We'll be looking at Psalm 1 tonight, along with John 3. Psalm 1 can be entitled 'Two Ways to Live' which is our theme this evening as we continue our series called 'Two Ways To Live'. Two Ways to Live is the last box or section of the gospel outline of the same name. You've already seen the gospel message in dramatic form this evening and I'm now going to take you through the Two Ways to Live gospel presentation on the screen before looking at the two ways in more detail.
So first: God - the loving ruler and creator. God is the loving ruler of the world. He made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him. The Bible says in Revelation 4:11:
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.
But is that the way it is now? As we saw when we looked at…
Humanity in rebellion. We all reject the ruler - God - by trying to run life our own way without him. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world. The Bible puts it like this in Romans 3:10-12:
There is no-one righteous, not even one; there is no-one who understands, no-one who seeks God. All have turned away.
What will God do about this rebellion? Well as we learnt from Matthew 25
God gives rebels what they ask for. God won't let us rebel forever. God's punishment for rebellion is death and judgement. God's Word says this in Hebrews 9:27:
Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement.
God's justice sounds hard. But as we heard two weeks ago when we looked at the cross of Christ -
Jesus - the man who dies for rebels. Because of his love, God sent his Son into the world: Jesus Christ who was fully God and fully man. Jesus always lived under God's rule. Yet by dying in our place he took our punishment and brought forgiveness. 1 Peter 3:18:
Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
But that's not all…last week we heard the wonderful truth of the resurrection of Christ, of…
Jesus - the risen ruler. God raised Jesus to life again as the ruler of the world. Jesus has conquered death, now gives new life, and will return to judge. The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:3:
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Well, where does that leave us?
The two ways to live. Our way: Reject the ruler - God. Try to run life our own way. Result: condemned by God, facing death and judgement.
Or God's new way: Submit to Jesus as our ruler and rely on Jesus' death and resurrection. Result: forgiven by God and given eternal life. John 3:36 puts it starkly:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.
Which of these represents the way you want to live?
Well let's first look at our way in more detail.
We can continue in our rebellion against God, and try to run our lives our own way without him. Sadly, this is the option that many people persist in. The end result is that God gives us what we ask for and deserve. He condemns us for our rejection of his rightful rule over our lives. We not only have to put up with the messy consequences of rejecting God here and now, but we face the dreadful prospect of an eternity of separation from him, without life or love or relationship; an eternity of hell.
Bill Shankly, who used to manage one of the great Liverpool teams in the 60's and 70's once said that 'football is not just a matter of life and death - it's far more important than that'. Now as some of you know, I'm a Leeds United supporter and I'm certainly aware that it is a matter of 'death' at the moment! In the last few years they've been a club who have gone their own way and they are now reaping the consequences. But of course the game of football is not really more important than life or death.
But now look at John 3:36 again and understand the truth of what is being said, for this is a matter of eternal life and eternal death.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.
Whoever believes and trusts in Jesus has eternal life. Many of us here this evening do believe and trust in Jesus' death and resurrection and so have eternal life. We don't deserve it, it's God's gift. John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." Eternal life is life with God forever. It begins when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus and there are many blessings for those who follow Jesus this side of heaven though believers will only experience the fullness of eternal life in heaven.
But whoever rejects Jesus will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. Their sin still separates them from God and they stand condemned. Whoever rejects Jesus will not have eternal life, but rather eternal death. They won't know the new life Jesus gives to those who follow him. They won't know the fullness of life Jesus came to bring. They are still dead in their sins.
Psalm 1 says so too. Look at v4-6 in your Bibles:
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Who are the wicked? The wicked are not just those who commit acts of terrorism or genocide or murder, but are all those live a life without reference to God. They are those who go their own way and will not trust in Jesus. They are unrepentant sinners. And although some can appear to be powerful and attractive, in God's eyes they are like chaff that the wind blows away. In other words they are described here as being temporary. Their power, their lifestyle and their very life will not endure if they continue to go their own way. They are of no more substance than the husks or chaff that get blown away by the wind. Those (v5) who refuse to turn to God and accept his forgiveness will lose everything. They will not be able to stand up under the Lord's scrutiny and when judgement is passed, they will be pronounced guilty. So v6 - the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, of those who have turned to him in faith, but the way of the wicked will perish. While God observes his children with joy, his observation of the wicked causes him pain. He knows that if they fail to turn to him he will have to turn away from them and this will result in their destruction, in their eternal separation from him in hell. They may be successful, outwardly nice people but they will not stand in the judgement.
GOD'S NEW WAY
For those of us who have realised that our situation is hopeless, there is a lifeline. If we turn back to God and appeal for mercy, trusting in Jesus' death and resurrection, then everything changes.
For a start, God wipes our slate clean. He accepts Jesus' death as payment for our sins, and freely and completely forgives us. He pours his own Spirit into our hearts and grants us a new life that stretches past death and into forever. Look at Romans 5:1-5:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God…God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
We are no longer rebels, but part of God's own family as his adopted sons and daughters. We now live with Jesus as our ruler, have eternal life and we will want to live to please him. In John 14:15 Jesus says:
If you love me, you will obey what I command.
