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Tuesday
Jan082019

Walking with the Lord in 2019

Psalm 1:1-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 6, 2019.

As we begin this New Year, we begin by praying for our walk with God.  We need His wisdom and guidance for the path ahead of us, and we need to grow in our ability to follow Him.  However, more than these things from the Lord, we need His presence in our life.  So we come to the question.  Am I walking with God as I should?  Am I following the One that He sent, the Lord Jesus Christ?  This is a question that we can ask ourselves every day.  It is that important.

The Bible presents Jesus as the perfect Son of God.  He is our example of how to walk with God the Father.  Yes, He is definitely more than an example, but He is one nonetheless, which we would do well to follow.

Our passage today compares and contrasts the one who refuses to walk with the world, and walks with God, to the one who does not.  This is not about disconnecting from society and the people around us in order to go on a spiritual journey.  Rather, it is living our life in the midst of society and the people around us by following God’s direction and not our own.  It is recognizing that my way provides no salvation for myself or this world, but His way brings life.

We need to learn to walk with the Lord.

Verse one of this psalm opens with a series of statements that use the verbs “walk, stand, and sit.”  It is clear that the psalmist is not just thinking of the simple actions in and of themselves.  He is not worried that a sinner might walk beside him on the road to Jerusalem, or that a scoffer might happen to sit by him at a wedding.  Rather, he uses these verbs as extensions of the choices that we make in our heart and in our mind, which cause us to do these things in league with certain people.

Thus, it is not about who happens to be walking next to me, but who I choose to walk with.  Similarly it is not about who happens to be standing or sitting beside me, but about those whom I choose to stand with and sit beside because I share their purpose and outlook on life.  We need to learn to choose to walk in harmony with the Lord, to walk in fellowship with Him, and to walk by His leading.

Thus we end up with a list of things that we should avoid because they take us away from the Lord.  As we look at this list, we should also note how Jesus perfectly demonstrates how to avoid them.  First, the blessed man chooses not to listen to the counsel of the wicked.  Now, the wicked are those who reject God’s Word and do what they want.  They have chosen a path that is adverse to God’s path for mankind.  Those who reject God’s path, and consequently His fellowship, have their own way of looking at things and their own “wisdom.”  Their counsel or advice is always a twisted reasoning why they should not follow the counsel of the Lord.  Their counsel is like that of the devil’s when he tempted Eve.  “Has God really said…”  The wicked can be openly hostile to God, or they may operate under the umbrella of God’s people.  Yet, their counsel always provides an exit off of the path of God’s way.  If we are to do well this year, we must learn to avoid listening to the counsel of the wicked.

Second, the blessed man chooses not to stand on the path of sinners.  “Sinners” here is a conceptual rhyme with the earlier “wicked.”  They are essentially the same with a slight difference in nuance.  Yet, the emphasis moves from their counsel to their path.  We start walking away from the Lord by first listening to their counsel, but then we find ourselves walking their same path.  The sinner’s path is not the path of the Lord.  The very definition of the word sinner is one who misses or falls short of God will.  They go a different way than the Lord.  Again, if we are to do well this year, we must not go down the path of those who reject God’s counsel and are refusing to walk with Him.

Third, the blessed man chooses not to sit in the seat of scoffers.  The image of a seat seems to be the end of a series of choices that lead to a worse and worse situation spiritually.  Having listened to false counsel, and walking down a false path, we can end up in a destination full of those who scoff, mock, and scorn those who follow God.  How sad to go from walking with God to mocking those who still do so.  If you find yourself sitting with those who mock and deride God and His Word, if you find yourself in league with such people and such attitudes, then you are in a bad place.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to avoid that mocking spirit which wants to pull us off of the path of Christ and on to a path of our own making.

Now verse 2 gives us the positive things that a blessed person embraces.  Here we see that the first is the Law of the Lord.  Now the psalmist is an Israelite living prior to the times of Christ and the Law of the Lord represented the apex of God’s Word.  God had made a covenant with Israel and given them His Law.  As Christians we are not under the Law of Moses, but rather the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2).  The point here is not about legalism.  The Law represented God’s counsel and wisdom to Israel as to how they should run their society and show their faithfulness to Him.  For Christians today, we also need to heed God’s counsel and his wisdom in order to stay in fellowship with God and show our faithfulness to Him.  However, we have the Gospel from Jesus and His apostles.  We need to listen to the counsel that they give us.  Jesus will not lead us towards wickedness, sin, or mocking.

