Selected highlights from this sermon.
Psalm 1 gives us a contrast between a good person and an evil person. What is central to the difference between the two is how they handle the Word of God. The evil scoff at it. But those who delight in the Word of God—who meditate on it day and night—can stand strong during the tough times and be a light in the midst of darkness of the world.
In this message, Pastor Lutzer helps us to understand how we can learn to meditate all day—24/7—on the Scriptures, and why it’s important to do so.
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The year is 1977. I was the pastor of the Edgewater Baptist Church, which is about 8 miles north of here. They had a farewell for us on the last Sunday of March in 1977. So that meant the first Sunday of April Rebecca and I woke up without a church to go to. Where shall we go to church? I wanted to go to one church, and she suggested we go to The Moody Church. Now I don’t want to spread this too far, but God often leads me through my wife. Alright? I’ll just let that float out there. (laughter)
I had come to know Pastor Wiersbe, and we were friends, and so I decided that, yeah, we’d never worshiped at The Moody Church. Now I dropped her and our two children off (We only had two children in 1977.) and was looking for a parking space. All the way along LaSalle Street it was just as tight as a drum, as the saying goes. I had no idea how long it was going to take for me to find a parking space, but lo and behold, there right in front of me a man is fidgeting with his keys as he walks across the street. He drives out. I back in.
I go into the lobby over here and I meet Rebecca. By the way, she told me how wonderful it would be to sit with me finally. You know wives don’t get to sit with their husbands if their husband is a pastor. That is, they get to sit together on other occasions you understand, just to be clear. (laughter) And so I found her, and Pastor Wiersbe walks by and he has his coat on. He didn’t even see me but I saw him. I put my hand on his shoulder and I said, “Wiersbe, what are you doing here? It’s ten minutes before the morning service.” He said, “Erwin Lutzer, I’m sick. I’m on my way home. Will you preach for me this morning?” So at our first time ever at Moody Church I preached at The Moody Church. I preached on Psalm 1.
Now today I need to tell you that when the service began and I looked over and saw all of you (God bless you. I’d love to give everyone of you a hug for coming out in this very, very difficult weather.), I made the decision after the first song that we have sung that instead of preaching what I was going to preach on, I’m going to preach on Psalm 1. Michael Pitts said, as I was going up the stairs while all of you were singing, “Well, why don’t you do Psalm 1, just like you did back then?” That actually is going to be my sermon today. That’s why during the singing I was scribbling some notes because I was trying to figure out what to say.
Open your Bibles to Psalm 1, and this is the passage. Now I’m telling you more than you need to know, but when I stood on that platform back in 1977 (this platform), I thought to myself (but only jokingly almost), “If they ever call me I’ll say yes.” But that was actually the domino. A series of dominoes were set up by which I became the pastor of Moody Church. It was just a miracle.
By the way, you know that day that I came in here and ended up preaching, on the way home, Rebecca and I had only five dollars, and we pulled up to a service station to get some gasoline, and in those days (Some of you remember them.) they actually had attendants that filled your car for you. So we told them that we had only five dollars, and the attendant put in eight. And I said, “You know I’m sorry. I have only five dollars,” and he said, “Yeah, it was my mistake.” So that day Rebecca and I went home and we said, “Now we not only attended the right church but we even stopped at the right gas station.” (laughter) What a day that was! Isn’t that wonderful how God takes care of us?
Psalm 1 - First of all, I want you to notice the contrast between two different kinds of people. In the Psalms and in the Proverbs there isn’t much wiggle room. There is always this contrast between the good person and the evil person. If you’re looking for that middle person you don’t find him.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners.” Notice the progression here. First of all he walks in the counsel of the wicked and he hears about their counsel. He stands in the way of sinners, and then he ends up sitting in the seat of scoffers.
Who you influence is very important, and who influences you is incredibly important. I have a message I’m going to preach sometime entitled The Power of Influence. It’s huge. You, first of all, begin to listen to the scoffers. You connect with them. They win over your heart and pretty soon you become one of them.
But notice the contrast. Notice that the one who is blessed (verse 2) his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. We’re going to stop there for a moment. You see, many of us read the Scriptures, but what we don’t do is meditate, and it is meditation that actually brings about the transformation. It is simply not reading because when you read something it can go through your mind very, very quickly, and you don’t even know what you have read. Can I give you a New Year’s commitment? Never put down your Bible, even if you are reading it through, unless you have something that you can take with you for the entire day. You see that’s what’s so absolutely critical.
I made the decision this New Year (and I’ve done it so far for four of five days, whatever day it is today) that I was going to give praise to Jesus everyday for at least ten or fifteen minutes. This morning I woke up thanking Him so much for the snow. It’s been a while since I’ve done that, but what a wonderful thing it is for us to have in our minds the Word of God. And I was actually memorizing a passage from the book of Revelation where it says, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty,” and then it goes on to say this, “who was and is and is to come.” And then it says, “You deserve honor and glory and might because You created everything (That means that God created the snow.) and for Your glory they are and they were created.” Wow! That enables us, you see, to give thanks in everything, even when there is a snowfall in the city of Chicago.
