When you’ve done something wrong do you worry or wonder what God is thinking? You may ask, does He still love me? Maybe you suffer from guilt and shame?
Lately, more people than usual have told me of such struggles. While pondering these issues I heard a brief podcast on the radio.
I looked at the other podcasts for the week and their transcripts! They seem relevant so I’ll include them under my related posts and relevant songs below:
God Loves You Despite Your Spiritual Performance – The Wonder Of Grace:
Freedom From Guilt And Shame:
God Will Make It Up To You:
A Different Perspective by Berni Dymet
You can read or hear the daily podcast by email or on the above blog.
SERIES: WHEN GOD SPEAKS
So many people are asking the questions “How can I hear God speak to me?” and yet they leave their Bibles on a shelf somewhere gathering dust. There is such incredible power in God’s Word. Power to transform our lives. Power to bring joy and peace to our lives. Why is it that Christians, en masse, are ignoring the Word of God.
In this series, Berni Dymet takes us on a journey through Psalm 119 to look at God’s Word … from a different perspective.
EPISODE TWO: MAKE YOUR HEART A HEALTHY HEART.
Heart disease, in most countries these days, is the number one killer. But as much as our physical heart can fail us, what’s going on in the heart of your soul – well, that can either fill you with life, or rob you of it. So let me ask you, today, right here, right now, what do you have going on in your heart?
If you’re a parent, you’ll know what it’s like to experience conflict with your children. If I had a penny or a rupee or a cent for every time I’ve said to my kids, “All I want is the best for you”, I’d be a very wealthy man. Here’s how the conflict happens. They do something that you know is wrong, something that you know is going to hurt them, so you step in. As their parent, you have wisdom; you have insight; you have experience to guide them in the right direction, but they resent that because as the saying goes, you can’t put an old head on young shoulders. Children tend to view the discipline of their parents as something negative. It’s not until they grow up that they can look back and see how the wisdom and the discipline of their parents has made them who they are today.
And you know, the same is true in our relationship with God. We so often resent the fact that there’s a handful of things which He says to us, “Don’t do them.” Why? Because He has the wisdom that we don’t, and just as we did when we were teenagers, we want to rebel against the wisdom of our Father. Am I right?
So what’s the answer to that? I think it’s a change of heart on our part. It’s coming to the mature position of recognising that God’s ways are the best ways, and if I keep myself to His ways, then I’m going to have a better life. I’ll be more of a blessing; I’ll have fewer hassles, and even when I’m travelling through the odd wilderness experience here and there, as we all do, I’ll be better able to deal with that.
Take for instance the wisdom of a parent to a child who’s moving from teenage into adult years: Wisdom about sexual propriety. These days, kids all want to sleep around, but any parent filled with just a bit of Godly wisdom knows how dangerous, how painful, and how harmful that can be to their child. Psalm 119:9:
How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word.
Sexual desire is a very strong desire. We all have very strong desires, young or old, but not all of those desires are good ones. Not all of our apparently natural desires are beneficial. Some of them can be downright harmful and destructive: Selfishness; envy; immorality … There’s quite a list of things that we know are bad for us, but how do we keep our ways pure? By guarding them according to God’s Word; by being in the Bible day after day and gleaning the wisdom and frankly, also the incredible Holy Spirit’s power to steer clear of those destructive ways.
The problem with our apparently natural desires and the destructive ways to which they lead is … well … frankly, they’re so seductive. Have you noticed that? Temptation is always seductive, and of course that’s by design. Satan knows that if he can make a terrible thing like (let’s say) adultery appear attractive, then he is going to destroy many-a marriage.
It seems to me that each one of us has some Achilles heel, some sin that’s our weak point – the chink in our armour if you will, that the devil consistently exploits in order to make us stumble over and over again, until finally we fall. Have you noticed that too? So what we find is that our heart is torn in this direction to fall into temptation, and in that direction to honour God, and with a divided heart, we find ourselves flip-flopping all over the place: Some days honouring God, and other days … well … not so much. Right?
