Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and has not stood in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is only in the Law of God; and in His Law he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water that brings forth its fruit in its seasons, and its leaf shall not wither, and all that he does shall be blessed. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For God knows the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
SIN: The greatest struggle and the greatest frustration in the life of the believer. The scriptures say we are more than conquerors. So why do we, so often, find ourselves the conquered…why do we find ourselves frustrated in our battle against sin. I believe the major source of our frustration is that despite the fact that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, despite the fact that Jesus makes available to us all the information necessary to successfully battle sin; we end up failing again and again. Even more frustrating is the fact that oftentimes it is the same sin that derails us, the same obstacle we keep stumbling over.
The truth is Jesus was and is the only sinless person in history. But though Christians will never be sinless…as we mature we should sin less. So, why do we continue to “fall in the mud”? What is it we are failing to grasp about sin’s power and our ability to combat it? I believe one of the problems may be our ignorance about sin’s progressive nature. Sin is very much like drugs in its effect on the average person. At first it seems harmless. The truth is it actually feels good…even euphoric. But the longer you engage in it the greater the hold it has on you. Until ultimately you become a slave to it…engaging in the worst kind of behavior to continue your relationship with it. One of the most insightful and profound teachings on the progressive nature of sin is found in the first Psalm. If we examine this Psalm closely I believe we may discover some of the basic truths behind how sin takes hold of the average person and the tools available to us to be victorious over it.
According to this scripture, there are three stages to a sinful life:
1. Walking in the counsel of the ungodly
2. Standing in the path of sinners
3. Sitting in the seat of the scornful
This clearly illustrates the progressive nature of sin: walking, standing and sitting. Likewise, the terms for the wicked are also progressive: ungodly, sinner and scornful (against God & His people).
First, walking in the counsel of the ungodly. One translation says: “…listening to evil advice.” When sin first enters our hearts it is as a passing acquaintance. There is no real relationship, no mutual commitment…we are just walking. The unwitting believer believes there is no real danger at this stage. In reality it is the most dangerous, because at this stage we often delude ourselves into believing that its no big deal…we have complete control, don’t we? The evil advice is being given but we can refuse to listen or walk away…”I can stop anytime I want to…I just don’t want to.” We fool ourselves into thinking we are in charge. This is Satan’s deception. It reminds me of a quote by Mark Twain about another addiction: “Quitting smoking is easy…I’ve done it dozens of times.” However, if we allow ourselves to listen…entertaining it and giving it a place in our spirit, it is more likely we will…
Second, stand in the path of sinners or as one translation puts it: “…follow sinners.” Now a relationship has begun. We are together now, sort of “hanging out”. We haven’t completely committed to this relationship but we have stopped “in the way”. We are standing, allowing ourselves to be identified with it. It is at this stage that we begin to believe that our actions aren’t that bad: “People are just being too religious…I’m better than most, after all.” Now you have moved your thinking from trying to be like Christ to comparing yourself with other Christians…not for the purpose of critically assessing yourself, but to puff yourself up in your own eyes. We should start walking the other way…refusing to follow. However, if we continue to “stand” we will undoubtedly…
Third, sit in the seat of the scornful or as another translation puts it: “join in sneering at God”. Now we have a mutual relationship. There is a deeper commitment to one another. A person sits to eat or fellowship. Sharing a meal in biblical times was the clearest way to denote friendship. Just as sitting or “hanging out” with people today denotes closeness. And who do we fellowship with? We fellowship with the scornful, those who are sneering at God. Now sin’s hold on us is complete…we have dove in headfirst. We have gone from wanting to be like Christ to criticizing and complaining about Him. We begin to say things like: “He asks too much…I’m entitled to a little fun in my life, aren’t I? After all I don’t want to be some kind of Holy Roller.” Our conversation has now become negative, our “company” is negative and now we sit with our negative “friend” and sneer and pass judgment on God and His people. We don’t even bother comparing ourselves with other Christians. It’s all about us now: “I deserve to be happy, don’t I?” “It’s my life, isn’t it?” Now all the rationalizations will begin with I, me and mine. In entertaining our new acquaintance as we “walked” and allowing ourselves to be identified with him by “standing”, we now claim friendship with him by “sitting”.
Yet, this scripture offers us hope as well. There is a two-fold remedy:
1. Delighting in the law of the Lord
2. Meditating on the law of the Lord
The righteous person finds his deepest enjoyment not in fellowship with the scornful or the sinner but in the things of God. And because it is his enjoyment, he literally finds himself “in joy” when he meditates upon these things. Meditate means “to mumble or speak to oneself”. Biblical meditation is basically giving yourself a sermon. You seek the truth, you find the truth and you teach yourself the truth until it becomes a part of who you are.
And what are the rewards? For the righteous: he is like a tree planted by water bearing fruit in its season and everything he does is blessed. In other words, he is constantly receiving what he needs and producing what is valuable. For the sinner: he is chaff. In other words, he is the least valuable part of the plant whose destiny is to be blown away by the wind.
The scriptures are clear: If you walk in the counsel of the wicked you will not walk with God, if you stand in the path of sinners you will not stand in the judgment (Jesus’ reward ceremony for believers) and if you sit with the scornful you will have no seat in the congregation (the family of God).
The final verse of this Psalm spells out the final reward: For the righteous, God knows your ways. This is the same word that is used in Genesis 4:1
"And Adam knew Eve his wife. And she conceived and bore Cain, and said; I have gotten a man from Jehovah."
When God “knows” you, it is a beautiful and intimate knowing. And for the wicked: he will perish.
The teaching is clear: If we entertain sin (walking), we will ultimately end up in fellowship with it (sitting). However, if we delight in the things of God, we will be “known” by Him. The choice is also clear: live a life of no value (chaff) or live a life of great value (fruit). And though there is punishment for sin, our Lord and King does not threaten us into obedience. As the Lover of our souls, He invites us in love with the promise to be “known” by Him.
So when Satan comes knocking with an invitation to sit at his table and dine with him, just tell him, “Sorry. I already made reservations to dine with someone else…