March 29, 2020

The Way of the Wise – Part 2 (originally preached on March 31, 2019)

Passage: Psalm 1:1-3
Service Type:

Bible Text: Psalm 1:1-3 | Pastor: Craig Wilson | Series: The Way of the Wise | **originally preached on March 31, 2019**

Here’s my thesis statement for this morning. Meditation. Where meditating on the scriptures should be the norm for the Christian, not be the exception. Meditating on the scriptures for the Christian, for the believer, should be the norm and not the exception. And I believe we see that very clearly here in Psalm 1. In Psalm 1 we have described for us two roads, if you will, or two contrasting lifestyles. In the first three verses of Psalm 1 begins with a very clear, a very vivid description of the godly or the righteous man who lives a godly and a righteous life. Now, as we learned last week, please keep in mind that these opening verses are a description of the Lord Jesus. He is the only one who can legitimately claim to have lived consistently as the blessed man lived and is described here. Therefore, if we are to become like Jesus, then we must, in the power of the Holy Spirit, follow the example of Jesus that we see here in the first three verses of Psalm 1. So the life of the godly person is described as much by what they don’t do, as well as by what they do. For instance, the righteous person, because he is a righteous person, does not walk into counsel of the wicked, which means they reject the philosophies and values of this world. The godly person refuses to live by his own standards and his own pursuit of pleasure. So that’s what the godly man or woman refuses to do. They make a conscious decision. They make a conscious choice to make sure that that is not their lifestyle. And the reason they can make that conscious decision is because they have been granted new life in Christ. So, therefore, they now have a desire to live this way. Indeed, if they don’t have a desire to live this way, then warrants you to question whether or not they have been born again, whether or not they are indeed in Christ. Now, the flip side to what they don’t do is the things that they do. The righteous person, because they are righteous, they have the ability to make the conscious decision to live a lifestyle that is contrary to how the unrighteous and the ungodly person lives their lives. Now, as I said before, what is the dominant characteristic? What is the dominant trait of the godly man or the godly woman? Or to look at this from another angle: What is it that allows this man or woman to experience the blessing of God to such a degree that they become like the description here of a tall straight tree, and notice it’s planted by streams of water which continually feed their inner reservoir so that they are continually prospering spiritually. What is it? Well look at verse 2. “But his delight is in the Law of the Lord and on His Law”, he does what, “he meditates day and night”. In other words, the lifestyle of the righteous person, of the godly person, is characterized by a continuous dwelling on, and a thinking about, God’s word. Therefore, meditate, for them is the norm. It is not the exception. So therefore, if you are a person who has been redeemed, if you’re a person who has been saved, if you’re a person who has been born again, if you are a person who claims to be a disciple of Christ than meditation, I say with no apologies and with complete confidence of the scriptures, must be a part of your life. It must be part of your life. This should be the norm for you and not the exception. Steven Lawson says, “The message of Psalm 1 is that a healthy, growing relationship to the scriptures is central to a person’s blessed condition”. There used to be a Bible bookstore in downtown Richmond, it’s long since gone out of business. But every time that you would go in there and you would check out they would invariably say the same thing to you, “Have a blessed day”. Nice sentiment, totally meaningless. Why? Because it was devoid from the means of blessing. What’s the means of blessing? Obedience to the scriptures. Meditating on the scriptures.

So let’s expand our understanding or definition of biblical meditation. I’ve given this to you before, I’m going to expand upon it just a little bit. To meditate is to think, first of all, personally. Meaning that you take the time, you make the effort to meditate on the Word of God, to meditate is to think, personally, practically. What I mean by that, is that you take the time to meditate on the scriptures in order to see how it applies to your life. How this Bible truth applies to your life, at this stage of your life, in the unique circumstances of your life. How does this scripture apply to my life right here, right now? Seriously, meaning that you take this serious. It’s not just “oh, the old boys up there, he needed a few weeks worth of sermons so he’s going on and on about meditation. I’ll forget it, he’ll forget it, we’ll just all go on our merry way.” No, you take it seriously. You take it seriously. And then the last word is earnestly. In other words, you expend the effort. You see the value of this. So to meditate this to think personally, practically, seriously, and earnestly on how the truth of God’s word should look in our lives. In other words, how’s it fleshed out in our lives? How are we to live out the truth of God? And I think there’s a danger, particularly in reformed circles, because we, rightly or wrongly, puts so much emphasis on our knowledge, on what we know, on making sure that we’re getting the truth right, that if we’re not careful, all we do is focus on the knowledge, and we never focus on the heart. In other words, we just focus on what we know we never focus on the emotion that should go with it. Emotion meaning, “How should I live this out? How should I live this out?” This will be no surprise to any of you, but Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones has impacted my life tremendously. And one of the things I’ve learned from Dr. Jones is this, he believed that truth should affect you emotionally. And until truth affects you emotionally you will never live it out. We know a lot of things intellectually, but many times we don’t live them out. Why? Because they haven’t affected us emotionally. Now, I’m not talking about getting up here and lapping the building and just going crazy. No, it affects my emotions to the degree, it affects my affection for Christ to such a degree that I’m going to live this truth out in legitimate biblical ways. We got to be careful that we just don’t soak up the knowledge and say, “I got that down, let’s move on to something else.” No. biblical meditation, marries head and heart. Biblical meditation affects both the head and the heart. And if your meditation is not doing that you’re probably not meditating properly. Puritan pastor Thomas Watson wrote this, “Study is the finding out of a truth. Meditation is the spiritual improvement of a truth.” Now, let me give you a little tip, if you read the Puritans, when they talk about spiritual improvement of a truth, they are talking about you personally applying it to your life. Okay, that’s how you improve the truth. You take advantage of it. “The one that searches for the vein of gold, the other digs out the gold. Study is like a winter sun that hath little warmth and influence. Meditation melts the heart when it is frozen and makes it drop into tears of love.” Yeah, we think the Puritans were such sticks in the mud. But they were some of the most biblically sound, emotional people you’ll ever come across. Now, I don’t think that too many of us would disagree with this statement, that the church particularly in America, does not help. One pastor was asked why he thought that was so. In fact, he was asked, “What has gone wrong with modern Christianity?” He said this, “It has become thoughtless, superficial and self absorbed.” Now if you think about that, it sounds a lot like our culture doesn’t it? So it’s just like our culture.

We live in a culture with their 20-second sound bites, however many characters you have on Twitter now. We live in a culture that does everything to wage war against serious thinking and serious thought. We live in a culture that celebrates the superficial and the self absorbed. Isn’t that accurate? It sounds a lot like what goes on in a lot of churches. What the church needs, I believe is a resurgence of serious biblical thinking in the church, which means there needs to be a serious resurgence of biblical thinking in the lives of individual believers. God gave you a mind. God gave you the ability to think. God gave you the ability to reason, and you honor him when you use those gifts. We may not reach the level of – name your favorite theologian – few of us will. That is not an excuse for not giving it your all with the abilities that God has given to you. So the challenge, I think, again for the church is to reclaim biblical meditation, because that will help deepen us and heal much of what ills the church. And there’s a very practical reason for this. If you think right, you will, what, act right. You think right, you will act right. You are not a Christian because you say that you are. Say, “How do I know if I’m a Christian?” Look at your life. Are you obedient to the scriptures? N perfectly, but it is your will, it is your desire to be obedient to God. You can mouth off all day that you’ve been in church all your life. Listen, a lot of people who are going to be raised in church are going to go straight to Hell. A lot of people who went to a crusade someplace and walked the aisle and signed the card. They’re gonna go straight to Hell. Why? Because they’ve never been taught about repentance. They’ve never been taught that, “hey, I have to turn from my sin not to turn my faith to Christ and embrace Christ”. Embrace the forgiveness, and that brings what? Removes my heart of stone and gives me a heart of flesh that wants to obey Jesus. If you don’t want to obey Jesus, please, please, please, please do not fool yourself into thinking “everything’s okay with me spiritually.” Can an unbeliever meditate on biblical truth? I believe that they can, and the Holy Spirit will use them to bring them to Christ. So if you’re here today you’re not sure if you’re a Christian please don’t shut me down. Meditate on God’s truth. Biblical meditation again unites biblical knowledge to actual living. The Bible teaches, the more that I meditate on God’s word, the more I will become like Him. Now, let me give you an example of that. For instance, by thinking on God’s word by meditating on God’s words, which the Bible itself describes as pure words, guess what happens to us? We will begin to purify our own lives, we will begin to experience a life of purity in the middle of this cesspool known as planet Earth. Let me show you something from Scripture. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Now what James doesn’t tell us is, what’s the means here? But it’s already written in Scripture, so we know. Psalm 119 verse nine, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your”, What? “word”. Word. What is it that purifies us? It’s the word of God? Do you need to change your behavior? Meditate on God’s word. Do you need to break a sinful habit? Meditate on God’s word. Do you need an attitude adjustment? Meditate on God’s word. Do you need comfort in times of trouble? Meditate on God’s word. Do you need direction in your day-to-day affairs of life? Then meditate on God’s word.

