The Happy Man and God’s Law: Psalm 1

Bill Bright was the founder of Campus Crusade. He was one of the most influential Christians leaders of the 20th century. He was saved in 1941 through the prayers of his mother. He attended Princeton and Fuller seminaries. It was while he was at Fuller Seminary that he felt the call of God to help fulfill the great commission to go into the world and preach the gospel. He began to witness on the campus of UCLA and it was there that the seed of Campus Crusade was planted in his heart.

Campus Crusade became the largest Christian organization in the world. Begun in 1951, it now has 20,000 full time staff and 225,000 trained volunteers working in 191 countries. Bright’s pamphlet, “The Four Spiritual Laws, has been used around the world to explain God’s eternal plan for salvation. The “Jesus Film,” also produced by Campus Crusade, has been seen by people in 234 countries and is the most widely translated film in history. More than 128 million people have indicated decision to receive Christ in response to this film. Think of it! What a legacy!

How could one man have such an awesome influence for Christ? I think you will understand how he came to be so influential when you read what he penned shortly before he went to be with Christ last year. Listen to these wonderful words:

Even today I live every moment with the Bible. It is my constant companion. As a believer for fifty-six years, I have tested God’s Word and found it true. In more than five decades I have not encountered one situation in which I have not been able to turn to God’s Word for comfort, wisdom, guidance, joy, and blessing. At eighty-one years of age, I would rather have the Bible on my shelf and in my heart than any other book written in history because it contains the message of God. It is a love letter to me and to all other human beings who are created in His image. Not only have I been enriched through the reading of the Bible, but I have also seen it change the lives of a multitude of people.” [Bill Bright: Founder of Campus Crusade]

There you have it. Bill Bright’s life had an awesome impact for the honor of Jesus Christ because of what he received from God’s Word. To Bright, the Bible was God’s Word. God spoke to him in those pages. His faith was built up in those pages. It provided the wisdom for him to handle all problems that came his way. It made him strong. It gave him a completely different view on the world. The Bible was his staple for 56 years. He did not pick it up because he had to but because he loved to. It was powerful. It was practical. It was personal. He devoted his life to the proclamation of its truth and millions of people will gather around the throne to join Bill in worshiping Jesus Christ because of what he did. What an awesome man of God! What a faithful God of man who keeps his promises to those who dare to trust him.

That is what this series is intended to teach. God wrote a Book. In that Book he reveals his Glory. In that Book we hear God speak. In it he speaks personally, powerfully, and practically. In that Book God gives promises. If we will hear and obey them, he will use us for his glory and our joy, just like he did Bill Bright.

God has revealed his glory to us in the Word but we won’t see it without prayer. Prayer and the Word are the two tracks that keep us on the path of God’s wonderful blessings for our lives. So, let us begin our study of God’s Word this morning by praying with the Psalmist this essential request: “Open the eyes of heart so that we may see the wonderful things in your Law.” [Psalm 119:18]

I. The Necessary Nutrients of God’s Word: Matt 4:4

The Enemy of your soul is dead set on keeping you from being in the Word of God. He will tell you it is too boring; too mysterious, too out of date, too inaccurate, and too negative to be of any real help to you. That is a lie! He will say that sin is far more pleasurable and rewarding than doing what God commands in his Word. That is a lie. He will tell you that a little Bible knowledge is all you need. That is untrue. He will tell you that when it comes to the really important decisions you can disregard the Word of God and rely on your feelings. That is a lie! There is nothing in this world that is more pleasurable, or more practical or more powerful for making your life meaningful and satisfied and joyful, than knowing and doing the words of God found within His Book.

That is why even Jesus, God’s Son incarnated on earth, devoted himself to knowing, memorizing and meditating upon God’s Word. He knew that the word of God not only rips off the mask of Satan’s lies, but becomes a mighty weapon for defeating him in our battle for truth and joy. So, when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness he relied upon the written Word of God. It was a crucial battle. God’s eternal, redemptive plan hung in the balance in that titanic struggle in the wilderness. If Jesus failed here we would be without hope.

God was the aggressor in this battle. Luke records that the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the dessert to for this confrontation with the devil. So, after Jesus spent forty days of fasting in preparation for battle, the devil slithered in with his temptation.  Although we are not told this explicitly, I am sure that Jesus spent that time meditating on God’s written word. Why do I say that? Listen to Jesus’ words. With Jesus’ body crying out for a morsel of nourishment the devil came to tempt him. He challenged Jesus to make food for himself from the stones that surrounded him. Jesus had the power to do that. Jesus could do that, but in spite of his hunger pains he didn’t do that. Why?

