Today we begin a series that will last through the summer. Appropriately, we entitled this series, Summer in the Psalms. For the next eight weeks we will look at eight powerful thoughts found in the Psalms. The Psalms are some of the most widely read portions of the Old Testament. They have a long history of popularity in the Christian tradition, so much so that often the Book of Psalms has been bound with the New Testament in pocket editions. Such popularity reflects sensitivity to the fact that the psalms are about people, the struggle and joy of living life under God.
While too often the psalms are seen as a sort of spiritual "pick-me-up," a view reflecting the distorted "feel-good" mentality of modern society, their message goes far deeper addressing the entire range of human existence. The Psalms are part of the poetic books of the Bible.
Today we begin with Psalm One so let me read it to you. It is just six verses long.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. Psalm 1 NIV
A man in North Carolina bought a new car with a
voice-warning system. ... At first he was amused to hear the soft female
voice gently remind him that his seat belt wasnt fastened. ... Edwin
affectionately called this voice the "little woman."
He soon discovered his little woman was programmed to warn him about his gasoline. "Your fuel level is low," she said one time in her sweet voice. Edwin nodded his head and thanked her. He figured he still had enough to go another fifty miles, so he kept on driving. But a few minutes later, her voice interrupted again with the same warning.
And so it went over and over. Although he knew it was the same recording, Edwin thought her voice sounded harsher each time. Finally, he stopped his car and crawled under the dashboard. After a quick search, he found the appropriate wires and gave them a good yank. So much for the little woman!
He was still smiling to himself a few miles later when his car began sputtering and coughing. He ran out of gas! Somewhere inside the dashboard, Edwin was sure he could hear the little woman laughing.
People like Edwin learn before long that the little voice inside, although ignored or even disconnected, often tells them exactly what they need to know.
Psalm 1 sets a tone. It sets a tone for the Psalms but also for the entire message of the Bible. It is a black and white message. For some reason we are really uncomfortable with black and white and often prefer shades of gray but the reality is you dont find gray in the Bible. When God speaks He talks in terms of being in/out, up/down, on/off or broad/narrow. There may be seasons of movement in our lives when we are moving toward or away from God but these are not stagnant seasons. We dont get to camp out there in states of spiritual limbo.
We are hit with this message in this first Psalm. Could it be any clearer than the words of this Psalm? Could this message be any clearer or more convicting when we read the contrasting words of godly and wicked? It makes you wince almost. Would we call anybody wicked? There are a few people we may reserve this word for but God just lays it out. Four times in this Psalm the word wicked is used.
This should cause us to pause and consider our lives. All of us have been given a life to live out on this earth. We have been given days, months and years to honor and glorify God with our words, thoughts and deeds.
We all will stand in line for a blessing. This Psalm tells us how to be blessed. It is clear, practical and challenging.
Whats your position?
We are told that we will be blessed if we dont do some things and do other things. The writer uses the illustration of walking, standing and sitting.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
The question for us today is to simply examine our personal life and figure out how we are truly living. Do you walk in step with the wicked or do you walk in step with God? Do you stand in the way that sinners take or do you stand with God? Do you sit in the company of mockers or do you sit in the company of godly people?
I am talking here about the core of who we are. Who are you? Who am I? Who are we when no one else is looking? What position do you find yourself in today?
You see if we are not very careful we will find ourselves sucked into the mentality of the culture around us until we look nothing like what the Bible says a Christfollower will be.
It could be that we are nursing some private and addictive sin and behavior. It could be that we indulge a habit that we know is wrong but we have worked out a compromise in our head yet at the same time our hearts are growing cold and hard toward God.
The psalmist simply says you and I will be blessed if we don't walk, stand or sit in the wrong places and then he gives us a simple yet profound solution or alternative.
Delighting and meditating
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.
This speaks to me of focus. This verse calls me to a life of intentional focus on God and His word. Do I want to be blessed in this life? Of course! Then here right in front of me is the simple yet most often ignored key to life.
Open up the word of God and do everything you can to follow its precepts and principles.
Delight in the law of the Lord.
Meditate in it day and night.
Let me tell you what this looks like to me. I picture a person opening and reading the Bible while sipping a cup a coffee or tea. I see a person opening up the bible early in the morning and filling their heart and mind with Gods word. I picture a man or woman on their break at work slipping off for a moment or two of quiet time with the word of God. I envision a teen-ager committed to reading the Bible every day and memorizing scripture so that he or she will have the word of God as support and strength. I see an older man or woman with sitting with the Bible open on their lap, reading glasses in place and a tear streaming down their cheek as they rehearse and remember the things that God has promised and what He has done in their life.
In Colossian 3:16 we read these words, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16 NLT
There was a man who got lost in the desert. After
wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that
time he saw a little shack in the distance.
He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note.
The note read: "pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need". Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn't work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find.
Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction,
he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have
finished, please refill the jug for the next traveller. The man
refilled the jug and added to the note: Please prime the pump, believe
me it works!
We have the same choice to make, do we hold on to what we have because we dont believe there are better things in store for us, and settle for immediate satisfaction? Or do we trust God and give up all that we have to get what God has promised us? I think the choice is obvious. We need to pour in all the water, trust God with everything.
