How to Have a Happy New Year (Ps. 1)Cultivating a Taste for God’s Word
Leslie Basham: When you love God, you want to spend time with Him. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Evidence that you belong to God, that you have been made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, is that you have an appetite for God’s Word.
Fernando Ortega song:
I will delight in the law of the Lord; I will meditate day and night . . .
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, January 7. Nancy’s on day four of a series called, How to Have a Happy New Year.
Nancy: What do you think about in your free or unguarded moments? What do you mull over in your mind? What do you meditate on?
Maybe, when you don’t have anything else you have to be thinking about, you’re thinking about the tasks and challenges of that day. You say, “I’m just trying to keep my head above water.” Or maybe in those unguarded moments you think about the hurts and wounds of your past, or maybe you think about some challenging relational situation that you’re facing right now.
Maybe in those free moments you go to fantasizing in a dream world . . . the world of “if only.” You may find that you just put your mind in neutral and that there are chunks of your day where you’re not consciously thinking about much of anything—maybe you just let your mind drift. And if so, could I say, your mind has become an open container that can take whatever comes into it.
You need to be careful about putting your mind in neutral, but it’s easy to do that, especially when you’re tired . . . tired of thinking, tired of challenges. There are a lot of things we think about and mull over and meditate on in those unguarded moments.
According to Psalm 1, the way you answer that question—what you think about, what you mull over, what you meditate on—may help explain why you are or aren’t a happy person. Let me read in Psalm 1, beginning with verse 1.
Blessed [or happy] is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands not in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight [or that word could be translated pleasure] is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.
We’re talking at the beginning of this new year about this psalm that tells us how to be blessed, how to be happy, how to have a happy new year, how to have a happy life, how to be a blessed person. We’ve talked about what the righteous don’t do—they don’t walk in the counsel of the wicked, they don’t stand in the way of sinners, they don’t sit in the seat of scoffers. But today we come to verse 2, that reminds us it’s important to know what the righteous do.
The person that is blessed, the person that is happy, doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked. Rather—positively—he delights, takes pleasure in, the law of the Lord. This wise person, this blessed person, this happy person, meditates on God’s Word every chance he gets.
That’s where his mind goes. That’s what he focuses on, that’s what he mulls over in those free moments. You see this theme throughout Scripture: Psalm 119:24 says, “Your testimonies are my delight, they are my counselors.” I don’t get my counsel from the ungodly; I get my counsel from Your Word—that’s what I delight in.
Psalm 119:97: “Oh how I love your law; it is my meditation all the day.” Now, when we talk about delighting, taking pleasure in the law of Lord, does that sound a bit contradictory to you? Do you think about taking pleasure in laws? “I just love the speed limit laws!” [laughter]
A law suggests to us limitations, restraints, things you can’t do, things you have to do. None of us love doing things we have to do, or staying away from things we can’t do. We’re born law-breakers; we’re born to want to resist the law, so how do you take delight in the law of the Lord?
Well, God’s Word tells us about itself; that the law of God is holy, it’s just, and it’s good. That’s what Paul says in Romans chapter 7. It’s good to delight in the law of the Lord. It’s delighting in something that’s good, it’s holy, it’s wholesome, it’s filling.
The law of God was designed not to make us miserable, not to make us prisoners, not to keep us from enjoying life. The law of God was designed to help us enjoy life. It was designed for our blessing and to protect us from anything and everything that could keep us from fully enjoying our Creator.
That’s why the psalmist said, “I take delight in the law of the Lord.”
And then, you think about meditating on the law of the Lord, day and night. I don’t know what you think of when you picture that concept, but you know, it could bring to mind a picture of a monk in a monastery. All he does is read the Word of God, intone the Word of God, sing the chants about the Word of God . . . that’s all he does. He has no life, he has no family, he does nothing else.
For some people that would sound like a really tedious, dreadful boring existence. “I don’t want to meditate on God’s law day and night. I don’t want to be like one of those people who lives this very secluded life. I want to enjoy life.” Well, love for God’s Word is an indication of being on the path of righteousness, and it’s also a means to staying on the path of righteousness.
I think we need to recognize that loving God’s Word— taking pleasure in it, enjoying it, delighting in it—that’s a cultivated taste. We could talk about cultivating a taste for coffee—I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tasted it—but you can cultivate a taste for different things.
You try to cultivate a taste for healthy foods in your little ones when they’re first learning to eat. Love for God’s Word—I don’t want to trivialize it by those illustrations—but it’s a cultivated taste. The fact is, the more you delight in it, the more you will meditate on it, and the more you meditate on the Word of God, the more you will find yourself delighting in it. That’s why delight and meditation go together here in Psalm 1.
