by Mike Ratliff
Samekh. I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God. Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually! You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain. All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies. My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments. (Psalms 119:113-120)
As we saw in the lesson "Let Us Reason Together Part 7 – God Saves Us", there are really only two religions in the world. The first is God-based Christianity. The other includes all other religions in the world including all forms of Man-based Christianity. Man-based Christianity is heretical. What is the difference? All religions except God-based Christianity are false. The false religions' focus is on Man's performance in an attempt to do good works to attain salvation.
Not all forms of Christianity are truly Christian because the basis for some of them is unbiblical doctrines. This makes them heresies and they have been invading the Church from the beginning. For example, parts of the New Testament attack Gnosticism. Paul also wrote against the false teaching of some Jewish believers that all Gentile believers must become Jewish proselytes. Both are heretical views because they teach false views of God and Man. The history of Christianity is replete with heresies. Heresies spring from pride, which is the root of Man's rebellion against God. Pride causes Man to come up with false doctrines that attempt to elevate Man's ability to accomplish salvation. Natural Man has a problem grasping the wonderful truth that the shed blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover Man's sin. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is a merciful gift from God to Man by His grace through faith. It also clearly teaches that Man is completely incapable of coming to salvation without it.
Aurelius Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa in the fifth century A.D. The Roman Catholics call him Saint Augustine. He was a godly man who was a first-line theologian. His books, City of God and Confessions remain with us today. He published a book of prayers, which contained one that incited a tremendous controversy. The offending prayer was rendered thus, "O God, command what you wouldst, and grant what thou dost command." I have prayed prayers similar to that many times. I have asked God to help me obey Him by commanding me to do whatever He willed and to empower me to obey Him. That was the essence of that prayer. The one who took offense to that prayer was a British Monk named Pelagius. He was living in Rome. He saw that a lack of morality was the cause of that city's corruption. He began looking for ways to inspire those citizens to seek to elevate their standards. His solution was to teach a theology based on legalism called Moralism. This teaches salvation by good works. It sees people coming to God by being good. When Pelagius read Augustine's prayer, he took offense because it was the antithesis of what he taught. It seemed to defeat his efforts in cleaning up Rome. He protested and appealed to the Bishop of Rome to have Augustine's prayer censured. He was not arguing against the first part of the prayer, "Command what you wouldst." His problem was with the second part. Pelagius contended God, who is just and righteous and holy, would never command people to do something unless they already had the power within along with the moral ability to obey. He logically concluded that moral responsibility always and everywhere implies moral capability. He was offended at Augustine's appeal for God's grace to empower us to obey Him. He said that simple request offended God. However, his motive was to have the Bishop of Rome declare salvation by works as valid.
This debate eventually led to the Council at Orange, which declared Pelagianism a heresy. Prior to the convening of the council Pelagius' disciples had time to prepare their own doctrinal statement. The essence of their doctrine was there was no such thing as original sin via Adam and Eve. They stated all of Adam's descendents were responsible for their own sin. Augustine made it clear in his writings that sin entered man via the original sin and all of us are helpless to save ourselves without God intervening. Pelagianism contends any one of us is capable of not sinning and thereby living perfect lives, which would allow us to earn eternal life. What Bible were they reading?
Why am I going over all this ancient history? This heresy is still with us. Arminianism is a form of semi-Pelagianism. It states Man is capable of coming to salvation on his own accord. It states there is enough righteousness left in each of us to seek God and salvation. On top of that, it teaches that after salvation we can live perfect lives, but if we sin, we lose our salvation. Pelagianism and Arminianism are doctrines of men and of devils. They are contrary to what the Bible teaches. Their roots are in pride and they are false gospels, which portray a false Christ. They are the culprits behind the Western Church's spiritual bankruptcy. They have infiltrated the church so well they appear to be orthodox. On the other hand, most church people see the doctrines of grace as a suspicious interloper. Some theologians, pastors, and Bible teachers believe the reason the present form of evangelism has supplanted the doctrines of grace is that the Holy Spirit has moved on. They contend it is a silly, sentimental mistake to seek to return to these old-fashioned doctrines. They think those who seek return to the form of Christianity that was the essence of the Protestant Reformation are actually seeking to return to the 16th Century way of doing things. That conception is misinformed and missing the point. Let us be honest. Which glorifies God? Only the doctrines of grace, based on God's sovereignty, are bound to His glory. Pelagianism and Arminianism, based on Man's common sense, deceive their adherents into believing God is powerless to save anyone unless they agree to decide for Christ. The Bible teaches that saving faith is a gift of God He gives to those He chooses by His grace. Man's responsibility is to believe and obey. The main point God used to break through my own resistance to the doctrines of grace was they are the only ones that glorify Him in every part. No other form of Christianity does that.