We should also note that it says that we should delight in God’s Word.  This represents an emotional response to the grace that God gives when He gives us His Word, His wisdom.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to delight in receiving God’s Word and then follow it.

Secondly, we should embrace meditating upon God’s commands.  It is not enough to merely hear God’s Word.  We are told to meditate upon what He says.  This is an inner dialogue that we can have with God in which we contemplate His Word, how it applies to us, and what obstacles we need to overcome.  The focus is to fill our minds with the understanding of God’s counsel and commands.  This involves recognizing and casting aside those understandings and counsels that are adverse to Christ.  If we do not take time to meditate about our choices in this life, we will fall far short of walking with the Lord.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to set aside time each day to meditate about the path in front of us, and prayerfully ask God to help us see His path.

In verse 3 we see the effect of the path that we walk upon our life.  Those who walk with the Lord become fruitful and beneficial to others.  This image of a fruit tree may somewhat conflict with the imagery of walking with the Lord.  However the difference in imagery helps to further explain what is intended for us to see.  The one who is walking with the Lord is simultaneously a tree in this world.  The rivers of water point to the need for trees to have water.  Without it there can be no growth.  God and His Word is our source of water.  When we are connected to God as our water source then we will become fruitful. 

Now the whole point of a fruit tree is to provide something for others.  Apple trees do not eat their own apples.  Our growth is not about getting all sorts of stuff to feed ourselves.  The one who follows God’s path becomes like a tree laden with fruit and all who come upon them can find good sustenance from them.  What kind of fruit am I in the life of those around me?  If we are to do well this year then we must turn our roots towards the waters of life, and not the stagnant waters of this world.  Then we will be fruitful and beneficial to those whom God has put in our life.

 Walking with the Lord also makes one to prosper.  “Whatever he does shall prosper.”  With so many teachers talking about prosperity, it would be good to pause and remind ourselves of what prosperity is and what it is not.  For many it only means to be financially wealthy and physically healthy.  However, in pursuing these things we can often be feeding the lusts of our own flesh.  We can promote greed, selfishness, lack of discipline, and idolatry as we try to prosper.  We cannot serve God and wealth!

Instead, the New Testament emphasizes spiritual prosperity above material prosperity (I did not say instead of).    It is not that God will not take care of our material needs, but that our flesh gets too attached to material prosperity at the expense of spiritual prosperity.  Thus we are called to be thankful and content with whatever material things God supplies, be it little or much.  We are to be other-focused and become spiritually beneficial to people around us, and, as the Lord directs and supplies, materially beneficial to them as well.  Ultimately we worship God and serve Him, rather than dollar signs and looking good in front of other people.  If we are to truly be prosperous this year, then we will need to break down the idol in our hearts that wants to be rich and satisfy all the desires of our heart.  Then we will truly prosper.

Verse 4 reminds us that if we don’t walk with the Lord the effects will be negative.  The ungodly will not be like a tree that has plenty of water and bears good fruit.  Though the psalmist could have stuck with the tree imagery and said that they produce poisonous fruit, he doesn’t.  We switch to another metaphor, that of wheat.  The wheat metaphor makes it clear.  The ungodly will perish.

Wheat has a hard shell that must be broken off of it in order to get to the useful food beneath.  The broken remnants of these shells are called chaff.  It was common to crush the wheat and then throw it into the air.  The wind would blow the light and insubstantial chaff away, but leave the heavier, good wheat behind.

This metaphor can be taken two ways.  First, all the trials and difficulties of this world have the effect of separating us into two categories.  We are either wheat that will be gathered into God’s barn, or we are chaff that the wind of God will blow away.

