Summary: Every moral choice we face is made as we stand at a fork in the road, deciding whether we will choose to go God’s direction, or some other way.
Two Ways Of Living
Over the Summer we are looking at several of the Psalms out of the Old Testament. The book of Psalms was the hymnal of the Jews and the early church. They are a group of poems or songs that the early followers of God used to express their worship, and they are filled with emotion. Some of them are songs of triumph and joy (Oh, Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth…). Others grow out of agony and grief (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?). Still others are teaching songs, poems to guide us through the pathways of life, to help us to choose to do the right thing and to walk away from doing the wrong thing. Those are called “Wisdom Psalms” and the very first one, Psalm 1 (the Psalm that Joe began our service reading) is one like that. It is written to introduce us to the idea that we have a choice whether to live a life of godliness or to reject that life for what the Psalmist calls “the path of the wicked.”
Throughout the Bible there is this consistent theme that we are always standing at a fork in the road, and constantly before us is the choice of which direction we will take. There is a path that leads to God, and there is another path that leads away from Him, and the choice is yours and only yours which direction you will take. In Proverbs 4:25-27 (NLT), Solomon said, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.”
Jesus made the same kind of claim. Near the end of His “Sermon On The Mount” He challenges us to recognize that not every path in life leads the direction we want to go. “Enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus said, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
When we come to the last verse of Psalm 1, we once again find ourselves standing at a crossroad in life, and it is clear that one of the paths goes the way we want, and the other way leads a place we don’t want to go. “For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” (Psalm 1:6 NLT) Now don’t miss the big idea that all of these verses are telling you. With every choice you make, you are setting the course of your life. And the point that Solomon and Jesus and the Psalmist all are trying to get us to understand is that the choices we make will either take us down a dead end road or they will lead us to a place where God is going to bless us. And even though other people might try to influence you to take a right here or to veer left here in your life, ultimately you hold the steering wheel of your own life. The decisions you make and the pathway you choose to follow in your life determine your destiny.
Now I want us to look closely at Psalm 1 this morning to see the roadmap that God has given us to help us follow the right path. When we are standing at these forks in the road, we don’t have to decide which path to take without knowing what is at the other end of the road. God has been good enough to us to give us some directions in how to make the kind of choices that will please Him and lead us to live lives that are pleasing to Him. Let’s notice what He tells us in Psalm 1:1-2 (Have congregation read together from screen)
1. Be Selective About The Influences In Your Life.
Over the years I have heard preachers read verse 1 “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” then launch into a diatribe saying that you shouldn’t be hanging around with non-Christians. They usually quote Paul’s proverb, “Bad company corrupts good character” and then say “Your friends need to be Christians.” As a result of that kind of thinking, there are a whole lot of churches that are just “holy huddles” where Christians get together and talk about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. They shake their heads and scuff their feet, all the while thinking they are doing a good thing.
But they are wrong. This verse doesn’t say you shouldn’t have non-Christian friends. Jesus surrounded Himself with very ungodly people, so much so that the religious people got mad at Him because He wasn’t giving them enough attention. The Psalmist doesn’t say “Don’t walk with the wicked, or be around the sinners and the mockers.” It does say that if you want God to bless you, you won’t fall under the influence of the wicked, and you won’t live like the sinners, and you won’t be found joining in with the mockers (those are the people that laugh and make fun of everything, even the things that ought to make you cry). I think Eugene Peterson got the gist of this verse right in his paraphrase called The Message, “How well God must like you—you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.”