12/17/2014

The Secret of Happiness (Psalm 1)

Psalm 1:1-6; 2

"Instead, his delight is in the Lord's instruction, and he meditates on it day and night" (Ps 1:2, HCSB). "But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night" (Ps 1:2, NLT).

(Alternate titles: Happiness. True Happiness. True Blessedness. The Blessed Life. A Truly Happy Person. A Truly Happy Man. Gateway to Happiness. Two Ways to Live. What Do You Think About? Prosperity as a Problem.)

A theme for each year. Happy New Year. At the end of 2014 I reviewed our six year story at West Loop, 2008-2014. Over the last few years, I chose a yearly theme for West Loop: gospel, grace, sanctification, the whole council of God, remembrance. For 2015 the theme is faith: "The righteous by faith will live" (Rom 1:17c). We do not become righteous by living by faith, but because we are righteous by faith in what Jesus has done for us, we live confidently with our heads held high.
Your feelings don't matter! To begin 2015 I decided to preach on Psalms. How are the Psalms related to faith? A horrible thing I used to say to my wife for the first two decades of our marriage was "Your feelings don't matter. Just deny yourself and do what is right." It comes from a totally misguided misunderstanding of "deny yourself" (Mt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23). Now for the rest of our marriage and our lives I have to apologize to her for having said this to her. Today, I say to her, "Please tell me and share with me all of your feelings. Don't spare me any of your feelings!" By God's grace, I believe that our marriage is getting better as the years go by!

Faith must be holistic, having feelings, actions and thoughts. It should encompass orthodoxy (right beliefs), orthopraxy (right practices) and osteopathy (right emotions). But often our faith has more head and hands (thinking and doing), than heart (feelings). It's like believing in the Father (the "head"), the Son (the "hands") and the Holy Bible (the Word, instead of the "feelings" from the Holy Spirit). In regards to faith, our emotions often lag behind our knowledge and our practical Christian life. But the Psalms reveal that the people of God expressed their emotions freely, be it love, joy, thanksgiving, or anger, fear, frustration, helplessness, discouragement or despair. In 2015 I pray that our faith may be real with genuine authentic expressed feelings and emotions.

The way of happiness. Psalm 1 and 2 is the introduction to the book of Psalms. It teaches us they way of blessedness, or true happiness. Briefly, our happiness is closely related to our life--how we live (Ps 1:1) and our hearts--what we desire and think about (Ps 1:2), and the rest will fall in place and take care of itself (Ps 1:3). It is also prudent to regard the consequences of an unfulfiling and unhappy life (Ps 1:4-6). Thus, the happy and blessed person carefully watches and considers:
  1. Their life (Ps 1:1), their walk: how they live and who they hang out with.
  2. Their heart (Ps 1:2), their delight and meditation: what they desire and think about.
  3. Their foundation (Ps 1:3): what they are grounded, rooted and planted upon.
  4. The lives of unhappy people (Ps 1:4-6), which lack the following:
    1. No permanence: They lack a solid foundation (Ps 1:4).
    2. No righteousness: They lack righteousness (Ps 1:5).
    3. No life: Their lives dwindle and perish (Ps 1:6).
To be happy, seriously, reflectively, meditatively and contemplatively consider how you are living and what's in your heart.

Personal Application:
  1. Love those who are unhappy. Do not judge, criticize or condemn others for their wickedness.
  2. Repent of self-righteousness and condescension toward others, just because you think God has truly blessed you, your family and your church. Ultimately, it's not because of you.
  3. Know the wickedness within yourself when you:
    • blame others, including God.
    • worry anxiously about your future rather than trusting God.
    • are jealous and envious of others, especially those who have what you want.
    • gossip and slander others behind their back.
    • are hypocrites by speaking, acting and behaving in a "holy Christian way" while our hearts are not.
    • lie, are dishonest, and do not speak the truth.
    • do not love others the way God has loved us.
    • are ruled by your ego that seeks value, validation and vindication from people rather than from God.
  4. Know that if you are blessed, it is entirely only because of the mercy and grace of God, and not because of any righteousness of your own.
  5. To be happy, know that you need to be blessed more than you need anything else in all of life.
  6. Jesus is the only truly blessed and righteous person who ever lived out Psalm 1, not you!
Questions:
  1. What is the theme of Psalm 1? What does the blessed person not do (1)?
  2. What is the source of delight of a blessed person (2a)? What does a blessed person do to experience such delight (Ps 1:2b; 119:97; Dt 30:11, 14-16; Josh 1:8; 1 Ti 4:13, 15-16)?
  3. What is a blessed person like (3a; Jer 17:8)? What does such a person experience (3b)?
  4. What is the contrast to a blessed person (4a)? What are they like (4b)? What will not happen to them (5)? What is their destiny (6)?
References:
  1. Lewis, C.S. Reflection on the Psalms, Chap. 6: "Sweeter Than Honey."
  2. Motyer, J Alec. The Psalms. New Bible Commentary. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1994.
  3. Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1 - 72: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1973.
  4. Psalm 1 -- The Truly Happy Man.