17 April 2011

The Secret of the Blessed Man

(A Faithful Churchman)
Psalm 1:1–6 Every dad has his favorite chair, the place where he drops at the end of a tough day to watch the news, to read, to catch an athletic event, and sometimes to sleep in. It’s the familiar place. You’ve seen him there many times.
Every husband and every father also sits in some other chairs. John Maxwell had names for these metaphorical chairs:
     The Chair of Compromise: the chair of “lukewarmness” toward God, connecting with God only when it’s convenient.
     The Chair of Conflict: the chair marked by coldness toward God because of no relationship to him. Since this man doesn’t personally know God, he lives in conflict—pushed and pulled by everything the world has to offer.
     The Chair of Commitment: those men who occupy this chair live for God and seek him with all their heart.1
The Bible describes such a man. He is found in Psalm 1. [Read this psalm at this point.] The man whose life is being celebrated today is the kind of life we see in this psalm.
I. Character
Note first the character of the man who is blessed. The word blessed means “happy” in the Beatitudes. The man who is blessed is the man who makes it his purpose to be a godly man. How does a man become a godly man and mature into the nature of his Savior? It begins with three refusals, three choices he makes.
First, he “does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (v. 1). Wicked people are godless people. They live their lives horizontally. They have no vertical dependence on the God of heaven, the supernatural. They do it their way. Their lives are marked by independence. The blessed man does not expose himself to their lifestyles or philosophies.
Second, the blessed man does not “stand in the way of sinners” (v. 1). He is careful where he hangs out and spends time. He is spiritually discerning. He is alert to moral distinctives. Sinners are people who miss the mark. Their goals and values are counter to the ways of God. Their god is self.
Third, the blessed man does not “sit in the seat of mockers” (v. 1). Mockers are cynical and skeptical. Life is lived for their own purposes. Their ambitions and goals are built on the idea of the superhero—the macho man—who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps and does not need the assistance of God or man. The blessed man is the opposite of the ungodly. The ungodly begin to walk, then stand, then sit, and become comfortable with their lives apart from God—a steady progression downward. But the blessed man has his heart set on piety, purity, and purpose—all in the context of a heart set as the psalmist states at another place: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this” (Ps. 37:4–5).
II. Conduct
The blessed man’s secret begins in character formed by his relationship to Jesus Christ. It shows itself in the conduct of his life. The ability to conduct life at the highest level doesn’t just happen. It is the derivative of a man who is pursuing the heart of God. How does a man get to have the character of God so that he conducts his life in such a way that it mirrors his Creator and Lord? Verse 2 gives us this open secret: “His delight is in the law of the Lord.”
What is God’s law? It is his requirements for man. They are summed up in Jesus’ words: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” ’ (Matt. 22:37–39). God’s law gives us the precepts of life. They are God’s boundary lines. They are guiding principles which a man sees as his north star, the compass of life.
III. Conclusion
The blessed man’s life has a happy conclusion (v. 3). His is a tree planted “by streams of water.” The man who is in Christ is, as Christ promised, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). That tree does two things. First, it “yields its fruit in season” (v. 3). Jesus said, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). Second, his “leaf does not wither” (v. 3). He will be an ever-bearing evergreen!
Unashamed. Examine some of the fruit of the tree of this blessed man. It can be seen in his unashamed personal faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matt. 10:32–33).
Unmistakable commitment. He was unmistakably committed to the church of our Lord Jesus. He took joy in counting himself a member of the church. He understood that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25), and that “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:21). In a day of noncommittal, anonymous Christianity, he understood the critical importance of the community of faith.
Untiring service. In the church, he not only was a faithful member, but he was untiring in his service to Christ through the church. He did more than occupy a pew. He understood that ministry was not an option, but a joyful responsibility to pour out his life helping others to know Christ, to follow him, and to be a servant in time of need. He imitated his Lord, who took upon himself the form of a servant and taught us, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matt. 23:11).