How do we get over that? How do we powerfully deal with the sin in our lives, so that we can live a life that truly honours God – a life that truly reflects God’s glory which, after all, is probably the desire of your heart anyway? Well, as always, God has the answer. Psalm 119:10-11:
With my whole heart I seek You; do not let me stray from Your commandments. I treasure Your Word in my heart, so that I may not sin against You.
I love this, because it’s the Psalmist talking to God, and what he’s saying is that he’s taken a heart-decision: A decision of the heart to seek God and based on that decision, he’s asking God to stop him from straying from His commandments. Don’t you love that? The man, aware of his own inability to honour God, is inviting God Himself into the equation: The all-powerful God who ultimately sent Jesus to this earth to defeat Satan in our lives.
Heart-decisions are always the most powerful decisions. We can decide things in our minds; sure, but when we make a deep decision of the heart and ask God to step into that decision, wow! You’re in for some serious power to change, and notice too how the Psalmist writes:
I treasure Your Word in my heart, so that I may not sin.
Something happens when we treasure the Word of God in our hearts. God’s ways become more important to us than our ways. God’s words become more important to us than what other people say.
Listen up. God wants to bring some powerful change to your life: Today, tomorrow, the next day … For the rest of your days here on this earth. Serious, powerful change, but what He’s looking for is a deep decision of the heart to seek Him and to treasure His Word.
Make no mistake. It’s a decision that will change your life. Here’s what Jesus had to say about your heart.
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45)
And your might well add that out of the abundance, out of the overflow of the heart, we think, and we act. If you have good things happening in your heart, you are naturally going to think good things, say good things and do good things.
The problem is that the heart is part of the flesh. Part of our soul if you will. And as the Apostle Paul writes of himself:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate … For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:15,18-20)
O what’s the answer? Paul again:
Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24)
Jesus is the answer. Inviting Him into our heart is the answer. Letting Him do the things in you that you in your own power and I in my own power simply cannot do.
What makes us think that we have to do all this on our own? The answer is that we can’t. But Jesus can.
To read these posts online or hear the audio clips click here: Podcast.
EPISODE ONE: THE WAY TO GOD’S BLESSING
How many times have you heard, “read your Bible more”? Well? You know you should, but, hey … life is busy. It’s hard to understand. You have enough to deal with … without someone heaping another burden on your back, right?!
I know you’ve heard it all before. You should read your Bible more; we get that, but for many people, it’s a chore. When you hear the word “Bible”, come on … In your heart of hearts, how do you respond? I know I used to cringe at the idea that anybody can be so narrow, so religiously geeky if that makes sense, as to actually read the Bible. But after I’d been a Christian for a while, you know what? It became a chore. It’s like when I was a kid learning the piano and my parents insisted on me practising at least half an hour every day. Really? A whole half an hour? And that … That’s how so many Christians approach the idea of reading their Bibles. They’re being told so many times, “Read your Bible”, that every time they hear it, it conjures up a sense of duty; a sense of responsibility and labour, and (let’s be honest here) guilt in their minds.
How about you? How do you feel about the Bible that’s gathering dust somewhere in your house? Oh and by the way, if you happen to be someone who does open their Bibles most days (and the research confirms this), you’re one of the very few people in God’s kingdom who does. So for many people, either the Bible has a bad rap as some dreary, boring, fundamentalist thing that narrows your mind and fuels your life with a list of dos and don’ts, or it’s a source of guilt. That’s the majority view – sensational! But what if I told you it’s not meant to be either of those? Have a go at this. Psalm 119:1-3:
Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Law of the LORD. Happy are those who keep His decrees, who seek Him with all their heart; who also do no wrong, but walk in His ways.
Happy, eh? The original Hebrew word there means either to be happy or to be blessed. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Who doesn’t want to be blessed? So who is it who is happy and blessed? Well, those whose way is blameless; those who walk in the Law of the LORD; those who keep His decrees; those those who seek Him with all their hearts; those who do no wrong, but walk in God’s ways. God’s Law; His decrees; His ways, and that’s what the Bible is all about.
I know what you’re thinking. “Who needs a whole bunch more rules in their lives?” I get that, but the happiness and the blessedness actually come to those who are blameless; those who do right; those who have a clear conscience. God’s Law; God’s decrees; God’s ways … That’s how you get to that place.
Perhaps that’s why God takes His Word so seriously: Because there’s so much good in there for you and me. It strikes me as incredibly sad that so many people who say that they believe in Jesus actually look at God’s Word (the Bible) as an optional extra; as an add-on if you will. The number of times people Email me with this mess in their life or that challenge, this problem or that temptation, this and that, and sure; I can give them answers from God’s Word that’ll speak right into that situation to bring healing or power or wisdom; whatever’s needed, and I do that because God’s Word is packed full of more healing and more power and more wisdom than you or I will ever need in a lifetime, but I often ask these same people, “So, how often do you read your Bible?” On the rare occasion that I get a response, it goes something like this: “Oh, I don’t have time.” That’s the most common one. “Oh, it’s hard to understand.” That’s the second-most common one. “Oh, I don’t think it’s that relevant.” Yeah, that’s the third-most common response.
Let me be blunt here. We behave as though listening to God speak isn’t all that important but then, when people have a problem they can’t solve, they turn to a preacher like me to help them solve the problem from God’s Word. Doesn’t that strike you as just a little crazy? A lot, maybe?
So what does God have to say? Let’s listen to Him. Psalm 119:4-6:
You have commanded Your precepts to be kept diligently. O, that my ways may be steadfast in keeping Your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all Your commandments.
See, keeping God’s precepts isn’t an optional extra; it’s God’s command. There are eight different words used in Psalm 119 for the Word of God, the Bible. One of them is precepts, and the sense of this is that God made us. God knows us. He knows how we should live, so that we’re not put to shame. Shame interrupts our intimacy – our fellowship with God. It takes away the blessings, the happiness, the joy, of living in a relationship with Him the way we were meant to. He doesn’t want that for you. Shame was what drove the first wedge between God and humanity, when Adam and Eve ate of that one tree that they were told not to eat from. Shame is what’s ruining our lives, and much better than asking someone for help in the middle of a problem that’s confounding you is avoiding the problem in the first place. Wouldn’t you agree? God wants the very best for you, because He loves you, and the place to find His very best (honestly) is the Bible.
If shame is something that ruins our lives, then the opposite of that is a good heart; a sound heart; a clear conscience. You know what it’s like. When you do something that you know is wrong, your conscience eats away at you; it just does. God put it there for a reason. It’s that part of us, made as we are in the image of God, that helps us turn our ways back to Him. When our conscience is troubled, it robs us of peace; it robs us of joy, and more often than not, it robs us of sleep, and that’s why living our lives God’s way is the best way. Really.
Most people think (and honestly, this is how I used to think too) that if you become a Christian, you have to live life by a set of rigid rules, and that’s going to narrow your life somehow. It’s going to rob you of being able to do all the things you want to do, but actually, the exact opposite is true. Psalm 119:7-8:
I will praise You with an upright heart when I learn Your righteous ordinances. I will observe Your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.
When we discover the right way to live – good, wholesome, pure, gentle, kind, loving, generous, sacrificial, loyal, honest – all the qualities we admire in other people, all of a sudden, we’re living with a clear conscience and that clear conscience is where we discover the freedom that Jesus came to bring us. God describes Himself as our Father. In fact, Jesus used the word Abba, which means daddy, and He’s a good Father – the best. All He wants is the best for you and me, and what I’ve discovered is that there are actually very few things about which He says to us, ‘Don’t do them.’
Go back to Adam and Eve. There were doubtless thousands of fruit-bearing trees n the garden. There was only one of which God said, ‘Don’t eat from this one,’ because He knew it would be bad for them. They would discover the difference between good and evil. Why? How? Because their conscience would convict them of their wrongdoing.