Second, we can also recognize a further truth that all the trials and difficulties of our life are testing and breaking the chaff off of us.  If we will allow Him, God will use those pains and hurts to break off the hard shell around our heart and remove it far from us.  We can become that which is good and the bad part will be blown away by the wind of God.  Though this image doesn’t bring up the sense of God’s love for His people and His desire to be loved by them, its lesson is still important.  God is always working to remove the bad and protect the good.  If we are to do well this year then we must learn to cooperate with this work in our life.  Quit worrying about those who reject God.  Even if they seem to prosper and seem to be so substantial in this world, the day will come when the wind of God will blow them away and they will perish.  Don’t seek to be like them, rather seek to tell them about God’s love for them.

The psalm ends with the warning that the ungodly will not stand in the Day of Judgment.  We will all one day stand and give account to the God of heaven, specifically Jesus Christ.  In that day those who have walked with Him will be blessed and enabled to stand, but those who have rejected His ways, mocked and derided them, will recognize their folly too late.  Don’t be such a person and don’t make such mistakes.  In fact, be a tree of life that when such a person crosses your path, you have enough power of Christ within you to get their attention.  If we are to do well this year, then we need Christ to help us offer something helpful to the lost world around us.

May this year be a year in which you walk with the Lord and are truly blessed.

Walking with the Lord audio

Thursday
Jan122017

The Heart of a Righteous Person

Psalm 4:1-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 08, 2017.

I want to look at this Psalm today in order to hear the heart of those righteous individuals who have gone before us.  It is easy to look at our modern technology and think that those believers before us have nothing to teach us.  However, this is a foolish idea.  If you take time to read about the righteous men and women of the Bible, you will find yourself being filled with encouragement, sometimes.  On the other hand, you may also find yourself being discouraged because you feel that you don’t measure up to them.  We can feel disqualified because we are not as good as they were.  Let me just take a moment to remind you that throughout the Bible we are shown the physical, emotional, and spiritual weaknesses of those who were called righteous.  They were not perfect individuals.  In fact, they sometimes failed God and disobeyed Him, only to have God’s discipline teach them wisdom.  They were just like you and I in their hearts.  But they learned that God could be trusted despite how difficult their situations became.  As we read this Psalm, I pray our hearts will be encouraged by what we hear.

They are moved to talk with God

Modern though likes to say that prayer was a part of our evolution.  When we were knuckle-dragging, cave-people, we were ignorant and afraid of the elements surrounding us.  Thus natural selection elevated those who developed a belief in a higher power.  This made them bolder and fearless.  To those who are so persuaded, a belief and praying to God is no longer necessary.  Our technology is quickly conquering the world around us.  We are now the higher power for which we have always longed.  Of course the Bible directly contradicts such modern conjectures.  We were not created in ignorance and insecurity.  Mankind began in a special relationship with the Creator Himself.  God taught the first pair to tend a garden that He had prepared for them.  Thus man was not at the mercy of the elements originally.  It was a result of their sin and the fractured relationship with the Creator that led man to a scary, fearful place.  Though this relationship has been adversely affected, we are still able to connect with the Creator through prayer because we were designed for communication with Him from the beginning.  Thus this psalm began as a prayer of David to the One who created us.

In verse 1 David asks the Lord to hear his cry.  He is clearly in a desperate situation, and desperate situations have a way of forcing us to get real with God.  A righteous person will not be content to go through a mere ritual of religion.  When push comes to push, they will cry out to God with a passion that is not generally present when things are going easy.  In Isaiah 64:7, the prophet complains that there is “no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You.”  Notice Isaiah’s desperation.  He feels alone.  He is calling on God’s name and stirring himself up to take hold of God.  This is a picture of holding on to God and not letting go until He answers you.  I pray that you are not content with just going through the motions.  I pray that you have learned the importance of stirring yourself up and passionately interacting with God like David is doing here.  Don’t settle for a dead faith and dead religion.  God reveals Himself to those who take hold of Him and don’t let go.

