The Blessing of Truth

March 7, 2021 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Psalms

Topic: English Passage: Psalm 1:1-6

This morning, we are going to continue our series through some selected psalms. And, just like the past 4 weeks, we will be looking at a psalm which has been suggested by one of our members.

Since we started this series, I’ve been reminded you that the Psalms cover virtually every experience of human life. So, I thought studying them at this time would be a good opportunity to address some of the feelings you might be having or you might see others having in your family or your community.

For the past month, the psalms we’ve been looking at have been especially helpful in addressing fear or anxiety. Obviously that’s a big deal right now for some people. Unbelievers go looking in every direction for some kind of relief, but as Christians, we know exactly where to turn, and we need to go there. We look to the deep, unchanging truths about God. As His people, we are not called to live a life overcome with despair and isolation. We’re called to trust in Him and walk in joy and hope.

This morning’s psalm addresses a different problem, but it’s still very much appropriate in our time. COVID-19 tends to steal a lot the attention, but another major shift happening in our culture is the outright rebellion of God.

In itself, that’s not actually anything new. People have been rejecting God from the beginning. And there have always been people in this nation radically opposed to the truth of God. What we’re seeing now, though, is the overt upheaval of some of the basic biblical truths—basic truths like: God is real, God created this world, and God created male and female.

In the mercy and grace of God, there was a Great Awakening on this continent just before this nation was formed. That set the course of many people and families toward righteousness.

We’ve come a long way since then though. The pattern than Paul describes in Romans 1 is no longer hypothetical or future. We’re living it. Go ahead and turn there with me. Romans chapter 1, verse 18. Romans 1:18.

This isn’t going to be our main study today, but I think it will help set some of the context for the psalm we’ll be looking at.

Romans was written to a church made up of Jews and Gentiles, who were living in, and being affected by, a wicked, ungodly society. And to help the church see the massive contrast between the people of God and the people of this world, Paul gives a summary of the downfall of society.

I’m not going to comment much, but let’s look at what he says, starting in Romans 1:18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

This is the description of every unbeliever. They suppress God’s truth in unrighteousness. They do not want to accept the truth of God because they want to continue living in rebellion to Him.

Verses 19 and 20—For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

This is describing a society that rejects the existence and the power of God, even though creation makes it plain that there must be a God.

So, here’s what happens: verse 21—For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Their thinking, their philosophies, their values are all meaningless. Their hearts are darkened.

Verses 22-25—Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

So, instead of worshiping God, they worship plants and animals. And as a result, God gives them over to impurity. But that’s not the end.

Verses 26-27—For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

This wicked culture, this wicked society, takes the beautiful intimacy God created for a man and a woman in marriage, and they pervert it They give themselves over to every kind of immorality.

This is our society. This is where we are. And the final verses of this chapter make that clear. They have rejected God, and have brought chaos.

Verses 28—And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

This is the world you and I live in. And Paul wrote this, not simply to condemn the world, but to warn us about it. Later in chapter 12, Paul says: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Peter said that sin wages war against our souls. If you don’t know you’re in a war, you’re going to lose some major battles. If we don’t fight for righteousness, we are going to be conformed to this world.

Now, in the Bible, the battle for righteousness is not a discussion about how you vote. It’s talking about guarding your own heart and your own life. You have a choice to make. You can follow the path of this world, or you can follow the path of Jesus Christ.

Now, music has always been an incredible instrument for teaching and for persuading. Music helps us feel things, either for the better or for the worse. The songs of this world exalt all kinds of things that dishonor God. But the songs of God take us to the truth.

Well, in preparation for the pull of this world and the pull of our sinful flesh, the opening psalm reminds us what our lives should be about. Turn with me then to Psalm 1. Psalm 1 is a song calling us to value the things of God rather than the things of this world. Let’s turn there and read it. And then we’ll look at it a little more closely. Psalm 1.

