By Streams of Water

I want to be like the blessed man of Psalm 1. I want to be fruitful.  I want to be strong in dry times.  I want to delight myself in the Lord and his word. But I don’t. I delight in many other things all too often.

What does it mean to walk in the counsel of the wicked, to stand in the way of sinners, and to sit in the seat of scoffers? It means to live according to the world’s narrative. It means living by what merely comes naturally. It is agreement with and delight in a fallen view of our world. Pursue more. Follow your heart. Do what makes you happy.

The blessed man is contrasted with this approach to life. The blessed man has different motives and affections that result in different actions. He delights in the Scriptures.   His mind dwells on them continually. He sees life through the lens of the Bible. He understands that this world is only temporary; another world, an eternal world, awaits. His eyes have been opened to beauty and strength that are infinitely superior to anything in this world.

The reality of this other world, this greater truth, is the stream that nourishes the blessed man, even in times of famine. This reality is the stream that feeds the fruit-bearing branches. This is the stream that causes the tree prosper.

I want to be like this tree. I want to live a life that flows from a heart and mind that delights in God and his Word. I want to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want to view all things through the lens of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

I have come to realize that, while I don’t really like it, I need structure. I need a plan to keep me focused. So, I have taken the elements of the Great Commandment and made them into my plan. I have used the acrostic T.R.E.E. to be my guide through this lifelong process.

Think (Mind) – I will think about the Scriptures. This is the process of interpreting the Bible. I want to understand the truth it is conveying. I want to know what the author is trying to get across to his readers. It isn’t about what the Bible means to me. It is about what the Bible means. The goal is to see and understand the truth.

Reflect (Heart)– I will reflect on the Scriptures and the world in which I live. This is the process of understanding the implications for biblical truth in my life. I want to know how the gospel answers every ill of humanity. I want the truth to be precious to me. I want to interpret all things through the lens of Scripture.

Express (Soul) – I need Christian community with whom I share what I have seen. We need each other to remind us that God’s story is superior to that which bombards us at work and on television. We need the help of each other to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Engage (Strength) – The process is incomplete until it engages the world. Psalm 1 speaks of the end of the natural man in judgment. We can be agents who pull people from their current path so that they will stand in the congregation of the righteous. We can be people who help others become trees planted by streams of water. If the truths of Scripture have been rightly understood, have penetrated the heart so that they are precious, then, with the cooperation of Christian community, we will engage a sinful world with the truth that we love.

So, here is the plan.

Gather a small group of individuals (2 or three) who share your desire.

Commit to gathering regularly.

Choose a book of the Bible together.

Each person spends time with one chapter or section, thinking about the text’s meaning and reflecting upon its implications for life.

At the appointed gathering, each person shares his/her insights and reflections.

The question will then be asked, “How will we engage our world differently in light of these truths?”

Think

Find the main thought or verse in the passage you are reading.  Ask yourself, “What is the central idea the author is trying to get across?”

Look at Romans 6:1-4. What verse would you identify as the central idea of these verses? I would say it is verse 3: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

To explain why I say this is the central verse, we must look at the next step, which is to see how the surrounding verses support this idea. The questions Paul asks in verses 1 and 2 concern the believers’ relationship to sin. If salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, then why does it matter whether or not we sin? Paul’s answer is that we have been baptized into Christ Jesus. We are identified with Christ. Paul explains this answer further in verse 4. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” The nature of our salvation is a death to sin in Christ, and new life in Christ. The purpose of free grace is the death of the sinful life to life in the One who overcame sin. Verses 1 and 2 lead into the main thought in verse 3.  Verse 4 expounds on the main thought.

Reflect

 Think about your life in light of the truth you have read. How is this truth good news, or how does it relate to the good news? What does this truth tell me about God? What specific problem does this text address? What bearing does this truth have on your life at work, in your family, in your downtime? How should it affect your attitudes, your habits, and your thoughts? Should you interact with people differently because of these truths?