So you see, it is really taking from the Word something that you can have in your mind all day. Ask yourself questions like this. Is there a promise to be believed? Does it teach me something about God? Does it tell me something to do? Now we may think that there are other things that we have to do during the day. We can’t always be thinking about the Scriptures. I get that, but the fact is that if we begin our day in meditation, those words and those ideas of God’s Word will stay with us for the rest of the day. And when your mind is free (It’s been my experience and it’ll be yours.) it immediately goes to those passages of Scripture. And that’s the way you meditate day and night in the Word of God.
And notice it’s delightful. It’s not something that’s just a duty. “Oh we have a New Year’s resolution.” The more you are in the Word of God, the more you will delight in the Word of God. It will not become a burden to you. The best resolution that you could possibly make is that each day you’ll be in the Word and you’ll have something to take with you for the rest of the day.
There was someone who purchased a jewelry box in France and brought it to America and was told that all that you need to do is to have this jewelry box because it will glow. Well the people brought it home and they put it on the dresser but it didn’t glow, and they couldn’t read the instructions. So finally they found someone who could read French and the instruction said, “Put me in sunlight during the day and I will glow during the dark.” And you know, when we walk in the light of God’s Word, when that happens we can even glow in the darkness of night. Thank you for that amen. Today I could use any encouragement that I get along the way. Even in the darkness, because of the power of God’s Word, it’s transforming.
People say, “Well, how can I break a stubborn habit? How can I be free of my addiction?” Put it in your mind. Think of what the Word of God does. It says that this person shall be like a tree planted by the river of water that brings forth its fruit in its season. Its leaf does not wither and whatever he does he prospers.
So a person who is in the Word of God is, first of all, planted in a place where his roots can go to the water. And that can only happen if you are in the Word of God, and if you are with the people of God, so that you are planted beside the stream, and your roots are deep enough to get the water. And when that happens, your leaf will not wither. In fact, it says in the book of Jeremiah, a similar passage, that even though drought comes he will not fear because he goes down to the roots. The roots go down to the water and therefore we can see the strength and the power of God’s Word.
And by the way, we are connected. You remember in a sermon years ago I told you about the redwoods in California – those great trees that seem to go to the sky. When I was there they explained to me that the roots are actually quite shallow. The fact is that they have a network of roots and they are all inter-related and connected so that this redwood over here that isn’t getting any moisture because it’s more on a hill will actually benefit from the redwood that is beside the stream because if you could see underneath it would be like a spider’s web.
My friend today, sometimes life is so dark and so difficult that we can’t see God anywhere. What we have to do is to even depend upon others because it is their knowledge of the Word of God that gives us the strength to face life even when drought comes. And what a great witness that is. You know if you are going through the desert, as I have, you sometimes notice that in the middle of the desert you have an oasis. We’ve seen that a number of times, and how do you know that there is water there? Well you know that there’s water there because you can see the trees even in the desert.
God says, “When the drought comes, when life is hard, when things begin to go backwards for you rather than forwards, when that happens please remember that if your roots go deep enough and are connected enough, you can even blossom and your leaf does not wither even in a day of drought.
You think, for example, of the power of the Word of God. Jesus said, “Now you are clean through the Word that I have spoken to you.” The Word cleanses us. If you want to be free so that your conscience is free, focus on the promises of God and the cleansing of God. Jesus said that that’s the promise through the Word that I have given you.
The Word directs us. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” and you have that lantern that guides you in the next step. It is amazing how the Word of God will direct you.
The Word of God converts us. It says that the Word of God converts the soul. Jeremiah says through God, “Is not my Word like as a fire” says the Lord “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” You’ve heard me say that one of the best things you can do when you meet an atheist is not to argue with him about Aristotle’s Laws of Motion, and various arguments for God’s existence, because they’ve heard them and they have their response, however inadequate it might be. What you need to do is to get them into the Word. Give them the 21-day experiment. Tell them that you want them to read the Gospel of John, and you want them to do it one chapter a day (There are 21 chapters.) and answer this simple question. Who did John think that Jesus was? Exposure to the Word of God is able to convict the soul. It is able to bring light to the soul, bring conversion to the soul. It is the power of God’s Holy Word.
What does it say in Psalm 19? I’m going to see whether or not I remember what it says. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure and righteous altogether, more to be desired than gold; (Well I know the price of gold is falling, but it’s still very desirable.) more to be desired than gold, yeah than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is Thy servant warned and in keeping of them there is great reward.”
Look at what the text says here. There’s a promise here that if we meditate in the law of God day and night, the promise is very clear that whatever we do shall prosper. You see it all has to do with the power of the Word of God in the mind. Remember what the Bible says in Romans 12. “Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of the mind.” You see God has delivered us but it is really meditation that takes what God has done and applies it to our life.
