There are Good People and Bad People

given on Sunday, August 16, 2015

Scripture base:

Psalm 1 (NLT)

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

Ephesians 5:1-14 (NLT)

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us[a] and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible.

Reflection:

 

A wide range of shoot-em-up movies are in the theaters this summer. The good guys versus the bad guys meet on the large screens, and other, old shoot-em-up movies keep the ongoing battle of good versus evil on the smaller screens for new generations to discover. The settings may be different, the decades may be different, costumes and transportation images all are different—except, maybe the black and the white hats.

Everybody enjoys the fictional stories where the good guys battle the bad guys and win. Sometimes, a story line gets a little shady and the bad guy appears to have won the battle, but the question is whether or not the bad guy lived a good life. And the battles do not mean just man versus man, it can even be the Good Witch versus the Evil Witch of the North.

Good versus evil is a universal theme, and the battle between the two sides cannot be escaped. The good versus evil conflicts are present in our daily lives even though the character changes. Sometimes the conflict involves one person versus another, but the battle can take on all kinds of different formats. The human versus natures can be a similar battle, so can human versus animal cause conflict and can demonstrate the same type of theme.

In Psalm 1, the reader is taught that there are just two types of people everywhere. Primarily, there are the good people who have followed God’s instructions/laws, and there are the bad people who have lived in ungodly manners. The first verse sets up the lesson:

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.

In a world filled with so many people living closer and closer together. What happens? Many find ways to control others or to gain personal wealth or take what is not there just to make their lives appear richer.

The good and faithful, according to the psalmist, find joy in their lives. The good and faithful know to follow God’s laws, at that time was the Ten Commandments; but others chose a different life path and became wicked or ungodly. There is no joy for those.

The book of psalms was the hymnal for the ancient Jewish people. The choice of the first psalm provides the simplest instruction for the youngsters to learn. Basically be good by being with good people. Stay away from the bad people.

As simple as that sounds, we all know it is much harder to do than those few words seem to say. Looking at the other verses, the descriptor for the ungodly are listed:

But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

The bad are listed in a variety of terms:

  1. 1 lists them as wicked, sinners, and mockers
  2. 4 uses a metaphor chaff
  3. 5 repeats sinners and the opposite of godly,

so that would be ungodly

  1. 6 finishes with the word wicked.

The psalmist does not leave the reader wondering what is right or what is wrong. The few verses clearly states that hanging out with the bad people will lead the good people away from God.

The rule is as old as humanity: If you hang out with bad people, you will become bad. This is a time-tested rule. In today’s culture, the number of good people who lose their direction is frightening. But one of the problems is that society has erased the clear lines between good and bad.

For instance, consider legalizing marijuana. Here in Missouri, a man spent 28 years in the state penitentiary for non-violent marijuana offenses. His sentence was for life. Someone who is charged and found guilty with that same amount today would be facing anything from simple tickets to minimal jail sentences with the possibility of parole. What is right and what is wrong? The dividing line changes constantly.

Take the discussion to our teens today. With the attitude toward pot changing from being criminal to a misdemeanor, how do our young people know what is right and what is wrong? The responsibility lies in the parenting generation to teach it, but even that generation has stumbled on this issue. Many have succumbed to the addictive nature of the drugs, even tobacco and alcohol or more complex drugs like meth, cocaine, and even synthetic drugs. Good people who simply hung out with evil people were convinced to do wrong things. They did not remain with the faithful, godly people.

The range of bad behaviors that can easily influence godly people to become ungodly continues to grow. How can this cancer be stopped? The same psalm has one major clue:

But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.

Meditate on the law day and night. That sounds like an impossible or at the very least, unreasonable expectation in our daily lives. Is it?

God does not penalize us for our decisions; we penalize ourselves. Meditating on the law is keeping the law. If we work to read the Bible, attend Sunday school, join Bible studies, keep prayer journals, read daily devotionals, attend worship regularly, we do meditate on the law. We know the law. We keep the law.

An example of how this can be kept manageable. This week the lectionary includes more words to the Ephesians. Remember Paul wrote this letter as encouragement to the young Christians. He shares more instructions:

  • Imitate God
  • Live a love-filled life
  • No sexual immorality
  • No impurity
  • No greed
  • No obscene stories
  • No foolish talk
  • No course jokes

Meditating on these rules keeps one focused on living a life that follows Jesus’ example.

When a news story comes on and it hurts our hearts and conscience we are listening with God’s ears. We are meditating on life as God has asked us to do.

When we see someone drinking too much and we step up to drive them home, we are doing what God asks us to do. We are living God’s law out loud.

When we see destruction from the typhons, from an industrial explosion, or a terrorist act, we meditate on God’s law. But do we act? God wants us to know the law, be able to meditate on it, to teach it, and to live our faith openly as activists, as parents, as neighbors, and as God’s emissary.

Read the Bible, study the law, seek out others to grow in faith together. Psalms I opened the faithful’s hymnal and continues to serve as a guiding textbook for today’s faithful. There is no time to lose. We must continue learning about God and teaching it to generations. If we do not, the evil cancer will continue growing.

According to Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus:

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

The reward—JOY! A good life filled with joy leads to life eternal along side Jesus.

Closing prayer:

Dearing Loving and Patient Father,

We hear your words, but we are often deaf.

Give us the resolve to meditate daily

On the holy words written

By generations of godly people.

With the fellowship of our Christian family,

Help us to grow in our faith

And to share words and actions

Modeling that of your son Jesus Christ. –Amen

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