Psalm 119:9-16

How Can a Christian Cleanse His/Her Way?

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 25/02/01 Am, by Kevin Matthews. It was the third sermon in a continuing series on Psalm 119.



‘Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way (119:9a)?’ This is the cry of a Biblical Christian, who although he knows he is accepted in the Beloved, is still painfully aware of his continuing sinfulness.

Is there a way to be done with sin and to follow the way of the Lord more wholeheartedly? How can I purify, or so cleanse my walk so as to be free from every stain of sin, and to maintain the purity of my walk?

This is one of the most pressing questions for young Christians - indeed, for all Christians is it not? The battle with the flesh is a battle that is fought each day, with its battle lines renewed each morning, and the sound of conflict resounding into the night. As a Christian you cannot withdraw from this battle with the flesh, and with the world, and with the Devil - how can you live for God when the way ahead is marked by the field of daily and recurring spiritual warfare?

The Christian longs to live for God - in his/her thinking, in his/her feelings, in his/her desires, in his/her words, in his/her actions - the whole of life, but how can it be done???

‘Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression (Ps 19:12,13).’ ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me (Ps 51:10).’

That is the cry of the Biblical Christian, and here in the second stanza of Psalm 119 lies the answer - ‘by taking heed thereto according to thy word (119:9b).’

If you want to fly to Sydney on a plane as the pilot, you need to obtain a license and learn how. You cannot just decide to pilot a plane, jump on, get into the cockpit and go - you won’t make it. The only way to successfully fulfil your desire to fly to Sydney on a plane as the pilot is by the correct method.

Do you know why so many Christians fail to successfully pilot the Christian life? It is because they do not go the correct way. They jump into that cockpit without bothering to find out the correct way, with all the presumption and arrogance of self-centred pride.

There is only one way to successfully pilot the Christian life - God’s way. There is only one way to cleanse your way, and only one way to grow as a Christian. Its God’s way or you won’t do so.

And what is God’s way - it is the Bible, ‘by taking heed thereto according to thy word (119:9b).’ If you are fair dinkum, then you must use this book, or you’re just kidding yourself. Do you realise that?

It is only by a prayerful reading of, study of, memorising of, meditation of, and practice of God’s Word, that you can cleanse your ways, and grow as a Christian.

If you are to take heed to your life, then you must take heed to your Bible, for it is there alone that you will find God’s way of growth - it is there alone that you will find God speaking to you, teaching you, explaining to you, directing you, commanding you, and mobilising you in the way you should go.

Today we look at four intensely practical principles for growth as a Christian as outlined in this stanza of Psalm 119:

  1. Prayerful Dependence (Vv 10,12)
  2. Memorisation (V 11)
  3. Meditation (Vv 15,16)
  4. Obedience (Vv 10,11,14,16)


#1. Prayerful Dependence (Vv10,12)

‘With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes (119:10,12).’

The Christian has a heart for God, as we have seen in the first stanza of this Psalm. God is his life, his passion, and his desire - everything else is secondary, and pales into insignificance in comparison. God is His consuming passion.

‘the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early (Is 26:8b,9a).’

Oh how the Christian longs for the presence of God, for communion and fellowship with Him, and to enjoy quality time with his God. Without God he can do nothing, but with God everything is possible.

If the Christian is to cleanse his/her ways and to live for God, then he/she needs God, for he/she is to ‘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. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philip 2:12c,13).’ The Christian therefore needs the enablement of God to be able to take heed to the Word of God.

If you apply yourself to the Word of God, and to your life without the enablement of God, you will fall flat on your face. I know that you know that by experience.

How then can we take on the power of indwelling sin, let alone the hordes of Satan and this world without He who is over all for the Church? You cannot, it is impossible!

Let me illustrate this with just a couple of examples. Firstly, consider the simple exercise of reading the Word of God. What happens so often when it comes time for your daily Bible reading - you get sleepy, you lack interest, you rush through it, you forget it, and you fight the truth that you know is staring you in the face, and there are so many other things that you must fight with for just this simple Christian exercise.

What about when it comes to actually obeying the Word of God - you brush it aside, the world’s opinions count more to you, peer pressure needles you, you silence conscience, and so on.

Without the powerful influence and enabling power of the Spirit of God operating through His Word and applying it to our lives, all our efforts are in vain, and we will fall prey to even the most subtle and impotent of dangers.

Brethren we must exercise dependence on God, not on our commentaries, on our preachers, on our teachers, on our books, or on the opinions of men, but on God Himself. Yes we are to use these means, but we must not trust these means, but trust the God of these means.

