Living Life on a Higher Level
*I want to talk to you this morning about living life on a higher level.
This past Tuesday (Oct. 14, 2008) the Times Daily reported on a recent U. S. Census estimate of the Shoals area. They began by declaring
If you’re like most of us in the Shoals, you live in a home, have at least a couple of vehicles outside, drive to work alone and possess a high school diploma. If you’re a prototypical local resident, you’re also 40 years old, among 2.4 people in your home and have a median household income of $36,967.
Just within these few sentences, they mention 3 levels of life: our educational level, our age level, and our economic level. Each of these levels can make a big difference.
For instance, if you are a recent high school dropout, chances are you’re facing some challenges a high school graduate may not have to deal with. A generation ago a diploma may not have hindered you much in the workplace, but today it is a little more important. A diploma doesn’t make life a piece of cake, but it often determines what jobs or wages are available.
Your economic level makes a difference in how you live. If you work a low paying job, you’re probably not driving a Cadillac. If you’re making the big bucks (and you know who you are) you have a lot more flexibility when it comes to buying a car or home.
Even our age level can affect our lives in many important ways. You can’t vote in the USA until you’re 18 years old. You can’t be president of the USA until you’re at least 35 years old.
We all live on certain levels of life, whether it be age, education, economic, or social. The really great thing is you can almost always climb to a higher level. You reach a higher age level just by staying alive a little longer; you go to school, or back to school, or to a college or trade school and climb the education ladder; in our land of opportunity, you can even improve your economic level.
This morning I want to call your attention to life on a much higher level than any of these. It is a level of life available to everyone in this room, regardless of your age, your education, or you economic status. You don’t need an act of Congress to get there; you don’t have to wait to see who will win the Presidency to reach this level of life. God’s Word tells us how to live life on a higher level in Psalm 15. I invite you to join me in exploring how as we begin in vs. 1.
You and I were created to live life on a higher level.
How can you live life on a higher level? This psalm begins by locating this higher level for us.
The highest level of life for the Hebrews was to live life in the presence of God and in fellowship with God, both of which were connected to the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) and on the holy hill of Mt Zion in Jerusalem. It was the Tabernacle/Temple on Zion which was the focus of God’s presence on earth among His people. In their mind, this was the source for the highest level of life. They went so far as to express it in their everyday language. You never went down to Jerusalem; you always went up Jerusalem. When you left Jerusalem, you always went down to everywhere else.
Most pilgrims who went up to the Tabernacle/Temple of Jerusalem would sing songs—probably some of the psalms in the Bible. There are some scholars who believe this particular psalm was like a call and response, and some even say it was kind of a ritual call and response between the priests and the people who come to worship. The priest would call out the words of vs. 1, and the worshipper would repeat the words of the rest of the psalm.
Whatever the case, vs. 1 gives us a description of what a higher level of life is like.
Lord, who may abide in Your Tabernacle? The Tabernacle represents the presence of God. This is a question of who is invited to enjoy both the presence of God and invited to enjoy fellowship (close friendship) with God. Who is fit to live life on the highest level?
Our first clue to the answer to this question is wrapped up in this word abide= sojourn;
carries the idea of a guest or resident alien who is invited to stay not because of their rights, but because of the grace of the owner.[i]
In other words, the psalmist is hinting the only people who may abide with God and dwell in His holy hill come not because they earn it, but because they are invited. There is a principle here: The highest level of life is living in fellowship with God by His grace.
Living life on a higher level is a little different that living life on other levels. With a little business savvy and luck, you can climb the corporate ladder all the way to the top. If you study hard and learn a lot, you can reach up the rungs of the educational ladder. You can scrimp and save and raise your economic status But when it comes to the highest level of life, you cannot earn it—you can only receive it as a gift.
Who may live life at the highest level? Those who say “yes” to God’s invitation.
Ac 3:19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…
Think for a moment about what it means to live on this level of life.
It means enjoying access to the God Who rules everything.
It means your history is completely taken care of. Your past has been forgiven; your present is under God’s provision and protection; your future is secure and certain in heaven.
It means you can walk and talk with God, the way Adam and Eve once did in the beginning.