Say, “Do you really believe that?” I do. I do. I believe it. I’ve experienced it, and others can testify to that. Let me give you some examples from scripture that deal with biblical meditations. For instance. In 1 Samuel chapter 12, we have the account of Samuel, the Old Testament prophet Samuel’s farewell address to the nation of Israel. And in his goodbye speech he recounted his ministry to them, he reminds them of their history of forgetting about their God once they got into the promised land. He reminded them of their seemingly continual rebellion against God’s leadership. And one way that they did that was they demanded a human king to rule over them. But despite the nation’s rejection of God, Samuel assures them that God will not forsake them. Then Samuel closes out his speech with these words, he says, “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart.” Now, here’s where I’m going to interject, I want to ask a question that Samuel gives the answer to the last verse. Why should I do that? Or how do I do that? How do I fear the Lord? How do I serve him faithfully with all my heart? Through willpower? No. What’s he say? “For consider what great things He has done for you”. So let’s read it with the flow, “Only fear of the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart, for consider what great things he has done for you.” The word consider means to “examine or to understand.” So Samuel tells the entire nation of Israel that they need to collectively, collectively they need to stop and think about what God has done for them until they understand the magnitude of God’s blessing on their lives. And what was good counsel to them then, is still good counsel for us today. You and I need to take the time to reflect on all the great things that God has done for us, and what will be the results? We will move closer to serving God. Why? Because genuine biblical meditation will overwhelm you with what? Gratitude. Gratitude. You cannot seriously contemplate what God has done for you and walk away ungrateful. If you’re not overwhelmed with gratitude, then perhaps you’re not meditating. Job 37 verse 14, we find this word consider used again. Now we all know the backstory of Job by this point in the book. He’s lost his children. He’s lost his livestock. He’s lost much of his wealth. He’s lost his health. He’s in a bad way. So in chapter 37 verse 14 we find this; “Hear this”, now this is powerful folks, “Hear this O Job; stop and consider.” Now I’m gonna stop again here and say what Job what what what should Job be considering here, his past? What good was in his past, his recent past? Say it. Not much. Lost your kids, lost your livelihood. You’ve lost your savings. You’re covered with boils. Well no don’t don’t don’t don’t go back and rehash your past Job. How about your current circumstances? No, things still haven’t turned around yet. So, “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider” what, what, “the wondrous works of God.” Now, do you…doesn’t this seem ironic to you? Here’s a man who’s lost his children. He’s lost his livestock. He’s his health. He’s lost his wealth. And here he’s saying, “Consider the wondrous works of God.” Do you see what’s going on here? He’s saying your value system needs to be adjusted. Here’s what’s really important in life. Here’s the things that you still have that you can hang on to that’s going to get you through what you’re going through. And I highlight that verse because of what Job’s going through. He was suffering terribly. He’s lost it all. He’s in a bad way. He must have been tormented both in mind and body. I wouldn’t fault him if he was asking, “Why me?” Yet during this incredible suffering, he was given some excellent advice. The advice goes something like this, “Job as difficult as it may be; now, now, in the midst of the trouble, in the midst of your great problem, now is the time to stop and change how you’re thinking.” Do you see that? You need to begin to think about the wondrous works of God.

This advice, this counsel was given to one who was suffering terribly. So he is told to do what? To refocus his mind, to refocus his thinking, to quit focusing on what was happening to him and to begin focusing on who God is, and what God had done for him. And how quickly we tend to forget the blessings of God in the midst of our trouble. It seems like it all goes out the window, but we follow the advice here, we won’t let that happen. So let’s ask ourselves a pretty important question. How has God designed for us to find comfort and relief for our hurting hearts? In other words for life. What is the Christian’s coping mechanism? Well, God has chosen primarily to help us deal with discouragement, disappointments, depressions, and our sins by applying His divine truth to our minds. Say, “How do I apply divine truth to my mind?” By meditating on the positive. Samuel tells the nation of Israel to meditate on the works of God. Job was told to meditate on the works of God. The book of Genesis we read of Isaac meditating in the fields in the evening. Repeatedly in the Psalms, we find references of meditating on God’s word. Say, “What’s your point?” The point is this, meditating on the scripture should be the norm for the Christian and not the exception. I could stand here and read you verse after verse after verse that talks about meditating on the scriptures. So I have to ask myself, “Why did God put all of those verses in the Bible?” Because he wants us to learn the value of meditating on the scriptures, because it should be the norm for us as Christians. Consider this, David is described in the scriptures as a man after God’s own heart. Correct? Do you know who made more references to meditation than any other character in scripture? David. Let me give you a couple examples from David’s life. In Psalm 63 verses 5 and 6 David wrote this, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” Everybody wants to be satisfied, correct? Does anyone in the room don’t want to be satisfied? Yeah, Mick Jagger, him saying no. Too young to know who Mick Jagger is, Google him. Well, how does David describe the means to soul satisfaction? Well notice the analogy he uses. He said, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food.” Now you’re talking my language. Right? What is one of the great pleasures in life? Good food. Amen. Good food. Sherry and I, we love Tennessee. If we didn’t have four kids and seven grandchildren, we’d retire to Tennessee someday. But we stay here for them. One of the things we like to do when we go to Tennessee, and I’ve said this before, is going to Paula Deen’s restaurant. If you’ve never been to Paula Deen’s restaurant, you got to go at least once in your life. So we go down there, and being Baptist, the only thing on the menu that matters is fried chicken in peanut oil. So we get fried chicken in peanut oil. We get mac and cheese. She makes the best cream corn, I could just ask five gallon bucket and a piece of conduit and sit there and suck it all day. It’s that good. Then you finish up with, I think we had the ooey-gooey cake or something like that. I mean, it’s just, it’s just crazy good, it’s fat and rich food. Well, how can we experience culinary delights for the soul? David says in verse 6, “When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night”.