How should these truths affect the church? How can the church pursue Christ together around the truth in the text?

Move outward in your thoughts. How would my community look if this truth was embraced by my family, friends, and neighbors? What would our nation look like? The world? Are there specific issues in our culture to which this truth speaks?

Reflection should not just be practiced at your time of reading. As you drive to work, think about the truth you have read as you encounter horrible drivers. Think about it with difficult coworkers, or stressful situations at work. Think about it at WalMart. Think about it as you watch the news, or scour the internet. Think about it when you lay your head on your pillow at night.

The goal is to connect the truth of Scripture with everyday life.

Express

 When you gather with your group, keep in mind that Christ is to be the central focus of the gathering. The group does not exist primarily for any individual. The goal is to see God glorified in our lives and in our world. It’s about discipleship, not therapy. Another thing to keep in mind, we want to build each other up in Christ. There may be times when we must confront each other, but the goal is to encourage one another in the faith.

First, review the text you have read. Each person share the central truth of the text and the supports for this truth. Discuss differences and insights. If there are different answers, try to work through the text toward agreement.

Second, share your thoughts from your reflection. What has been difficult? Has the truth been helpful in relieving guilt, anxiety, or burdens? What cultural issues should we be addressing in prayer? How can we pray for each other concerning this truth? How can we help each other live in light of this truth? Is there an area of someone’s life that needs greater attention? Can we help formulate a plan of attack for this issue, and do our part in helping carry out this plan?

Third, pray for each other.

Engage

 This is the strategic planning phase. How can we get the truth into the world around us? Who in our lives need to know this truth? Am I willing to be the one to share it with them? Will someone from the group go with me if I need the support or help? Is there something we can do as a group to address issues in our communities and in our culture? How will we live on mission?

Pray that God’s kingdom would be evident in our world. That his Spirit would awaken unbelievers and renew the church.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This does not mean that we merely change our minds about certain things. It means that we gain a new worldview, a new way of seeing, interpreting, and interacting with the world around us. A renewed mind views the world through the prism of the gospel.

This is the goal of this process. We want the Scriptures to permeate every aspect of our lives and be the motivating principle in our thoughts, affections, attitudes, and actions.

 

 

Heirs of the World

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

1 Timothy 6:6-9

Discontentment is at first a whispered promise of something better. When the imagination is seduced by the romance of what could be, the whisper becomes a gale-force wind that drives us into the pursuit of more, better, newer.

This is the heartbeat of our culture. Discontent motivates political movements and business decisions. It is the reason athletes risk their reputations and careers by taking performance-enhancing drugs. Advertisers do not merely capitalize on the public’s discontent, they seek to create it. I could be wrong, but I think it would be fair to say that discontentment is the primary reason for personal debt.

We, as Christians, are not exempt from the lure of material things. Who hasn’t seen the anticipated Powerball jackpot and envisioned a new house, a new car, and, of course, a large check to the church? Personally, I like gadgets. I like kitchen gadgets and tech gadgets. I love my Kuerig. I miss my Galaxy Note tablet (it needs a new screen). We all feel the gravitational pull of discontentment, don’t we?

So, how do we keep ourselves from being swept away in the current of materialism? We must be anchored to the gospel. Romans 4:13-16 says, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring – not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

What is the promise guaranteed to those of faith? It is that we are heirs of the world. We stand to inherit everything! Because of the cross, we share in God’s promise to Abraham that it is all ours. We do not need to have it all now. When this vapor-like life has passed, we will possess more than we have ever dared dreamed. How foolish we would be to spend our lives amassing all we can in the brevity of the here and now at the expense of eternally reigning with Christ (Luke 12:13-21).

Set your hope fully on the promises of the gospel. The trinkets we often desire will be broken, or stolen, or become outdated. But, David says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Seek to treasure God such that poverty and wealth are irrelevant to the joy of your heart.