Wisdom equals Pursuing God’s Righteousness
Intro: Well Morning Friends & Visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and this January we are studying the Psalms because we want to begin 2024 walking in God’s wisdom. It is only as we trust God and walk in His wisdom (not the worlds wisdom) that we can receive God’s blessing.
PRAYER: Well Psalm 112 begins with the words – BLESSED is the man… That could also be translated; BLESSED is the person… As Christians, I hope that we all desire GOD’S BLESSING upon our lives in 2024. But what is the nature of blessing and is it automatic?
Perhaps the KEY VERSES in the Bible for understanding the nature of blessing is found in Number 6. This is what God says (Slide 2; Num.6). Now this makes it clear that blessings come from Yahweh. It is the LORD’s prerogative to bless you or not bless you. Many Christian scholars (including the translators of the Message Bible) have recognized that God turning His face towards us carries the idea of God smiling upon us (Job 10:3). But what makes God smile?
We generally smile upon things that delight us or make us happy. I smile upon my children when they do good things OR they deal with difficulty in good ways. Sometimes these difficult things can be very hard – like 1) having to clean their room, or 2) having to deal responsibly with a mistake or 3) learning to trust God when they don’t automatically get what they want. (At these points my children are often far from happy). But as I see them dealing with life in faithful Christian ways I turn my face towards them, I smile upon them and I am gracious to them. This is my blessing. But when my kids do wicked things or deal with life in foolish ways – like most parents I don’t tend to smile. I tend to frown. You can ask my children – there is often a lot of frowning – in our house.
But here’s the thing. Should I bless my children and smile upon them – if they continue in wickedness or foolishness? Of course, I’m gracious especially when my children are young. But as they mature I am wanting them to grow up, be wise and make good decisions. So should I still bless them and smile upon them if they are ignore Gods Word and choose evil as young adults? If I bless evil behaviour am I really loving my children?
Sadly, we now live in a world where we think God can bless sin. At the end of 2023 – the Roman Catholic church DECIDED they were going to start BLESSING same-sex relationships. So they now hold special blessing services – a bit like marriage for gay couples? TECHNICALLY – THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH still says that homosexual conduct is sin. But nonetheless they are beginning to bless homosexual relationships. Is that possible? Can God bless sin? It’s a bit like the ANGLICAN CHURCH IN SYDNEY saying euthanasia is definitely a sin, but we’re going to cooperate with it in our Anglicare Nursing Homes. Can we do this and still expect Gods blessing? Now please know I am not attacking gay people or those seeking out – Voluntary Assisted Dyiny. Non-Christians will always do things that are contrary to Gods Word. That’s simply the nature of sin. But can the Roman Catholic church OR the Anglican church cooperate with what is clearly sin and still expect God’s blessing?
THE ESSENCE of this question is can God bless sin? (PAUSE). Of course, the answer is NO. God can’t bless that which is evil (without being untrue to His own righteousness). But how many Churches (and Christians) now knowingly participate in sin, whether homosexual conduct or euthanasia, or perhaps greed, or gossip or unforgiveness while continuing to expect Gods full blessing on their lives.
Point 1: Blessed is the Person who Delights in God’s Commands
Explain: Psalm 112:1 begins with the words – “blessed are those who fear the LORD and delight in His Commands.” The Scripture does NOT say “Blessed are those who fear man and disobey God.” Yet, that is our new norm. THE CHURCH fears secular man’s disapproval, we fear the worlds laws and so we now play fast and loose with Gods commands. But Jesus clearly says; “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt.10:28).
As modern evangelical Christians we usually hear that the word FEAR means reverence or healthy respect – like we might show to a father or boss or king. But no! A healthy fear of God is way, way, way higher than that. Psalm 36 and Romans 3 – (both condemn the world) saying “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Ps.36:1; Rom.3:18). When we FEAR MAN and THE LAWS OF MAN, more than we fear God and the laws of God – we are in this super-dangerous territory. Isaiah 66:2 says (Slide 3; Isa.66:2). The word tremble means quake with fear. This is healthy fear. One day the holy God is going to look straight through you as He judges you.