Here’s the thing. We haven’t been back to Paul Deen’s restaurant in a couple years, I guess. And I may never get back there, who knows? But I can feast on God’s word anytime, anywhere. How? Through meditating on God’s word at every available opportunity. So I wonder, how’d you do with your little time audit exercises? From David’s actions he obviously took God’s word to Joshua seriously. Remember Joshua 1:8? “Meditate on the scriptures day and night.” So David either intentionally took time during the night to meditate on God’s words, or when he experienced those periods of sleeplessness that we all experience from time to time, to do what? To meditate on God’s word. But unfortunately, in our culture, there’s so many other distractions that we may wake up in the middle of the night, and what’s our first temptation? Either TV or the phone? Right? But if we could just discipline ourselves to stop and say, you know what? Think about this. Maybe God has awakened you in the middle of the night for you to spend time with him. Have you ever thought about that? So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t get mad, don’t get angry. Consider, you can spend some time with God. So a couple more examples from a life of David. Psalm 77 verse 12. He says, “I will ponder all your work and meditate on your mighty deeds.” Psalm 145 verse 5, “On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wonderous works, I will meditate.” Let me highlight something I’ve said repeatedly here the past couple weeks. David makes a conscious choice to spend time meditating on God’s word. He says, “I will ponder all your work”. “I will meditate.” “Hey, I am the king. I have a multitude of options available to me. I have a multitude of responsibilities. obligations, but I’m making the choice to do what’s the very best thing for me. I will ponder your works, I will meditate on your word.” I get it. We’re busy people. But if you want to be a man or a woman after God’s own heart, then we must meditate on scriptures. And I could show you example after example, verse after verse from the scriptures, that talks about biblical meditation, but until you make the decision to do it, it will be no benefit to you. You can either choose to meditate on the timeless wisdom of God’s word, or you can choose to spend your time doing other things, and I get it. The distractions are numerous. They come at you fast and furious. I guarantee that there’s more than one person in the room that had something completely unexpected happened to you this week. And if we’re not careful what will it do, it will dominate our thinking. It may not even be a sinful thing. But if we’re not careful, it will dominate our thinking. And this subject of biblical meditation is really not a question of time. It’s a question of priorities. We all have the same amount of time, we all have responsibilities, we all have deadlines. It simply comes down to how we use our time. Listen, a selfish person doesn’t meditate. A self-centered person doesn’t meditate. You know why? Because they believe that what they have to do, and what they want to do takes priority over what God wants them to do, or what God would have them to do.

Let me close with this, which is a greater display of wisdom? Adjusting your schedule so that you can wisely and properly invest time, which is a precious commodity, in biblical meditation, or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. I can’t hardly go anywhere in Berea without going past the four way stop at Berea College. It’s a wonder these college students don’t get killed, ten a day. It’s not just young. It’s old folks too. Professors I guess, staring at a small screen. Stop. Really? When you stand before God someday he’s not gonna say, “Hey, did you see the latest status update from some worthless celebrity?” He’s not gonna say, “Hey, did you see the latest provocative Tweet from your favorite politician?” He’s not going to ask you any of that kind of stuff. How much time do we spend? I mean, do they really read that fast? What if he says, “Hey, what about that Romans chapter 8? What about that first verse? “There’s therefore now,” and He’s waiting for you to say, “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, and you say “aaaah…I don’t remember.”

It comes down to what do we value? What do we value? I’m pretty sure you can survive without social media. In fact, I’m more than sure, I guarantee it. But you cannot be a healthy, growing Christian apart from biblical meditation. And the Christian who meditates on God’s word should be the norm and not the exception. So you have to ask yourself, what will you be? Many young people growing up, they don’t want to be the norm, do they? They don’t want to be normal. They want to be the exception. Well, here you go! You don’t have to dye your hair red, or green, or purple, or anything. Here you go! Meditate on the scriptures. Like Joshua, you have a choice. What’s your choice?