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.
The Blessed Life
During Chinese New Year we like to speak words of blessing over one another. The Lord our God is the source of all blessings. The Word of God is full of blessings for His people. Not only for Chinese New Year, but throughout the entire year.
On this second day of Chinese New Year, I bless you with Psalm 1:3, “You are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever you do prospers.”
What is involved in this blessing? Three aspects to this blessing:
I. It’s a Promising Life
“A tree planted by streams of water” is stable and secure, it is at the right place for growth, with ample supply of water. Notice it says “streams” in the plural, if one stream dries up there is another. It has no fear of drought. From such place of nourishment, it is free to grow and bear fruit. Truly, it is a promising life.
May you discover the secret to endless and total supply to all of life’s needs, and the secret is found in the Lord your God!
Gen 22:14 So Abraham called that place “Jehovah Jirah,” or “The LORD Will Provide.” And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
Phil 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
In this New Year you will face difficult and challenging situations. Dry seasons will come. There will be down time. Don’t panic, don’t be afraid, be strong, be steady. You are planted in the rivers of life. All the promises of God are Yes and Amen towards you. You have the most promising future ahead of you!
II. It’s a Productive Life
“which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither”
7 But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him.
8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
Its leaves are always green and it never fails to bear fruit. Don’t you want that? A life that is healthy, vibrant and productive. Notice that leaves provide shade for weary travellers, while fruits provide satisfaction for hungry and thirsty souls.
Your life is blessed to be a blessing to others. You will provide rest and shelter, answer and solution, wisdom and understanding.
III. It’s a Prosperous Life
“Whatever you do prospers.”
Whatever you do – in all things, in all areas.
Today there is a lot of talks about work-life balance. Even the world is recognizing that success at work but failure at home is tragic. It’s not worthwhile to gain the whole world and lose your health, lose your family, and lose your soul.
Look around you, too many broken lives, broken hearts, broken homes. The world needs true prosperity from the Lord our God. Whatever you do, in all things, spirit, soul and body; health, wealth and happiness. This is true prosperity. This is abundant life, true life.
Let me bless you once again with Psalm 1:3, “You are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever you do prospers.”
I bless you with a promising life, a productive life, and a prosperous life!
The best part of this blessing is that it is not just one of the well-wishes that we say and that’s it. The Word of God gives us the key to unlocking this blessing. If you want to enjoy such a blessed life, just do these two things:
1. Detest the Way of the World
Psalm 1:1 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.
Beware of the downward spiral:
WALK in the counsel of the wicked or
STAND in the way of sinners or
SIT in the seat of mockers.
To walk is to follow, being led.
To stand is to choose side, standing with the wicked, which means opposition to the righteous.
To sit is to settle in, becoming one of the wicked.
Don’t even let it get started! Don’t go the way of the wicked, you must reject it, hate it and flee from it!
10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.
11 If they say, "Come along with us; let's lie in wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul;
12 let's swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse" –
15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths;
Remember who you are and whose you are. You are a child of God, you are a Christian, you belong to Jesus, you belong to His church. You are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. You stand strong with the armour of God, fighting the enemy. You walk in a manner that is worthy of your heavenly calling.
Detest the way of the wicked. Not only that, detest the way of the world. The way of the wicked is quite obvious, we know it is wrong, it breaks civil laws, moral laws, spiritual law. But the way of the world may not be so obvious. It is no less wicked, but more subtle, cunning, and dangerous. It comes as seemingly harmless suggestion, portrayed in the media, as though everyone is doing it, as though it is okay.
How can you detect and filter out the error of worldly values? You need the Word of the Lord!
2. Delight in the Word of the Lord
Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.
It is not enough to hate the way of the wicked, you must love the Word of the Lord.
Delight and meditate go hand in hand. What you love, you will think often.
Be honest with yourself. Do you love the Word of God? If you don’t, repent! If you do, read it, study it, meditate it, apply it!
You have to start with discipline, make it a godly habit, make sure you read daily, and read it through this year. Soon, it will become a delight. You will enjoy reading it so much, that you want more of it.
