by Mike Ratliff
Yodh. Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts. Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies. May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame! (Psalms 119:73-80)
My continuing study of doctrine has led me to an astonishing conclusion. Well, at least it is astonishing to me. As I have looked at the myriads of conflicting doctrinal statements my views on what is correct (of God) and that which is false (of Man) have led me to conclude there is really only one stand I need to make. Those doctrines that match my stand I grasp and live by. Those doctrines that do not match my stand I reject and warn others about them. What is my stand? If a doctrine reveals God's holiness, eminence and sovereignty and exists solely for His glory then I do all I can to grasp it and make it mine. On the other hand, if a doctrine dignifies Man in any way, pretending to glorify God, I reject it and get as far from it as I can. I warn others about it. Of course, many of the believers I warn do not listen or they think I have wigged out; however, I am not going to stop. God has shown me the truth and given me this medium to present it, therefore, I write for His glory alone.
Synergism is a doctrine that must be denounced. What is Synergism? It is an erroneous doctrine, which states there are two acting agents in the process of regeneration, namely the human will and the Holy Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory contends the unregenerate Soul has not lost its desire and drive for holiness, or the ability to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives. This false doctrine is the belief that faith is produced by our unregenerate human nature. This belief is not supported in sacred scripture. Think through the implication of what it says. If it is true then our salvation is accomplished as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in coming to faith by our own will. However, scripture says something very different.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
How anyone could come up with a Man based doctrine such as Synergism after reading that passage is beyond me. Of course, those who espouse this doctrine also reject the doctrines of grace either in full or in part. Those whose faith is based within the doctrines of grace rely on the Word of God, sacred scripture, as the sole authority for determining doctrine. Those who come up with man-based doctrines must find ways to get around this authority. This, of course, leads to liberalism by those who refuse to accept God's grace as being sufficient for salvation. These "liberals" do not accept the authority of scripture because if they did they would find themselves out in the cold. To defend their counterfeit Christianity they attempt to make other devices have the same or greater authority than God's Word. Many of the opponents of the doctrines of grace base their "theories" on perceived philosophy. What is that?
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
We must dedicate ourselves to living for God's glory. Why? He is the author of our being. He created everything. He is sovereign. It is all about Him and He saves those who believe Him. At salvation, the Holy Spirit draws the unregenerate elect to conviction of their lost condition. He will do this in a way that is always associated in some way with hearing or reading God's truth from His Word. At the right moment, He regenerates the new believer's heart. This new birth enables the lost person will see how their sin separates them from God. This is all a work of God by His grace. Many of them cry, "What must I do to be saved?" God will provide a way for them to be shown what to do. It could be another believer sharing their faith or it could be revealed to them from the Bible itself. God is not limited in the method He uses to bring His elect to salvation. At the moment of regeneration the new believer's heart is given faith to believe The new believer then exercises their faith by surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and accepting Him as savior. This is the act of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-10; Acts 16:23-34) Those who believe were born again unto belief and are God's chosen. Since this is how Christians come to faith in Jesus Christ, how could anyone believe that Man accomplished any of it? The answer to that question, of course, is found in Proverbs 14:12.
We must allow God to alter our understanding of not only our salvation, but also the continued work of sanctification He accomplishes in our hearts. Salvation is the beginning for the believer not the end. After salvation, God will work to accomplish His plan of spiritual growth in our hearts to mature our character unto Christ-likeness. Let us look at the next stanza in Psalms 119. It is titled, "Yodh." The first line in this stanza is, "Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments." We must understand that all our spiritual growth comes through the hands of our Lord. He does His good work in us for His glory. How should we respond? We must adore and worship Him with a grateful heart. The psalmist does this in this statement. First, He recognizes whatever he is it is the result of God's work then he makes a request. He asks God to give him understanding. This is a request for God to open his heart and enable him to grasp and understand something he could not do on his own. What does he want to understand? The last part of this verse says, "…that I may learn you commandments." This should make it clear to us we have to have the enabling grace of God working in our hearts so we can learn and apply God's truth found in His sacred scripture. This is another request by the psalmist for wisdom from God. Why do we need this wisdom? Look again at the first few paragraphs in this chapter. When we lack God's wisdom, we fall for foolish doctrines that elevate Man to the level of God or even higher. I want nothing to do with that so I must make my pursuit of God's wisdom my highest priority.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways. (Proverbs 2:1-15)
Since I have started my pursuit of the truth about doctrine and its role in our spiritual maturity, I have found I must do so with the very same attitude expressed in the proverb you just read. When I approach my study as a treasure hunter guided by God I have found Him directing me to some very fruitful studies by opening doors to some research while closing others. He has opened my heart to the truth. He has given me understanding so I can learn the truth. We must understand that we are to live for His glory not ours. Any form of "Christianity" which elevates or dignifies Man at the expense of God's glory is false. We must repent of anything like that in our walk then seek the truth, learn the truth then walk in it. How do we do that? We must focus our entire being on our Lord.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3 Emphasis Mine)
Running this race is the process if remaining focused on the Lord as we endure life and all of its tests and trials. This builds our faith and, therefore, our endurance. This strengthens us, which enables us to walk the Walk by Faith and abide in Christ Jesus.
