The Way of the Wise – Part 1 (originally preached on March 24, 2019)
**originally preached on March 24, 2019**
Let me start by asking you a question. Why did God save you? Why did God save you? Well, there are several biblical answers that we could give to answer the question, but I want to focus on one particular answer that the Apostle Paul gave to us in Romans chapter eight in verse 29, a familiar verse. "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom. 8:29). So, according to the Apostle Paul, one of the reasons that God saved you was to make you like Christ.
So, God saved you, and in order to conform you to the image of Christ, He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within you. And as you are filled with the Holy Spirit, which is also known as the Spirit of Christ... As you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is displayed through you. And as I said last week, the fruit of the Spirit describes the character of Jesus. And one of the ways that we prove to be genuine disciples of the Lord is by the fruit that we display. Jesus said in John 15, "By this my Father is glorified, that you..." What's it say? "...bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples" (Jn 15:8). Now, the fruit that Jesus refers to here is the fruit of the Spirit. The Father is glorified as we are filled with the Holy Spirit and bear much fruit, which reinforces what Paul teaches us in Ephesians chapter five that we are to be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18b). You cannot bear much fruit if you are never or rarely or occasionally filled with the Spirit. But, you will bear much fruit as you are continually filled with the Holy Spirit. And Jesus says, when we bear much fruit, we prove to ourselves, we prove to other believers, we prove to the unbeliever that we are indeed... What? The Lord's disciples. And a disciple is like the one they follow. So, bearing fruit, producing spiritual fruit reveals our identity. Jesus said that a tree is known by... its what? Fruits.
So, the fruit of the Spirit is one of the Bible's descriptions of Jesus. But it's not the only description of Jesus. In fact, here in Psalm one, we have another description of Jesus. Now, you may need to let that sink in for just a moment. Here's why I say that. Most of us, if not all of us, have probably heard one or two sermons from Psalm one. And normally, the thrust of that sermon probably was something like this... The thrust of the sermon was based upon what you should not do as a Christian, as well as what you should do as a Christian. Now, please don't misunderstand. That is certainly a valid application of the psalm, but it is not the correct interpretation of the psalm. Why do I say that? Well, I have to admit that I, for a long time understood that psalm that way. I understood it more as a prescriptive psalm, rather than a descriptive psalm. I've understood Psalm one prescribing a series of actions and prescribing a series of commands that I as a Christian were to obey. But, if we pay careful attention to what the writer actually says, we pay careful attention to the opening words of verse one. We understand, or it becomes clear to us that the Psalmist is actually talking about Jesus. Say, "Well. Wait a minute. He doesn't mention Jesus by name." He may not mention Jesus by name, but he certainly mentions Him by character.
So let's go back to Psalm one, verse one, and we'll just work our way through parts of this. "Blessed is the man..." (Ps 1:1a). Stop right there. "Blessed is the man." The Psalmist is referring to a specific man. Say, "Well, who is this man?" Well, he goes on to tell us. This man, is the one "who walks not in the counsel the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he..." Does what? "...meditates day and night" (Ps 1:1-2). So, this man was very deliberate in the choices that he made and the decisions that he made. This man lived the entirety of his life in order to please God. This man protected and guarded his spiritual life. So, I have to ask you. Do you know a man like that? Would you say that describes you? Would you say that that even described anybody that you know personally? And I would have to say no. No. The only man that could only truthfully, honestly, realistically lay claim to these words, these characteristics are the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul said, in the New Testament, "the man, Christ Jesus." So, what is Psalm 1? Psalm 1 is a messianic Psalm. It is a Psalm about Jesus.
Now, let me connect this back to where I started. If we are saved to be like Jesus, to be conformed to the image of Christ, which we saw in Romans 8:29, then, it follows that we are also to be imitators of Jesus. And sometimes, we struggle with understanding. "Well, what was Jesus like?" Well, we have a description of Him right here. He doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked. He does not stand in the way of sinners, nor does He sit in the seat of scoffers. But He does delight in the law of the Lord, and He does meditate on God's Word, day and night. You see that? Therefore, if we are to be imitators of the Lord Jesus, if we are to be like the Lord Jesus, then we are not to walk in the counsel of the wicked, we are not to stand in the way of sinners, and we are not to sit in the seat of scoffers. Likewise, in order to be like Jesus, we are to delight in the law of the Lord, and we are to meditate on the law of the Lord, day and night. So, what was the result of Jesus delighting in the law and his ongoing meditation of the law? Well, in verse three, "He's like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers" (Ps 1:3). Now, I do have a point to all of this. Is there a familiar word already mentioned this morning and mentioned in the past couple of weeks in verse three? It's the word "fruit". It's the word "fruit". "He is like a tree planted by, by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season" (Ps 1:3a).
