I love the Psalms because they speak to where we live. There are raw emotions expressed, and great questions asked. If you want to know how to navigate your emotions well; if you want to know how to live life well; and if you want to find answers to the questions you are asking, read the Psalms.
In Psalm 119:9, the psalmist asks this question: “How can a young man keep his way pure?” That’s a great question. How do you live in such a way that you guard your life from sinning against God? How do you guard your life in such a way that you avoid missteps that lead down a path of pain and destruction? And, is that even possible? Seriously, can I really live in a way where I do not give in to the flesh and its desires, and live in full obedience to God?
That question isn’t left for us to answer with human reasoning so as to justify our missteps. I can hear the whispers and side-discussions even now, “We’re human; of course we’re going to sin.” Or, “God knows we’re going to sin.” I know because I’ve used phrases like that before. It’s as though we try to dismiss a relentless pursuit of holiness because of our humanness. The apostle Peter writes, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16). Holiness isn’t gained by performing well. It’s not about performance. It’s about character. Our conduct is always the overflow of our character. Apart from Christ we are not holy, and we cannot pursue holiness. But in Christ, His Spirit transforms us and conforms us to the image of Christ.
This isn’t about becoming sinless, because we can’t. We were all born into sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) There is not one of us who is righteous; not even one. The only sinless One who has ever lived, or ever will, is Jesus. But if you have placed your full faith and trust in Jesus as the sacrifice for your sin, the sinless One now lives, by the Spirit, in you. So, even though you and I will never be sinless, we can sin less.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)
If you’re like me, you want to quickly move to the second half of that verse . . . “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Praise God for the second half of that verse. He knows that we are weak, and that we can’t live rightly apart from the Righteous One living in us. But, there is a reason that God speaks through John to say, “I’m writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” When we walk in fellowship with God, our desire to sin is less because we want more of Him. That word,“fellowship,” is a term that means “close relationship,” or even “partnership.” But what does it mean to walk in close relationship with God?
If I am going to live in pursuit of the holiness of Christ, and live in such a way that I guard my life from sinning against God, then I need to take seriously what the psalmist writes about in Psalm 119, specifically verses 9-16.
SEVEN STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION . . .
Over the next few days, I’m going to go deeper with what each step looks like practically, but for now here are seven steps in the right direction:
1. I will seek God wholeheartedly. (Psalm 119:10)
2. I will store up God’s word in me. (Psalm 119:11)
3. I will speak God’s word to myself and to others. (Psalm 119:13)
4. I will take pleasure in God’s word. (Psalm 119:14)
5. I will think deeply on God’s word. (Psalm 119:15)
6. I will focus intently on God’s ways. (Psalm 119:15)
7. I will remember God’s word. (Psalm 119:16)
As we make a habit of taking these steps every day, we will find ourselves loving God more and sin less.