Summary: Life Management 101, part 6. Dave sees Psalm 1 as laying out some life steps that lead logically to godliness (and thus a kind of prosperity or productivity) and some that lead logically to godlessness (vanity). The progression in verse 1 of walk-stand-

Putting Your Roots Down

Life Management 101, part 6

Wildwind Community Church

David Flowers

July 23, 2006

Today I want to talk to you about putting your roots down. The last few weeks have probably been the richest series we have ever done here on spiritual formation. I called the series Life Management 101. Perhaps I should have called it Christian Life Management 101. Because these are not just principles for managing life, they are ideas for how you can dig up the life you have known before and replant it firmly in God.

It didn’t start out that way. I had simply observed that a lot of families were really busy, that life was hectic, and thought I’d try to step in with some nice, cozy Biblical principles for helping you deal with the stress of living. That was my intention, honest! A nice, suburban, American slice of self-help. But when I tried to do this, I ran smack into the truth – that God is not interested in helping us be more successful at living in the world that is stealing our souls, but instead God is interested in helping us recover what has been stolen. George Carlin has a way with words. He says the name “self-help” is actually a misnomer, because if you could do it yourself, you wouldn’t need any help!

Folks, that’s what I have been trying to get at the last few weeks. If you could do it yourself, you wouldn’t need any help! Our situation calls for something beyond self-help. Our situation isn’t amenable to self-help. Our situation defies self-help. Our situation denies self-help and puts the lie to self-help.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (MSG)

4 Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love,

5 he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!

Romans 5:5-6 (MSG)

…we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

6 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.

Without God we are helpless. All the self-help in the world will ultimately be found to be of no help at all. The Christian life is not a life of self-help, where the preacher stands up front and tells you how you can improve your life and get God to bless it. And the Christian life is not a life of helplessness, where we say, “Well, I guess I’m just a sinner from birth and that’s how I am and I’ll never be able to change.”

The Christian life is rather a life of Spirit-help, where we place our lives daily before God – moment by moment – and throw ourselves on God’s mercy, understanding that the Holy Spirit is our change agent – that God’s life is the life we need.

Matthew 4:4 (AMP)

4 But He replied, It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Let’s look at our key text this morning. If God’s life is the life we need, what exactly are we talking about here? (would you stand):

Psalms 1:1-6 (NIV)

1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He 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.

4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

This is the person who has God’s life. Have you met the person described in this passage? Have you met the person who is like a tree planted along a riverbank, who bears fruit every season without fail? Have you met the person who seems to be continually refreshed in their spirit? I haven’t met many people like that. I’m intrigued by the prospect of being this kind of person, are you? I want to be like that. Do you want to be this kind of person? What would be required to be this kind of person?

Folks, I’m going to say this for you as simply as I can. You have to put your roots down in the right place. You have to put your roots down in the right place.

Psalms 1:1-2 (NIV)

1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Verse 1 tells us where we shouldn’t put our roots down, and what the end of the line will be like for the one who puts roots down in evil, and verse 2 tells us where we should put our roots down, and what the end of the line will be like for the one who puts roots down in God. We’re going to look at that in a moment, but first let’s look at context. As we look at verse 1, the first thing I want you to see is that the way of God is a way of joy. Verse 1 says Blessed is the man, blessed is the person. Blessed means happy, or joyful! Whoever started this thing that church-people, God-people, Christ-followers are to be somber and sullen and unhappy all the time wasn’t a great saint. The great saints throughout history have nearly always been marked by joy! That’s why we believe that you should come to church and experience joy, you should feel a deep sense of well-being, you should sense God’s peace in your soul – the way of the Christ-follower is the way of joy, and I would dare to say that a joyless church can’t possibly have God in it! Blessed is the man, in other words happy are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked. There is joy in doing what God would have us do. Is there sacrifice also? Certainly, but we never sacrifice anything that we would have been better off hanging on to. Jesus kind of described the Kingdom of God this way:

Matthew 13:45-46 (NCV)

45 "Also, the kingdom of heaven is like a man looking for fine pearls.

46 When he found a very valuable pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.

In other words, this man finds that the value of everything he has does not compare to the value of the one thing he really needs. Hear this, folks, the value of everything you have does not compare to the value of the one thing you really need.

