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"Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord." - Psalm 4:4-5 (NKJV)
The verse under discussion in this episode of our series on Psalm 4 is one of tremendous meaning and implication towards our Christian walk. Taking into consideration the gravity of all spoken of in verses one through three of this Psalm, it becomes very clear as to what David was encouraging those to whom he was writing to embody in their lives.
Change their Attitudes
So far in our study of Psalm 4 we have been introduced to a group of people, otherwise known as the ungodly, that are wholly set on personal pleasures and ideals (click here for our study of verse 2). We have also been introduced to a group of people that are the direct contradiction of such philosophy (click here for our study of verse 3) and even to that groups thoughts and prayers toward God (click here for our study of verse 1). Through these earlier studies, one thing has become very apparent, mindsets are important. Whether it is the mindset of the faithful child of God who is longing to speak with his Lord and has understood his difference from the world, or it is the mindset of the faithless individual who does whatever he set his mind to do regardless of the Lord's precepts.
That being said, the attitude or mindset spoken of at the beginning of verse 4 the that of the latter individual. Anger is something that is not, in and of itself, sinful for the righteous to feel. However, when anger is not controlled it can easily lead to sin! A person sees someone stealing a prized possession from him and instead of being angry with that individual in a godly manner, enacts physical harm on the person with hatred and malice. Another person gets short changed at a restaurant and instead of being angry to the point of pointing it out to the waitress and, peacefully, asking to be compensated he berates the server with hurtful words. Anger is useful, for it produces within a person a mindset to make a wrong a right but it is dangerous in that it often causes that person to go beyond what is allowed by the Father and into the realm of sin.
David pleads with the one searching for God to understand the difference and change his attitude to that of what might be called "righteous anger" instead of the easily provoked anger found running wild in our world.
Change their Affections
Next the psalmist makes a very pointed, not that the first was not, statement about the affections of those to whom he was writing. He commands them, by inspiration of course, to "meditate on" or to challenge, charge, consider or certify their actions and previous ideals. He declares that this is to be done in the heart of the individual, because it is very clear that the heart is, figuratively of course (since it is not the actual organ under consideration), the motivating factor in a person's actions and intents. So, David wants his contemporaries, and all those afar off, to think about and scrutinize how they have been living their lives.
Isn't that what we do when we go and preach Christ to the world? We beg them to think about what they are doing to themselves, because of their personal sins, their family and friends, because of their actions or reputations, and their God, because of the hurt done to God when His child rebels against Him. David wanted his friends to change their affections, leaving the loves that they once had (anything in opposition to God, v. 2) and start loving all that is godly! That is what it means to become a child of God. It's more than just a change of attitude, it's a change of affections to that which is above, namely Heaven (Colossians 3:2).
Change their Actions
Finally, David commands those searching for God to "offer the sacrifices of righteousness." While this most likely describes the sacrifices of the Old Testament done at the Temple for the sins of the person, today it has a very special meaning to us under the New Testament's direction as well. Our sacrifices, done with the correct attitude and affections, are both numerous and worth while. What a person does in accordance with his beliefs in God and His word is vital to his salvation. James 2:17 says,
"Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
Therefore, just because our attitude is correct and we love our Father in Heaven it does not mean that we are pleasing to Him. We must accompany that love and mindset with godly actions, done in accordance with His divine commands. Jesus Christ said it like this,
"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” - John 4:24
When we do this and we combine the correct attitude, affections and actions we do something magnificent. - WE PUT OUR TRUST IN THE LORD!
That's what David wanted his readers to understand. He wanted them to realize, like we studied before, that their way of doing things wasn't worth it. He wanted them to realize there was something more to this life than just pleasing ourselves. He wanted them to think about what they were doing to themselves and their God and fix it. He wanted them to join him in the congregation of people known as those who are sanctified.
"But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly..." - Psalm 4:3
Sanctification, it's one of those "Christianese" words (the words Christians use and understand, mostly, but outsiders really have no idea what they mean). I'd be willing to guess that the majority of people claiming Christianity don't even know what this word means! It's a hard one! Especially when we are inundated with false doctrines regarding "saints" today by the biggest "Christian" group, the Catholic Church. When any word remotely sounds like the word saint people start conjuring up thoughts of statues and images depicted St. So-And-So the patron saint cliche names. But, what does the word really mean? What does it portray? Why has God decided to call His children those who have been "sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11)"?
First off, let me say that it is extremely sad to me that so many people don't know the meaning of this word and the connection it has to the Christian! Hopefully I will be able to provide a small glimpse into the word during this article so as to aid in an understanding of just some of the blessings that are said to be in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), because they all stem from "sanctification."
