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.
The Word of God is the pathway to purity. That is the whole sermon in a nutshell. If you want to live a pure life, a life that please God, you will do it by learning and living out the Word of God. You will not live a righteous life simply because you want to. You will not live a righteous life just because you are a pretty good decision maker. You won’t live a righteous life because your intentions are good. You will only live a righteous life as you immerse yourself in the Word of God and allow it to shape your thoughts, character and conduct. You won’t get it by osmosis or by reading a couple Facebook memes each day. You will get it by regularly pursuing it, by regularly reading it. Verse 16 of our text says, “I will not neglect your word.”
The word, Neglect, means: to give little attention or respect to : DISREGARD
Are we guilty of giving little attention or little respect to the Word of God? Do we disregard it the majority of the time? If we listen to the preached Word once a week on Sunday but don’t look at it or listen to it at any other time, I would call that neglect. We have 10,080 minutes in each week. 10,080. If we are only engaging in the Word of God on Sunday mornings, we are giving attention to it about 24 minutes each week. 24 minutes out of 10,080. For those of you who are married, if your spouse only spent 24 minutes a week engaging with you, you would call that neglect. You would feel set aside. The health of your relationship would be greatly compromised. The same is true for us in our relationship with God.
If you agree with the Psalmist and me, that is if you agree with God, that the Word of God is the Pathway to Purity, but you are only availing yourself to it 24 minutes a week, and in many cases, 24 minutes a week maybe only 2 to 3 times a month, how closely are you able to follow the Pathway to Purity? How easy is it for you to stay on that path? How genuine is your desire for the Pathway to Purity? Do you feel like you have the power and drive you need to forge ahead on that path, or are you living conflicted? Do you kind of want Jesus but kind of want the experiences the world can offer, too? Do you kind of want purity, but you kind of want to know how the opposite of that feels? Are you playing some kind of spiritual “Hokey Pokey” game where you put yourself in and then you take yourself out? Do you have good intentions, but you are unable to carry them out? How intentionally are you living your spiritual life?
Coming to church is a great step, but it is a first step. It is a basic step. It will take a long time to climb to the spiritual heights that God desires for you if you are counting on it to happen in 24 minutes a few times a month. What if the person you want to meet, the job you want to secure, the relationships you want to build, the habits you want to develop and the ones you want to leave behind, the way you want to change and grow as a person, what if all of those things are all contingent upon the regular reading of the Word of God? What if investing in the learning and living the Word of God could cause things that have fallen apart to fall into place? May the Holy Spirit convince us all it is possible today as we explore the Pathway to Purity through the reading of the Word.
I often have people reach out to me through our Facebook page and website who say they want to know God. They are interested in having a relationship with Him, but they say they don’t know where to start. I tell them all the same thing…Anyone who wants to know God needs to read His Word because He reveals Himself on the pages there. Not only does He show us who He is, but He begins to speak to us personally as we open the Bible. Verse 10 of the text says, “I seek you with all my heart.” That sentence is set in the context of how a person delves into the Word of God and allows the Word of God to chart their course. Seeking God with all our heart means getting into the pages of Scripture so that the Holy Spirit can speak to us.
I love those greeting cards that when you open them, there is a song or a speech that emerges. When you close the card, the music stops, the greeting stops. But every time you open it up, there is that voice again, there is that music again. The voice we are meant to hear that comes through the reading of the Word will not be speaking when the book is closed. God can speak to you through Creation. He can speak to you through a song on the radio. God isn’t limited to the Bible when it comes to the way He speaks, but it is the PRIMARY way He has designed for us to hear from Him.
Think of the Bible as a letter God has written that tells you everything you need to know, like a recipe for life. Most of us can’t fix a complicated meal without help from a recipe. Why would we think we can live life without a recipe? But many are trying. “I’m just doing the best I can,” we say. I don’t just want to do the best I can. I want to do what God says I can do, and unless I saturate my mind and will with the Word of God I will keep living life according to my personal limitations. I will live life on a human level, with human reasoning and human strength and human understanding. That can only take me so far, and not only am I limited, but I am flawed. I won’t make the right decisions. I won’t take the right steps. I won’t prioritize the right things if I am relying on myself, well, myself and Google. I think we put more stock in Google than we do in God’s Word. It is sobering to think that Google is far more utilized and depended on for major life information than the Word of God.
