I love how the very first Psalm plainly spells out the point that there are two paths to choose in this life:
- Follow God in obedience, His way, and prosper; or
- Join the way of the sinners, which leads to destruction.
The choice seems easy. I want to live a life that matters, that makes a difference, that bears fruit & leaves that never wither. The path that leads to this life is simple…follow God in obedience to His way.
God’s command is to delight in His law, meditate on it day and night, and to avoid the ways of the wicked (ungodly), sinners (choose to commit sin against God), and mockers (scorners, who openly mock and scorn the Lord). (see verse 1)
In Psalm 119:115, David says, “Away from me, you evildoers that I may keep the commands of my God!”
And yet, if you’re like me sometimes, you might find yourself continuing to fraternize with folks who have chosen NOT to follow God, to commit sins against God, and who even openly scorn and mock Him and those who follow Him.
It’s hard to let people go, isn’t it? Even when we know it’s for the best. It’s hard to untangle ourselves from the world and the worldly (those who love the world). We think it means we are “unloving” or “unkind”. I’ve even used the excuse of telling myself, “But God may want to use you to speak to them on His behalf, Teronya! You can’t just disengage – that would be ill-mannered, and “un-Christian”!”
It’s funny how the World loves to tell Christ-followers what is and isn’t “Christian”. But who do you listen to in order to discern this? The World and the Worldly, or God Himself as He speaks to us through His Word?
The past several years I found myself clinging to a lot of people with whom I had become associated through shared interests and/or work. Long after it became clear that I didn’t really have much in common with them beyond our particular shared pastime or work or passion, I didn’t want to let them go, even when it became painfully clear that associating with them was leading me into some very dark places, emotionally and spiritually.
To be honest, I was also afraid of what they would think of me, and I was afraid that others would think me “unkind”, “unloving”, or “un-Christian” for letting go. I also admit that I vainly believed that God wanted (or maybe I even thought “needed”?) to use me to get through to them and show them the way to Christ.
It finally became very evident to me that I was unable to affect them on behalf of Christ. In fact, God clearly showed me that He was able to use and speak through Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22) much more effectively than I was being used!
When I realized that I was the one being affected by the world, rather than the other way around, I also realized that God was granting me freedom from associating with them. And so I let them go.
And yes, it was very painful. And yes, I felt like a failure – for a time.
But then God showed me that He had a different purpose for me, and that if these people need to be reached and could be reached, it is never out of HIS reach to do so. He would do it, even if He had to use a donkey!
As for me, letting go has been pure freedom! New life! God is moving me beyond this and into a new way of “prospering”, away from the path of “destruction” I was on.
“…do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers…” (Psalm 1:1)
“Away from me, you evildoers that I may keep the commands of my God!” – Psalm 119:115
Those who resolve to keep the commandments of God must have no society with evil-doers, because bad company is a tremendous hindrance to a holy life. We must not choose wicked people for our companions, and we should not be intimate with them. We must not do as they do nor do as they would have us do.
This does NOT mean we don’t love them, don’t care for them, and don’t pray for them. In fact – we MUST do those things. However, we must not continue down the dark path it could lead us on if we become too close, too entangled.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. – Ephesians 5:11
“We must have no fellowship with sin nor sinners. Sinful works are works of darkness: they come from the darkness of ignorance, they seek the darkness of concealment, and they lead to the darkness of hell. These works of darkness are unfruitful works; there is nothing got by them in the long run, whatever profit is pretended by sin, it will by no means balance the loss; for it issues in the utter ruin and destruction of the impenitent sinner. We must therefore have no fellowship with these unfruitful works; as we must not practise them ourselves, so we must not countenance others in the practice of them. There are many ways of our being accessary to the sins of others, by commendation, counsel, consent, or concealment. And, if we share with others in their sin, we must expect to share with them in their plagues. Nay, if we thus have fellowship with them, we shall be in the utmost danger of acting as they do ere long. But, rather than have fellowship with them, we must reprove them, implying that if we do not reprove the sins of others we have fellowship with them. We must prudently and in our places witness against the sins of others, and endeavour to convince them of their sinfulness, when we can do it seasonably and pertinently, in our words; but especially by the holiness of our lives, and a religious conversation. Reprove their sins by abounding in the contrary duties.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
Which path have you chosen? Which way do you choose daily? Choose your path, and your traveling companions, wisely.
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
4 But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
5 They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
6 For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.
(New Living Translation (NLT))