Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | August 26, 2012

Sermon on Psalm 1

Resist the beginnings

  • Order of Service: Common Service, p15
  • Lessons: Proverbs 9:1-6, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58
  • Hymns: 750 (1, 3-5), 720 (1, 5-7), 741 (1-3), 771

Downloadable Version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

 A theologian once said, “Resist the beginnings!”  He meant what we mean when we talk about the camel getting his nose into the tent.  Once the camel gets his nose in, then he’ll come all the way.  So you resist the beginnings.  You keep the camel’s nose far, far away from the tent.

 Usually “resist the beginnings,” refers to false doctrine entering the Church.    Because like cancer in a body, once a little false doctrine gets in, it spreads and flourishes and corrupts.  So pastors and teachers and lay people keep eyes open for changes in preaching and teaching, for camel’s noses and beginnings.

 And it’s good and right so to do.  Jesus says, If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples (Jn. 8:31, NIV84).  Paul advised Timothy, Watch your life and doctrine closely, persevere in them (1 Tim. 4:16, NIV84).  St. John wrote, Test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 Jn. 4:1, NIV84).  For that reason when our new hymnal came out in the ‘90s and you found the wording of the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene Creed changed, we rightly raised our hands and asked “Why?” so that we could make sure that the new words still reflected Bible truths.  And we discovered that yes, “forgive us our trespasses” and “forgive us our sins,” confess the same truth, as do “was made man” and “He became fully human.”  We did right; because we made sure we resisted the beginnings, because what we believe forms how we worship, and how we worship forms what we believe.

Likewise, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as the NIV replaced the King James in pulpits and pews throughout our Synod, much discussion took place.  And it wasn’t only because you grew up on King James.  It’s because this is the Word of God and the Bible translation that you use must remain faithful to the Word of God.  We’re going through it again.  Now, as we study the new NIV and compare it with the old NIV, the English Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and others, we test the spirits, we ask questions, we study to make sure that we make the best choice, because we want to resist the beginnings. We don’t want Bibles that muddy the waters. We don’t want Bibles that don’t teach that the sacraments give forgiveness.  We don’t want Bibles that fail to see Christ in the Old Testament.  We don’t want Bibles that minimize God’s distinctions between men and women.  We don’t even want to suggest it.  We resist the beginnings!

 We see that fight all around us.  It’s still going on.  Many cherish the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer or the way The Lutheran Hymnal did this or that, just as some advocate for the “new” Lord’s Prayer and Christian Worship’s way.  Some remain convinced that the ship sailed with the 1984 NIV and the only way home is through the King James or New King James, while others say NIV84 does the job, but NIV2011 is a bridge too far.  We fight.  We resist.  And God bless us, because we do not want to walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers (Psalm 1:1, NIV84).  To hold, to persevere, to test, means to avoid at all costs the sins of false teaching.  You don’t walk in their counsel, even for a moment lingering among them.  You don’t stand in their way, stopping to chat or commiserate.  You don’t sit among them and take part in what they do.  You resist the beginnings!

 Usually, but not always, we get that.  Even though it causes some emotional turmoil with family and friends or in workplace situations, we see how vital it is to resist the doctrinal beginnings.  We get that the truth that Jesus Christ, the righteous one, became our sin so that we could be His righteousness is such an important truth, that all the doctrinal truths connected to it must be defended.  So we don’t bristle at distinguishing between those who say works get you into heaven and those who rely on grace.  We don’t argue that there’s something wrong with a symbolic view of the sacraments that make them just something we do to please God.  We aren’t too desperately nervous rejecting the idea that by my own choice I chose Jesus to be my Lord and Savior or that God condemned a segment of humanity to hell from all eternity.  We confess it in our worship and our Bible classes, at our public examinations, in our practice of close communion.  And in so doing, we confess Christ, our righteousness, Who died that we might live.  Thus we show how we have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but He lives in us, and doctrinally we live by faith in Him.

 But that’s not all that Psalm 1 talked about.  When the psalmist said the blessed man didn’t walk in wicked counsels, stand in sinner’s ways, or sit in mocker’s seats, but rather delighted in the law of the LORD and meditated on that Law, he wasn’t just referring to doctrine.  He didn’t mean only being a member of a church that teaches the Word of God faithfully and practices close communion.  He talked about life.  When he talked about delighting in the Lord’s Law and meditating on it day and night, he talked about your life, not just a couple hours each week dedicated to worship and Bible study, not just officially orienting yourself according to the Small Catechism or some Synodical doctrinal statements.

 Every moment of your life breathes in and out the Word of God, in word and thought and deed.  We live every moment, in bed, at school, at work, at home, on the sports field, in church, based on the Word.  We do things (or don’t do them) based on the Word.  We don’t just assign it a few hours and let the rest of the time be guided by other things.  Every moment, every decision, revolves around the revelation of God.  From that comes blessing.  Apart from that, nothing.  We resist the beginnings in every area of our life, because doctrine and life aren’t separate.  You express doctrine physically by the things you do outside this building.  You don’t just confess your faith when you say the Creed; you confess it by who you are and how you live.  Thus, Paul says something like, Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18, NIV84).  To get drunk is to walk, stand, and sit among sinners.  It is to be the chaff that gets blown away, which cannot stand before God, which cannot be among the righteous.  And that’s one example.  We could multiply them by using the lists found throughout Scripture of sins God abhors, the sins we so easily and frivolously commit throughout the week.  To sin is the opposite of resist, it is to give in.  It is to sit among the wicked and to become the wicked.  And nothing good comes from it.  Nothing you do will go well if you insist on getting drunk, insist on degrading your body in perversion, insist on living life your way.  Remember what it means that the wicked cannot stand at the judgment or among the righteous?  It means hell.  It means eternal punishment and damnation because you thought you could handle it, because you refused to resist the beginnings in your life.

 But you resist the beginnings at every moment, in every way, not simply because you’re afraid of hell, but because of the new beginning God made of you.  Who are these righteous whose way the Lord watches over?  They are those declared righteous for the sake of Christ, through faith in Christ.  Jeremiah reminds us that Jesus is the LORD our righteousness.  Paul says God made Jesus sin, our sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV84).  We are not righteous because we made sure not to walk, stand, and sit among the wicked; we make sure not to walk, stand, and sit among the wicked because God makes us righteous in Christ!  In Christ, believers are tree[s] planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither (Psalm 1:3, NIV84).

 You leave here today watered in the truth, not just confident about believing in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that Jesus died for you, your sins are forgiven, etc.  You leave here a tree watered and nourished by the Word growing every moment.  A tree strengthened by the flesh and blood of Christ, that very real food and drink; a tree that lives forever because your food is the bread that came down from heaven, Christ your Savior, and that courses through your veins, that guides your decisions, that moves your hands, your feet, your lips, your tongue to be very careful, not just in doctrine, but in life, so that you resist the sin at every moment in every way.  Not perfectly, of course, because this isn’t heaven, but growing more perfect each day, until that day when Christ descends and He transforms your bodies into a likeness of Him and says there’s nothing left to resist, because there is no more sin.  But until then we resist.  We resist the beginnings for the sake of Christ who by His sacrifice made us the blessed children of God.  Amen. 

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