by Mike Ratliff
Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word! Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. (Psalms 119:105-112)
When I was an immature Christian, I was continually baffled by commands in scripture to do things I knew I could not do. No matter how hard I tried, I could not obey those commands consistently. I became greatly discouraged. I wanted to become mature, but I could not make myself do it because I did not know how. I would read Psalms 119:105 and become perplexed because I did not know what that really meant. The problem was I would read the Word and not see any way I could apply what was there to my life without my will power becoming a great deal stronger. I looked in scripture for the method or way I could apply to myself so I could finally mature my will power to the point my righteousness would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Of course, I never found it because it does not exist. Our will power is corrupt and hopelessly inadequate for obedience to our Lord.
When God circumcised my heart as I surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ I found I had something in me, my regenerated will or Free Will, that God had placed there from the moment of my salvation which enabled me to choose to obey Him. I did not know how to utilize it though. When I became Spirit-led, my Free Will became an active agent. I could now choose to obey my Lord while denying self. What enables our Free Will to do this? When we have the joy of the Lord in our hearts then our Free Will is active and strong because we are humble. When we are walking in self-focused mode, we do not have the joy of the Lord in our hearts or His peace because pride is in control. When we walk this way, our Free Will is powerless. The joy of the Lord is our strength to obey Him and it comes only to the humble.
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved." And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. (Nehemiah 8:8-12 Emphasis Mine)
When I was Soul-led, this concept was foreign to me. I had little joy so I was weak. However, part of being Spirit-led is experiencing His joy because to be Spirit-led we must abide in Christ. What does that have to do with it? Let us look at the following wonderful words of our Lord
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:1-11)
We must abide on our Lord. How do we do that? In the last chapter, I listed the steps to Walking the Walk by Faith. That is how we abide in Him. Jesus wants us to have His joy. To be joyful in the Lord we must humble ourselves and take on His yoke. This means submitting to His Lordship. When we do this, we are being strong in Him as we are weak in ourselves. Jesus says we cannot do one good thing unless we abide in Him. We must grasp this and live by it. We must stop trying to be spiritual in our Souls. We must become Spirit-led so our Souls can take on their proper function of expressing and reflecting our Lord.
The title of the stanza' we are looking at in this chapter is "Nun." The first line is, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." I remember memorizing this verse when I was a boy. As I said earlier, the concept of this verse was not apparent to me until I became Spirit-led. The Spirit-led are "in" God's Word as much as possible. If they neglect the Word, they will quickly lose focus. God's Word illuminates our entire spiritual being. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and applies it to our hearts. When we meditate on it, He writes in on our hearts and in our Souls. If we walk the Walk by Faith, we will take on an eternal perspective to life. The Soul-led have a temporal perspective. What is the result of having an eternal perspective to all parts of our lives? The great Baptist Puritan, John Bunyan, who lived in the 17th century, wrote an allegory titled, The Pilgrims Progress. He had a tremendous insight into our nature. He also grasped how an eternal perspective to life was the only way to walk the Walk by Faith. He looked at the spiritual perspective as an allegory. In other words, he spiritualized all of his circumstances and viewed each as having eternal consequences. He had a very active and acute conscience, which never allowed him to have peace with any sin in his heart. We would do well to acquire a conscience like his.
When we see our lives through eternal perspective then we are using our spiritual senses. When we do this then God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths. If our focus is on the temporal we then we are Soul-led and it makes little sense to try to apply spiritual wisdom using our flawed human understanding. However, if we see all of our circumstances through spiritual eyes God's Word will empower us to take each step for His glory rather than for self. Decisions made this way reflect His wisdom and engender a spiritual depth within us that burns Christ's character into ours.
The Spirit-led walk is a constant process of spiritual cleansing coupled with mortification of our sinful fleshly desires. How do we put to death, mortify, the sin within us? Why is it necessary? If we do not do this, we are walking according to the flesh. The ability to walk in the Spirit is empowered by the act of dying to self. When we humble ourselves before our Lord and walk according to His power we are walking according to the Spirit and this will happen only as we deny what our flesh wants. We must mortify our sinful desires so we can walk in the Spirit.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:1-14)
To remain a slave to sin is a sign a believer is not genuine. However, if we are in the spiritual battle to put to death our sinful desires then we are not only genuine, but also one of the sons of God! How do we put the deeds of the flesh to death? We must eradicate Idolatry of the heart from our being by uprooting pride and replacing it with humility then rest in our Lord. The only way to do that is to walk the Walk by Faith, abide in Christ, and run the race God has set before us all in and by the power of the Holy Spirit. This requires a life lived for His glory, walking through each day as an act of worship. This is the essence of the Spirit-led Walk by Faith.
