Summary: There is a fullness of joy available for those who delight in God's Word.
Why the Psalms? Why should we study the Psalms? The reason I think we should study the Psalms comes from our New Testament reading: Revelation, chapter 2, verses 2 through 5.
In Revelation 2, Jesus is giving a message to the church at Ephesus. Jesus begins with some very complimentary remarks, "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance", He says.
Jesus knows about all the terrific programs going on at 1st Church of Ephesus. He knows about their commitment to Sunday school. He knows about their commitment to care for the poor. He knows about their plans for evangelism and church growth. He knows all about their work at church dinners.
Jesus also commends them for "putting to test those who call themselves apostles, and are not". That is to say that Jesus commends them for being a discerning church. This church held to sound doctrine--they probably had many small group Bible-studies. The church at Ephesus studied the Scriptures and they knew an imposter when they saw one.
If we were shopping for a church, I suspect that many of us would choose a church much like the one in Ephesus. This was an action-packed church. The people there were busy like spiritual bumblebees doing the work of ministry.
But after commending them for all their good work, Jesus points out something that is fundamentally wrong with the church at Ephesus. After complimenting them for their deeds, Jesus says, "I have this against you, that you have left your first love".
The church at Ephesus forgot why they existed. They forgot that church was first and foremost about loving Jesus. The ultimate goal of church life is not evangelism. The goal of church life is not balancing the budget. The goal of church life is not running a successful Sunday school. The goal of church life is not learning how to get along.
Church life, first and foremost, is about loving Jesus. And our deeds, our toil, our perseverance, our good doctrine, our commitment to evangelism--all of these things are to flow naturally out of our love for Jesus.
It is not hard to find a busy church. It is not hard to find a church that is doing great things. We are doing great things here at St. Andrew's & Fraser. The question I have for us this morning is, 'How are we doing with our love for Jesus?'. Would Jesus be justified if He said to us what He said to the church at Ephesus, 'You are doing great work, but you have forgotten why you are here. You have left your first love'.
All of our good works are filthy rags if we are not loving Jesus (Isa. 64:6). The reason I want us to study the Psalms from now until Christmas is because, in the Psalms, we read about individuals who loved the Lord more than anything on earth.
I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel that I am guilty of the same sin as the church at Ephesus. I recognize times in my life where I leave my first love--Jesus Christ. When I recognize this, no book of the Bible comforts me more than the Psalms. If you want to see what first love looks like, you turn to the Psalms.
Before we examine Psalm one, I want you to consider what "first love" is. When Jesus talks about "first love", He is not talking about sequence, but about priority. We commonly hear individuals say that so-and-so was their 'first love'--this is a reference to sequence. When Jesus says that He is to be our "first love", He is saying that we are to love Him above and beyond all things.
For the sake of comparison, I would like those of you who are married to think about the nature of the love you had towards your spouse when you were on your honeymoon. Take as long as you need.
I think we need that comparison in order to recognize that "first love" is HOT. "First love" is passionate. I am not sure how, or why, but in many churches, it has become taboo to be passionate about Jesus. Those who are exuberant about their faith are often called 'fanatical'. I like the way one pastor defines 'fanatical': a fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than I do.
We need more fanatics in our church. We need people who regard Jesus Christ as their first love.
Think back again to your honeymoon days. How did you act towards your spouse back then? Would it be safe to say that you did everything in your power to please your spouse?
Is it then safe to say that first love aims to please? And since first love aims to please, Psalm one becomes an important text for us. "1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night".