by Mike Ratliff
If we learn nothing else, let us make sure we understand the vital link the Word of God has to our personal holiness. That link, of course, will be effective only to the level we live in it and by it. If we neglect feeding from it on our own by relying on teachers, preachers, or writers to spoon feed us then we drastically limit our spiritual nourishment we should be getting. Good Bible teachers will lead their hearers to dig for themselves from the treasure of God’s Word. When I rediscovered my Puritan roots, I started reading those great old writers. Their teachings did that very thing. The great Reformation and Puritan theologians stand head and shoulder above their modern and post-modern brethren.
My own personal revival has been completely God directed and empowered by His grace. Last summer I began researching to write about deeper devotional and growth techniques to facilitate our deep walk with our Lord. This was to be the basis for my third book. However, as I did that research I kept finding myself reading things by John Owen, John Bunyan and other Puritan writers. These studies lead me to study Reformation Theology. As God changed my heart about Reformed Theology, I became convinced that the missing piece the Western Church is lacking is adherence to the doctrines of grace. The fact this is missing in the majority of our churches means the poor sheep in them are spiritually malnourished so they remain self-focused and self-directed. They are not maturing in grace because God’s glory is an afterthought to them. This is a direct indictment against the shepherds of the flock. These shepherds feed their sheep a counterfeit gospel that is man-focused instead of God glorifying. The emphasis is on church growth at the expense of personal holiness and God-centered worship.
I was self-focused when I began my revival; however, I was also desperate for God. When I wrote Walking the Walk by Faith, I labored with joy over every chapter. I was sure I had found my missing piece. Of course, what I had found was the way to get close to the Lord and walk in His presence. God used this to take me deeper. When I wrote Possessing the Treasure, I learned the necessity of spiritual warfare. I learned that God is the one who fights our battles. Our part is our obedience and devotion to Him. When I finished that book, I had already outlined my third book. Of course, that outline did not last long. Why? I was praying for direction. The Lord showed me the path He had taken me down and why. I then discovered that my third book was going to be about becoming a mature Christian. After much research and prayer, I found myself directed into studying doctrine. I waded through mountains of men’s opinions. Then, by the grace of God, I found the doctrines of grace or Reformed Theology. I have come to understand that God wants us to be deep. We do not all have to be theologians, but we should all know what we believe, why we believe it, and how to share our faith with the lost. We must learn how to pass our depth on to those the Lord leads us to disciple.
At the beginning of my third book’s development, I had no idea we would end up here. It never occurred to me that the doctrines we hold in our hearts would be that vital to becoming the mature Christian God wants us all to be. However, He has shown me they are not only vital to this growth they are vital to our knowing Him at all.
Adherence to the doctrines of grace is resisted my many theologians and church folks. Why? Old, man-made doctrines are hard to dislodge. Why? Most Western Christians have a decided lack of spiritual maturity coupled with a shallow knowledge of the Bible. When the mass of professing Christians are immature, the prevalent method of understanding God and His ways is through human common sense rather than spiritual discernment. What is the result? There is a lack of understanding of God and His ways. Christianity has become man-centered while most see God the way they desire rather than the way He actually is. In other words, we have created our own God in our own image. Our "religion" has become just that. Christianity in the West is driven by Man's desires rather than God's will. It has become humanistic in focus. The consequences are huge.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
This may be disturbing to many, but we must take the step of opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit so He can reveal the truth to us. This truth is not popular with men, but that does not mean it is not truth. What am I talking about? Doctrines of men are those things that “seem right to man.” However, God’s doctrines of grace fly in the face of “what seems right to man.” Only the believer can grasp them. Sadly, many believers are part of churches that are mired in false doctrines. These false doctrines are man centered and politically correct. The doctrines of grace are God centered guaranteeing they are not politically correct.
Authentic Church revival always restores proper worship of God. We cannot worship God correctly, in spirit and in truth, if we are worshipping a god we have created in our own image. If that is our god, we are guilty of idolatry. God desires to have the hearts of His people turned back to Him. For that to happen we must learn to worship Him correctly. We must understand that He is sovereign, almighty and will judge all men. Our man-made god is nothing but an idol we have created which meets our wants and desires, but demands no obedience to lordship. Revival, when it comes, will do away with that false god. It will restore proper worship of the true God.
For us to grasp who God really is and how we are to worship Him, we must dig deep into the source of truth about Him that He has graciously provided for us. This source of the truth is sacred scripture, the Word of God, the Bible. Our consciences hold the highest values they can grasp. There are no higher values than God’s values. Therefore, we must get into God’s Word and get it into us so our value systems are identical to His.
For the next several weeks I will be posting a study of Psalms 119 one stanza at a time. Why? This Psalm is a wonderful declaration to the Lord of the veracity, vivacity, and necessity of living in His Word. Our hearts must learn this. We must love God’s Word and trust it completely in order for the Holy Spirit to use this truth to change our hearts and turn them back to the Lord. That is the message of Psalms 119.
Psalms 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is divided into 22 stanzas. Each stanza contains eight lines. In Hebrew, all eight lines of each stanza start with the Hebrew letter represented by the title for that stanza. For instance in the first stanza, in Hebrew, each line starts the letter “Aleph.” The next stanza is “Beth.” Each of its eight lines starts with that letter.
There are eight different terms referring to scripture throughout this Psalm. They are law, testimonies, precepts, statues, commandments, judgments, word, and ordinances. This psalmist was totally immersed in the Word of God. It dominated his life. He was in it before dawn, daily, seven times daily, nightly and at midnight. Let us pray we will have that same love and devotion as the psalmist when we finish this study. Why? We are going to need it.
As we look at Psalms 119, pay close attention to what God is revealing to your heart. When we finish this study, we will reason together again. I pray all who read these words are ready for God’s good work in their hearts.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.