Then once we have experienced what God has to offer, the living water, we need to tell other people, Go ahead prime the pump, believe me it works!
Is my life planted or pointless?
This is not only the heart of the message but it is the heart of this Psalm.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
The contrast of two ways of living is clear and to the point. Are you rooted and grounded in Christ/God or are you living a double life?
When you faithfully serve God your life and my life will be blessed and held steady by the spiritual roots we put down but without these roots we will be in trouble.
Let me illustrate this point and hopefully you will remember this imagery for the rest of your life.
(Using a tree, a fan and a bowl of chaff and demonstrating what happens when the winds blow in our lives)
Is your life planted or pointless? Do you have spiritual roots that are deep into Gods word or have taken your cues on life from less profound sources? Honestly do you know how disconcerting it is to be a spiritual leader and pastor responsible for leading and guiding a group of people to go Gods way and watch them be affected by the world around them?
The church world has become so poisoned and shaped by culture instead of being shaped by Gods word. I shudder to think how many people in the last twenty-five years have had their theology more shaped and defined by a talk show then the Bible or Jesus Christ. I fear that we are more defined by programs we watch on television or movies we watch then by our knowledge of the word of God and our connection to Christ.
Someone recently told me about a movie and how clean it was so I downloaded it and watched it while flying over the ocean a few days ago. Was it entertaining? Yes. Was it well done? Yes Was it clean? Well it depends. If by clean you mean there was no nudity then it was clean. But was it that I as a follower of Christ should be putting into my mind? It was laced with profanity that most of us have become so accustomed to we dont even give it a second thought. We sit in our easy chairs and laugh right along with the laugh tracks as though on cue and never pause to think about the message and what we are putting into our minds.
We raise our kids by giving them a steady diet of filth and ungodly values provided by Hollywood and the entertainment industry and then we wonder why they don't turn out to love God or want anything to do with church. You can hardly watch a show on TV today without the homosexual agenda intentionally and subtlety woven into the story lines. Infidelity and sex outside of marriage is a no brainer. That never happened until the last twenty years or so and we just go along with it as though it is no big deal when the Bible says clearly it is a big deal.
I can assure you that your kids will find the filth of this world without you helping them. Why not spend your time building into your family the things of God and His word.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT
A wealthy businessman, who was well known for being
ruthless and unethical, told Mark Twain that before he died, he wanted
to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He said that when he got there he
wanted to climb to the top of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten
Commandments, and there read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top. I
have a better idea, replied Twain, in his typical wit, You could stay
in Boston and keep them.
I believe that Jesus would have preferred that he stay in Boston and keep the commandments as well. But we always prefer some great religious experience to the routine of obedience. We would like some mountaintop emotion rather than actually showing the evidence of a changed life. I have known many people over the years who talked a lot about some spiritual encounter they have had, but never showed much evidence of it when it came to the way they lived, their ethics and the manner in which they treated other people.
The psalmist is simply saying here are two ways to live. One is godly and leads to life everlasting and the other is pointless and leads to ultimate destruction in our lives.
Which promise am I in line to receive?
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
I dont think I need to say a whole lot more. You can read for yourself. The wicked will not stand in the judgment. We really dont like the word wicked yet it appears four times in this psalm. Remember it is the contrasts that so often appear in the Bible. You are either hot or cold. You are on the narrow road that leads to life everlasting or the broad way that leads to destruction.
19 But Gods truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: The LORD knows those who are his, and All who belong to the LORD must turn away from evil. 2 Timothy 2:19 NLT
20 But those who still reject me are like the restless sea, which is never still but continually churns up mud and dirt. 21 There is no peace for the wicked, says my God. Isaiah 57:20-21 NLT
Heres the deal. You and I have been given the word of God and it is a precious gift. You have the freedom to read and study it every day and if you do your life will begin to change in dramatic ways.
John Sutherland Bonnell, the great preacher of a generation ago, has suggested five questions which are useful in evaluating Christian effectiveness and commitment. Listen closely to them and judge your strengths and weaknesses as a disciple of Christ.
1. Does my life witness each day to the power of the risen Christ?
2. Does my faith in Christ affect the quality of my daily living, so that there adheres to it a nobility and moral strength?
3. Is there anything in my life that reminds men and women of the Master to whom I have pledged my allegiance?
4. Is there any discernible difference at all in my life as contrasted with the lives of those who never acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior? (See Matthew 5:46-48)
5. Do I manifest in the midst of this fevered generation a serenity of spirit which reveals that the peace of God is dwelling in my heart?
In a recent NCAA cross-country championship held in Riverside, California, 123 of the 128 runners missed a turn. One competitor, Mike Delcavo, stayed on the 10,000 meter course and began waving for fellow runners to follow him. Delcavo was able to convince only four other runners to go with him. Asked what his competitors thought of his mid-race decision not to follow the crowd, Delcavo responded, "They thought it was funny that I went the right way." Delcavo was one who ran correctly. In the same way, our goal is to run correctly; to finish the race marked out for us by Christ. We can rejoice over those who have courage to follow, ignoring the laughter of the crowd. As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness."