Reformed Quarterly Volume 8, Issue 3
One of the burning desires of the present-day church is to be relevant and contemporary. Only by being so, we are told, can the church be “eye-catching” and “attention-getting” in this modern world.
This has become such a priority in some quarters of the church that one is reminded of Luke’s description of the Athenians in Acts 17:21 (NIV): “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.”
Contemporaneity and relevance have a purpose and place. But as one surveys the carnage and heartache resulting from current moral and ethical breakdowns, even within the evangelical church, he is caused to reflect upon the words of Jeremiah 6:16:
This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths. Ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.'”
To “ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it” is to return to the biblical method of living by the Word of God and applying it to every phase of one’s life. In the words of James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
This takes on special meaning for the believer who is trying to apply the Word of God daily. The temptation is to handle God’s Word strictly from an intellectual viewpoint rather than to apply it to our immediate circumstances.
We hear the heart cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” This question touches the Christian who has been called to be salt and light in a society that has lost its way and cut itself loose from its moral and ethical moorings. The instructions found in Psalm 119:9-16 provide the answer for keeping one’s way pure. Both attitudes and actions are involved.
We are to live according to the Word of God, following explicitly its principles, precepts, and exhortations. By the gracious enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are to live the Word. This involves an earnestness, a seeking of the Lord with the whole heart. We need a hunger and thirst for the intimacy of a daily walk and fellowship with our Savior and a desire not to stray from the truth of God.
We too easily cast aside the importance of daily devotion in the Christian life. Brilliance of biblical and theological understanding is no substitute for a rich personal devotional life. I remember well in my early years as a seminarian my classmates who went shipwreck because they neglected devotion and were absorbed with continental theologians of that day. The familiar quotation, “to be little with God is to be little for God,” still has serious implications.
Remember David in the wilderness of Judah as he cried, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” (Psalm 63:1 KJV).
We would all do well to take David’s words literally, “Early will I seek thee… ” How can you start a new day better than by starting it with the Lord? How better to “put on the whole armor of God” and to equip yourself for the temptations, trials, and battles of the day, than to spend the early morning hour in devotion with the Lord?
Many years ago, there appeared a little devotional book entitled Discipline and Discovery. It spoke of the blessings and treasures of God’s grace to be discovered when a believer exercises some discipline in his personal walk with Christ. Perhaps we need this in our individual and corporate life within the Body of Christ.
The discipline of memorizing Scripture, when practiced, serves as a bulwark against the inroads and folly of sin. In Psalm 119:12, the Psalmist prays that the Lord will instruct him in the Word, that he might be given discernment and understanding to rightly appropriate and apply the truth of God. Prayer and praise to the Lord are also essential for the daily well-being of the soul.
As we reflect on these particular aspects of “walking in the ancient paths,” we need but refer to the example of our Savior. Recall how deftly He wielded the Sword of the Spirit in His encounter with Satan in the temptation in the wilderness. He, Who was the Word of God Incarnate, did not hesitate to quote the Word of God in order to turn aside the thrusts of the tempter. Surely if the Eternal Word so used the Bible, how much more is it essential for us poor, fallible sinners, saved by grace, to so use it!
In the gospel records, time and again, we read of Jesus, early before the break of day, off alone communing with His Heavenly Father. In the great mystery within the covenant of redemption, wherein God the Son subjected Himself unto the Father in order to accomplish our salvation, we hear Him praising and thanking the Father time and again. Do we understand how vital it is to our spiritual well-being to be giving praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father everyday? How very easy it is to succumb to the wiles of the devil when we lose our sense of dependence upon Almighty God and become proud and self-sufficient. If the truth were known, how often are these attitudes at the root of the heart-breaking falls and failures within the Church?
It has been said that the best way to strengthen one’s faith is to give it away, to bear testimony to the grace and mercy of God. The writer of Psalm 119 declares that “with my lips, I recount all the laws that came from your mouth.” (Psalm 119:13) To bear verbal testimony to God’s Word necessitates a consistent lifestyle; the walk must back up the talk.
In the remaining verses of this section of Psalm 119 (vs. 14-16), notice what this “living according to your Word” produces in the heart and life of the believer: “I rejoice… as one rejoices in great riches.” Joy is that deep, inner sense of well-being that comes from living in a right relationship with God. It is not dependent on outward circumstances; material possessions do not produce such joy, but walking in agreement and fellowship with the Lord by the Word does.
“I meditate….and consider…..” (Psalm 119:15); “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). How strange these Scriptures sound in this restless, turbulent world. No redeemed child of God can afford to neglect time every day when he “chews” on the Word, turning it over in his heart and mind, thinking about it, applying the will and the way of the Lord for his own life. The real issue is not how many times I go through the Word, but rather, how many times the Word goes through me.
Many believers could testify from their own experience that, as they have sought to keep their way pure by living according to God’s Word, the Holy Spirit has produced within their hearts and minds an actual delight for the Word and for the things of God. This is not an artificial or superficial desire. Rather, it is a heart-warming, soul-enriching taste for and satisfaction from spiritual things which is nourished by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word.
Is it any wonder then that the Psalmist declares, “I will not neglect your Word?” (Psalm 119:16). Management skills and church growth techniques have their place, but never at the expense of careful study of the Word of God.
A factor which we often overlook is the reality that Satan hates the Word of God and will do all possible to oppose and negate it. From his, “Yea, but has God said?” in Genesis 3, through the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, Satan twists and perverts Scripture, seeking to snatch the Word out of human hearts as he goes all out in his opposition to the Bible. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to place our full confidence in the integrity of Scripture and, by God’s grace and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, to give ourselves to the practical application of God’s Word in our lives every day.
Dr. A. M. Chirgivin, in his book, The Bible in World Evangelism, comments about the Great Evangelical Revival in England:
Basically the Evangelical Revival was a return to the Bible, or at least it was accompanied by such a return, in much the same way as the Reformation was accompanied by a rediscovery of the Bible. In the years immediately before the Revival, the Bible had not been suppressed; it had merely been neglected. It was a book that few read and few acted upon… The Evangelical Revival was not only rooted in the Bible, it gave the Bible a central place.
God grant that today the Bible might indeed be rediscovered and given the central place in our lives, in our churches, and in our land.