Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Father Leads Me

Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart's delight. 
Psalm 119:111

Do you ever have trouble obeying God? Do you ever have those moments when you know what's right, what God has said, and what you know you should do; but you have a difficult time doing it? You rationalize, analyze the pros and cons of obedience, and weigh your chances of getting caught: caught by others in your dishonesty, misdeed, or bad habit—or caught by God.  You think, 'Will God really mind? Will He punish me? He'll forgive me, won't He? He forgave me for ______, so this isn't so bad, right?'

In Psalm 119, the psalmist writes 176 verses that are primarily about following God's instructions. He or she says, Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart's delight...joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LORD...they do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.  Practical advice to following God's commands are also given.  I have hidden your word in my heart; that I might not sin against you...I will study your commands and reflect on your ways...Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions...I think about them all day long.

Just about anything we do well in this life takes time, effort, determination, strength, and failure. Following God's commands are no exception. Mistakes are a great teacher: I used to wander off until you disciplined me...My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.  In John 12:48, Jesus says those who reject Him and His message will be judged by the truth He speaks. In other words, our sin and unbelief catches up with us because the truth never changes. We can try to change it. We can say, 'That's not true. I don't have to listen and live that way.' And I don't. God gives me free will to do as I please, but it doesn't mean my ways will prove to be right, because they're not! Only His ways are true and endure to the end.

But it's important to keep in mind that God is not our enemy. Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path...the wicked have set traps for me; but I will not turn from your commandments...You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope...don't leave me at the mercy of my enemies, for I have done what is just and right...My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled. (Psalm 119:105, 110,114,121, 123)

Our enemy is anything that leads us away from God and His instructions. They are like poison to our soul and the blessings God has in store for us. His plans are perfect. His ways are good. His instructions are life-giving. Jesus said, "I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark...I know [My Father's] commands lead to eternal life, so I say whatever the Father tells me to say."  (John 12:46,50)

I think it's noteworthy that Jesus says the Father's commands lead to eternal life, not that obeying them does. Yes, obedience to God's Word, belief, and trust leads us to the abundant life God has promised; but it's not my obedience that "saves" me. It's the commands for right living that lead to life. His ways are best for me. I'm not trusting in my own goodness and righteousness to obey, but in His goodness and righteousness to tell me the truth and keep His promises.

But when I fail to follow and end up in trouble, misery, the pit, off-track—His mercy remains. He will still lead me: first to His forgiveness, comfort, healing: and then to the next step of grace: however He leads me to make things right, do things better, or trust more fully. His laws are true, and so is His love.

I will never forget your commandments, for by them you give me life.  (Psalm 119:93)

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.