Amazing Chapters in the Bible for All of the Chapters in Our Lives, Pt. 4
Study Guide, July 25, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
Along with the instructions for happiness that we recently explored from our study on the Beatitudes…or the ‘Be Happy Attitudes’ in chapter 5 of Matthew, there is another amazing chapter in the Davidic Psalms that also gives precise instructions for a ‘Happy’ life, or we should say for a ‘Blessed’ life for all of the chapters of our lives. And it is the chapter in Psalms that we just read in our congregational reading. So let’s see what we can discover together from Psalm 1.
And by the way, do you think that it is just a coincidence that the Book of Psalms begins with these instructions? Right…I don’t think so either. Even though the first Psalm is not very long, Psalm 1 provides foundational teaching for godly living, along with the blessings that God connects with godly living.
The chapter itself is a two-part instruction…the first part contains instructions for the Righteous, and the last part contains warnings for the unrighteous. And as we know, there are actually two aspects of ‘Righteousness’ as well. For there is ‘Salvation Righteousness’ and there is ‘Sanctification Righteousness’. And our salvation is secured in having been clothed with the Righteousness of Christ, which includes His gift of forgiveness and our right standing with God. And then, our sanctification is strengthened or grown through our faithfulness in our daily worship and service to God. Therefore, when we are reading the Scriptures about ‘righteousness’ we always need to identify which kind of righteousness the passage is dealing with…as with Psalm 1 for example. The Psalmist is talking about the way that one who is righteous in salvation, or one who already ‘belongs’ to the Lord, can then live out a blessed and sanctified life…a righteous and happy life, along with a deep soul satisfaction in life. Or, it’s how a ‘Saved’ believer can live out a sanctified and blessed life. And, again, the latter part of the passage refers to those who do not belong to the Lord…those who are unsaved and are thus, perishing.
Ps 1:1-3- “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” NASU
Now, interestingly enough, you would think that the sequence stated here would be just the opposite. You would think that the sitting would come before the standing, and that the standing would come before the walking. But not so here…Why is that? Note this: One of the recurring counsels in the Scriptures to Believers is to make a choice right away, and to re-make that choice pretty much every day about this: To whom will you conform…to your Lord or your world? Remember, that was part of the emphasis of a recent and important message by Pastor Robert about Romans 12. Rom 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” NASU
Now, right away we need to clarify one misconception that many people have about conformity. And the clarification is that conformity in this life is not an option. No, the only option is ‘to whom or what’ will you conform? The only way you could be independent from the powers and influences of conformity is if you created yourself…if you were your own creator. But since no one has created their own self, they are thus subject to the powers of conformity.
It’s also interesting, actually, both interesting and absolutely essential to know, that for the follower of Christ ‘conformity’ is more than just an option…it is the central purpose of our lives! That’s right! We are called to become conformed to….well let’s read it…“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” Rom 8:29 NASU
Even the word ‘conform’ here is related to the Latin word, ‘conformare’, which means ‘to mold and to shape after’. That makes us think of a Potter working with pottery in order for him to shape it and fashion it into the very design that he had in mind in creating it. Isa 64:8- “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” NASU
God, our Potter, already knows what He is trying to mold us into and shape us into, along with the purposes He has for us. And the central feature of God’s design for us is to be molded and shaped more and more into the image of the Son, the image of Christ, both in character and in conduct. So, wisdom for us pottery is to yield to our Potter! That is the only wise thing to do! Resisting the Potter is absolute foolishness for the pottery. We have to continually say to ourselves, “Don’t work against the Potter, work with the Potter!”
Therefore, and again, the very goal of our growth, the very purpose of our sanctification, the central design for our life is for each saved child of God to become more and more conformed, and more and more transformed into the image and character of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! That is to be the primary goal of our life, since that is the primary goal of God for our life!
And if you have not made this goal, becoming conformed to the image of Christ, to be your highest goal and be the premier pursuit of your life, then that also answers any questions you have about your discontentment in your life or your lack of inner peace or your problems with experiencing soul-satisfaction. Remember, contentment in your mind, body, and soul is directly connected with conforming more and more to the image of Christ, your Creator and Redeemer! Mark it down: Blessedness, happiness, contentment, and soul-fulfillment follows and flows out of conforming more and more into the image of the God who created us in His own image.
