by Mike Ratliff
Mem. Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. (Psalms 119:97-104)
When I do research in preparation for teaching or writing, I may spend hours upon hours searching the internet for information about my topic. I usually end up with many hits and landings on sites run by people who claim to have spiritual discernment. However, I have learned to be very careful when I hear that claim because that usually means they are no more than opinionated pot shot takers. They quickly reveal their true nature in their biased views. I am constantly amazed at the spiritual blindness of these people. They do not know what it really means to be spiritual. These false expounders of nebulous doctrines attack everyone who disagrees with them yet refuse to fine-tune their position. This enables them to attack in all directions yet never reveal their doctrinal positions enough to make them vulnerable. These people love to have the immature believers seek them out for "truth," but they only give opinion.
I was on a web site today looking for information on the relationship between John Bunyan and John Owen. I stumbled upon one of these web sites because my search engine tied these two together in an article hosted there. I read the article, which was very good. Then I went to the home page of that site and saw where they refused to reveal their statement of faith. I dug further and found they attack the doctrines of grace from a position of unabashed Arminianism. They had many fine articles about the great Puritan preachers and scholars, yet attacked their doctrine in other articles. I read where some questioned their integrity because they seemed to go "all over the place" doctrinally. They refused to reveal their stance. They claim to be a site of spiritual discernment, however, their wishy-washy eclectic choices of who to attack and who to praise reveals they simply "go with the flow" without any doctrinal framework. They even pat themselves on the back claiming that very thing. Their "ministry," taken as a whole, is simply a chaotic mishmash doctrinal stew, which contradicts itself on nearly every point. These are symptoms of spiritual immaturity and blindness not discernment.
This sad case is just another example of the spiritual immaturity of the Western Church. The immature believer is a sitting duck for these false teachers. Spiritual discernment is not human common sense. It is not accumulated knowledge either. Spiritual discernment comes from the wisdom God freely gives to His children who ask. (James 1:5) God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33) The reason so many people are sitting at the feet of false teachers who are nothing more than blind guides, is they never "go to the source" of godly wisdom to see if what is being taught is scriptural. How should the believer determine false teaching from true?
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6)
We must test the spirits. That means we must have a healthy skepticism regarding any teaching that claims to be new revelation regarding the faith. The reason the Western Church is stuck in denominational hell right now is it allowed false teaching to become predominate and accepted as valid and scriptural at the end of the Great Awakening in the 18th century. Satan always has a counterfeit gospel ready to go to counter the true gospel. We are still suffering the consequences of that lack of discernment. That is why we must become mature believers. When we mature into Spirit-led believers, we follow God not man. He gives us wisdom, which allows us to discern false doctrines from true. The Holy Spirit will lead, guide, and direct our paths to the truth and away from Satan's counterfeit gospel. The problem is most believers in the Western Church are religious instead of spiritual. They base their religion around watered-down, man-based doctrines. They are Soul-led instead of Spirit-led. Religious traditions take precedence with them. The next Great Awakening awaits those the Lord will raise-up who will proclaim the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then He will pierce the hearts of the elect thereby power starting a great revival. We must pray for God to awaken and purify His Church.
The stanza we are looking at in this chapter is titled "Mem." The first line is, "Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." How do we become godly mature believers? It starts with God drawing us into coming hard after Him. When we do that, we spend more and more time in His presence. That means we dig deep into God's Word and spend our time seeking Him in prayer and meditation. The result is a deep love for God and His Word. The believers whom God matures this way will also have spiritual discernment because God gives them His wisdom. Some of these believers may be in doctrinally weak churches. God may raise these believers up to challenge the leadership of those churches or He may direct them to depart from there to another. In any case, God will use those who are ready to obey. Once the believer attains this level of spiritual maturity, his or her conscience will not give them any peace with false doctrines expounded from the pulpit. Tension is inevitable. The believers who experience this will have to spend time with the Lord in prayer to determine His will in this.
Another aspect of God's impartation of His wisdom to us is learning we are strong when we are weak. We want to serve Him in our own strength, but it can never glorify Him because our righteousness is as filthy rags to Him. When we are empowered by God's grace to serve Him, He is glorified. We have attained godly wisdom when we grasp the same view God has. When God gives us His wisdom, our perspective is eternal rather than temporal. The following quote is by John Bunyan from his autobiographical book, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. He wrote this book while in prison for preaching without a license. He published it in 1666. We will look at the last words in the last chapter—The Conclusion.
"I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:
- Inclinings to unbelief.
- Suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth.
- A leaning to the works of the law.
- Wanderings and coldness in prayer.
- To forget to watch for that I pray for.
- Apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet ready to abuse what I have.
