When I was in college, a professor made a statement that stuck with me. He told our class that the greatest shaping influences for the next ten year of our lives would be the books we read and the friends we associated with. I have found this to be largely accurate. Of course, we might have to update this proverb to include the podcasts you listen to, Twitter personalities you follow, YouTube channels you subscribe to, etc. Regardless, the point stands that we are significantly shaped by the voices we allow into our hearts and minds.
Whom we admire, we imitate.
Take note of how the the book of Psalms opens. Psalm 1:1 (ESV):
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…
Do you want to live a good life? Certainly! God desires that for you as well. And so God gives us foundational wisdom here at the opening of his book of Psalms. He tells us what makes for a blessed life and what doesn’t. Let’s just focus on verse 1 in this post, and learn what to avoid.
The Psalmist tells us what to avoid: ungodly influence. A blessed person guards themselves against the influence of wicked people. The truly happy person doesn’t follow the advice of the wicked. He is not a companion with sinners, following their ways. He hasn’t joined in the ranks of those who live contrary to God’s Word and mock God’s people.
Do you want to live a blessed life? Start here.
The idea isn’t to avoid having any relationships with unbelievers. God’s common grace grants even unbelievers great knowledge that benefits anyone. We can learn from anybody about a number of topics, like public speaking, how to properly frame a wall, auto repair, healthy eating and exercise habits, music theory, etc. We would be foolish not to benefit from practical wisdom of God’s common grace in such areas.
What we’re concerned with are the voices that shape your worldview and values. Whose lifestyle do you admire? Who do you think of as wise and who do you go to for advice? Now ask yourself: do their words, attitudes, beliefs, and actions reflect the wisdom of God? We must discern carefully whom we listen to and whom we imitate. This will affect the decisions you make, and thus the course of your life. Bad influences contribute to bad decisions. We are already sinful, so we don’t need any more help making bad choices!
Unfortunately, I’ve encountered plenty of Christians who made terrible choices they regretted for no good reason. I have also seen some people who simply began to drift away into error and lose faith. Time and again I’ve asked them: Who are you listening to? The answer to that question usually reveals a lot.
Who are your shaping influences? Are they aligned with God’s Word and wisdom? Do yourself a favor, for the sake of your own holiness and happiness, and carefully discern the voices that are speaking into your life. Cut out ungodly influences. Blessing begins there.