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Disciples Live in the Word

March 17, 2019 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Psalms

Topic: Expository Passage: Psalm 1:1-6

 

Introduction

Since we are between series, I thought this would be a good time to revisit our theme, “Be a Disciple. Make a Disciple.” I plan to use the next few Sunday evenings to provide some practical helps both for growing yourself and for growing other disciples. But this morning, I want to push us toward foundational component to discipleship. Genuine, enduring discipleship must be founded on the Word!

If you’ve been paying attention at Life Point, there’s nothing revolutionary about that statement. We talk about the importance of the Bible all the time. Outside of here it may even come across as boring. Our culture is always searching for the latest and greatest way to make hard things easy. For example I wonder how many millions of dieting books have sold on the promise that you can lose weight quickly and easily, while you still enjoy all the foods you like. This promise catches our ears more than, “Live a disciplined lifetime of healthy eating and exercise.”

And sadly Christian publishers have also sold 100s of 1,000s of books based on similar false hopes. An author claims that he has found a revolutionary secret to happiness in Jesus or 5 steps to unlocking the Spirit’s power. And lazy, undiscerning Christians are sold. We all want to be happy and enjoy God’s power, and we want it to come fast and easy.

But the Bible consistently describes discipleship as a grace-inspired marathon that requires endurance and hard work. Therefore, we need to stay anchored to the gospel and the spiritual disciplines that Scripture commends. And no discipline is more foundational to lasting discipleship than living in the Word. Psalm 1 makes this abundantly clear. My outline today is built on 3 questions.

 

I.  Who will enjoy God’s blessing (vv. 1–2)?

Everyone wants to be blessed/happy and enjoy the favor of Almighty God. So when Psalms begins with “Blessed,” the psalmist immediately captures our attention. This psalm tells us how to enjoy God’s favor.

But the psalmist proceeds to give a surprising Most people would probably say that God’s blessing is based on what I do or don’t do. Certainly my obedience is important, but Psalm 1 says that even more foundational than what I do is what influences I allow to shape my mind and heart. 1st, God’s blessing belongs to…

The Person Who Avoids Evil Influences (v. 1): Verse 1 includes three descriptions of how people open themselves to wrong influences. It speaks of those who “walk in the counsel of the ungodly,” who “stands in the path of sinners,” and who “sits in the seat of the scornful.”

In Hebrew poetry, these lines are what we call synonymous parallelism. They are all basically saying the same thing; however, there is a progression from bad to worse. For example, imagine if there is a perverted, corrupt conversation at work. It’s one thing to walk by the conversation, but you are going to be more greatly influenced if you stand still to listen. Sitting down indicates you are hooked.

There’s also a clear progression from allowing myself to be influenced by the “ungodly”—someone who is simply an unbeliever, to a “sinner”—someone misses the mark of God’s demands, to a “scorner”—someone who openly and arrogantly mocks God’s truth.

And so Psalm 1:1 warns that evil influences only grow from bad to worse. If you allow ungodliness to begin shaping your mind and heart, you’ve created a tear that will only grow bigger and bigger. Therefore, stay away from evil influences, because they will affect your hearts, and it will only grow worse.

This is worth emphasizing because it’s startling how willfully naïve many Christians are about how things affect them, whether it be friends, the programs we watch, or the songs we sing. So many Christians think that they can ingest massive amounts of garbage, and it will just float out the back of their heads without leaving any sort of impression. It’s just foolish.

This is because our hearts are like the air filters on the tractors we had growing up. After a dry dusty day in the field, we would blow out the filters. The filters grabbed a little of everything in that field. There’d be dirt, chaff, pollen, and plant particles. It all stuck as the wind blew through the filter.

So Christian, your heart is the same way. Don’t be naïve about how your heart is being shaped by the influences around you. The news programs you watch on TV or listen to in the car, your activity on social media, the friends you keep all are shaping your heart more than you may recognize.