We also see in verse 1 that David prays to “the God of my righteousness.”  He recognizes that God is the source of his righteousness.  Of course, everyone thinks they are righteous.  Sometimes people use religion to justify their wicked deeds (name a religion, people have used them all).  Other times people use intellectual justifications that rely upon faulty logic.  David had been taught the Word of God, and had done his best to live by it.  It is to this One who has revealed the Way that the Israelites should live that David is appealing.  Of course our relationship with God has received far more revelation since then.  God has revealed The Way that all peoples on the earth should live.  The righteous are not those who appear to do all the right things.  The righteous are those who know that God is the source of their righteousness.  Without Him we would be trapped in ignorance.  Without Him we would still be trapped by our sins.  It is God who enables us to do and be anything that can be called good.

David has a present need, but he says, “You have relieved me in my distress.”  During present perils, it is easy to lose hope.  However, the righteous will remember past mercies to themselves and to others.  That memory becomes proof of future help.  God helps those who trust Him.  The Bible is filled with testimonies of God’s mercy to those who trusted Him.  If we discount God’s mercy in their lives and in our own then we are not being fair to God.  God has done too much for us to doubt Him.  Yes, your flesh does want Him to do more or something greater, but that is like a kid demanding ice cream and claiming their parents haven’t given them enough.  It is an immature and childish accusation.  In fact, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate act of mercy that should shake any doubt to its core.  Our future is sure, even though our present shouts that it is not.  This is the blessing of the righteous.

They are moved to talk with men

Now let’s look at verses 2 and 3.  It is easy to disconnect and go silent towards those who reject God and His Ways.  However, the righteous are moved to talk with the wicked as well.  Sure there may come a time when there is nothing more to be said.  But that does not discount that something must be said.  The unbelieving need a proper witness to the truth by those who do believe.  Part of that witness is to question the actions of the unrighteous.  David asks, “How long…”  It is partly a plea to repent and turn back to God.  However, it is also a warning.  How long will God allow you to get away with your rejection of Him and doing your own thing without His judgment?  Just as today is the day of salvation, so today is the day to proclaim the salvation of the Lord.  It is too easy to say nothing to people and pretend that we are okay.  But, the righteous through the ages have not been silent to those around them, at least at first.   David proclaims that the ungodly turn “my glory into shame.”  They were doing so by slandering any good thing that David had done.  We see the same thing done to Jesus and the early Christians.  But David may have also meant that they were shaming God by what they were doing to David.  In Psalm 3:3 David calls God, “my Glory.”  Either way, it is true that we shame God when we unjustly attack one another.  David recognizes that the ungodly seek after idols.  They have quit seeking God and given up on any help from Him.  Instead they turn to false answers, false truths.  If they are not caused to reconsider how can they then be saved?  They simply can’t.

David then turns to remind the ungodly of the faithfulness of the Lord.  He puts the point to them.  What side do you want to be on?  God is going to answer me, and in so doing you will be dealt with (of course, unless you repent).  Christians must be a prophetic voice to the world around us that God has set the godly apart for himself.  He will answer them when they call.  Why would you not want to be a part of such a group?  Yet, those who resist God and even take their stand against Him and His people are fighting a losing battle.  There are many today who reject the Bible and the Creator.  They work to diminish their affect upon this nation and world.  No matter how successful the ungodly appear, God is on the side of the godly and will answer their cries.  He is going to come in judgment against the wicked and for the righteous.

They hold fast to the lessons learned

In verses 4 and 5 David rehearses within himself, and now shares with others who are struggling with keeping the faith, those things that had been handed down by the righteous of ages past.  It is important to keep walking the right path even when we are waiting upon God to hear our prayer and answer us.  Thus David says, “Be angry and sin not.”  When you are mistreated it is natural to become angry.  Anger is a powerful motivator to do something.  Much like a reservoir of water behind a dam, the passion of our anger can break forth like an uncontrollable wave of water from a collapsing dam, or it can be released in controlled form through the proper channel of a spill gate.   Notice that it is not a sin to be angry.  It is what we do with anger that often is sin.  Thus anger is dangerous.  If it is not properly controlled and funneled into proper channels of action, it becomes destructive sin.  These words are repeated in Ephesians 4:26, and Paul adds the admonishment, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  The word translated “wrath” is talking about the ways in which anger turns into sin.  It starts internally with irritation, bitterness, exasperation, and vengefulness.  It then leads to the external action of sin.  Yes, there is much to be angry about in this world because there is much sin.  However, the believer must restrain themselves from the affect that anger can have on their fleshly heart, and funnel it into passionate prayer before God and a passionate witness before the ungodly.  That witness is both vocal and non-vocal, through the life of righteousness to which we faithfully cling.  We must walk the walk in the face of all threats against us, whether they come from others, or within ourselves.

