by Frank Luke
Last time, I spoke about how Christianity pursues the Good, True, and Beautiful. If asked, most Christians would agree with that. However, a dangerous disconnect exists in our churches today. Many churches and Christians seek only practical applications of Scripture. At the same time, more seminaries are becoming only theoretical. You have to have both. At the denominational lever, we have churches that deny the mystical vs. those that go too mystical. Imagine that, churches that believe the greatest miracle in history, that God the Son became man to suffer, die, and rise again, will deny anything miraculous today.
The Bible, being God’s revelation to man, is both. You will find the practical and theoretical. You will find the mystical and the mundane.
First up, God wants the Bible to be understood. This is why we call it “revelation.” There are connections between Scriptures but no hidden meanings. It would be contrary to God’s nature to reveal Himself and then hide it for centuries. You can’t suddenly find a new meaning in Scripture. You can find new applications, but not new meanings. For example, even though Scripture never mentions computer hacking, that is a valid application of “do not steal.”
God is God. He changes not because He is already perfect. To change His nature would imply that it was not perfect before. The church is in crisis because it has sought to modernize God. When times insist we change how we act, our job is to stand firm and say no. Ask this question, why would anyone come when the church is simply another business? By making God so human, we have left the divine.
Christianity is not just another religion that makes God in its own image. Honestly, I can think of many ways in which Christianity is not shaped by men. You will not find God by treating Christianity as just another religion. Christianity demands all of you. Everything in you is to be devoted to God. Every part of you. Jesus does not want just a cot in the attic. In the relationship we have with Jesus, He is to be Lord.
In the old religions, you were not devoted to a god the same way. You could be devoted to many: one for the hearth fire, one for the crops, one for battle, etc. What about the times between? Forget about them. If no one is sick in your house, why pray to the god of healing? No need to pray to the war god in times of peace.
God must be first in your life. He will accept no other place.
So many just want the practical applications of Scripture, but you need more. You need to hear the deep thoughts of God because that is where the applications come from. If you don’t dig deep, you can’t find the blessed treasure.
Like other prophets, Amos predicted a famine was coming. In Amos 8:11-12, he warned of a famine, not of food, but of God’s word. Amos’ day was one of great wealth and power. It was a time of much religion but little worship. That sounds so much like our day. How would God want us to live in a time like that?
As I said, Christianity is about the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. How does a Christian live to pursue the Good? What is the Good life?
That is ethics. How do we live to please God? I believe it was CS Lewis who compared life to a ship on the ocean. You have to know where you start and where you intend to end. On the way, you have to know how to avoid running aground or into another ship. How we live with each other is ethics.
We must not believe that ethics is too personal and private for a Christian to have a public opinion on for others. We tell ourselves that we don’t want to stir up division, so we stay quiet. But a cease fire is not a peace. The world is already against us, and it is time we realized that and acted like it. Note that while we are willing to live and let live, they are not. The world is quite willing to give its opinion on how the church should act.
Only the power of God can heal the world. Only by reading the word of God did our Pentecostal forebears realize the power yet remained.
Why do we as Christians base our thoughts on Scripture? Because 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Since Paul tells us that Scripture instructs us on how to act, it surely must. There are many places where a rule or two are given. Other places have dozens of applications of one law. Do any give a summary of Godly living? Yes, we’ll read several and determine a godly lifestyle from an ungodly one.
In Matthew 22:37, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 when He says, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.”
So how do we do that? What part of Scripture tells us what the Lord requires? Micah 6:6-11; Ephesians 4:17-32; James 1:19-27; Psalm 24:4; Isaiah 33:15; Acts 15:28-29; and Psalm 1, for instance.
But today let’s look at Psalm 15:1-5. It’s a wisdom psalm. Wisdom means it tells you how to live rightly in relationship to God. This may be in worship or in day-to-day life. The Hebrew drew no distinction between sacred life and secular life. God gave all, so God must be recognized in all things.
The scribes placed this Psalm right after 14, which states “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” Sorry Mr. Dilan, the times never really change. All that changes is the toys we have in the time. Human nature remains like a rock. Psalm 14 warned about the vile deeds the wicked do. However, God expects His people to live against the evil of the day. The longest lasting revolt against the powers of this world is to live the Good life.
When I keep saying “good life” today, don’t think of it as money or having all your wants met. I am always meaning a life pleasing to God, a life that pursues the Good part of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
Psalm 15:1-5 A Psalm of David. O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? 2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; 4 In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, But who honors those who fear the LORD; He swears to his own hurt and does not change; 5 He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
This Psalm from David gives us examples of how the Godly lives the Good Life both by being actively righteous and by avoiding unrighteous actions. It isn’t enough to stay away from evil. God insists that His people be actively good. This psalm comes in a time like ours—when the foundations were being destroyed.
The Question (v 1)
The psalm begins with a question “who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?” Like so much Hebrew poetry, the question’s theme repeats itself in a slight variation. “Who may abide in your tent? Who many dwell on your holy hill?” Hebrew poetry doesn’t rhyme because rhyming is too easy in a language that does so much work with suffixes. Poetry is an art, so art has to have something more to it.