We must look at one other heresy. It, too, is pride based. On one extreme, we have Pelagianism and Arminianism supplanting the sovereignty of God with Man's responsibility. This other heresy supplants the responsibility of Man with the sovereignty of God. Both extremes are heretical. This heresy is Hyper-Calvinism. It takes the doctrines of grace and logically extends them to the extreme thereby exterminating Man's responsibility to believe. Hyper-Calvinism suppresses evangelism. It teaches that all of the elect will come to salvation eventually no matter what so we really should not share the gospel freely because that would expose the non-elect, the reprobate, to it. Many Arminians falsely believe all adherents to the doctrines of grace are Hyper-Calvinists. That is not true at all. Many Calvinists have fought hard against Hyper-Calvinism. Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John Bunyan, and Charles Spurgeon were Calvinists who were evangelical to the extreme. True adherents to the doctrines of grace teach the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of Man. They do not teach that God does His all to save us and we do nothing or that He does His part as we do our part in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. No, they teach what the Bible teaches. God saves us by grace through faith. His regeneration of our hearts enables us to believe. However, we must believe. That is our responsibility. We must exercise that faith He gives us for salvation to come. God does all, we do all. It is not cooperation. Salvation is surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ by the new believer. This surrender is our recognition that we are sinners and, in turn, trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ to cover our sins. Jesus is the Lord and savior of all who do this.
God's sovereignty is the basis for the doctrines of grace. They glorify God in every part as they reveal Man's utter helplessness to come to salvation by his own initiative or ability. The Born Again believers who are adherents to the doctrines of grace should not be the proud. Instead, they should walk humbly before God fully recognizing they are unworthy of His grace. There is no reason to become puffed up with pride about being one of the chosen of God. He did not choose anyone based on any trait inherent in him or her. He chose whom He chose according to His sovereignty. With this fully understood the path to becoming a Spirit-led believer opens up because humility is a key component in our becoming Christ-like.
Those who reject the doctrines of grace may come to salvation, but it is via a watered-down gospel, which does not teach anyone to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Since these believers do not know to do that, they have a huge chance of remaining Soul-led and frustrated in their powerless religiosity. The path to becoming a Spirit-led believer from this gospel is going to be much more difficult since they do not understand the importance of humility in their walk. Those who come to salvation via Hyper-Calvinism are in even worse shape. They think they have no responsibility at all. God saved them because of who they are and He will mature them as He sees fit. It should be obvious how both extremes are out of balance with the precepts from sacred scripture.
In this chapter, we are looking at the stanza titled, "Samekh." The first line in this stanza is, "I hate the double-minded, but I love your law." The King James translates this passage as, "I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love." The Hebrew word translated as "double-minded in the ESV and "vain thoughts" in the KJV means "divided mind." What sort of person is the psalmist describing here? The person the psalmist is describing is the opposite of the believer who has an undivided heart. The undivided heart is one that is Spirit-led. The Spirit of that believer is predominate over his or her Soul. That believer's Soul is performing its original function of expressing and reflecting God. The psalmist expresses it correctly that the Soul-led condition where the Soul is predominate over the Spirit produces a heart that is full of vain thoughts. All adherences to false doctrines, heresies, come from these vain thoughts.
The Hebrew grammar in this verse shows us the psalmist was not referring to other people that he hated. He was stating to God how he hates for his own mind to be dominated by double-mindedness or vain thoughts. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit we struggle with this as well. However, if we cultivate and maintain a clear conscience there will be no peace with double-mindedness in our being. It is our enemy and it must be mortified. We must hate it and seek to kill it. Of course, when we are Spirit-led we are walking in the Spirit and are wearing the full armor of God. We do not have these vain thoughts when we are walking in the Lord's light communing with Him as we pray continually. However, the step out of His light back into flesh-dominated darkness is very short and quick. When that happens, we must repent and turn back to God. If we do not do this, our vain thoughts will dominate us. Our tolerance of this is a marker of our spiritual immaturity because this is how the unregenerate, the lost, operate. The more we mature the less this should happen.
Those who become comfortable in their vain thoughts become susceptible to false doctrines. They accept false teachings and grasp them as their own because they are Soul-led and simply listen to the teachings without any spiritual discernment. Their method of accepting or rejecting these teachings is flesh driven by utilizing human common sense. However, the Spirit-led do not do this. He or she will be able to discern the true teaching from the false by testing the spirits.