Brethren, you need to crave the nearness of God in your lives. Be constantly in communion with Him by prayer. Seek the enablement of God in order to live for God. Yes, even when reading the Bible, when seeking to obey His Word, in evangelism, when speaking with that know-it-all customer - at all times live by prayerful dependence upon God.


#2. Memorisation (v11)

‘Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (119:11).’

If it is through the Word of God that we grow as Christians then we will need the Word of God with us in every situation that we might not sin against God. Obviously we just cannot be turning pages in our Bibles when we are the supermarket, or having lunch with the family, so what are we to do?

In this passage the Psalmist has hidden the Word of God in his heart that he might not sin against God. What Word was hidden in his heart? The Hebrew word for ‘Word’ here is ‘dabar’. It is a general term taking in all of God’s truth, whether it is a statement, a promise, or a commandment.

In other words David did not just memorise the bits that gave him warm fuzzy feelings, but he set out to memorise as much as he could in order to help him not to sin against God. That is a far cry from why so many memorise Scripture verses today.

By having the Word of God continually with him, wherever he went, hidden in his heart, the Word of God became an inward motivating power. Because of his desire to be transformed by the truth, and to cleanse his way, he sought to hide the truth in his heart.

‘When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things (Pr 2:10-12),’

If you wish to cleanse your ways, and to grow as a Christian, then you need to set yourself to memorise Scripture. It will give you direction in every situation, it will activate your conscience to warn you, and give you a heart on fire for God.

When struggling with a particular sin, find Scriptures that refer to it and memorise them. Write them out on cards, a verse a day in your diary, maybe one a week, but set out to memorise Scripture. When you come into those situations in which you are tempted to sin, these verses will come to mind, and you will find ability by God’s grace to say no to sin.

Its hard work yes, but necessary work.


#3. Meditation (Vv 15,16)

If we are to cleanse our ways more is needed then the mere memorising of Scripture, we need also to meditate upon it.

Let me illustrate what I mean. If you ate your breakfast each morning without the digestive system breaking it down into a useable form for your body, then the whole meal would be of little value to you.

So too with the Word of God. If you memorise Scripture with no effort to chew it over, and to break it down into a useable form, it will also prove to be of little value. The Word needs to become a part of who you are, and this is done by meditation upon it, by thinking on the Scripture that you memorise.

‘I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. (119:15,16).’

David memorised Scripture by hiding it in his heart, and then he sought to meditate upon it, contemplating its relevance to his situation. He worked it over in his mind, ‘O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. (119:97).’

He didn’t forget it, but delighted in the Word as he saw more and more the application of that Word to his life.

To cleanse our ways we need to meditate on the Word of God, and to work it over in our minds. ‘How does this verse apply to my situation? What should I do according to this verse? What shouldn’t I do? Is there something I need to change? Is there something I need to believe?’

You don’t need to find a place or a specific time necessarily to sit down and do this, you can meditate when going for a walk, when mowing the lawn, while sitting at the beach, while waiting for a bus - there are always opportunities to meditate.

But please do meditate, and work Scripture over in your mind, applying it to your life.


#4. Obedience (Vv10,11,14,16)

When we have both memorised Scripture, and meditated upon Scripture, the next step is the actual practice of Scripture. We are to be both hearers of the Word and doers of the Word. True Christian character is only developed by practising what we have learnt.

‘With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (119:10,11).' 'I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches (119:14).' 'I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. (119:16).’

These verses in Psalm 119 all speak of keeping God’s Word. Christians love the Word of God and never put it to one side. The Word of God becomes the life of the Christian. The Lord’s commands are not burdensome to the Christian but a delight.

The Christian wants to know how to obey God at work, at home, with the family, with friends, with the church, and so on. Every effort is made by the Christian in the quest to obey the Lord.

The Christian doesn’t forget the Scriptures or their application, because he is often in them. He is not just a student seeking to gain an intellectual grasp of the text of Scripture, but a disciple who rejoices in obedience to the way of God’s testimonies, walking in the way of the Lord.

There is a desire to grow in knowledge in order to grow in practice. There is a desire to grow in knowledge in order to live wholeheartedly to the Lord. Many think spirituality is measured by how much we know, how many classes or courses we have attended regarding the Bible, but true Christian growth is measured by conformity to Jesus Christ in every sphere of life.

Memorise and meditate upon Scripture that you might obey more effectively.

How are you to cleanse your way? By taking heed according to the Word of God. This is done then by a prayerful dependence upon God,

by memorising and meditating upon Scripture, and by obeying Scripture.

May it be that we are this sort of Christian, the Biblical sort - Amen.



UPDATED: 19 April 2014


Sermons - Psalms

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