The second line in this stanza is, "Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word." Those who know God and fear Him are the chosen of God. They are regenerate and have believed Him. They not only know and love God, but also there is an intrinsic love extant within the brethren. Those who are Spirit-led cannot be self-focused. Instead, his or her focus is on God first then outward to everyone else second. They love those around them with God's love. When we see quarreling amongst believers it is a sure sign one or both parties are self-focused and, therefore, Soul-led. The Spirit-led will not do this. Instead, they rejoice greatly when their brethren make great strides toward Christ-likeness because the Holy Spirit within them is rejoicing along with them.
The third, fourth, fifth and sixth lines in this stanza are, "I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts." The third line is another declaration of God's perfect sovereign way with His people. God is righteous, always right, and when He allows adversity in our lives, He remains faithful. When bad things happen to us, it does not mean God has somehow made a mistake or has decided to cause us harm unnecessarily. No, instead the psalmist declares God is always right and faithful and it was a good thing He afflicted him. Because of the affliction, the psalmist asks, in the fourth line, for comfort through God's grace according to the truths found in scripture. He is asking God to bless Him by sustaining Him in the midst of his affliction by God's grace as promised in the Word of God. We should do the same thing. We must get into the Word of God. We must get the Word of God into us. When we do this, God changes us. We will grow in grace and be able to make this same sort of plea to God when adversity comes upon us. In the third line, the psalmist again asks for grace and mercy, but for a different reason. He asks for new life, a quickening, because God's Law is his delight. What does this mean? He is asking God to grow Him spiritually, as only God can, so He can grow deeper in His understanding of God's Law. He is asking for the ability to live according to the Law. This is impossible in our own abilities. We can keep God's commandments only by walking in the Spirit. Only the Spirit-led can do this because the Holy Spirit "quickens" his or her heart so they have the ability to do so. Of course, "quicken" means to bring to life that which was dead. In the sixth line, we see what the affliction was which God allowed in the third line. These presumptuous, prideful people attacked the psalmist, but his righteousness from God gave him the ability to wait on the Lord and rise above the affliction.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
The seventh line in this stanza is, "Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies." At first, this verse seems puzzling. Who are these who fear God, but still need to turn to the psalmist? They are the ones who afflicted the psalmist earlier without cause who, after seeing God's good work in him, have repented, and have become "God-fearers." These people have now come to see that God is with the psalmist and are in fear for that reason. The psalmist requests for God to have them return or turn to him and others who know God personally, instructing them in the truth so they will come to know Him as he does. This is an act of mercy on the psalmist's part. That should be no surprise since God is building His own character in Him. The psalmist continues with this thought in the eighth line in this stanza, "May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!" Personal holiness is the key to growing in grace. We mature as we become Christ-like. Our spiritual growth builds our personal holiness. Our personal holiness feeds our spiritual growth. How do we attain personal holiness? It is a work of God in our hearts as we surrender every part of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Every time we surrender, we grow in grace and take on more of His character.
Perfection is not for Man, including the regenerate. No, we cannot attain perfection in this life because we still have our old nature hanging around demanding to be fed with fleshly pursuits. Do not listen to anyone who claims that we have the ability to be perfect. We can become godly, but not perfect. With our Spirit-led hearts, we lay up more godly treasure with each victory. Our conscience becomes pure and undefiled and God's standards are evident to our hearts because God circumcised them. That means God has rolled away our approach, our shame, and given us the ability to attain to His value system. All Spirit-led believers have this, but we have a tendency to squander good things like this sometimes when we ignore our consciences. When we do this, we harden our hearts. We must stop this. We must heed our conscience as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins. When we do, we keep our conscience clear and undefiled. If we do not we become ashamed because we have turned our backs on God instead of treasuring our Treasure. When we do that, we squander it. We value temporal pleasure more than eternal joy. Temporal pleasure does not make us happy. It just makes us want more of it. The only time we are truly content and joyful is while we are Spirit-led and walking the Walk by Faith. We must allow God to bind our conscience to His Word. Then we must heed it.
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.