Psalms 86:1 (NIV)

1 Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

We have to learn to think of ourselves this way in relationship to God. Joy in the Christian way comes from understanding that though we are called to make sacrifices, we are not called to sacrifice anything that is of any real value. How can it be, for we are poor and needy! That means we don’t HAVE anything of real value. And what we get in return when we lay down what we have is the pearl of great price, the thing which exceeds the value of everything we have. Blessed are those, happy are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked! The way of Christ is a way of joy. We must never forget that. It has its challenges and its share of crosses to bear, but so does slavery to the world, and you’re going to see that pretty vividly in the coming moments.

Now let us turn to the question of where we should not put roots down. The answer, in verse 1, is simply that we should not root our lives in godlessness. We find that there are three things we are not to do with regard to godlessness (or evil). We are not to walk in it, stand in it, or sit in it. We are not to walk in the counsel of the wicked. We are not to stand in the way of sinners. We are not to sit in the seat of mockers (scoffers). Notice how we’re talking about increasing levels of rootedness in evil here, folks. Walking, standing, sitting.

Have you ever walked in the counsel of the wicked? In other words, have you ever allowed godless people to give you advice about critical decisions, or even not-so-critical ones? How about a godless world as it comes to you through media, through popular culture? When I think of walking in the counsel of the wicked, I think of just kind of going with the flow. When you are walking in the counsel of the wicked, you may not necessarily be a wicked person yourself; you’re just going with the flow. You’re acting on the principles of evil, but at this point they’re not your principles yet. The popular trend says “think this or do that or be this or go there,” and you’re just going with it because it’s what’s around you. Do you know anybody who’s just walking in the counsel of the wicked, taking their moral and spiritual cues from the society around them? I want you to think of this as a kid in high school who hangs around in a bad crowd – has violent friends. Let’s call him Jim. Jim hasn’t really broken any laws himself, but he just walks in the counsel of those people – he hangs around in their world. At first it doesn’t seem to influence him all that much, and he’s always defending them to his parents and other people.

But when you walk in the counsel of the wicked, it leads to something worse. Those who go with the flow of the culture around them, those who act on the principles of evil they absorb from their culture, those who walk in the counsel of the wicked, eventually find themselves beginning to be attracted to evil.

Jimmy continues to hang around with a violent crowd. One night his two closest friends talk him into going with them to hold up a convenience store in another town. It’s supposed to go pretty smoothly – no one’s supposed to get hurt. But it goes bad and one of Jim’s friends kills the clerk. The boys get in the car and speed off and end up getting away with it, but a rumor starts at school that Jim and his friends might have been involved in a murder in another town. Everybody begins to fear these boys – even the other kids in the violent crowd. And you know what? Jim really likes the respect – he likes the idea that he’s part of a group of people who are feared by other kids. Pretty soon Jim and these two boys have shaken off the rest of their friends and the three of them are hanging hard-core. Jim has never killed anyone – remember that. But he’s loving the company, the feeling, the rush, of being closely associated with someone who has. He is cultivating the company of evil. He is no longer simply walking in the counsel of the wicked, he is standing in the way of sinners. He is beginning to identify himself with this way of life – putting relational roots down with others who think the same way. He’s tasting the fruit and liking it. You can’t put roots down when you’re walking. But Jim has stopped walking. Now he’s standing.

And that leads to the last level of evil. It starts with walking in the counsel of the wicked, just going along with the current of society and acting on its principles because you’re just doing what everybody else is doing, without thinking. It proceeds to standing in the way of sinners – starting to consider this kind of life for one’s self, trying it on for size, being really attracted to aspects of a godless life and looking at it admiringly, cultivating the company of evil-doers. Finally, it leads to sitting in the seat of mockers. You just take a seat. You sit down. Now we’re talking about sitting, so I don’t want to confuse you, but do you know what happens when you sit down in the seat of mockers? You take a stand! You say “This is who I am. This is what I’m about. This is where I’m going. This is what I believe.” Chances are this person never took a stand on their beliefs in their life, until they sat down in the mocker’s chair. To sit in the seat of mockers is to identify yourself with godlessness. It becomes part of you and you don’t want to live without it.

A few years after he gets out of high school, Jim is continuing to hang with his bad friends and commit increasingly violent crimes. One night he and his buddies are robbing another store when the clerk gets belligerent. Seemingly out of nowhere, Jim opens fire and shoots the man repeatedly in the chest, killing him instantly. And do you know what? From that day on, Jim is not just a person who hung around with bad people in high school. He’s not just a person with a string of violent crimes. He’s not even just a person who was once present when a man was killed. From that day on, Jim is a murderer. And that night is not the last time Jim ever holds up a convenience store, but it is the last time he ever waits for the clerk to get mouthy before killing him. From then on he kills almost every clerk in almost every store. Why? Because that’s what killers do.

