How to Have a Happy New Year (Ps. 1)Saying No to the Counsel of the Ungodly
Leslie Basham: You can’t defeat sin, so you might as well stop trying. Is that right?
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you believe that lie, why try? You’ll be defeated before you start. That is deadly counsel, that you cannot get victory over sin. That’s the counsel of the ungodly.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, January 4.
Nancy’s continuing in a series called, How to Have a Happy New Year.
Nancy: Well, here at the start of this new year, we’re talking about how to have a truly happy new year. To have a happy year is to have a blessed year.
We’re looking at Psalm 1 this week and next. In this psalm we see God’s prescription for blessedness—God’s prescription for happiness. I hope that you’re reading the psalm with us this week. It’s only six verses, although we’re managing to do eight or so programs on this short psalm.
I hope that you’re reading it with us; that you’re memorizing it; that you’re meditating on it. You have this week and all of next week, and what a great foundation to lay for the new year as we see God’s prescription for a happy new year, for a happy life, for a happy eternity found in this short psalm.
Now, in verses 1–3, which we’re looking at, we see the description of the righteous person. So let me read the first couple of verses of this psalm—Psalm 1:1–2:
Blessed is the man [happy is the man, or the woman] who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
So we see in the psalm the difference between walking in the counsel of the ungodly versus walking in the way of the righteous. How do I know which pathway I’m walking on? Am I walking in the counsel of the ungodly, or am I walking in the way of the righteous?
Well, the pathway that I’m on is seen in things such as:
- What are my desires?
- What are my appetites?
- What do I really enjoy?
- What is the inclination of my heart?
- What is the bent of my heart?
- What do I gravitate toward?
- What captures my attention and my affections?
Is it godly things, or is it ungodly things?
How I spend my money; how I use my time—these are indicators of which of these pathways I’m on.
What are my priorities? Am I choosing to build my life around eternal, godly priorities, or am I spending my time frittering away my life with things that don’t really matter, with things that, while not evil in and of themselves perhaps, are not cultivating in me a heart to love God more; instead, they’re helping me to love the world more and its system.
So I want us to go back to this subject we talked about yesterday—the counsel of the wicked, the way of thinking of the world. We said that the wicked is not just those who are egregiously, overtly wicked, but it’s those who are without worship. It’s those who live their lives in a way that is not centered around God. That’s what Scripture calls wicked. That’s the way of the ungodly.
This counsel of the wicked, let me say about that what someone said in a recent Revive Our Hearts interview, where they were talking about pornography. They said, “You don’t have to go looking for it. It will come to you.”
Well, that’s not only true of pornography, it’s true in general about the counsel of the wicked. You don’t have to go hunting it down. It will come hunting you down. The world, the flesh, the devil are three enemies that are constantly trying to pump into our system the counsel of the wicked. It’s like an IV. In little ways, and in big ways, day and night, they’re constantly trying to get us to think in the counsel of the ungodly.
And that counsel of the wicked, that ungodly way of thinking comes to us through a variety of sources, but I want to talk today about two sources of that ungodly counsel that are particularly powerful and particularly effective.
The first is people, people who influence us to think with the counsel of the ungodly. These can be friends, family members, co-workers, teachers, fellow students, celebrities, public figures—people. And that’s why the Scripture warns us so often about the kind of company that we keep, about the friends that we choose, about the people that we choose to spend a lot of time with.
Listen to these verses from the book of Proverbs:
Proverbs 1:15: "My son, [the father says to his son] do not walk [in the way with sinners]; hold back your foot from their paths." Be careful who you walk with.
Proverbs 4:14: "Do not enter the path of the wicked, do not walk in the way of the evil." Avoid it. Do not go on it. Turn away from it and pass on. Don’t walk with those who are on that pathway.
Proverbs 13:20: "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Choose your friends carefully.
First Corinthians 15:33 gives us the same idea: "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals.'"
The friends that you choose, the company that you keep determines to some extent the way that you live, your lifestyle. So who are your traveling companions in life? Who are you being influenced by? Who are your heroes? Who do you admire? Who do you follow on Twitter? What crowd do you hang out with at school?
