logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

“Secrets to an Un-chaffy Life”

Sept.9, 2012  Ps.1; Mk.4:14-20


What’s a light switch know that your fingers don’t? (Demonstrate on-off with switch) Your fingers might think we live in a DECIMAL world (1-2-3...10); whereas the light switch (and computers, smartphones, anything electronic) know that we actually live in a BINARY world. Binary numbers are made up of zeroes and ones, that’s it, either one or the other: nothing more. As with a light switch, it’s either ON or it’s OFF, nothing in-between.
    That’s a bit like the Biblical view of human nature, as presented by Psalm 1. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of people in the world (no joke): those who “make it” and those who don’t - in scriptural terms, the “righteous” and the “wicked”. Listen to verses 5 and 6,  “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” So this first psalm introduces in a way the grand theme of Hebrew wisdom literature, God’s dealings with the righteous and the wicked, and what characterizes each of those two kinds of people.
    On / off, righteous / wicked: “Which kind of person am I?” - That’s the question that naturally presents itself to us as a result. How do I know if I’m going to “make it” in God’s eyes, in eternity?
    Of course, the New Testament reveals that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and those who believe are made just or righteous only by faith in Christ, who gave Himself as the perfect substitute for us sinners at the cross. Yet Psalm 1 and Jesus’ teaching in Mark 4 give us some pointers on how to stay on the right path, once grace has touched our lives and drawn us to follow Jesus.
    The psalm introduces a metaphor or word picture to make more vivid the contrast between the two types of people. In v3 it likens the righteous person to “a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” A tree planted, not just randomly sown; it was transplanted, put there on the riverbank on purpose, so its roots have a constant water-source and consequently it always yields fruit, year after year. A real “producer”. Who wouldn’t aspire to be a good, bountiful tree like that? Perhaps there’s a parallel here to the image Jesus uses in Mark 4 of the crop produced by the good soil - “30, 60, or even a hundred times what was sown.”
    By contrast, v4 describes the wicked as “chaff that the wind blows away.” So the obvious comparison becomes - fruit, or chaff. What’s our life going to be like? Chaffy or fruitful, something good to show for it?
    Deep down, we long to be a person of substance, of significance, to know our life matters, that our life is making a difference, we’re managing to make some contribution to existence: that’s “fruit”. Paul taught the church at Galatia the so-called “fruit of the Spirit” includes attributes such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and so on. We want to be “fruitful” in that sense.
    If we fail, the psalmist says we’re like chaff: the husk or dust or unwanted portion, fit only to be discarded. When I’d be riding the wagon as a teenager baling up straw on our dairy farm, the chaff was the annoying part that hung in the air billowing out from the baler, getting in your eyes, sticking to and coating your sweaty arms. GAA! Chaff! Bleah! Such a nuisance, wave it away!
    The Bible uses other word-pictures that amplify how vain and empty sinful living is. Isaiah 17(13),  “...when [God] rebukes them they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale.” Picture a broken-off tumbleweed rolling around in the wind. Hosea 13:3,  “Therefore they (sinners in Israel) will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window.” A variety of things that have no weight, that disappear. And Jesus in John 15(6) used the analogy of withered old cut-off vine branches: “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
    Fruit and chaff point toward the process of threshing. We’re gathered at a meeting of the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association, so threshing should be a very relevant topic! Threshing (or, “thrashing” as it’s colloquially pronounced) is essentially a BINARY operation (think back to our light switch): it’s a separation into this or that. In a combine, the threshing process takes the form of a cylinder smashing the heads of grain, knocking the kernels from the husk; the walkers shake things loose while the fan blows, allowing the kernels to fall through below and be gathered into a bin. So the machinery separates the GOOD part (the grain) from all the rest, what’s of less value.
    The Bible suggests God is threshing our lives, looking for fruit. Not your typical image of Jesus? How did John the Baptist describe Him in Matthew 3(12)?  “His [Jesus’] winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the [what?] chaff with unquenchable fire.”
    So, that gets one to wondering: “How can I live an un-chaffy life?”


Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Travelled, emphasized that if we love someone, we will give them our attention. Or to put it another way, attention is evidence of love. For instance, he told “how that very evening there would be some man sitting at a bar in the local village, crying into his beer and sputtering to the bartender how much he loved his wife and children while at the same time he was wasting his family’s money and depriving them of his attention.” Love must translate into attention. If loving God is core to the Greatest Commandment, we will of necessity give Him our attention.
    According to Psalm 1, where the righteous person’s attention is directed makes a difference. What’s the information source? Who do they take their cues from?
    We are deluged with information in today’s world. All kinds of sources vie for our attention: radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, the internet (bigtime), and movies...We have to be selective about who we’re going to listen to.
    Psalm 1:1, who’s the “chaffy” person listening to? Here we read the person is blessed who does not “walk in the counsel of the wicked”, NLT “follow the advice of the wicked”. Nor do the righteous “stand in the way of sinners” - not meaning blocking or getting in the way, but “stand around with sinners” as NLT puts it. Third, blessed is the person who does not “sit in the seat of mockers” - NLT “join in with” mockers. Those who mock publicly tend to be disrespectful, rebellious toward those in authority, trouble-makers. The psalm is saying that’s NOT who you want to be hanging around with!
    So where’s a righteous person supposed to be focusing their attention? Where should they get THEIR information, their input from? V2, “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” Again, “his delight is in the law of the Lord” - you take an interest in it: get to know, study, be conversant with Biblical truth. And, “on His law he meditates day and night”: you could re-phrase that, “replaying in one’s mind”, “continually rehearsing God’s standards in all of life.” What do you find your mind flitting to in idle moments? Do you refresh your take on heavenly principles, God’s attributes and justice, stories of saints who were Christian heroes in centuries past? Or would you rather watch titans from Greek mythology duke it out on the screen?
    From John Wesley’s “classes” on down, Christians have banded together in small groups to delight together in studying God’s word, to pray for each other and challenge one another, trying to adapt it to their day, asking: “How does this apply to my life, my circumstances now?”
    So ask yourself – “How much time do I spend reviewing Bible content each week compared to all other information / entertainment sources? What is it (perhaps) about the Bible I find un-interesting, what gets in the way? Is it an old or woody translation, or maybe something about my attitude, my bias about God?” Sometimes we get hung up on God not for His own sake but because somebody in our past has done a lousy job of representing Him.
    Delight in God’s law, revel in the wonder of Biblical truth. Paul told the church at Colosse,  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...” (Col 3:16) If you think the Bible is “old news” or you “know it all”, try teaching a Sunday School class or midweek youth group! Invite some friends over for a weekly adult study over coffee. Share what you have, and you just might find yourself having to brush up on what you thought you knew.
    Now, we may react a bit negatively to the term “God’s law”. In the Hebrew sense, it can mean “instruction” more than law-books. What if I were to try to run one of these huge hulking steam engines without knowing a thing about it? Would that not be quite dangerous? However if I applied myself I could study up on steam technology, and maybe arrange for some experienced old-timer to teach me how to run it. That would be much better! Think of the Bible as God’s instruction manual for the steam engine of life. Delight in His law to your benefit. Ignore His principles (such as the value of truth, honesty, faithfulness for starters) and you risk having things blow up in your face – including relationships.


Jesus’ parable of the sower and the soils in Mark 4 suggests some additional traps to avoid if we’d like to live an “un-chaffy”, fruitful life. In v4 he tells of seed that “fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” He explains this in v15, “Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” The footpath would be hard-packed ground, beaten down by many footsteps. Perhaps the meanness of others has hardened our heart; we may find it difficult to imagine God could be good or loving, we resist the word, the Good News of Jesus complete with grace and forgiveness.
    People do treat other people shabbily from time to time; given our fallen nature, sometimes we’re nastiest to those in our own family. Paul counsels the Ephesians (4:26f),  “"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Notice how he links STAYING angry with giving Satan a foothold, a base of operation, room to work. A little later Paul urges them not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, then adds:  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Eph 4:30-31)
    The hard foot-path (along which some seed was sown) resists the word. It IS hard to forgive when others have been unkind; “How can I possibly forgive THAT person?”, we ask. Go to the cross and realize what Christ has done for YOU; 4:32, Paul again -  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
    Back to Jesus’ parable - in vv5f He talks about the seed sown on shallow rocky soil; the young plants were scorched in the hot sun and withered. Vv16f Jesus interpreted this as trouble or persecution that comes on account of the word, prompting people to take offence and fall away. These plants don’t last on account of the trouble they encounter.
    What gives us perseverance when we experience hardship or are ridiculed for faith in Christ? How did Jesus deal with hardship? When insulted, He didn’t retaliate, but “entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1Pet 2:23). Hebrews 12(2f) recalls, “[Jesus] for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” The author also asserts Jesus understands what we’re going through, so we can find solidarity in Him:  “Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18)


