For Purity in Life
Heart Cries: For Purity of Life
We return this weekend to the Psalms and the series I’ve called “Heart Cries”. The heart cry we consider today is one that every Christian has had – and does have – almost every day of our lives, i.e., the longing for purity of life, for faithfulness in our walks with God. Or, to put it more bluntly, a heart cry to stop sinning altogether. Is that one of your heart cries? It surely is one of mine.
That brings us to Psalm 119:9-16. Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible. It includes 22 reflections of 8 verses each—with each reflection being a meditation on the Word of God. Psalm 119 is an acrostic with each reflection beginning with successive letters in the Hebrew alphabet – so that there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and therefore 22 reflections on God’s Word. It’s in the 2nd reflection, beginning with the Hebrew letter “beth” that we find our heart cry. Listen to the Psalmist’s heart cry as I read his words to you. Read 119:9-16.
The Heart Cry
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands (119:9-10)
When I read those first two verses, I feel like the psalmist is not preaching to us as much as he is praying for himself. He is the young man who wants to be pure. That word “pure” is a word that, in Bible times as in our own, often speaks of our sexual thoughts and lives. That longing for sexual purity truly is a heart cry for many. But, it’s a bigger word than that. The word “pure” refers to all parts of our lives being what God would have them to be. This psalmist was honest enough to admit that he was still struggling to live a pure life. He wondered, “Will I ever live a pure life or must I always live a life that falls short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23)?”
I’m convinced that v.9, when it refers to a “young person”, is not only giving counsel to those who are young in biological years -- though it surely does refer to younger generations. However, in wisdom literature, often when we read admonitions to those who are “young”, the Bible is really saying to all of us that we will never be younger than we are right now. In other words, if you will ever get rid of sin and begin living a pure life, then the time to start is not tomorrow – but right now. If today you are seeking God with all your heart and you know there are some impure things in your life, then no matter how young or old you may be biologically, you will never be younger than you are right now. Make a commitment now to “live according to God’s Word.”
This is the psalmist’s heart cry: With all his heart (v.10) he wanted to break from sin and to walk with God. He’s so serious about it that he repeats it in v.11: I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. And note this: He seems to be convinced that a key to a pure life is the Word of God.
So, let’s see what the Bible says to us about God’s Word and purity by asking two questions:
Question 1: How Can God’s Word Be Effective in Making Us Pure?
The psalmist’s answer to his own question about how to be pure is “By living according to your word.” When he spoke of God’s Word stopping sin, he didn’t mean that he wanted a word from God like a magician’s incantation – like “abracadabra, be pure!” It’s clear to me that what he meant, when he spoke of God’s Word being able to help us to be pure, was the written Word of God, i.e., the Scriptures. In his lifetime, that was mainly “the Torah”, the books of Moses and a few other books that we now call the Old Testament.
For us, God’s Word includes the entire 66 books that we call the Bible. So, Scripture is what the psalmist believed would be, as Hebrews 4:12 says, “living and active” – guiding him toward what is right and keeping him from what is wrong.”
With that in mind, when I read these verses, I ask myself, “How does that work? What happens when you hide God’s Word in your heart that makes it effective in stopping sin in your life?” It cannot mean that, the more Bible we pack into our brains, then automatically the less we will be able to sin. It’s clear to me that there are many great Bible scholars who have no desire at all to live according to what the Bible says. It is very possible for Scripture to be in our heads but not in our hearts. So, what does the Bible do to change your life?
With that question in mind, I have read the whole of Psalm 119 again and again to ask what the Bible does to help us live lives of purity? I’ll summarize it in three phrases.
#1: The Bible helps you know what is right and what is wrong.
Give me understanding that I may keep your ways and not turn to worthless things (119:34,37).
Read Psalm 119 through and you’ll see that the Psalmist has a recurring prayer: “Lord, give me understanding.” That means: “Give me insight to be able to sort out the good from the bad and the right from the wrong. Help me to know what is sin and what is not sin.” How do you get your understanding for what is right and wrong? From the news media? From the things you read or watch? God is the only perfect and just Person in existence. And God says, “It starts with knowing what I’ve said in my Word.” As the Psalmist prays in 119:34,37: “Give me understanding that I may keep your ways and not turn to worthless things.”