The second line in this stanza is, "I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules." The psalmist's concept of his religion was one of keeping God's commandments and judgments. The swearing of the oath and confirming it is acknowledging God has heard him swear. Now he cannot renege on his promise. The only direction he can go is forward. What did he swear he would do? He told God he would keep the Law. Of course, we are fallible human beings who make rash promises at times. However, God is a covenant keeper. He will keep His part of the covenants He establishes. When we make a vow to Him, we must see our failure to keep it as the worst possible outcome. We must heed our consciences when it comes to keeping what we vow to the Lord. If we keep our promises hard upon our consciences, it keeps us obedient. We must heed the conscience. If we break our vows to the Lord, it will be unspeakably to our hurt. Perhaps we should not make these vows lightly. If we use them to strengthen our conscience and our obedience to heeding it then we should do so, but if we are at all sloppy with adherence to it then we should pray to God for guidance. I believe our problem in understanding this is we have lost our fear of God. In the Old Testament, they used oaths, which declared curses for lack of adherence to help with obedience. The reason this seems so odd to us is along with our loss of fear of God we have lost our sense of conscience. The trend in our post-modern society is to do away with guilt, however, the mortification of sin requires we have a healthy and heeded conscience. If we are struggling with a besetting sin, we must not seek to silence our conscience from pouring guilt into our Souls. No, we must instead heed what it is telling us and act accordingly. The Apostle Paul understood what a wonderful treasure a healthy conscience is. In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, he rebuked them for their ungodly behavior. Titus brought news to Paul of the remorse they had been going through because of that rebuke. Paul responded with a new epistle we call 2nd Corinthians.
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn–fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it–though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. (2 Corinthians 7:1-11 Emphasis Mine)
Godly sorrow produced repentance. This is the work of a healthy conscience coupled with the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We must take our vows to God seriously and we should use every reminder we can to keep our focus on our adherence to our obedience. We must heed our conscience and never make rash vows to our God. However, when dealing with besetting sins we must have no mercy on the very thing seeking to drag us into sin. How do we do this? If we are Soul-led, we have no chance in this battle. Only the Spirit-led are really in the battle. The Spirit-led are wearing the full-armor of God and are standing. We remain in Spirit-led mode as long as we abstain from fleshly lusts. (1 Peter 2:11; 1 Corinthians 6:18) If we are Spirit-led, we are not sinning. If we are sinning, we are Soul-led. If we are Soul-led, we are self-focused which means we have made provision for the flesh. If we are Spirit-led, we are God focused which means we are denying the flesh. The Spirit-led make no provision for the flesh. (Romans 13:14) If we are Soul-led, our focus is on self-gratification. If we are Spirit-led, our focus is on Christ. (1 John 3:2-3) The Spirit-led are in the Word and the Word is in them. They mediate on God's good Word. The Soul-led are conformed to the world and come to the Word only in crisis. As the psalmist declared, "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (Psalms 119:11) If we walk in the Spirit, we are Spirit-led. If we walk according to the flesh, we are Soul-led. We maintain our Spirit-led walk by praying without ceasing. Prayer lines us up with the will of God. Prayer keeps us from temptation. (Luke 22:40; Matthew 26:41; Luke 11:4) We must pray for God to give us a hatred of the sin, which is besetting us. When we hate it, we start the process of putting it to death. (Psalms 19:12-14) If we are Spirit-led, we bear the fruit of the Spirit. One of the parts of that fruit is Self Control. Exercising each of the parts of the fruit of the Spirit is our responsibility. God produces it in us for us to bear, but we have to exercise it. The exercise of Self Control is no different. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27) If we are Spirit-led, we will seek the filling of the Holy Spirit rather than self-gratification. This is our submission to the Holy Spirit's guidance and control in our lives. It produces joy in us, which gives us the strength to obey our Lord. (Ephesians 5:18) Victory over the sin, which so easily besets us, comes only to the Spirit-led, but we will fight these battles until the Lord takes us home to be with Him.
The adherents to the doctrines of grace never teach that we can attain perfection in this life. However, Arminianism does teach that. Along with that, it teaches that our salvation is our choice instead of the work of God. They must teach that because they also teach that God's grace is not enough to save us. We must add the work of decision and faith to God's grace to accomplish salvation. Arminianism says since salvation is by our works we can also lose it by our works. The Holy Bible says salvation is by grace through faith and it is not of works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Since God saves us by His grace through the faith that He gives us along with the promises to hold us and keep us, we must refuse to believe those who are genuine believers can lose their salvation. Along with this humanistic logical stew, they also teach believers can attain perfection in the flesh. That is the next logical step since they contend fallen man has enough spirituality to save himself then he can grow in grace by his own accord as well. Do not believe any of this. The unregenerate heart's will is corrupt. Prior to God saving someone that person has no desire for God or any ability to seek Him. However, by an act of God's will and grace He does save people. Look at the two questions below. Answer them truthfully.
1. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit plays any role in the sinner coming to faith in Christ?
2. Do you believe that, apart from any supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, the sinner, by nature, has the will, affection, and desire to come to Christ?
We must answer "yes" to question one. The Bible clearly teaches this fact. With that in the forefront of our minds, let us look at question 2. The Bible clearly teaches that all humankind is fallen and corrupt in sin and therefore does not seek God or want anything to do with Him. That completely corrupt sin nature also includes Man's will. Unregenerate Man's will is corrupt and cannot choose God. How can unregenerate Man freely choose to seek salvation through Jesus Christ? We must answer "no" to the second question. These two questions should make it clear salvation comes to those who God chooses and regenerates by His grace through faith. Believing faith is part of the regeneration process the Holy Spirit does in the heart of the new believer. The Christian must exercise that faith to believe, but the ability to do so is a gift of God.
