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A Spiritual Workout

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Psalm 119:32–49 ESV
I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules. I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
In Philippians 2:12 Paul says, “Work out your salvation in awe and wonder.” Notice he didn’t say, “Work for your salvation.” He said, “Work out your salvation.” You can only work out something you already have. This means that salvation is something you have to work out into every part of your life.
Paul is teaching us that we have to work our identity, that is given to us through the gift of salvation into everything. Everything includes our psychology, sociology, relationships, and our approach to the world. This is how change takes place. Scripture provides us with Spiritual disciplines to enable us to work out what salvation has worked in.
The aim of this sermon series is to set a spiritual trajectory for 2018. We began this series last week by looking at scriptural meditation. Today our focus will shift to scriptural application. Last week we learned how Scripture leads us into communing with God, and today we will learn how the Scripture leads us into obeying.
Last week’s subject matter is popular while this week’s seems to be polarizing. Most American’s especially the younger generation find meditation to have an element of coolness while obedience lacks appeal. Obedience is seen as restrictive and negative. Obedience equals no freedom. Freedom is now defined as no constraints or restrictions from following any of our hearts’ desires.
All of the polls and research of religious and irreligious Americans reveal that Americans don’t believe it’s ever right to give up ultimate spiritual authority to some external party.
In other words, almost every American says, “I and I alone can judge what is right and wrong for me. I and I alone can decide the pathways I should tread. I and I alone can decide what is right and wrong and spiritual. My heart, my conscience, has to be the thing that determines that. Therefore,I give up my spiritual and moral authority to no one. I’m my own spiritual authority. I don’t give it over to some external authority that puts me under its statutes, decrees, commands, and precepts.”
This resistance works against our true desire for change. You will not transform without submission to God’s authority. Our text teaches us the foolishness of being your own spiritual authority. Furthermore, it teaches us how we can put ourselves under God’s authority in a way that is transforming and not stifling.
Some might ask; what wrong with being your own spiritual authority?
First is it ignores how your heart really works. Whether you believe this or not your heart is already under spiritual authority. Everyone heart is enslaved. Your heart has a Master. You are not your own spiritual authority. If you believe otherwise you are being naïve about your heart’s true condition.
Psalm 119:37 ESV
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
“Your ways” is a synonym for Scripture, God’s decrees, God’s commands.
Notice what He doesn’t say. He doesn’t say; “I’m going to turn my eyes.” He says, “Turn my eyes”. He is saying; “I need help. I can’t stop it. My eyes are fixed …” on what he calls “worthless things.” The Hebrew word for “worthless things” is translated in other texts as idols. Such as . . .
Jonah 2:8 ESV
Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
If you are not serving God you are serving something else. Euripides, the old Greek writer, put it something like this: “No one is completely free. If you live for wealth, you’re a slave to wealth. If you live for morality, you’re a slave to the moral law. If you live to please people, you’re a slave to the people you are seeking to please.”
Euripides philosophy is ripped from Scripture. Everybody lives for something. Everybody has something that is the main thing they live for that gives their life joy. What is your emotional center? Your answer determines reveals the authority in your life.
Are you under the controlling authority of the Lord? If not you are under the spiritual authority of some other lord. Those are your only two options. In Oliver Twist there’s a good-hearted prostitute named Nancy, and she’s living with Bill Sikes. Bill Sikes beats her but she stays with him. Why? In the Broadway musicial she tells us why in song. This song was written in 1963 and reveals why most people stay in such a relationship; codependency. Listen to this section of lyrics from Nancy’s song; “As long as he needs me, I know where I must be; I’ll cling on steadfastly as long as he needs me.”
