God's Word Can Make You Pure

Steve Viars February 3, 2007 Psalms 119:1-16

 

- [Pic #1] – This is a mountain lion...most of us would agree that these animals look pretty fierce...if we’re not convinced of that by this picture, then how about this one...

- [Pic #2] – Either he’s very upset, or very hungry, or yawning after a very long sermon---you can decide...but having big sharp teeth and being able to open his mouth very wide is certainly part of the package...

- now, if you’ve been paying attention to the news this week...you probably know where this is going already...

 

- please keep those first two pictures in mind, and then compare them to this...

- [Pic #3] – Mrs. Nell Hamm...

- [pic #3 on the left side of the screen and pic #1 on the right]- if you had to bet on who would win in a fight between Mrs. Nell Hamm, a 65 year old woman, and an angry attacking mountain lion, who would you choose?...

- And if you haven’t heard the news, you might say, what a terrible thought...

- it’s actually more than a thought...that fight really took place...

- [pic #4] – Nell Hamm and her husband Jim were hiking in California last week when Jim was attacked by a mountain lion...

- the animal literally had Jim's head in its mouth...when Nell picked up a log and started beating on it...

- her husband later said...”she was beating him the whole time...she was worn out from beating him...several minutes of real intensity...”

- during the attack...Jim was actually able to talk to Nell...

- he encouraged her to take a ball point pen out of his coat pocket and stick it in the mountain lions eye...

- so she did that...the pen bent and broke...so she picked up the log again...and started beating the mountain lion some more...

- eventually, the lion let go, turned to look at her...and walked away...[the smartest thing that lion did all day...]

- [pic #5] – Jim is in serious condition but beginning to recover from his injuries...

- the local representative from the California Department of Fish and Game said that were it not for Nell’s fight, the lion would have overtaken her husband...

- “There’s probably no doubt that he would have been killed”, he said...”If it wasn’t for her efforts, he just wouldn’t have survived...”

 

- [pic #4] – in a couple of weeks, Jim and Nell will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary...

- here’s what Nell said...”You hear remarks of hero...It wasn’t that...we love each other very much...and we just fought together just like we do everything else.”

 

- now, it’s a pretty short walk from there to a person’s spiritual life...

- how is satan described in the NT?...as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour...

- is there any evidence as we look around at our culture, or we look around at our community that the lion stalks his prey, spiritually speaking and that too often he wins the fight?...

- is there any evidence as we look in the mirror at our own heart and our lives and our own relationships that we are sometimes in a fight of significant proportions?...

- now let me ask you this?...how hard are you fighting?...

- for your own personal purity?...

- and the strength of your friendships?...

- and for the advancement of your marriage?...

- and the protection of your children and other loved ones?...

- and the spiritual health of our church family?...

- what evidence has there been this week, and this year that you understand the intensity of the struggle you are in spiritually?...and that you are absolutely committed to winning that fight?...even if you have to club the fire out of the lion with the nearest log you can find?...

 

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible to Psalm 119...on page 445 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- our theme this year is ReachingNew Heights...

- we understand, I think/hope, that this is a crucial year for our church family...

- we’ve been planning and working toward this very place for years...

- and now we’re on the cusp of opening a community center and all its associated programming for our friends and neighbors...

- and breaking ground on a faith based residential treatment center for girls in need...

- and beginning our church based seminary program...

- so the opportunities before us are greater than ever before...

- and we are excited about that...and thankful for it...

 

- but we also understand this...we have to be ready...

- we have to be at as strong a place as we can possibly be so that we can steward the ministry opportunities that lie before us well...

- so we are like a family of mountain climbers trying to get to a better place together...

 

- now, so far this year we’re organizing the base camp...

- we understand that there are certain disciplines of the Christian life that are absolutely essential for anyone who truly wants to grow spiritually...

- it’s not that we need something more as much as it is that we need more of the something...

- so last month we focused on ReachingNew Heightsin Our Faithfulness to Pray.

- and I hope for everybody in our family, wherever you were in that area of your life at the beginning of January...I hope everybody in the church family could say that you have, and that we have reached new heights in your prayer life...

- that is so essential to all we hope and plan to do this year...

- by the way, that is why we are asking you come back this afternoon at 4:00 for our church family night...because we want to pray for our upcoming BCTC which is 6 days away and we understand if we are going to properly serve and minister to over 1350 fine servants of God...we desperately need to ask for God’s blessing and strength and wisdom...