Please hear me, the goal of Bible reading is not information but transformation. Google will give you information. Sometimes it will even give you correct information. But Google will not bring about transformation in your life. Only the Bible contains the power to break chains off of people, to reroute our attitudes, to reset our internal ways of being, and to chip away at the parts of our character that don’t match Jesus. Listen, your soul isn’t the only thing that needs to be converted, friend. Your mind needs to be transformed. Your will needs to be shaped. Your character needs to be developed. These things supernaturally happen when you get into the Word.
I want to give you four “R” words from Psalm 119 that can provide a strategy, can give you some guardrails to keep you on the Pathway to Purity when the pull of the world and all kinds of other temptations would seek to pull you elsewhere. Think of these four “R” words like bumpers at the bowling alley. Anybody know about bumpers at the bowling alley? They are the only way I can break 100! They will help you stay in the lane God wants you to travel! Here they are:
Verse 11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
The Psalmist gives us our first “R” word in this verse. He says we need to RETAIN the Word of God. That means memorizing it. You might be sitting there thinking, “I can’t memorize anything.” Yes, you can. You know all the names of the WVU football starting line-up. You know the cast of Dancing with the Stars by heart. You have all the words to your favorite country songs on the tip of your tongue and you know you have memorized all kinds of famous movie lines. It’s not that we can’t memorize things, but it’s that we memorize and retain the things that we actually study for the purpose of remembering. Watch this:
That kid didn’t just spend five minutes one day and learn all of those verses. That was a systematic effort (obviously through the intention of his parents) but a systematic effort to expose himself to strategic verses repeatedly over time until he memorized them. Great day, he didn’t even know what half of those words meant, but he was hiding God’s Word in his heart. As he did, he was building his confidence in God and in what God could do. He was anchoring his mind to truth. He was developing his faith. He was constructing his character. He was depositing peace and hope into his heart and mind for the storms he will one day face. He was growing in grace. He was setting the tone for a life on the Pathway to Purity.
Every time you memorize a Scripture or passage, you are adding a tool in your spiritual tool belt that you can pull out and use to defeat the devil or to encourage someone else or to encourage yourself. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, before He began His earthly ministry, the way He defeated the devil was through the recitation of Scripture. He could only recite Scripture because He had first committed it to memory. He had it in His heart before the temptation ever came, so that when He needed it, He could pull it out.
There is a direct correlation between hiding God’s Word in our heart and not sinning against God. What goes into your heart is what will be lived out in your life. That is what Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” You need to keep God’s Word on retainer in your heart. Just as someone would keep an attorney on retainer in case it would be necessary to use one, memorizing the Word of God will keep God’s Word on retainer for the moment it is needed.
Memorizing the Word of God will create a sensitivity to God’s voice in your life. You will increase your knowledge of what He desires for your life, and when situations arise that call for a decision to go one way or another, you will have an innate instinct to do the right thing because you have ingested God’s Word. Just like those moments when you are about to do something you shouldn’t do and you hear your mom or dad’s voice chiming in your ears, “You know better than that. That’s not a good idea.” You will hear God’s voice more clearly because His Word will dwell in you. Retain God’s Word by memorizing it, so you can use it when you need it. You can do it, but you have to regularly read it in order to retain it.
The second “R” I would point out in this passage is the opportunity to elevate the Word of God by Recounting it. Verse 13, “With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.” How does recounting or retelling the Word of God help you stay on the Pathway to Purity? God’s Word has supernatural power. Every time you speak God’s Word, you are releasing God’s supernatural power.
When God’s Word is released, so is God’s power, and it will be the power you need to stay the course on that Pathway of Purity. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that when God’s Word goes out it doesn’t return void. It accomplishes God’s desired purposes. When you confess the Word of God out loud, you are aligning yourselves with God’s will. You are actually setting God’s will into motion in your life.
You will recall it was the spoken Word of God that created all that exists. God’s Word has creative, life-giving power. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is living and active. You can activate the power of God in your life by confessing the Word of God over your circumstances. You can literally change your life through the confession of the Words of God in Scripture.