It means never being alone again.
Heb 13:5 …For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
On this level of life, there is no need you have He cannot supply, no sin He will not forgive, no problem you face that He cannot handle. This is the highest level of life, and it is all yours for the asking.
Ro 5:1-2 1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
If you want to step up to a higher level of living, you have to look up and trust Christ as your Lord and Savior.
A house painter was at work atop a tall ladder that leaned against the second-story gable of a house. A small boy playing about the yard discovered the ladder, and as is natural for small boys, he began to climb it. His mother, checking on her child, was shocked to find that he was more than half way to the top of the ladder.
As the woman stifled a scream of panic, the man at the top looked down, saw the child, and instantly perceived the danger. Signaling the mother to be silent, he calmly said to the child, “Look up, sonny, look up here to me, and keep climbing.” Rung by rung, he coaxed the child ever higher: “Come on now, keep looking up, keep coming.” At last, the child safe in his arms, the painter carried him safely to the ground.
Each of us is somewhere on a ladder. If we look down, we may be terrified. God is saying, “Look up to me; keep looking up, and I will raise you up to enjoy My presence and fellowship with Me.
God calls you to step up by His grace and your faith in Christ to a higher level of living, a level of God’s grace and forgiveness.
But as they say on those infomercials but wait! There’s more! You enter this higher level of life through grace, but then if you want to enjoy the presence of God and fellowship with God, you’ve got to walk a higher pathway.
One of America’s most miserly millionaires was John G. Wendel, who died in 1915 at his home in New York City. Seeking to keep their inherited fortune in the family, Wendel and five of his six sisters remained unmarried. He instilled such frugality in his sisters that when the last one died in 1931, it was found that although her estate amounted to more than $100 million, she never had a telephone, electricity, or an automobile. Her only dress was one she had made herself and worn for nearly 25 years. [ii]
Economically, this family was at the highest level, and yet they chose to live on the lowest level.
There are Christians who live that way: they’ve received the riches of God’s grace, but they live like lost people. They never enjoy a close fellowship with God. They often feel like He is a million miles away. The reason why is that they’re not walking on the highest level of life.
How do you walk in this highest level of life? I want to answer that question by dividing the rest of this psalm into 3 areas: living right, talking right, and treating other people right.
First of all, if you’re going to walk on a higher level of life, you’ve got to live right. (v. 2a). Your relationship with God is based on His grace, not your works, but it is a grace that overflows into a righteous way of living.
Tit 2:11-12 11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age…
The psalmist describes living right as living uprightly=blameless, with integrity as opposed to hypocrisy and living righteous= in line with the character of God; holy, godly.
That only seems right, doesn’t it? We have to remember that God isn’t like everybody else. He doesn’t just see what we do—He sees what’s going on inside of us. How can we enjoy a close friendship with a holy God if we’re always full of sinful lusts and desires? How could we enjoy a close friendship with God if we’re always doing the things that offend Him? If you want to enjoy a close fellowship with God, the psalmist says, you have to live right.
Another important aspect of walking in a higher level of life is talking right. (v. 2-3)
Your words matter. Not just what you say, but the hidden heart from which all of our words flow. This is why the psalmist says that a person who walks on a higher level of life speaks the truth from his heart. He/she speaks the truth because it is the habit of their heart to speak the truth. Because truth is in their heart, they speak the truth.
On the negative side, those who speak the truth do not backbite with their tongue, nor do evil to their neighbor (with their words) nor betray their friends with their words. They not only don’t lie about others, they don’t use their words as weapons to slander or badmouth others. They obey the NT command of
Jas 4:11 Do not speak evil of one another…
Words matter, because they spring from your heart. If you want to walk on a higher level of life, you have to keep a pure heart that speaks the truth, and not speak evil of others.
One final aspect of walking on a higher level of life is you must treat other people right.
(v. 4-5) Relationships are a big part of living life on the highest level. You cannot enjoy the presence of God and close fellowship with God apart from good relationships with other people. That means you have to treat them right.