Sometime ago I heard about a man who was in prison, and when he got out of prison he still lived as if he was still in prison. In order to illustrate his dilemma it was as if he took a bottle, something like a beer bottle or whatever, and he stuffed it with wires. And then what he did was he took a hammer and he hit it, and of course, the bottle broke, but do you know what? All the wires still had the very same shape as they had when they were in the bottle.
How do we get out of that bottle and how are we introduced to the freedom God’s children have? It is through meditation in the Word. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” That’s the answer, and if you are looking for a good place to begin to meditate on the Word of God, you might even want to turn to Psalm 119, the longest Psalm and the longest chapter in the entire Bible. It talks about the power of the Word of God. Every verse except three speak about the power of the Word of God in the life of a believer who meditates day and night.
So I encourage you to take up this challenge of meditation in the Scriptures. As we begin this New Year, the question that we have to ask ourselves is simply this: Are we willing to take up the challenge of meditation?
You know I just heard on the radio yesterday (How providential that I should hear this.) that Scripture memory, for example, has fallen in disfavor within the Church. We maybe have children who memorize some verses, but we as adults don’t. There was a time in my life when I memorized a great deal of Scripture – books of the Bible. It took me years but I was able to quote John by memory – 21 chapters quoted in 2 hours and 15 minutes. That was when I was much younger, which is another way of saying, “That was many years ago.” But even though I wouldn’t be able to quote it all now, it’s amazing how much comes back to me. And the most blessed thing is this. No matter where you are you can meditate on the Word of God.
Rebecca and I know a man who was in ministry whose wife died of cancer. And I remember saying to him, “How is it that during this cancerous experience (and his wife died at home) that you are not filled with anxiety and great concern? How come you are able to handle it as well as you can handle it?” And he said these words. He said, “I read the Bible to my wife continuously.” And then he said, “We bought the Word of God on records.” Now you know, of course, that this was years ago, but he said, “We bought the Word of God on records, and the Word of God squeezed out all the negativity, all the anger and all of the fear. It squeezed it out.”
Now I haven’t given this illustration in many, many years so I hope this goes well. But here’s a bottle of water. There are two ways, I guess, that one could get the water out of this bottle. One might be to build some kind of a suction pump to pull it out, but there’s another way of squeezing out what you don’t like, and that is to simply put something else in it. Oh I know how the illustration goes. (chuckles) It has to do not with the water. It has to do with the air in the bottle. How do you get the air out of this bottle. Well one way would be to build a suction cup and to try to pull it out. There’s another way. Fill it with water.
How do you get rid of those stray thoughts of anger and sensuality and bitterness and resentment, and the inability to be able to rejoice in the success of others, and an attitude of “me-ism”? How do we get all of that out of our hearts? It’s by the Word of God and by replacing those thoughts by meditating in the Word of God during the day, and then we meditate during the night.
I hope that when you fall asleep you are meditating in the Word of God. You might want to quote Psalm 23 or quote some other Psalm. But the whole idea is this. What you must do and what I must do is to make sure that we meditate in the Law of God, and then the promise is here.
So I know I was expecting to speak on a different passage today and a different message, but this one is directed toward you and toward me at the beginning of this year so that when we come to the end of the year we don’t regret that our priorities were wrong, or that the same problems we had when we entered into this year are the same problems we have when we exit out of it. No, no, there’s a transformation. There’s a renewing of the mind through meditation and through our commitment to the Word.
Now I mentioned earlier that the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, actually converts people. “Converted through the Word of God” it says in 1 Peter and James, so there may be some who are listening and you have never received Christ as Savior. Could I encourage you to not only read the Word but to believe the Word? It is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces, and you may be listening and are a skeptic.
You know, throughout the years there have been so many attacks against the Bible. It’s just unbelievable – one attack after another. And the funeral for the Bible has been often, and the obituary has been read.
Voltaire said that within a century or less the Bible would only be in museums. But I understand that Voltaire’s house was later used as a basis for a Bible society. (applause) Yeah, thank you. You can do all that you can to try to hammer against the Scriptures but what you’ll discover is that it will hammer against you, and it can break the rock in pieces.
Jesus encouraged us with the Word. He quoted the Old Testament. He quoted it many, many times, and showed that He indeed meditated in the Word of God. He was also giving us instruction, wasn’t He? When He died on the cross His death was a sacrifice for us as sinners. And then later on He inspired New Testament writers to continue the Word of God, which was given in the Old Testament. And you remember how the Apostle Paul said that we should remember the Lord’s death until He comes. And how do we do that? We do it through obedience to God and we do it trusting His Holy Word.
Just for the sake of the record, I believe this is God’s Word and I have staked my eternity on the Word and the Savior that it presents. I hope that is true of you as well. (applause)
Let’s pray together.
Father, we want to thank You today for the power of Your Word. We ask that this message, though given in such an impromptu way, may be transforming for many, not only for those that are here but also for those who are listening many other ways. And we pray, Father, that You might make us faithful in Your Word, and help us, Lord, to be content with where we are, and even the legacy that we leave because the Word of God has been hidden in our hearts. Save those who need to be saved. Encourage those who need to be encouraged we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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