So keep a close watch on the influences you can control, and get rid of the ones that are dragging you down. Be in the world for the sake of the gospel, but be very careful not to become like the world. If there are influences you can’t avoid at work, at school, or at home, then pray for grace to endure and make sure that you are counteracting evil with good. Do you want to enjoy the blessing of God? Stay away from evil influences. Then positively, v. 2 says that God’s blessing rests on…

The Person Who Lives a Word-Dominated Life (v. 2): In the context of the OT, “the law of the Lord” is specifically the Torah, the Books of Moses. For us, it’s the entire Bible. God is saying that his blessing rests on the person who “delights” in God’s law and “meditates” constantly on God’s law.

“Delighting,” means what we think it means. It means finding joy in something. You look forward to it with great anticipation. 1 Peter 2:2 says we should “desire the pure milk of the Word” like a newborn baby craves its mother’s milk. Similarly, the psalmist says we should delight in God’s Word. Christians must be lovers of the Word, who look forward to spending time in the Scriptures and learning what they have to say.

And when someone delights in God’s Word, he will meditate on it day and night. The idea behind “meditate” is that it is always on our minds. What we read or memorize just keeps coming back up, and we chew on it over and over. We do so, “day and night” meaning that the truth of God is never far from our thoughts; it’s always there shaping how we think, what we love, and what we do.

All of us should be convicted by what this picture, because we get excited about a lot things. We get EXCITED about sports, politics, cars, clothes, guns, home décor, holidays, and on and on we could go. Sometimes we spend hours meditating on the things we enjoy or anticipating a big event.

But do you get excited to study the Bible? And after you study the Word or listen to a sermon, do you continue to meditate on it and let it shape your thoughts for hours to come? So often Bible study is little more than a discipline, and as soon as it’s over, our minds are 100 miles away. God’s Word is not the dominant influence this psalm says it should be.

Sadly, much of Christianity has decided that Psalm 1:2 is just not possible in our distracted culture. Churches have shortened the sermon, and turned it into a motivational speech rather than a deep biblical sermon. And they manufacture an experience with lighting, instrumentation, and coffee bars.

And when it comes to making disciples and counseling people through their problems, we lean more on secular psychology than on the grace of God and the wisdom of Scripture. But the mighty grace of God only comes when we delight in God’s Word and meditate on God’s Word day and night.

Of course, this raises the question of how do we build this kind of delight. This is an important question, because most of us struggle to live in v. 2. Fundamentally, it begins with the new birth. If Christ lives inside you, he will create a longing for the Word. And the more you walk in the Spirit, the stronger that longing will become. But beyond that, living v. 2 requires that we believe and see the true value of the Word (Psalm 19:7–9). God’s Word brings life, wisdom, joy, and true holiness. We’ve got to see how good it is. And we’ve got to prove that we really believe it, by devoting ourselves to the Word. And when we do, it will lead to 10.

Understand what you are holding in your lap. It is Creator God’s inspired and complete Word for you. In light of that, delight in this book and meditate on this this book. And be intentional about helping yourself do so. Read your Bible every day. Sit under biblical preaching as much as possible. Listen to theologically rich hymns and sing them with your family. Turn off the radio and turn on a sermon or an edifying podcast. If you want suggestions, please ask me. Go after godly friends and intentionally talk of God.

I could go on, but you get the point. If you want to enjoy the blessing of God, drive out ungodly influences and live a Word-dominated life. Delight in God’s Word and meditate day and night on God’s Word. The second major question I want to answer is…

II.  What will God’s blessing entail?

Verse 3 highlights 2 blessings that belong to the person whose primary influence is God’s Word. The first is…

Consistent Nourishment: Verse 3 compares the person who meditates on the Word to a tree planted by a consistent water Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t really understand this picture. We got plenty of consistent rain, so a tree could thrive just about anywhere all year.

But in Apple Valley or in Israel, that’s not the case. There are no large oaks out in the desert. And even though everything is green right now, but it will turn brown soon enough. As a result, the tree in v. 3 is uniquely blessed. Since it is planted alongside an irrigation channel, it has everything it needs to thrive all year, through seasons of plenty and seasons of drought, through the hot sun and the bitter cold.

The psalmist says that the person who feeds consistently on the Word is like this tree. If you stay in the Word and make it the greatest influence in your life, the psalmist says that you will always have everything you need to face life and remain strong and healthy.

This is such a powerful picture in our day, when so many Christians are chasing the next novel idea or the next emotional fix. Specifically, many Christians go to church looking for an emotional shot of espresso, and then for the next six days they trend downward, until the next shot in the arm.

Certainly, church should recharge the battery, but the primary goal is not to give you a pick-me-up. The goal of church, and every other spiritual discipline is to sink your roots deep into the Word, so that the Spirit, by the Word can feed your soul every day.

The same goes for your personal Bible study. Don’t evaluate your devotions based on how you feel at the end. Bible study should “rejoice the heart,” but ultimately, we should study God’s Word with faith in the long-term promise of this verse. If I consistently am in the Word, I’m going to grow deep roots and receive consistent nourishment. That way when a drought comes or a storm suddenly blows in, I’m not scrambling to survive. Rather, I have deep roots that give stability and consistent nourishment.

So live in the Word in order to build long-term maturity. And when you are disciple making whether at home with your kids, through a ministry of the church, or one on one with a friend, model this kind of faith in the Word and study of the Word. The second blessing is…

Timely and Consistent Prosperity: Verse 3 states that this individual will yield fruit in season. That may sound like an obvious When else would a tree bear fruit? But fruit trees in Israel mature their fruit during the dry season, just as they do here. Therefore, if a tree is not near a water source, it may receive enough rainwater to survive, but it will not have enough water to do its primary job of producing fruit.

Sadly that sounds like many Christians. They thrive one season when life is going well, but they wilt the next. When trials come they don’t blossom with the beauty of Christ; they fade and barely hold on.

However, the Christian with deep roots in the Word is consistently green, and he prospers in whatever he does. The primary referent here seems to be that if you live according to the Bible, your life will generally go better. There is an incredible amount of wisdom in biblical principles, and if you work hard, you’re honest, and you love others, you will usually prosper.

However, God is not advocating prosperity gospel, because this isn’t a promise. Psalms will go on to say that the righteous man often suffers, and our world is filled with injustice. No matter how obedient you are there will still be times when you feel the pains of a sin-cursed world.

But if you are firmly rooted in the grace of God and maturity through the Word, you can thrive and give off the aroma of Christ in (2 Cor 4:7–18). What a beautiful example of the kind of health Psalm 1:3 describes through winter and summer, seasons of plenty and of drought.

Plant your roots deeply in God’s Word. Delight in God’s Word and meditate on God’s Word. Keep going by faith even when you feel nothing. Dig deeper even when life is humming along well and you don’t feel like you need it. And then push others to do the same. Let’s build a culture of disciple making at Life Point that models Psalm 1:1–3. This brings us to our 3rd

III.  Why must I pursue this path exclusively (vv. 4–6)?

Notice that there is a sharp contrast between vv. 1–3 and vv. 4–6. Verses 1–3 paint an inviting picture of the blessedness the godly enjoy; whereas, vv. 4–6 paint a dark picture of the impending doom awaiting the ungodly.

To understand vv. 4–6, you have to picture the threshing process that was so familiar in Israel. At harvest, they would gather the wheat and barley into shocks and take them to a threshing floor. They would beat the plants in order to shake the valuable seed away from the rest of the plant. Then they would naturally rake out the straw.

But the grain was still mixed with lots of chaff or tiny hulls that surrounded the grain. To get rid of the chaff, they would simply throw the grain in the air. The chaff was so light that the wind would carry it away, while the dense, valuable grain fell to the ground.

Verse 4 says that the ungodly are like that light, worthless chaff. They don’t have the weight of the grain, and they certainly don’t have the stability of the tree in v. 3. As a result, the wind carries them away with ease.