You see this again throughout the Psalms. Let me go back again to Psalm 119, that says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (v. 103). That’s the testimony of someone who’s been meditating on the Word of God. He’s been pondering it, focusing on it, sending his thoughts there, and he’s come to realize that he delights in it, that he enjoys it, that it really is satisfying.
It’s not like saying, “Eat your vegetables!" This is good for you, but you’ve got to make yourself eat it. No. The more you taste and see that the Lord is good, the more you find that in His Word, the more you find Him in His Word, the more you’re motivated to want to enjoy and to have as much as you can of God’s Word.
Psalm 19 says,
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than the honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; and in keeping them there is great reward. (vv. 7–11)
See what the Bible says about itself? It is something to be delighted in, it is enjoyable, it is a blessing, it is satisfying, it is filling.
The prophet Jeremiah lived in tumultuous times, to say the least. The nation of Israel in his day was in turmoil; the people of God were far from God. He was surrounded by moral, political, and spiritual decay. The kings, the prophets, the priests, the people—everyone was walking in the counsel of the ungodly.
God’s people were walking in the counsel of the ungodly. But in the midst of that whole decadent culture, the prophet Jeremiah found his sustenance and his life and his joy from meditating on God’s Word. Listen to what he says in Jeremiah 15: “Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord God of hosts” (v. 16).
The evidence that you belong to God, that you have been made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, is that you have an appetite for God’s Word. When you read it, when you meditate on it, it delights your heart, it brings you joy. Why is that? Because it’s through His Word you get to know Him. That’s what leads you into a deeper relationship with Him.
That’s how you learn what pleases Him, what He wants you to do, and how to handle life. Now, delight in God can be cultivated . . . it’s a cultivated taste, as we’ve said. How do you do that? What are some practical ways you can grow to delight more in God’s Word? Let me just give you, today, a few thoughts and then you can take them and expand them.
1) Ask God to give you greater delight in Him and in His Word. If you want to delight more in God—you’re saying, “Boy, this delighting in God—Nancy delights in it, and the Psalmist delights in it, and Jeremiah delights in it. How can I delight in it? To me it’s drudgery; it’s a duty. I have to have my quiet time, is the way I feel.” Maybe you’re thinking that.
Ask God to give you a greater delight in Him and His Word.
2) Ask God to show you what might be spoiling your appetite for Him. One way of going about that is to ask, “What do I delight in?” and then be honest. The fact is, if you delight in Pinterest, no one has to twist your arm to get you to spend time “pinning” things, because you delight in it—right?
If you delight in Facebook, you don’t find it a chore to keep checking for status updates and photos and messages from your friends—you delight in it. So you find yourself going back to it again and again and again. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many times, some days, I check Facebook.
I’m not even a big Facebook poster, but I follow some of my friends on Facebook. I find myself going back to it, being drawn to it. What if I delighted in the Word of God in such a way that, throughout the day, I’m being drawn back to it?
See what it means to delight in something? If you delight in romance novels, you’ll spend money to buy them and find time to read them, right? You see whatever it is that you're delighting in, no one has to twist your arm to get you to do.
The problem is, if you’re filling your life with earthly and temporal delights, you may find that you’ve spoiled your appetite for God’s Word, for things of eternity . . . that you have a diminished capacity to delight in God. That’s one of the reasons, by the way, that fasting from—whatever—can be a helpful discipline. It's not to make you more spiritual, but just to give you a chance to cultivate greater appetite for things that matter, and to say “no” for a period of time to things that are temporal or earthly so that you can cultivate greater delight and appetite for the things of God.
3) Then, if you want to cultivate delight for God’s Word, look for ways to keep God’s Word in front of you. A friend said to me recently, “If you came to my house, you’d find Scriptures posted in the bathroom and above my kitchen sink where I open my coffee cabinet.”
Then she told me about a corkboard that they have at their kitchen table where they’ve posted verses that her kids are memorizing for AWANA and for school. She said, “We’ve got Scripture everywhere in my house, and I’m keeping God’s Word always before me.” That’s a way to help cultivate delight in the Word of God.
I was talking with another friend recently who was telling me about how when she was a young mom, it just seemed it was so hard to get extended time in God’s Word. Her day was just crammed with kids’ stuff and other people’s demands and needs. She said she finally had to readjust her expectations for what a daily quiet time should look like.
The way she did that was she determined in the morning to read at least a small chunk of Scripture. She said sometimes it would only be one psalm, a few verses from the New Testament, or one page from a devotional book. She wrote me:
On a small piece of paper I would jot down one verse that spoke to my heart or encouraged me, and I would stick that piece of paper in my pocket.