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. (1 John 4:1)
We would save ourselves a great deal of grief if we would do this. No matter who the teacher is we should seek validation from the Holy Spirit of every teaching that seems new or different. Sometimes we hear something we have never considered before, but it is God leading us away from false teachings into the truth. Therefore, we must not rely on our own common sense to determine these things. In fact, that way of determination is what causes us to grasp man-based doctrines in the first place. Never forget, God's ways are higher than ours are and will appear to be antithetical to what Man teaches.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:6-9)
This concept blows me away sometimes. I read everything I can about the things God has me write. Some of these writers and teachers are going to have a lot to answer for when they stand before the Lord. They write some of the most blatant humanistic drivel the Soul-led heart can conceive as they try to pass themselves off as theologians. My conscience leaps into high gear when I allow that garbage into my mind. I check it out with my Lord and reject what He rejects. However, it is useful to see where the errors are. God leads me to these teachings so I can know what He is guiding me to write.
The concept of the spiritual immaturity of the Western Church came to me as the Lord guided me into the study of the doctrines of grace. I had never studied them at all. I had simply believed what I had heard from others about doctrine. I can remember in high school reading the history of the Protestant Reformation and learning how deceived John Calvin was. The history book painted him as teaching predestination from ignorance and superstition. It presented him and the Puritans as ignorant witch hunters. I bought it. I was saved in a church that held a doctrinal position that was part Calvinism and part Arminianism. I thought it was what the Bible taught. When I started studying the Bible for myself, I would run across those passages that taught predestination and election and would become perplexed. Our teachers and preachers taught that people came to Christ by deciding to believe. They were decisions for Christ. However, as the Lord matured me out of my Soul-led slough of despond He also gave me an insatiable appetite for truth. This led to my research of doctrine.
When I read the five points of the doctrines of grace as compared to the five points of Arminianism the first time I did not buy it. One of the points that threw me for a loop was Irresistible Grace. It states those who God chooses come to grace by His will instead of by deciding. I fought it for a while. However, God would not let me stop researching and studying this. One day I read an article about the history of the doctrines of grace. It explained that they were developed to counter each theological point of Arminianism. The writer showed how Calvinism (the doctrines of grace) glorifies God while Arminianism glorifies Man. When I read that article, God gave me tunnel vision. Nothing broke through my concentration as I devoured it. When I finished it, I asked the Lord if what I had just read was the real deal. I did that because as I read my heart burned within me. I knew immediately God had just revealed the foundational truths to my heart that He wanted me to learn, teach, and write. This was a defining moment for me.
As I have learned more and more about the doctrines of grace, I have come to understand what true Christianity really is. However, living within them has been the best part. I used to ignore doctrine because it was confusing and perplexing. It seemed to contradict itself in several areas. However, now I view my walk with my Lord through these doctrines. God blesses me with His peace and joy as I praise Him for the simplicity and elegance of His solution for our redemption that reveals God's glory is paramount. The humble thrive within the doctrines of grace, while the proud seek another gospel. Some adherents to the doctrines of grace arrogantly use their knowledge to belittle those who do not. That is never the correct attitude when it comes to rightly handling the word of truth. Those blessed with God's truth should exhibit Christ-like character to everyone including those who err. Arrogance is a marker of the Soul-led.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
If the proponents of a doctrinal position do not exhibit Christ-likeness in their dealings with others then they are showing their own lack of spiritual maturity. Knowledge without wisdom is empty. Wisdom comes to the Spirit-led. The Soul-led, even those with great understanding of doctrine, are emotionally driven. The Spirit-led should consistently exhibit mature attributes to all because the Holy Spirit leads them. Only the foolish follow leaders who exhibit emotionally driven characteristics such as arrogant, boastful behavior resulting in contentions within the Body of Christ in order to show others how learned they are. That type of behavior is prideful and fleshly and is nothing more than an attempt at self-gratification. Our spiritual leaders and teachers must be mature and godly fellow pilgrims in this Walk by Faith.
Part of being Christ-like is bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. Part of that fruit is "Goodness." Goodness' attributes resembles a two-sided coin. If a believer is bearing the Fruit of the Spirit then Goodness will result in a mellowing of character, which exhibits itself in being actively good. That is one side. The other side of that coin is a zeal for goodness and truth which results in rebuke and chastisement where called for. Therefore, those whom God has blessed with wisdom and knowledge of the doctrines of grace should present the truth to all who err, but in a loving and caring way. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
The second line in this stanza is, "You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word." This verse is a declaration to God that He was the psalmist's defense against all who attacked him, and the knowledge of it came from the Word. As God blesses us with the truth, He does not intend that we sit on it and squander it by doing nothing with it. We are to apply it to our own lives first then as wisdom and knowledge solidify into understanding within our hearts, we are to present ourselves to the world as a city on a hill or a light on a lamp stand.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:10-16)
If we place this truth in the context of Psalms 199:114 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, we have a believer whom God blesses with wisdom and knowledge of Him and His ways. This believer hides in the Lord for protection as he or she exercises their Goodness to correct and rebuke. Standing for truth can be risky, in the world's eyes, but God blesses it as long as love is the motive. Why would God do it this way? The world needs the truth. Deceived believers need the truth. Human nature being what it is, this rebuke can seem a threat with resultant hostility. The believer's application of truth to eradicate false teachings is analogous to a cook applying salt to change the savor or taste of food. Jesus said it plain; if He blesses us with His truth, we must not neglect our role of salt and light. If we do then we are good for nothing. No matter how deep our doctrinal understanding becomes we must not retreat into ivory tower scholarship, but instead we must be the conduit of God's grace to all the Lord brings into our sphere as we hide in Him.
