I spent some time in bed sick recently. If anything positive came out of that time, it was a reminder of why I mostly quit watching television. There’s not much worth watching.
I did, however, see a show called “Beyond Scared Straight”. It follows a group of troubled teenagers as they are taken inside a maximum security prison for a day. The idea is, as they see the realities of prison life and talk with actual inmates, they will begin to rethink the path down which they are headed.
During this particular episode there was an interesting exchange between one of the inmates and a teenager. The inmate asked the teen if he carried a weapon. “A knife,” was the reply. The teen continued, “one time a guy pulled a knife on me, so now I carry one to protect myself.”
What really caught my ear was the inmates advice. He told the kid, “The issue is not self-protection, it’s the decision you’re making to hang around places and people that cause you to have to protect yourself. That’s the root of your bad choices.”
You don’t have to be a troubled teen from an inner city neighborhood to struggle with a decision like that. For me, that’s a choice I find myself making every day as well.
While God’s grace has set me free from a works-based salvation, I still want to live a life that’s free of sin and pleasing to the Savior who gave his life for me.
But I can’t hope to overcome sin when I’m making those bad decisions, putting myself in the places where sin lurks. I can’t overcome lust while I’m still inputting media that’s full of sexual themes. I can’t overcome covetousness if I’m constantly surrounding myself with catalogs, magazines and television shows that celebrate materialism.
Psalm 1 says,
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful…”
If we want to overcome sin, we cannon “stand in the way of sinners.” We have a choice to make. Are we going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, getting what we’ve been getting? Or are we going to decide those go-to places aren’t going to work any longer in our effort to be like Christ.
The real key, however, is found in verse 2 of Psalm 1,
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates both day and night.”
Focusing on the “don’t” is what most of us have been taught, and it mostly doesn’t work…by itself. We instead have to focus on Christ. We must immerse ourselves in prayer and in the Bible. When we do, a sinless life will be the most effortless thing that could ever flow out from us. Living without sin will require no more work than a fruit tree has to work at bearing fruit when it’s been planted in good soil. It just has to live there, connected to the soil, soaking up the nourishment, and the fruit naturally follows.
When I’m planted deeply in Christ, “standing in the way of sinners” will be the last place I want to be. And that’s the best choice I can make.