Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Lack of Substance Is Killing Us

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.
– Psalm 1:1-3

As I was praying this morning and pleading with the Lord because I felt weak and weary, He showed me what it is that is sapping my energy. Some of you are not going to like what I have to say this morning. However, some of you will rejoice in it.

Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. – Proverbs 9:8

For the past year, I have repeated myself hundreds of times and said only one thing over and over again:

Humble yourself and exalt Jesus.

Now, please understand that I must share in this rebuke, because I am not perfect in this regard either. I have wandered off track at times and pushed my own pride out in front of the will and glory of Jesus Christ as well. As I write I am overwhelmed with my own guilt, but that does not dismiss or lessen what needs to be declared. Here it is:


What proof do I have of this? Go look at your social media pages. What did you do yesterday? How about the day before that? What have you done in the past week or month? How many people have you argued with, cursed, belittled, accused, judged, been offended by, etc.? Over what statements or subject matters have you been most focused? Are you being tossed from one subject to another? Consider this:

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

Does this sound anything like what is going on all over the internet and news and with almost every interaction we are engaged? Some will be surprised to learn that this is a statement from the mouth of Jesus. Most of you will be surprised to learn where it comes from; Matthew 24:10-12. This is the very chapter so many have been focusing on to argue their theories about the return of Jesus, but do they ever discuss this passage? No. Why? Is it because it is a reality that strikes a little too close to home?

What have you been arguing about on social media? Why are you contending against others? Who are you lifting up when you do those things? Are you lifting up yourself or lifting up Jesus? I can accuse you no more than I can accuse myself. Even in rebuking and correcting false teachings and false prophesies, I have, at times, gloried in myself and in my own wisdom; patting myself on the back.

What does it mean to humble yourself and exalt Jesus?

In most cases, and this is going to be pretty blunt, it means to shut up and listen. Shut up and listen can be said in another way…

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:10

I will never forget the harsh tone of my grandfather whenever we were trying to corral a bunch of cattle and my chattering and carrying on was bound to spook them and mess up what we were trying to do. He was normally pretty patient with my eagerness, but in those moments, he would very sharply say, “Be still!” Consequently, when I read the above passage, I hear that same rebuke.

In our eagerness to defend our beliefs, our principles and even our faith we have come to a point of chattering rather than being still and listening. We put a high volume of stuff out there, but how much of it has any substance to it? This is where I want to return to the scripture passage that headed this post. I want to start off with the phrase, “Blessed is the man.

For a very long time, about 40 years, I believed that this was a statement of reward for whomever fulfilled whatever came after it like:

Blessed is he who mourns, for he shall be comforted.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

And then I came to another passage that was different:

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

This was said of Jesus as He entered into Jerusalem riding on the colt of a donkey. Wait! Wasn’t He already blessed before He came? He most certainly was. He never stopped being blessed. So, how could, “blessed is He,” mean a reward for something that He did? What if that phrase means… “He who is already blessed…” When I tried it out in that form, a whole new understanding of scripture opened up to me. Let’s look at the passages again.

The man who is already blessed will mourn, but he will also be comforted.

The man who is already blessed will be a peacemaker and will be called the son of God.

The man who is already blessed will be poor in spirit, but will inherit the Kingdom of God.

I challenge you to read the fifth chapter of Matthew in this manner. It is extremely enlightening what Jesus promises to the regenerate or “blessed man,” not as a reward for what he does, but as something those who abide in Jesus already have the potential of becoming. It really hits home when we come back to Psalm 1. Paraphrased it says:

The man who is already blessed will not walk in the counsel of the wicked, will not stand in the path of sinners, will not sit in the seat of scoffers, but he will delight in the law of the Lord and will meditate on it day and night…

A person filled with the Holy Spirit, a "blessed" person, will follow after these things. These things will shape his or her attitudes. These things are attributes of the new person you became in Jesus when the Holy Spirit entered you and caused you to become a new creation.

This is who you really are!

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. – Galatians 5:16-17

Brothers and sisters, we are chasing after things that do not matter. We are arguing beliefs and principles, and we are contending against each other and against others over things that should be, to use Paul’s own language, “counted as rubbish (Philippians 3:8).”

We dash about whipping up memes, liking or sharing ones we agree with, passages of scripture and quotes from great theologians or not so great theologians. We pass along things that sound good, but are not really true. Most of the time, we aren’t even reading what we are arguing against or passing along! We pass along prayers and songs and stories about supposed miracles and… sigh… blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Are we not weary of these things? Are we not burdened and overwhelmed? Are we not weighing ourselves down so much that we are completely ineffective? Read it again:

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.

Are we? Is what we are doing the whole substance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the righteousness of our Lord? Do we meditate on the Lord, His law and His righteousness even for a moment, let alone day and night? Keep these things in mind as we read the last part. The blessed man:

…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.

Is that your life? Are you a firmly planted tree beside a river of water that brings forth fruit? How often does your leaf wither? Are you built up in Jesus? I switched the tense, not because I’m not included, but in order to make these questions more personal to you. Do the things that you do prosper? I’m not talking about money, health, success, etc. Do the things that you say and do have true substance and redemptive value in them? Does anyone prosper from what you say and do, including yourself? Are you humbling yourself and exalting Jesus in your place?

A "blessed man" will do these things when he walks in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. I am heavily convicted by Romans 8:13, especially when I read it in the King James Version:

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Mortify the flesh. Kill it! Do not continue to allow the desires of your flesh to grow alongside the new creation you have become in the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit! Be a tree planted beside rivers of water. Bear fruit! That is what your new life is meant to do and be!

Let me finish with a story I heard. I do not know the veracity of this, but the imagery is certainly something to awaken your understanding. It is said that in Tarsus, the place from which Paul haled, there was a particularly firm punishment for murderers. Allegedly, the person who was murdered was tied to the back of the murderer and left there. As the corpse upon the murderer’s back began to rot, it would, of course, begin to rot the flesh of the living person as well. In this way, the murderer would slowly die for his offense.

If this story is true, then you certainly understand Paul’s urgency for you to live and walk in the Spirit rather than walking around with rotting flesh tied to your back. Jesus Christ bore your sins for you on the cross. He made it possible for you to have new life. He sent His Spirit to fill you and make you into a new creation which is suited for the Kingdom of Heaven. He tossed that dead, rotting corpse off of your back. How much longer do you intend to put it back on there and carry it around?

Brother or sister, your lack of substance is killing you! Humble yourself and exalt Jesus who is your substance!

NOTE: In the coming months, I am going to continue to dedicate this blog to providing daily substance for your devotions, in both English and Spanish, by praying through the Psalms. Please join me and encourage others to do the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment