Tehilim is the Hebrew word for Psalms which means “Praises or Hymns.” Here, treasures are hidden in plain sight. The wonder and mystery of this book is that when life is pressing in around us, we can grab our bucket in childlike faith, take off our shoes, and run into this river of Praise. It is our safe place. These treasures come from my own bucket and the discourse that often follows my coffee time with the Lord.
Psalm 1:1 Nor stands in the way of sinners...
Standing in the Way
Like the phrase before it, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,” I can't help wondering whether we might have limited yet another portion of this Psalm to interpretation? I love Graham Cooke's famous quote, “Evaluate whether a thought is from heaven. Ask, 'Is Jesus thinking this?' If not, exchange it and get another thought! His.” I have found no better way to enjoy the hidden treasures within the Tehilim. “We know what tradition says, but what do You say, Holy Spirit?”
The name “Christian” was first given to believers at Antioch. It meant, “little Christs” and identified those who followed His ways. What this tells us is that in the early days of the church there was a clear distinction between the way of saints and the way of sinners. But we are more than 2,000 years away from those beginnings.
As our name has lost its meaning, we have lost our identity. While Jesus mostly associated with sinners, we mostly associate with saints.
If, like me, you have grown up in the church in the last few decades, you probably thought that Christianity was about creating a safe place to raise our families. In other words: doctrinal purity, denominational segregation, political voting status and a moral majority would bring peace to the world. Interestingly, that's what the religious group of Christ's day was looking for. When He failed to meet those expectations, they killed him.
Is it any wonder that church has become a social gathering where upper to middle class families meet behind beautified fortresses and where separatism has become a sacrament? I actually knew a wealthy minister who said, “You can be called to the down and out. I will go to the up and coming.”
As money has taken center stage in Christianity, so has self. To the rest of the world, Christians have become associated with factious, covetous, easily offended, strong-minded, self-willed egoists who have expectations and judgments about every one, except themselves. Ouch!
Hence my thought: Even the name, Christian, has come to stand for one who is standing in the way of sinners. Our very title has become a stumbling block to the unsaved.
From such great beginnings, how have we ended up here?
Consider two ways in which I believe we are standing in the way of sinners.
1. We are condoning our own conduct while condemning the condemned.
John 8:3-11, And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They said unto him, Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what say you? This they said, testing him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted himself up, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they who heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing before him. When Jesus had lifted himself up, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those your accusers? Has no man condemned you? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.
I am not sure why, but every message I have heard on this passage has focused on the words, Go and sin no more, completely missing the words that preceded them.
Neither do I condemn you...
The woman was already condemned. So were the men who had brought her to him.
Jesus was the only One righteous enough to stone her.
To condemn her.
Ironically, the woman was the only one who was in a position to be saved that day. She was the only one who was honest about her true condition and the result was that the others left the same way they came… condemned… all while believing they were justified.
Before we can stop standing in the way of sinners, we have to see our own condition. Look in the mirror. Be honest.
Jesus can't save what we won't acknowledge. The pain and guilt of condemnation was why the woman kept sinning. Before He commanded her to do the impossible, Jesus took away her reason to sin.
He lifted the weight of condemnation from her conscience.
Romans 2:4, Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
Condemnation is the impetus of sin and the way of sinners.
John 3:17, For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Guilt locks us in the sin Christ came to free us from. For who can bear a guilty heart?
Religion straps a burden of guilt on our shoulders and demands that we “measure up” to some vague set of rules. Under that weight we preach a gospel of condemnation believing that a shamed conscience is necessary to convict sinners of sin, but it isn't the gospel Jesus taught.
Surely, authentic Christianity could change everything. Who wouldn't want to meet a little Christ?
The second reason I believe that we are standing in the way of sinners is that
2. While we condemn the world for sin, we are exalting self.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible: the word (p) signifies such, who in shooting miss the mark, and go aside from it, as such sinners do from the law of God; proceed from evil to evil, choose their own ways, and delight in their abominations. Now their "way" is not only their "opinion", as the Syriac version renders it, their corrupt sentiments, but their sinful course of life; which is a way of darkness, a crooked path, and a road that leads to destruction and death: and happy is the man that does "not stand" in this way, which denotes openness, impudence, and continuance; who, though he may fall into this way, does not abide in it; see Romans 6:1.
As quarrels go, the word “opinion” would inevitably come up whenever my children were fighting. However, in our family, opinion is a bad word. For that reason, the quarrel would usually fizzle out when one or the other would finally acknowledge, “I do know what the definition of an opinion is!” Somewhere, in an old dictionary, I had found this: “an opinion is anything other than fact.” Humility is sometimes just an understanding away.
How interesting that one of the first steps into darkness is exalting our own opinion. Self. My thoughts. My way of seeing. My desires. My will. Me as lord. The ungodly, unrighteous part of me that must be crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) if I am truly born again.
Obadiah 3 says, The pride of your heart has deceived you.
There is no deception greater than the pride of our own opinion.
We are living in a time when Self is no longer crucified, it is magnified. We are standing in the way of sinners and preventing them from desiring to know Christ because the lord they see in the lives of His children is Self – the same lord they follow.
Even sons of God can end up eating with pigs. The slop of our own opinions.
Gill's Commentary concludes: The Pharisees in the time of Christ, though they were not openly and outwardly sinners, yet they were secretly and inwardly such, Matthew 23:28; and the way they stood in was that of justification by the works of the law, Romans 9:31, but happy is the man, as the Apostle Paul and others, who stands not in that way, but in the way Christ Jesus, and in the way of life and righteousness by him;
The way of sinners is the way of self. Self-righteousness.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of that way is death, Proverbs 14:12.
Our righteousness is not in our rightness.
David said, Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths, Psalm 25:4. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant, Psalm 25:8-10.
Jesus did not stand in the way of sinners. He gave sinners a new way; the way of saints.
Jesus leveled the ground so that sinners could become saints.
There are only two ways to stand in this world: We can stand in the way of sinners or we can stand in the way of saints.
Love is the way of saints. Love levels the ground so that sinners can become saints. Love builds a bridge to freedom from sin by removing the power of condemnation.
Love makes a way for us to come back to the standard.
We can stand in the way of saints and become famous again for being children of God. 1 John 4:8, Whoever does not love does not know God for God is Love. We can become known for Love.
Love is impossible to offend because it is always forgiving. Love is kind even when wiping the spit off its cheek. Love is gentle because it calms the storm inside before speaking to the winds outside. Love is always hoping, always believing and never afraid to be called naive. Love rejoices in the face of tribulation, remains in the face of reality, and weeps in the face of wrongdoing.
Love is the low hanging fruit of a saint. Always reachable. Always touchable.
Love sees a daughter of God in the eyes of the woman caught in the act of adultery.
There is no power on earth greater than Love.
The way of a saint is in direct contrast to the way of sinners because Love is the direct opposite of Self.
So, what would happen if we, Christians, became little Christ's again? What would happen if we stopped standing in the way of sinners and began standing in the way of saints again?
There are two ways. Only two. One leads to death and the other to life. Love invites you to come and stand in the way of saints today; to lay all that is self down so that sinners can become saints.
John 15:13, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Scriptures: KJV, KJ2V, NIV & NLT