The amazing result is this, you will start living the blessed life that God wants you to live: Promising, productive, and prosperous.
That’s all? Really that simple? Yes, it is that simple! What’s true and what works often are very simple, especially when given by God.
I can understand why some of you find it hard to believe. It sounds like too simplistic a solution to life. After all, we need different expertise for different aspects of life. Can the Bible solve my financial needs? Does the Bible have the answer to my health issues? How can the Bible help me with my career path? And so, Christians run around getting helps, pursuing the latest gurus, when all the long the answer is right here!
Now, there are all sorts of knowledge in the world that are useful to learn: science, maths, computer, health, management, etc. God is not saying that we can’t learn them. But there is one big problem with all these knowledge and learning: they can’t deal with the heart of the problem.
What is the heart of the problem? It is the problem of the heart.
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.
Only the Word of God can change your heart. Once your heart is changed, your life changes.
Your life is like a tree, the question is where is it planted. Make sure it is planted by the streams of water. In the Bible, water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God. Water for washing is a picture of the Word of God. To be planted by streams of water, is to be planted in the Spirit and the Word of God.
Trust me, if you will dig deeper in your spiritual life, practise the spiritual discipline of daily devotion, weekly worship, and generous giving, something miraculous will happen to your heart. You will start bearing the fruit of the spirit, you will start producing good fruits for Jesus Christ. You will really live out the Christian life.
Two ways: the way of the wicked vs the Word of the Lord
Two destinies: the prosperous life of the righteous vs the peril of the wicked.
In Psalm 1:4-6 the wicked is described as chaff, which is useless, cheap, ended up in the burning heap.
Live the blessed life in the Lord!
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.
Few days ago Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of America. In his first speech as president, he referenced Psalm 133:1 and said, “The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.”
He also pointed to God as the source of protection. “There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.”
Regardless of your opinion about Trump, aren’t you glad that the new President of the most powerful nation on earth referred to the Bible and acknowledged the protection of God?
It’s the beginning of a New Year, and we are celebrating Chinese New Year in a week’s time. Market sentiment has been down or even depressing. Everywhere people are talking about how bad the economy is. In times like this, our faith must be proven genuine, that we are walking by faith in God, and not by sight in what we see happening around us.
Two weeks ago we learnt that God’s will for His people is to Flourish, stay Fresh, and be Fruitful all their life. Good time or bad time, we will flourish in the Lord! Are you believing God for it?
What is the secret to flourishing?
Psalm 92:13 Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
We must be planted, that means take root downward and bear fruit upward.
Firstly, pay attention to your spiritual life!
Secondly, practice spiritual disciplines:
1. Read the Bible daily and read it through this year
2. Pray daily
3. Give as often as we meet for church
Thirdly, protect the unity of the Church:
Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
We are planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of our God, which speaks of the church.
You need to be fully committed to a church and be united with the people of God. The anointing oil of God flows along the path of unity, and that’s where the blessings of the Lord takes place.
You need the church, and the church needs you. The traditional African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is certainly true spiritually. It takes a church to raise a child of God.
We are called by God, not just to believe, but to belong! Belong to God and belong to His family, the church of Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:20-21 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
How do you love? You don’t love in a vacuum, or in isolation. Love is not a feeling, but a relationship. That’s why God puts you in the church for fellowship so that you can learn to love one another.
There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. You are not on your own anymore! When you are born again, you are members of the family of God and the body of Christ.
A Christian without a church home is like an organ without a body, a sheep without a flock, a child without a family. It is a most unnatural and dangerous state. Why? Because you die spiritually without the protection and covering of the church. Your Christian growth is stunted without the fellowship of love with other believers.
Every Christian needs the accountability, identity, and responsibility of being part of a church in order to grow spiritually.
Connected for Relationship
Often we act as if relationships are something to be squeezed into our schedule. We talk about finding time for our family or making time for people in our lives. That gives the impression that relationships are just a part of our lives along with many other tasks. But God says that relationships are what life is all about. Love is not a good part of your life; it is the most important part!
