Revive Our Hearts Podcast

You Can Be Known by God

Episode Resources

Learn more about the Bible study: Elizabeth: Dealing with Disappointment

Leslie Basham: Do I know you? Mmm . . . probably not. But I know Someone who does. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It’s an amazing thing to stop and ponder that the creator of the stars, the planets, the mountains, the creator of the universe knows me.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of A 30-Day Walk with God in the Psalms, for Thursday, January 10, 2019.

Nancy’s continuing in a series called "How to Have a Happy New Year."

Nancy: Well, we’re coming to end of this New Year's series on Psalm 1, How to Have a Happy New Year; how to have a happy life; how to have a happy and blessed eternity. And I have to say that this whole study leading up to this series has been so good for me. I’ve known the passage in the old King James since I was a little girl, but the passage has taken on new life, new light, new meaning to me as I’ve been meditating on it day and night.

As I said earlier, I'm in the season of life where I don't sleep so well many nights. I've just found myself mulling over the words and the phrases and the thought and the heart of this passage in the middle of the night hours. It's been really strengthening to my own sould. I think my life will be more fruitful as a result of the time I’ve spent in these six verses. I hope the same is true of you.  

Today we come to a portion in Psalm 1 that is not the easiest part of the psalm. It’s so lovely to talk about the blessings of those who delight in the Lord and walk in His ways. And we’ve reveled in those blessings. We’ve relished in them. We’ve enjoyed talking about the good fruit that comes from walking in the way of the Lord. 

But it’s hard to think about the outcome of those who do not repent, who do not place their faith in Christ. And yet, this is a message the Scripture doesn’t avoid, and we can’t either. It’s the message of God’s judgment. And you’ll notice as you read through Scripture that many, many times you have these parallel themes of salvation and judgment that are right next to each other, sometimes in the same verse of the same chapter. Where there is judgment, there is salvation. But where there is salvation, there is also judgment.

You see those parallel themes in Psalm 1—the theme of God’s salvation of the righteous, but also His judgment of those who do not choose the pathway of righteousness.

So to back up and reset a little bit for those who are maybe just joining us in the series, we’ve seen in Psalm 1 two different kinds of people—the righteous and the wicked. There are two different pathways that they’re on, two different sets of beliefs and values and priorities. And that leads to two very different lifestyles. We read first of all in the first half of the chapter, verses 1–3, about the pathway of the righteous. Let me read that paragraph, and then we’ll pick up with the second half.

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; 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 that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 

So here we read about the blessing—the blessednessses—the plural blessings, the emphatic blessings, the abundant blessings that come to the righteous. We’ve read about the outcome of their way of life.

Now we come to the last three verses of the chapter and we see the outcome of those who are not righteous. They’re called “the wicked” or in some translations “the ungodly”—those who are without God, those who are without worship. They’re living their lives without taking God into account.

Their lives are not controlled by God, or they don't think they are. They are not submitted to God and His plan for their lives. They are trying to run their own lives.

We saw that the righteous flourish; that the righteous are sustained; that the righteous prosper. And then in the last session we looked at verse 4 which says, “not so the wicked.” Whatever you read about the righteous, that’s not so of the wicked. They have a fundamentally different core, a fundamentally different operating system, a fundamentally different pathway that they are on and a very different outcome of life.

The wicked are not so, [not so the wicked] but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 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 (vv. 4–6).

Now, we talked in the last session about the fact that the ungodly and the wicked can seem so powerful. But this paragraph—these last three verses—challenge us to consider their final end. Don't draw conclusions based on what you see right now—how much they have in the bank, how successful they are by the world's eyes, how good they are, how many good things they do (based on the world's measurement). None of that tells the final story. You need to consider the ultimate end of those whose lives do not revolve around Christ.

We see three things in these verses about the outcome of the wicked. First we see in verse 4 that they are like chaff that the wind drives away. We talked about that in the last session that chaff being the worthless part of grain. It’s inedible, so it’s just rubbish. It’s left after the harvest for the wind to blow it away after the fruit has been separated out. The wicked will not endure. They will be blown away, tossed away, of no account. They are weightless in the ultimate scheme of things, as weighty as they may seem here and now.

Here’s the second outcome. It’s in verse 5: they will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. There is a separation that will take place between the righteous and the wicked. It is a final, ultimate, unchangeable separation in the final judgment.

We read more about this in the New Testament, of how Christ will separate the wheat from the chaff in the final judgment. In Matthew chapter 3, verse 12, for example, John the Baptist said of Jesus: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” You see, by the way, the two themes of salvation and judgment in that verse.

He will gather His wheat into the barn. That’s the gracious salvation of God—His mercy and His grace towards sinners who repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ. He will gather the wheat into His barn. That’s salvation. And you see judgment: “The chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Now, let me just remind us that you don’t see that separation in its final sense here and now. Sometimes they grow together. In fact, the wheat and chaff are inseparable until the harvest. Jesus talked about the wheat and the tares? Another similar illustration. You can’t always tell which is which. You can’t always tell who’s righteous and who’s wicked because sometimes outwardly they look the same. Sometimes outwardly they act the same. But it’s the operating system within that is very different that ultimately shows in the final outcome. God knows who is righteous and who is wicked. In the final judgment that will be clear as the wheat and chaff are separated.