That was not the Father’s will for Jesus. He was sent to rely upon the Father’s provision just as we are. He was not to use his miraculous powers for his own deliverance. Well, how did Jesus know that? Listen to his words and you discover the answer: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  Jesus could see behind the lie hidden under partial truth of the devil’s temptation. Jesus knew that the devil was asking him to sin. Where did he get such wisdom and discernment? Three words: “It is Written.” Jesus knew His Father’s will for him because he had devoted himself to God’s “Written Word.” The words of the Father had settled into the mind and heart of Jesus, guiding his thinking, controlling his passions. Because he had devoured, memorized and meditated upon God’s Written Word, he was victorious in battle. It made no difference how many tricks the devil would pull, the Word of God enabled him to see through and successfully defeat his sly and deadly tactics.

A. Treasure! To gain joy: Ps 119:103
Quickly I want to remind you of what we discovered last week. The ones who have found the greatest pleasure in God’s Book are the ones who spent the most time there. What is surprising, even shocking, is that they were there, not so much motivated by duty as they were by delight. That is right. They turned to the Scriptures rather than turning on the TV because they got more joy out of God’s promises than they did out of Seinfeld’s crazy antics.

Listen to what the Psalmist says: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” He sounds like Bill Bright, doesn’t he? Again, in Psalm 19, He writes of the precepts: Ps 19:10-11

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Here is an important lesson. Don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking the law of God is not lined with gold, flowing with honey and bursting forth with reward. He is a liar! Don’t be taken in.

B. Truth! To gain wisdom: Ps 119:98-100

A second reason to be in the Word is that it is a rock solid foundation of truth. It will give you wisdom. It will guide your paths. It will keep you from evil. It will bring mighty victory. It will bring you home to heaven. It will be the foundation for you to build a life that rises to give glory to Jesus and great joy to your heart. Hear again the Psalmist:

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
If you know God’s Word and obey God’s Word your life will be filled with God’s reward. And, you can’t beat His reward.

C. Triumph! To gain victory: Ps 119:101-102,104

Why should you devour God’s Word? It is treasure. It is truth. And it leads to triumph. God’s Word is the most powerful force in the universe. What he says will happen. Nothing can stop it. When you live in God’s Word and obey God’s Word the Enemy and his tactics will be no match for you. Again we listen to the awesome words of the Psalmist:

I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me….
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.

So, do you want some good reasons to eat and gorge yourself on God’s written Word? Here they are: Treasure. Truth. Triumph. That was the appetizer of today’s banquet. Now let’s get to the main course.

II. The Happy man and God’s Word: Psalm 1

Last week I encouraged you to read, meditate and even memorize Psalm 1. I did this because I know that if you would do that you would discover for yourself that God’s Word is personal. You would hear God speak to you. It is powerful. It would change your life. And, if you would desire it and devour it like you do to fill your stomach with food, your life would be a triumph that would only be able to be explained by the fact that God is at work in you. Now, let us break down this passage into bit sized portions so that we can fully digest the wonderful things on God’s menu this morning. [Quote Psalm 1]
A. He is promised a God honoring soul satisfying life. [1]

First, let me say that Psalm 1 is the doorway to the rest of the psalms. It will set the tone for what you will enjoy later. Throughout it pages you will see it contrast two kinds of people: The righteous, who love God’s Word; and the wicked, who hate God’s Word. The Psalmist will describe in prayer and poetry the rewards that await all who love God and the punishment that awaits all who hate his glory.

Psalm 1 begins: “Blessed is the man…” The word “blessed” means fortunate, happy and healthy. The Bible declares that we were made to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. If you want more joy and happiness pursue God. If you want more happiness in your life, pursue him in his Book. God’s plan for his people is good. He wants us to discover and enjoy the awesome beauty that is found in Jesus Christ. There is no downside here. The infinite riches that are in Christ are for those who will “trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus.” If you want to be blessed you must seek him in his Law.

B. He avoids viruses that sneak in and rob him of his joy. [1]

Then, the Psalmist identifies who will never find happiness. He lists three kinds of people who will not be blessed. The essence of sin is the ignoring of God’s Word. In a post-modern world we are told that there is no ultimate truth and that all religions are alike. Sincerity is what counts. As long as you are true to yourself that is all that matters. Anyone who claims to have ultimate truth is called a bigot and worse. So, naturally the Bible as God’s Word is attacked and ridiculed as unscientific and archaic.

1. The counsel of the wicked.

That is the kind of language you would hear in the first group who are caught up in “the counsel of the wicked.” They are the ones who get their idea of reality from the wisdom of the world. The “counsel of the wicked” excludes God. It finds its more pleasure in the things that are made than in the Creator of those things. You will see its gospel preached in movies and sit-com which display the message: “If it feels good, do it.” It is the kind of thought that thinks a naked woman in the locker room asking a pro-football player to skip the game to be with her, “is clean.” In this world there are no such things as eternal laws or unchanging morality. What is good is what makes you happy, as long as it does not hurt anybody else.

But the Psalmist says that to follow that kind of thinking is the surest way to not be happy. Proverbs gets it right when it declares: “There is a way which seems right to man but in the end it leads to death.” [Proverbs 14:12]. It makes no difference how beautiful you make it look in the movies or how funny it looks in the sit-coms or how hip it sounds in the music, sin will lead to disappointment, depression, despair and ultimately death.

To walk in the counsel of the wicked is to think like them and live your life like them. It is possible to claim to be a Christian and still walk in the counsel of the wicked. You are what you think. That is why you must be careful as to what you expose your mind to. Only having the counsel of God in your mind and heart will enable you to even discern the counsel of the wicked. When God’s truth is embedded in your heart the slick advertisers of the day and the subtle messages of the rap music will not get by your the defense of your heart. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. [Ps. 119:105] That is why the devil will do anything to keep you from the Word. That is why J. I. Packer wrote what he did:

“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible….I should do all I could to surround it with spiritual equivalent of pits, thorns, hedges, and man traps to frighten people off.”   J. I Packer
2. The way of sinners.

If you get your information from the counsel of the wicked it is only a matter of time before you will walk in the path of the sinners. How many marriages are in trouble and families broken apart and kids suffering the consequences of sex out of marriage because minds were not controlled by God’s Word? That is why the Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against God.” If you want to find joy and satisfaction the path of sin is the wrong path to take. If you want to find eternal pleasures God has laid out the way in his Word: [Ps 16:11]

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

3.  The seat of the scornful.

I think the Psalmist wants us to see a sequence here. It starts with letting our minds become shaped by the “counsel of the wicked. It is always a subtle thing. If we are not in hot pursuit of God in his the Word, we hardly aware that our attitude toward sin has changed. Then, when we are faced with temptation it is easier to go along with the crowd than to stand for righteousness. We end up by doing thing we never thought we would do. But it no longer even bothers us. If we stay there on the path of sin it is only a matter of time before we sit down with the scornful. The only way we can defend our position on the path of sinners is to make fun or find fault with those who still fighting the battle.

The “seat of the scornful” are for the ones who have cast away any thought of righteousness. All that matters is what they want and what they feel is good for them. So they have to attack morality and commandments and obedience to God’s Law. They become negative nay-sayers and the cynics. In the words of Paul in Romans, Rom 1:30-32
they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

But in spite of casting off all morality and being their own gods they never find the happiness they seek. Study the atheistic philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche. They died as they lived, miserable and with out hope. There is no blessedness in the seat of the scornful. The way of the wicked is hard. [Proverbs 13:15]   

But for the man or woman who loves God’s Word life is joy. They are filled with hope and faith and love. There is no situation that is hopeless. They still struggle; still fight depression and despair; but like Paul they know that God is in control. They know that within his Word there is wisdom and encouragement to get him through anything. God only allows us to go into the darkest of times so that when he does deliver the light of his grace shines the brightest.

Is it possible to sit down in the seat of the scornful and still be a Christian? I think so. When criticism and negative thinking rules your life you are living as if God is dead. I am reminded that even Luther had those moments. He was under a lot of pressure and one day he was sulking before the fire in his office. His spunky wife Katy was not intimidated by the great reformer. While he sat there feeling sorry for him self she came down the stairs dressed in mourning black. He was startled when he saw how she was dressed and asked, “Lady, who died.” Without hesitation she replied, “God did.” “Woman, God didn’t die,” He said. “Then why are you acting like he did?”

When you sit in the seat of the scornful you will never discover the miracle power working promises of God. You will always refer to the bottom line. You will always opt for safety rather than risk. But, you will be left sitting in the pew while men and women who are filled with faith in God’s promises go to the ends of the earth in search an opportunity to die for Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a whole church that kicked over the seat of the scornful and picked up the promises of God? We have not seen what God would do through us if we would do that.