Four of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship to God while the other six deal with our relationships with people. But all ten are about relationships! Jesus summarized what matters most to God in two statements: Love God and love people.
We become so preoccupied with making a living, doing our work, paying our bills, and accomplishing our goals as if these tasks are the point of life. They are not. The point of life is learning to love, loving God and loving people. Life minus love equals zero.
So a life that flourishes is not just about self, but about Him and His people. We flourish together in the house of the Lord! Team work is not just for corporate work project, it is for Christian life. Together everyone achieves more.
The huge redwood trees of California amaze mankind. They are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world. Some of them are 350 feet high and over 2,500 years old. One would think that trees so large must have a tremendous root system that reaches down hundreds of feet into the earth. But not so! The redwoods have a very shallow root system. If one was to get down on his knees and examine the redwoods' root system he would find that all the roots intertwine. They are locked to each other. When the storms come, the winds blow, and the lightning flashes, the redwoods still stand. They are not alone for all the trees support and protect each other. Each tree is important to all the other trees in the grove.
None of us can stand alone! As Solomon also said in Eccl 4:11-12, “Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
We need each other! God never intended for us to go through life alone. Get connected to others in the body of Christ! Your church is a great place to make that happen!
Aren’t you glad you are part of the family of God? Aren’t you glad you have brothers and sisters around to encourage you, to support you, and to help you along life’s journey? We are all so different, but one thing we have in common – J E S U S! The church is not perfect; there may be hypocrites, there may be fake believers, but the best people in the world are in the church. Amen!
Unfortunately, many people grow up in families with unhealthy relationships, so they lack the relational skills needed for real fellowship. They must be taught how to get along with and relate to others in God’s family. Fortunately the Bible is filled with instruction on how we can be connected for relationship.
Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
In this church we respect and honor one another. We appreciate the fact that we are all different, and yet we are all equally important in the eyes of the Lord. We seek to understand rather than try to control and change you into someone else. We don’t look down on anyone. We treat each other with respect, in a thoughtful and courteous manner.
Communication is the basis of any relationship. It’s in sharing that we get to know each other better and grow in our relationship.
Eph 4:15 Speak the truth in love.
In this church we are honest and sincere with one another, and we always do so in love. We communicate honestly with grace, tact and wisdom.
Gen 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
This church is a family, and as a family we defend and protect one another. We refuse to gossip, bad-mouth, complain or tear each other down. Instead, we encourage and lift one another up. In this church, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We care for one another, we help one another, we cover one another’s back.
Matt 5:23-24 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Even the most loving family quarrels at times. It may be due to misunderstanding, miscommunication, or differences of opinions. When relationship sours and strains, many people choose to dissolve rather than resolve. Jesus teaches us to reconcile and restore relationship. This is what we do in this church, we value relationships and we will always do our best to resolve conflicts and restore relationships.
Relationships are worthy investment, and the most valuable is time investment. We have to spend time with people, a lot of time, to build deep relationships. The first Christians met together every day!
Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
In this church we invest time for fellowship with one another, because relationship is at the heart of all we do.
The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16, but do you know 1 John 3:16?
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects us to show one another. It is a willingness to love them in the same way Jesus loves us.
God wants us to flourish, together as a church connected in relationship!
Hosea 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
Jeremiah 4:3-4 This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done - burn with no one to quench it.”
Cultivated in Growth
There is a common phrase between these two passages: “Break up your unplowed ground.” In the King James and NASB it says, “Break up your fallow ground.”
What is “unplowed” or “fallow” ground? It refers to land that could have been productive and fruitful, yet was left wasted and harden because the soil wasn’t plowed and prepared.
Obviously the Lord is speaking about our heart and our life.
Israel was an agricultural society, the Jews were a nation of farmers, therefore it is a common thing in the Bible to use farming analogy to speak to the people.
In Isaiah 5:1-4 the Lord compares the nation of Israel to a vineyard,
1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2 He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.
3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?”
