True North: You Become What You Think

True North: You Become What You Think

There are two North Poles in the world. The geographical North pole and the magnetic North Pole. The magnetic pole is the point where the magnetic field poles enter the earth. True North Pole is the point at which the pole passes through the rotation axis of the earth. This is the North Pole that is shown on most maps. If you stick a steel rod through the earth and rotated it around the pole, that would be the true North Pole. Here is the problem. Magnetic north, which is on a compass, differs from true north because the world is round and not flat. Magnetic north will vary depending where you are. True north, on the other hand, will always point you to the North Pole.

If you’re heading to the North Pole and follow a compass, you may wind up as far as 590 miles off course. Each of us is leading our lives in a direction. Some of us are holding a compass in the direction of magnetic north. Others are heading toward true north. The Bible is the only thing that will lead us toward true north. Every person in here is either informed by the word (true north) or the world (magnetic north).

God gave us a roadmap with how he laid out the Old Testament. We refer to the first half of the Bible as the Old Testament. But the Jewish people call it the Tanak. We have the exact same books; however, the layout is different. The Old Testament is divided into 3 sections: Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim. If you supply an a between each letter, you have the Tanak.

Torah—1st 5 books of the Bible. Genesis – Deuteronomy. Nevi’im—is the Hebrew word for prophets—it contains books like Joshua, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel. Ketuv’im—is the Hebrew word for writings—Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. The Torah is considered the law. These 5 books contain the instructions of God. Nevi’im begins with the book of Joshua. After Moses dies, Joshua takes over the reigns as leader. At the beginning of the book, God gives instructions to Joshua for success.

Joshua 1:8, “this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Ketuviim begins with the book of Psalms. Is it a coincidence that psalm 1 speaks of meditation on the word? This is our text today.

Psalm 1:1, “how happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers. Instead , his delight is in the lord’s instruction , and he meditates on it day and night.”

Each section of the Tanak explains the importance of meditating on the word of God.

Psalm 1

Two options for living

Happy is another word for blessed or joyful or fulfilled. There are 2 people described in this story, 2 paths, and 2 outcomes.

There is the one who walks in the word and another wanders in the world One who prospers and one who falters. One who’s God’s Godly and one who’s unGodly. In order to understand this text we must put our Hebrew glasses on to view the text from a hebraic perspective. The Hebrew language, unlike english, does not communicate with punctuation marks but through pictures.

I said this before but its worth noting. If you go to an American school and ask the students to give you 1 word to describe God, they may say, “God is righteous, holy, omnipotent, omnipresent.” If you visit at Jewish yesheva or school and ask the same question to the students, they will respond, “God is bread, God is an eagles wing, God is the door, God is a shepherd .”

The Psalmist is speaking to us in pictures. So let’s examine at it. I want to use 2 translations to explain the text. The ESV captures the literal nature of the process but the Holman explains the meaning for us. He accentuates the positive by starting with the negative: “blessed is the man who does not walk.”

The Chrstian life is a walk. God walked with Adam in the garden. God walked with enoch and he was no more. He took a memorable walk to heaven. God told abraham to go on a long walk and he obeyed. God enlisted Moses to lead his people out of Egypt toward the promised land on a long, long walk, 40 years to be exact. Jesus said, “come walk after me.”

Every person has 2 options for walking.
“who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,”
The holman says, “how happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked.”

Not walking in the counsel of the wicked describes someone who does not listen to the counsel of unGodly people. They do not follow the advice of evil men.Some folks begin their day by reading their horoscope instead of the Bible. This is unGodly counsel. Some will consult psychics they heard on TV. Others are influenced by “talk shows.” still others purchase magazines just to read unGodly counsel that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. When you are influenced by worldly wisdom, you forsake Godly wisdom, which leads to…

“standing in way of sinners,”
Holman says, “or take the path of sinners”

The result of seeking unGodly advice leads to associating with the unGodly people.
This is someone who “behaves like sinners do,” or “imitates the example of sinful people.”

After listening to the advice of the unGodly, we don’t walk back to where we started. Instead, we begin standing around sinners. We identify with their position. Which leads to….

“sitting in the seat of scoffers.”
Holman says, “join a group of mockers!”

sitting speaks of a resting place. This is the idea of associating with those who mock religion or God. The word sit means to exist or to be. It’s a place of dwelling. You become comfortable with this way of life, so you embrace it. Rather than being appalled by this way of living, you applaud at it.

