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Psalm 26  Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness. I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites. I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds. Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells. Do not take away my soul along with sinners, my life with those who are bloodthirsty, 10 in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes. 11 I lead a blameless life. Deliver me and be merciful to me.12 My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.

Silent Prayer

So, remember that last week we began a series on self-examination and on the idea that we want to give God permission to give us some tough exam questions so we can sort of see what kind of progress we are making in our relationship with the Lord. I shared two short Scriptures with you about the practice of self-examination with you:
2 Corinthians 13:5-Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. 

Lamentations 3:40–Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.

So, again, using David’s claims about himself in Psalm 26, we are taking a look at four exam questions.  We looked at number one last week:

  1. Do I trust in the Lord?
  2. Do I live differently from the world?
  3. Do I worship with a pure and passionate heart?
  4. Do I witness on a regular basis?

Question two is our focus for today.  Do I live differently from the world?

David said in verses 4 and 5: I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites. I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.”

What he was saying is that his life was different from the life of the people who were living for themselves and the things of the world.  He wasn’t living to sin.  That wasn’t his motivation for life.  He wasn’t trying to get away with something.  He wasn’t living a duplicitous life; rather he was focused on worshipping God and being a witness for Him.  That’s what verses 6 and 7 say. 

How many of you would agree with me this morning that things are bad in the world right now?  I have told my kids recently that it didn’t used to be like this.  The de-valuing of life, the breakdown of the home, the demise of truth as something that is fixed, the moving away from Christian values and principles in our schools, the war of words on the political front and online, the rampant drug problems, the chaos and confusion surrounding gender identity, the violence in homes, schools, and our streets, sex trafficking, online perversions and deceptions and fraud—All of this is brokenness has transpired with intensity during my lifetime.  Christians are almost always now in the minority wherever they find themselves.  Do you think this is an opportunity for God to test and prove just who is really “with Him?”

This is not the time for panic.  This is not the time for retreat.  This is not the time to shrink back, sit back, and hunker down.  Light shines brightest in the darkness.  We are poised for revival.  We live in a dark world.  We cannot be swept into the darkness.  We must not sit in darkness.  We must not go along with mockery, deception, and flippant attitudes towards God and that which is holy.  We must stand out.  If we dwell in the darkness, if we condone the darkness, if we don’t challenge the darkness, we cannot say like David that I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites. I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.

To “sit with the deceitful” means to go along with or stand with them no matter how they are living.  How do we live distinctly as Christians in this world today?

John 17:13-19: 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Living in the world isn’t a choice we can make.  We are here.  We are here on purpose, however. As believers born into the physical world, we are sent to the world just as Jesus was sent into the world (verse 18) in order to show the world the way of the cross, the way of Jesus.  One of two things will happen:  We will either influence the world, or we will allow the world to influence us.  And we can only influence the world for God if we are being influenced first by the Word of God.

John 17:14 says, “I have given them your word.” 
John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by the truth.  Your Word is truth.”

If we are going to make sure we live distinctly and separately from the ways of the world, if our hearts are going to be attached correctly to that which is holy, if we are going to be able to discern truth, if we are going to be prepared to make godly decisions, if we are going to have God’s wisdom and direction for our lives, we are going to have to get hungry for the Word of God and tenacious about sharing it with the world.

Once the Word of God becomes part of who you are, once you are transformed by it, once it shapes your thinking, once it has settled deep in your heart, your responses to people, your outlook on life, your daily processes and practices will all start to look like Jesus’ way of life.

By what are you driven?  The world or the Word?

Turn to Ephesians 5: Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have NOTHING to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
There is so much to unpack here about the world’s way and the Word’s way of life.  Verse 3 talks about not having a hint of sexual immorality.  Not even a hint.  Not in the way we dress.  Not in the way we flirt when we date, and yes, flirting is fun and is part of the process.  But not a hint of sexual immorality.  The sending of naked and suggestive pictures via text is inappropriate, unholy, and unacceptable for God’s people.  The Word of God would not support that kind of sexual expression.  It says, “Not a hint.”  Naked pics are more than a hint.  Can we agree on that this morning?  We aren’t to use sexuality to try to manipulate people into doing or not doing certain things.  Sexual jokes, looking at pornography, talking about people in a lustful way–These have no place in the life of a believer.
That’s not all we aren’t even to have a hint of, but we aren’t to have a hint of impurity or greed.  We aren’t schmoozers trying to use flattery for gain.  We aren’t smooth talkers to try to capitalize on someone’s lack of knowledge so we can gain something from them.  We aren’t to be people who make threats to try to control others.  Our motives towards people are to be pure.  People who do such kind of things that Paul is describing here have made an idol of themselves.  They have made an idol of person gain.
Verse 7 tells us not to be in partnerships with these kinds of people.  That was what David was saying in Psalm 26.  He wasn’t partnering with the kind of people who lived for themselves and whose ways were patterned after evil practices.
Verse 8 says we are to live as children of the light.  We do righteous things.  We do good things.  We live in truth, and we spend our lives trying to find out what pleases the Lord.  The passage in Ephesians 5 ends with:  Have NOTHING to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Paul went from NOT A HINT to Have NOTHING to do with the ways of the world, and he didn’t just say stay away from the world, but he said, “Expose the darkness in the world.”  He didn’t say, “Keep your distance from the darkness.”  He didn’t say, “Just keep your nose clean in the darkness.”  He said, “Expose the deeds of darkness.”  There are going to be times when you won’t stand out if you don’t stand up for what is right.
The church needs to be proclaiming the truth.  The church needs to be exposing lies and deception.  I’m not talking about bashing people or intentionally trying to hurt people.  I am, however, talking about lifting up the Word of God as supreme, as liberating, as that which holds the answers for the chaos people are in.  Some people will unfortunately see that as people bashing in some settings, but if that is the case it will be because the Word will cause conviction in their lives.  Satan doesn’t let go of people easily.  That’s why truth has to be filled with grace and love.  In time, our loving actions and the grace we give people who are lost will help them see the truth.
Still, it can be so hard to live as a believer in the world.  It can be hard to be the one who stands up and says something when others are saying and doing things to the detriment of others.  It can be difficult to point out truth which means someone’s behavior needs corrected.  It can be difficult to walk away from negative and unholy discussions, but we don’t have a choice if we are going to shine light in the darkness.
It may not happen overnight, but I promise you, if you will fall in love with the Word of God, it will not only give you the power you need in order to know the truth, but it will give you supernatural power to live it out.  It will give you power to walk away from the world’s way of doing things.  God’s Word does an internal work in us as we expose ourselves to it. 
The way to live distinctly from the world is almost so simple it is easy to gloss over.  I have to drive it home.
Psalm 119:9-16:  How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.  10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.  13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Can we really neglect the Word of God and think that we will stay on the path of purity?  Can we neglect the Word of God and think our hearts won’t stray?  Can we neglect the Word and think we will manage our impulses, control our anger, love our spouses correctly, deal appropriately with hurt, and make the right decisions when faced with temptation?  What if we were as preoccupied with the Word of God as we are with sex?  I’m just asking!  What if we were as preoccupied with the Word of God as we were with our social media?  I’m just laying it all out there this morning.

