Paul, On Sin

Today’s reading is Psalm 36.

David speaks of Transgression’s first deceitful counsel. “You don’t need to fear God.” Notice, Transgression doesn’t advise, “You don’t need to believe in God.” Rather, he counsels, “You don’t need to believe God matters.” David says that for the person who listens, “There is no fear of god before his eyes.”

Did that statement sound familiar to you? It might. Paul quotes it in his dissertation on sin in Romans 3:18. For David, this lack of fear is the foundation for a life that sinks deeper and deeper into sin. For Paul, it is the culmination of sinful attitudes and behaviors. Either way we recognize the entire package of sin and its deceitful schemes.

Sin doesn’t have to convince us God doesn’t exist. Sin only has to convince us God doesn’t matter to our lives today. He isn’t watching. He doesn’t care. We can hide our sin from Him. We can always repent tomorrow. Everybody does it.

Ooh! Let’s stop and think about that last justification. Because that is actually part of Paul’s declaration on sin. His whole point in Romans 3 is that both Jews and Gentiles sin. The passages he quotes, including Psalm 36:1, stop every mouth and make the whole world accountable to God (Romans 3:19-20). Hold on, Sin told me my iniquity cannot be found out. Sin told me I’d never be held accountable. Sin lied.

In fact, consider one of Sin’s most insidious lies. “Don’t worry about me being in your life,” Sin says. “That’s why Jesus died.” Can you tell why that one is so insidious? Because it contains more than a kernel of truth. Your sin is the reason Jesus died. But Sin, Transgression, Satan want you to believe Jesus died so you would never be held accountable for your sins. They want you to believe Jesus died so you can keep living in sin. To Sin, Jesus’s death means sin doesn’t matter. But that isn’t what Paul teaches, and that isn’t what David was teaching.

Jesus did die because you sin. However, He didn’t die to let you continue in sin. He died to let you repent of your sin. He died to strengthen you to abandon your sin. He died to empower you to overcome your sin. Paul explains in Romans 6:1-4, that when we are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into His death. When we are raised, we have died to sin. We must not continue to live in it. Rather, we live a new life by the power of Jesus’s resurrection.

But understand this. After you are baptized, Sin and Satan are going to pull out all the stops trying to convince you to come back into their arms. Don’t listen. Jesus died to set you free from sin. Don’t let His death be in vain for you. Hang on to Jesus. He will set you free.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 36.

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The Two Counsellors

Today’s reading is Psalm 36.

While it is perfectly legitimate to pigeonhole the genre of a psalm as you start to study it, if you forget that the labels we attribute to psalms are not God-inspired, you can miss the trees for the forest. This happens for many with Psalm 36. Is it a wisdom psalm? Is it a praise psalm? Is it a lament? There are elements of each of these genres in this psalm. These attempts to pin down a genre cause some to suggest this psalm is a hodgepodge of multiple ancient psalms thrown together without unity.

That, however, misses the big picture of what is going on here. Once again, we are being taken back to the very first psalm. However, this time there is a twist.

In Psalm 1, the two people being counseled are contrasted: the blessed and the wicked. The blessed listen to God, the wicked listen to…well…other wicked people. In Psalm 36, the two counsellors are contrasted: God and sin.

In this psalm, David personifies sin much like Paul does in Romans 7. Sin counsels and leads. But sin’s counsel is deceptive and destructive. On the other hand, God also calls to David. David knows God’s counsel is anchored in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is no fool. He chooses God to be his counsellor. More than that, he chooses God to be his defender against Sin and those who heed its counsel.

In Psalm 1, we had a choice between ways. In Psalm 36, we have a choice between guides. Choose wisely!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 36.

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On Fear and Wisdom

Today’s reading is Psalm 34.

I understand why we do it, but I sometimes wonder if the modern attempt to classify psalms doesn’t miss the boat. “This psalm is a communal lament.” “That psalm is an individual praise.” “This other psalm is a Messianic psalm.” “That one is a wisdom psalm.” It is amazing to me the number of times the commentators have to say, “This psalm is hard to classify. It has some qualities of this kind of psalm, but also some qualities of that kind of psalm.” Honestly, it’s almost like they have forgotten that the Psalms didn’t come with a guide book explaining the various kinds of psalms and all their characteristics. From beginning to end all those systems of classifications are man made. They don’t tell us so much about the psalm we are studying as they tell us about our modern penchant to need to organize, classify, systematize, and order. If we are not careful, we may end up reading the psalms through our modern eyes and missing what the original authors intended.