3 powerful words: you listen, linger, and then you laugh. Why does the world fascinate you so much? Why are you entertained by things of the world?

When you follow the advice of the wicked, you stop walking. when you take the path of sinners, you move from standing to squating. When you squat you’re frozen. Your growth is at a standstill, your devotional life is nonexistent, your affection for the lord is cold.

Verse 2, “the other man’s delight is in the lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.”

This man is informed by the word. Do you see the contrast? Who are you listening to?

Proverbs 23:7 says, “for as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Romans 12:2, “do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

The word is the compass for our lives. Which is why the Psalmist says, “meditate on the word.” put it into practice. Live it. Believe it. Teach it. Don’t be ashamed of it. The hearts affections change when the mind’s attention is on the word of God.

Why?

Two outcomes of our choices

Verse 3, “he is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 the wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment, and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous.”

The psalmists provides 2 visual images of the 2 paths. Each are connected to word and our obedience to it. The first environment is that of a fruitful tree. The man or woman delighting or meditating on the word is nourished like a tree by streams of water. Water is a 2 fold picture: 1. Cleansing, which is the word, and

Nourishment, which points to the spirit.

Is that odd to anyone? Have you ever seen a tree by 2 streams of water? The word streams is a narrow continuous stream of water, describing an irrigation canal. The word planted is the Hebrew word: transplanted . This is not a tree that is growing in the wild. It has been purposely planted. It means to be picked up and placed in fertile ground. The only situation where a tree is planted by 2 streams of water is in a garden where the farmer purposely placed the tree there. It is firmly planted to withstand any and every storm of life.

That’s what God does for the man or woman who meditates and obeys the word of God. The land might be dry and barren. The air might be hot and humid. But if the person is planted in the word, where it’s mind can be cleansed and it’s heart can be changed, it will be prosperous.

On the other hand, for those influenced by the world and others, they are like chaff. These are the loose hulls that are separated from the grain by threshing or rubbing the wheat between ones hands. There is no stability in life. They are driven and tossed by the waves and wind of their environment. They are unsure and unstable.

Where do you go for direction? Where do you go for guidance? Who do you call upon when life falls apart? Where do you go when you are confronted with a situation? The world or the word.

Over the next few weeks I will speak on some hot topics: singleness/ living together before marriage, pornography, divorce/remarriage, homosexuality, abortion, gambling, suicide, alcohol, marijuana, and politics.

You aren’t coming to hear what I believe or have to say about these issues. You want to hear what God has to say. With each of these you have a choice: Am I going to listen to God’s truth or man’s opinion? Am I going to listen to the world or the word?

I want to give you a disclaimer: every one of us, including me, wrestles with things that are unbiblical. We have been influenced by tradition, former teachers, denominations, culture, talk shows, news stations, papers, and the internet. I’m asking you to come each week with a listening ear and a softened heart to hear God’s word. Wrestle with these issues after the message is over. The topics will cause you to get emotional and passionate because we are all dealing with real life experiences. But at the end of the day it will come down to this: will I follow God’s word or man’s opinion?

This is the same struggle the first centuries believer had when Christ ascended.

A few centuries before Christ, Alexander the Great, ruler of the Greeks, conquered the civilized world with his military strength, cleverness and diplomacy. He implemented a different strategy though.

When the Persians or the Babylonians would conquer are region, they immediately overturned the society through sheer force. Victims would be presented with two options: bend the knee to the empire or suffer the consequences, usually persecution, imprisonment, or death. Years later, the Romans applied the same pressure to worship the emperor.

Alexander approached control from a different perspective. Bypassing the use of muscle to bend the will, he infected his would-be converts through influence. Similar to a self-serve buffet, conquered communities could exercise their free will in choosing what they would believe. No one was ever forced to follow a particular path over another. Instead, he presented enticing options to choose from.

Alexander began indoctrinating the people of Israel with a system referred to as hellenism after he conquered judea in 330 B.C. He was so successful in doing so that the New Testament was written in Greek, the language of the educated.

His strategy consisted of 4 areas: entertainment, athletics, information, and education.

He set up educational centers to teach world religions, Greek mythology, world history, among other things. All of this was new for the Jewish people who studied from one text: the sacred scriptures. At the age of five, boys and girls entered the bet sefer or the house of the book. Options to study biology, science, or astronomy were nonexistent. Instead, they learned God’s word, specifically the Torah.

