The book of Psalm opens with these words:
Psalm 1 (ESV)
- Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
- but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
- He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
- The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
- Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
- for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
In my past readings, I could sum up what I read by the phrase, “don’t act like the wicked, but be righteous.” As I read it, this psalm was an encouragement toward avoiding wicked influences and an encouragement to read the Bible and do what it says. It also implies that the righteous look on the wicked with disdain at worst or condescension at best.
But I missed one crucial point in my previous readings.
I am not righteous by what I do; I am declared righteous by being in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). But what I do will be heavily influenced by the fact that I am declared righteous. As a result of being in Christ, I have been given a heart of flesh to replace my heart of stone.
While I agree that I am in the camp of the righteous, I cannot look at anyone else with disdain or condescension. I am not in the camp of the righteous because of anything that I have done for myself. It has all be done for me by Jesus Christ.
With the change of heart, it is then possible for all the things to that are listed in verses 2 and 3 to be true. My new heart allows me to delight in the law of the LORD. Where I previously only saw condemnation, I now see love and blessing. Where I previously saw only duty and burden, I now see opportunity and freedom.
The Psalmist tells us that The LORD knows the way of the righteous. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
I am not righteous because of what I do, but what I do is heavily influenced by the fact that I am declared righteous.
I am one of his sheep and he knows me.