THE BLESSINGS OF MEDITATION — Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on May 26th, 2013. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Ps 1, 2013.
An initial reading of Psalm one can sound like the Psalmist is saying that Good people are Good and Bad people are Bad. However, on closer inspection, Psalm one is talking about how we are to be blessed, and what creates a substantial life. The Psalm both exposes the ways we try to bless ourselves and talks, instead about the practice and benefits of meditating on God’s word.
The Pressures of the World.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful” Notice how verse one describes the influences of sin in an ascending pattern. It moves from those who give advice, to those who take a stand, and finally to those who are openly hostile to God.
The Counsel of the Wicked Poisons Our Actions: We are constantly exposed to the counsel of the wicked – from advertisers who are trying to sell us not just products, but a way of life, to friends and co-workers and family, all of whom tend to be very free with their advice… Take revenge – make people pay for what they said of did… Be Selfish – get your way without reference to God or others… Lie about your life (use deceit to get what you want – to get people on your side)… Covet, Get as much as you can of sex, food, comforts, money… Despise people – set yourself above them – live disdainfully… Be afraid, you are on your own, life is overwhelming and you must take care of yourself above all. These are attitudes we hear everywhere – not just from “a wicked person”. We tend to voice these opinions ourselves – they are in our own minds and hearts. And the temptation is to believe and then to live out (to walk in) this kind of advice. But the counsel of the wicked is toxic to our lives, corrupting and poisoning our actions – creating ruin and harm in our lives and the lives of others.
Living By Sinful Means Corrupts Us: A path, or “way” in Scripture, refers to a way of life. In fact, in the early church, the teachings of Jesus were referred to as “the path” or “the way of Jesus”. Consequently, to “stand in the way of sinners” means more than just walking in wicked counsel – it refers to taking a stand, or making an intentional choice. The one who “stands” in way way of sinners makes an intentional choice to act or to join others who are acting in evil ways. This refers to the ways and means that we choose to act to accomplish what we want.
- The parent who raises a child with abuse stands in the way of sinners.
- The businessman who steps on others to get ahead stands in the way of sinners.
- The abortion protestor who throws blood at people or stalks the family of a doctor, who chooses violence, even for good ends, stands in the way of sinners.
And here again, the temptation to get what we want – to make our lives easier by the use of violence or threat, by deceit, by abusive speech or action, by manipulative behavior, by selfishness – these things promise to make life easier, and they are tempting to us. Yet walking in these sinful ways – standing on them, depending on them – corrupts our lives – even the good we would do.
Joining in the Mockery of the Scornful Blinds Us: To “sit in the seat”, is to sit in judgment. The scornful are those who express hatred, who belittle or make fun of the word of God, the people of God and/or the work of God. The classic scorner hates anyone telling them what to do. Their response to the call to repent or to follow the teachings of Scripture is mockery and anger. And the truth is, that we all feel the blood rise, at times, when we are confronted by a call to obedience or repentance. But we are also tempted to become scorners and to sit in judgment – to mock and disdain those expressions of the church that look, act and speak foolishly. We see people within the Kingdom of God doing harm. We want to celebrate their stupidity and ignorance. There can be an ungodly delight in the folly and ignorance of other believers. Scorn and Mockery, which is a way of setting ourselves above Scripture and other people, blinds us to the truth by our own pride, making us unwilling to receive any good thing from Scripture.
The Blessings of the Word.
“But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in his Law he meditates day and night.” The Psalmist contrasts the influencing thoughts and desires of the world around us to the effects of meditation, (deep and careful thought – the focusing of the mind), on the word of God. The description of the tree, planted by the streams of water is helpful in understanding what meditation on the word is, and what it does.
Meditation Animates us Spiritually: ” He will be like a tree, firmly planted by streams of water… and its leaf does not wither” The metaphor used by the Psalmist is that of a tree whose roots grow down near the banks of a stream – and are therefore kept moist. Roots need to stay moist or they will dry out. Dry roots can harm a tree or even kill it over time. The tree that is planted by the water, however, has a constant source of moisture for its roots. This is actually a description of meditation.