Verse 5 follows by applying this picture. Just as the wind separates the chaff from the grain, so God will separate the godly and the ungodly in Day of Judgment. Jesus said in Matthew 13 that in this age, the wheat and the tares (a type of weed) grow together, and it’s not always obvious who is who.

But God knows. Verse 6 says, “The Lord knows...” And Jesus warned in his explanation of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire…Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:41–43).

And so both Psalm 1 and Jesus say very clearly that there are 2 ways to live, and 2 very different destinies to which these paths lead. The first path is the path of the ungodly. This path is not fundamentally rooted in God’s Word, but, in the words of Judges, in doing what is right in my own eyes. It is a path of rebellion against God. The clear implication of vv. 4–6 and of Jesus’ parable is that this path doesn’t always look dark and evil. Sometimes the ungodly look the part of righteousness.

But God sees their hearts, and God sees they are in rebellion against his will. And God warns that they will not “stand in the judgment.” They will not join “the congregation of the righteous” around the throne of God for all eternity. No, “the ungodly shall perish.”

Therefore, the most loving thing I can say to anyone here who has not repented of your sin and believed on Christ for salvation is to say that God’s judgment is coming. You might look the part, and you might be able to fool me. But God sees your heart perfectly, and he will judge.

The answer is not to clean up your life, get baptized, or do some good things, because you can never do enough to make yourself stand in that judgment. No the only way you can stand is if you stand in the finished work of Christ on the cross. So come to him today and receive the salvation he offers.

And if you are saved, be reminded of the true end of ungodliness. Don’t foolishly try to forge a 3rd way to live that somehow walks the path of ungodliness but will end in heaven. No, see through all the lies of the worldly influences in v. 1, and then refuse to let your life be shaped them. Instead, see the beauty of God’s grace in Christ and the rich treasures of God’s Word. And determine to sink your roots down into the Scriptures. Do you want to “Be a Disciple”? Live in the Word. And then let’s think for a moment about what this means for making disciples.

IV.  Application for Disciple Making

Teach people to love and study the Bible. The goal of discipleship is to lead believers to a thriving independence, where, not only do they not lean on you; they are reproducing themselves. If that’s the goal, then Psalm 1 is clear that disciples will only get there if we transfer a love for the Word, a dependence on the Word, and skill in studying the Word.

So parents, Sunday School teachers, and every mature believer at Life Point, model delighting in and meditating on God’s Word, and teach others how to study the Bible. There is hardly anything that should be a more foundational goal of Life Point than to see every member become skilled in handling God’s Word based on a zeal to know and honor the Lord. Second…

Look to the Bible to transform lives. I want to be clear that there are a lot of good resources out there that we can use to make disciples. We should put on good programs, and at times we can even learn from the patterns that secular psychology has observed. But none of these will give life to the dead, and none of them will produce the character of Christ.

No the only way we can grow godly disciples is if, in the words of 2 Corinthians 3:18, they “behold as in a mirror (which is the Bible) the glory of Lord.” Only then will they “be transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Young disciples are going to have problems and deeply rooted habits of sin. Yes, we should offer practical wisdom, but let’s never forget what God uses to produce real change. God works by the Spirit through the Word. Get them in the Word, and I think you’ll be amazed at how many problems walking in the Spirit will solve.

Fellowship around the Bible. I have a little book in my office called One to One. It fleshes out a vision a pastor in Chicago had for his church to build Word-centered fellowship. It’s pretty simple, he challenges his people to get a partner and read the Bible together, and then talk about the Bible.

We are using his model in our men’s Bible study. It’s profoundly simple and yet effective. Imagine how it would transform our church if all of us, found a partner and read the Bible together and prayed once a week. Or if rather than talking about weather and politics, we talked about what God is teaching me in the Word.

Conclusion

Folks, this book is what God has ordained to change lives. Let’s study it, let’s preach it, and let’s show others how to live in the Word.

More in Psalms

December 30, 2018

Portraits of the King

August 14, 2016

Confession that Pleases God: Part 2

August 7, 2016

Confession that Pleases God: Part 1