Are we trying to hide our sinful ways?  Are we trying to straddle the fence and live one way one day and another way on Sundays? Or are we working regularly, aggressively to hide God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against God?  Here is what God said to me as I was preparing this message:  If you go surface with my Word, you will drown in the world.  If there was ever a time to be serious about the Word of God it is now. 

The Word gives us an eternal perspective.  It helps us know that what happens here doesn’t dictate our eternal experience.  What we acquire here won’t be of any value in Heaven, so we don’t need to kill ourselves to make more and more and more money and spend less and less time investing in our family and in the people around us.  We can’t take it with us, yet we live as if we will be taking a huge U-haul to heaven.  I am storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20) that cannot be burned by fire, stolen by thieves, or that will decay over time.

And we don’t need to be preoccupied with the world’s drama.  We shouldn’t get sucked in to the negativity and backbiting and bickering.  It isn’t who we are.  My joy isn’t dependent on everything working out perfectly or even wonderfully or even fair in this life.  Life isn’t fair, but the score is settled in eternity.  Rest assured, friends. Satan wants us engaged in the drama of the world so that we can’t promote the truth of the Word. 

I am speaking now to the powers of darkness and deception.  We are on to you.  We are done with low living.  We are done with the “he/said-she/said.”  We are done trying to argue with the darkness.  We aren’t going to argue with darkness.  We are going to instead shed the light.  We don’t need to rant about the world on social media, we need to rave about Jesus!  Let’s stop ranting and start raving!  We will never win the world to Christ by arguing with them.  But we can win them by lifting up the Word of God which leads me to my next point.

The Word gives us a mission greater than ourselves.

You aren’t here for yourself. You were created for God’s pleasure and for His purpose, and once you embrace that, once you stop wrestling with God over that, once you stop resisting that, once you fully surrender, you will experience the greatest joy you have ever known.  It is the joy that results from helping other people come out of the darkness!

I Peter 2:9-But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

You will never have true joy if you simply choose to live for yourself or if you choose to keep your spiritual life to yourself.  You were made to be on mission, and as you ingest the Word of God, it will commission you to go and empower you to go to places you could never imagine. 

The Word gives us standards to live by which enable our true freedom.  John 8:32-Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Does anyone need more freedom in their life? Sometimes when we feel bound up or bored we think we just need a change.  We need to change jobs.  We need to change spouses.  We need to change our hair color.  We need to change schools.  What if the change isn’t a relocation or a makeover?  What if it is a heart change that comes from taking in the Word of God?

I could go on about how the Word empowers decision making, how it replenishes us emotionally, how it gives us insight into what is ahead in the future and how to handle life’s pressures, but I think you get the point. 

Maybe one last thought to inspire us to get hungry for the Word.  The Word of God is unchanging and eternal!  Psalm 119:89 -Your word, Lord, is eternal.  It stands firm in the heavens.

This was written by AZ Conrad, and I am paraphrasing: 

Century follows century-There it stands! Empires rise and fall and are forgotten.  There is stands!  Dynasty succeeds dynasty.  There it stands!  Kings are crowned and uncrowned.  There is stands.  Emperors decree its extermination.  There it stands!  Despised and torn to pieces.  There it stands!  Storms of hate swirl about it.  There it stands!  Atheists rail against it.  There it stands!  Agnostics smile cynically.  There it stands!  Profane people caricature it.  There it stands!  Unbelief abandons it.  There it stands!  Higher critics deny its claim to inspiration.  There it stands!  The arrows of hate are discharged against it.  There it stands!  Radicalism rants about it.  There it stands!  Infidels predict its abandonment.  There it stands!  Modernism tries to explain it away.  There it stands! 

God’s Word.  It has sticking power.  Staying power.  It can be yours today.  Good vibes won’t keep you in the right path.  Good intentions won’t put your life on the level ground King David could claim, but the Word of God will.  The only way to life differently, the only way to stand up and stand out is to be driven by the Word of God.  The only way to live in peace in the midst of this mess we are in, is to be lifted above it all by the Word of God.  There is a world’s way and there is the Word’s way.  Which way will you choose?

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