Notice two things that were said: “WHAT MORE could I have done?” and “I EXPECTED good grapes, not worthless ones.”
The Lord had done everything He could for the vineyard, He had every right to expect good fruits.
Again, He is speaking about our heart and our life! He has done everything He could for us, and He has every right to expect good fruits out of us.
In Luke 13:6-7 Jesus told a parable,
6 A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.
7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, “Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?”
The Lord is looking for fruit, and He’s been very patient with us. But there comes a point of time when discipline and chastisement must be given.
If the Lord comes to you right now looking for fruits, what would He say of you?
Lest some of you think that it sounded such heavy responsibility and so burdensome, let’s get the truth straight: Fruit-bearing is most natural for a fruit tree!
It’s most natural for Christian life to produce Christian fruits!
Last week we learnt from Psalm 92 that the righteous will flourish like a tree, whereas the wicked will perish like grass. We could have entitled it, Flourish or Perish!
No in-between righteous and wicked
No in-between saved and unsaved
No in-between belief and unbelief
No in-between hot and cold
No in-between flourish and perish
If you want to believe in Jesus, believe all the way. If you want to follow Him, follow all the way.
Live the Christian life all the way, to the full, to the max, and flourish life a tree in the house of the Lord.
As a result, you will stay FRESH and FRUITFUL in your life.
God has done everything He could for us to bear fruit. If we are not bearing fruit, the fault is on us. Therefore the call is for us to break up the unplowed ground and sow the seed of righteousness.
What is the difference between our heart and the soil in the ground?
Whereas the soil responds to the work of the farmer, our heart often resists the work of the Lord.
Stop resisting, start responding to the work of the Lord!
Allow our heart and our life to be cultivated for growth, for change, for His glory!
I. REPENT Your Sins Before God
It’s not just telling God that you are sorry, it involves a change of heart, change of mind, and change of action.
Stop loving and doing all the wrong things, start loving and doing all the right things.
Jeremiah 4:3 This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.”
A. Soften the Soil – Disobedience and unbelief hardens the heart. Repent and choose to obey, choose to believe.
B. Destroy the Thorns – Things that crowd and choke your heart.
Mark 4:19 The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Besides the sins that easily entangle, it’d include things that distract, keeping you busy, leaving you no time for God.
What do you do with the thorns? Pull them up, cut them off, get rid of them.
Here is a gardening advice:
Persistence: Thorn bushes are extremely persistent. Therefore the only way to defeat them is to be even more persistent than they are. Once you have started working on eliminating the thorn bushes, keep at it until the bushes are completely gone. Otherwise, you risk losing everything you may have already accomplished. Always keep in mind the main rule: never, ever give up on a thorn bush.
Also, remember to start early on your quest to eliminate thorn bushes. The larger the patch in your garden, the harder it is to eliminate the nasty growth. Think twice if you are too lazy to work on killing the bushes. When it comes to thorn bushes, procrastination is an absolute no-no!
Start today, start now!
C. Remove the Rocks – Thought patterns and attitudes of the heart. E.g. Negative mindset, poverty mentality, judgmental attitude, prideful thinking that I know better, etc.
Filter through the soil of your heart, pick up the rocks and toss them away.
II. RETURN Your Heart to God
Your heart belongs to who? It belongs to the Lord your God.
Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts.
Circumcision is a sign of separation from the world and set apart unto God.
If your heart has wandered away from God, if your heart has been stolen by the world and the devil, it’s time to return your heart to God.
Hosea 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness . . . it is time to seek the LORD!
Repentance is to plow the unplowed heart, returning is to plant the prepared heart.
How do you seek the Lord? Establish habits of Christian growth and maturity:
A. Daily Devotion
Every relationship takes time to develop. You have to spend time with someone to take that relationship deeper. It’s no different with our relationship with the Lord. Spend quiet time with Him daily. There is just no other way. That’s why we encourage every believer to develop the habit of a daily time with God.