She is being abuse and yet she says, “He needs me. I’m going to be true to him.” Why? Listen to the final line of her song, “If you’ve been lonely, then you will know when someone needs you, you love them so.” She’s saying, “If you have a love vacuum in your heart, you know what I’m talking about. When someone comes along with the promise of filling that vacuum, you have to give yourself to them no matter how they abuse you. You can’t stop it.”
Does the word dysfunctional come to mind? Before you rush to judgement. Before you unleash your criticism. Consider this; everyone in this room has a Bill Sikes in their life. For some your Bill Sikes is your career. For others it’s your children. It is your master. It is your authority. It will never be happy or satisfied.
You will never be able to serve Christ until you get your eyes off those objects which you obsessively serve. Saying, “I’m my own spiritual authority” is naïve. You’re not your own spiritual authority. You’re not your own. You’re sold to something.
Saying, “I can be my own spiritual authority” ignores the nature of how real freedom works.
Psalm 119:45 ESV
and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.
The Hebrew word for wide place is the metaphor for freedom.
Let’s just say you’re walking on a little narrow path and on your left is a sheer wall of rock and on your right is a thousand-foot drop. Where are you going to walk? You don’t have many choices. You’re in a narrow spot where there are no choice but if you were a broad place, you would have choices.
A broad place means choices. So the psalmist is teaching us; “I gained my freedom by serving you. I now walk in liberty because I sought your precepts. I am free because I have bound myself to serve you with all my heart?”
God makes us servants so we can be free and this freedom fuels our service.
He is saying, “Now that you’re my Master, nothing else masters me. Those “must haves” I are now take it or leave it. Freedom is not a lack of restrictions. Freedom is finding the right restrictions, restrictions that fit your being.
What fowl species is most often used as a symbol of freedom? The eagle is used most often to symbolize this freedom. According to
The eagle represents freedom. Living as he does on the tops of lofty mountains, amid the solitary grandeur of Nature, he has unlimited freedom, whether with strong pinions he sweeps into the valleys below, or upward into the boundless spaces beyond.
But even eagles do not live without restrictions in their freedom. According to eagles have restrictions but without these restrictions they would not possess the freedom that they do and that we admire.
The ability to soar high and far is absolutely dependent on the weather, particularly on the wind and the sun.Wind is very important to migrating eagles. They have the tendency to drift with the wind, and may even deviate from a straight line in order to take advantage of the wind; although too strong a wind can blow eagles off their chosen course.If there is no wind at all, eagles can't soar and are likely to stay put or travel only very locally.
We have been created to be free. Our Lord has created an environment of freedom. We must cease from our attempts to create our own environment. This was our first parents sin. They believed a lie that said God was restricting freedom but limiting their options. Their belief in this lie did not lead them to greater freedom but greater bondage. We cease from believing that rules restrict our freedom and embrace with our heart and mind that they are the wide place. When you try to live in an environment that you weren’t made for you will lose all freedom.
Our hearts were created to serve the Lord. This is our place of freedom. It is were our soul soars.
When he tells us to forgive, no matter its severity, is he doing this for the sake of flexing His spiritual authority. No! He is commanding this of us because he created us and He alone understands our psychology. He built us to be relational. If you don’t forgive you’re violating what it means to be made in the image of God. Your are in essences violating and destroying your own being. His commands are our aquarium. They are not restrictive but they release us to our desired freedom. When somebody says, “I’m going to be my own spiritual authority,” they are bing naïve and ignoring the nature of real freedom.
Saying I will be my own spiritual authority ignores the paradox of love and how that relates to freedom.
French novelist, Francoise Sagan, was once asked in a by a magazine; “Have you been happy with your life?” She replied, “I have been well satisfied with my life.” The interviewer says, “So you have had the freedom you wanted then?” She says, “Well, I was obviously less free when I was in love with someone, but one is not in love all the time, fortunately. Apart from that I’ve been free.”