Throughout the day I would pull it out to reflect on it, ask the Lord questions about it, ask Him to show me how to apply this to my life. There would be times when I would be really struggling or in the middle of a frustrating situation, and I would reach into my pocket and I would feel that piece of paper with the Scripture and immediately be reminded of the truth that God had impressed on my heart that morning.
I could pull out the words scribbled there and have a moment of worship in the middle of the laundry room or while standing at the stove cooking dinner, and it would bring a literal change in my mind and heart as I was refreshed by the life-giving Word I was reading.
You see, she learned to meditate on God’s Word, day in and day out. So, look for ways to get God’s Word in front of you. It may be pieces of paper in your pocket, maybe things on a bulletin board. I have in almost every room of my house—maybe every room—Scripture . . . framed pieces, little pieces on countertops, pieces hanging on the walls (that was until I did a paint job not too long ago and all the pictures came down from the walls—but they’re going back up).
I need those reminders of God’s ways and God’s Word to help me cultivate an appetite for His truth.
4) Then, having those things in front of you, don’t ignore them, but consciously fix your attention and your thoughts on God and His Word. “Meditate day and night.”
Jonathan Edwards said, “We must endeavor to increase spiritual appetites by meditating on spiritual objects.” Put those things in front of you, then don’t just get used to having them as part of the background—stop and think and meditate on the way and the Word of God.
What’s coming to mind as I’m talking even right now is, outside the front of our ministry offices, you saw when you came in, there’s a globe of the world, and there’s a fountain that falls over that globe. Around the four edges of that globe there are Scripture texts about the glory of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea.
We put Scripture like that in front of our building, and in different places through our building, because we want to be constantly reminding ourselves as we come in and out of this workplace to be meditating on the Word of God. As I come into the building, sometimes I just walk past that fountain and don’t even think about it.
But often, because those verses are there, I will stop and at least have the thought pass through my heart, if not even stopping to read the Scripture again, “Lord, would you cause Your glory to cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea?” These are things that will make us turn our hearts and our attention to the Word of God.
As we meditate on these day and night—it doesn’t mean literally we have our Bibles open day and night (although I like having Bible and Scripture always within arm’s reach of wherever I am, so that at any given time—now with an iPhone it’s easy—I can always have Scripture in front of me).
If I’ve got a few extra minutes here or there, I can be meditating on God’s Word. How do you do that?
5) A few suggestions about meditation: First of all, you’ve got to read. That’s why this year we have a Daily Bible Reading Challenge we’re giving to our listeners. I want to encourage you to say, “Every day this year, I’m going to take some time to read from God’s Word.”
You can’t meditate on something that you don’t have in your thoughts to start with. So, start by reading. Read the Word thoughtfully, read it prayerfully, ask questions as you read. We sent out questions before this recording, encouraging you to read Psalm 1 before you got here.
Then I suggested some questions. I said, “As you read, jot down any observations or questions or take-aways you have about this passage. Consider the following questions: What’s emphasized? What’s the main point? How would you summarize this Psalm? What contrasts do you notice? What are some of the characteristics of righteous people?” etc.
So I asked questions and encouraged you to ask you questions as you were reading God’s Word. Those are questions you can apply to other passages of Scripture. So, read it first.
And then, reflect on it. Contemplate it. Savor it. The word meditate actually has to do with murmuring, with muttering, with mumbling. You’re kind of saying it under your breath, you’re vocalizing it, you’re thinking about it, you’re reflecting on it.
Here, I would just emphasize that we need times when we give the Word of God—not just a casual glance—but we’re intensely looking at it. We’re looking to mine its depths. We’re looking to find the gold that’s underneath the surface there.
I’ve been doing this for weeks now, for many weeks, with Psalm 1. As recently as this morning, I’m finding new things in this Psalm that I haven’t seen before. It reminds me—for those of you who live here in Michigan—we have lots of great beaches. One of the things I enjoy doing is looking for beach glass.
Some of you know what I’m talking about—I see some heads nodding. I remember last summer, walking along the beach of Lake Michigan. I was by myself at the lake one day, and I was looking for beach glass. A lot of times it’s in little tiny pieces. They are kind of buried deep in the sand, and you have to look intently.
A lot of people would just walk down the beach, as I have many times, and never see the beach glass. If you’re not looking for it, looking carefully for it—you have to keep your eyes down at your feet, you’re slow—being intentional. If you look that way, you will often find some real treasures. That’s how we need to reflect on the Word of God as we meditate on it.