So, let's connect the dots. Have you ever had those books when you were a kid where you had just a big series of dots on a page, you drew them... And lo and behold, a picture would emerge. That's what we're doing here with a Scripture. We're connecting the dots, and this portrait of Christ is going to emerge that's going to help us.
So, what's the cause of the fruit? What is the cause of the fruit described in verse three? Well, it is his delight in the law of the Lord, and it is meditation on God's Word that he does day and night. He doesn't just say it's just the Word. As important as the Word is, I'm not downplaying the importance of the Word. It is vitally important. It is critically important. You cannot survive as a Christian without the Word of God. You cannot even become a Christian apart from the Word of God. But, he combines the Word of God with what? Meditation. With meditation. And, it was his meditation on the Word of God that produced this fruit. As I said last week, there is an inseparable connection between the Word of God and being filled with the Spirit. So here, we see that there is another inseparable connection between our delight in and our meditation on the Word of God that produces this abundant harvest of spiritual fruit. I do not think it is stretching things to say that the fruit mentioned here in Psalm one is the same fruit mentioned in John fifteen, that is the same fruit mentioned in Galatians chapter five: the fruit of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This man's life, the man here in Psalm one had a life characterized by the continual filling of the Holy Spirit. Doesn't that describe the Lord Jesus? So, Psalm one is a description of Jesus.
Therefore, if we have been saved to become like Jesus, to imitate Jesus, to be conformed to the image of Jesus, then we should study Psalm one to help us become like Jesus. You see that? Psalm one can easily be turned into more, to more moralistic preaching. "You ought not do this, and you better be doing that." No. You couldn't do it on your own, you could only do it through Christ. And if you are in Christ... And boy, I can't wait to get to this in a few weeks. That word "planted" is so important. "...planted by streams of water..." (Ps 1:3). Who does the planting? God does. God does. So, this is a description of Christ. It's not something that we try and do on our own. It is something that... Because we are now in Christ, we can begin to live out the instruction here in Psalm one. So, Psalm one teaches us through the use of both negatives and positives how Jesus lived, and as we follow the example of Jesus, as we imitate Jesus, we will become like Him. We will be like a tree planted by streams of water that does yield its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, and in all that we do, we will prosper spiritually.
So, specifically for the next couple of weeks, I want to focus on this one activity of Jesus, and that is his continual meditation on the Word of God. Now, you may be wondering to yourself, how do we know that Jesus meditated on the Scriptures? Because... I'll give you, I'll grant you room to say that because you can't go to one specific verse that talks about Jesus meditating on the Scriptures. So, is it a stretch to say, "Well, Jesus meditated on the Scriptures"? No, not at all. Say, "Well, how can we say that?" We just look at His life. We just look at His life. See? The goal of meditation is application to life. See? And as we meditate on the Scriptures, we meditate to apply it to our lives, to help us to become more like Christ. But we do have some examples in Scripture that clearly points to the fact that Jesus spent time meditating on the Scriptures. For instance, in Matthew chapter four, we read of Satan repeatedly tempting Jesus. And how did Jesus respond to each and every time? He responded with Scripture. He quoted Scripture right back to him. Ben and I were talking about this on Friday, and Ben made the observation that Jesus didn't say to Satan, "Now, hang on a minute. Let me pull out my scroll, and let me find the right verse and whack you upside the head with it." No. There's no indication of anything like that at all. What did he do? He quoted from memory. And in order to quote from memory, he had to have spent some time doing what? Thinking about it. Meditating on it.