Okay, we needed to really reinforce that concept. And one reason for this need is to equip us to combat the warning of the Psalmist here…which is what? “…who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers…” Why? Because again, you are seeking to accomplish a different goal…a higher goal. But also, isn’t it interesting the way the Psalmist put this? We usually think of growth and development in terms of first sitting, then standing, and then walking. Like we do as children in physical growth and development. We often also see that applied to our spiritual growth and development as well.
Some of you may have read the great work by a Chinese church leader named Watchman Nee, who was imprisoned in China for the last twenty years of his life because of his faith and service for Christ. But in the book that he wrote about sanctification he put the sequence in terms of: “Sit, Walk, Stand”, about living out the Christian life from the book of Ephesians. His purpose in starting with ‘sit’ was to emphasize the importance of being secure in our position in Christ…knowing that we are, as Eph 2:5-6 reveals to us: “…even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” NASU We already have a reserved place in Heaven as born again children of God.
And then he points out that since Christ made us spiritually alive with Him, we are now to walk with Him. Eph 5:8- “…for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.” NASU
And then, as we seek to be light to the world, and also share the light of God’s truth and life with others we will have to be prepared to stand against the darkness. Eph 6:11-13- “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” NASU This is a great way to describe the process of sanctification, and a great pattern to follow for intentional growth and living for the glory of God.
And we say ‘intentional’ because now we come back to the other pattern, which is really a scheme that the devil sets out as a trap for believers who are not intentional about knowing and growing in truth and living righteously for the glory of God. What do we mean? As Dr. John Walvoord in the Bible Knowledge Commentary points out: “With three trilogies of expressions the psalmist described the life of the blessed man: he does not walk… stand or sit in the counsel… way or seat of the wicked (ungodly), sinners, or mockers (scorners). With each parallel unit the expression becomes more intense. This signifies a progression from a casual influence of ungodly people to collusion with them in their scorn against the righteous.”
Do you see how subtle the Devil works against God’s people? He uses this casual, but constant influence of the ungodly on believers as they ‘walk in this world’. Remember, we are called to be ‘in this world’ as salt and light to this world, but not ‘of this world’, or not letting this world ‘mold’ us or ‘conform’ us to its image. But if we do begin to let it conform our thinking and our living, we then begin ‘standing’ alongside of the world in its distorted human reasoning and twisted morals and compromising beliefs. And if we stumble in those, then the pressure becomes greater to not only stand with ungodliness, but then to sit alongside them, and then even adopting their mocking attitudes and scoffing words.
This is how the decay can happen even in the life a of a Disciple, a follower of God. Here is one clear example of this and then we’ll have to continue our study later. And in this we also find the key to either standing with God or falling to the world. We see it in the life of King Amaziah, one of the good Kings of Judah, but nevertheless, he found himself conforming to the wrong influences of the world because of this one thing. Let’s see: 2 Chron 25:1-2- “Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. He did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.” NASU
There it is! This is the key to determining the degree that you will conform more and more to the image of God or conform more and more to the image of this world…it is the degree that your heart is united or divided in your devotion to God. When a follower of Christ does not live whole heartedly for Christ, he or she will be vulnerable to then walking in the counsel of the wicked, and then standing in the path of sinners, and then even sitting in the seat of scoffers. Whole-hearted devotion is the only protection from half-hearted discipleship. Because Amaziah did not follow God with a whole heart, he started making foolish decisions. He made allegiances with ungodly nations. Then he was influenced by their ungodly idolatry. And then he mocked and scoffed at his own godly advisors, which ending up costing him his life.
Prov 4:23- “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” NLT More important than the circumstances of your life is the condition of your heart toward God. Is it united for God or divided before the world? Maybe you sense that your heart might be divided, but you don’t know what to do to make it become united. Even David prayed for God to help unite his heart. Listen to his prayer: Ps 86:11-13- “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever. For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” NASU
Interesting, how even a change of heart starts with a surrender of the will…it starts with a willingness to be taught, and a willingness to then walk and do whatever you have been taught by the God who has delivered your soul from the depths of Sheol. If you are willing to whole-heartedly follow Christ, then you will find yourself following Christ with a whole heart. God will help you unite your heart to follow Him and thus be blessed by Him. And that will also then guard you from the schemes of the devil and the ungodly influences that destroy unguarded hearts.
We will look into the other key that the Psalmist gave us in our next study.