#2: It helps you love what is right and hate what is wrong.
With my whole heart I seek you… I have hidden your word in my heart… I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches (119:10-11,14)
The Hebrew word "I have hidden" (tsaphan) in v.11 is very interesting. They didn’t have banks in ancient Israel so people always hid their treasures – usually in a field or in the mountains. When a treasure had been hidden, then forgotten, and finally discovered again, it brought great joy to the one who found it. With that image in mind, in v.14, the psalmist adds, the treasure of discovering how my Creator created me to live is at least as great a joy as finding a lost treasure!
Do you understand what he means by that? Anyone who has had a period of time in your life in which you have walked away from God understands what he means by this. I will never forget a college student from a church I served who had walked away from the Lord and gotten into heroine. After having his life hit rock bottom, he returned to the Lord and was so thankful for God’s mercy and grace – and thankful that he experienced that mercy and grace from his home church people too.
That young man told me something that I think many of you might relate to. He said he had thought he might find something really life-giving and exciting when he began using the drugs and got into the impure life that it led to. But, the pleasure didn’t last – and soon turned into a bondage. He said, “I would never have believed it years ago, but when I came back to God, I found great joy when I discovered what his Word said about how I should live.” Those who have experienced God’s grace and begin to walk with God again know the psalmist is right: “I rejoice in your Word as as people rejoice when they find a great treasure.”
That young man – and the psalmist -- had learned that sin promises satisfaction but never delivers fully. It never satisfyingly satisfies. Have you learned that? Listen to his testimony in 119:104: Lord, I gain understanding from your teaching in your Word; therefore, I hate every wrong path.”
#3: It helps you to choose a path that is right when you are tempted to do wrong. How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your Word (119:9).
The description of a young man “choosing a path of purity” in v.9 is speaking of a way of life in keeping with God’s teaching in his Word, i.e., the way God wants people to live. It’s clear that the psalmist faced a lot of temptations– and that, on his own, he did not always know how to avoid what was wrong and to choose something other than sin. The Bible teaches us what those other choices might be.
I think that being able to offer an alternative to doing wrong is one of the hardest and most significant parts of good parenting. For those who are parents here, when you see your children being tempted to do something wrong – like hit a sibling out of anger – then you often simply try to get them to stop. And, that’s a good thing! But, there is something else that you can do – and should do. You can actually stop and talk with your children about what might have been a better way to handle the temptation to act in anger. When you do that, you actually help our children prepare for many similar kinds of situations they’ll face all their lives.
That’s a role that our Heavenly Father wants Scripture to play in our lives. I’ve experienced it so often personally. I could give a thousand illustrations but I’ll give just one. Often, when I feel I’ve been criticized unfairly, I am tempted to lash out and let the other person know what a rotten person he is. But, I know Scripture teaches me, “In your anger, do not sin (Eph 4:26).” “Be slow to speak and quick to listen (Jm 1:19).” So, I try to slow down and ask the person, “Can you help me understand why you said that about me?” And, after listening, when I do respond, I remember that I don’t avoid speaking what is true but God’s Word tells me to speak in a way that will further God’s work in the other person’s life because – again guided by Scripture – I remember, “Speak the truth – but do it in love (Eph 4:15).”
I wish I could tell you that I always do that when I am tempted. However, as Paul confesses in Phil 3, I’m not saying that I am perfect yet but I press on toward that calling. I still have the heart cry that this psalmist had. How can I live a life that is pure before God? I know it is only by taking heed to the Word of God.
That’s what the psalmist tells us Scripture can do to help us keep our lives pure. But, my second question is about how Scripture might make it from our hearing to our hearts and then into our lives.
Question #2: How Does Scripture Make It from Our Hearing to Our Hearts and into Our Lives?
I must tell you this right now. You cannot stay away from sin without the presence of the Holy Spirit. So, I remind you, when you place your faith in Jesus, God pours out his Holy Spirit into your life to strengthen you to live a life of purity. But, here’s how all this works out practically: You won’t know how to live for God apart from God’s Word. And these verses in Psalm 119 provide practical advice for bringing Scripture into your life in such a way that the Spirit can help you live in keeping with it. That practical advice can be boiled down into a simple formula: receive it, recite it, rejoice in it, and reflect on it:
#1: Receive It – Teach me your decrees (119:12).
