My first job as a collegiate was as a store clerk for Hallmark. It was a delightful experience working in an environment of feel-good cards and pretty gifts. But I will never forget one customer in particular. She was Ms. Thang. “Diva” does not even begin to describe her. I knew it by her swagger and her petulant nose that was stuck up straight in the air at such an angle it prevented all eye contact with others. I greeted her as I normally would any customer, asking her how she was doing that evening. She dramatically put her hand on her hip, cocked her head to the side and said with all of the emphatic articulation she could enunciate, “I’m BLLESSED!” I genuinely smiled and held back any semblance of a laugh. Ms. Thang was a character… and her “character” filled the entire store that day. It did not surprise me to find out later that my manager always took care of all of her especially fussy needs because Ms. Thang demanded it should be. She and her special card needs were to be taken very seriously. She was blessed, after all.
It doesn’t take much for anyone’s deception detector to go off in a situation like that. She in all likelihood was in fact a genuine Christian who had fallen under a very common false teaching back home which boldly shouts, “Blessing equals entitlement.”
Well, let’s look back at the New Testament and see. Hm… yes, Paul, Peter, and other apostles were entitled… to imprisonments, beatings, and martyrdom due to their faith in Christ. These men were completely Spirit-filled and accomplished their God-given purpose with obedience. Obviously God’s blessing is not the sort of thing that breeds arrogant entitlement.
What does it really mean to be blessed? What does it look like? What is the end result? These are questions Psalm 1 begins to answer in beautiful poetic song.
1) What does “blessed” mean?
Psalm 1:1 begins by telling us that a man is “blessed” if… Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t often use the word “blessed” in my daily conversation like an Old Testament Jew would. What was the Psalmist’s concept of “blessed”? “Blessed” literally means a strong emotional exclamation of, “Oh, the happiness!” You want to be happy? Read on!
2) What produces happiness or “blessedness”?
A. The psalm begins by telling us things we should not do… not walking in the counsel of the wicked, not standing in the way of sinners, not sitting in the seat of scoffers. Do you notice a progression here? First, it’s walking, then it’s standing, finally it’s sitting. It conveys an increased comfort with evil which ends in full conformity to it. And this is addressed to the people of Israel. Not every person in Israel chose to follow the ways of God. And I don’t know if you’ve personally experienced it or not yet, but not everyone in the Church follows the ways of God. So, what’s a “blessed” one to do?
1. Watch whose counsel you receive. It might seem obvious to watch out for counsel from wicked people, but how much “advice” do we get from the media around us? Watch what you watch especially when you know it’s not coming from any sort of Biblical perspective. But even if the person is godly and seasoned in their walk with God, you still need to watch it. I’ve received some good advice from many mentors, discipleship leaders, and teachers. And I also have received some of the worst advice I’ve heard from mentors, discipleship leaders, and teachers. Sometimes, even from the very same people who gave me good advice! Do you know what made the difference? Whether or not the advice lines up with Scripture. Not personal experience, but Scripture itself. Personal experience can be so precarious. Just because someone experienced it doesn’t mean it’s a healthy thing to apply universally. What kind of advice do you hear more often?
2. Watch what you stand for. At the standing level, your association with the sinner has moved from taking their advice on their own terms to partnering up with them. Be sure you are not standing firm for sinful ways or partnering up with people who do not prioritize godliness. If you have partnered up with people like this, how has it affected you? Are there any areas of sin in your life you are refusing to relinquish?
3. Watch what you say carelessly. Sitting in the seat of scoffers expresses taking sin to an even higher level. You’re not only walking or standing, but you’re now completely comfortable with sin and a scoffer of righteousness. Are there any sins that you’ve been brushing off carelessly and you say it as if it is nothing? Are you turned off by someone’s deep desire for genuine holiness and gentleness and you voice it? Thinking they need to get real and loosen up and you push them to do so? After all, nothing bad is going to happen if they ease up and live a little. Watch it. You’re living dangerously; sooner or later it will kill a deep happiness that only communion with God can bring. And if you persuade another to do the same, you’ll be taking them down with you as well.
So, we’ve chatted a little about what a “blessed” one removes from his or her life. What should a “blessed” one do instead? When there’s a void to fill, we need to be careful that we fill it with good things! I’ll continue this in my next post. In the meantime, what is the most difficult aspect of removing these types of connections with sin in your life?
God has been getting in my business about the counsel aspect lately. I’ve been watching some tv lately without a filter. I think the next time I watch a show I’ll keep a note pad handy and carefully note what’s happening on the screen through the lens of Scripture. If you’re interested, I’ll be happy to post my notes when I do.
How about you?