- nothing wrong with enjoying a sports contest later this evening if that’s what you choose to do, but one of the ways we show that we’re reached new heights in our faithfulness to pray is our commitment to, and enjoyment of corporate prayer as a church family...

 

- this month we would like to turn our attention to ReachingNew Heightsin our Commitment to Scripture.

- and we would like to do that by focusing on selected portions of the most extended discussion in all of the Bible about God’s Word...Psalm 199...

- let’s read the first 16 verses...READ Psalm 119:1-16

 

- this Psalm is unique for a variety of reasons...for one...it is by far the longest Psalm in the Word of God...

- it is also unique because it is an acrostic Psalm...

- what that means is that in Hebrew, the first word in each stanza begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet...

- there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet...so the first 8 verses all begin with Aleph...

- then the next 8 verses all begin with beth...

- so if you take 8 times 22, that’s why there are 176 verses in this Psalm...and if you look at it in Hebrew it really is beautiful even in its parallelism...

- [we’ve placed a copy of the Hebrew OT on the communion table this morning open to Psalm 119 if you would like to see it after the service...even without knowing Hebrew you can still see the parallelism...]

- something else that is unique is that practically every one of the 176 verses mentions God’s Word in some way, shape or form...scholars debate this point like scholars debate practically everything, but even the most conservative estimate is the God’s Word is mentioned specifically in at least 170 of the 176 verses...what’s in focus in a few cases is in question...but clearly this is a Psalm about Scripture...

- now, we could summarize these first verses like this --- God’s Word Can Make You Pure.

- and I would like to propose to you that in these verses, we can find Four characteristics of a person being purified by God’s Word.

 

I. An Understanding and Thankfulness that God’s Word Brings Settled Joy.

- on purpose, the first couple of verses emphasize the blessedness that can come to a person’s life as a result of following God’s Word...

- v.1 – How blessed are those whose way is blameless...

- v. 2 – How blessed are those who observe His testimonies...

- now, you might say...well, what does blessed mean?...

A. Meaning of “blessed”.

- a man named Dr. George Zemek wrote a commentary on this Psalm...1 entire book on this 1 Psalm...[The Word of God in the Child of God]

- about verses 1 and 2, he said this...The repetition of the exclamation [blessed] at the outset of verses 1 and 2 launches the psalm on a positive note. This repetition calls attention to the fact that those demonstrating a pattern of consistency in obeying God’s directives for life correspondingly experience a deeply rooted joy...The faithful of all ages experience a transcendent joy internalized, a happiness defined by God’s standards and values, not the world’s.  Consequently, Anderson’s paraphrase of “How rewarding is the life of those...” captures the impact of this twofold [blessed] in its significantly revelational context.

- that is what it means to live a life that is blessed...possessing a deeply rooted joy that is internalized...how rewarding is the life of people like this...

 

 

- now, by the way, just to show how gracious the Lord is in providing for us...as we are lining up the professors for our church based seminary...Pastor Aucoin and Pastor Green will be the primary instructors...that is why they are completing work on the PhD’s...then people like Pastor Dutton and I will teach as will some of our medical doctors...

- but we wanted someone else to help us teach systematic theology so we said...let’s go after the best...

- so we actually asked George Zemek to come to Lafayette and teach some week long modules for us and he said yes...so our seminary students will actually be exposed to his ministry as well...

 

- now, back to the text...the only way that you will establish the kind of disciplined relationship to God’s Word described in this passage is if you really believe that God will keep His promise of blessing those who do so...

- that there is a kind of inner joy and peace and direction that can be found in no other place...

- now, what is the relationship to the second part of the statement?...

B. The relationship to being blameless.

- the answer is...living is ways that violate Scripture produces guilt...

- not because society has created false standards of right and wrong...

- not because your parents and the religious leaders in your childhood set you up to feel badly for enjoying yourself...

- but because there really is a God in heaven...and He really is righteous and holy...

- and because every person, as Romans 1 clearly teaches, has a knowledge of God in his/her heart...and corresponding to that, a great gift of God known as a conscience...

- and guilt is produced whenever a person violates God’s commands...and unless a person has completed seared his/her conscience...there is tremendous emptiness that comes from trying to find “blessedness” in any other place...