This was God’s word. Not words on a scroll. Not letters on a page. The very breath of God. That’s why when the scrolls are brought forth from the Torah closet, it’s not uncommon to see the people weep and dance. Why? It’s God’s word. He hasn’t left us to figure it out ourselves or wonder what to do. He told us.

Alexander didn’t prohibit Torah learning, he allowed it. However, he hijacked the school system by teaching lies about Gods and Goddesses or creation or the end of time. In essence, he said, “come learn from us. Don’t be closed minded. Don’t be narrow minded. We will enlarge your mind. Expand your horizons.” and it was so subtle that you didn’t realize you’d been poisined, until it was too late.

The 2nd element he introduced to the Jewish people was athletics or sporting events. Greeks invented competitive sports. The predecessor to present day olympic games was the isthmian games. Each game offered different rewards.

But competition was a foreign concept to the Jews. You will never get your hands on a Jewish book of world records. It doesn’t exist. Why would I want to compete against my brother. He labors alongside of for the same cause against the same enemy. The popularity of the games ran so deep in Jerusalem in the first century that even the levitical priests were drawn to the decapolis to watch the men compete naked. The daily duties of the priesthood were being hindered because of the lack of priests in the temple.
Naked competition was scandalous for a jew. It reminds us of what happened when God saw man naked in the garden, he immediately covered them with animal skins.

Next, Alexander set up an outpost for the dissemination of information. He brought in art, music, and news from around the world. Prior to his influence, jews cared little about the world at large. Immediately, the people were exposed to the Greek street journal and the romans times free press. rugs, furs, and commodities were imported from around the world. Pottery and furnishing were sold and traded in Greek controlled cities. This subtle element drew the people’s attention from the things of God to things of the world.

The final instrument of corruption was the erecting of the theatre for performances. The Greeks invented tragedy and comedy plays. Even the layouts of modern theaters today are based on those of the ancient Greek ones. The word hypocrite, used by Jesus in Matthew 6, describes the masks actors and actresses wore during a play. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be someone they are not.

Vulgar words and lewd, sexual acts were readily on display for anyone interested in attending.
after herod the great constructed a Greek theatre around 35 B.C., jews and Greeks regularly wrestled naked in the arena.

With the introduction of each element, the tolerance of the people of God was lowered. Their standards for righteousness were trivialized. You’re a young shepherd boy name Yochanon (John) living close to the hellenistic town of Beth She’an. Every friday night hear the hustle and bustle of a city sucking you into a system that is against God. Beliefs that are contrary to his teaching. You have a choice.

Do I stop and give in or keep walking with God?

We aren’t influenced by hellenism, but by Hollywood and the culture of our society.
America’s favorite pastime is football. Some worship sports teams at the expense of God. Athletics rule your life, whether its travel ball, high school sports, or college events. Movies shape what you believe, whether you know it or not. There was once a time when pg–13 was okay to watch. Not anymore. For that matter, television is littered with inappropriate language and sexual innuendoes that you expose yourself to every night. Liberal media has hijacked our news. We are unable to discern the truth from a lie anymore.

Our kids are being taught that the world came intoExistence from the colliding of planets and that man evolved from a baboon. And sadly, intelligent educated people have bought into this garbage. Biblical accounts have been reduced to children’s stories, causing so-called born again believers to question things like the flood, the fall, or the life of Jesus.

True North is always right. The word is truth. Every person has a compass in their hands: one is magnetic north and the other is true north. What seems like an insignificant degree off at this time, can you lead you almost 600 miles off course when you land.

The Chrstian group casting crowns capture this well in their song slow fade:

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you’re thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

Let me ask you: has it been a slow fade for you? You once were serving the lord, listening to his word, obeying his commands, but now you have found yourself in a position of standing or even worst, sitting with the unGodly? Do you feel like God’s distant?

Well this series if for you. It’s time for you to find your way.

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Robby Gallaty is the Senior Pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN. He was radically saved out of a life of drug addiction on November 12, 2002. In 2008, he began Replicate Ministries to equip and train men and women to be disciples who make disciples. He is also the author of Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples (2013), Firmly Planted: How to Cultivate a Faith Rooted in Christ (2015), Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work (2015), Foundations: A 260-Day Bible Reading Plan for Busy Believers (2015), and The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi (2017).