Meditation on the word is simply the practice of thinking and asking oneself questions about a specific passage or idea or image from Scripture. This engages our minds and causes us to consider how we are behaving – why we behave in the ways that we do – what beliefs we are responding to in our behavior. As we think on a command or a promise of Scripture, or the fruit of the Spirit, or a teaching about Scripture, we are, in a sense, watering our souls – our minds. The leaves of a tree tell us what is going on with the roots of a plant. When the roots dry out the leaves whither. St. Augustine, probably meditating on this very Psalm, said, “My spirit becomes dry because it forgets to feed on you”. In other words, if we are not meditating on the word of God than we become spiritually dry, or apathetic. We need to be interacting with the word of God – thinking about how it challenges, blesses, encourages, rebukes or corrects us. This is why I am not much of a fan of Bible reading programs. It may be helpful to read through the Bible in a year – but if we are merely passing our eyes over the words – never stopping to meditate and consider how the word is calling us to believe, live, trust, love, stand – and how the word is counseling us to live – we gain little or nothing.
Meditation on Scripture Produces Change in Our Lives: ”… which yields its fruit in season” Fruit is a delicate thing. A frost can kill it, or disease or insects. And fruit takes time to ripen – it only becomes edible in its season. This describes the way meditation on God’s word works its change on us. Meditation on the word leads to a gradual change in our understanding of life – and a gradual change in our desires. It is not a quick or instant process, but a development of the mind and the soul. And the soul is not static. We are responding, every day, to either the counsel and the way and the scornful attitude of the world – or to the teachings, encouragements, example of the word, and the promptings of the Spirit of God. One way or another we bear fruit.
Meditation on God’s Word Blesses Our Lives: ”… and in whatever he does, he prospers” This is not a health and prosperity statement. Obviously we are still in the context of the spiritual life. Meditation on the word causes us to respond to the Spirit of God with conviction and hope. In this sense, the person who is listening to God’s word and responding to it lives differently – with godly character – which, in many ways, protects and blesses our lives, and causes us, like spiritual trees, to flourish.
These Things Matter Because there is A Day of Judgement.
The Word WIll Give Us the Substance to Stand: “The wicked are not so. They are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment…” There is a contrast between the rooted tree and the chaff (grain dust) that blows away. In essence the Psalmist is telling us that the word produces a life that is real, substantial, meaningful, lovely – whereas the counsel and way of the wicked is pointless, meaningless and empty. And these things – the character and meaning of our lives – whether they are in keeping with God’s word – is what will be measured on the great day of judgment, when all people stand before God Almighty.
Jesus is the Word Made Flesh: “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Ok, what happens where we have failed? What if we never get to learn patience, or joy? What about the times we listened to the counsel of the wicked, or stood in the way of sinners, or even mocked God’s word? What we really need before we can even have the freedom to meditate on God’s word, is freedom to live without fear that we won’t do it right or well enough. We need the favor of God and forgiveness of our failures before we can delight in the Law of the Lord. And God has given us Jesus, his Son, for that very purpose. Jesus, who is called THE WORD, has become the one we delight in because he has set us free from condemnation and fear. Consequently we can delight in him and meditate on God’s word in peace.
Ps.1/ Jn.4:10&13 — THE WELL-WATERED LIFE
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on July 19th, 2009. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Ps 1.
This morning we are going to take a break from the book of Revelation and look at this picture of water as it is used in the Scriptures. What I am hoping to do is to let the Scriptures refresh your souls and to give you an understanding of the spiritual life that will lead to peace.
God Calls Us to a Well-Watered Life – Psalm 1.
“1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. “
How does Psalm 1 describe the well-watered life? The man or woman who wants to be blessed should not listen to foolish or evil counsel – to worldly self-centered advice. The world’s advice or counsel is that we should run after wealth – that we should take revenge – that we should hate those who hate us – that we should follow every desire that promises happiness.
The man or woman who wants to be blessed should not stand in the way of sinners – or in other words, go places and do things where he or she knows they are likely to fall into temptation and trouble.
The man or woman who wants to be blessed should not sit in the seat of the scornful – or mockers. Cynicism and mocking of what is good are an evil to be avoided.
But instead, they should delight in the character of God – in the Law that tells us what is valuable and good in God’s sight – that reveals the holiness of God. And this is what they should think about – delight in.
God Desires to Bless Us Through a Well-Watered Life: “3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.“
These things feed us spiritually and create life and strength and beauty – like the image of the tree – growing next to a stream, being constantly refreshed by the stream of water and becoming larger and more established over time. This is the Psalmist’s vision of the well-watered spiritual life – in which the soul is refreshed by the things of God – and it is beautiful.
