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No Walking, Standing, or Sitting

June 26th, 2008

Focus Text: Psalm 1: 1 (NKJV)

1 Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

I used to be a public school teacher.  I taught high school and middle school, but I spent most of my teaching career in middle school.  Ah, the joys of our young generation!  Once when I was absent and had a substitute “watching” the class, I returned the next day to find dozens of pencils stuck in the ceiling tiles, obscene words written about me on the back wall, and all of the cables to my classroom computers purposefully severed with a pair of scissors.  And all this with an adult in the room!

Truth be told, these are mild stories compared to many I could tell.  I’m reminded of the time that a young man spent ten minutes trying to convince me that he had forgotten his homework because both of his parents had Alzheimers and had forgotten to remind him (a complete falsehood, by the way.)  Or the time that a group of seventh graders decided to grab every pill they could find in each of their parents’ medicine cabinets and randomly pop them at school, completely and deliberately unaware of what they were ingesting.  After turning a nice shade of blue in a parent-student assembly and being rushed by ambulance to the hospital, I think they might have begun to question their decision that day.  I will probably never know.

One thing was certain about my students, though: they were each on a mission to determine the boundaries of their instructor.  They wanted to see how far their new teacher could be pushed before he would explode into flames.  Every year on the first day of school, I knew that the maiden mutiny was impending and that some little smart-aleck kid would go toe-to-toe with me and see what my limits were.  Rest assured, I never lost and the kid would usually never try again.

Sounds kind of mean, doesn’t it?  Maybe so, but like it or not, boundaries are a crucial part of life.

Unfortunately, some of us never lose this adolescent instinct, even concerning the things of God.  We are constantly searching for God’s boundaries in our lives, wondering what we can get away with without too serious of a consequence.  I see it when a question like “how long do I have to pray?”  is asked.  Or in the context of dating, “how far is too far before I’m sinning?”  Like the eighth graders in my classroom, we’re tossing our pencils into the ceiling just to see what God might do in retaliation.

If God is our teacher, then consider the first chapter of Psalms as our first day of class.  This passage reveals the progression that we often follow when we are searching for boundaries.  And as much as we don’t like to hear the words “don’t do  . . .”, that’s exactly what God is showing us in this verse.  Just think of them as the classroom guidelines (gulp) for life  . . . here goes.  As an aside, I deliberately used the New King James Version with this verse because I like the way it puts these directives.

Guideline #1: “Don’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly.”

It starts with walking.  This verse refers to someone who is deliberately and willfully walking the wrong way.  “Counsel” here means “advice” or “direction.”  In other words, don’t follow the direction of someone who doesn’t know where they’re going; or better yet, is going the wrong way.  This one cracks me up!  As a veteran youth pastor, I’ve seen this phenomenon over and over again throughout the years.  A Christian student is struggling with a major issue or decision in life and needs wisdom.  So, who do they go to?  A pastor?  A parent?  The Bible?  Nope!  They find another student exactly their same age who is struggling with exactly the same thing.  Then, they walk according to the “wisdom” of this person who doesn’t know where they’re going and has never been to the destination.

Walking is where we start when God first impacts our lives.  A person who had met God and now wants to follow Him must first stop walking the wrong way.  It’s an awesome place to start, but it’s not the finish line.  The progression continues.

Guideline #2: “Don’t stand in the path of sinners.”

Oooh, this one makes me shiver like the hyenas in Lion King when they hear “Mufassa!  Mufassa!”  This passage, at first glance, sounds so churchy . . . so judgmental.  But when you stop and think about it, it actually makes perfect sense.  Look, you’ve stopped walking the wrong way, but that’s not enough.  When we’re searching for our boundaries, we’re asking God how much of our old life we are allowed to keep.  In other words, “I’m not walking that way any more, but can I at least still stand here where I used to walk?  Come on, God!  I’m doing better!”

When God changes you, He changes everything.  When my new daughter, Sadie, is born in about three weeks, there will be no comparison between her life inside the womb and outside.  Once she’s experienced birth, she can’t ever go back to being unborn.  In the same way, once you’ve been “reborn”, you can’t ever go back to the way you used to be.  There’s no use loitering around your old lifestyle, seeing how close you can get to it without actually returning to it.  If you were standing the the ledge of a huge cliff, would your goal be to see how close you can walk to the edge without falling to your death below?  Of course not, you would want to stay a safe distance away and leave no doubt about your survival.

Guidelines #3: “Don’t even sit in the seat of the scornful.”

Walking . . . standing . . . sitting.  See how each part of the progression leads you further away from the way you used to be?  Now that you’ve stopped walking and even standing in your old ways, you must change the attitude you have in your new seat.  “Scornful” means “to mock” or “to be critical.”  In other words, just stopping the wrong actions in your life aren’t enough– God wants everything!  He wants your mindset and your life’s outlook, as well.  We always sing, “From the Inside Out,” but God also works “from the outside in.”  The progression continues.

So, a heart that pleases God doesn’t ask, “How far away can I get from Him without being punished?”  A heart that pleases God asks, “How close can I get to Him to leave no doubt that I’m changed.”  See the difference?

The best part of the verse is the first word, “blessed.”  This word just means “happy.”  Those who aren’t looking for the boundaries of God’s anger will be happier than those who constantly search for the edge of  rebellion’s cliff.  Now that will change the way you walk, stand, and sit.

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