Today we will be talking about the Good Life. You'll see, by the end of this sermon, that what the writer of Psalm 1 writes is true. The Good Life is the God Life.
Before we begin, listen to the words of Eleanor Roosevelt who says, "Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively. After a short time, a very short time, there would be little that one really enjoyed. For what keeps our interest in life and makes us look forward to tomorrow is giving pleasure to other people."
It really wasn't much. I mean, did anyone really notice it? Of course not! Sure, we glanced over either side after a heavy rain to enjoy the exciting, white capped water rushing by, but otherwise, it just didn't get much attention. That is until they said they had to replace it, and then all eyes and all attention went to that bridge in Lenox.
That bridge. You know the one I mean. The one artery—the very lifeline for those in the wider Kingsley area—who depend on that simple, non-descript, non-monumental purely functional bridge that so easily connected us to I-81 and the world beyond our country lives. Yes, that bridge. Not wooden, not covered, not historic. Not in the least notable like the Kingsley viaduct bridge or its much, much larger sister in Nicholson, the famous colossal we still appreciate from time to time when traveling Route 11. Yes, it was that little bridge that no one noticed that caused infinite difficulties and endless detours when it was removed and then replaced. You know what I mean. What took twenty minutes to get to Clifford from here took two hours this past summer. That bridge.
style='background:white'>Well 'that' bridge is now new—and the multitude of angels above sing its glory no more loudly than those who rejoice at crossing over it now. Hallelujah! The good life has returned to us all!
I mention the good life because whether you're a resident of the wider Kingsley area or not, here's what we can all understand: Psalm 1 offers us an understanding of "the good life." This good life turns what some call the good life on its head. This good life found in Psalm 1 is so radical that it's remarkably appealing. Get ready for the good life.
Here is your first sermon notes page fill-in. The good life is blessed by God (v1).
Psalm 1 begins, "Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, mediating on it day and night."
It is clear that God blesses people who "do not walk in the counsel of the wicked," who refuse evil advice. It is in God's love that this person finds their delight. It is the sound of God's voice and through God's direction that this person finds "happiness."
Isn't this opposite to the way we often think? We often find humanity today encouraging fulfillment in itself. To "have a good time" in our society almost always means to go out and "enjoy yourself." Do not enjoy God, but yourself! Do not enjoy others, but yourself. I invite you to notice this. We innocently tell our hosts that we "enjoyed ourselves tonight" and think that is being polite! It's less often that we hear it said, "I enjoyed your company tonight." Too often and too clearly our culture tells us life's goal is to reach self-fulfillment.
In the Psalms, true satisfaction involves not enjoying oneself, but taking delight in a real, living relationship with God. Understand this, or perhaps hear it for the first time. The goal of the Christian life is not to enjoy one's self, but to enjoy God. This enjoyment is what brings that deeper joy which is far more permanent than mere happiness.
What's unsettling about this text is what the psalmist calls "wickedness" because this is what many today see as life's idea goal, which is "independence." What generally marks success and maturity in our culture is self-sufficiency. Being a self-made success is a top honor in our culture. Conversely, wanting or needing help, whether from others or from God, is taken as a sign of weakness or instability.
Jesus speaks about this when he says in Mark 8:35, "If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it." What he is saying is that when we place God at the center of our lives, we risk losing every physical thing, maybe even life itself. Yet true happiness is only found here, and the loss involved is trivial when we compare it with gaining a new and eternal life.
By failing to trust God and make connections with God as the source of life, we can't be truly happy. To be independent, self-sufficient and so alienated from God and others, in biblical terms, is to "perish." Yet the believer is different. The believer is connected to God and therefore blessed by God.
2. The good life is blessed in Christ (v3).
Like this first Psalm, Jesus also promises His followers would be blessed. His famous Sermon on the Mount begins with that promise, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, etc."
In our Psalm, the blessed life is described as a tree planted by a stream, a fruitful tree which provides shade to all who come under it. We read that the righteous person: ....is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:3)
Jesus also drew upon the imagery of a growing plant to describe how his followers are blessed. He said in John 15:5, "Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."
The next thought then is that everyone who "remains in" or "follows" Christ is blessed. We talked of this in the children's sermon. Note the place where the tree has been planted, by streams of water. Jesus and all that he taught us is our life giving stream. People who are open to Jesus and his instruction are like trees transplanted beside a source of water; they are never without a resource to sustain their lives under any circumstance. No matter how tough life gets; no matter how insurmountable the problem may seem; Jesus provides the source of new life.
Maybe circumstances have robbed you of your joy. Let me point you back to the voice of God as we hear it in these verses. Let His compassionate word to you today penetrate your mind and heart. Hear His answer. It may not change your circumstances but it will change you. Listen. "Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked" (v1). What robs us of our Christian joy? Listening to the lies of the world around us. Have we given credit to the advice of the world over the voice of God?
Listen to His voice. "Blessed is the person who does not sit in the seat of mockers." Are we settled in the rocker recliner of worldly wisdom? The first step away from the blessing of Christian joy is to listen to worldly advice. Don't be robbed of the blessing of lasting Christian joy. That is why Jesus says, "remain in me."
People who are open to Jesus and who are willing to follow his instruction no matter what the cost are like trees beside a life giving stream; they are never without a resource to sustain their lives under any circumstance.
3. The good life is blessed with all blessings (3b).
My book editor will look at me with that perplexed look in her eye and say, "Redundant! Blessed with all blessings? Uhm, clear that up a little."
Think about it though. Blessed with all blessings! What an awesome promise! It's almost too outrageous to believe it. At least it would be if we were to look for the fulfillment of such a promise with our own eyesight.
I know the following o be true. Ask me, I will share examples of individuals who also know this, who OWN this prosperity the Psalmist is speaking about. It is this: "People who trust God have discovered the resource for sustaining their lives under any circumstance." They are experiencing life the way it was meant to be. On the surface it may look like the world is falling down, but the believer is blessed with all blessing.
For a start they are blessed through time and into eternity.
4. The good life is blessed through time and into eternity
Listen to God's voice once again in verses 4-5, "Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous."
A godless, self-sufficient life is like chaff. It can be blown away at the slightest breeze. On the other hand, a righteous life that relies on God for everything is like a well placed tree whose stability allows it to live and bear fruit.
Those who honor God and order their lives in all things according to His will are the "assembly of the righteous" which the Psalmist identifies in verse 5. They have a relationship with God. And they alone experience His presence both now and in the life to come.
5. The good life is blessed to the highest degree.
And the Believer receives the highest grade blessing. "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous..." (v6)
It's a high calling, to order you life according to the will of God - in fact it's the highest calling! But to this highest calling is attached the highest blessing (v6) "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish."
This tells us that the righteous are at the center of God's attention. The Lord knows his people intimately, not just intellectually, but through a personal relationship. And the blessing is the assurance that God cares for his own, protects them, and will reward them. As Psalm 37:18 reminds us: The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever.
Let's get back to how this sermon started. What bridge are you on? Is it in good shape, and do you appreciate it as your mode toward a connection to God, or is your bridge in need of an upgrade, some routine maintenance, or does it need to be replaced? Choose The Good Life. Choose The God Life and you will be blessed. The God Life is the life you live committed to God.