But we now live in a post-Christian world where no one really fears God because no one really believes in God. We have rejected both the idea of God and the idea of absolute commands for life. So we now make up our own commands; Thou shalt accept all religions lead to God; Thou shalt support a woman’s right to abortion. And anyone who disobeys these laws experiences the full wrath of being cancelled. So we now fear man, more than we fear God. And we think life and society will work anyway we choose, which is like loading your first edition Beatles LP’s into the toaster and expecting to hear “Hey Jude.” Sorry the toaster was not created for playing LP’s! So all you end up with is a gooey black mess of melted vinyl.
Thankfully, the God who made the world – revealed himself to the Jews as YAHWEH and gave them the Bible. The Bible is basically Gods instruction manual on how to load your beloved Beatles LP’s into the record player and what playback speed will give you the best results. What’s more, Gods instructions have a tried and proven history. The Buddhist God leaves us to our own imagination and has revealed nothing in terms of absolute truth. The Hindu gods have ONLY left contradictory truth because they are always fighting. And even Allah – gives advice that doesn’t actually work in the real world. Every Islamic society today (governed by sharia law) is shrouded in death, destruction and injustice. Islam doesn’t actually work.
So the beginning of wisdom is NOT belief in God per se, but belief in Yahweh, the LORD of the Bible. And in the Bible – God has actually given us commands (including A) the 10 Commandments and B) the Sermon on the Mount) that actually work in real life. THE WESTERN WORLD enjoyed several centuries of God’s blessing because we generally took Gods commands seriously and put them into practice in society. (And we enjoyed perhaps the most affluent, stable, equitable and spiritually healthy society our world has ever known). Even significant, non-Christian academics like Jordan Peterson in the US and Tom Holland at Oxford University in the UK now openly acknowledge that the blessings the western world has enjoyed for so long – all have direct links to biblical commands and principles. Even non-Christians are admitting that what made the west great for so long, is that our society was built on Christian principles, not Muslim, Buddhist or socialist principles. That’s why 1) so many Muslims; 2) Buddhists and 2) communists are trying to get out of their own respective countries and move to the west. God commands have brought blessing.
Now I’ll readily admit – the western world was still FAR, FAR from perfect because we live in a fallen, sinful world. But it was still far better than anything else man has ever devised or will devise.
AND YET, the western world thinks they can have Gods blessing while rejecting Gods commands. Despite what the Bible says – we are dead set on proving our first edition of Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band can play beautiful music in the toaster.
Illustrate: NOW ITS EASY to throw stones at the stupidity of secularism. But many Christians are now doing similar things. We want Gods blessing, but we ignore His commands. WE EITHER A) don’t listen to the Bible anymore OR B) we listen and then ignore. On many an occasion – I feel like I am a health professional – who week after week gives people instructions for the blessed life. And while many Christians listen attentively and buy all the spiritual vitamins and put some really good, fresh food in their fridge; they never actually get around to taking the vitamins on a daily basis or eating the fresh food. Instead, they keep consuming the Macca’s and KFC of the world and then they wake up one morning complaining that God hasn’t blessed them. What’s going wrong? 1) I’m a Christian, 2) I go to church each week and 3) God hasn’t blessed me. But VITAMINS on the shelf and VEGES in the fridge will never make you healthy.
Apply: Yet, that is how many churches and many people now do the Christian life. IN PRINCIPLE, they believe the God of the Bible is the great source of wisdom and blessing. But they simply remain HEARERS of Gods word, not DOERS of God’s commands. My point is – if you want blessing in 2024 – you need to regain your delight in Gods commands and start putting them into practice. SERIOUSLY. God cannot bless ignorant, willful and unrepentant sin. We forfeit blessing – by fearing man, more than God.
Point 2: Physical & Spiritual Blessings are with the Righteous
Show: Ps.112:2-5 (READ; Slide 4-5)
Explain: Well verses 2-5 speak about Gods material blessings for the righteous and verses 6-9 speak about God’s spiritual blessings for the righteous. But the key to blessing in both sections is RIGHTEOUSNESS. OVER AND OVER AGAIN the Psalmist uses different, but similar Hebrew words to explain the importance of RIGHTEOUSNESS. The words include upright (verse 2, 4) Righteous or righteousness (verse 3 & 4). Even the word “justice” in verse 5 means to judge in a righteous manner.
Now in MY FIRST DRAFT of this sermon I went on to explain all the blessings of Psalm 112 because that’s what I normally do. I EXEGETE the passage. But yesterday I realized this was stupid. The Bible basically says that if you obey Gods commands every sphere of your life will be blessed. Before the Jews entered the Promised Land, Moses gave them a long list of blessings that would come with obedience and a long list of curses that would come with disobedience. MOSES SERMON FINISHED with him exhorting the Jews to obey Gods commands – choose life, not death. Choose blessing, not curse. Even in the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus begins by telling us God’s blessing is linked to righteousness. He says; Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt.5:6). Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness (Matt.5:10). THEN JESUS tells us what righteousness looks like. And he FINISHES the Sermon on the Mount telling us to watch out for all the false teachers who pervert Gods commands and make sure we build our lives upon the rock – because this is the only way to weather the storms of life. The idea is again – CHOOSE LIFE. Choose blessing.
But right now the western world (and western church) is increasingly building upon the sand and I see some pretty big storm clouds on the horizon.
So I think its time to take Gods commands seriously and make our choice. It doesn’t matter whether A) we are actively rejecting Gods commands like THE CATHOLIC CHURCH because of pressures from the lgbtqia community OR passively rejecting Gods commands like the Anglican Church of Sydney because of NSW laws on euthanasia. GOD CAN’T BLESS SIN. The only thing that can come with unrepentant, knowing disobedience to Gods commands is curse. But we don’t seem to grasp this reality anymore and we no longer tremble at Gods commands.
This week I received a general supporters email from Phillip Jensen of Two Ways Ministries. PHILLIP is the brother of Archbishop – Peter Jensen. And although PHILLIP is now retired I still consider him a great Bible teacher. Anyway, in the email Phillip outlined his ministry plans for 2024 and part of that plan involves rushing out a Christian book on the 10 Commandments. (Now Phillip doesn’t give all his reasons as to why he is quickly writing a book on the 10 Commandments). But why might Gods Spirit be laying this urgency on Phillips heart now? (PAUSE)
Well, many good Christian leaders are currently sounding THE WATCHMANS TRUMPET that our churches (even evangelical churches) are rapidly becoming lawless. We appear to be entering the time of lawlessness the Bible warns us about. A) When the Anglican Church of Sydney can agree to participate in euthanasia in its nursing homes despite the 6th commandment saying; “Thou shalt not kill”, that is lawlessness. There is no self-justification. You are disobeying the 6th Commandment. B) When the Catholic Church blesses same sex relationships despite the 7th Commandment saying “thou shalt not commit adultery,” it is becoming lawlessness. God has an intention for sex to operate a certain way in marriage – but we are now shoving our LP’s in the toaster and in all sorts of things (rather than the record player) and that is still sin.
So we now need to make A CHOICE. Will we choose life or death. Will we choose blessing or curse? And I think that if you are still sitting on the fence – its time to choose. The Bible says; Hebrews 10:26-29 (Slide 7-8). This perfectly describes our western world and the western church. It’s not like the west is sinning in IGNORANCE. We have known the God of the Bible and received His blessings. But we are now rejecting Gods commands with eyes wide open. This means that for many people there is now no sacrifice for sins (left for them). For they have rejected the only thing that can save. (GOSPEL) But thankfully, it’s NOT TOO LATE for you – yet. If you still have a pulse – there is still hope. As people who have sinned against God and broken His commands we deserve Gods wrath and judgement. We deserve curse, not blessing. This is true for all of us because we have all sinned. But when Jesus died on the cross for our sins – he took the curse we deserve upon Himself, so that we can be spared. The book of Galatians 3:13-14 says (Slide 6; Gal.3:13-14). Notice – by FAITH we are saved. When we believe in Jesus’ death for us – the curse and judgment we deserve for sin is transferred to Jesus and paid for by him on the cross. Jesus died to save you. But Jesus also deserves all Gods blessings BECAUSE he was always righteous. Jesus obeyed all Gods commands. So Jesus deserves every blessing recorded in the Bible. And when we put our faith in Jesus dying for us – the blessings Jesus deserves for His perfect righteous life is credited to us. This means we get into heaven (and receive all the blessings of heaven) – not based on our righteous deeds, but on JESUS RIGHTEOUS DEEDS.
Apply: But this doesn’t mean our righteousness and obedience to Gods commands doesn’t matter anymore. It does. We have been saved to obey Gods commands. So by faith God also gives us the Holy Spirit to help us walk in righteousness so that we can be BLESSED – here and now. So if you want God’s blessing in your life in 2024, you need to listen to Gods commands and put them into practice. Remember; God can’t bless sin.
Point 3: The Wicked Despise the Righteous for they are Jealous
Show: Ps.112:10 (READ)
Explain: Well please notice RIGHTEOUSNESS is now contrasted with WICKEDNESS. Psalm 112 is similar to Psalm 1 – they both focus on the life of the righteous and the life of the wicked. Psalm 1 – also speaks of the man who delights in Gods commands. It says he prospers in all does. But it also says “not so the wicked.” The wicked are like chaff that amount to nothing – “For (verse 6) the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Ps.1:6).
As Christians who have accepted Jesus as Saviour and Lord – we are no longer numbered among the WICKED. We are actually numbered among those who are RIGHTEOUS by faith in Jesus. But as people who are credited with Jesus’ righteousness we are meant to live out that righteousness the best we can because we know righteousness is the path of blessing. But very often, even as Christians, we resort to laziness, foolishness and wickedness. We simply listen to Gods commands and don’t obey them. Or we delight in Netflix and Twitter and News feeds more than Gods Word (and so we don’t even know Gods commands). Or more and more I’m meeting Christians who think they are already as righteous as any Christian can possibly be. Really? (Stop comparing yourself to other worldly, western Christians and start comparing yourself to Jesus – and you’ll see – you still have a ways to go).
So what is the APPLICATION for you today in this sermon? What is the take home? What do you need to do? Perhaps 1) it is more time reading and delighting in God’s Word. Maybe 2) its actively taking notes in sermons – so that you are a doer of Gods Word, not just a hearer of Gods Word. Maybe 3) there is a particular sin – God’s Spirit has been convicting you of for some time (and now its time to start dealing with it). Let me say it again – God can’t bless sin – so what is the application for you?
Apply: But here is a further struggle as the gulf between righteousness and wickedness expands. THE WICKED are going to receive more and more curses, as their sins find them out. So as they see our RIGHTEOUSNESS and the BLESSINGS God gives us – they will be jealous. They will be vexed. BUT INSTEAD of repenting many will begin to take out their anger on us. When people are suffering from their own stupidity and they see other people doing well – they often want to pull those doing well down into their own misery, simply to make themselves feel better. So in a world rejecting Gods commands – we should expect hostility – because of jealousy.
But we should also expect a lot of lies. Many will say our blessings are not really from God and they have nothing to do with righteous living. Instead, they will say the blessings we enjoy are just fortuitous coincidences. Or they may even claim our blessings arise simply because we are wealthy oppressors, who exploit poor victims. So we need to be wary of the worlds hostility and accusations. Psalm 112 reminds us THERE IS A GOD who made the world to operate according to His commands. HE SMILES upon the righteous, not the wicked. And despite ALL the other paths to blessing (the world is currently espousing) God ONLY promises – temporal and eternal blessing – for those who delight in His commands? So what should you do in 2024?