The third line in this stanza is, "Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God." The King James renders this verse as, "Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God." The KJV has it right. The psalmist is telling the ungodly they must depart from his presence because he will be obedient to the commandments of the Lord. Our walk in this darkened world should be one of Faith as well as prudence. We cannot isolate ourselves completely from the world because then we would not be salt and light. God expects us to fulfill our roles as His ambassadors to this lost and dying world. We cannot totally shun the world; however, we must not be part of it.
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)
Since we must live in world we cannot hide from it, but we must seek to be non-conforming to it. If we become conformed to it, we become like it. This displaces our spirituality with worldliness. That is the antithesis of what God calls us to be.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 Emphasis Mine)
If we renew our minds by going hard after God, He will transform us into holy and separate living sacrifices that are salt and light to the world. We cannot do this if we become conformed to the world. The psalmist's cry to the ungodly was a statement of nonconformity to their ways.
The fourth and fifth lines in this stanza are, "Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!" These two verses are recognition of our total dependence on the grace of God not only for salvation, but also for the capacity to live godly lives. Look at the alternatives in these two verses. If we do not have God's sustaining grace in our lives, we will be ashamed in our hope and we will be unsafe. However, if we know God and consciously live within His grace our hope of eternal life is sure and untouchable by circumstances. Our perspective of life will change profoundly as well. We will be like Paul who declared that dying would be gain for him.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:21-24)
The Spirit-led believer sees death as a step in the right direction. It is simply the next stage in this eternal life before our Lord. The Spirit-led consciously walk within God's grace as a way of life. The impact of this changes us from the inside out. We understand that God sustains us and we are completely safe in His hands.
The sixth, seventh and eighth lines in this stanza are, "You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain. All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies. My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments." The idea that Man would create his own theology outside of the revealed Word of God is very disturbing to those who know the truth. The fact this has happened and still happens is a strong indicator of how susceptible people are to false doctrines that glorify Man at the cost of God. Every heretical version of the gospel states in some way Man must do some sort of "work" in order to be saved. Even those who have conceded that God must extend His grace to the unregenerate for salvation to occur, the act of faith is still reserved as Man's ability and responsibility. This is unbiblical. The following quote is from "The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit" a sermon preached on June 20, 1858 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. (1834-1892)
"When a man is converted to God, it is done in a moment. Regeneration is an instantaneous work. Conversion to God, the fruit of regeneration, occupies all our life, but regeneration itself is effected in an instant. A man hates God– the Holy Spirit makes him love God. A man is opposed to Christ, he hates his gospel, does not understand it and will not receive it– the Holy Spirit comes, puts light into his darkened understanding, takes the chain from his bondaged will, gives liberty to his conscience, gives life to his dead soul, so that the voice of conscience is heard, and the man becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. And all this is done, mark you, by the instantaneous supernatural influence of God the Holy Spirit working as he wills among the sons of men." – C.H. Spurgeon
In this amazing statement, we see the work of the Holy Spirit to make the sinner love God, lighten his understanding, unbind his will, open his conscience, and regenerate the Soul so it can hear the conscience then the sinner responds by believing. This is not an act of Synergism, but an act of grace on God's part.
Any who teach differently are teaching a false gospel which points to a false Christ. Those who refuse to repent of their false teachings are those who have gone astray from God's statutes and remain wicked in their pride. God accepts the humble but shuns the proud. What should disturb us though is the amazing resistance to the truth we see in those "theologians." Their prideful anger resembles that of the scribes and Pharisees when Jesus called them whitewashed sepulchers.
Oh my dear Lord. How offended you must be at our audaciousness in claiming credit for your grace. The Western Church is in the grip of deception made up of false doctrines espoused by deceived teachers and preachers. They are only after numbers Lord. They want to dummy down your Good News to the point that no one is offended by it. What they have created is a mass-production of decisions which save very few. Oh Lord, the waste! Please forgive us. Please turn our hearts back to the truth. Give courage to those who do know the truth so they will speak it across this land. Give us spiritual discernment and open hearts so our consciences can hear your Good News. Please help those of us who do know the truth to know what your will is in teaching and preaching your doctrines of grace motivated by your love. All for your Glory Lord—Amen!
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.
Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.