Another example. After Jesus had risen from the dead, and He walks along the road with the two disciples. What does the Scripture say? It says that as Jesus unpacked the teaching of the Old Testament to them, their hearts burned within them (Luke 24). Why? Because Jesus was unleashing the firepower of truth on them. He was showing them the burning truth of Scripture. Now, I don't think He had a scroll with Him that time either. Then, how was He doing this? He had hid God's Word in His heart. See, I sometimes, I think we underestimate what Jesus did as a man. Say, "You think Jesus studied the scriptures?" Yes. So, if Jesus had to study the Scriptures, if Jesus had to memorize the Scriptures, if Jesus had to meditate on the Scriptures, then what makes us think that we can do any less?
The word "meditate" here, particularly in Psalm one... There's different ways it's used in Scripture, but in here in Psalm one, it means to speak as to yourself, or to mutter. Therefore, as we meditate on the Scriptures, day and night, we are literally speaking God's Word to ourselves. Now, normally, when we see somebody talking to themselves, we usually cross the street and stay far away, right? But, this should be the norm for the Christian. Literally, this should be normal for us as Christians. We should be continually speaking the truth of God's Word to ourselves. It's normal for us. For instance, how do you memorize Scripture? Can you read it once and say, "got it"? Not unless you're brilliant or a genius or a photographic memory. No, you have to do what? You have to read it over and over to yourself. You're speaking it to yourself over and over and over again. I recommend reading it out loud. Sherry came home last Saturday morning I think it was and caught me doing my little routine. It scared her and me. She heard a voice, and I heard a door slam. Neither were expecting that. So, this is why I encourage you to begin memorizing Scripture. There's no better way to speak God's Word to yourself than to be memorizing Scripture where you repeatedly speak God's truth to yourself over and over and over again.
Now, here's a little, fun exercise. Fun for me because I don't have to do it, but I'd like you to. I would like you to audit your day. Meaning, I would like for you to, as you go through your day, to be, be on the lookout for any period of time that you could be using for memorization and meditation. Perhaps... let me just throw some things out there. Perhaps on your drive to and from work or school, perhaps the time between classes, perhaps part of your lunchtime, perhaps when you're waiting on an appointment, or perhaps when you're on hold with customer service. You've got plenty of time. Right? Amen. See? So, I would encourage you... Don't waste those times. Put them to use in memorizing Scripture, listening to Scripture over and over because it aids your meditation, or taking one verse and dwelling on that one verse, or one truth in a part of a verse and dwelling on it time after time after time. Though I do first and foremost encourage you to do your memorization and your meditation with a pencil in your hand, there's nothing wrong with using some of the apps that are out there for your smartphones. The one from Desiring God, Fighter Verses. It costs, I think $1.99/ $2.99 if you want to pay a little bit more for that. It's an excellent app. I would highly recommend it. I use a free one called VerseLocker. And many times when I'm just waiting for something or I've got a few moments, I punch that thing up, and I can check which verses that I want to hear over and over again, and I select them, and I hit play, and I just listen to them. I scroll through them. I read as they recite the verses back to me. Now, think about this. If you could find four 15-minute blocks of time in your day... Four 15-minute blocks of time in your day and you spent that 15 minutes memorizing or meditating on Scripture, do you know what you would have at the end of the day? You would have one hour's worth of time where you have focused your concentration and your energy on memorizing and meditating on the Scriptures. Over the course of a week... Let's just say you do it five days a week. That's 5 hours in a week. That's 20 hours every month that you have spent memorizing and meditating on the Scriptures, and you're doing it in 15-minute increments. I think that's achievable, don't you? And wouldn't an hour a day, 5 hours a week, 20 hours a month... How much further, how much quicker would your progress in Christ-likeness be if you could practice that on a regular basis?
Well, let's ask and hopefully, answer this question. How important is biblical meditation? How important is biblical meditation? Well, let me give you an example from Scripture that I think really drives this point home. If you would turn to Joshua chapter one, and we're all familiar with Joshua 1:8, but I want to back up and read verses six, seven, and eight. And then make a couple observations... or at least one observation. Joshua, chapter one, verses six, seven, and eight. Verse six, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go" (Jos. 1: 6-7). Now, here's the one we're familiar with. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Jos. 1:8). Now, let's remind ourselves of the context in which God said these words to Joshua. Remember, Moses, the great leader of the nation of Israel, the man who went toe-to-toe with Pharaoh and came out on top, the only leader that the children of Israel had ever known, he has died. And the mantle of leadership has been passed on to Joshua. And it was going to be his responsibility to lead the people to conquer the land promised by God to the nation of Israel. In other words, he was about to lead the children of Israel on one of the great military campaigns in history. Let's also keep in mind who was speaking these words directly to Joshua. The God of Israel was speaking directly to Joshua.