However, we have difficulty with this picture. While there is nothing wrong with the Psalmists picture of the spiritual life, we find that there is something wrong with us when we try to live this picture out.
- ~ We are prone to being led astray by false counsel – because we tend to hear what we want to hear (which is not just an issue of the head – but of what our hearts desire).
- ~ We are prone to sinful tendencies – which seem to grow in our lives like weeds, and which, like weeds, have a stubborn tendency to persist – even after we have decided that we want to change.
- ~ We are prone to making fun and mocking and cynicism – because we have been disappointed or because we are angry. And because we see so much hypocrisy – and yet we are also aware of the ugliness of our mockery.
More than this, we find it difficult to delight in the Law of the Lord. We are overwhelmed by righteousness. We want to do what is right, to some extent, but find that we also want what we want. I want God’s will to be done today, but I also have my own plans and purposes. I want to be content and not to covet, but I also feel the pull of desires for things I feel that I need – but know that I don’t need. I want to delight in the Law of God, but my heart is often pulled between two desires. Consequently, our lives, rather than being well watered, become dry.
Jesus Offers Us Living Water – John 4.
Now plug Psalm 1 into the situation of the woman at the well. She is a woman who has this inner desire to be loved and to be secure – but instead she has been used by the men of the town. She comes to the well at midday because that is when no one will be there and because she is ashamed to be seen by the other women – she is an outcast. She cannot delight in the Law of the Lord because she is guilty and the Law condemns her.
To this person, Jesus offers living water – the same kind of water that we see in the Psalm that enables the man in the Psalm to be a growing, living, established, fruit producing tree… 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 13… “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Confess Who You Are and Put Your Trust in Him: Notice the first thing that Jesus says after the woman asks for living water… he tells her to bring her husband, even though she is obviously a woman who is ashamed and hiding from others. The woman tries to continue to hide by telling Jesus she has no husband – but he exposes her. Living water is given to those who confess, honestly, who they are and what they have done, to God.
Trust! This seems like such a simple and obvious thing but it isn’t. We tend to believe that Jesus is the Son of God – we tend to believe that he rose from the dead – that he ascended into heaven – that he forgives sin. But we have trouble trusting Jesus to actually forgive our sin. We wallow in condemnation and fear and guilt because we do not put our faith in the promise that we sinners are forgiven. But when we put away our doubt and believe, living water is poured out on our souls.
God Will Create a Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness in You: Living water awakens in me a delight for the Law of the Lord. In other words, when I confess my sin and receive the forgiveness of Jesus, I become free to love what God loves without being condemned.
Living water, then, actually makes me thirsty – it awakens in me a desire to express my love for God through words and actions – and it awakens in me an awareness and hatred of the corrosive effects of sin and of rebellion against God.
Recognize and Respond to This Living Water in Your Life: First, as believers, we should recognize what a gift this living water is. We tend to think that as believers we should always love what is good and want to do what is right – but our desire to love and please God is miraculous! supernatural! We take it for granted too often. But if today you want to be pure and free from sin… if you want to serve God, love your neighbor, turn from covetousness and live in contentment before God – these desires have been awakened by the living water of Christ in you. We should be grateful, amazed, that God is changing us at the level of our hearts to cause us to delight in and desire his Law.
Secondly, we should respond to the desires God has put within us. The spiritual life should be thought of as a relationship between Christ and his bride. Christ pursues us – puts desire within our hearts – and we are called to respond. Understand that to respond is to gratefully receive the desire for righteousness that Christ puts in your heart and then to act on that desire. It is error to expect Christ both to create his desire within you and then to wait for him to carry it out as well. We are called to act.
The spiritual life, then, is not a life of passively waiting – but of responding in love (however imperfectly) to the call of God. It is less like mastering a skill or a course of study – and more like a relationship in which we respond to the one who loves us.
God Will Bless Us as We Believe and Respond: As our hearts are changed and we respond, we become like the tree – planted by streams of water. Our response to the love of Jesus creates, over time, good fruit in our lives. We do not need to create the desire for God in our own hearts – nor do we need to prove we belong to him. We belong to Christ and he gives us living-watered lives.