You and I, we know when we’ve done something wrong, and that sense of guilt ruins everything. Every thing. What God wants for you is to be free to worship Him; to live in freedom with an upright heart; with a clear conscience. I will praise You with an upright heart. When? When I learn His right ordinances; when I learn to live in goodness and light, rather than in evil and darkness, and the place where we discover how to do that – the place where we get the knowledge and the wisdom and the power to live for Him – is in the Bible. The amazing love-letter that He’s preserved right down through the ages.
EPISODE THREE: GET A REVELATION
… Sometimes, let’s be honest about it, we can be incredibly spiritually thick. God puts something right under our noses and we miss it completely. Come on, it’s true isn’t it? So perhaps it’s time to get a revelation of the blindingly, glimpsingly obvious…
… A heart that’s open; that’s ready; that’s listening and hanging on God’s every word. Psalm 119:12-16:
Blessed are You, o LORD; teach me Your statutes! With my lips, I declare all the ordinances of Your mouth. I delight in the way of Your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my eyes on Your ways. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your Word.
That right there is a man speaking to God about his heart to learn from what God has to say. There is a man with a teachable heart: Not only ready to listen to what God has to say, but to live by what God has to say.
So I’m thinking, what if everyone who believes in Jesus, what if everyone who calls themselves a Christian, had a heart like that? What would the church look like then? What would this world look like then? How much more love, more peace, more sacrifice, more service, more healing, more reconciliation would be happening in this world if we all, you and I, lived with that sort of a heart towards God?
Teach me Your statutes, o God. I will declare Your Word with my lips. I will delight in Your ways as much as in all riches! I will meditate on Your Word and fix my eyes on Your ways. I’ll delight in Your Word, and I won’t forget it. Wow!
But there’s something else that we need to get that sort of insight, that sort of impact in our lives from God’s Word. The essential ingredient of having a teachable heart, the essential prerequisite if you will, is having a humble heart: A heart that is aware of the deep spiritual poverty that lies within. Often the reason we don’t take God’s instruction (God’s wisdom) to heart is because there’s this translucent veil of self, as A. W. Tozer calls it, draped over our hearts. ‘I know everything! If only my wife or my husband or that person over there would listen to what the preacher’s preaching today! Well, this world would be a better place! If only they would get it!’ That’s often how we think. Right? It never crosses our minds that what God is saying today through His Word is meant for us; that He’s trying to deal with that poverty within us, that’s robbing us of the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
Come on, we all have blind spots. We all have things about ourselves that we can’t see. Well, that’s the whole point of it being a blind spot, right? We just can’t see it.
Deal bountifully with Your servant, so that I may live and observe Your Word. Open my eyes, so that I may behold the wondrous things of Your Law. I live as an alien in the land; do not hide Your commandments from me.
What do we do about our blind spots? We ask God to open our eyes, so that we can see the point of what He’s trying to say to us; so that when we open the Bible and read His Word, the Holy Spirit will lift that one particular verse or that one particular story that He has for us today right off the page and plonk it into our hearts; so that in an instant, we’ll get what He’s trying to say to us, in a way that completely and utterly and radically changes us; in a way that deals with some of the deep spiritual poverty in our hearts.
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you.
Sometimes we wrestle with problems and we just can’t find the solution. The solution, though, is in asking God to help; asking God to open our eyes; asking God to give us the wisdom that we don’t have.
Why is it that we imagine that, in living our lives for God, we have to go it alone? So often it never crosses our mind to ask for help from the God who created the whole universe.
Listen how God describes Himself to His people, when they are labouring as slaves in captivity. Just listen to the picture that God paints of Himself:
… The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:25-31)
That’s the God who we serve. This God whose understanding is unsearchable. Who created the heavens and the earth, the trillions of stars. Why do we imagine that our way is hidden from Him, when all along this mighty God would give power and strength to the weak?
God is ready, willing and able to help. And He is still speaking today, through His Word. So what are you waiting for?