Now, if God spoke to you, as he did to Joshua, do you think you'd pay attention? Do you think that you would make sure that you put into practice whatever God said to you? You say, "Well, like, why would you even ask that? Of course, I would." Well, I would hope you'd say yes. Well, guess what? God does speak directly to you just like He did to Joshua. In fact, He's speaking to you today. In fact, He's speaking to you this morning. Say, "How? I don't hear anything." Then, you're not listening. How is He speaking to you this morning? Through His Word. Each time you open the Scriptures and read them, each time you memorize the Scriptures, each time you meditate on the Scriptures, God is speaking to you. Each time that you place yourself under the faithful preaching of the Scriptures, God is talking to you. And, what did God say to Joshua as he prepared to face the greatest time... Now, don't miss this... the greatest time of trial and battles in his life? Well, you would think that God would have talked to Joshua about troop strength, training regiments, how to deploy the army. You'd think God would have talked to him about a strategy for winning the ground war. But God didn't mention any of those things. But what counsel did he give to him? Well, look at verse eight again, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all those written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you have good success" (Jos 1:8). Now, what is the prospering and the success He's referring to here? It has to be the conquest of the land, doesn't it? Am I misreading the text here? What is He preparing Joshua to do? To get the people of Israel into the land that He had promised them.
Here's the point. God is saying that, "Joshua, it's not what you know, it's who you know! If you know me, if you meditate on my Word, if you meditate on my Law, then you will succeed. Then, you will be prosperous. You can go out, Joshua, and study the art of war, but if you neglect my Word, you're going to lose." And isn't it amazing how many times we, as Christians, seek alternate advice, alternate counsel all the while, neglecting the Word of God. I may be in the minority, but I have complete confidence in the Scriptures, in the power of the Scriptures to do whatever God wants to use them to do. Now, think about this. This man, Joshua, is about to embark upon years of warfare. And, and God says to him, "Listen, if you want to succeed over the long-haul, here's what you better do: You better meditate on my Word, day and night." Why? Because it's not what you know, it is who you know. And too, for far too many Christians, it's nothing more than intellectual knowledge. Intellectual knowledge will fail you at some point. When you think about this, it's really incredible. Because this was the best advice that God had for Joshua. Now, think about this. Think of the task at-hand. Think of what lay ahead of Joshua. And this is what God said to him. And if it was the best advice that God could give to Joshua, guess what? It's the best advice God can give to you. As you and I fight our own battles, it's not strategy we need. It's the Savior we need. It's the filling of the Spirit we need. What produces spiritual victory and spiritual prosperity? It's meditation on the Word of God.
And then finally, this: Meditation is a gift of God's grace. It's a gift of God's grace. So, we neglected to our detriment. David Saxton writes this, "God has chosen, primarily, to help us deal with discouragement and sin by applying divine truth to our minds." Oh, that we would believe that. He went on to say, "Through meditation, a feeble person is turned into one who is confident in God's grace. Meditation awakens the lethargic, energizes the weary, and encourages the depressed." A pastor of the 19th century wrote this, "Little meditating makes lean Christians of little life, little strength, little growth and have little usefulness to others." You know, the first of the month... First of every month, we observe the Lord's Supper. In the Lord's Supper, whether we realize it or not, it is a means of grace, which means that God uses the Lord's Supper to remind us of what he has accomplished on our behalf through Jesus. And as we contemplate the reality of the Lord, that the Lord's Supper communicates to us, we're strengthened. We're encouraged. We experience God's grace each and every time we participate in the Lord's Supper. Likewise, biblical meditation is a means of grace that God has given to us. As we meditate on the Scriptures, we are what? We are strengthened, we are encouraged, we are refreshed. As we meditate on the Scriptures, we experience victory over sin. As we meditate on the Scriptures, we experience assurance that God through Christ does indeed love us. As we meditate on the Scriptures, the hope of the Christian life becomes real to us. Indeed, it becomes precious to us. As we meditate on the Scriptures, our troubled minds are calmed, and our anxieties are removed, and our love for Christ grows. And ultimately, we become like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. And all that He does, He prospers. I trust that's the kind of life that you want to live for Christ.