C. He is fully satisfied in heart and mind. [2]

1. He delights in God’s Law.

Next the Psalmist turns to the one who is blessed and begins to describe how he becomes blessed. Get ready. Don’t miss it! “He delights in God’s Law.” There it is again. Instead of finding his pleasure in the counsel of the wicked, or the path of sinners, or the seat of the scornful, he finds his delight in God’s Word.

Let me divert for what I think is a very important clarification to make. Following God does not foster a dichotomy between the heart of man and the mind of man. In the word of God I find joy and delight and satisfaction because it is there where I see and savor the awesome glory of God. It is like looking up at the sky in a game ranch in South Africa and seeing the sky absolutely blanketed by billions of stars. I could only watch with wonder at a God who “brings out the starry hosts and names them one by one. Because of His great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing.” When you open the Book of God you open up to the same God who spoke those stars into being and sustains each one by the word of his mouth.  

Why is it that the doorway to God’s infinite riches remains closed while we fritter our lives away watching “Friends” and “Law and Order”? I am not saying that those programs do not bring pleasure. They do. But they are not the infinite pleasures that are found in God’s Word. Why do we place such a low priority of Bible study and such a high priority on being entertained by TV and movie? That is what I want you to consider.

There, I think we have failed and must assume part of the responsibility. We have not shown you how to experience those pleasures for yourself. But thank God, sins can be forgiven and changes can be made. That is the hope of this sermon series. God can do something totally new in our hearts and our church if we will turn our hearts back to him. And that is why we must pray for help because we cannot do it on our own. “Lord, open the eyes of our hearts so that we will see the wonderful things in your law and see you and savor you because of it.” We must pray for only God can change our hearts.

2. He continually meditates on God’s Law.

The delight we find there is not “fairy tales” as Bertrand Russell suggested. This delight is so profound and wonderful because it is based on truth. That which we find in God’s Word is reasonable and rational and objective truth. That is why you have to use your brain when you approach the Bible. The Word of God is directed toward the head and the heart.

That is why the Psalmist meditates upon the Word. The delight motivates him to open the Bible with anticipation, but the exhilarating truth that he finds there does not reach his heart by osmosis. It happens through his reading, study, memorization and meditating upon God’s Word. The truth lead to joy and the joy leads him to more intensive involvement with God’s Book. That is the way it works.

The word meditation means to speak or mutter. When this is done in the heart it is called musing or meditation. To meditate day and night is to speak the Word of God to your self continually. It begins when we get alone with the Word in an atmosphere of prayer and faith. It is listening to God. It is coming hungry for him. We select a passage and begin to take bite size portion of the scripture and chew on it awhile. We are in no hurry to swallow and get on with the rest of the meal. We taste it and chew on it and savor it like we a piece of Mom Briner’s apple pie. We get a hold on what it means. We relate that meaning to God’s will for our lives. We think about how it can be applied in the different areas of our lives. We leave nothing on the plate. We think and chew and enjoy until, by God’s grace we swallow it and it becomes a part of our being. 

As you eat you pray. As you discover wonderful things you ask for grace to apply them to your life. The Word then becomes the basis for your hearing him and for Him hearing you. The depth and solidity and certainty of your walk with God and your communion with God will raise and fall on your practice of meditation on the word.

D. He becomes an oak of strength and resilience. [3]

That is what George Mueller meant when he said: “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.” The one who delights in God’s Word and meditates upon it day and night will be like a tree planted by streams of water.

1. He endures in all kinds of weather.

That means he endures all kinds of weather. It makes no difference what is happening to him or around him. He knows God and he knows God’s promises. Whatever storm is blowing he knows that it will never destroy him or rob him of his ultimate happiness.
2. He has roots that go down deep.

The reason he can stands strong in all kinds of weather is because he has God’s truth embedded in his heart. The roots of his life and his confidence and his hope go down deep into the faithfulness of God’s promises. There is a constant supply of grace surging though him no matter what is happening on the outside. He is not dependent upon other people for his ultimate worth of joy. He does not have to get appreciation to survive. He doesn’t feel like a martyr when things go bad or he doesn’t get what he thinks he is deserved. Like the prophet Habakkuk he can say:

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. Hab 3:17-18

Because he has tasted God’s Word and found it good in all situations he knows that nothing can separate him from the love of God and that all things will be turned around for his good and God’s glory. Ps 63:3, describes his motto: “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” The joy that he has found in Jesus is more important, last longer, and gives him more hope and joy, than even staying alive. In all things this man is more than a conqueror through him who loved him.