Is Sagan right? Are you only free apart from loving someone else? She is correct in one sense. Relationship do bring about a certain amount of restriction. In a love relationship there is obligation and accountability. The deeper you go into a love relationship, the less you can be autonomous and self-determining.
Let’s think hard for a moment about her conclusion. When do you feel the most free? When do you feel most like yourself? When do you feel like soaring? When you’re in a deep give-and-take love relationship.
In the movie, The Longest Ride, Luke Collins, an aspiring bull rider meets, Sophia Danko, a college student at Wake Forest University. Luke has has aspirations of being the number one bull rider on the PBR tour, while Sophia hopes to make it in the art world. Their romance is unlikely one. Sophia gives up an internship after Luke is severely hurt in a bull riding accident. She pleads with Luke to obey the doctors orders to quit what he loves. Luke refuses to follow his doctors orders or Sophia request. This causes them to go their separate ways. As the movie develops Luke redeems his fall and goes on to become number in the world of PBR. However, his accomplishment is empty because of Sophia’s absences. After ascending to the top of his sport Luke quickly leaves his greatest triumph to find Sophia. He finds her at an art auction where he tells her that he leaving his love for a greater love.
What does that mean? You only feel free when you’re in a great love relationship, and if love by definition means giving up your self-determination, then the only way to be free is to serve somebody. The only way to have a self is to give up your self-centeredness. If that’s true in the human love relationship, how much more is that true for the love we are built for, God love?
Psalm 119:40 ESV
Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
Notice what he doesn’t say in verse 40. He doesn’t say, “Oh how I enjoy reading the Bible and obeying it.” He says; “l long for your precepts”. The “long” is a word that means lovesick.
Psalm 119:47–48 ESV
for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.
When he says, “I lift my hands toward your commandments,” that is an act of adoration. What is the matter with this man? He’s not just studying the Bible. He’s not saying, “Well I’m going to obey it.” He’s captivated. He’s lovesick. He’s filled with delight as he reads it. What’s going on here?
Do you know what happening to you as you fall in love. Do you know what you’re doing? As you’re falling in love, every time you meet with that person you’re making little mental notes. You’re plotting out in your mind this person’s happiness. You’re taking notes of what they love and what they hate. You’re creating an outline so you can conform your behavior for their joy. You have looked at this person’s likes and dislikes, and you are submitting to this law of their nature, the law of their loves and hates, the law of their joys and displeasure's. You’re submitting to it out of delight, out of passion, so you can go deeper in the love relationship.
Look back at
Psalm 119:37 ESV
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
He says, “give me life in your ways.” When he reads the Scriptures, he see precepts, laws, and commands? They are not busy work. They are an expression of his habitual nature.
Why do you pore over a love letter? Not because you just love the paper and you love the ink, but because you’re in love with the person.
The psalmist is doing everything he can to bring himself under the authority of the nature of God. He wants to find out what God loves and hates, what brings him pleasure and what brings him displeasure. He’s bringing himself under it. Why? Out of fear? Because it’s a grind? So that someday he gets some kind of blessings? No.
When you are making that outline of the person you love you start to conform yourself to it, you don’t even think of it as a law. You don’t think of yourself as obeying, but that’s what you’re doing. You’re becoming free by losing your independence. You’re becoming yourself, finally. “I long for your precepts.”
John 14:23 ESV
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
It doesn’t say, “If you obey me I’ll love you.” It says, “If you love me, then you’ll obey me so I’ll become more and more real to you.” This is what it looks like to come under the authority of God. When you say, “I’m not going to give my spiritual authority up to anybody else” you reveal your misunderstanding of how love and freedom work.
You can start to obey the Bible with any love, because you want to make a better life, or feel better about yourself, or get God to answer your prayers, or so you can get to heaven. You can get into authority without any love, but you cannot fall in love without coming under the authority of the nature of the person for whom your soul longs for and desires. You don’t even think of it as obedience, but it is.