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is 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. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Let me give you the point of this psalm in one sentence. Here it is: Pursue the truth of God, and you will be blessed, both in this life and in the life to come. I’ll say that again. Pursue the truth of God, and you will be blessed, both in this life and in the life to come. That’s the message of Psalm 1.

Everybody wants a blessed life, even we don’t always use that word. We want a happy life. We want to be satisfied. We want to be content. That’s the opening word of this psalm—blessed.

True blessing, this psalm teaches, comes from pursuing the truth of God. The opposite of that is what we find in verse 1. This is what you don’t want to do if you want to be blessed. Don’t walk in the counsel of the wicked. Don’t stand in the way, or the path, of sinners. And don’t sit in the seat of scoffers.

“The counsel of the wicked” is referring to worldly advice. Who are you listening to? “The way of sinners” is talking about behavior and patterns. What are you reinforcing? “Sitting in the seat of scoffers” is connected to your closest relationships. Who are you allowing to influence you?

God’s word is saying here: Don’t simply go along with the course of this world. Don’t feed your mind and your heart the message this world has come up with.

There was an opinion piece in The New York Times a couple days ago where the author was arguing that religion hasn’t really died in America, but it has shifted. Speaking of the younger generations, the author said that people “have turned their backs on religious tradition because it isn't diverse, or inclusive enough.” As an alternative, they “have found alternative scripture online… Our new belief system is a blend of left-wing political orthodoxy, intersectional feminism, self-optimization, therapy, wellness, astrology and Dolly Parton. And we've found a different kind of clergy: personal growth influencers.”

The author even referred to social media personalities as the new “televangelists.” She calls them “Instavangelists.”

Everything that enters your eyes and your ears, shapes you. It molds you to some degree. God doesn’t expect us to become monks, totally detached from this world. But He does call us to guard our hearts. Avoid soaking in this world indiscriminately. If you aren’t being discerning, you will be shaped, you will be conformed to this world.

That’s why we’re seeing everything that we’re seeing in this world. How does someone get to a point where they celebrate the murder of a little baby in the womb? How do people get to the point where people can’t even recognize that God made men and women to be distinct? How do they get to the point where they can accuse others of racism, but fail to see it in their own life and their own policies?

It happens because they’re listening to the same messages over and over again. And it has shaped them. It hasn’t brought satisfaction; it has brought chaos.

What’s the flip side of all that? What re we called to pursue? We are called to pursue the truth of God. That’s what verse is saying. At the center of verse 2 is “the law of the Lord.” That’s not just talking about the letter of the law, it’s talking about God’s heart expressed through the law. The law is not just a list of dos and don’ts; it’s an insight into the heart of God.

Verse 2 calls us to delight in the truth and to meditate on the truth. Those are the verbs that begin and end the verse. We pursue truth by learning it and by living it. And Psalm 1 is urging us to make that the non-stop pattern of life.

Delight in God’s law. Pursue it. Meditate on it day and night. In other words, train yourself to make this the filter for how you see life and all your circumstances. It’s not enough to simply stop sinning. God calls us to make His truth the lens through which we see everything.

The way you think about church, the way you think about your marriage or your kids, the way you think about your work, the way your think about yourself—all of that needs to be surrendered to the truth of God who created heaven and earth.

Don’t be content with wimpy or superficial Christianity. One of the benefits of this COVID-19 situation has been that it has helped expose people and churches who approach church in a casual way. They don’t see truth the way God sees it. If God was simply your ticket to a good life, and COVID-19 makes that good life impossible, then you can stop going to church, or you can stop having church altogether. And if church is only a means to hearing a sermon, rather than a living, loving community, then there’s no big deal if we just do it all on video.

You don’t come to those conclusions from a biblical perspective. You come to those conclusions by mixing in the messages from the world.

So, look at your life. All of it. What is on your mind during the day? What has all your attention? What am I allowing into my mind and my eyes and my ears and my heart? What topics govern my conversations? How much do I value, desire, and pursue the truth of God?