Psalm 1 also speaks about those who go God's way, those who are repentant sinners, those who are righteous because of what Christ has done, ie those who put their faith in Jesus. You see our righteous acts are as filthy rags to God, says Isaiah, so we need the "righteousness from God, which comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." (Romans 3:22)
Look at v1-3&6 of Psalm 1 in your Bibles:
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers…For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
What does it mean to go God's way, to live a godly life, to live for him and be blessed? If we have genuinely put our faith in Christ then there should be fruit. We were hearing about that this morning. We should want to live to please Jesus even if we struggle to do so sometimes. One characteristic, according to v1 of this Psalm, of those who live a life blessed by God is that they do not shape their lives by taking the advice of people who have no regard for God. Neither do they constantly associate with people who persistently and deliberately do the wrong thing. Still less do they remain permanently among the cynical who openly scoff at God. More positively (v2) Christians love God's Word. His delight is in the law of the Lord. And we are to spend time absorbing God's Word, meditating on it day and night so that the word of Christ dwells in us richly helping us become more like Christ in thought and in action. Godly people do not listen to the wicked but constantly depend upon the wisdom of God. They are like a well rooted tree (v3) planted by streams of water, rooted and built up in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore they are continually fruitful and do not wither when life heats up. If we are rooted in the Lord then whatever he does prospers, not necessarily in material ways but in things that really count. And the Lord watches over his people (v6). As Psalm 121 puts it he watches over us day and night both now and forevermore. The way of the wicked may sometimes seem more successful and attractive but they will perish. As Jesus puts it in the Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted.
Which way do you want to live? One way leads to life and the other to death.
When the head of the Boeing Aircraft Corporation heard this message he thought to himself, "I've got to the top of the ladder and found I've been leaning it up against the wrong wall all my life." He'd enjoyed success and millions of dollars but found that wanting. He'd been going his own way but then he committed his life to Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord and received eternal life.
So over to you…
For many people, the answer to the question, which way do you want to live, is 'my own way'. The Frank Sinatra song 'My Way' is their life anthem. We read this in John 3:19-20:
This is the verdict: Light [Jesus] has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
As we've seen the consequence of rejecting God and going our way is eternal punishment in hell. God gives rebels what they ask for. Look at John 3:18&36:
Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son…whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.
So there is no other way to God. "Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through him." (John 14:6) "Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
You may still be thinking through the Christian message. If you're not doing that with others in either Christianity Explored or What Christians Believe then why not sign up tonight for one of those courses. They will help you. There are leaflets on the welcome desk. But please don't keep putting it off - after death there's no further opportunity to be forgiven - there's no such place as purgatory according to the Bible. Either we are for God or we are against him. We are either heading for heaven or hell.
But some of you may know that you're a rebel at heart against God and you do want to live his way. If that's you, what do you need to do? You need to accept what God has done for you. You can't earn eternal life. You can't earn a fee gift. The Bible states that we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ alone - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So you need to believe and trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord. Look again at John 3:16,18 & 36:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life…whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned…whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…
In Mark 1:14 Jesus says, "Repent and believe the good news."
So we need to talk to God:
1. TALK TO GOD
For the first act of faith is to talk to God, to receive forgiveness and new life. You need to admit before him that you have rebelled against him, that you deserve punishment, and that you're asking for mercy on the basis of Jesus' death in your place. You'll also need to ask God to help you change from being a rebel to being someone who lives with Jesus as their ruler. You could pray something like the prayer at the end of this sermon. Secondly
2. SUBMIT TO JESUS
Having prayed that sort of prayer you will want to start putting it into practice--that is, actually submitting to Jesus. There will no doubt be all kinds of areas in your life in need of change. You'll need to get rid of old rebellious habits (like greed, anger, selfishness, and so on, cf Colossians 3:7-8: "You used to walk in these ways [sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry], in the life you once lived. But now [you must put to death the above and] you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.") and start some new ones that please God (like generosity, kindness, love and patience, cf Colossians 3:12-14: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…forgive as the Lord forgave you…and put on love…"). And as 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.
This second step will go on for the rest of your life, but God will be with you all the way. He'll keep speaking to you (through your reading of the Bible); he'll keep listening to you and helping you (as you pray to him); he'll empower you to change, to live his way and to share his good news with others (by his Spirit that lives within you); and he'll provide brothers and sisters to encourage you along the way (as you meet with other Christians at church). Thirdly
3. KEEP ON TRUSTING JESUS
The third thing you have to do is also ongoing. You need to keep putting your trust in the right place. It's only because of Jesus (and his death and resurrection) that you can be forgiven and put right with God. You'll need to keep coming back to this again and again, because as you start to live God's new way, you will still fail and do the wrong thing. We all do. We all need to keep looking back to the death of Jesus on the cross as the only grounds for our pardon. We must never stop relying on him--and him alone--as the means by which we are forgiven and granted eternal life.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. John 10:27-28
If you know full well that you have not yet taken these steps, and that you are still an unforgiven rebel, then you need to do something about it. You are at a fork in the road. There are only two ways to live.
It may be that you want to do something about it right now. So I'm now going to lead us in prayer. It may be that others of you want to re commit your life to Jesus as your Lord. Or it may be that others of you need to go to the cross to ask for forgiveness and put off those old rebellious habits. Let's pray together.
Dear God, I know that I am not worthy to be accepted by you. I don't deserve your gift of eternal life. I am guilty of rebelling against you and ignoring you. I need forgiveness.
Thank you for sending your Son to die for me that I may be forgiven. Thank you that he rose from the dead to give me new life. Please forgive me and change me, so that I may live with Jesus as my ruler. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer do let me or a Christian friend know so that we can help you grow as a Christian.