The Transformed Life:"He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." Psalm 1:3
Opening Prayer: Lord, I know that I'm not experiencing perfect joy in my life. Help me understand and feel the joy that You would give me if I would let you.
Open to Psalm one. Read verse one.Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful
"Blessed is the man..." Don't let the religious sound of "blessed" put you off. It translates the Hebrew word "asher" which literally means "how happy!"
I like this Psalm already, and we haven't even gotten to the punch line. But we do know it has something to do with being happy and that's OK with me.
So the first word in our lesson is "Happy!" The first verse says, "Happy is the man..." and ladies, it's OK to mentally tell yourselves "Happy is the woman" because this truth applies equally well to you... "Happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly."
What is an "ungodly" person?
The Hebrew word "rasha" means an actively bad person. Understand what type of person this refers to. We're not talking about casual sinners like your lovable, unsaved, uncle Charlie, or your swinging sister Sally. This is a heavy duty creep, who may even come in disguised as an angel of light, or a wolf in sheep's clothing.
What does it mean to walk in his counsel?
It means to do what this heavy-duty creepy person advises.
Well, that's an easy one to avoid, you tell yourself. I don't know any heavy-duty creepy persons except for Mr. X and Mrs Z, and I sure don't listen to THEIR advice.
Maybe so...but you don't necessarily have to know someone personally in order to follow his or her advice. Relatively few people knew Timothy Leary personally, but millions of young people of my generation followed his advice to "Tune in, turn on, and drop out."
Can some of you remember the individuals or philosophers or preachers that influenced YOU in your earlier years? Were there certain books or movies? My generation remembers reading "Franny & Zooey" and "1984" and "Animal Farm" in high school. (Recent generations don't read as much; sometimes it seems they only watch TV and computer screens in school.)
How many of these books and movies made you happy to walk in their counsel?
Perhaps some did, but darn few, probably. When we're young, we struggle to figure out what life's all about. We're impressed by the gifted (and warped) artists and authors.
Let's go on with verse 1:Blessed (happy) is the man (woman) who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, NOR STANDS IN THE PATH OF SINNERS...
I like how the King James translation says it: "...nor stands in the way of sinners..." Can you picture some guy trying to get in the way of sinners to prevent them from doing what they want to do? Now you have Scripture to prove that Happy is the man who doesn't wear himself out trying to keep sinners from doing what they want to do.
I once heard a guy on radio say, "What do you get if you take away a sinner's opportunity for sin?" The answer was that you don't get a saint; you just have nothing -- a sinner biding his time until the opportunity for sin comes back around again. Unfortunately, you can find some churches full of this type of person.
Some pastors are very concerned about stomping out sins, but their sheep never learn the Good News that their sin and sins can be totally covered by the blood of Jesus. These sheep never learn that the Holy Spirit can come live in their hearts and transform them.
Let's take another look at this phrase: "...stands in the path of sinners..." What does that mean in real life--in things that you or I should or shouldn't do?
Standing is a way of positioning yourself. The word sinner in this case means a criminal or one accounted as guilty. The warning here is that we shouldn't position ourselves with those who consciously violate the written law of God in some way or another. Happy is he who DOESN'T position himself like that.
Let's finish verse 1:...or sit in the seat of the scornful...
What type of people are these scornful folk?
You know the type. They're intellectual cowards. They call themselves "agnostic" (which is a term derived from the Greek word for "ignorant"). They belittle anybody who actually believes in something helpful. They're very proud of their intellectual humility and get very angry with anybody who dares to not be as confused as them. They "tolerate" anything but the truth.
For a different perspective, let's read Proverbs, chapter 1, verses 20-25:Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares. 21 She cries out in the chief concourses. At the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: 22 "How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge. 23 Turn at my rebuke. Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you." 24 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, 25 because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke.
God says there's no excuse for ignorance. The scornful folk have easy access to wisdom and truth. God does not hide the truth in secret societies that meet behind locked doors in windowless buildings. But the scornful don't want to admit that they're wrong.
Now let's read verses 26-33 of Proverbs Chapter 1:I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes. 27 When your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call on me, but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 They would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. 31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. 32 For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. 33 But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil.
What is it that scornful people scorn? Bear in mind that we're not talking about remote tribes in Africa or Central America or wherever. The non-evangelized heathen are in God's hands. The scornful are those folks who have easy -- and legal -- access to the Gospel, but never do anything constructive with it.
Let's re-read verse 22 of Proverbs 1:How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge.
I have trouble understanding the type of person this is referring to -- even though at one time, a few decades ago, I was one of them. I was utterly truth-proof, until the Lord scared me one day, and showed me the emptiness of where I was going. The point of Proverbs 1:22 is that it's dumb to be a scoffer, especially when it means you won't get the benefits of verse 23:Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.
Now look at verses 29-31:Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 They would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. 31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies.
What will these scoffers get for all their trouble? They teach emptiness; they shall eat emptiness. This is the fruit of the scornful tree. Remember this later when we see a totally different kind of fruit.
Let's repeat Psalm 1, verse 1:Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.
The Lord tells us that the key to happiness is to not buy into the world's concept of happiness. But what's the alternative to the world's program? Read verse 2:But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.
The happy person's delight is God's Word, the Scriptures.
Bear in mind that when David wrote these lines, there wasn't near as much Bible written as now. There were the books of the Law, maybe the books of Joshua and Judges, Job, Ruth, and a few Psalms. But the dominant books were the Books of the Law -- the first 5 books of the Bible.
So what does the happy person DO with Scripture?
The happy person meditates day and night on Scripture. Do you have a Bible with margin reference notes to the word meditate? It means to ponder by mumbling to yourself.
See? These Christians are crazy--they walk around talking to themselves and acting happy all the time!
Actually, that sounds pretty good to me! But how does it help us to go around mumbling Scripture to ourselves? It's very simple: we must learn God's promises before we can act on them in faith and claim them for ourselves. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
The Transformed Life is not a system of "do this" and "don't do that." The Transformed Life is living as though the God we can't see is more real and precious to us than the world we can see and taste directly with our physical senses. Transformed Life experiences the joy of discovering and rediscovering God's promises and acting in faith upon them.
What then are the rewards of walking around, day and night, mumbling Scripture to yourself? Read verse 3:He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
What are the implications of being "like a tree?" We associate trees with large size, strength, stability and long life.
"That brings forth his fruit in his season..." What kind of fruit are we talking about? The Transformed Life inevitably causes changes -- in the Transformed person and in that person's environment.
Galatians 5:22-23 talks about these changes:But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Yes. There will be specific rewards -- and many of the rewards will be the intangible benefits of being born again to new life in the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness. We'll see others led to the Lord, we'll see our own lives changed.
But WHEN do we start bringing forth fruit? I feel kind of fruitless today.
The key is the phrase "...in his season..." Do fruit trees start bearing fruit as soon as you plant the seed? It takes years for an orange tree to get productive.
How often does a mature tree bear fruit? Just once per year.
What if you want to make it bear two crops per year? Is there some kind of pills you can give the tree? What if you want the orange tree to start bearing apples? Sorry -- it doesn't work that way. God has appointed the seasons in our lives, and we can only bear the fruit of what is planted and nurtured in our hearts.
The analogy isn't perfect but you get the idea. Each of us is a unique individual in the Lord's eyes. The Lord has an individual plan for each of us. The Lord has a specific type of fruit that we are uniquely qualified to bear. And the results are NOT instantaneous. We may be tired of waiting for OUR season, but it will come if we don't lose heart.
Now let's see what Jesus had to say about bearing fruit. Turn to the Gospel of John, Chapter 15. Read verses 1-8:I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
What does Jesus establish as a condition of bearing fruit? He commands us to abide in Him. He wants us to spend quality time with Him: pray with Him, sing to Him, study His words, follow Him and obey His commands.
How does this relate to what we saw in Psalm One?
It's the same thing. Jesus was the Word of God made flesh. And Jesus came saying that He was to be the center of the spiritual universe.
But please note the payoff -- the promise is unlimited, as we see in verse 7:If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Each of us, regardless of what we started out with, can abide and can claim the promises of this verse. Abiding in Jesus is one of the keys for nurturing the Transformed Life.
Back to Psalm One. Read verse 4:The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
You've heard of chaff, right? Chaff is the outer layer of wheat that gets separated by shaking and sifting. Then the wind blows it away.
Look at the contrast between the righteous and the ungodly. The godly person is like a tree, with roots, with a source of water and nourishment, with a Vinedresser that prunes his or her branches, and with the reward of fruit in season, and eternal life. Quite a good deal!
And what's the alternative?
Well, the chaff and the wheat go together during the growing season, and the chaff benefits temporarily from its association with the wheat. But there will come a day of separation, and the wheat will be saved in one place. The chaff? Re-read verse 4
Let's read verse 5:Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
So the ungodly folk are going to be in trouble on Judgment Day. But those who have the righteousness of Christ will have their own place to stand.
Will it be worthwhile standing there? Will it be worth the effort of faith in the meantime? Read verse six.For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
What does it mean, that "...the Lord knows the way of the righteous?" Are we really righteous (by God's standards) or just self-righteous?
This is the tricky part. Everybody -- with very few exceptions -- finds some way to justify wherever they happen to be. "Well, I try to live by the 10 Commandments," or "I live by the Golden Rule." or "I'm no worse than the next guy." or "I don't try to hurt anybody, and I don't steal much, or lie much."
That's all very well and good, and I'm glad that these folks make some effort to live moral lives. But it just happens to be absolutely irrelevant to the main issue of salvation. As you remember from our earlier lessons our own righteous activities don't qualify us for eternal life, much less the Transformed Life. The human mind can justify itself with remarkable ease most of the time, until the Holy Spirit comes along and starts convicting our hearts with Scripture.
One more time, let's re-read verse six:For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Then re-read verses 1-3:Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
Which heart attitude sounds like a better deal to you?
Closing Prayer: Lord, I've missed opportunities to learn and grow and experience Your joy. Help me to see today's opportunities, as I meditate on Your Scriptures and abide in Your Son, Jesus.