Hard times can be discouraging - being treated shoddily, getting picked on, life’s troubles - but the opposite temptation can be downright sneaky: if the Enemy can’t shake you (rob your fruit) by hardship, he’ll try to seduce you with pleasures, and get you off-track that way.
    In Mark 4:7, Jesus tells of seed that fell among thorns “which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.” In v19 He expands upon this, indicating at least three types of circumstances that make the seed unfruitful.
    (A) “The worries of this life,” literally, “distractions of this age.” This life has many distractions and concerns that would divert our attention from God’s path and spiritual matters. Life is complex and getting moreso by the decade; for instance, dealing with parents who are seniors and their needs, or children and their demands, grandchildren, property upkeep...the list goes on.
    (B) Jesus calls it “the DECEITFULNESS of wealth”: handy stuff to have, but don’t build your life around it, or trust in it alone for security. Proverbs 23:5,  “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” For instance, I know a successful farmer who contracted a serious blood disease. The latest chemo treatment could cost up to $90,000! That would gobble up wealth in a hurry. Others I meet in my role as chaplain each week at Wingham Hospital, who have other medical problems that money cannot solve. In still other families, having lots of money brings problems of its own, as people become envious, greedy, or feel they’ve been treated unfairly. Wealth is deceitful, tricky: it seems to be substantial, but in the end, it’s not.
    (C) Jesus refers to “the desires for other things”. Stuff! Maybe material - but what’s shiny and new doesn’t stay that way for long. Or maybe we hanker for popularity, prestige, power, to be the most pretty: such things seem to satisfy for a while but don’t last. Remember from Psalm 1:2, the person is truly BLESSED or “happy” whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” – not desiring other things. The apostle John exclaims, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1John 3:1) That’s the ultimate place in which to know security - God the Father’s vast love for us who believe, who have become His children by faith in Christ. When we receive Jesus into our lives and acknowledge Him as Lord, we find we are already “enough” in Him – we don’t need other “stuff” to prop up our life, make us feel important.


As we look around the grounds at this Thresher’s Reunion, we see much old machinery that is painstakingly restored and maintained by its owners. Time and wear and weather take their toll; there’s a battle against rust – it requires a lot of work to keep old equipment looking like new. I have my own decaying machinery – I drive a 2000 Chrysler Neon! Not quite antique, but at over 300,000 km it’s definitely showing its age.
    Psalm 1:6 affirms, “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous...” It is a real blessing when you experience the Lord watching over you. Over the past 9 years my wife has been battling a brain tumour and the last couple of years have been some of the best, for which we’re very thankful. But today I’d like to close with a quick illustration of the Lord’s watching over us in a different way.
    In early August, my wife and I drove up through Michigan to visit friends in the region around Sault Ste.Marie Ontario. Faithful Neon made it all the way and back, no problem – hardly even burning oil. Then in mid-August, we enjoyed a family gathering at a lake west of Ottawa with all 16 members of our immediate family (including the latest fiancé). The plan was for me to drive our daughter and her husband from Ottawa to Montreal to catch their flight back to Calgary. They’d gone on ahead from my son’s place in Barrhaven half an hour south of Ottawa to return the rental car in downtown Ottawa. As I went to pull out of my son’s driveway to go pick them up and shuttle them to Montreal, my car refused to budge. Engine started fine, but the transmission shift lever just went back and forth without doing a thing! I dashed inside and called CAA, then tried to get my daughter on her cell phone. No answer. Next I tried the car rental agency. It turned out she was right there at the counter – they hadn’t quite finished turning in the vehicle. We were able to extend the rental one more day at minimal expense in order to do the shuttle, and cover our own needs while the Neon was in the shop. Turns out the metal dowel attached to the end of the transmission shift cable had rusted and broken off; the mechanics were able to drill a hole in what was left and re-attach the cable.
    My point is: Between the previous trip to northern Ontario, then the trip to Ottawa area, we travelled at least 3,000 km last month. What are the odds that my car would break down at the very least inconvenient time – when I was parked in my son’s own driveway, rather than in the boonies of Michigan’s upper peninsula or some remote track in Lanark County? And that I’d be able to catch my daughter at the exact moment before they’d finished returning their rental car? It may seem a small thing to you or pure coincidence, but I certainly experienced it as an example of the Lord’s “watching over” His children!
    Scripture sets forth two paths – righteous or wicked; fruitful or chaffy. May you come to delight in His ways, follow His path, and bear fruit in season, knowing His saving “Shalom” – rather than being blown away like chaff. Amen.