How do enter this type of relationship?

Accept the Bible authority.

Without this first step you cannot have a relationship with God nor can you stop your cultural conformity.
You can only have a personal relationship with someone who can talk back, who can fight back, who can tell you things you don’t want to hear, who can surprise you, who can argue with you. If you go through the Bible and say, “Well, these things God says … I can’t accept that. These things … of course, that’s primitive,” and you get rid of those things, you have a God you have created and a God who can never talk back to you and, therefore, a God who can’t change you because He can’t contend with you.
In reality you do not have a living and personal God but a “Stepford” God. You have created a Yes God. He is one-dimensional. This is not a personal relationship but a pseudo one.
If you do not accept the Bible’s authority you will acclimate or conform yourself to your culture. Each generation looks back at previous generations and they are appalled and embarrassed at some of their beliefs.
The only way to escape your cultural conformity is to let the Bible be your authority. Submit its objections to current cultural opinions. You’ll never escape your cultural conformity unless you accept the authority of the Scripture.

Accept the Bible’s audit.

Are you studying the Bible for information or transformation? Don’t just study the Bible let the Bible study you. Study the text. Scrutinize the text with questions. Dig out its meaning for the purpose of it dig out you. You are shallow. Let it make you deeper. Be diligent in interpretation so it can interpret you. You scrutinize it so it can come in and search you and challenge you and disturb you. Now there are certain questions you need to ask. If you really want to do this kind of application, if you really want to do this sort of discipline in which you let the Scripture search you, ask questions like this. Here’s a good one, maybe the only one you need.
“Why is God telling me this today? Where must I apply this today? Why would I be being shown this today? If I apply this, how would it make me different in the things that are happening now?”
You have to accept the Bible’s audit. You have to let it argue with you. You have to let it debate with you. Sometimes you feel really pretty smart and the Bible comes along and says, “You’re weak and dumb. Be dependent.” Other times you feel absolutely worthless and horrible and the Bible comes and says, “You’re valued and significant. Live that way.”

Accept the adventure.

If you’ve accepted everything in this sermon so far then your ready for this step. Now you are ready to follow the Bible obediently even though it looks like it’s going to be really hard and really difficult. You new perspective does not see this as adversity but adventure. It does not mean that you don’t see adversity in the negative but in the positive, which is adventure.
If you start to obey the Bible. If you begin to put yourself under its authority and under its audit, you will start to feel like you’re on an adventure. For example, you say, “I’m going to obey the Bible and only marry somebody who’s spiritually compatible to me.” It won’t be long until you realize that will create some adversity but you will find the adventure in what appears to be adversity. It may appear that you are walking away from happiness when in reality you are walking into its depths.
Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote: “If it is I who decides where God will be, I will always find a false God, a God who is in some way corresponding to me, who is agreeable to me, who fits in with my nature. But if it is God himself who says where he will be, that place is the cross of Christ.”
This conformity to Christ cost him his life. You might say, “that didn’t have a happy ending.” Oh really? Thousands of people have been inspired and changed because his adventure. You call that a disaster? Accept the adventure of coming under the authority of a will that is not your own.

Give our attention to the author

Psalm 119:32 ESV
I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
The Psalmist see following Christ as a race, a marathon. Notice that he does not dread this but takes great delight. What is even more incredilbe about his excitement is that it predates
Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus Christ was obedient. Jesus Christ came to earth. He humbled himself, Philippians 2 says, and became obedient even unto death of a cross. But why did he die? Why did he obey? Why did he say, “Not my will but thine be done”? Why did he follow the thread? Why did he accept the authority of the Bible? Why did he obey perfectly? Why did he accept the adventure? Not just as our example, but as our substitute. He didn’t just run the race as our example; he ran the race for us. He obeyed for us. He satisfied.
The gospel is not that we give God this great performance and then God blesses us, but that in Jesus Christ, God gives us a perfect record we receive by faith, and then we bless him.
You will not run this race, you will not obey his commands with delight, nor will you be in a love relationship; if you don’t believe you are already accepted. You can’t be condemned. You can’t flub up.
Don’t be afraid of; “What if I don’t do it well enough?” If you accept that the race is already finished for you. If you don’t Psalm 119:32 in light of Hebrews 12:1–2, your obedience won’t be a love letter. It won’t be an experience of love. It’ll be a grind but to understand it in light of the other sounds like this
To see the law by Christ fulfilled,
And hear his pardoning voice;
[Transforms] a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.
Accept the finisher and you’ll be able to accept all the rest. Let’s pray.
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