David next reminds himself to Meditate.  The righteous build a habit of meditating on their life before God in private.  This is not the eastern form of meditation where one is trying to clear their mind of everything.  That kind of meditation only opens you up to spiritual deception.  Biblical meditation is to bring the issues of our life before God, think about what the Scriptures say, and to think about what God would have us do.  It lays all that before Him and asks for His Spirit’s leading.  All of this happens within our heart when we are alone.  Of course, this can be alone in the sense that it happens in your mind when no one is intruding.  However, David refers to his bed.  We need to seek out times alone, so that we can meditate before the Lord and grow in understanding.  Jesus often sought out times alone to pray before the Lord.

David then remembers, “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness.”  The righteous always continue in the religious service that God has asked of them and yet do not allow it to become only a form.  They refuse just to go through the motions without a real life of trust and faith backing it up.  Thus many times to do the right thing is itself a sacrifice.  Our flesh doesn’t want to do it, but we die to the desires of our flesh and live out the righteousness of God.  This is the sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

Lastly, David says, “Put your trust in the Lord.”  Ultimately the godly throughout history teach us that the only wise thing we can do is to put our trust in the Lord, even when it seems like He is silent.  It must be done even when it seems like He is letting the ungodly win.  We need each of these lessons in our life today.  It may not seem like much, and the devil will tell you it is not enough.  But, he knows that a person who does these things will become impervious to his assaults, and will ruin his work in the lives of others.

They are blessed by God

The psalm ends with recognition that the ungodly are often cynical about such a witness from the righteous.  “Who will show us anything good,” is actually a challenge.  The ungodly have been tempted into following the logic and the thing that brings them something they desire.  They have become enslaved by their fleshly desires.  This is a sad way to be.  Only God’s grace can break through such cynicism.  So, David recognizes that the righteous will continue to look to God.  The phrase, “the light of your countenance,” is an allusion to the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26.  There it says, “The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”  This is a picture that God not only is aware, but He is looking upon us and His face is shining with good-will towards us, rather than a dark and stormy face of judgment.

This leads to the recognition that God gives gladness and joy to the righteous.  His truth tempers our immaturity and folly.  It fills us with the joy of knowing that God is more powerful and wise than anything that stands against us.  Thus, we cannot lose.  He is going to answer at the proper time.  So what makes you glad?  Is it bumper crops, which is basically economic increase?  If your joy is based on such temporary things, then you will be increasingly saddened and driven to leave God’s ways behind and forge your own path of success.  But, if you make relationship with God your joy, then you will never lack its presence in your heart, even when you are in the valley of the shadow of death.

Thus David talks about how the righteous are given peace and sleep in God’s safety.  God is our protector.  Why should we fear?  David says that he can sleep at night because God is what gives him peace and safety.  Though the world around us rages, we can be at peace as long as God is pleased.  Similarly, if the whole world is singing our praises, we dare not be at peace if God is unpleased with our life. 

The word translated “alone” in the last verse makes it sound like God is the only thing that makes David safe.  That is true of course.  But the word might better be translated in this way.  “In solitude, You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  This reference to solitude is a reference to God’s place of safety, or refuge.  We always have such a place internally within our mind and heart.  We can enter into this refuge and commune with the Lord even in the presence of our enemies.  However, such a place of refuge is also literal at times.  David fled into the wilderness from Saul and there God gave him a refuge, and a place of solitude in which he was safe from Saul’s threats.  During that time God spoke to David and encouraged him, while David waited for God’s promises to come true.  God periodically gives us breaks from the onslaught of the battle in order to comfort and encourage us.  This is the blessing that the righteous have from the Lord.  May we live faithfully for Him to the end of our lives!

Heart of a righteous person audio