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Advice for Life

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This morning I have chosen to put our Study through Leviticus on hold for one more week. As I have been thinking about Kelsi and Isaiah and recognizing this milestone in their life, I began to wonder what piece of advice would I want to give them? As they are now looking to the future, to what paths to take, I kept coming back to this one passage of Scripture. Now this passage is not just for those who are graduating. This passage and the advice that is found in it is, in all reality, advice I would give to any Christian. But this advice is some of the most important advice that I can think of for looking ahead to the rest of our lives.
Psalm 119:9–16 ESV
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight 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.
This passage starts out with a question that is really one of the most important questions that a child of God can ask.
Psalm 119:9 ESV
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
How can a young man keep his way pure. This is a question that we should be asking ourselves. How can we keep our way pure? Or to put the question another way: ‘How can I live a life that will please God?’ or, ‘How can I be sure I will grow as a Christian?’
The first thing I want to point out about this question is that it recognizes a truth about God. You may miss this, because it is implied in the question. It recognizes that God is holy. And this holy God who has saved us is calling us to live holy lives. I love how Paul puts it in 1 Thes. 4:3
1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
Your Sanctification, that is your life being set apart and growing in holiness. So our question is one that is seeking to follow God’s will in our lives. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48
Matthew 5:48 ESV
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The idea here is to seek holiness in our lives. So How do we do this? How do we live our lives in a way that will please God? How do we keep from sin?
The answer is found in the second half of verse 9.
Psalm 119:9 ESV
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
By guarding it according to your word. We are to guard our lives by God’s word. Scripture tells us that God’s word is able to do just that.
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The Holy Spirit uses the words of Scripture to search out our thoughts and hearts.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says
2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
God’s word is used to teach, reproof, correct and train us for righteousness, that is, holiness. John Bunyan had handwritten on the front of his Bible these words:
The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.
The Word of God is able to do just that.
So How do we guard our lives with God’s word? The psalmist spends the next few verses telling us how. I want to walk through the how with you this morning. I have five points that I want to bring our. The first is:

I. Seek God though His Word.

Psalm 119:10 ESV
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
I have written in the front cover of my Bible a quote from Charles Spurgeon. it goes like this:
“If you wish to know God, you must know His Word. If you wish to perceive his power, you must see how he works by His Word. If you wish to know His purpose before it comes to pass, you can only discover it by His Word.”
You see here is a truth that we often overlook because we are used to having Bibles available readily in our culture. God is a God who speaks. He created the universe by speaking. In fact in our study of Leviticus we are seeing over and over the phrase, then the Lord said to Moses… God is a God who speaks to us. In Isaiah 44 we read God mocking the false idols that his people were tempted to follow, and he says with the same piece of wood you start a fire to grill steaks and you carve a god for yourself.
Isaiah 44:16–17 ESV
Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
All by itself the argument that the idols were nothing more than a block of wood was devastating. But God doesn’t stop there. He then points out that they can’t do anything, that is specifically, they cannot speak. Look at how God address the idols in Is 41:21-24:
Isaiah 41:21–24 ESV
Set forth your case, says the Lord; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob. Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.
God is challenging the idols to speak. He demands that they tell us. Tell us about the past or the future. But they are unable to do anything. Because they are not real.The God of Israel, the God of the Bible however is a God who speaks and that sets him utterly apart.
Isaiah 44:6–8 ESV
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”
There is no God besides our God. There is no God besides The God of the Bible and what proves it is that He has spoken.
How has he spoken?
Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
God has spoken through the prophets, that is through the Old Testament, as well as through His son this is the New Testament. The passage we looked at earlier said, all Scripture is God breathed. That is, all of the Bible is from God. It is God speaking to us. So when Scripture tells is to
Matthew 6:33 ESV
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
We are to seek Christ, and all of Scripture, Old and New point us to Christ. So the first practical application of guarding our ways according to His Word is to seek God through His spoken word. So as we seek Him our prayer should be with the psalmist here in the second part of vs. 10
Psalm 119:10 ESV
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Let’s move on the the next point.

II. Memorize the Word of God

Psalm 119:11 ESV
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
This is something that kids often do in Sunday School or VBS, but for some reason many adults do not practice this. That is not how it should be. I want to encourage you to memorize Scripture. We need to store it up in our hearts.
Chuck Swindoll wrote,
I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified. (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], 61).
The apostle Paul told us in Philippians
Philippians 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
What can fit this more than God’s word? I heard on preacher sum up this passage by saying, “If you are thinking what you ought to be thinking, you wouldn’t be thinking what you ought not to be thinking.
But beyond that, it is God’s Word hidden in your hearts, that you have memorized, that the Holy Spirit is going to use to guard our ways, our thoughts, our emotions, it is from here that we will be convicted, encouraged, and strengthened.
Jesus Himself commanded memorization. In John 15, Jesus likens Himself to a vine and believers as branches that must abide (or live, dwell, remain) in Him in order to stay alive and be fruitful. In John 15:7-8, Jesus gets even more specific, saying that if we remain in Him and His words (plural!) remain/live/dwell/abide in us, then we may ask whatever we wish and it will be given to us.
John 15:7–8 ESV
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
This is the essence of the fruitfulness by which we will both glorify God and prove that we are Jesus’ disciples. But what does it mean to have Jesus’ “words” (plural!) remaining/living/dwelling/abiding in us? It means at least that we can remember them. More than that, it means that they are captivating our minds and hearts, multiplying and spreading like yeast within us, dominating our heart more and more. It is hard for me to see how this can be done as fully as Jesus intends apart from memorization. Similar to this passage is Paul’s commandment to the Colossians:
Colossians 3:16 ESV
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
How can we obey this commandment fully apart from memorization? I don’t think that we can.
But the Psalmist gives us a reason for memorizing Scripture. and that is found in the second half of verse 11
Psalm 119:11 ESV
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
That I might not sin against you. That is that we might not sin against God. All sin is against God.
J.M Boice wrote:
We live in a corrupt and sinful world, and there is nothing in the world that in itself will help us live a pure life. More than one hundred years ago the Bible teacher Alexander Maclaren wrote that the world is
“a great deal fuller of inducements to do wrong than of inducements to do right.… a great many bad things that have a deceptive appearance of pleasure, a great many circumstances in which it seems far easier to follow the worse than to follow the better course. And so unless a man has learned the great art of saying, ‘No!’ ‘So did not I because of the fear of the Lord,’ he will come to rack and ruin without a doubt.”
What can preserve us from ruin? What can empower us to say no to temptation? What can enable us to live a holy life in the midst of our most wicked surroundings? Only the Word of God, the Bible, which we must study and hide away in our hearts. Jesus told his disciples,
John 15:3 ESV
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
He also prayed to the Father on their behalf saying:
John 17:17 ESV
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
The Bible is God’s cleansing agent for sin and that without it we will never live a holy life.
So not only are we to seek the God of the Word, and memorize the word, we are also to:

III. Personalize the Word of God

Psalm 119:12 ESV
Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!
If you are using your own Bible, I would encourage you to underline the word me in that verse. When we come to Scripture, too often it is easy to think, “boy , so and so really needs to hear this!” or perhaps we just gloss over the passage to get through it, never actually learning what the passage is saying, and what that means to me. What I need to learn from what God is saying.
You see, to the child of God, being led by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God becomes personal. So when we come to God’s word we need to ask ourselves these questions:
How is God revealing himself in this passage? What are the attributes that are being shown?
What can I learn about man from this passage?
What did this passage mean to its original audience?
Is there a lesson to learn?
Is there a sin to avoid?
Is there a blessing that waits?
Is there a promise to claim?
Is there a thought to carry with me?
I find it is helpful to begin my time in God’s word with prayer,asking the Holy Spirit to show me who God is, to show me Christ, to search my heart, to convict and comfort where they are needed. and to show me where my thinking may need to be challenged.
Sometimes, to personalize God’s Word, I find it helpful to just let the word of God become my prayer to Him. I read a verse, and then I respond to that verse in prayer, allowing that verse to guide my prayer as I would a conversation with someone else. God speaks and then I respond and then God speaks and then I respond. In this way Scripture becomes a two way conversation between God and myself.
Let’s move on in our passage to the next application to guarding our ways with God’s word.