Then we see in verse 6: “The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Charles Spurgeon comments on that verse by saying, “The way of the ungodly shall perish. Not only shall they perish themselves, but their way shall perish, too. The righteous carves his name upon the rock, but the wicked writes his remembrance in the sand.”

Big difference in the final outcome. Psalm 92 says it this way, “Though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever” (v. 7). You can’t tell by their current flourishing. They may look like they flourish now, but in the final analysis they will be doomed to destruction.

Proverbs 14 says it this way: “There is a way that seems right to a man, [the counsel of the ungodly, the way of sinners] but its end is the way to death” (v. 12). The outcome will be final irretrievable death and eternal punishment.

Now there are those who read passages like this and . . . You don’t often hear of these kinds of passages preached on Christian radio or in our churches because they are not pleasant thoughts or passages. There are those who would say, “It’s unjust of God to refuse these people an entrance into heaven, to toss them away like chaff or burn them as refuse with unquenchable fire.” The fact is, these that the Scripture calls “wicked” chose their course and refused His grace.

Second Thessalonians 2 speaks of “those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (v. 10). They would not delight in God’s Word because they didn’t have a heart to. They end up where they chose to be. They end up in the course that they delighted in. What they loved they will have for all of eternity. What those who are righteous love, they will have for all of eternity in abundant measure.

Second Thessalonians goes on to say, “[They] did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (v. 12). They delighted in unrighteousness, and God will let them have that for all eternity. They have no heart for God, for His presence, for righteousness. Why would those who have no interest in assembling with the congregation of God’s people here on earth, why would they want to spend eternity with the congregation of the righteous in heaven? It makes no sense.

They want to live like the devil here and have nothing to do with God or God's people, and then have all eternity to be blessed? They don't want the blessing of God. They don't want the presence of God. They love unrighteousness. That's what pleases them.

Again, let me quote my friend, Charles Spurgeon. He said, “Sinners cannot live in heaven. They would be out of their element. Sooner could a fish live upon a tree than the wicked in paradise.” It’s true of all of us, by the way. The only way any of us can ever enjoy heaven is to be transplanted from our original place where we were born spiritually, in the kingdom of darkness, transplanted into the kingdom of God—to be born again, to become a new creation, to have God give us a new, pure heart that desires to be with Him and with the congregation of the righteous.

So, if you get to heaven, it will not be because you deserved it. It will not be because you chose the pathway of the righteous, it will be because God chose you, and you responded in faith and in repentance to His choice of you. It’s all mercy. It’s all grace.

The pathway of the wicked comes to ruin. You see this all through the Scripture. It’s unavoidable. Proverbs chapter 20, verse 20 says of the wicked, “His lamp will be put out in utter darkness.” It will perish. A lot of metaphors used in Scripture for the destruction of the wicked and how it is eternal destruction we don’t understand. But we know they are not annihilated. They suffer and perish eternally.

I was reading a message on Psalm 1 recently by Pastor Ray Stedman, who is now with the Lord. Let me just read to you what he said about this thing about being put out in utter darkness. He said:

I do not think this has ever been demonstrated more strikingly than in the days of the New Testament. There came a time when the apostle Paul stood as a prisoner before Nero Caesar.

Nero was at that time a most dissolute, vain, cruel, inhuman, implacable monster. He is regarded now by historians as one of the most vile and contemptible rulers ever to sit upon a throne. He even commanded that the body of his own mother be ripped apart that he might see the womb that had borne him.

His name was known all over the empire. He was Caesar. The whole of the Roman world bowed to his will. The life of that mighty empire revolved around this man, Nero Caesar.

Then there stood before him this obscure little Jew, Paul the Apostle, from a despised Roman province. No one knew him. He had scarcely been heard of except in a few isolated places where he had caused certain trouble. He was a prisoner in chains, standing before this mighty emperor. Yet, as it has been well pointed out, the amazing thing is that today we name our sons Paul, and our dogs, Nero.

You see, the outcome is way different than what it seems at the moment. As we’ve been saying throughout this series, there are only two kinds of people—the righteous and the wicked. There are only two pathways—the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. And the Scripture is clear about the outcome of both.

Now, it’s not easy to talk about those who live their lives without God—those who refuse to repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ—about them being banished to perish eternally in a Christ-less eternity, especially in this age of inclusivism and tolerance. We resist believing that every human being fits in one of those two categories.

Okay, we can acknowledge that some people are really evil—someone who goes in movie theater and shoots and kills people; a despot is responsible for mass genocide; a suicide bomber who kills in the name of religion. And we say, "Yes, those people are evil." Even evil people agree that those people are evil.

But then what about those “good people” that we work with, go to school with, that live in our neighborhoods? Some of them work very hard. Some of them can be really kind and generous and honest. They can be decent husbands and wives and parents and friends. And some of them are very religious. Are some of those people actually in this category of wicked on the pathway to destruction?