Unconditional love. His life was marked by an unconditional love for his family. He kept his marriage vows to his wife, being faithful unto death. He made a promise to God and her, didn’t look for an excuse to get out of it, and did not go back on it. He remembered the words of our Lord Jesus: “ ‘And the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10:8–9). It has been said that most women do not want their men to die for them. They want their man to live for them.2 He lived his life joyfully with his sweetheart of the years.
That love was seen in his pride for his family. He was a role model for his children. He understood the importance of being a father. Newsweek published an article on fathering in which a dad told a reporter that when he takes care of his children on the weekend his friends sometimes say, “Oh, you’re babysitting.” “No, I’m not,” he replies. “I’m being their father.”3
He did not pretend to be flawless; however, his lack of perfection did not keep him from striving to be his best.
One woman, reflecting on her father’s role in her life, wrote him a letter on Father’s Day and stated well her view of her dad. This is reflective of this dad.
And who are you!
The author of my memories and dreams
My teachers, prophets, and preachers
Sculptor of my soul …
Stepping back now—ever receding
Pushing me forward, upward,
Yet always there when I call.
Pied pipers playing horns of plenty—
Understanding, caring, concerned,
Aging, yet never growing old
Reaching out, but not holding back,
Love incarnate—
Ever striving to understand my world
Bending, but never breaking
Praying I’ll find that rainbow’s end
Wishing the path were better marked
And knowing that Never-Never Land
Will one day change into Tomorrowland.
Wanting to ease the pain—
Seeing in the future, the past
Glimpsing in the teacher, the mother,
the grandchild, the meaning of life—
Asking the other Father to take my hand
When you let go
And to guide my star.
What I am and will be
Is because you are.
Thank you.”4
Charlie Shedd, author of many family books and the syndicated newspaper column, Strictly for Dads, once told about listening to a famous child psychiatrist read a paper on “theological duplications in the father-child relationship.” His article began by saying that he himself was a believer. And then he made this announcement: “No little child will think more of God than he thinks of his own father!”5 This man’s family did not have to run after phony gods or models. They found a father who had a deep love for them and sought to point them to the perfect Father.
IV. Contrast
The contrast of this real kind of man and the world’s kind of man is seen in verses 4 and 5. “You’re not at all like the wicked, who are mere windblown dust—without defense in court, unfit company for innocent people. God charts the road you take, the road they take is Skid Row” (Ps. 1:4–6 The Message). The road this father and dad has taken is the high road. The road of a blessed man. The road that has taken him to the end of life’s journey to join his eternal Father.
In his dying, he clung to Jesus Christ. His passing can do for you and for others what the passing of his dad did for Walter Wangerin Jr. As his dad lay dying, “Walter Junior” wrote:
For forty-three years, consciously or not—it doesn’t matter—my father has been preparing me for this crisis; and it is right to plead with every Christian parent: Please, never make a secret of your faith. For the sake of your children against the day when you will surely die; in order to transfigure, then, their grief into something more healing than destroying, assure them with cheerful conviction, even in the good, green days of childhood, that you live and you shall die in the arms of Jesus, in whose love is life and everlasting life. Let them know that you know. Your knowledge shall be their precious gift. Their freedom. I believe his believing. If his dying doesn’t destroy him, it doesn’t destroy me either. If it is for him a beginning, it can be for me a passage—hope has a marvelous staying power—and this is the evidence of our common, hopeful, liberating faith, that I am writing to you now, my father, my senior, this letter fully as formal as the letter you sent to us, fully as honest and unafraid as yours. On behalf of the seven scattered around the world, I send you our thanksgiving. Whenever it must be, dear father, go in peace. You leave behind a tremendous inheritance, and sons and daughters still unscarred. Go, Dad. We will surely follow you.6
The secret of the blessed man. Your legacy. Your peace. Your hope.
1 John Maxwell, “Which Chair Do You Sit In?” Discovery, June 1996, 2.
2 Karen Howe quote, Eternity, December 1974, 11.
3 Timothy K. Jones, “The Daddy Track,” Christianity Today, June 16, 1989, 16.
4 Personal letter from Fay Dallas to author, April 12, 1989. Used by permission.
5 John Huffman, Preaching, May–June 1990, 27.
6 Walter Wangerin Jr., “Gentle into That Good Night,” Christianity Today, November 6, 1987, 25.
Henry, Jim: A Minister's Treasury of Funeral & Memorial Messages. Nashville, TN : Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003, S. 46

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