We looked at this because some teach perfectionism is possible for Man. Since believers are sinners saved by grace instead of godly people who save themselves by choice we must not listen to those who teach perfectionism. If we attempt to attain perfection, we will be in a constant state of discouragement because it is impossible. If anyone declares he or she has attained perfection, the truth is not in them. (1 John 1:8-10)
The third line in this stanza is, "I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!" Our battles with our "OLD MAN" sin nature are very bitter at times. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fall out of the race and this devastates us. This presses us down and it seems as if we will never see God's light again. Joy and peace are fading memories. We were communing with our Lord and walking in the Spirit as we found victory after victory over those besetting sins, but now we have stumbled. There is silence from the throne. Our conscience is condemning us. Our hearts have hardened, but there is a glimmer of hope. Our hearts are broken. How can that be a glimmer of hope? If our hearts are broken, we have started the process of repentance. We must direct that intense hatred of ourselves from self-loathing to hatred of the sin as we seek the Lord's face at the throne of grace.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Grace "brings us back to life." The King James Version translates this as "quickening" us. When sin separates us from fellowship with God it is like death. It is joyless. There is no fulfillment in fleshly pursuits. As we fall before the throne of grace with a broken heart, we find God and His solution, which will "quicken" us. God's mercy and grace lifts us up and reestablishes fellowship with Him. This opens the door to getting back into the race. This also enables us to get back into walking the Walk by Faith. We return to abiding in our Lord and taking on His yoke. This is life. All of these promises are in the Word of God. It was from digging into the Word that we learned them. It is by remembering them we reestablish our deep, close walk with our Lord. We are back to walking in Repentance with Joy.
The fourth line in this stanza is, "Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules." When we freely pour out praise through prayer to our Lord, we are offering up the sacrifice that blesses and pleases Him. God prizes our freewill offerings of continual prayer and praise far more than our money or things.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! (Psalms 141:2)
We have seen how God teaches us and grows in grace as we seek His face in prayer and worship. If we live for His glory instead of our self-gratification, He teaches us even more. He matures us unto Christ-likeness. Another aspect of v108 is the veracity and necessity of praise. When we bless the Lord, we are blessed. However, our intent should be to glorify Him not get the blessing, but He does bless us with His presence when we worship Him in spirit and truth.
The fifth and sixth lines in this stanza are, "I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts." When a believer is Spirit-led, his or her character is Christ-like in all aspects. In the face of affliction that becomes dangerous this believer does not lose courage. He or she completely understands things from God's perspective during times of persecution and affliction if they remain Spirit-led. If they allow their focus to wander away from God and His glory then they will suffer much more than the abuse. However, if they prayerfully remain in the crucible they will see things from an eternal perspective. They take their lives in their own hand and offer them to the Lord to do with as He wills. The ability to do this comes from their strength, which has its source in the joy of the Lord accompanied by the Word of God hidden in their hearts.
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. "So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven… (Matthew 10:16-32 Emphasis Mine)
The believer who has his or her roots in the doctrines of grace understands their salvation is of God not of self-effort. If they are Spirit-led, they know they are new creations by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. Their spiritual maturity is not up to them trying hard to be godly, but flows forth from their deep relationship with the Lord. Those who come to faith by believing their salvation came by a decision they made are going to struggle with the deeper walk with God because they still believe it is all up to them. When God allows affliction into the lives of believers the handling of it will be very different by those who fully understands they are the workmanship of the Lord compared to those who are still trying to grow in grace by self-effort. Focus is the reason. It is far easier to become Spirit-led for those who understand their salvation is by grace through faith. Those who try to become godly by self-effort will struggle mightily. I know very much about this. If I had had the proper focus after my salvation, I may have become Spirit-led much earlier and not wasted all those years in self-effort.
The seventh and eighth lines in this stanza are, "Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end." The joy of the Lord is our strength. We have looked at this already. Where does the psalmist say his joy comes from? The Word of God is his heritage forever. He knows in whom he has believed and he knows he has eternal life because of that relationship. He remains in God's Word, which is how he abides as we do. We abide in Christ by drawing near to Him, taking on His yoke and obeying Him. How do we draw near? We pray. We worship. We study the Word of God. We walk through our lives as acts of worship. We pray continually. When we abide in Christ He gives us the joy of the Lord so we can obey Him and do good works.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:5-11)
The result of abiding and walking in the joy of the Lord is spiritual growth. We grow in grace as we walk with the Lord. This inclines our hearts to obey. As we grow more mature, we eventually become Mature Christians. When we reach this stage of maturity, we find our values are the same as the Lord's values. We have eternal perspective. As we review our walk to this point, we will see very clearly that God established our paths. He drew us into each point of obedience and acts of faith, which grew us and matured us unto Christ-likeness.
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.