- I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust in themselves, 'When I would do good, evil is present with me.'
These things I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good.
- They make me abhor myself.
- They keep me from trusting my heart.
- They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.
- They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus.
- They press me to pray unto God.
- They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.
- And provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me, and carry me through this world. Amen"—John Bunyan (Emphasis Mine)
Some of us are uncomfortable with this reality. God actually uses our weaknesses and failures to impart His wisdom to us so we will be usable to Him. If He did not weaken us, we would be strong in ourselves, but useless for the Kingdom. I contend most believers in the Western Church not only abhor this truth, but also operate completely outside of it. These believers serve God perfunctorily rather than from the center of God's power. God manifests His strength magnificently in the weaknesses of those who abide in Christ.
I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows– and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)
For God to use us in powerful ways we must seek to be weak in ourselves as we are strong in Him. Not only is this the antithesis of the way the world thinks and operates it is not understood by the vast majority of believers in the Western Church either. The Western Church resembles a vast ocean. However large it appears its spiritual depth is microscopic. In Hollywood, there is a body of water facetiously named "Fake Lake." By using forced perspective during filming this very shallow body of water can appear to be huge and have the depth of the ocean, but it is an illusion. I fear most church folk's spiritual depth resembles "Fake Lake's" far more than the genuine disciple's Christ-likeness.
The second line in this stanza is, "Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me." The world does not grasp this truth. Sadly, most believers do not either. Most believers are Soul-led so they are self-focused. They do not walk closely with God so the Spirit does not lead them. Their wisdom is man based. This makes them vulnerable to the world and its ways. Of course, this is no surprise because they are conformed to this world instead of being Christ-like. The Holy Spirit leads the Spirit-led believer. The Spirit-led maintain their walk by communing with God continually. Part of this walk involves scripture study and meditation. We cannot know God unless we get into His Word and get it into us. When we go hard after Him He comes hard after us. He changes our character through His fires of sanctification. This matures us unto Christ-likeness. When we start resembling our Lord in character, we will be godly and vastly wiser than the world.
The third line in this stanza is, "I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation." Our great teacher is God. We may sit at the feet of godly teachers, but none of them compares to our Lord. When we hear godly sermons and teachings or read good books other than the bible, we are getting the Word of God second hand. The psalmist declares his wisdom grows greater by his meditation on God's Word than it does when he listens to the teachings of men. When we rely on God to be our teacher we are walking in the light because He has imparted His wisdom to us. That is far superior to relying on our own abilities to walk through our lives. We see this in the fourth line in this stanza. It is, "I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts." God's illuminating wisdom perplexes all fleshly wisdom. Man's ways are not God's ways. The believer who pursues God will find Him.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)
We cannot draw near to God without being changed. What happens when we come near to Him? We start with humility then we cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. We repent of whatever the Lord reveals to our hearts. When we do this, the Lord grants us repentance, which changes our hearts according to His will. We attain His wisdom, which we apply to our lives. This results in mature behavior. We see this in the fifth and sixth lines in this stanza, "I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me." How do we keep the Lord's commandments? We must be Spirit-led. We become Spirit-led when we surrender to His Lordship and He circumcises our hearts. This enables our Souls to adhere to God's values, which are resident in our consciences. We pursue God and walk in the Spirit by communing with Him continually. This is walking the Walk by Faith.
Walking the Walk by Faith
- Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- Come to Jesus (Matthew 22:28)
- Take on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 22:29)
- Learn what Christ teaches (Matthew 22:29)
- Present our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God (Romans 12:1)
- Keep the Lord’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- Renew our minds and become transformed unto Christ-likeness (Romans 12:2)
- Discern God’s Will and submit to it (Romans 12:2)
How do we walk in victory? We must walk the Walk by Faith. God initiates this in our hearts. He draws us into this walk, but we have to believe and obey. The Spirit-led do this, but the Soul-led do not. They may be Spirit-led at times, but not consistently. The Spirit-led consistently pursue God's presence and submit to the Yoke of Christ. Their time in Soul-led mode is relatively short and not as frequent as it was when they were immature.
The seventh and eighth lines in this stanza are, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I understand; therefore I hate every false way." What are the benefits of living in and by the Word of God? God gives us a deep love for Him, His ways, and His Word. Our value system matches His and we are in the process of taking on Christ Jesus' character. When we mature into the Spirit-led believers God wills for us to be we will hate sin just as He does. We see the wisdom and understanding He gives us as Treasure beyond value. Our ways are not the world's ways. We mature and grow into the spiritual pilgrims who understand this world is not home. We are just passing through so we must not tie ourselves down to temporal things and worldly ways.
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