This is another one of those psalms we classifiers struggle with. Is it a praise psalm or is it a wisdom psalm? David praises God, he calls all of his readers to praise God with him. It’s a praise psalm, right? But wait, based on the praise he teaches his audience how to live. It’s a wisdom psalm, right? Maybe it’s both. Or maybe, we just have to realize God didn’t label these psalms, and we don’t have to either.

I’ll tell you what we can see in this psalm no matter what we label it. David says, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (vs. 11, ESV). In our modern day, we struggle with being taught to fear the Lord. However, ancient wisdom said we should fear the Lord, and we need to be taught how. Apparently, despite our modern conceptions of fear, it isn’t a natural reaction to the power of God, it is a learned response to the truth of God. Proverbs 15:33 says the fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom. Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10 all claim the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom.

What does fearing the Lord look like? I can tell you this: it doesn’t look like cowering in your closet, hoping the Lord will ignore you or forget you are hiding there. It looks like keeping your tongue from evil and deceit, turning away from evil, doing good, seeking peace and pursuing it. For more on this, you might want to read the New Testament letter from James.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 34.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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Salvation from Zion

Today’s reading is Psalm 14.

Many people struggle with this psalm. They aren’t sure what to make of it. One of the very first things students usually want to do with a psalm is label it. Is it communal or individual, is it lament or praise, is it wisdom or messianic. They struggle with pigeonholing this one. It starts by talking about fools; so some claim it is a wisdom psalm. However, it clearly demonstrates the wickedness of the wicked as they oppress the poor; so others claim it is a lament. But notice how it ends. It ends looking for salvation from Zion. It is not if, but when. The psalmist may have had all kinds of ideas about what that might look like, but we actually know, don’t we? Jesus went to the cross on Mt. Zion. He was buried on Mt. Zion. And He arose on Mt. Zion. Salvation came from Mt. Zion. We can rejoice. We can be glad. Not because we are confident something will happen in the future, but because we know it has already happened. There was actually a great big exception to all that this psalm had said. There was One who was no fool. There was One who never turned to corruption. There was One who never did abominable deeds. There was One who sought after God. He was the righteous. He was the only One righteous in His generation. And the wealthy and powerful tried to shame His plans, but the Lord was His refuge. He committed His Spirit into God’s hands. And He burst forth from the grave on Zion bringing salvation in His wake. Perhaps this psalm is Messianic after all. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 15.

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The Fool

Today’s reading is Psalm 14.

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” Did you notice where the fool says that? In his heart. Sure, there are some fools who say it with their mouths. But every fool says it in his or her heart. Not every fool is an avowed atheist. But every fool justifies folly by diminishing God in their thinking. According to Isaiah 32:6, the fool speaks folly, busies her heart with iniquity, practices ungodliness, utters error concerning the Lord, and refuses to help the hungry and the thirsty. Each fool will, no doubt, state many and various reasons and justifications for why he pursues all the above actions. But at the base of all those stated reasons is a belief that God isn’t out there or, at the very least, is inconsequential. Wisdom and knowledge begin by acknowledging and revering the Lord (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33). Folly begins by neglecting, disrespecting, forgetting, and ignoring God. We have a choice today, diminish God in our hearts and minds and pursue folly, or magnify God in our hearts and minds and chart a course of wisdom. What choice will you make?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 14.

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O Kings, Be Wise

Today’s reading is Psalm 2.

Be wise! But how? By serving the Lord with fear. Every one of us who have ever read the Proverbs should nod in recognition. After all, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But did you notice how this psalm and its wisdom parallels the first psalm? In Psalm 1, the way of the wicked will perish. In Psalm 2, those who don’t kiss the Son will perish. In Psalm 2, those who take refuge in the Anointed Son/King of God will be blessed. In Psalm 1, those who meditate on God’s Law are blessed. In Psalm 1, the blessed man refuses the counsel of the wicked, the way of the sinner, and the seat of the scoffer. In Psalm 2, the kings do the exact opposite. They rage against the Lord and revel in the counsel of one another. I will say as I have said before, I have no idea why the psalms in general are in the order they are in. However, I believe I know why these first two psalms are the first two. They are the doorway to the entire wisdom of the psalmody. There is the Lord’s Law and the Lord’s Leader. They go hand in hand. Wisdom and blessing are found in the Lord’s King and the Lord’s Covenant. Any other way is death and judgment. Without this understanding, no psalm, in fact no text in the Bible, can make true sense. It is no wonder that under the New Covenant, both the Scripture and the Savior are called the Word of God.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 2.

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What Makes You Rejoice?

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

I can understand it. If I were able to cast out demons, heal the sick, speak in foreign tongues, raise the dead, speak prophecies, pick up snakes, tread on scorpions, I would rejoice. That would be so cool. In fact, I’m a bit bummed God doesn’t work through us in that way anymore. However, did you catch what Jesus said even to the people who did some of those things? “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, you and I have the exact same reason to rejoice as those disciples. We who are in Jesus Christ are recorded in heaven. God knows us. We don’t have to do miraculous things or even amazing things. Jesus has died for us. His kingdom has come near. No matter what else we accomplish or experience, we are enrolled as citizens in the eternal kingdom. Rejoice in that today. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.

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What Was God Thinking?

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

If God wanted to make a splash, He sure went about it an odd way. It’s almost like He was doing everything He could to turn people off from Jesus. Jesus comes from a poor family living in a backwoods town of a backwoods nation. Not only that, but everyone who knew anything about the family would think Jesus was an illegitimate child. I know that term is out of favor in our day and age, but that is exactly how those around Jesus would have viewed it. The birth is first announced to shepherds. Really? Of all people, not the Jewish Council, not magistrates, not officials, but shepherds? Why would God start this way? Perhaps for the same reason He whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 (Judges 7). When this story is done and it is successful, it leaves everyone knowing one thing. God must be behind this. And that really is where we are, isn’t it? We live in a world whose largest religion follows the Man described above. He not only came to popularity, but He claimed to be divine and was then killed. Did that end His popularity and His following? Nope. It only increased it. Everyone else, throughout all history, who claimed to be divine lost their following when they died. But not Jesus. That is amazing. How could this happen? Only if God is real and really behind it. Hang on to Jesus today. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Next week’s reading is Luke 3.

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God Gives the Growth

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 3.

We need to plant and water. We have a great seed in the gospel. We need to spread it around as much as we can. However, we need to know it is not our work that causes the seed to grow. That is God. I am successful when I plant and water. It’s up to God, not me, to make that seed sprout in someone’s heart and produce fruit. Certainly, we don’t need to be reckless and careless in how we plant and water, but neither do we have to sit paralyzed trying to figure out the best way to share the gospel as if its success depends on us. God’s Word sounded forth will produce God’s results. Sometimes the result will be simply leaving others without excuse. Sometimes the result will be glorious salvation for the hearer. But we are successful when we have planted and watered. Let’s be unashamed. Let’s plant and water the gospel seed.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 4.

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On Preachers and Preaching

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 2.

It appears Paul’s detractors in Corinth were complaining about his presentation style. Perhaps it was because he didn’t measure up to the eloquent style of Apollos or maybe it was just because his “stage presence” didn’t measure up to the orators of the day. And, of course, it may be that Paul was amazing in the pulpit and these guys just didn’t like him. In any event, I have to ask what do I look for in a preacher? Oratory? Rhetoric? Stage presence? Excitement? Dynamic ability? Or personal weakness? Reliance upon God? Truth? The power of God? Would I have been willing to sit at Paul’s feet and listen, or would I have wanted to listen to someone more polished and exciting? Am I listening so I can be entertained and feel good about myself or so I can be brought into God’s presence and grow? Tough questions. But I need to be honest with myself. How about you?

Monday’s reading is 1 Corinthians 3.

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