The fact is, no matter how good, how kind, how compassionate, how sensitive that friend or that family member or that neighbor or that co-worker may be, if they have not repented of their sin, placed their faith in Christ to save them, and surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord, they will not be justified before God when they stand in the final judgment. They will be eternally condemned.

Now, how would it affect the way that I think about and relate to those people if I really believed what I just said? If that “nice” neighbor has not been made righteous through faith in Christ, they are in the category of the “wicked” and will come to ultimate destruction and ruin. Again, that flies in the face of inclusivism, which by the way is increasingly popular in some so-called Christian circles, that ultimately everybody will be saved or most everybody. It flies in the face of tolerance. It flies in the face of everybody has their own religion as long as you live a good life, don’t hurt too many people. God’s wisdom is so contrary to the wisdom of this world. 

If we really believed what God’s Word says, here in Psalm 1 and elsewhere in Scripture about the outcome of those who are without Christ, would it produce in us greater compassion? Concern? Would it motivate us to pray more or differently? Would it motivate us to reach out to those nice neighbors, people in our workplace? Would it motivate us to be alert to opportunities to talk with them about the condition of their soul and not to just keep exchanging pleasantries? “Who do you think’s going to win the Super Bowl?” “What do you think about all this cold weather we’re having?” You know we just keep having those nice exchanges and never get down to the things that really matter. I’m convicted as I say this.

If we really believed what the Scripture says here about the outcome of those who are without Christ? Would it motivate us to warn these "good" people of the coming judgment and to plead with them to repent and to turn to Christ for refuge?

Some would say that by putting people in these two categories—the righteous and the wicked—saying there are only two ways, there are only two kinds of people, there are only two outcomes, that that’s being judgmental. That’s being arrogant to say that Christ is the only way—to which I would say, Christ is the only way. And to do any less than to make Him known is to fail to really love our neighbors.

It's so much easier not to rock the boat. It can be messy to get in these kinds of conversations. We would rather stay in our little bubble and enjoy our good, Christian fellowship. But I think about how God said to Ezekiel, "You're a watchman. You know the judgment is coming. I've given you a responsibility to warn the wicked. They may or may not turn. But if they don't turn and it's because you didn't warn them, I will hold you responsible."

Well, the last verse of this Psalm says, “[For] the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

I want to just park for a moment on that phrase, “the Lord knows the way of the righteous.” That word "knows" is not just in the sense that God knows everything. It’s the word yada in Hebrew. Perhaps you’ve heard that. It means an intimate knowledge. God knows the righteous in an intimate, personal way. If you’re using the New International, it says God “watches over the way of the righteous.”

That’s why they flourish. That’s why they’re blessed, because God is caring for them. He’s watching over them. He’s tending them. He’s nurturing them. He’s making them fruitful. He’s actively engaged in their lives, and they’re actively engaged in His life. They’re delighting in the law of the Lord; they’re meditating on it day and night. There’s a mutual knowing of God and the righteous.

Now the contrast we’ve been looking at in this last part of the chapter is that the wicked insist on ruling their own lives. They don’t want to be cared for by God. Oh, they may want God to make their life easier. They may want God to shower His blessings on them, but they don’t want God watching over them—having oversight over them. They refuse to submit to God’s oversight. So as a result, their way leads to ruin.

It’s an amazing thing to stop and ponder that the Creator of the stars, the planets, the mountains, the Creator of the universe knows me. He watches over me. He cares for me. He knows all about me. He knows my way. And we see this in Psalm 139:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down—[and by the way, You know if it’s in the path the wicked where I sit down or if it is in the path of the godly]—and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether (vv. 1–4).

And could I just close this session by reminding us that it’s not as important that we know God, as that He knows us. You see that distinction in Matthew chapter 7, the end of the Sermon on the Mount, very searching words where Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Not everyone who says "I’m righteous." Not everyone who says, "I’m godly."

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day [that final day; that judgment day] many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?"

And then will I declare to them, [Jesus says] "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (vv. 21–23).

All religious and good deeds are actually lawlessness in God's accounting books if they don't come from a heart that has been made righteous by Jesus Christ.

Jesus didn’t say, “You never knew me.” He just says, “I never knew you.” There are many who claim to know God. The question is, “Are you known by God?” As it says in 2 Timothy 2, “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are his'” (v. 19).

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Today she’s been showing us how amazing it is that God knows us personally. That teaching is part of a series called "How to Have a Happy New Year."

One way to make this new year truly counts is to spend time in God’s Word each day. To encourage you to do that, we’d like to send you a brand new Bible study called Elizabeth: Dealing with Disappointment. It’s based on teaching by Nancy, and it’s available this week for a gift of any amount.

You’ll learn from studying the life of Elizabeth how to handle life’s disappointments. And when you order this week, you’ll get it in time to follow along with a new podcast from Revive Our Hearts called Women of the Bible. The first six episodes match the six chapters in this study.

We’ll send you the Elizabeth Bible study when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com to give online. You can also request the study book when you call 1–800–569–5959 with your gift of any size. 

So, how did Jesus live His whole life without sin? Nancy will explore that question tomorrow and show how His example can encourage us. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is reminding you that you are known and valued by God. It's is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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