Friday, May 9, 2008

Thoughts on Psalm 1: Things the Blessed Man Refuses To Do

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." (Psalm 1)

The Bible starts with pointing out what the blessed man refuses to do. So many today do not like Bible preaching because this kind of preaching always points out error and people do not want to be corrected. As a result, some Christians foolishly ask an audience with the preacher to persuade him to "tone it down" or to "focus on the positives." It is amazing to see, here and in other portions of Scripture, that God's ways and Word is directly opposite of man's ways. John Phillips in his excellent commentary work on Psalms points out that man's philosophy starts with "The Power of Positive Thinking" but God starts with "The Power of Negative Thinking." I thought John's observation was right on.

To start with, the blessed man refuses to listen to advice which stems from the ungodly. The main characteristic of the ungodly is that they are people who do not factor God in the equation. More than that, they disregard and disrespect God and the things of God. God is obviously absent in the advice given. God is absent in the life of the adviser(s). In other words, God is not a consideration in the hearts and minds of the ungodly. Ungodly people will generate ungodly advice. This must be qualified, we are dealing with counsel in areas of moral importance. The blessed man is very careful about where he gets his advice from, who he gets his advice from, and does it line up with God's Word?
Here are some great sources for advice:
1. The Bible - God's Holy Word.
2. The Holy Spirit - He will never contradict His Word.
3. The Pastor - God's Man - the main qualifications are doctrinal, domestic and moral integrity.
4. Other godly men and women - the main qualification is true godliness.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thoughts on Psalm 1: Blessedness is qualified happiness

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." (Psalm 1:1)

While it is true that happiness can be inserted in the place of the word blessed in the text, we must be careful to qualify the word happiness. Many who enjoy the world's sinful pleasures do so because it does bring happiness to them, however, it doesn't go to say that they are blessed. There is then a great gulf fixed between the broad and generic use of the word happy and the specific use of the word bless, or blessed. Jay Adams in his book on counseling observes that happiness relates to happening. Obviously, we may readily attest to that as a true statement. When things are happening, we are happy, and when things aren't happening, then in a way, we aren't happy.

But what about "blessings?" First, what do we mean by "blessing?" Second, where do they stem from? A blessing is a goodness or kindness bestowed upon us by God. God is so good to us that he blesses us with what are called temporal blessings, or physical blessings. These are blessings (bestowed kindness) that stem from His gracious self, that are physical in nature. James 1:17 puts it this way: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Among the temporal blessings we have food, clothing, children, etc. The Lord is so good to all of mankind that He blesses them with temporal blessings regardless of their attitude towards Him. God is indeed gracious (see Matt. 5:45). Ought not the goodness of God lead us to repentance? Yes it should! Then there are spiritual blessings. Salvation, of course, being the primary gift to lost sinners. Accompanying Salvation, we have regeneration, reconciliation, adoption, sanctification, the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His power, the heavenly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ which is His intercession and advocacy, and His abiding presence in our hearts by faith, and on and on. If you are a genuine born again believer, you are indeed a blessed person.

When we think of blessings and happiness, let us not forget it is the source that makes the difference. Happiness is derived from happenings (circumstantial) and blessings come from our gracious God. In the words of Thomas Ken, whose image is on the top left, (1674): "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." Indeed, may God be praised!