And here’s an even more important question:
- Do the people that you gravitate toward, whether they’re famous people that you don’t know personally or the people that you build into your life and your closest friendships, do the people that you gravitate toward, do they love Jesus?
- Are they pursuing Him? Or are their hearts more inclined toward the world?
- Do they have a heart for the things of God? Or are they bent toward that which ungodly, that which is without worship?
So we have a host of people around us—family members, parents, siblings, people in church, friends—all of these people are dispensing counsel to us. They might not call it counsel. They might not hang out a shingle and say, “I’m a counselor.” But they’re giving counsel to us.
The fact is, we’re going to be surrounded by counsel, but we can choose who we surround ourselves with, who we spend the most time with, who are our closest and most influential friends.
So, people—that’s one of the ways, one of the sources that the counsel of the wicked can come into our lives, into our system. But here’s a second source of ungodly wisdom and counsel, and that is pop culture—not just people, but pop culture.
There’s so many things we could talk about in this category. I hardly know where to start, but let me just start.
Think about entertainment, the music you listen to, TV and movies and talk shows that you watch. These things are not innocuous. They are not harmless. They are either pulling you in a direction of wisdom and godly thinking, or they are pulling you into the pathway and the counsel of the ungodly.
Are you discerning about your entertainment? Are you making wise entertainment choices?
What you read—magazines, blogs, books—I’m amazed at the Christians I hear talking about some very ungodly reading material and how they’re being sucked in by it. They’re embracing it. They’re reading it. They’re enjoying it.
They’re not just reading it to find out what the counsel of the ungodly is so they can combat it, so they can deal with it, so they can help others who are dealing with it. They’re reading it because they love it. They enjoy it. I don’t get this.
This pop culture becomes a means of the counsel of the ungodly coming wholesale into our minds. It’s not just wicked things. It’s counsel that is not consistent with the Word of God.
I got an email from a friend recently who said,
I used to be the queen of self-help. I read my first self-help book at age fourteen. For years I devoured self-help books looking for secrets to power and prestige. Whenever I took their counsel and failed, I sank into depression, unable to move forward until the next self-help book came along.
Then when I surrendered my mind and heart to the Lord, I realized I didn’t need more self-help. What I desperately needed was God’s help. The problem with self-help is it’s all about self. God is left out of the picture. I found that self-help books can cultivate a spirit independent from God, and it certainly can lead to unbiblical thinking.
Here’s another means of pop culture which is everywhere today, and that has to do with the internet and social media—the web and Facebook, Twitter. These are tools that can help us know more of God’s ways and be more drawn into His counsel, but if we’re not discerning, if we’re not careful, if we’re not selective, we will have ungodly thinking pumping its way into our hearts and our homes by means of the Internet and social media.
This is something that has been a growing concern to me in just recent weeks and months as I’ve been meditating on this passage. I look around and I see teenagers that I know and love; I see families; I see marriages; I see women being sucked in, drawn in by ungodly counsel through means of the Internet.
I look at what they’re posting on Facebook. I look at what they’re re-tweeting, and I say, “Why are these believers so interested in this stuff? Why are they following this person? Why are they so enamored with this song or these lyrics or this superhero or this cult leader, so to speak, this actress or actor, or this musician, this singing group? Why are they so drawn in by this when the pathway it’s leading them into is not a godly pathway?”
- What’s influencing your thinking and your attitudes?
- Who is influencing your thinking and your attitudes?
- Where do you get your counsel? Dr. Phil? Ellen?
- What is shaping your thinking? Parenting magazines? Women’s magazines? Is it the latest New York Times’ best-selling novel that all the girls in your young-mommy group are enjoying and reading?
Are you just thoughtlessly, mindlessly reading it, enjoying it, taking it in without evaluating what kind of thinking it’s leading you to? Are you monitoring the input that’s coming into your life? Are you being intentional? Or are you just mindlessly taking in the counsel of the ungodly?
When you’re in a difficult marriage, as some of you are, do you turn to someone who will tell you what you want to hear, who will agree that your mate is impossible, and that you are justified in moving on with your life? Or do you find someone who will point you to the cross and to the wisdom that comes from God and the gospel of Christ? Where do you get your input? Where do you get your counsel?
