I wish I could say that I can follow God on my own, but I cannot. I have realized that my best days are meager, and I need something more to keep me consistent. I need others.
In Psalm 1, the Psalmist describes a consistent follower of God. He wrote, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Ps. 1:1). We all want to be like the blessed man. We want God to throw good stuff our way. It is interesting to know that the Psalmist explicitly shows a progression to follow for a person to remove himself from the promised blessings of God.
1. Walk with Wicked.
The first step in the progression is someone who begins to walk in the counsel of the wicked. It doesn’t say that the person is necessarily wicked; the Psalmist simply claims that they are listening to the advice of people far from God. Have you personally witnessed that subtle shift? When a person seeks out advice from people who are far from God versus seeking godly counsel, he is well on his way. relationship in which that person has chosen to indulge is clearly taking him down a specific path.
2. Stand with Sinners.
The second step down the path of dangerous relationships finds someone who is now standing in the way of sinners. This person is no longer just walking beside people who do bad things; he has slowed down completely to a stop. He doesn’t merely pass them on the road anymore; he is spending long periods of time with people who knowingly sin against a Holy God.
3. Sit with Scoffers.
The final step is the most dangerous of all. In this step, we find the person now sitting down in the seat of scoffers. A scoffer is one who mocks or shows no respect to a certain something. It is implied here that this scoffer is one who absolutely shows no respect to God. Our example is no longer just walking beside someone who does evil things; he is no longer standing with people who are characterized by sin; now he is comfortably sitting down with people who mock God and the biblical commands he once followed so closely. The progression is subtle yet deadly, and all steps occurred in the confines of relationships. This scenario is seen often when a Christian starts hanging out with people who don’t esteem Jesus, and then they start traveling down a slippery slope.
That character is the antithesis to the blessed man spoken of in Psalm 1. The blessed man is one who delights in the law of the LORD, thinking about God’s Word all day and all night (Ps. 1:2). The Psalmist even characterizes this man as similar to a “tree planted by streams of water” (Ps. 1:3). A tree will either flourish or fade depending upon its physical proximity and access to a sufficient water supply. The blessed man, the one who is faithful to God, knows that he has to be careful about who or what he allows to speak into his life. People who do not supremely value God cannot influence him, but God himself must influence this man.
The people closest people to you must be closest to God.
Many people walk away from the faith not because they aren’t close enough to God but because they are too close to people who neglect God without having the support of those who follow after him. No one who honestly loves Christ desires such an ending, but in the context of unhealthy friendships, so many find themselves in a place they never intended to be – far from God. The number one reason was that they allowed the people closest to them to be people who were far from God themselves.
If you love God, that’s wonderful, but you also need others around you to support you on those difficult days.
Reach out to those who are far from God, but have your closest group be those who are very near to God.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.