A quiet time is time alone with the Lord. If we do not spend time cultivating that one-on-one relationship with Him, we will eventually feel spiritually disconnected from Him, out of touch, restless, dissatisfied and unfulfilled. After a while we will begin drifting away and no longer be influenced by His presence in our lives.
The fact is we all desire a closeness with God but often aren’t experiencing it simply because we aren’t spending time with Him. After a while we say to ourselves, “I’m the same old person I’ve always been.” “I’m not changing.” “My relationship with the Lord is stale and stagnant.” That’s why each day we need to set aside time to spend with the Lord in Bible reading and prayer in order to deepen our knowledge and love for Him that will result in real life change.
What do you do during quiet time? Worship, Bible reading and prayer.
B. Weekly Worship
Our worship of God is not just once a week. We worship the Lord daily as a lifestyle. But the weekly worship here is referring to the corporate gathering of the church, especially on a Sunday Worship Service.
Why is the weekly worship so important? Because God commanded it. It is the principle of Sabbath, giving one day to rest from your own work and giving it to God in worship.
Exo 20:8-10 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
The literal Sabbath day is on Saturday, but when Christ resurrected on Sunday, the church has been observing the principle of Sabbath rest on Sunday, to commemorate and celebrate the risen Lord. But the crux of the matter is not on which day. The church can have multiple Services, such as Saturday, Friday, etc. whichever day it is, most importantly, as Heb 10:24-25 tell us, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
C. Generous Giving
Every time when Christians gather, there is worship through singing and music, there is sharing of the Word of God, there is prayer, there is fellowship with one another, but there is also giving of money.
Money is important, it is the result of our time, talents and labour. Giving of money is an expression of our worship to God. We are telling God that we mean what we say or sing in worship. We offer our finance to acknowledge His Lordship over us, and we recognize that it is Him who bless us with the ability to make wealth.
Giving offering is also God-ordained way of supporting the gospel work of the church. Both locally and overseas, the church needs finance to operate. Who pays for the facility and utility? Through the faithful giving of the people of God.
So giving offerings is part of our weekly worship. Why then do we talk about monthly tithing? What is tithing? Let me explain.
The word “tithes” literally means “tenth.” Tithing is returning 10% of everything that we earn or receive to the Lord.
Mal 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
Mal 3:10 says that tithes are to be brought to God’s house. In the Old Testament it refers to the Temple, whereas Christians today bring our tithes to the church family that we are a part of.
What is the difference between tithes and offerings? Tithes is a fixed amount that we are commanded by God to give, i.e. 10% of everything we earn or receive. Offering is any amount that we give to the Lord after we have paid our tithes. True giving begins only after we have paid our tithes.
Generally most people are monthly paid wages, hence we say monthly tithing. But obviously you can do it weekly or as often as the church meets.
2 Cor 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Growing into a mature and spiritual believer is a gradual process of change. But every step is worth it, for we are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.
In the parable of Luke 13,
8 The vineyard-keeper answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;
9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.”
The servant of the Lord interceded on behalf of the tree, “Give it one more year, let me work on it. I will plow the ground and put in fertilizer. Give it one more chance.”
Will you be cultivated for growth?
Will you REPENT your sins before the Lord? Soften the soil, destroy the thorns, and remove the rocks.
Will you RETURN your heart to the Lord? Seek Him, sow the seed of righteousness, start practising growth habits of daily devotion, weekly worship and monthly tithing.
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him."
The Righteous will Flourish
The word “righteous” is not a word that is used very commonly to describe a person. Somehow, we shy away from it. We don’t mind descriptions like kind, compassionate, or good person. But to describe someone as a righteous person just doesn’t appear in our daily conversation.
But the Bible uses the word a lot. And God calls His people righteous. So, do you want to be a righteous person? You better be. Because to be righteous is the opposite of being wicked. That’s why the wisdom literatures in the Bible constantly compare and contrast between the two. Even in this Psalm 92, there is a contrast between the two.
6 The senseless man does not know, fools do not understand,
7 that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.
“senseless” and “fools” do not refer to a man’s intellectual and mental capacity, rather they refer to spiritual and moral capacity.
Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
What is it that the senseless man does not know, fools do not understand?
Psalm 92:7 that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.
The wicked and evildoers flourish too, but they are like GRASS, which is here today and tomorrow it is gone, destroyed.
Whereas the righteous flourish like a TREE, which is strong and steady for a long, long time.
Do you want to be like tree or like grass?
Do you want to be the righteous or the wicked?
The choice is clear, very clear!
But sadly, many have been led astray to follow the way of the wicked.
The thing is this, the wicked flourishes too! In fact, the ungodly seems to be living a good life. And so, even some believers wonder in their heart, what good is it that I keep the faith? Is there really a difference between the godly and the ungodly?
Is there a difference? Definitely so! Although the word flourish can be used of both the righteous and the wicked, it means very differently.
To flourish is to thrive, to increase, to enlarge, to prosper. But there is a Biblical flourishing vs a worldly flourishing.
Worldly flourishing focuses primarily on our material prosperity with its false hope of happiness.
Biblical flourishing is holistic, encompasses all of our being - spirit, soul and body.
Worldly flourishing is like grass, fragile and weak, temporal and unreliable.
Biblical flourishing is like tree, strong and steady, long-lasting and dependable.
Worldly flourishing is prospering on the outside but bankrupt on the inside.
Biblical flourishing is prospering on the inside and overflows in blessings to the outside.
3 John 2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
God desires that you flourish and prosper in all areas, including your physical health, JUST AS your soul prospers.
Biblical flourishing starts from the inside out. Flourish spiritually and inwardly, and it will overflow outwardly to all other areas of your life: physically, emotionally, financially.
When you flourish according to God’s way, the Bible way, Psalm 92:14 says that two things will happen, “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”
Even in your old age, you will stay FRESH and evergreen. You are healthy, full of vitality, able to bear FRUIT. Your life will be fruitful firstly in the fruit of the Spirit, which speaks of your Christian character and conduct. Secondly, fruitful in the work of the Lord, which speaks of your Christian ministry and service.
Flourish, fresh, fruitful, is that the description of your life?
What is the secret?
Psalm 92:13 planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
Planted – that means take root downward and bear fruit upward.
Where? In the house of the Lord, in the courts of our God, which speaks of the church.
The traditional African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is certainly true spiritually. It takes a church to raise a child of God. Believing in Christ is an individual, personal decision. Living the Christian life is a community, public dedication.
Principles of Flourishing:
1. Converted in Salvation
2. Cultivated in Growth
3. Connected in Relationship
4. Committed in Ministry & Missions
5. Consecrated in Worship
The wicked will perish like grass, while the righteous will flourish like tree in the house of the Lord!
Let’s personalize this Scriptural passage:
I am the righteous of the Lord.
I will flourish like a palm tree, I will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
I am planted in the house of the LORD, I will flourish in the courts of my God.
I will still bear fruit in old age, I will stay fresh and green,
I am proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him."
Let’s declare it together as a church:
We are the righteous of the Lord.
We will flourish like a palm tree, we will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
We are planted in the house of the LORD, we will flourish in the courts of our God.
We will still bear fruit in old age, we will stay fresh and green,
We are proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; He is our Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him."
Amen and Amen!
8 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
9 Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it.
10 The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar.
11 Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.
12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it.
13 Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.’
Remove the Ashes, Rekindle the Fire!
God instructed 3 times in this passage to keep the fire burning on the altar. The repetition emphasizes the importance of the instruction.
How was the fire started? Lev 9 tells us that when the Tabernacle was dedicated, the fire of the Lord came and consumed the sacrifice on the altar. After that the priests faithfully kept the fire going in accordance with God’s instruction.
Jewish scholar tells us that they kept the fire going for 860 years, until the temple was destroyed in 586 BC. The temple was destroyed because the people had turned away from God and worshiped idols.
The Lord is more concerned about the altar of our heart. Is the fire of God burning in your heart? Is the fire burning brightly or is it dying of? Are you on fire for God?
Be careful that your heart doesn’t turn away from the Lord your God, or the fire of God will cease and the presence of God will depart from your life.
We want to be a church that is on fire for God. For the church to be on fire, it has to be made up of Christians who are on fire.
On this first day of the New Year, hear and heed the call of God, keep the fire burning!
WHAT FIRE ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
1. Presence of God
Over and over in the Bible, fire is used as the symbol of God’s presence.
When God revealed Himself to Moses in the desert, He appeared as a fire burning but not consuming the bush.
Later on when Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God manifested Himself as a a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
Then we see on top of Mount Sinai the mountain was burning with fire because of the presence of God. God’s voice came and called for Moses. And Moses went up and received the Ten Commandments that were written by the finger of God.
On top of Mount Carmel, Elijah confronted the wicked King Ahab, the backslidden Israelites, and the 450 false prophets of Baal. Elijah cried out, “The God who answers by fire, He is God.” That day the fire of God came and consumed the sacrifice. The people prostrated in awe and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God!”
Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire.
God wants to fire up your life and He wants you to keep the fire burning.
2. Power of God
John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Jesus promised in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
At Pentecost in Acts 2, we see the Holy Spirit coming down with tongues as of fire.
With the fire of the Holy Spirit burning brightly in their lives, the early Christians went out preaching the gospel in the power of God.
Signs and wonders attested their testimony and they turned the world upside down.
Without the fire of God, the church loses its power and authority.
Revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill put it this way, “I believe that tonight the world is going to hell fire because the church has lost Holy Ghost fire, it’s as simple as that.”
3. Passion of God
God is love, and He loves you passionately, like an all-consuming fire. Therefore, you must have passion FOR God!
The fire of God doesn’t come uninvited. He doesn’t force His way into you. He stays because you want Him to. It’s based on a passionate, loving relationship.
Is your heart burning with the presence of God? Power of God? Passion of God and passion for God?
Numbers 3:4 But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered strange fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children.
What is strange fire? Fire that originated from man and not from God.
What they did was correct, but how they did it was totally wrong!
We can do good and serve sacrificially, but if we did it with the wrong kind of fire, we will die spiritually and even physically.
God’s fire burn but doesn’t consume, man’s fire consume and burn people out.
Man’s fire is based on SELF: What I want, what I like, what I think. My way, my method, my decision.
Sadly, in many churches today, pastors with strong self-will may have built a big church, but burnt so many people out in the process.
God is concerned with how we treat one another, not just what we accomplished.
Therefore, come back to the true source of fire, come back to the Lord our God.
HOW TO KEEP THE FIRE GOING?
I. Remove the Ashes
Leviticus 6:10-11 The priest shall take up the ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. 11 Then he shall carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.
The fire will die out if the ashes are not removed.
Ashes are the result of burning.
You get ashes when you offer up burnt offering to the Lord.
It is normal, just learn to remove it. Don’t allow it to accumulate.
You get emotional ashes too in your service and ministry.
In life you are bound to face disappointment and discouragement. When working with people there will be conflicts and misunderstanding.
The question is, what are you going to do with the ashes?
Keep the ashes? You fire will be suffocated.
Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
Hurting people hurt others.
You will dump your ashes on others.
How often have you snapped at others because of unresolved issues in your own heart?
Time to let go. Get rid of the ashes. Come to the Lord for cleansing and restoration.
II. Supply the Fuel
Proverbs 26:20 For lack of wood the fire goes out,
1. The Fuel of Prayer
2. The Fuel of the Word
3. The Fuel of Ministry
III. Stay Close to One Another
If the woods or coals are spread too thin, the fire goes out.
Put them together, close to each other, and they will burn brightly.
We need one another. Don’t fight the battle of life alone.
Keep the fire going. If you lose it, you lose you soul!
Keep the fire going. Others need the light and warmth from your fire!
Keep the fire going. We owe it to the next generation. What are we showing them? A life that is cold and bitter with ashes? Or a life that is truly on fire with God and for God?
Remove the ashes, rekindle the fire!