- an article came out this week on CNN.com entitled – Polls: Wealth is top priority for today’s youth.

- “New polls show that the obsession with material things is growing—and that being rich is more important to today’s young people than in the past.”

- UCLA’s annual survey of college freshman found that nearly three quarter’s of the people surveyed said that being “very well off financially” was essential or very important.

- a poll from the Pew Research Center found that 80% of 18-25 year olds in this country see getting rich as a top goal for their generation.

- a psychologist named David Walsh recently wrote a book entitled “No: Why Kids – Of All Ages -- Need to Hear it and Ways parents Can Say It”...

- his research found that, when adjusted for inflation, parents are spending 500% more money on kids than a generation ago...

- on the notion that possessing more material things and being very well off financially will produce blessedness...

- well, what happens when a person gets out of college?...even if they land a good job, it is highly likely that they are going to be rich, or well off financially...

Jean Twenge – a professor at the University of San Diego said --- “There are a lot of young people hitting 25 who are making, say $35,000 a year, who expected they’d be millionaires or at least  making six figures”...the title of her article was – “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before.”

- even when somebody does “make it”, they often find there’s no satisfaction there – the article concluded by quoting a 24 young man from Manhattan – he said – “Yes, I have a nice apartment, a great job, a great degree, great clothing.  But I feel rather empty inside rather often”.

- that’s why psychologists have coined a new term---we’ve all heard of mid-life crises—now they’re talking about quarter life crises...

- here’s the point – you and I will never be motivated to reach new heights in our commitment to Scripture unless we agree with what is being taught in these first two verses...

- and I know that there are people here, a lot of them who would say---PV, we have learned the truth of this passage from experience...and sure, maybe we tried a lot of other things first...but now we’re trying to do things God’s way---we’re finding practical answers and direction in the Word and as we obey it, and follow it...it is producing a kind of settled joy inside of us like nothing else...

- that is one of the things I love about our church having a counseling ministry...that is based solely on the sufficient Word of God that produces blessedness...there’s nothing like working with a person, or a couple, and at first they are so angry or so bitter or so upset that the despair and hopelessness is even written on their face...

- but then they begin learning the Word...and becoming more blameless before God in the way they live...and pretty soon they’re sitting a little closer, and talking a little nicer, and smiling a little bigger...why?...because this verse is true...

- friend, would you commitment to Scripture, and habits regarding the Scripture demonstrate that you agree?...

 

II. A Desire to Know Not Only the Word of God but The God of the Word.

- you may have noticed a progression in the pronouns as we read the passage...

A. Note the progression.

- the first couple of verses speak in the third person...those whose way is blameless...

- those who observe His testimonies...

- they walk in His ways....

- but what happens in verse 4?...it switches to “you”...you...who?...

- The God of Scripture...

- see, we don’t worship the Bible...Scripture is not the fourth Person of the trinity...

- see, the purpose of knowing the Word of God is to know the God of the Word.

- why?...

 

B. A humble dependence on God to help us keep His Word.

- did you notice the critical component in verse 10?...Psalm 119:10 - With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!

- C.H. Spurgeon – The man of God exerts himself; but does not trust himself.  His heart is in his walking with God; but he knows that even his whole strength is not enough to keep him right unless his King shall be His keeper, and he who made the commands shall make him constant in obeying them.

- the principle is, the more you learn of the Word of God, the closer you are drawn to Him because you know that there is no way you could live like that [as an individual, as a friend, as a spouse, a parent/child, member of our community, church]...

- there’s no way you could function in that kind of a biblical fashion were it not for the enabling presence and power of your God...

- which is why is so wonderful that James could say...draw near unto Him, and He will draw near unto you...

- what’s the third component?

III. A Commitment to Depositing God’s Word in Your Heart.

- Psalm 119:9 - How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.

- Psalm 119:11 - Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.

- now, did you notice...

A. The importance of the inner man.

- this is all about what you are putting in your heart...

- and when we say heart, we’re not talking about the seat of your emotions...we’re talking about your inner man...your control center...

- it is where you repetitive thoughts reside, and your repetitive desires...

- what you tell yourself is true, what you want or desire in a given situation...

 

- and, the reason many people are not finding the kind of blessedness that is described here is because they are not hiding God’s Word in their hearts...