There are many ways to receive the Word into your mind, your heart and your life. One of the most important is to make sure that, when you worship with your church family as God’s Word commands you to do, listen carefully for what God’s Word is saying. If the preacher only tells stories and does not have God’s Word at the center of the message, please speak the truth in love and say, “We need to hear a Word from our Father.”
In addition, here at LAC, we pray that everyone will find a small group of people who will actually read, study and discuss God’s Word together. And, of course, I encourage you to develop a habit of reading the Word daily on your own. You will be astounded at how often what you read will guide your life that day. And, memorizing Scripture is something that Christians have done for generations. There may be no better way to “hide God’s Word” in your inner being than that.
#2: Recite It – With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth (119:13).
I cannot overemphasize how speaking God’s Word aloud cements that Word in your mind and heart. In particular, when you recite a passage of Scripture to others in witness or encouragement to them, you find it will become more a part of you. And, let me tell you this too: I’ve discovered that when I actually sing Scripture, I remember it better and longer. There are a lot of resources for this. Chris and I always played children’s CDs from “GT and the Halo Express” to our children. They and I can still sing most of those Bible verses in the songs. Now, our daughter Heather is using them with her children. There are many newer series of Scripture being put to music that you will be able to find if you will search for it.
#3: Rejoice in It – I rejoice in following your statutes… I delight in your decrees (119:14,16).
The attitude with which you approach Scripture will have an enormous impact on how it affects your life. If you’re negative about your Mom or Dad and then they give you advice, you often reject it out of hand. But, if you have a relationship of love and respect, then the words are given in love and received with joy. The same is true of God’s Word. This psalmist obviously is filled with love for the God who loved him. God’s Word only goes deep into your heart to change your life when you rejoice in receiving it – and obeying it.
#4: Reflect on It – I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways (119:15).
This means that hearing God’s Word or reading it on your own needs to lead to you going over that Word in your mind. Take time to consider how it might apply to specific situations in your life. God’s Word should change your life – and it will do so in a beautiful way. But that transformation only happens when you receive it, recite it, rejoice in it, and then reflect on it’s application to your life – and then, the Holy Spirit will take that Word and help you live in keeping with it. I pray you will find that to be true in your life.
I will end the sermon with an interview with Denny Repko, a man who has received, memorized and delighted in the Word of God for a long time. He has also taught countless people all over the world how to learn and apply God’s Word. Mostly, Denny’s life is filled with the kind of delight in God and God’s Word that this Psalm talks about. Here are the questions:
1. When did you start memorizing Scripture? How did it begin?
There are many tools that facilitate Bible memorization. Three of them are:
• Bible Memory Apps: Remember Me
• Practical Help from Navigators
• Bible Memory Box
2. Memorizing Scripture isn’t a magic formula, is it? I mean, it’s possible to bring the Word into our heads and have it stay there. How do you think learning Scripture can move from our minds and into our hearts — in such a way that it changes our lives?
3. When I read Psalm 119:9-16, I am struck by how the Psalmist keeps talking about delighting in God’s Word, rejoicing in God’s Word. He had probably known God for many years and still he seemed to have a child-like love for whatever God would say to him. Has that been your experience?
4. Are there a couple of verses that you’ve hidden in your heart that are especially meaningful to you right now? What are they?
This Psalm is about a deep heart cry every believer has: How do I live a pure life? To help us, God gives us a lot – his forgiveness of our sins, his Spirit to empower us and his church as the community in which to grow. But, foundational for this heart cry finding fulfillment is that God has given us his Word. I want you to pledge as the psalmist did at the end of this passage, “Lord, I will not neglect your Word.”
And, I want to leave you with a passage – a promise from God -- that I’ve hidden in my heart this week:
My child, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you… Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul (Proverbs 2:1,9-10).
