Sermon: Psalm 119:4-8

The Four D's of Christian Experience

All sermons preached by the webmaster may be freely copied, printed and distributed. We ask only that the site name and homepage URL be included in all copies distributed. Thankyou. This sermon was preached on Sunday 18/02/01 Am, by Kevin Matthews. It was the second sermon in a continuing series on Psalm 119.

 

 

In our previous sermon on Psalm 119 we considered the preface of the Psalm, verses 1 to 3. This preface provided not only a summary of the Psalm, but of the Christian life itself.

Firstly we considered that the Biblical Christian is saved, being undefiled in the way, being counted as blameless by virtue of his union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Secondly we considered that the Biblical Christian lives for God. He is the one who lives in the book, and by the book, coupled with a burning desire for the God of the book. He lives for God all of the time, in every situation, determined to do all that God’s Word commands.

Thirdly we considered that the Biblical Christian though still polluted by indwelling sin is determined not to sin. He gives no room for sinful desires to take root within him, and wields the sword of truth to any sin that he does find within.

A question which may have found a place in your minds this past week after last weeks sermon may have been, ‘how then do we do all that? How do we actually begin to develop these practices in our lives?’

Well that’s a good question, and now here in the Psalm David begins to show us how. In fact throughout the rest of Psalm 119 David expands on the ‘how to’ of the Christian life. This ‘how to’ will show us the centrality of the Word of God to living the Christian life.

Today we want to concentrate on just verses 4 to 8, and again under three main heads:

  1. The Christian’s Duty (v4)
  2. The Christian’s Desire (Vv 5-7)
  3. The Christian’s Determination and Dependence (v8)

 

#1. The Christian’s Duty (v4)

When we begin to mention the Christian’s duty people begin to fashion in their minds an image of legalism, and to cry out, ‘we’re not under Law, we’re under grace!’

In fact the idea of an obligation to actually obey God is totally foreign to many. Some people seem to have no concept of obedience at all. Let me say that duty does not equal legalism.

To say that we are bound to obey God in all that He commands is not legalism, but true Biblical Christianity - it is in fact a totally reasonable expectation for one who has received so much, ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Rom 12:1).’

Is it reasonable to expect obedience as a duty to be always carried out? Absolutely, you are no longer your own, you belong to the Lord. Because of all that God has done for us in Christ it is only reasonable that we offer ourselves fully to God. "If ye love me, keep my commandments (Jn 14:15)."

‘Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently (Ps 119:4).’

Here the text directs us to do just that, to keep the commandments. The word ‘precepts’ here means ‘the particular instructions of the Lord, as the instructions of one who cares about details.’

So you see that what David is saying here is that God has commanded us to obey the specific instructions of the Lord to the letter, to be very precise in the way we obey. In other words God expects His people to obey fully, all that He has commanded in all of His Word.

Note also the use of the word ‘diligently.’ We are to obey with diligence - which is to be carefully making sure that we obey all the precepts and commands of God.

So what does this mean practically speaking?

Firstly it means precise obedience is required.

This then is the first practical implication, that God expects us to obey fully all that He has commanded. We will not pick and choose the bit we will obey, and the bit we won’t. If God has commanded it, then we will do it.

It matters not what the prevailing social norm is, or the excuse that others have come up with in order to not obey - we are to obey God’s Word fully on each issue.

What the Bible says on sex, speeding, church practice, what you do when you are by yourself, what you think - it is all to be obeyed to the letter, without exception.

Now if you don’t agree with that your argument is not with me or with anyone else upon the face of the earth - it is with God.

Secondly, there needs to be an immediate response to the commands of God. The use of the word ‘diligently’ implies the need of an immediate response.

In other words, when the Christian becomes aware of a command that impacts upon him, he immediately, and without delay, seeks to implement it in his life.

Think about that for a minute, for it makes good sense to implement such things immediately, for if you delay you will give in to sin, and you will allow sin to reign over you. You must obey immediately. There is no room for waiting until a more convenient time, for such a time will never come - obey now, or you never will.

"So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do (Lk 17:10)."

 

#2. The Christian’s Desire (Vv 5-7)

So how are you feeling at the moment? Does it all seem too difficult? Can you keep up with the standards of the Christian life as outlined in the Bible, as we have considered them over the last two weeks?

‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Rom 7:24)?’

If you feel a bit like this then you have seen the reality and the spirit of this passage. You see your duty, full and immediate obedience, and it overwhelms you - you know that you can’t do it. I know it, and you know it; we cannot render the perfect obedience required of us.

‘O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments (119:5-7).’

Here David gives vent to the frustration, distress, and disappointment of a man who knows that he is unable to fulfil the requirements of the Lord for his life. It’s what every Christian knows.

The word ‘statutes’ here means the commands of God as having a binding force for all time. So David, when he looked with the eyes of his experience upon the commands of God, knowing that he was bound by duty to keep them all, acknowledges that in his experience he has been unable to do so.