Psalm 27:13 is a verse I have been speaking out loud during this pandemic. It says, “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” These last eight months have been a heavy time for all of us. It stinks to have to wear a mask everywhere we go. I’m still not used to it. I don’t like it. It stinks that people cannot be with loved ones who are in hospitals and nursing homes and who are near the end of their life. It was a traumatic experience for our family when Thom’s mom passed in September. That was a time when our family should have been together, but it wasn’t possible. It stinks that our education has been in such a state of flux, requiring major adjustments and schedule changes, creating huge hurdles for teachers, students and parents. It stinks that we can’t hug our friends. It stinks that we can’t have our annual all-church Thanksgiving dinner and other church activities and outreaches that we are used to. It stinks that people have heightened anxiety and feelings of insecurity. It stinks that we aren’t all together for worship and that we don’t know when or if, in some cases, that will ever happen again.
Listen these are all real issues that we are having to deal with. But God’s Word gives me the ability to see more than that which can be seen in the natural. I can see what is seen, but as I confess God’s Word, I can also begin to see what is unseen. “I will see and am seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I am seeing God at work. I can see evidences of His favor on our church. I see new people He has brought to our congregation. I can see quiet ways He is bringing heart transformation and a realigning of our priorities. I can see how He is meeting needs through the Body of Christ as various people have stepped up to help. I see leaders being developed. I see finances being taken care of. I see people being saved and baptized. I see our Young Adult Group growing. I see physical enhancements being made to our property. I see people coming out of addiction. I see our discipleship ministry expanding. I have seen firsthand how God uses the Body of Christ to walk you through a time of grief. I have seen how our community has truly come to rely on us when times are tough. When I began confessing that verse out loud and sharing it with others, my eyes were opened to the great things God is doing in our midst and to the possibilities of the more that He will do.
Listen, church, when this first started, I made a strategic decision to trade half gallons of Private Selection Chocolate Extreme Moose Tracks ice-cream for the spoken Word of God and it changed my whole outlook. (It also kept me from outgrowing my clothes.) (It took me about four weeks, but I got there.) Listen we will stay on the Pathway of Purity by speaking the powerful Word of God which will enable us to see what God is doing in the midst of everything else we can see in the natural. Recount it in order to have power and perspective to see God in the midst of your circumstances.
The third “R” is “Rejoice in it. Rejoice in the Word of God. Look at Psalm 119:14 again, “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.” The Psalmist was thankful for the Word of God. He viewed it as treasure. It kept him out of unnecessary trouble which means it spared him from unnecessary pain.
It would be highly frustrating if we had this sense that we were left to figure life out on our own. But we aren’t. We have what we need. God has given us detailed instructions so that we can have a quality life, an abundant life. II Peter 1:3-4 reminds us 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Through the promises of God, through Scripture, you may partake in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world. That ought to be cause for rejoicing. Somebody ought to be shouting for the opportunity to escape the pull of sin and the world’s corrupt systems.
The final “R” word is Ruminate. Psalm 119:15 again: I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. God wants us to constantly be thinking about what He has said. As the Psalmist meditates or ruminates on the Word of God, he is kept on the Pathway to Purity. Meditation is the consistent effort to think on the Words of Scripture. Hiding it in our hearts, sending it out of our mouths, exercising an attitude of thanksgiving and letting it dwell in our thoughts ensures that we are completely saturated in the Word of God, and when you allow yourself to be saturated in the Word of God your feet will be firmly planted on the Pathway of Purity.
I want to leave you with some quotes from other people that highlight the importance of the Word of God in my life:
“I have read many books, but the Bible reads me.”
“One who uses the Bible as his guide never loses his sense of direction.”
“The Bible is meant to be bread for daily use, not cake for special occasions.”
“If a Christian is careless in Bible reading, he will care less about Christian living.”
“God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw the food into their nests.”
I suppose in the end, the path you choose will help you decide whether you will be a person of the Word or a person of the world. My heart’s desire is the Pathway of Purity which means the Word of God must be front and center in my life. You have 10,080 minutes to spend this coming week. How many of those can you spend memorizing, confessing, being thankful for and thinking about the Word of God?