point of drifting away, to the point of having an unbelieving heart, falling away, becoming sluggish, growing weary or fainthearted?

There are four reasons. (1) First and foremost, we have inherited sin, which means that we are missing the mark of perfection. (2) In addition, our environment can condition us into the bad thinking and behavior. (3) We have our human weaknesses, which include inborn tendencies that we naturally lean toward evil, leading us into bad behaviors. (4) Moreover, there is the world of Satan and his demons that cater to these human weaknesses, which also leads us down the path of bad thinking and behaviors. After our self-examination, what is needed if we are to overcome any bad thinking or behaviors and how are we to avoid developing them in the future? We will offer more on this in each chapter as well as two appendices at the end, but we offer this for now. It is paramount that we fully understand what all is involved in our human imperfection and never believe that we are so strong spiritually that we would never fall away, slow down, or becoming sluggish in our walk with God.

Obviously, this should be of the greatest concern to each one of us. We may be a person of good character, and believe that in any situation, we will make the right decisions. However, the moment that innocent appearing situation arises, we are plagued with the inner desire toward wrong. We need to address more than what our friends, or our workmates or our spouse may see. We need to look into our inner self, in the hopes of determining, who we really are, and what do we need to do to have a good heart (i.e., inner person).

As we know, we could not function with half a heart. However, we can function, albeit dysfunctional, with a heart that is divided. Yes, we have things outside of us that can contribute to bad thinking, which if left unchecked will lead to bad behavior, but we also have some things within. The apostle Paul bewailed about himself, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:19-20) This is because all of us are mentally bent toward the doing of wrong, instead of the doing of good. (Gen 6:5; 8:21; Rom 5:12; Eph. 4:20-24; Col 3:5-11) Jeremiah the prophet informs us of the condition of our heart (our inner person), “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” These factors contribute to our being more vulnerable to the worldly desires and the weak human flesh than we may have thought. One needs to understand just how bad human imperfection is before they can fully implement the right Christian Living Skills.

Returning to the book of Hebrews, we are told, “solid food belongs to the mature, to those who through practice have their discernment trained to distinguish between good and evil.” (5:14) We will have evidence that we are one of the mature ones by training ourselves to make a distinction between good and evil. We likely believe that we are already spiritually mature, which may very well be the case. Nevertheless, we are told by Paul to carry out this self-examination and to keep on examining ourselves, to remain that way, and even to improve upon what we currently have by way of maturity. Just as a man or woman in a marathon must continually train their muscles to surpass others in the sport, our discernment (perception) needs to be trained through regularly and rightly applying the Word of God. Throughout this publication, we will apply the inspired words of James, Jesus’ half-brother.

James 1:22-25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face[8] in a mirror.

24 for he looks at himself and goes away, and immediately forgets what sort of man he was. 25 But he that looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, being no hearer who forgets but a doer of a work, he will be blessed in his doing.

 When we are inundated in the Word of God, it serves as the voice of God, telling us the way in which to walk. Think beyond your present situation. If you are in school, in a short time, you will be in another stage in your life, and those you were trying to please will not even be in your life.

COMING SOON

THE OUTSIDER

[1] Peer Pressure (August 13, 2017) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_pressure

[2] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 81.

[3] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 231.

[4] Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 79.

[5] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 96–97.

[6] A “fellow worker” with Paul at Rome (Col. 4:14; Philem. 24), who eventually, “in love with this present world,” forsook the apostle and left for Thessalonica (2 Tim. 4:10). No other particulars are given concerning him. (ISBE, Volume 1, Page 918)

[7] B.C.E. means “before the Common Era,” which is more accurate than B.C. (“before Christ”). C.E. denotes “Common Era,” often called A.D., for anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord.”

[8] Lit the face of his birth