Sometimes it feels like today’s pop-culture is a slow-motion train wreck flying off the rails, and I often wonder how the early Church dealt with similar circumstances. I’m sure there was plenty of discouragement, but along with inspired letters from the Apostles, they would have also had this “gem” from the Psalms as a daily encouragement:
“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; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 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. The ungodly are not so but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore, the ungodly shall 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 ungodly shall perish.” – Psalms 1:1-6 NKJV
We too can draw strength from the fact that God knows us. In Christ, we’ve been made one of the righteous. Here are three benefits from applying this Psalm:
- Joy from the Word – Our delight should be in His Word (v.2). To the Believer, “the Law” represents Christ’s work on the cross, satisfying God’s requirements and the grace He’s shown. Prayerfully pondering the depths of His Word should be part of my life each day. Christian authors/speakers are good, but only the scripture is the actual revealed truth of God. Don’t sacrifice time “in the Word” for someone talking “about the Word”.
- Health from Staying Connected- The image of a tree growing and producing fruit is common in scripture to represent a person following God’s instructions (such as Galatians 4:22-23). The most important part of a tree is the hidden root system below the surface. Our roots must sink deep and be connected to the source of living water-Christ; or we’ll be prone to stunted growth and low fruit production.
- Peace from Keeping Wins/Loses in Perspective – The cultural battle can easily drift into terms of wins and losses, but this Psalm helps me remember that God will ultimately “put things right”. There will be a day when God’s sovereignty will be on full display for everyone to see, but it isn’t a reason for smugness. We are to share truth in love and a prayerful way (Colossians 4:2-6). Bible passages aren’t bullets for a holy six-gun, but life-giving seeds for new trees.
Remember, the race is set before us (Heb. 12:1-2) and it’s not over yet, let’s keep running…
Natural stones need to be cut and chiseled for a proper fit. By contrast, “cultured” stones come from a mold, and have a project-ready uniformity. In a spiritual sense, think about the significance of natural stones versus cultured. Peter described us as living stones being fit together as a “spiritual house” aligned with Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone (I Peter 2:4-8).
The work begins without a demand for perfection and uniformity first. The Master carefully smooths out existing scars, removes unwanted portions, and shapes the rest for a perfect fit. Sometimes the process gets painful but remember who’s handling the chisel. It’s one who knows the pain of being scarred and lovingly applies the needed adjustments.
Cultured stones may be uniform and without blemishes, but scarred stones bear the marks of love, forgiveness, redemption, and hope!
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9 NKJV
How much in life is forever? In all honesty, not a whole lot. Peter called the things of this world “perishable”. Of course, he wasn’t calling for people to quit life and just watch the clouds for the Lord’s return, he was encouraging the readers to consider the big picture as they lived and worked together. He wrote of “sincere love” and quoted Isaiah:
“All flesh is as grass, and the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” – I Peter 1:24-25 NKJV
On the surface, it may seem odd that the Holy Spirit directed him to include that passage, but he goes on to encourage laying aside the “withering grass” (efforts focused on ourselves) and develop an appetite for the “pure Word” (2:1-2). When that happens, we continue to grow and mature; then it becomes second-nature to invest in the only other thing in life that’s forever…which is people.
What “forever” things will your mind be on today?
“Hypocrite”, “self-righteous”, and “holier-than-thou” can describe a religious phony. They’re also terms used as weapons to temper the zeal of someone genuinely striving to live right. In both the Old and New Testaments, God says for us to “Be Holy.” In Peter’s written instructions to the early church, he quotes Leviticus and says:
“…you also be holy in all your conduct.” – I Peter 1:15 NKJV
So, in a real-world kind of way, what does that phrase mean? Perfection? Error-free-living? Of course not. If it did, none of us would have any hope, and the gospel is built on hope! It simply means:
- Set-apart – not as a sideline critic of others, but one personally seeking to live to a higher standard
- Purposed – with goals set to honor Christ (“Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not men.” – Col. 3:23)
- Trusting – Faith is trust. Our Father can be trusted…for real.
- Reflecting – we are to reflect Christ. The Fruits of the Spirit are wonderful qualities that show the love of Christ in a practical way to a world in darkness
Don’t let the fear of critics or the call of compromise temper your zeal today. Be holy. It’s not mandated perfection, but the posture of the graciously redeemed.
These days, telling someone to “gird up their loins” may produce a confused look or worse, but in a biblical sense, the phrase carries significant meaning. In the ancient world, it described a man preparing for action by gathering up and tucking his outer garment into his belt. It’s a word-picture of “deliberate readiness”. Peter invoked the concept to explain how we should prepare our minds to live in a world that’s not our eternal home. He wrote this:
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” – I Peter 1:13 NKJV
So, with that word-picture in mind, let’s:
- Be ready – “Girding-up” or ‘tightening-up” thoughts to be alert for the enemy’s schemes and deceptions
- Be sober – developing a mindset that’s serious and purposed, not silly and foolish
- Be at rest – building hope on grace that vigorously runs the race with a spirit “at rest’
“Therefore, gird up…”
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” – Proverbs 25:28 NKJV
A “life without walls” is one on the defense, never at rest, and prone to impulsive responses. However, one marked by self-control takes criticism in stride, finds serenity, and considers a response before speaking.
Peter was a Galilean; and in first century Hebrew culture, that carried a certain predisposition. Primarily, it described a people with an independent spirit, and rebellious attitude toward subjugation (especially by the gentile Romans). The ancient Hebrew historian Josephus described them this way, “…ever fond of innovations, and by nature disposed to changes and delighting in seditions.”
In the gospel narratives, we see Peter with an increasing anxiousness to get “the revolution” started. To the disciples, Jesus represented the One who would lead them to victory over a cruel empire. However, the dream of a rebellion came to an end in Gethsemane when the swing of a sword resulted in only an anti-climactic ear injury. In the following chapters of the gospels, we read the painful details of Peter’s denial, desertion, repentance, and shame. Fortunately, the story doesn’t end with his failed attempt at revolution. Jesus personally restores him, and he goes on to pursue something greater.
In his letter called “I Peter”, he introduces himself as “Peter, an Apostle of Christ”. No longer is there the residue of a rebellious spirit, there’s a desire to be known as a servant of Christ, with a greeting filled with words like “grace”, “peace” and “hope”. His heart didn’t beat for Galilee and “the cause” anymore, because it belonged to the Lord.
What does your heart beat for today? Is it an identity? A political cause? A hobby? We can even let church programs or leaders become the focus if we’re not careful. May our attention today be on the One worthy of such devotion, and may our life demonstrate a heart that’s His.