Jim wasn’t always a killer. He began with walking in the counsel of the wicked, letting their violent values influence him and seep under his skin. Eventually he began to cultivate the company of two of these boys and came to identify himself as a close friend of theirs, liking the way it made him feel to be around them. Finally, one night he stepped across a line – he sat down in a seat – he put his roots down. He made a decision that shaped him for good.

It’s about putting roots down. The further down the roots go, the harder it is to make change. You ever try to move somebody who’s walking? Not too hard – they’re already walking so you can just apply a little force in another direction and they’ll move in that direction. To walk is to not really be planted in any one place. Now have you ever tried to move somebody who’s standing? It’s a little harder, isn’t it? They’re just standing there, not moving, and you have to come up and push them pretty hard to get them to move at all, especially if they simply try to remain standing after you have started pushing them. You are moving them not with their own energy, but with yours, because they’re standing still, they’ve got roots down. Ever tried to move somebody who’s sitting? That’s a different story completely, isn’t it? If you try to move someone who is sitting, and their intention is to remain seated, good luck to you. Chances are good they’re not going anywhere. They are planted right where they are, end of story.

The one who sits in the seat of mockers has stopped going with the flow of godlessness, has stopped merely hanging around intentionally with evil people, and has taken a seat. They have chosen their life path. They’re not walking anymore. They’re not standing anymore. They’re sitting. They are rooted for good in that place and almost nothing can make them move from it.

Now I’m not suggesting that the path of every godless person will lead to murder. That’s completely not my point. I’m suggesting that godlessness puts roots down deeper and deeper and deeper, until at last the godless person sits down in it and says, “This is me. This is who I am.” Godlessness becomes part of the self-concept, the identity, and thus is extremely hard to change. It is a progressive path, with a predictable end-point – a life rooted deeply in godless attitudes and behaviors.

Use whatever example you want. How about a kid who begins smoking pot at a party because everybody else is doing it and some kid he doesn’t even know hands him a joint? Walking in the counsel of the wicked. Eventually that kid becomes best friends with two kids who are big-time pot smokers and he starts smoking pot with them all the time. Standing in the way of sinners. A couple years later, he’s dealing this stuff to other people. Sitting in the seat of mockers. How about the person who says, “There can’t be a god if evolution is true, can there?” That’s what she’s heard from her friends, so she assumes it’s true. Walking in the counsel… She starts reading more and more books and thinking more and more of all the reasons why there can’t be a god (most of which all of us committed believers here already know!) “Standing in the way…” A few years after that, she is a prof herself, and actively talking Christian college kids out of their belief in God, maybe even actually making fun of them. “Sitting in the seat…” How about the married person who says, “Divorce happens all the time – we’re not really expected to stay married forever, are we?” Walking in the counsel… Next it’s, “I’m not hanging around with so and so anymore – they keep telling me to save my marriage.” Now this person’s only hearing what they want to hear, choosing the company they keep based on who agrees with what they’re wanting to do. Standing in the way… Finally it’s, “This is my life and my relationship and I’ll do whatever I want – who is anyone else (including the preacher, God, or anybody) to tell me about marriage being sacred?” Sitting in the seat. Folks, you can be at anyplace in your life and find yourself walking, standing, sitting.

Our text says happy are those, blessed are those, who do not go this way. Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. Happy are those who do not root their lives in godlessness.

Happy are those who root their lives in God. Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. Folks, I want to make sure you understand something. Few things in this world are as natural, or as guaranteed, as the progression from walking to standing to sitting. Nothing on earth is easier than this:

If you walk long enough in the counsel of the wicked, you will eventually stop walking and stand in the way of sinners. And if you stand in the way of sinners long enough, you will eventually stop standing and sit down in the seat of mockers. You just will – we walk, we stand, we sit.

There is an alternative to this progression, and it comes by way of an encounter with God, and a decision to root one’s life in him. If you are to avoid the progression from walking in the counsel of the wicked to standing in the way of sinners to sitting in the seat of mockers, you must make a conscious and firm decision to follow the other path available to you – delighting in God and meditating on his law day and night. The crowd isn’t doing that. The flow won’t take you that direction – it will take you from walking to standing and then sitting. To delight in God, to meditate on his law day and night, you will have to be intentional; you will have to come out of the culture, so to speak.

You are called to come out of the culture to follow God, we discussed that last week. There is a word in the Bible that literally means “the called out ones.” That is the Greek word “ekklesia.” And do you know how that word, “ekklesia” is translated in the New Testament? It is translated with two words. One of them is the word “assembly.” The other is the word “church.”

The word “church” literally means “the called out ones!” The church is to function as the ones who have been called out of this world into service to Christ. We have been called out of the natural progression of walk-stand-sit into a life of joyful meditation on God. That’s why church is so essential, because walking in the way of God, by definition, involves being called out, and you can’t live called out if you’re always with those who are still in and never with other folks who’ve been called out. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? The ekklesia is the “called out ones.” We need to gather with the called out ones, why? To remind ourselves that we have been called out! Walk-stand-sit is mindless – it’s what will happen if you don’t choose otherwise. You have to step out of the flow to do that, and that means coming to identify yourself with the ekklesia – the church – the called out ones, or, as Christians were called 2000 years ago, “People of the Way.”

Now folks, both of these lives – the godly and the godless lives – have a logical end-point. The life rooted in God is not described in the text as a progression like walk-stand-sit, but we do see the logical end-point of that life.

Psalms 1:3-4 (NIV)

3 He 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.

4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

The godly person prospers – the godly person is refreshed by streams of God’s love and mercy as he meditates on God’s laws day after day. And the end result is that he lives a life that prospers. A life that impacts others and leaves an incredible legacy for those who come after. So you might say the logical end point of a life rooted in God is a kind of prosperity.

And what happens to the wicked? From the scripture here I think we can conclude that the logical end point of a life rooted in godlessness is vanity. “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” I can’t think of anything vainer than that, can you? Talk about all a person’s life, all his efforts, all his dreams and plans, coming to nothing! It will all be like chaff that the wind blows away.

Why is vanity the endpoint of the godless and prosperity the endpoint of the godly? Because they are following courses that lead logically to those destinations. The godless person may never consciously make a decision. He begins by going with the flow, is kind of captivated by the values around him, and eventually just succumbs to a godless life out of laziness, because it’s what’s next on the course he’s on. All he’s ever done is go with the flow, so he just keeps going. It ends in the seat of mockers. To sit in the seat of mockers is the easiest possible course in life. It is the natural outcome of an unintentional life.

The godless person doesn’t take a stand up front. The godless person says, “I’ll just go where everyone else is going.” Then one day he ends up in the mocker’s chair where he takes a stand on his beliefs for the first time, only it’s a stand against godliness (“don’t tell me about the sanctity of life,” “don’t tell me about how drugs are bad for society,” “don’t tell me there’s a God who created me,” “don’t tell me marriage is sacred to God.”) In contrast, the godly person takes a stand right at the beginning. The godly person starts out and says, “I’m not going to drift through life. I’m not going to go with the flow. I’m going to make God the focused pursuit of my life. I’m going to learn to delight in God, to meditate day and night on God’s perspectives.” And the natural outcome of that life is continual joy and freedom, as we daily experience the refreshing water of God flowing through our lives (bearing fruit) – which leads not to a posture of sitting like the mocker, but to happiness; a posture of joyful praise.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the way of God is a way of confinement, a way of restricted freedom, a surrender of all the fun you could have. Tell me, does the way of the godless person sound fun to you? Despite whatever carousing may appear to be happening, I have shown you the spiritual reality underneath. It is a way of increasing atrophy and leads to nothing. Just sitting. Picture that. In contrast, the way of the godly is described beautifully in Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

My friends, you will end up in one of these places. You will end up sitting with the mockers, or you will end up like a tree planted next to a stream, where its fruit never withers, soaring with eagles, running and not getting tired, walking and not fainting. You will intentionally acknowledge God and dedicate yourself to serving him at the beginning, or you will intentionally deny God and dedicate yourself to serving yourself in the end, and that depends completely on the course you choose. What will your choice be? Will you choose to root yourself deeply in God, to learn to meditate (that is to think) about God and God’s perspectives day and night? That’s the church’s business. We trade in God’s perspectives, and teach people how to walk in God’s ways. Where will you choose to put your roots down?