It’s safe to say we all want to live with God. David surely did, and David repented whenever he realized he had sinned. David also lived a life of absolute passion for God. If you think of life as a pasture with Torah making a fence to keep those inside safe, David liked to live at the edge of the fence. Why should he live safely in the middle when anywhere within the fence is allowed?
Something I noticed in this list is a complete lack of religious ritual. That is important to life, but David is giving concrete examples of how to live. He wants to make a list that is easy to remember and go by. You surely must attend the services, he would say, but when you have to make a decision in the moment, look at these things.
You can’t ignore other parts of Scripture either. Psalm 1 speaks of those who spend their time in God’s word as having roots deeply in God.
The List (vv 2-5a)
The Godly Lifestyle
David presents us with ten actions that form the fence or Torah that he used. Not everything from the 10 Commandments is here. That’s okay. Living by these almost ensures that you won’t commit murder.
David starts with “he whose walk is blameless.” This means their lifestyle is one of integrity. It means soundness or whole. If you think of those who lived before the giving of the Law, they live a life of integrity. Like Joseph preferring to go to jail rather than sleeping with another man’s wife.
All of a person’s life are covered in the first part. His lifestyle is one of integrity, meaning that his actions and words line up with his beliefs. He is not a hypocrite. He does what is righteous. And he only speaks truth, even to himself. For many people, that last can be very difficult. While they won’t lie to another person, they will indeed first convince themselves of a lie. You must always tell the truth, even when it is hard, even to yourself. Lying is one of the easiest ways for the Devil to get a foothold in your life.
The other two things he does are to despise hardened sinners and keep his promises. That first one really shocks us these days. Aren’t we supposed to love sinners while hating the sin? David isn’t talking about someone trapped in a sinful situation or sinning on occasion. He is talking about someone who knows better than sinning but does it anyway. This is a person who has refused to repent so often his heart has hardened.
This is the fool of Psalm 1:1. The Hebrew fool is not one who simply makes mistakes or knows wrong things. The nabal is one who consistently makes immoral choices. The one who knows better but still does wrong.
Just recently, the archbishop of the dioceses covering Las Cruces, New Mexico sent a letter to the state senator there. This was after the parish priest and bishop had sent their own letters. They informed the senator that he should not take communion as long as he supported proabortion bills. Taking communion while living in grave sin is a threat to your soul.
Probably the reason David’s statement surprises us is we believe that Jesus would never despise someone. Aren’t we commanded to love our enemies? Didn’t Jesus say, “Love the sin; hate the sinner”? No, He didn’t. In fact, Jesus twice in the book of Revelation states that He hates the Nicolatians, an early heresy that believed you could do any sin with your body and it would not affect the soul.
Keeping promises is another example. Even when the promise is hard to keep, the man of God keeps it. He has sworn to his own hurt, but his integrity demands that he fulfill the vow. The only counter example given in Scripture is Proverbs 6:1-5 and Leviticus 27:1-33, that one who makes a rash vow that would impact innocent people can beg for release from it.
God requires all of our life not just Sunday mornings. This is why Christians of the past would be amazed at the small amount of time we spend in religious activities. These are supposed to be the most important parts of our life, but we don’t act like it when all we give God is an hour a week. He has given you eternal life! Isn’t that worth more than a couple of hours each Sunday?
The Ungodly Lifestyle
David also gives us five things to avoid. The man of God “does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend.” The righteous do not gossip. This is not just idle gossip, but a person who actively seeks out those to spread lies to. “Taking up a reproach” is also not just getting mad at your neighbor, but seeking out things to become mad about. Just like the positive actions encompass all of life, so do these: words, actions, heart. All of life is touched by the unrighteous life. God is not satisfied with everything except one little apartment you reserve for your pet sin. All of your life.
The ban on usury refers to unethical interest rates on a loan. It is routinely condemned in Scripture. Interest itself is allowed by Jesus, but not at such a rate to do someone harm. The Bible also requires us to help a brother in need and charging usury on the loan is counter to helping. A bribe against the innocent means that when called to testify, you do not accept money from another in exchange for your testimony.
The Promise (v 5b)
All who do these things will never be shaken. That is a promise of security! The righteous life gives greatly. You may not have the fanciest car or the nicest house, but you have a firm faith in God that will keep you secure when things go wrong.
People don’t just do these things. While atheists may say that the acts coming from faith are obviously beneficial ways to live in society, that obviousness hasn’t been obvious for most of history.
God’s promise of redemption doesn’t stop at the cross. It continues into your life now. Living the Good life will bring God’s reward to you.
It isn’t enough for me to ask you to think this or believe that. The Devil and demons believe and tremble. We must be changed by the word of God. We must act.
What is God calling us to here? First, embrace a righteous life of active good. Second, avoid evil in your whole life, that is, words, actions, and attitudes. Third, we are to avoid hardened sinners and keep our promises. Finally, we must help those who are in need and not waste our money in wicked ways.
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