Trails to Holiness

Psalm 119:41-48

Surrounded in our culture by things that try to supply instant gratification – instant breakfast; drive-thru banking; turbo broadband internet; on-demand video programming; instant credit; list is nearly endless. The idea of planning, working, saving up for something is so….old-fashioned. We joke about it but – encourages mindset of not having patience to wait for patience; want it now, yesterday would have been better. Truth is, most of life is a process – series of events and experiences, thoughts and actions that mark progress from beginning to end.

F (vav) serves as a recap, and shows the progression of a believer’s life. Faith leads to trust, trust to perseverance, perseverance to trials, trials become trails to holiness.

Connections between these things should not be surprise: James 1:2-4My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials,because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.”

If endurance is necessary to bring Christian to perfection/completion, obviously going to be a process not an event! Apostle Peter put it this way: 1 Pet. 2:2 “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” and 2 Pet. 3:18 “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

As you would expect from larger context of entire psalm: love for / devotion to the Word forms foundation for the “I will’s” – see v.47-48; if Bible is God’s Word, then is just as trustworthy/safe/reliable/authoritative/etc. as God is. God’s Word will be reliable and necessary resource for traveler.

Route 237 like our trail to holiness: 8.18 miles, numerous identities. Mosher Road, Newell Street, Sebago Lake Road, White Rock Road; Mosher’s Corner, Gag Corner, Dog Corner. Psalmist has several aspects of holiness in view – gives 10 signposts to help us track progress:

1. experience of mercy (41a)

not just at beginning of our journey that we need God’s mercy and grace – as creatures, especially sinful ones, will never reach point of not needing God’s condescension

don’t have to think long to remember specific times / circumstances when God has shown mercy

psalmist prays from experience – has received mercy in the past, desires more demonstrations of it in future

particular word David used one that is a challenge to translate because of its range of meaning – is also rendered “steadfast/loyal/unfailing love”

what good child does not want regular demonstrations of his father’s unwavering love! true also of devoted Christian and Heavenly Father – we know intellectually God loves us, still desire to experience his love

every time we experience God’s mercy, clear expressions of his love – is a signpost or trail marker, shows we’re on right path

2. deliverance from testing/temptation (41b)

salvation here has in focus being saved from harm – protected in and delivered from harm, physical or spiritual

two parts to this one: the trigger and the result – psalmist prays…with confidence…for deliverance

God has promised and will keep his promise but…God doesn’t act automatically even though he knows there is need

remember Adam and Eve: just like Adam stood nearby watching it all go down, so was God – he could have delivered them from temptation and would have done so if they had asked for his help

same is true for us: God will deliver us, he does so at times when we’re too clueless to ask for help

when we do recognize need, we should ask for deliverance, in full assurance that God will help us in our testing, deliver us from temptation that would be too much

1 Cor. 10:13No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

when we cry out to God for help, expecting he will keep his promise as found in the Bible, and he delivers…another signpost – we are on right trail, this testing/temptation is for our good, to grow us in holiness

3. effective apologetic (42a)

v.42 is phrased as result of v.41 – let this happen so that this will result: God’s mercy and deliverance coupled with an understanding of Bible equips Christian to defend their faith

when we think of Christian apologetics, probably have picture of Ravi Zacharias or the like in mind – intellectual heavyweights who can argue all the bad guys into a corner

truth is, every Christian should be able to defend their belief in God and his Word on at least a basic level

1 Pet. 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense (απολογιαν) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

what psalmist is describing here: not strictly, maybe not even primarily an intellectual defense – is one based heavily on experience that flows out of knowledge of the Bible

“I believe what I do about the existence of God and truth of the Bible because I have experienced this______, and it cannot be explained any other way.”

another trail marker if God has equipped you with those experiences and understanding so you can defend your faith

4. security (42b)

any reasonably consistent Christian would agree: of course we can trust God’s word; it is God’s Word, after all

is a world of difference between “can” and “do” – to say “I can trust” is one thing, to honest declare “I do trust” quite another

now take it up another level: actually trust in God’s Word in the face of ridicule or opposition – when following God’s way doesn’t make sense, when the world has a solution they believe will work better

resting securely in God’s Word isn’t automatic with conversion – is something that comes over time, accompanies growth in holiness: another signpost along the way

5. confidence (43)

is one thing to know the truth, the right thing to say, and having a secure footing on God’s Word – that’s all good, serves as good foundation for outward expression

“He now enforces that request [for deliverance] from another argument, lest his case and condition should make him afraid, or his disappointments ashamed to own his faith in God’s promises, and so his mouth be shut up from speaking of God and his word, for the edification of others and proving the error of the wicked.” Thomas Manton

request is for confidence to speak the truth that comes from confidence in God’s Word, not his own ability – extreme example: those who are being tortured or imprisoned for their faith, confidence to speak boldly and clearly

doesn’t have to be extreme: can be situation where, afterward, “did I really say that? Thanks, Lord” – another trail marker

6. commitment (44)

comes in varying degrees, both in making and keeping: made in heat of moment and quickly dissipates, or, after experience and thought and is long-lasting

just like different kinds of ground: rock, wayside, thorns, good ground – and different results

psalmist’s commitment the fruit of some history/experience and probably something he said more than once

perseverance requires endurance and ongoing repeated commitment to keeping God’s commands… which requires knowledge

how can you tell if you are growing in holiness? how do you respond to failure? Deny the failure, defend the behavior, minimize or blow it off, give up trying? Or do you call it what it is, commit to renewed obedience? …yet another signpost.

7. freedom from slavery (45)

like so much else in Christian life, freedom is both event and process – as soon as we are regenerated, are set free from bondage/slavery to sin; it no longer has mastery over us except with our permission

is not an absolute liberty to do as we please, rather freedom to do as we ought; also have different motivation – do as we ought from desire, not compulsion

two markers here: the one growing in holiness “looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it” (James 1:25)

8. courage (46)

spoke of needing confidence to speak the truth, also need courage to do so – confidence is freedom from doubt, courage is freedom from fear

the one traveling along right trail to holiness will grow in courage – speaking the truth, confessing their faith confidently and without fear in more situations

fear has many different associations: rejection (by friend or family member); loss (of job or opportunity); injury (to reputation, communication); shame (looking foolish or inadequate)

9. devotion (47)

“The world see what religion takes away, but they see little of what it gives.” Charles Bridges The true Christian sees what God and his commandments give, are thankful for all he takes away.

devotion to and delight in God’s commands because they reveal his character / goodness; his commands have our good in view

we delight in what we love and are devoted to; when we delight in God because we love and are devoted to him, will delight in his word and obedience to it

remember, Jesus connected devotion and obedience: John 14:15“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Devotion to God and his word that increases daily is signpost along the path.

10. meditation (48)

meditating on God’s Word both duty and delight – is our duty because God has given it for that purpose; is delight of faithful child to meditate on what loving Father has written to him

is also absolutely essential for growth – can’t read Bible like newspaper or Uncle Henry’s – must read it, study it, go over it in our minds to grasp what it says, what it means, how it applies

progress along trail to holiness is evident in our desire to meditate on God’s Word, spending as much time as possible with mind focused on Bible truth; may we be known as people of the Book who are daily growing in holiness and likeness to Lord Jesus.

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