To read the above posts online or hear the audio clips click here: Podcast
EPISODE 4: LIFE WASN’T MEANT TO BE EASY
It’s one thing to obey God when everything’s going along just fine, but it’s another thing entirely to live a life of obedience when you’re under pressure. And yet, it’s in those difficult times that the power of God’s Word has its greatest impact.
These days, it’s a bit unpopular for someone like me to be talking about obedience to God’s Word. It’s not something most of us want to hear. Aw, come on Berni, teach me about grace, tell me about God’s blessings, I want to know more about God’s love.
… No, obedience to God’s Word is not a particularly popular concept these days. But the whole point of obeying God, is that the only things He tells us not to do, are the things that are going to bring harm to us and the people around us. So paradoxically, obedience brings freedom. Obedience sets us free from the consequences of our sin … and sin … sin always has consequences, right?
Okay that’s great. But what about when the going gets tough? What about when other people are doing the wrong thing, and we’re hurting? What about obedience to God’s Word in that place when the degree of difficulty gets ratcheted up to about a 9.9? Psalm 119, verses 20 to 24:
My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times. You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments; take away from me their scorn and their contempt, for I have kept your decrees. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your decrees are my delight, they are my counsellors.
That’s amazing, because the man writing this Psalm, the man speaking to God here, is under a lot of pressure. But he’s taken a stand. He’s made a decision that he will long for God’s will, God’s Word, God’s ways, when? Just in the good times? No! At all times! Even when evil people are heaping scorn and contempt on him, even when princes are plotting against him. That’s a tough decision, but it’s the right one.
Many centuries later, the Apostle Paul put it this way. Galatians chapter 6, verse 9:
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.
The time when God’s Word is most important, when God’s wisdom is most important, when God’s ways are most important, is when the going gets tough. Right in that moment when we want to give up honouring God by living His way, right in that instant, that’s when obedience to God’s Word is most important.
Because in that moment, the enemy wants to snatch your inheritance away from you. But don’t give up, because there’s a harvest coming. When? Well, at harvest time of course!
The trick, I guess, the piece of wisdom, the powerful Word that God wants us to hear today though, is don’t give up in doing what is right. Don’t give up honouring and obeying God. But that’s not always going to be easy is it?
One of the things I love about the Hebrew culture in which the Psalms of the Old Testament were written, is the powerful use of picture language to express deep emotions. The Jewish tradition is full of rich, evocative picture language, like Psalm 119, verses 25 and 26:
My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word. When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes.
Just drink that picture in for a moment: my soul clings to the dust. It speaks of complete and utter desolation. It speaks of burdens so heavy, a body so weary, that it’s lying in the dust, barely able to move. Not even able to lift its head to look up at God.
When you’re in that place, it feels hopeless. It feels lonely. It feels as though you’re the only one who’s ever been there, and nobody else understands.
My soul clings to the dust. It’s a picture that we all get. It’s a picture that speaks into the desolation that we’ve all felt. Perhaps you’re in that place right now, where your soul is sucking in the dust, with nothing else to cling to. It’s the place where we want to give up, because we don’t have a single ounce of energy left in us. Yeah, we’ve all been there.
So, what do you do? What does the Psalmist do? What does he have to say to God?
God, revive me according to your word. When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes.
The first part of that makes a lot of sense – God revive me. The obvious thing to do, the obvious place to turn, the obvious cry for help … although how often do we miss the obvious?
The question is, how does God bring that revival to an exhausted and completely depleted soul? Well, the psalmist knows!
Revive me according to your word. When I told you of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes.
You see, when we’re in that desolate, dusty place, we need a way back. A real, tangible way back. And that way is through the Word of God. It’s through God speaking to us. God’s Word is food for the starving soul. God’s Word is living water for a parched soul. But how often do we miss the obvious?