IV. Verbalize the Word of God

Psalm 119:13 ESV
With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
The word declare here is to verbalize and make known. What goes in us should come back out of us.
This can take place in many different ways.
One way it takes place is in our witnessing and evangelism. God uses us to bring the gospel to others.
Romans 10:14 NLT
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
We are to tell others about God and we can only tell them what he has revealed in His word.
Another way that we verbalize God’s word is in our disciple-making.
Matthew 28:18–20 ESV
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We are to teach others what we have learned. and the passage we looked at in Colossians earlier:
Colossians 3:16 ESV
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
What can this look like? Well one way it should look like is when we come together we should be asking each other what you have read, and what God has said to you this week through his Word. This would be a better form of fellowship than just talking about the weather or our garden, or the job we did with our chainsaw this week.
Many, many times God reveals a truth in His Word to you that you might speak it as a blessing to somebody else.
Let’s move on. So we have seen so far that we are to seek God, Memorize his word, personalize the Word, Verbalize the Word, now the fifth application this morning is:

V. Vitalize the Word of God

What do I mean by vitalize the Word? Listen to a couple of the definitions of vital or vitality, which the word vitalize comes from:
pertaining to life or existence
extremely important
full of exuberance, full of health and spirit or full of creativity.
Now with that in mind lets listen to the rest of our passage:
Psalm 119:14–16 ESV
In the way of your testimonies I delight 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.
When was the last time that you rejoiced over God’s word?
When was the last time that you delighted in God’s Word?
If you have to think about it than it has been too long. God’s word should be what we are full of exuberance for, it is what pertains to our life. It is extremely important. If that is not your experience, I would encourage you to read Psalm 119 in its entirety every day for a week or two, memorize parts or even all of it, personalize it, make it a prayer to God, speak with another believer about its truths. There is no greater passage in Scripture to help you see the significance of, and the delight of Scripture than Psalm 119. With time spent in it you will begin to fall in love with God’s word all over again.
Let’s move on to our last point here this morning.

VI. Internalize the Word of God

Psalm 119:15 ESV
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
In the Bible the word meditate means to think deeply on something. The idea is to have Scriptures depths fill your thoughts. ironically this is very different from the meditation of Hinduism, New Age or mysticism. To these religious practices, meditation is an emptying of the mind. This is what our culture too quickly goes to when we think of meditation. But in Scripture it is a filling of the mind, a dwelling on the thoughts of Scripture.
J. M Boice in his commentary on this Psalm said:

Meditation is recalling what we have committed to memory and then turning it over and over in our minds to see the fullest implications and applications of the truth. The Virgin Mary meditated after the birth of her son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for we are told in Luke 2:19, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

The second part of this verse says that the psalmist will fix his eyes on God’s way. The idea of fixing your eyes has been translated as think on in the CSB, Consider in the NIV and contemplate in the NKJV and the KJV. while all of these are good and help us to better understand what is being said here, I like the word contemplate, because one of its meanings is to anticipate. So as I meditate on God’s word, I am also going to anticipate what God is going to do. It is really seeing God’s word as alive and active in our hearts, as well as in the world around us today.
I want to close by backing up and showing you the psalmist commitment to follow God’s plan and will as found in His Word in his life as he looks towards his future, the rest of his life.
Vs. 10 - ...I seek you
Vs. 11 - I have stored your Word in my heart...
Vs. 13 - I declare...
Vs. 14 - I delight...
Vs. 15 - I will meditate...
Vs. 16 - I will delight...
This is my advice and prayer for you grads, as well as for the rest of the body here, that you would become saturated with God’s Word, that it would dwell richly in you, that you would use it to keep your way pure and that you would seek God. Let’s pray
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