3. He remains healthy at his core.

So, no matter what he goes through, whether it is the stormy winds of adversity; or the agony of tragedy; or the icy storm of lost friendships; or the fiery pain of financial pressures; or the blight of persistent health problems; or the scorching heat of family problems, his leaf does not whither. He can confidently say say with the apostle Paul: 2 Cor 4:16-17

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

4. He always brings forth fruit.

And finally, he can be assured that his life and his work in the name of the Lord will eventually bring forth fruit in the proper season. When you obey God’s Word you will prosper. Does that mean prosperity in terms of constant wealth and health and fat bank accounts and resurrections from the dead?

Obviously not. Job and Paul, although Redwoods among men still had their times of devastation and suffering and even Lazarus died. Prosperity means that God will see to it that the flow of your life will bring success and blessing to you and others. God will see to it. Gal 6:7-10

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Don’t be deceived. If you sow to the flesh you will reap to the flesh destruction. But don’t be deceived about the promise of blessing either. You will reap a harvest of righteousness if you do not give up. And, at the end of your days when it is your time for your tree to fall, you will have the awesome and ultimate pleasure of hearing your Lord and your Savior say to you: “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

E. The wicked will always be fruitless and disappointed. [4]

1. They are weightless.

The wicked, however, have no such hope, because they have no roots. They are utterly dependent upon good weather and regular rains and sunny days. They are dependent upon others and because they have no roots their lives are weightless. They have nothing holding them down. They are the mercy of the slick advertisers. They have to dress like everyone else because they have a desperate need to be popular. When the professor says something that sounds intellectual they have no eternal standard of truth to test it to see if it is valid. They are literally blow every direction.

Worst of all, they are vulnerable to all of the temptations of the devil and unable to restrain their passions. Their life is made up of one whim after another. They are like chaff which the wind blows away. Because their life is weightless it is useless. In the end all of the things that they devoted their energy to build will be burned into ashes. Only those things that were built for the glory of God will last. So, they leave no legacy. People are not rescued because of their lives. Jesus is not honored by their gifts, even if they have given many things.

Remember what we read in Piper’s book, “Don’t Waste your Life”?

“Only one life will soon be past.
Only what is done for Christ will last.”

2. They are helpless.

Second, their helpless. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All men by nature are sinners and rebellious. Dead in our sins we are unable to save ourselves from God’s wrath. So, the wicked are helpless. God’s wrath is real and every man and woman will stand before His holy Judgment to give an account of their lives. Those who refuse to respond to God’s revelation of himself in Jesus Christ will not stand on the day of judgment. They will have nothing to stand upon. All of their good works are as filthy rags in God’s sight. Only those who heard the good news and humbled themselves by confessing their sinfulness and their need of Christ’s salvation will be able to stand on that day of reckoning.

3. They are hopeless.

Finally, they are hopeless. They have nothing to look forward to when this life is over. They will not stand in the assembly of the righteous. What does that refer to? I am not sure but I will tell you what I think it refers to. I think it refers to the picture of celebration that takes place around the Throne Room of God. Psalms is a book of songs for worship. They are sung to God in faith in the midst of struggles and pains. But there will be a day when all sorrows will end and all tears wiped away. It will also be a time of singing but there will be a new song sung by the righteous from all times: Here is what John wrote: Rev 5:9-10

“And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals, because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”

Only those who have been made righteous by the Word of God will be there to worship the awesome splendor of the Lamb of God.

F. The righteous are confident and expectant.

There is one final word from the Psalmist. It is a bold and confident statement of faith. “God watches over the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish.” We have every reason to live life in confidence and boldness. When we live in the Word and love it and obey it, God will see to it that our lives are blessed and filled with joy unspeakable, full of glory. He watches over the Bill Brights and the Jim Elliots and the Gorge Muellers and the Chelseas and the Micheles and the Kylenes in his family. They become like trees planted by streams of water which bring fruit in their season. They are prosperous and filled with joy because they loved God’s Word. 

III. How to live a happy fruitful life this week:

What is hour-by hour walking with in fellowship with God? The answer is: it is his speaking to you by his Word through your memory and meditation and illumination and application and your speaking to him words of thanks and praise and admiration and desire and seeking his help and guidance and understanding. The Word is the basis of your hearing him and his hearing you. The depth