Thursday, September 15, 2022

Three ways to be formed in Scripture

Psalm 1 gives us a contrast of two lifestyles. One is the path of the blessed person and that is a life that prospers. The other path is the way of the wicked and it leads to destruction (read Psalm 1:1-3). 

Psalm 1 begins with the word, blessed, “Blessed is the one.” Blessed is used 26 times in the Psalms and can be translated as fortunate or happy. What a great way to start the book, to talk about the happy person. But the happy person isn’t described in the way we would expect based on the world’s standards. The person is happy because they are delighting in the law of the Lord. They are following a different way than the world. This way, this path includes several things. 

Recently I read about a man who took a journey throughout the United States, polling different people, asking them what was the one thing they wanted out of life, more than anything else. What would you guess the majority of responses were? Money? Fame? Power? The one response he got far and away above more than anything else was happiness. Everywhere he went, and he asked people, "What is it that you want more than anything else in life?" almost everyone without exception said, "Happiness." And then he asked about those other things, about money and fame and power. And they said, "Well, those things are means to that greater end. What we really want is happiness in life.” Our world is looking for happiness and the Bible teaches us how to get that. 

Look closely with me. There is a three-fold progression of how the blessed person lives. That person doesn't walk with the wicked, stand in the path of sinners, or sit in the company of mockers. The wicked are not just people locked up in prison who’ve done heinous crimes. The image for  the wicked person is anyone who has no place for God in their lives. The wicked want nothing to do with God because God gets in the way of their plans. They have their own agenda in life and there is no room for God in that agenda. They think about their needs first and neglect what is best for others. 

The blessed person also does not STAND in the way sinners take. To stand with sinners has to do with our actions and habits. The godly, don’t settle into the habits and lifestyle of those who don’t live for God. That means making tough decisions with whom you associate and spend time with. There’s a progression we see in verse 1, it’s a gradual descent into evil. To SIT means you’ve moved in. Think about stopping by your neighbors house, if you sit down you’re staying for a while. In this example, you’ve made their habits and lifestyle your own.

Let me be clear, this doesn’t mean we should stay away from people who do not know God! The New Testament and the life of Jesus are clear that we need to spend time with sinners. Jesus spent time with many notorious sinners of his day and God has called us to be a light in this dark world. The difference has to do with influence. Jesus had great influence over those he chose to spend time with. They weren’t pulling him down, he was pulling them up and pointing them to God. It’s good to spend time with those who are far from God, as long as your having a positive influence on them and they aren’t having a negative influence on you. You have to ask yourself: Who is influencing who? 

What the Psalmist says in verse 2 might be a surprise. Instead of giving tactical ways to avoid evil, we are taught to delight in God’s word. The instruction continues by telling us to meditate on God’s law. To delight in God’s word means to find joy and pleasure in spending time in God’s word. 

The blessed person doesn’t only delight in God’s word for five minutes in the morning and then go about their day. The blessed person delights in God’s law and meditates on it day and night. Christians love studying the Bible, hearing it preached and even memorizing it, but we leave the meditation stuff to those who do yoga. We need to redeem that word for Christ. The word meditation is the same word used for repeating a line, to speak or proclaim. We are to be immersed, in God’s word so that it permeates the life of a believer. 

The instruction or encouragement here for the blessed person is to delight in God’s word day and night. Are you delighting in God’s word day and night? 
Are you finding your source of joy from God’s word? 

I know I’m not always finding that. Many times we approach God’s word in an attitude of: “I need to get through this Bible reading so I can get on with my day.” What if God wanted to form us through His word instead of having us rush through it to the next thing? 

God's word is living and active, it changes our lives. I’m currently reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. He writes that God is still speaking to us through His word. Not that God spoke and no longer speaks. No, God is still speaking to you and I through His word: 
“He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking HIs words and causing the power of them to persist across the years.” — A.W. Tozer. 
The result of meditating on God’s word is an agricultural one. This metaphor translates well in Ventura. All over Ventura we have gold in the trees, I call them avocados. These trees need water so they can yield their fruit at the right season. That season is called; guacamole! For the original audience they had a dry climate of the Middle East. Those trees needed to be planed by a water source so they could yield fruit for their owners. The Israelites needed to grow where God had planted them for that time. Now the difficulty I’ve seen with this is that we live in the microwave or the fast food generation. We want our growth to happen right now and not a minute longer. Please be patient as God is growing you. Be patient as God is growing me. We are growing together. God has uniquely prepared each of us for this season of life and we can trust Him in the growth process.

Three ways to be formed in Scripture
Let me share three ways that you can commit to letting this book form your life. 

The first way to be formed in Scripture is make a commitment to reading God’s word. We have to start this simple. For years I’ve encouraged people to read the Bible. When someone would ask me where to read I would generally say this: Start reading your Bible in the Gospel of John. You will learn about the life and ministry of Jesus. Read one chapter every day and in three weeks you will finish the Gospel account. You can also read the Proverbs in a month if you read one Proverb a week. Check this out, you can read more! The first thing is to proactively pick up this book and let it work into your life. 

Once you start reading God’s word the next step is to: Memorize the Bible. Look what we read later in the Psalms (read Psalm 119:11). I have hidden God’s word in my heart that I will never ever ever sin again. No! We hide God word in our heart in a hope to avoid sin. There was a time in this world that we had to memorize phone numbers, bank accounts, and addresses. We don’t do that anymore. We allow our phone to act as our memory. You are so smart. You’re brain is able to memorize more than you know. You have so much potential to know God’s word more than you think. If you have never memorized Scripture start with Psalm 119:11. You can memorize it this week! 

The third way to be formed in Scripture is: Make it a regular habit to read the Bible. Don’t stop reading it. Some people read the Bible for a week or a month and then loose the habit. When you keep reading the Bible your faith keeps growing. I love what God told His people in Isaiah (read Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s word won’t return void. Let me say it differently, when I'm talking about being formed in Scripture, this is not a waste of your time. This is the best investment of your time that you could ever make. If you’re taking notes write this down: Regular time in God’s word forms the direction of my life. 

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