This the apostle Paul also found to be the case, that this was the same reality for him as he battled the remaining outposts of indwelling sin within him. ‘For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death (Rom 7:22-24)?’

Both David and Paul knew that they could not comply with the binding force of God’s commandments because of the reality of remaining indwelling sin ... but they wanted to!

Is this your response? Are you distressed by your inability to obey and keep the commandments of God, while having the desire to actually keep them, and making every effort to do so?

Some don't care that that they can’t keep the commandments of God. There is no grief, there is no frustration - it just doesn’t matter, they have never even made the attempt - but this is not the case with the Christian.

The desire of the Christian is to conform to God’s Laws and commandments perfectly from a genuine and sincere heart for God. The Christian does not want a mere academic understanding of God’s precepts, but an understanding coupled with the ability to obey.

Yes the Christian is accepted in the Beloved - but there is still this desire to live for God in perfect obedience, which is what the Christian recognizes as his reasonable service.

When he sins, the Christian feels real shame. It is against the God who loves him, who cares for him, who died for him - it tears him apart with grief and sorrow.

The Christian knows he has access to God through faith in Christ - yet when he sins and disobeys he is embarrassed and ashamed of himself before God.

‘How could I do this thing? He loves me, He cares for me, and He died for Me. How could I do this thing against Him?’

‘Oh Lord, I want to obey but I can’t. I wanted to Lord, but I sinned!’

‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin (Rom 7:24,25).’

The Christian though far from prefect can praise God, thanking Him that He is delivered through the Lord Jesus Christ. A day is coming when he will sin no more, when he will obey fully, when he will no longer be ashamed. What a day that will be! I will praise Him for that coming day!

This then is the Christian’s desire and longing - to obey the Lord fully.

 

#3. The Christian’s Determination and Dependence (v8)

With the day of complete deliverance coming, do we then just sit around and wait for it to arrive? Do we at this point make no effort whatsoever to live for God - ‘I can’t do it, so why even try?’

Can we do that - do we do that? What does the Biblical Christian do?

‘I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly (119:8)!’

Even in the face of all his inability to keep the commandments of God David says, ‘I will keep thy statutes: (119:8a)’

See how he uses the word statutes - he says I know your commands are binding upon me, and I am determined to obey them!

There is the idea of real effort in the words of David. He is determined to set about the task of full and complete obedience. But how can he say this when he has already acknowledged his inability to obey and keep the commandments?

‘Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philip 2:12);’

In this passage Paul is directing the Philippian Church to do the same thing as David was to do - they are to exhibit their salvation by what they do, thereby proving that their salvation is real. And how can they and David do this?

‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philip 2:13).’

The church at Philippi is to make every effort, being Confident that God through the Holy Spirit will enable them to do it.

‘O forsake me not utterly (119:8b)!’

David’s determination to obey God is balanced by hid dependence upon God. If God were to leave him even for a moment, he knows he would fail in his desire and determination.

David’s concern is that if God forsakes him completely he will never be able to fulfil his duty and accomplish his desire. And this my friends is the Christian’s determination, to live for God in obedience to His Law, with total dependence upon God for the ability to do so.

‘Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name (Ps 86:11).’

There is to be both a total determination on the part of the Christian, as well as a total dependence upon God, in order to fulfil the duty and desire of the Christian.

So what will this mean for you in your Christian life? Firstly it will mean a life of dependent prayer.

When the Christian is impressed by his duty in any given area, his duty and desire will be to repent of past sins, and resolve to obey fully in the future. To do this the Christian prays for the Holy Spirit’s enablement. It is a life of prayer in order to both maintain, and to fulfil his desire of obedience to the Lord (give examples).

There will be the acknowledgment that this obedience cannot be done under his own steam, and so there will be a pleading for the Spirit’s enablement - not just initially, but continually through the whole situation, and his whole life.

This is what we must do if we intend to actually do what we must, and if we intend to actually make progress in the Christian life. It matters not what command it is, you need to rely totally upon the Holy Spirit, and to seek His enabling ability.

If you try under your own steam, you will fail, fail, fail, and continue to fail, and you will give up. You will begin to sit around, feel down and out, and make no effort at all...

... But by depending upon God through the means of prayer, the ability to obey is yours, and you will make progress, you will grow, and you will push on in obedience to the Lord.

Secondly there will be a determined resolve on the part of the Christian. There will be a commitment to actually be doing what our duty is. We remind ourselves again and again, I will not sin in this way, but I will obey the Lord by doing this.

You may even find it necessary to write notes, emergency prayer lists, to pray before going to church, to memorise and meditate upon Scripture, and so on - but one thing is certain, the effort and striving will be there.

Everytime you fail and sin, you repent, ask for further grace, and then give it another shot. And this is so right across the board, in each and every situation that confronts you. You must keep trying and persevering, depending on the Lord.

So our duty is obedience, our desire is obedience, and we are determined through dependence upon the Holy Spirit to render obedience to the Lord - these then are the 4 D’s of the Christian life. May God help you, and help me, to live for Him in every situation for all time.

 

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UPDATED: 19 April 2014

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