At first glance, vs. 4 doesn’t sound like a way to treat others right—at least if they are one of these vile people. But remember psalms is poetry, and sometimes poetry is more interested in images than in technical language. You really have to read the whole verse together to clarify what is being said.
The psalmist makes a comparison here between those who hate God (the vile person) and those who love Him (those who fear the Lord.) The idea is not that we hate people who hate God, and love people who love God. The idea is that your relationship with God affects your relationships with other people.
Your relationship with people who hate God will suffer if you love God. You especially notice this when a person comes to Christ. Your old friends will often resent the fact that you don’t do some of the wrong things you used to do.
1 Pe 4:3-4 3For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.
They may even tell you like one brother shared with me recently that one of his friends asked him when did you become a preacher? This brother replied, I’m not a preacher—I just love the Lord!
The Bible tells us we should love people who don’t know Jesus, but the Bible also tells us that we have to be careful who we buddy up with.
Pr 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.
1 Co 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
There is a division between the people who want to live life on a higher level with God and those who are content to stay in the pigpen of sin. You’re not any better than they are, but you are different. That’s part of what it means to be holy.
At the same time, when you walk in fellowship with the Lord, you sense a kinship with others who fear the Lord. You are walking in the same direction. Your love for the Lord binds your hearts together, and you feel a special closeness to them.
You will also be a faithful person, a person who is loyal and keeps their word, even if it means you suffer for it. You are faithful to the Lord, faithful to others, faithful to your word.
Finally, you are a just person, who doesn’t take advantage of others. The Law of Moses forbids charging a fellow Hebrew interest on a loan or letting money influence you to treat others wrong. Interestingly, the word for usury= to put the bite on a person.
Whether it’s watching who your friends are, or being faithful to your word, or being careful not to take advantage of others, living life on a higher level involves treating other people right.
Living on a higher level of life means walking out of the darkness of sin into the light of salvation, and then, to
Col 1:10 ...walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Then, and only then, will you experience the security of vs. 5c. You will find your safety in the presence and fellowship with God. when you live on a higher level of life with Christ, nothing-nothing- can threaten your confidence and peace.
A farmer caught a young eagle, brought it home, and put it in his chicken coop, and gave it chicken food. Many years later, and ornithologist happened to see the eagle and scolds the farmer.
Five years later, a naturalist came to see him and, after passing through his garden, said, “That bird is an eagle not a chicken.”
“Yes,” said the owner, but I have trained it to be a chicken. It looks like an eagle, but it has become a chicken.”
“No,” said the naturalist, “it is an eagle still and I will help it soar high up to the heavens.”
“No,” said the owner, “it is a chicken. It will never fly.”
They agreed to test it. The naturalist picks up the eagle holds it up and says: “You are an eagle; you belong to the sky and not to this earth; stretch forth your wings and fly.”
The eagle turns its head this way and that, and then looking down, sees the chickens eating their food, and down he jumps.
The owner said, “I told you it’s a chicken.”“No,” said the other man, “it’s an eagle. Give it another chance tomorrow.”
So the next day he took it to the top of the house and said, “You are an eagle; stretch forth your wings and fly.” But again the eagle, seeing the chickens feeding, jumps down and joins them.
Then the owner said, “I told you it was a chicken.”
“No,” asserted the naturalist,” it is an eagle. Give it one more chance, and I will make it fly tomorrow.”
The next morning he rises early and takes the eagle outside the city away from the houses, to the foot of a high mountain. The sun is just rising, gilding the top to the mountain with gold, and every crag was glistening in the joy of the beautiful morning.He picks up the eagle and says to it: “You are an eagle you belong to the sky and not to the earth; stretch forth your wings and fly.”
The eagle looks around and trembles as if new life is coming to it. It stretches out its wings and, with a loud screech, takes flight, mounting higher and higher, disappears into the clouds. -James Aggrey
You were not created to slum in sin; you were created to live life on a higher level, to soar the heights of salvation, in fellowship with a Holy God. The difference is your choice.
Lord lift me up and let me stand, by faith on heaven’s table land,
A higher plain, than I have found, Lord plant my feet on higher ground.
[i] NIV Application Commentary
[ii]Today in the Word, December 17, 1992 10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: