Life is filled with persecution:
- At the very least you’ve got the Devil harassing you with temptations . . .
- You’ve got people who are against Christians. They want you stopped (to be quieted, to shut you up) by bullying you, and by taking you to court (Examples: Christmas and Easter displays; Christian objects on your desk at work; etc.), and even by legislation against you.
Because of these persecutions, we should understand then some of the distress that is written about in the book of Psalms. A lot of the Psalms deal with the trouble that is brought on by the enemies of Israel, enemies of the king, and enemies of God. It is no wonder that the Psalms mean so much to modern Christians and speaks to the struggles we encounter, whether persecution, doubt, fear, physical ailments, attacks from unlikely sources, weaknesses, grief, and even personal sin.
Among the Psalms we can reference that would apply in our lives in many ways, Psalm 119 should speak to us today. “I Don’t Want to be a Casual Christian! I want to be a Committed Christian!” Here’s why, there is passion, zeal for God’s Word.
I’m going to start the invitation right now. You have got to consider this and evaluate your life and your standing with God! Is this your conviction? That you do not want to be a casual Christian? That you WILL be a Christian of zeal and faithfulness and obedience?
What life does to the Christian depends on the characteristic of each Christian’s faith. What life does to you depends on the characteristic of your faith.
- The cares of life are capable of pushing against you and if your faith is weak or struggling, that can push you into the realm of inactivity or even unbelief. Doubts about who God is, what Christ’s life and death means, what the church is about, doubts about communion and baptism, about other Christian’s and their motives and even what Christianity is.
And so we encounter three types of Christians who struggle in their faith
- The Christian Atheist who lives like they don’t belong to Christ
- The Cultural Christian who lets the world guide their thinking
- The Lukewarm Christian who has no desire as a Christian
The pressures we encounter come from outside and from inside the church, weaknesses in some Christian’s faith can discourage other Christians. Legalistic attitudes and unmerciful Christians can undermine or wipe out other Christian’s faithfulness. Hypocritical Christians run other Christians off.
How do we move from being a “Casual Christian” to being a “Committed Christian” in whom God’s strength is manifest, where we stand firm on the Rock of salvation?
It begins by becoming a Committed Follower of Jesus Christ as we began with Sunday. And, we become committed Christians by being “Biblical Christians.” That is where we are today, and Psalm 119 comes into our view-finders.
Psalm 119 the longest of all the Psalms, and is one of the most unique pieces of Hebrew poetry and it is full of wisdom. Why? Because it is about the wisdom that comes from commitment to God’s Word.
Let me fill you in on this Psalm a little bit.
- The Hebrew language has 22 letters and Psalm 119 has 22 stanzas (strophes) of 8 verses each and each verse of each stanza begins with each successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
- The Psalm is considered a part of the “wisdom literature” along with Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. You learn Godly, Biblical, spiritual wisdom from it. But there are several other literature types evident in the Psalm; There is the individual lament (v. 107), a song of trust (v. 42), a song of thanksgiving (v. 7), and of course a hymn (vv. 71-72). It strikes at several aspects in the mind, heart, and soul. And it is practical. There is valid, up-to-date application to your life.
- The key word in the Psalm is torah. Usually translated “law.” But there are seven synonyms to the word law that are found in the Psalm: Promise . . . Word . . . Decrees . . . Commands . . . Ordinances . . . Statutes . . . Precepts
- The essence of the Psalm contains a couple of characteristics that we should highlight in view of the characteristics of God’s Law:
- The capability of God’s Law is a lot farther reaching than even we can go in our life. It covers all of life and the glorious life of the one who live according to God’s Law.
- The torah, God’s Law is the only way toward a personal relationship with God.
I recognize that the common element that makes a person a Christian atheist, or a cultural Christian, or even a lukewarm Christian, that is, “Casual Christians,” is that they lack a personal relationship God.
It is revealed to us then that the key to possessing this relationship with God is knowing His Word, loving His Law, and Living His Way in our life and to do so we must put God’s Word into our lives knowing it is God’s living Word. It is not dead letters but God’s life input into us through faith and obeying God’s Word. Paul encourages you to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Let’s go there!
There are two stanzas in Psalm 119 that we want to access today. The first one begins in verse 57 and the second in verse 105.
- 1. I Promise to Obey @PSALM 119:57-64
The greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37-38 tells us to “love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds. Jesus is telling us that this is the way it is to be in our lives.
Love is a relationship word. It is about relationships where commitment and devotion are supreme, the most important aspect of who we are in relation to who God is.
This is how I became a Christian. I was laying in my bed on a Saturday night and was thinking and had questions, so, I went upstairs to Dad who was at the dining room table studying the Sunday School lesson for the next day. I walked up to Dad and asked, “What do I need to do to be saved?”
Dad had me to sit down next to him; he pushed the books he was studying aside and moved his Bible over so I could see it and opened the Scripture to teach me what I needed to do to be saved. The next morning, I made a public commitment to Christ and was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins.
The Word of God! Dad showed it to me. Mom and Grandma told me about the stories in the Bible. Brother Kenny, our preacher, preached and taught the word of God to me. My SS teachers, Dorothy Barlow, Opal Harvey, Jack Hight, Ed Burndt, Mr. Bugg and others taught God’s word to me. God reached my heart and soul with his word.
Think about the moment you became a Christian and what led you to believe in Jesus and accept his salvation by faith. Wasn’t the Word of God the underlying element in leading you to faith? God’s word was brought to you by a person or several people. Your parents, or a preacher or Sunday School teachers, maybe a friend, or possibly you heard a Bible preacher on the radio or TV, or maybe you just picked up a Bible and the Scripture touched your heart and you heard God’s call to you to come be saved through Jesus Christ.
When you accepted Jesus, your belief, your repentance, your confession, and your baptism were commitments to God . . . to love and obey him with all of your being, inside and out.
This particular stanza of Psalm 119 (vss. 57-64) is referring to your promise to obey God in spite of anything else, in spite of everything else.
The writer of this Psalm has been through the ringer of persecution. He has experienced adversity as well as the joys of life. We all have to some extent so we can relate to him. Look at this:
1st – V. 57, God is his portion. All of his hope and inheritance is found in God. That is the source of his hope, his life, all that he is about and he has invested his whole life and hope in God. Therefore he promises to God that he will obey God’s Word. “Where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be” @Matthew 6:21.
I think that if you really looked closely at God’s Word you will find that it is much more than a source of information and knowledge (If it is only knowledge, then we’re not better off than anyone else). It is the source through which God not only gives you life, but he continues to live through you by your obedience. Obey is a hard word, a word people do not like to hear . . . however . . . it is a matter of doing, of action. Everything has a right and wrong way. When we try to live life as Christians without God’s word to guide our life, than we will certainly do it wrong!
Are you 100% committed to God, to living his Word? That is what your commitment was about when you gave your life to God, when you became a Christian!
2nd – VV. 58-60, because he has committed himself to God (“I have sought your face”) he asks God to fulfill his promises to His faithful one, which is God’s grace continuing to be active in his life. He has taken account of his life and directed it to follow God’s way, obeying his statutes and commands.
There is the need of constant examination in your life. You ask, “Am I totally obeying God? How do I know when I am? How do I know when I’m not? He has been gracious to me, am I honoring that with thanksgiving and joy?”
So if I take a misstep in following God, because of my commitment, I will redirect it according to God’s word.
To many have given up hope and despaired or they have fought back in ways contrary to God’s teaching when people come against them because of their faith. Can you honestly say, that if you were bound and imprisoned for your faith, that you would remain constantly faithful to God’s word, to the direction he has set for your life as a follower of God? Sometimes that seems to be the most extreme case of following Jesus, but I think there are harder ways. Yet this kind of trial can lead to fear and doubt.
4th – VV. 62-63, because of his devotion to God, his dedication is found even when he gets out of bed at night, praying and giving thanks for God’s law which guides him as well as his close association with those who love and follow God’s law.
Your relationship to God and to God’s faithful people is evidence of your devotion to God. Not just devotion to God, but devotion to God’s Word and to God’s people. Let us see this in you. Let us see your commitment to God’s word by your commitment to God and his Word.
- 2. I Am Determined to Obey à 119:105-112
Ancient Israel’s memory was short. Not that they forgot, they just wouldn’t remember. When they were in difficult circumstances they doubted God and his servant Moses, even if it was just days before that God had done some super-impressive, miraculous thing to save the Children of Israel.
We get that way too, short-sighted and short-memoried. God has done wonderful things in our lives, through the lives of other Christians, even through the church, and the first crisis that comes up, we can forget God and complain, or we can look for a solution that doesn’t include God’s word and will.
Making our way through life requires vision. Understanding what is right and what is not. Realizing what is of God and what is not. Sometimes there are possible solutions that seem good or may even seem Godly, but are not. How do we see the way that makes sense from God’s perspective, according to our commitment to Him? It is by God’s Word given to us, the BIBLE!
The writer of Psalm 119 brings his difficulty before God.
- V. 107, I have suffered much (they’re against me, they continue to try and stop me)
- V. 109, I constantly take my life in my own hands (I am constantly threatened)
- V. 110, the wicked set a snare for me (they are trying me to stop me).
The constant in all of this is his reliance upon God’s Word and his commitment to God’s word.
- Though I have suffered much, I simply ask that you preserve my life according to your law.
- Though I take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law
- Though the wicked set the trap for me, I haven’t strayed from your precepts
Do you see trust in God’s Word? A faith that relies on what God’s Word says and the way it guides through the snares and troubles of life. That’s the character of the writer of this Psalm. He is trusting in God’s Word of guidance. And so he begins this stanza:
“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path.”
Don Dewelt paraphrased this sentence using the word “flashlight.” A lot of people use the same metaphor. It is a good analogy because the words “lamp” and “light” in verse 105 refer to the little clay bowl containing oil and a wick they burned in that day that put out a just little light like a flashlight only puts out so much light. The little clay lamp makes me think of a candle. I think it is the same sort of thing.
God’s word illuminates each step we take. It’s as if, we come to this moment of crisis, or the time of decision even if it isn’t trouble and we ask “what do we do? What step do we take?” That is when we remember God’s precepts, do this or don’t do that. That is when if we don’t know the answer already, we search and study the Bible and pray to determine what God says.
V. 106, reminds us of the commitment to God’s Word from back in V. 58. I have taken an oath, I have promised; does it sound familiar? I will follow your “righteous” laws.
Here is the voice of commitment. Verse 112: “My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.”
That is the Biblical Christian. The one who commits to God’s Word and lives His word in all of their life. God’s word answers every question, it guides every step, and directs us to trust and worship God in everything and every way.
So how does becoming a “Biblical Christian” convert the Christian Atheist? A Biblical Christian lives life like they belong to Christ, because they do. They found life in the Son of God and the Word of God taught them that, taught us that.
How does becoming a “Biblical Christian” convert the Cultural Christian? A Biblical Christian lets the Bible teach, guide, and command our lives. We then reflect the glory of God as imitators of Christ.
How does becoming a “Biblical Christian” convert the Lukewarm Christian? A Biblical Christian lets the Bible fuel their life and inspire them to faithfulness and good works.
Maybe the thought from this passage should be your devotion this week…1 Peter 1:22-25
Will you say with me, I am NOT a casual Christian; I am a Committed Christian?
I am NOT a casual Christian; I am a Committed Christian