Songs for Sinners: Background & Psalm 1

The NOT Blessed Life

“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. (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

What we see here is something we will hear a lot in the Psalms. It’s called parallelism. The opening line will make a statement, then poetically the second, and in this case, third line, parallels the first line and expands on it. So here the blessed man doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked. Walking is a description of living, thinking, following. The blessed man doesn’t live by the values and wisdom of the wicked. Man’s wisdom is godless, carnal, and selfish. That way of thinking is not a path to joy and blessing. Don’t walk that way.

Notice the natural progression from walking to standing in the way of sinners. Thinking like the wicked places your life in the way of the wicked. Now you are standing there with them. The birds of a feather are flocking together. There are increasing levels of acceptance and fraternity. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV) The NOT blessed life moves a person in a downward spiral from an inward way of thinking to an increasingly outward way of living.

Eventually the coup is complete, “nor sits in the seat of the scoffers.” (Psalm 1:1 ESV) From walking to standing to sitting with other non-blessed lives. Sitting connotes that now you are one of them.

I wrote much of this sermon in a local coffee shop. I looked around the coffee shop while writing and nearby was a circle of older women having a morning coffee and on the other side was a couple in apparent relational harmony. Sitting together connotes mutuality. Approval. Oneness. Isn’t that the way it goes? We see it clearly in young people when their circle of friends changes for the worse and you see the attitude change for the worse as well. They are no longer merely walking with the wicked, they are seated together. They are of one mind.

The blessed life isn’t found in pursuing joy apart from God or pursuing the approval of people who are apart from God. That philosophy of life leads to destruction. Look again at verse 5,

“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.” (Psalm 1:5-6)

Don’t align your life and values with the wicked; look what happens to them. They have no standing on the Day of Judgment. The way of the wicked will perish.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Additional Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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The End of the End: The Glory of God

An earthly reign from a heavenly throne

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25 ESV)

Do you remember what Jesus said after his resurrection and right before his ascension? “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18) What was that about? It doesn’t mean he was less than God before this or lacked any power. What it does mean is that his resurrection inaugurated a new reign, a new realm, a new kingdom. The kingdom of God established on earth. God the Father gave to the Son all authority over every realm and he mediates this authority from heaven on earth. He has all authority. It’s like the old saying, “Where does a lion sleep?” “Wherever he wants.” Jesus is like that. He rules with absolute authority. He goes and moves and revives anywhere he sovereignly chooses. He must reign and he will reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. This refers to the ancient practice of a conquering king putting his foot on the neck of the conquered king. It was symbolic of absolute domination and victory.

Christ has all authority but clearly he does not yet exert that authority in its fullness. This doesn’t mean he isn’t reigning right now. He is on his throne. Yet Satan continues his rebellion. Demons continue their mischief. Billions of humans do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord. In fact, in some ways we could look around and say, This doesn’t look like a victory at all! What is he waiting for?

When Will the Kingdom Come?

“Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’” (Matthew 24:1-14 ESV)

Jesus Will Return When the Mission is Accomplished

Here’s what I want us to see. Jesus’ answer to when the kingdom will come in fullness isn’t primarily about the earthquakes and wars and heresies. What is the sign? What is the tipping point? “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world… and then the end will come.” Proclaimed to all nations? Where have we heard that before?

More and Better Disciples

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18–20 ESV)

Beware of mission rift and mission drift

Many a church has been torn asunder either by fighting about the mission of the church or the slow and gradual loss of vision for Jesus’ mission. One is a rift. One is a drift. A rift is a fight for control. A drift is the loss of any fight or energy at all. Nobody really cares or they pursue something else.

Rifts are terrible firestorms typically resulting in church splits and new churches starting. You can see this in towns where you drive through and you see First Presbyterian Church, Second Presbyterian Church, Third Presbyterian Church. What happened? Group A wanted to do X. Group B thought the church should do Y. Group C thought the church should do more Z. The escalating argument about the mission didn’t energize the church, it fractured it. Rifts are always a danger. I’ve gone through a few fissures myself over the years. We need to be of one mind, grounded in Scripture, that the mission of the church is to make fully devoted followers of Jesus whose lives are all about Him. There are a thousand different ways to get there, but there’s only one mission. Let’s keep it front and center. This is why we are here.

The King’s Speech

The Essence of the Mission: Make Disciples

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

This is a verse where getting the grammar right is so key. Like English, the Greek uses tenses of words to communicate emphasis. In this verse there is one imperative and then participles that surround it to explain the character and nature of the imperative.

Take a look at the verse again. What do you think the imperative is? What are the participles?

New Life in Real Life

Jesus’ Resurrection was the Inauguration of New Life in This Life

The resurrection brought the power of the coming age into the present age. Remember, in John 11, Martha replies to Jesus’ statement that her brother Lazarus would be born again—someday at the final resurrection. Jesus’ response reshapes her timeline, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25 ESV) Why those two together—resurrection and life? It signals what Lazarus really needed. He was dead. He clearly needed resurrection and Jesus could provide that.

But what did Lazarus really need beyond resurrection? Life. When Jesus’ talks about life he’s not talking about life as we know it in the kingdom of man. He is talking about life in the kingdom of God. Life eternal. Not just immortality. People in hell live on forever. Life is vibrancy and fullness. Remember Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25, emphasis added) More than simply being raised again, we need life. That’s what he’s saying here. I am not merely the one who brings you back from the dead. I am the one who grants you life. Jesus is talking about eternal life; unending life. And not merely an unending existence. It is human life to its maximum fullness. Maximum flourishing. Maximum joy. We’re not all on life support for eternity. He came that we may have an experience of fullness, and righteousness, and relationship with God, and physical vibrancy, and joy, and pleasure, and gladness, and beauty, like nothing we’ve ever known in this world.

The King Rises From the Dead

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:1-6 ESV)

A resurrection begs questions and answers. The most important question is, so what? Or what does this mean? It means many, many things, but this Easter I want us to see this through the prism of a time warp. So what is the future like?

We know what the present is like. And we know what the past is like. All the people of the past, their items are in the Smithsonian, their stories are in history books, and their bodies are in cemeteries. You likely drove by one recently. What did you think when you looked? We’ve trained ourselves to not think really anything, especially the reality every cemetery provides. Someday that’s me.