“I can’t believe I did that! I’ve always done the right thing. What’s wrong with me?”

These were the questions that haunted one young lady who was distraught and disheartened at the realization that she could change from being an obedient, godly daughter to a rebellious, pleasure seeking sinner when in the company of a certain person. Although she had separated herself from bad company, repented from her sin and sought forgiveness, she wondered if something was seriously wrong with her.  She knew there was something more than just the influence of bad company corrupting her good character. She was right! Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:7-8 both depict the blessed man as a flourishing tree planted by water that remains green and yields fruit despite drought and heat. Much like water being the source of life for the tree, the Lord is the life-giving source to the blessed man. In this young lady’s case, her heart’s desire was not to delight in the Lord, but to delight in the opinion and praise of others. Thus, she was delighting in a source that leads to sin and death. As we began to unpack her desires and the things in which she was trusting, an “AHA!” moment occurred. The influence of bad company simply revealed what was in her heart: delighting in the approval of man rather than God. Thus, her outward behavior changed according to that which would bring the approval of others.  Her past obedience had been fueled by a heart that was seeking approval and praise from others rather than from a heart that sought to please God, manifesting self-righteousness rather than the gracious character of her loving God. With these new realizations, we began focusing on cultivating a heart that loves and fears God more than man. We worked through Wayne Mack’s Bible Study “Hope Comes from knowing God as Our Father,” studied God’s attributes and examined the humility of Christ using Tim Bryant’s Bible Study “The Wisdom of Humility and Foolishness of Pride.” In his booklet, “Motives: Why Do I Do the Things That I Do?,” Ed Welch notes:

The heart is the source of all human motivation. It is the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23), the root that determines whether the fruit on the tree is good or bad (Jer. 17:5-8; Luke 6:43-45). It is our true self ... the heart’s root motivation is “I want.” By nature the heart is selfish. It wants what it wants when it wants it. It doesn’t want God setting limits or providing direction. When changed by God Himself, the heart’s selfish and anti-God motives are not erased, but they are gradually replaced by a desire to love God and live for Him alone.[1]

[1] Edward T. Welch, “Motives: Why Do I Do The Things That I Do?” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Fall 2003), 49.