In this informational age, we are inundated with choices and decisions. Whether we admit it or not, it is simply fact that we are highly swayed by those around us. Almost subtly, we even take on ambient attitudes and characteristics. There are several important factors influencing decision-making, including (but not limited to) past experiences, a variety of cognitive biases, previous commitments and outcomes, personal values, individual differences, and belief systems. Yet “influencers” affect our decision-making on a daily basis. Who are your life-influencers? Parents? Social media profiles? Friends and coworkers? Counselors? Is their message pointing you back to the word of God, and asking you to do what is biblically consistent?
Oftentimes, God provides people who can help us when we don’t know what to do. But we must be cautious, because not all advice is beneficial. Biblical influencers offer conversation that stays in line with scripture. The Bible itself is the means by which God speaks to His Bride. Life’s decisions require discernment, but we are not left to figure all this out by ourselves. God has given us instructions in the Scriptures for wise decision making, and promises guidance if we will listen.
Scripture is clear that Christians should have the power to influence. Before Christ ascended, he told his disciples to go, and encouraged them to be influencers. His own teachings emphasized the importance of leading others to a life of love and obedience. Nevertheless, fewer and fewer who call themselves Christian have a biblical understanding of Jesus. We can become so invested in personalities and positions that we do not address blind spots in our discernment. Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right, penned Charles Spurgeon.
2 Timothy 3:5; Proverbs 14:12; John 14:15; James 1:25; Titus 2; Romans 16:17-18
Everyone is a theologian. We all have ideas affecting how we relate to other people. Wrong ideas about life matter; bad theologians make for bad influencers. Good theologians make good counselors. The difference in good or bad theologians is how biblically grounded these theologians are. Our goal should always be to seek godly counsel. We should be ever-mindful that if someone is not living in God’s will, it is doubtful they will be able to give advice according to His will. The apostles recognized authenticity with rich discernment. The person and/or people who influence the decision-making process will ultimately impact the outcomes.
2 Corinthians 6:14; Proverbs 18:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17
It is important to note that the Bible warns about the possibility of influencers addressing the hurts and concerns of others in ways that can do harm. Influence without manipulation is a process. Questions to ask might be, “What makes this person credible in this particular subject?” “What have they seen and who have they been around?” or “How have their experiences informed their faith?” There is a fine line between influence and manipulation. This border often comes down to intent. Those influencers who truly care for us and seek to do what’s best for us are without regard for what they get in return. To the contrary of ill advice, godly counsel recognizes that God’s Word transforms and makes those who would be simple wise.
When influencers bring the Word of God to bear, it must represent the Truth rightfully. In the way of counsel, scripture is both ours to study and ours to present for comfort, care, and decision-making. Everything we need about salvation, life, and godliness is sufficiently addressed in the Bible. The matter at hand is whether one receives the needed counsel. If we want to know God’s will, what He desires, we must go to his Word, or to someone who knows it well and lives in obedience to it. Theologian B.B. Warfield puts it this way:
Let us cultivate an attitude of courage as over against the investigations of the day. None should be more zealous in them than we. None should be more quick to discern truth in every field, more hospitable to receive it, more loyal to follow it wherever it leads.
Jeremiah 6:14; Psalm 19
Do you listen wisely? We live in a world of competing messages. Merely experiential advice is neither helpful or healthy, and many times comes with ulterior motive. Consider who influences your personal decision making. Remember, someone who doesn’t know God or his Word will never be able to give godly advice. Be careful who you listen to.