我們一起看詩篇 119:9-16. 詩篇 119 是聖經中最長的詩. 包括22段，每段8節，每段都是對神的話的反思。詩篇119 是一首藏頭詩，22段的都以連續的22個希伯來字母開始來默想神的話，比如第二段是以第二個希伯來字母 “beth”開始, 就是我們今天要看到的心靈呼喚。當我為你們讀詩時，請聽詩人心靈的呼喚,讀 119:9-16。
少 年 人 用 甚 麽 潔 淨 他 的 行 為 呢 ？ 是 要 遵 行 你 的 話 ！我 一 心 尋 求 了 你 ； 求 你 不 要 叫 我 偏 離 你 的 命 令 (119:9-10)
這就是詩人心靈的呼喚：他要一心遠離罪，與神同行(v.10)。他是認真的，以致於在11節重複： 我將你的話藏在心裡，免得我得罪你。 請注意: 他深信過純潔生活的鑰匙就是神的話。
帶著這個問題，我一遍遍讀詩篇119， 並不斷地問: 聖經如何幫助我們過純潔的生活? 我總結了以下三方面：
通讀119篇，你會看到詩人有一個不斷重複的禱告: “主啊，求你賜我悟性！” 意思是“求給我悟性，使我能分辨是非對錯；説明我認識什麼是罪，什麼不是。” 你是如何明白對錯的呢？從媒體報紙還是你讀的看的？神是唯一完美和正確的，神說：“那要從明白我說的話開始”。正如詩人在119:34,37的禱告: “求你賜我悟性，我便遵守你的律法…求你叫我轉眼不看虛假。”
那個年輕的詩人已經認識到罪會許諾帶給你滿足，但永遠不會帶給你真正和完全的滿足！你聽到了麼? 聽聽他在119:104節的見證: 主啊，我借著你的訓詞得以明白，所以我恨一切的假道。
#3: 聖經幫助我們在被引誘行錯時選擇正確的道路少 年 人 用 甚 麽 潔 淨 他 的 行 為 呢 ？ 是 要 遵 行 你 的 話 ！(119:9)
問題 2: 聖經如何使我們從耳聽到入心，再應用到生命中？
#1: 接受它 –求你將你的律例教訓我 (119:12)
#2: 記誦它 –我用嘴唇傳揚你口中的一切典章 (119:13)
我一直強調出聲講述神的話有助於神的話進入你們的心思意念。特別是當你向他人以聖經的章節作見證或加以勸勉時，你會發現有更多的經文成為你的一部分。我要告訴你們：我發現我唱出經文時會記得更好更長，其實有許多經文歌。Chris 和我曾經常常給孩子們放光碟“GT and the Halo Express”。他們和我還能唱許多經文歌。現在，我女兒 Heather 也教唱她的孩子們。如果你願意找，會發現有更多的聖經歌系列。
#3: 喜悅它 –我喜悅你的法度…我要在你的律例中自樂 (119:14,16)
#4: 默想它 –我要默想你的訓詞，看重你的道路 (119:15).
1. 你什麼時候開始記經文的? 是如何開始的?
記憶聖經 Apps: Remember Me
2. 記經文並非一個魔方，對嗎？ 我的意思是讓聖經進入頭腦並留在那裡是可能的，但如何讓聖經從頭腦進入心裡去改變我們的生命呢？
3. 當我讀到119:9-16, 我深有觸動，詩人不斷談到以神的話為樂，喜悅神的話語他可能認識神好多年了，但不管神對他說什麼，他依然像小孩子那樣愛慕。你有這樣的經歷麼？
詩篇是關於每個信徒內心深處的呼喚：我怎樣活出純潔生活？為此，神已經給了我們許多---他赦免了我們的罪， 他的靈使我們和屬他的教會有成長的能力；但是成就我們心靈呼喚最基本的還是神的話。我盼望你能像詩人在這段結束時那樣保證： “我不忘記你的話。”
Greg Waybright 博士
- What does it mean when we call the Bible “God’s Word” as the psalmist does in this passage?
- Practically speaking, how would we go about living according to God’s word as we see in v.10? What steps would we need to take?
- How do we hide God’s Word in our hearts, as in v.11? What is the benefit of doing so?
- In vv.14-16 we see three powerful verbs used: rejoice, meditate, and delight in. Explore what each of these means in reference to the Bible.
- Can you honestly recall a time in your life when you could agree with v.14? What was that time in your life like?
- What in this passage makes you love and adore God more? Why?
- What role can we play in one another’s lives to help each other live according to God’s Word?
- How might hiding God’s Word in our hearts help us be and share the good news with those who are far from Jesus?