The Bible holds within its pages 137 matches to the words "sanctify," "sanctified," and "sanctification" and even more if you were to consider phrases, like in our main text (Psalm 4:3), that have the meaning but not the exact word. The first time referring all the way back to the 7th day that ever existed. God is said to have "sanctified" the seventh day which would later be known as the Sabbath Day, or the day of rest (Genesis 2:3). The last time speaking of those who were Christians and made that way by God the Father, those who were "preserved" in Christ (Jude 1). So, this idea has been around since the beginning and is still alive and well some 6,500 years later during the Christian age! What a wonderful thought, but only if we actually know what it means!
Alright, enough introduction, WHAT DOES SANCTIFICATION MEAN! - It means exactly what David wrote in Psalm 4:3, "set apart." Now, the word in Psalm 4:3 is a different word than that of Genesis 2:3 but the English word carries the same meaning. God "set apart" the 7th day and made it special just as David states God had "set apart" for Himself those who are godly and made them special!
We're special? How in the world are those that are godly special compared to those who are not (also known as those spoken to in verse 2 of Psalm 4)?
It's easy, and it's all found in the 2 words directly proceeding the phrase "set apart" in Psalm 4:3. We were set aside, made special, put on a pedestal for God! Peter said it like this,
"But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" - 1 Peter 2:9
But Lee, David was speaking about Jews and Peter was speaking about Christians! - They sure were, but in their respective times these groups to whom they were speaking were the chosen people of God. And since we are still called to be Christians through obedience to the Gospel and being disciples of Christ (Matthew 11:28-29, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, Acts 11:26), we are to be the special people Peter was talking to!
How are we special? Let's read it again straight from the pen of Peter, "...that you may proclaim the praises ofHim who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)." Isn't that what David said way back in Psalm 4? - "The Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly." What's it mean to be "godly"? It means, according to Strong's, "(religiously) pious" or, according to the Dictionary.com app, "conforming to the laws and wishes of God; devout; pious." There it is again! It all relates back to following God's LAWS. That's who we are set apart, that's how we proclaim (show) the praises of God to the world, that's how we are godly.
Sanctification means you follow God's laws and then you're special, and people will see that special nature you have received through your outward actions based upon your beliefs (your "religion," James 1:21-27). Sanctification carries the entire weight of being a Christian! It denotes a person completely set on obeying God regardless of his own ideas or preconceived beliefs. It makes a person special!
Heart, the word conjures within us a number of different feelings and connotations doesn't it. Is he speaking of our courage, our loves, our thoughts and intents, what makes us who we are or is he talking about mass of tissue comprising the organ which supplies our entire body with life giving oxygen? The heart is the basis for our everyday character, how we relate to and treat others and even the source of our love for our spouses, family or friends. It is an amazing word holding so many different ideas that we could spend hours studying the psychology or physiology of it! But, we won't!
Let me answer your question, I'm not talking about the organ inside all of us that supports our lives but sometimes backfires on us and is in need of repair of various types. I AM talking about the other one, the center of what makes us, us. I'm talking about the one that is the source of everything we think and believe (Proverbs 23:7). Even though the heart is the source of our beliefs, we can't trust it to MAKE those beliefs from scratch, can we?
"There is a way that seems right to a man,
"The heart is deceitful above all things,
So, no! We can't trust our hearts to make those beliefs but we can trust it to keep those beliefs strong within our lives (Luke 10:27). If our religion is our actions based upon our beliefs, and it is (James 1:22-27), then our hearts must be the guiding factor in every aspect of our religion and spirituality. But, again, we can't just trust our hearts to decide what to believe in some, "Trust your heart and you will follow God" sort of way.
I used to be that way! I used to think a number of different things that were contrary to God's word and yet they were all wrong, but you would never have known if you were able to read my heart!
So, if we can't trust our hearts, what can we trust? That's pretty easy... GOD (Proverbs 64:10, 3:5)! But that's easier said than done, right? After all, God doesn't speak to mankind today the way He used to (Jude 3) so how in the world can we trust what He says if He doesn't speak to us? That question is terrifying to those that don't understand the concept, not because they do not have the mental capability of knowing the truth but because they have trusted their hearts for far too long. The answer is surprisingly comforting, especially in a world where people believe God is revealing things to them which are contrary to things God allegedly revealed to their neighbors. The answer? - God's word! The Bible, that ought to be our guide in turning our hearts toward God (Acts 3:19) and establishing a belief and religion based upon that belief that is pleasing to God!
Trust is something that I, as well as a majority of people today, have some problems with. My mindset has ALWAYS been, "If you want something done, do it yourself." And while that phrase is useful in some things it's not useful in everything, especially when it comes to salvation and spirituality. It's difficult to trust God to tell us what to do. Sometimes, many times, what He says contradicts with what we want but does t hat really matter? Remember, our hearts have to be used to follow God, not be gods.