Then, review it—keep going back to it, mull it over, muse on it, memorize the Word of God, so that when you need it, you’ll have it with you all the time. That doesn’t mean you have to memorize whole long passages or portions, though that’s a great thing to do if you can, but maybe just memorize a verse or two to keep in your heart; you keep it with you.
If we don’t meditate in this way, we forget, right? How many of you can remember the message you heard in church on Sunday? Uh-oh, my pastor’s wife is here today—I’m sure she can remember—but, I think it’s embarrassing probably for most of us to say, “I don’t remember what I heard two days ago."
Do you remember what you read in your quiet time yesterday? Are you meditating on it? You see, if you just go and listen, or go and read, but you don’t come back to it in your thinking, you’re going to forget it. So, review it.
And then, respond to what you’ve read, what you’ve meditated on. Apply it in real life situations. Counsel your heart with it. The apostle Paul said in the book of Colossians, chapter 3, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
Listen—what we talk about, what we sing about, the kind of music we enjoy—it reveals what’s in our hearts. Our speech is the overflow of what’s in our hearts. So, this passage says let Christ’s Word dwell in you, let it have a home in your heart, let it dwell in you richly.
That’s what it means to delight in the law of the Lord, to meditate on it day and night—it’s filling you. You’re going back to it again and again and again. It’s not just a casual relationship with God’s Word, it’s a deep, intimate, rich relationship with God’s Word.
If the Word of Christ is dwelling in us richly, if we’re meditating on it day and night, then what will happen? Out of the overflow . . . we will speak to one another about the things of God. How many Christians have conversations, at church no less, conversations with each other, and we never talk about God?
We don’t talk about what God’s doing in our lives, what He’s saying to us through His Word? How often do you hear, or have conversations with other believers—“Let me share with you what God said to me from His Word this morning."
If most of us were to have that conversation with somebody, they’d look at us like, “What are you talking about? Get in God’s Word this morning?” Or, maybe they did, but they don’t have the foggiest idea what it was they read, because they haven’t been meditating on God’s Word, delighting in it.
When we have the Word of Christ dwelling in us richly, we will speak to one another, we will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs together, corporately, with the people of God. And how different is that from the kind of music and conversation that most people, even many Christians, have an appetite for today?
If you were to just take what you’ve talked about through the course of a whole week, what would it say you’ve delighted in, what would it say you’ve been meditating on or thinking about?
If you’re working on a house project—you’re remodeling your kitchen—you’re going to be talking about that a lot, right? You’re going to say, “What kind of countertops do you like?” or “What do you think about this versus this?” or “Who did the work for you and did they do a good job?” That’s what you’re going to be talking about because that’s what you’re meditating on.
Now, nothing wrong with having a house project—remodeling your kitchen, talking about other things—but, if we go through the course of hours and days and weeks and there’s no conversation, or little conversation, about the things of God, is that a clue that the Word of Christ isn’t dwelling in us richly?
If the Word of Christ isn’t dwelling in us richly, I’ll tell you what will—the counsel of the ungodly. Your mind and your heart are going to get filled with something. You want to fill it with the Word of God. You say, “I don’t have time for a daily Bible reading challenge.”
Listen, do you have time for Facebook? Do you have time for Words with Friends? Do you have time for movies? Do you have time for entertainment? Do you have time for reading other books? Do you have time for leafing through magazines? Do you have time for sports? Maybe not all of that, but the fact is, we take time for the things we delight in.
And, here’s the good news, the things you take time with are the things you will come to delight in. So that’s why my challenge to you this year is, “Delight in the law of the Lord. Meditate on it day and night, and you will be blessed.”
Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called, How to Have a Happy New Year: A Study of Psalm 1. Throughout the series, Nancy’s been offering a challenge to read at least some portion of the Bible every day in 2013. When you sign up for this challenge at ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ll send you regular updates by email to cheer you on through the year.
When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll send you a booklet called, My Personal Bible Reading Journal. It will give you one place to record all that God is speaking to you this year, through His Word. Ask for it when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
A tree receives nourishment so it can bear fruit and nourish others. God wants you to do the same thing. He wants to fill you up with His Word so that you can spread that truth to others. Nancy will explain more tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
|True Happiness||Jan. 2, 2013|
|Avoiding the Seat of the Scoffers||Jan. 3, 2013|
|Saying No to the Counsel of the Ungodly||Jan. 4, 2013|
|A Tree Planted by Streams||Jan. 8, 2013|
|Chaff that the Wind Blows Away||Jan. 9, 2013|
|You Can Be Known by God||Jan. 10, 2013|
|A Portrait of Christ in Psalm 1||Jan. 11, 2013|
|Your Personal Bible Reading Challenge||Jan. 14, 2013|
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