How to Have a Happy New Year (Ps. 1)You Can Be Known by God
Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: 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 Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 10.
Fernando Ortega Song:
Blessed is the one who follows the way of the Lord. Blessed is the one.
Leslie: 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, and but the passage has taken on new life, new light, new meaning to me as I’ve been meditating on it day and night. 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.
I also hope you’re taking the Daily Bible Reading Challenge that we’ve been talking about for the past week or so. As we come into this year, there’s no better purpose of your heart, resolution, call it what you want, that you could take. I know some of you are trying to go to the Y, trying to stay off sugar because you overdosed on it during the holidays. There are a lot of resolutions and purposes that you may have made, but there’s not any more foundational one that you could make than that by God’s grace I’ll spend some time in the Word every day during this year.
And to help you with that, we’ve been telling you about a personal Bible reading journal that’s available exclusively through Revive Our Hearts. If you would like to make a donation of any amount to help partner with this ministry, we’ll be glad to send you this journal as our way of saying thank you for your support.
If you take the challenge, we’ll also send you a couple of times a month an email reminder so you don’t get into mid-March and forget, like we do with all our other resolutions. We’ll help you remember this daily Bible reading challenge and try and stick with you and make it effective during the course of the year.
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.
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.
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.
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; someone who, 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.
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? 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.
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)
Jesus didn’t say, “You never knew me.” He just says, “I never knew you.” 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).
Oh Lord, how I pray that even as I’ve been speaking, that Your Spirit has been speaking to listeners who think they know You, but You don’t know them. They aren’t on the path of righteousness. They’re on the path of the ungodly, the pathway of the wicked. But You’ve been speaking to their hearts. You’ve been drawing them to Yourself. You’ve been letting them know that You love them, and You’ve made a provision for their wickedness and their sinfulness.
You’re calling them to repent of going their own way, to make a U-turn, to turn around and to place their faith in Jesus Christ who is our righteousness. Oh Lord, even as I prayed this morning, thinking there might be some who are religious but not righteous, I pray that if there’s even one here who is not known by You, that You would make Yourself known to them, that You would draw them to repentance and faith and make them Your true child this day. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. 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. I think this series on Psalm 1 is the kind that you could listen to every January. To get the series on CD, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
I hope you won’t just listen, but act on what Nancy’s been talking about. Here’s how. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com and sign up for the Bible Reading Challenge. Here’s the challenge: to spend some time every day reading the Bible for the rest of 2013.
When you sign up for the challenge at ReviveOurHearts.com we’ll encourage you to keep going. We’ll send you reminders by email—about two a month. They’ll cheer you on through the year. And when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll say “thanks” by sending you a booklet that will help you keep track of all you’re learning in the Bible. It’s called, My Personal Bible Reading Journal. Get all the details on the booklet at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also donate on our site as well, or ask for the journal 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 Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.