Take some deliberate and sometimes difficult steps to fill your mind with the word of God.

Pursue the truth of God, and you will be blessed, both in this life and in the life to come.

Now, verse 3 describes the blessings in this life that come from honoring God and His word. It says: He [the man who delights in and meditates on God’s word] is 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.

Clearly, this is not describing Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Hopefully, you know what I’m talking about. This is describing a life that flourishes, a life that is fruitful, a life that endures.

This metaphorical tree, representing the life of a man who pursues God’s truth, has been planted and it’s being provided for. It’s a healthy, fruitful tree. It’s significant. It’s prosperous.

Don’t miss God’s heart behind this verse. God wants you to prosper. Not in the way that the prosperity gospel says you will prosper, not in every single way you might want to prosper, but in His eyes and according to His standards, He wants you to prosper. He wants a life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

God wants you to face this life with confidence and joy, knowing that He is on your side. That happens when you turn away from the way this world lives and surrender your life to His truth. Pursue the truth of God, and you will be blessed, both in this life and in the life to come.

The opposite of an enduring and fruitful life is a wasted life, a meaningless life. And in verse 4 the metaphorical opposite to the tree is chaff.

Chaff is the outer casing of a grain of wheat. In the Old Testament You smash the grain to separate it from the chaff. That’s called threshing. The grain is relatively heavy, but the outer chaff was light. So, you’d wait for a light enough wind, and then you’d toss the threshed grain into the air. The wheat comes back down, but the chaff gets blown away. That process of separating them is called winnowing.

A fruitful tree is useful and profitable. Chaff, on the other hand, is worthless. That’s the life of a person who rejects God’s truth. No matter how much the world adores them, in God’s judgment, they are unworthy. God withholds His blessing and affirmation, both in this life and in the life to come.

Verses 5 and 6 jump to the life to come. We’re fast forwarding now to God’s final judgment—Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

God has a day of judgment prepared. And those who are declared righteous will stand. They will be exalted. But those who fall short will perish forever.

Nobody is going to vote over who gets accepted by God and who goes to hell. You will have zero contribution in that decision for somebody else. God alone will make that decision. Some will enter into everlasting joy and satisfaction. They will be known by God. That’s talking about an intimate relationship of love and joy. Others will be cast into everlasting judgment.

What is going to make the difference then? Whom will the Lord receive to Himself in eternal love and joy? Well, according to Psalm 1, the answer is those who have delighted in and pursued the truth of God. What does that look like? Jesus told us the answer.

Jesus came to tell us how to receive the blessing of God. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Jesus came to specifically announce and allow for true blessedness. It comes by being poor in spirit. That is a recognition that you can’t stand before God on your own. It comes through a heart that mourns over its own sinfulness.

If you want the blessing of God on your life, the first step is to mourn and confess your sin. Decisively turn from it, and call out to Jesus for salvation. He died and was resurrected in victory over sin and death. His sacrifice is the only way to be cleansed from the stain of your sin. There’s no other way.

The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

If you’ve already surrendered your life to Christ, then every day should be a battle to live for His glory rather than your own sinful desires. Keep learning. Keep reading. Keep connecting with other Christians for mutual encouragement.

You can’t experience more of God’s blessing if you aren’t making progress in practical holiness. And you can’t grow in practical holiness if you aren’t pursuing and meditating on His truth. This word is the truth, and it is what sanctifies us. It’s how the Spirit enables us to keep fighting and to have victory and to have God’s blessing.

There’s the path of blessedness, which is the path of righteousness, and there’s the path of eternal destruction. Which path are you on?

If you’re on the path that’s pursuing God’s truth, His righteousness will be more and more visible in your life, and you’ll know His blessings more and more.

More in Psalms

November 28, 2021

Our Great God

November 21, 2021

Give Thanks to the Lord

May 16, 2021

A Triumphant Faith