I’ve seen Christians from time to time praying for revival. But revival begins at home. There will be no revival unless and until the living water, the Spirit of God, overflows from His people. You and I need revival in our hearts. You and I need to be filled to overflowing with the revelation of God through His Word, the joy of God, the healing of God, the Spirit of God.
Revival begins at home! Lord revive me, according to your word.
God’s Word is a powerful thing, because not only does it bring revival to our hearts, not only does God breathe His Sprit into us through His Word, not only does God deliver His new life for us through His Word, but His Word also brings understanding. And understanding is wisdom.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you don’t understand what’s going on – either around you, or in you, or both? Sure you have, so have I. I mean, sometimes we don’t even understand ourselves, let alone our circumstances, or the way other people behave and think.
And the absence of that understanding, that wisdom if you will, makes life a difficult thing to live. Understanding as it turns out, is the key to living life. Psalm 119, verses 27 to 32:
Lord, make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law. I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your ordinances before me. I cling to your decrees, O Lord; let me not be put to shame. I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding.
Understanding is mentioned twice in that passage, once at the beginning and once at the end. Again we see that the Psalmist is going through difficult times – my soul melts away for sorrow – and yet the thing that he asks for is understanding.
That in itself is surprising enough. We spend our time asking God to take away the pain when our souls are melting away through sorrow, but the Psalmist is asking instead, for understanding. But understanding of what? Of the ways of God’s precepts. In other words:
Okay God, Your Word, Your precepts, they’re all fine, that’s a given. But now, God, I want to understand the ways of your precepts. I want to understand how the rubber hits the road. I want to understand how I can live them out, because I want your strength, I want to put false hope far from me, so teach me. I’ll cling to your Word, because I know that as I live it out, You are going to enlarge my understanding.
What a powerful prayer. It’s a prayer for on-the-job training. You imagine asking God for that, over and over again … imagine the understanding, the wisdom, the power that God is going to unleash in your life. Just imagine!
Here’s the thing: God wants to do powerful things in you and through you, He just does. And He’s put His Word there, the Bible, through which to give you, all the understanding you need.
Make me understand the ways of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. Wow!
EPISODE 5: A HEART FOR GOD’S WORD
So often we struggle to do the right thing. Or is it just me? I see people try and try and try to honour God and fail. Trying just isn’t going to do it. What we need first, is a change of heart.
If I were to ask you today, what is the one thing that you’re focussing on at the moment, what would that be? What’s the biggest thing going on in your heart at the moment?
The truth is, that from time to time the things of this earth grab our attention. Some of those things are good things. Some of those things are bad things.
In a few months’ time my daughter is going to be getting married. Well, you can imagine, that’s pretty much the focus of things in our household at the moment. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, unless and until the things of this world bubble to the top of our priority list, above God Himself.
When that happens, our lives have a way of going pear-shaped. All of a sudden, when we get our priorities the wrong way around, we start to live out the consequences of that. So let me come back to that question: what is your heart focussed on at the moment? What’s at the top of your list, hmm? Psalm 119 verses 35 and 36:
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.
This Psalm is written by a man who is speaking to God. So, when he says: lead me in the path of your commandments and turn my heart to your decrees, He’s asking God to do those two things for Him.
Psalm 119 blows me away. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible – 176 verses all-in-all. And the majority of it is a prayer, asking God essentially to help this man who is writing it, to get his life straight, by getting God’s Word into his heart. That’s the bottom line of the whole Psalm. God I can’t do it on my own, I need your help.
That’s a great admission, because it happens to be true. And here in verses 35 and 36, the Psalmist is asking God to turn his heart to God’s decrees rather than to his own selfish gain.
That’s the pivot point in our hearts isn’t it? Our whole lives swing on this hinge between honouring God and selfish gain. Between right and wrong. And that’s why I keep asking you: what’s the focus of your heart right at the moment? Where is your heart? Focussed on honouring God or on selfish gain? The answer matters. It matters a lot.
There is such power in the Word of God to set you free from your selfishness. Why is it that people leave their Bibles on a shelf somewhere gathering dust? God has the power to set you free. Free from the consequences of sin. All you need to do is to ask Him for His help and He will step in.
And here’s the thing about God’s help. It’s intensely practical. Intensely real. In our lives on this earth, you and I, we’re prone to trusting things that we can see. It’s only natural. We live in a physical world, so we trust in physical things.
We know, for instance, that tonight the sun will set, and in the morning it will rise again. We trust in relationships. We trust in our circumstances, good or bad. We trust in our pay packets and our bank balances. And to a point that’s as it should be … to a point. Up until the point where we trust in those things above and beyond who God is and what He says He will do. At that point, you’ve started trusting your life into things that are not worthy of that level of trust.
If you have a share-portfolio that’s worth a certain amount of money, hey, the market could plummet tomorrow. The same is true of every other physical thing on this earth – they can give way … in an instant. And so often, we’re caught out, because we’ve place our trust in the wrong things.
That’s why we need God’s help, His intensely practical help, to get our hearts focussed on the right things. Psalm 119, verses 37 to 40:
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you. Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good. See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.
So here the Psalmist is asking God to turn his eyes away from all those vanities, all those false idols in which we place our trust. What idols as you trusting in at the moment? In what vanities have you placed your trust? Hmm?
Father God turn my eyes from looking at those vanities and give me life in your ways, literally, give me living energy to pursue the way marked out by You O God.
That’s it! That’s what I need, that’s what you need. Living energy. Holy Spirit energy, to head God’s way, to trust God to lead us forward, rather than placing our hope in false idols.
Friend, God’s promises are true. Those false idols, ultimately are going to lead you to disgrace. But God’s promises will never fail.
God I’ve seen that your ways are good. I long for your ways. Lead me in them. Give me life.
What a great prayer. What a powerful way to change your heart. Try as we might, we cannot change our own hearts for ourselves. But God’s living energy, the power of His Word, the power of His Spirit – that’s where we get a change of heart. That’s where we get a change of focus.
God doesn’t want you to continue trusting in idols, dreading the disgrace that they will ultimately bring. He wants to shift your focus, transform your heart, with His living energy. Because when we walk in God’s ways, then all of a sudden we discover what freedom really is.
It pains me to tell you this, but for the first thirty-six years of my life, I thought I was free. Free to live my life the way I wanted. But now, looking back on that time before I accepted Jesus into my heart, I realise that I was nothing but a captive.
The best way to describe it, is that I looked successful and happy on the outside, but on the inside, I was plagued by fear and doubt. On the inside, I was a complete mess. That’s because I was a captive rather than living as a free man. That’s because the expectations of this world dominated my heart. Again, the Psalmist puts it like this, Psalm 119 verses 41 to 46:
Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise. Then I shall have an answer for those who taunt me, for I trust in your word. Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your ordinances. I will keep your law continually, forever and ever. I shall walk in liberty, for I have sought your precepts. I will also speak of your decrees before kings, and shall not be put to shame.
I really get that bit about having an answer for those who taunt me. The criticism, the mockery of others, used to be like arrows into my heart.
Let me ask you, to what extent are you marching to the beat of the world’s drum? To what extent are you dancing to the tunes of the expectations of others? And when you can’t meet those expectations, people criticise you, people reject you, they throw you out like a worthless piece of trash.
We spend way too much time and energy striving, sacrificing, performing in order receive the approval of others, only to fail, only to miss the mark, only to discover that it’s a pursuit that’s hollow and empty and simply not worth the effort.
But the more we get into God’s Word, the more we discover the steadfast love that God has for us, the more we get to know God’s Word and trust God’s Word, the less those things matter. And the less those things matter, the more we discover the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ.
I shall walk in liberty for I have sought your precepts! Yes! Hallelujah! Absolutely! Freedom. God’s freedom. There is such freedom when we get it into our hearts that we’re meant to live our lives for an audience of One. That’s what God has ready and waiting for you. True freedom in His ways, in His precepts, in His Word. Jesus said:
If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
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