Let me challenge our readers this Tuesday morning, forget EVERYTHING you've ever thought about God and let Him fill you back up with what He wants you to know about Him. That's the only way we are going to use our hearts, something He gave us in the first place, to glorify Him and be accepted of Him.
Remember, you can't be faithFUL unless He fills your faith and He does that through His word!
Continuing our study of Psalm 4 we come to verse 2. On the heels of a wonderful statement about prayer (v. 1) the psalmist, David, now turns his attention from the Lord to the losers of this world. I know the term "loser" is a bit of a buzz word but I can't think of another thing to label them as. It takes a special kind of person to look at a child of God and do these things to him like David was having to endure. These people had rejected God's word and His way of righteousness for that which is "worthless." They had attempted to follow their own ways in this life, not realizing that they were losing the very thing God had given them in the first place, their souls.
It is remarkable to me to think about myself before I became a Christian. I was one of these men! I was seeking out false doctrines, thinking them to be Truth. I was loving the worthless things of this world, thinking I had it all. I had a nice car, nice apartment, was going to school for something I loved (and still love), had a good number of friends and was going to parties and socializing every night of the week, I even had some nice things to fill that apartment. Yeah, I was a poor college kid, but I thought I had it made! I wonder what the lives of these individuals were to whom David was speaking in Psalm 4:2. Were they like I was back then? I have a feeling they were because the vast majority of those outside of Christ are the same way today, they think they have it all. Don't believe me? Go into your neighborhood and knock on a few doors. When the residents answer ask them if they are happy in their lives. I bet the majority will say something to the effect of, "Yeah, I'm pretty happy. I mean, I wish I could make some more money or could have better relationships with my friends or family but overall I'm happy." Now ask them, "Are you happy with your relationship to God?" I have a feeling that the majority, again, will say yes. What they don't know is they shouldn't be happy in their lives or their relationships with God because they don't have either one (cf. John 10:10)! If they really knew they would be ashamed of their actions. If they really understood they would leave the worthless world and turn to the worthy Lord.
Think about it, David was a righteous man (1 Sam. 13:14) who wrote Psalm 1 so he would have had religious people all around him in places of counsel. He had his good friend Nathan beside him (cf. 2 Sam. 12). And yet he was still aware that the world as a whole was against God and didn't care about the truth but wanted to follow after their own ways of pleasing God which would result in nothing more than vain worship (Rom. 1:18-21). So because of this David wanted to ask the world, "How long are you going to try it your way to no avail?"
So the question is, how long are you? He has the way and He's given it to us, so how long are you going to sit there and try to tell yourself that everything is ok when you're really just loving worthlessness and looking for falsehoods?
The last 3 weeks have been full of new beginnings in my life. Graduation at Memphis School of Preaching meant a new beginning to my new home here in Valdosta, Ga. Then once I arrived it was time to set out to make new friends and meet new people. Monday night I asked my girlfriend to marry me and that too started a new chapter of my life that I am blessed to start. And last night I baptized a man into Christ and I couldn’t help but think of the new chapter in one’s life when they decide that they want to serve God and are willing to be baptized into his body for the remission of their sins.
In John 3 Jesus told Nicodemus a man had to be born again. Can you imagine the look on Nicodemus’ face? Think of the importance of that moment, when you were born into the world on your journey. Everything is new, there is no sin, you are a blank book and you are ready to fill the pages. Now as an adult you are being told you must be born again. Nicodemus asked him, can a man enter into the womb and be born a second time?? Then Jesus said unless be born again a second time, by the Water and Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Romans 6 explains this so well. Paul writing tells them in verse 4 that we are buried with him by and baptism and raised to walk in newness of Life. Verse 6 tells us that in baptism we crucified the old man. We have a new beginning to our lives. The slate is washed cleaned, and we have a fresh start in the family of God. Paul knew this as well anyone. Paul had a new beginning.
Paul, known previously as Saul, lived a life where he murdered and imprisoned Christian men and women. But his life changed. After Paul’s baptism he went on to write the majority of the New Testament. Paul had a new beginning, a fresh start. What he had done before was no longer remembered, and when he messed up, when he sinned, he had an advocate with the Father like all Christian’s do. (1 John 2:1) We are all going to make mistakes from time to time, but we have to strive to do our best and when we do, we can be forgiven of those mistakes. It is a new beginning full of Grace and Mercy, and Love, and Obedience to God.
Anyone that has ever decided to serve God has had a new beginning, and the first step had to be made and that being willing to let the word of God mold us into what he wants us to be. We are clay and God is the potter, What kind of clay are we? Are we going to be hard clay that refuses a new beginning or are we going to be soft moldable clay that is shaped and can be used in the service of God and help others find their new beginning.
This week's Learning With Links is late, I'm sorry. Because of that it will suffice for our Tuesday blog as well.
Here are your five links for this week!