- now, we certainly have enough on the table to begin asking some evaluative questions?...

- friend, what about you and your relationship to the Word of God?...

- are you faithfully reading it?...

- if you have time to read the paper, you have time to read your Bible...what are you hiding in your heart?...

- if you have time to talk on the phone, you have time to read your Bible, what are you hiding in your heart?...

- are you committing certain verses of Scripture to memory?...

- William Wilberforce, the British statesman who was largely responsible for the abolition of slavery on England, had Psalm 119 memorized...In his diary in 1819, he wrote – “Walked today from Hyde Park Corner, repeating the 119th Psalm in great comfort”

- David Livingstone, the great pioneer missionary to Africa, won a Bible for having this entire Psalm memorized, at age 9...

- and of course that’s not where you start...but are you starting anywhere?...

- do you find yourself thinking about Scripture, and meditating on Scripture...

- are you hiding it in your heart?...

- most importantly, are you applying it in the practical areas of everyday life?...

- is there evidence that you were thinking and acting biblically this week [cf. a separator that could identify what was/wasn’t biblical...]

 

- and I know there are people here who could say – that is truer than ever...

- we just finished the best January in the history of our church by far...

- not that we are carried away by the numerical aspect of it...but more of more men and women are saying...I want the Word, and I need the Word,

- we’re seeing that happen in our worship services...we’re seeing that happen in our ABF’s...other classes and study opportunities...

- and not just learning a bunch of rules...

- but hiding God’s Word in our hearts and changing at that level of the inner man...

 

1) by the way, that is a significant part of our community based strategy...with the community center and our outdoor athletic fields we hope to build relationships with our neighbors...

- and as we have the privilege of getting to know them, and talking to them, and learning about the kinds of problems they are facing and struggles they are experiencing...

- to simply say at the right time and in the right way...have you considered what God’s Word says about that?...

- we are convinced that for many people who live around us...they think one of two things about the Bible...

- either, it is entirely irrelevant to the issues we face today...

- or, it is filled with a lot of behavioral modification that never really touches the heart...

- both positions are incorrect...

- and that is why we have to do everything we can to ramp up our counseling services...

- and we really believe there will be greater opportunities than ever before to share God’s Word with people around us in ways that shock them the Scripture has practical answers, and that it can help us change at the level of the heart, and it is possible not just to come to know God’s Word, but to know God, and in doing so there is great blessedness...

 

- you may have noticed the news that more mental health services are drying up in our town...and that is a complex topic...but we know this...more people than ever before who are hurting in our community have fewer places to turn for help...

- the opportunity to share God’s sufficient Word is greater than ever before...

- but friend, that is a responsibility and privilege for all of us...

- you can’t lead someone to a place you’ve never been...

- [develop the importance of everybody on the team becoming as well grounded in Scripture as soon as possible...]

 

B. The importance of starting early.

- there is a clear emphasis in this Psalm on the young...

- how can a young man keep his way pure?...

- the message of the Scripture is...you can’t start too early...

- [could take that back to being here this afternoon, so our kids can get an appetite for seeing the impact of the Word of God...explain some of the elements of the service...]

- [could also talk about those who take the time to teach kids...]

 

- [if time allows, could talk about the relationship of this to the BCTC, to Pastor Gray’s interview/hiring process, to our future plans with new counseling center building, MABC...God blesses people who minister in a way that is consistent with this Psalm...]

 

IV. An Acceptance of Personal Responsibility.

- we noted that there is a change in the pronouns...

- 3rd person – they, 2nd person – you...

- buy you also see quite a bit of “I”....

- ultimately each one of us has to decide---Am I going to take specific steps in my commitment to Scripture?...

- friend, what is the next step for you?...

- is there anything that you already know that you are not following [cf. accepting the gospel...develop the obedience of those who will be baptized this afternoon...]

- Conclusion – there are a lot of reasons to act on what we’re speaking about today...

- one of them is so that you can beat back the adversary with the truth of the Word...

 

- resist the devil and he will flee...

 

- cf. the way Christ fought temptation...

 

- think about Nell Hamm and the mountain lion – wouldn’t it have been a terrible thing if there wasn’t a log available when she really needed it?...

- will you have the appropriate concept from Scripture when you, or a friend, or a child, or a co-worker, or a friend, really needs it?

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video