Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path …"

Day #284:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 8th

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 119 …

It is surprising how many people who claim to be Christians do not make a connection between having a relationship with God and living in obedience to His Law.  In fact, there are many who have been taught that not even the Ten Commandments apply to believers because " … the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).  Yet Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished …" (Matthew 5:17-18).  And then He says, "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19).

God's Law, which is the topic of Psalm 119, is still the standard by which God judges your righteousness and mine … or our lack thereof!  The beauty of the Gospel of God's grace is not that it frees us to BREAK the Law, but rather, that the power of Jesus Christ by His Word and Spirit frees us from God's just judgment against our sin by paying our penalty and gives to us the desire to obey God.  Indeed, God's Law reveals the glory, the perfection of the God we worship.  Much more could be said about God's call to obedience to His revealed will, including His Law, but you and I need to understand that while the ceremonial law that was attached to the offering of sacrifices for sin was fulfilled in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the moral law revealed to Moses is as perfect today as it was when it was given and reveals not only an outward obedience, but an inward, spiritual obedience that is pleasing to God.  This obedience does not earn our salvation, but is, as it was always intended to be, a response to God's love and grace in Christ.  Loving God is the very reason for our obedience!

So the Psalmist says in virtually every way possible that God's Law is GOOD!!  The outline of Psalm 119 follows the Hebrew alphabet and uses repetition to emphasize the truth God wants us to embrace.  "Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.  Blessed are they who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart" (119:1-2).  God's blessing is tied to obedience.  As Moses confirmed God's covenant with Israel near the end of his life, he declares in Deuteronomy 30 that obedience brings blessing, while disobedience brings the opposite.  No one can escape the standard of God's Law.  God desires perfection and once you place your faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness for the sins you have committed, where you have failed to obey God, it does not follow that you are free to keep on breaking God's Law.  On the contrary, God now calls His children to live according to what James calls, "the perfect law that gives freedom" (James 1:25).

Law-breakers are not happy people!  They may think they are for a time, but while you may get by with some things that are harmful to you and others, God sees it all and He knows your heart.  The writer of Psalm 119 speaks a lot about the heart:  "How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to Your Word.  I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands.  I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You" (119:9-11).  Over and over, the Psalmist mentions the involvement of the heart, the seat of your emotions, in keeping God's commands.  "Give me understanding and I will keep Your law and obey it with all my heart.  Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight.  Turn my heart toward Your statutes …" (119:34-36).

Do not miss the fact that through the words of Psalm 119, the writer reveals an intimate relationship with God that can only come by confessing your sin, your disobedience, your breaking of God's law, and then acquiring the knowledge of God's grace, compassion and forgiveness.  We who know Jesus Christ can even more clearly understand the joy of forgiveness and the freedom to respond in loving obedience to the One who gave His only Son that we may have life through Him.  As Paul puts it in Romans 8:1-2,4:  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death … in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit!"

We read again in Psalm 119 how those who do not know God do not have any desire to keep His law. They are unaware of their sin and the judgment their disobedience brings upon them.  In fact, the Psalmist confesses, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word.  You are good, and what You do is good; teach me Your decrees … It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees" (119:67-68, 71).  God often uses discipline through trials to draw us away from sin.  The writer of Hebrews speaks of this in Hebrews 12:

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons … God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (12:7,10-11).  That doesn't mean that every trial you and I face is the result of God's discipline, but without question there are times in each of our lives when God gives us a "wake-up call" by allowing trials to come our way so that we do not go the wrong direction or place our trust in ourselves or in the things of this world.

As we read in Psalm 1, we read again here, "Oh, how I love Your law!  I meditate on it all day long!" (119:97).  Why would anyone really say that?  Because thinking about righteousness keeps us from straying from God.  You cannot thank God for His grace in Jesus and then go your own way.  In verses I referred to earlier, James writes, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - HE will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25).

So back to Psalm 119, verse 105:  "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."  We who know Jesus WANT to obey God because we know that doing so pleases our Father in heaven and glorifies our Savior Jesus Christ.  It is His Spirit who teaches us truth and moves us to live it.  "Because I love Your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all Your precepts right, I hate every wrong path" (119:127-128).  More than pure gold!?!  Yes!  Because our Father in heaven knows what is best for His children.  If you disobey you will hurt yourself and others around you.  The examples are endless.

"The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple" (119:130).  People seem to think reading God's Word is tedious and boring, but in reality it is like eating good food … food for your soul.  I pray that you will be one of those described in this Psalm who listen to God's Word and obey His decrees, for doing so reveals that His Spirit is working within you.  A rebellious heart reveals the opposite and leads to pain and agony and destruction.  The fruit God desires from His people is obedience … so may His Word be the lamp for YOUR feet and the light for YOUR path!!

"Gracious Father, in Your law I see Your perfection, Your righteousness, Your glory.  Teach me, O Lord, to rejoice in the freedom of obedience.  Take away what remains in me that desires to turn from Your law to follow my own way or the ways of the world around me.  Forgive my sin, Father, and renew my heart, that with the passion You deserve I may follow my Lord Jesus Christ and walk the path of obedience, of righteousness, for Your Name's sake.  Whether through teaching, rebuking, correction or training in righteousness, use Your Word to produce in me a life of loving and joyful obedience.  In Jesus' name, Amen" 

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