The counsel of the wicked, the counsel of the ungodly is a whole way of thinking. It’s a worldview. It’s a philosophy of life. And remember, it’s not always overtly wicked. Sometimes it’s so subtle, and that’s what’s most deceptive, what’s most dangerous. It’s got just enough of the truth in it mixed with deception that you’re lured into it.
So what is the counsel of the ungodly? There’s a way of thinking about everything. In the counsel of the ungodly there is no absolutes, no consequences, no limits. You can have it all now, to laugh at sin, to scoff at virtue. That’s the counsel of the ungodly.
To have temporal values is the counsel of the ungodly. To have a distorted view of physical beauty and body image, that’s the counsel of the ungodly that leads so many women into sinful comparison and unhealthy, dangerous behaviors.
The counsel of the ungodly can be applied to views of government, how we voted in the election not too long ago.
It can lead to bitterness, to resentment, to a way of thinking about divorce and remarriage—the world’s way of solving relational issues versus God’s way to forgive, to forbear, to love, the way of meekness and humility.
The counsel of the ungodly whispers in your ear that you cannot get consistent victory over sin, especially in relation to sexual impurity or sexual habits. Listen, if you believe that lie, why try? You’ll be defeated before you start. That is deadly counsel that you cannot get victory over sin. That is the counsel of the ungodly.
The counsel of the ungodly is an entitlement mindset: I have a right to be comfortable. I have a right to be carefree.
I see Heather here today. We were talking the other day on the phone. She was saying about how common it is (and she’s a young mom with young kids) to think as a young mom, “I’ve served selflessly. I’ve poured into my family. Now, I deserve a break today. I’ve got to have alone time. I’ve got to get away from the pressure. That’s the only way I can be happy.”
We were talking about what a dead-end street that counsel is and how it sets young moms up for defeat and discouragement and depression. “My kids are such a burden.” You hear some women say. “I’m so glad I get to be free from them for a day or a week or a month”—this deserving mindset, this entitlement mindset.
There are so many areas where the world counsels us in ways that are contrary to God’s way of thinking. That’s why you’ve got to put your biblical thinking cap on and say, “What does God’s Word say about all these things?”
So the Scripture says, "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."
Now, that’s the first part of Psalm 1, but I want to invite you, if you have your Bible there, to turn to the book of Ephesians as we close this session. I want you to see another way of walking and standing and sitting.
Ephesians chapter 2 tells us in the first part that we all once walked in the counsel of the ungodly, stood in the way of sinners, sat in the seat of scoffers. That’s the first part of Ephesians chapter 2. Look at verse 1:
And you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (vv. 1–3)
That’s how you once walked, Paul says to these believers. And so in that paragraph, he talks about where we should not walk, where we should not stand, where we should not sit, but in the rest of Ephesians, the apostle talks about what Christ has done for us, how He has adopted us into His family and, therefore, where we should sit, where we should walk, and where we should stand.
And I want us to just look at some of those verses. Look at Ephesians 2:4:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (vv. 4–6)
You’re not supposed to sit in the seat of scoffers. In fact, instead you should realize that you are, as a child of God, seated in the heavenly places with Christ the righteous one.
Ephesians chapter 5—turn over to chapter 5:1:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. . . .
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. . . .
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. (vv. 1–3, 8–10, 15–16)
So that’s how we are to walk. And then we come to Ephesians chapter 6, beginning in verse 10, and we see how we are to stand—not just how we are to sit and walk, but how we are to stand. Verse 10:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. . . .
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. . . .
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (vv. 10–11, 13–14, 17)
So what is Paul saying in Ephesians here? First of all, recognize your position in Christ. You no longer sit in the seat of those who are foolish scoffers and mockers as you once did when you were without Christ. Now Christ has redeemed you. You are dead to sin, and recognize that you have been raised and seated with Christ the righteous one.
Picture yourself as seated with Christ in the heavenlies—positionally—realizing that one day we will be seated with Him. Physically, we will be with the Lord, but positionally, we’re now seated with Him. Then you won’t be so drawn to sit in the seat of scoffers and mockers while you live life here on this earth.
And so he says, therefore, because you are seated with Christ, don’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly as you once did. Instead, walk in love. Walk in purity. Walk wisely. This is the way we are to walk.
And then don’t hang out any longer in the pathway of sinners as you once did, taking on their characteristics, their behavior, their ways of thinking. Instead, he says in chapter 6, use the armor and the resources that God has provided to help you stand firm against the opposition of the enemy.
Don’t let the world press you into its mold, push you into its pathway. Don’t let the Internet, the social media, the pop culture, the people around you, don’t let them press you into the mold of the world. Instead, as Romans 12 says, be transformed by the renewing of your mind that takes place as you meditate day and night on the Word of God. (see vv. 1–2)
That’s why here at Revive Our Hearts we don’t want to just say, “Stay away from the counsel of the ungodly. Don’t let it take you in. Don’t let it capture your mind.” We do say that. But we also want to say, “Let your heart and your mind and your thinking and your life be captured by that which is true and good and holy—the Word of God.”
That’s why all through this year we’re challenging our listeners to take a Daily Bible Reading Challenge. I’m not just saying, “Get off social media or get out of the culture.” You can’t get out of the culture. We live in this culture.
But I’m saying, “Instead of letting the culture be like an IV in your arm that you're just always taking it in and taking it in, put a new IV in your arm. Get the Word of God into your mind, into your heart. Get it into your life every day of the year.”
Take some time each day through this year to get into God’s Word. Renew your mind, and let it transform your life.
I hope you’ll call or email us or write and let us know that you’re taking this Daily Bible Reading Challenge. When you do, we want to make available to you a resource we’re offering here at the beginning of the year called My Personal Bible Reading Journal. It’s a simple resource that just gives you a chance for every day of the year to jot something down about what you read in God’s Word and how it spoke to you.
We’ll be glad to send you this resource when you write us or call us or email us and make a donation of any amount to the ministry here at Revive Our Hearts. When you do, ask for the Bible Reading Journal, and we’ll be glad to send that to you. That’s our way of saying, “We want this to be a blessed new year for you.”
We want it to be a happy and full new year. We want you to have a blessed and happy life and a blessed and happy eternity. I know that will happen as you begin to fill your mind with the counsel, not of the ungodly, but the counsel and the wisdom of the Word and the ways of God.
Leslie: Let me tell you how to get a copy of the resource Nancy Leigh DeMoss just described. Donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts by calling this number: 1-800-569-5959. Ask for My Personal Bible-Reading Journal, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Today’s program is part of a series called, How to Have a Happy New Year. You can listen to all the installments of the series so far, read the transcripts, or order the CD, all at ReviveOurHearts.com.
We’re able to bring you the broadcasts, the website, and all these resources thanks to listeners who help make it possible. And, Nancy, it was encouraging to see how many listeners responded to the year-end needs of the ministry.
Nancy: It really was, Leslie. We were asking the Lord to help us meet some really large goals in December, and I’m so thankful for every listener who donated so generously to help us meet our needs and prepare for a full and exciting year of ministry ahead.
Now, over the holiday weekend, we received an influx of gifts coming in for the ministry, and we’re really thankful for that, but it’s taking some time for our team to sort through all the numbers and to find out exactly how we ended up the year. I know a lot of people have been praying about this need and asking, “How did it go?” You can visit our website at ReviveOurHearts.com to find the latest updates on the matching challenge and our overall goal.
But I do want to take a moment here at the end of today’s program to say a heartfelt thank you to each person who gave to help make this ministry possible. Through your generous support, you are part of the stories that God is writing in women’s lives, stories of freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. I’m really excited about the new stories that God wants to write in women’s hearts and homes throughout the year ahead.
Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Do you want to tell us what you’re going to teach on Monday?
Nancy: Sure, Leslie. Delighting in the law of the Lord can be like developing a taste for certain kinds of foods. So next week we’re going to talk about how to maintain a hunger and an appetite for God’s Word.
Leslie: Sounds good. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.
Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.