The Sin of Double-Mindedness

Psalm 119:113-120

Don’t confuse double-mindedness with indecision or being indecisive. There’s huge difference. Indecisive person can’t make the decision: the one Yogi Berra got frustrated with – “when you come to fork in road, take it”. Pick a direction, make a decision, then act. Double-minded person has different problem:

1 Kings 18:17-21Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you try to have things both ways? If the LORD is God, worship him! But if Baal is God, worship him!” The people did not say a word.” CEV

Double-minded person has desires / priorities / loyalties that are contradictory. Jewish people in Elijah’s day wanted protection and provision Yahweh promised, freedoms and pleasures Baal promised. Voters want program benefits promised by one candidate, reduced taxes promised by other candidate. Employees all in favor of more vacation time and salary increases. Problem is can’t have both – pursuit of one requires abandonment of other. That’s why Jesus said:

Matt. 6:24“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Later on in his ministry Jesus explained same principle again, making his point clear:

Matt. 12:30“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”

The one psalmist is talking about goes back and forth, now loyal to one, now to the other; trying not to alienate one in favor of the other but maintain some level of interaction with / loyalty to both. The result – one who cannot be trusted, “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8), the kind of person psalmist says he hates.

“When we have found our deepest satisfaction in someone, something, anything else but God, we have become idolaters. We have been double-minded, to use the language of the psalmist. And in this psalm, the psalmist has some words of counsel for us as we fight that battle – the battle that he fought; it is the battle that he fought and lost sometimes and it is the battle that, by God’s grace, he fought and won sometimes.” J. Ligon Duncan

We too easily make excuses for sinful choices we make – just reacted, didn’t have time to really think; those things are important, too; God understands I need to…fill in the blank.

“There are in men two great influencing affections: love and hatred; one serves for choice and pursuit, the other for flight and aversion.The great work of grace is to fix these upon their proper objects.” Thomas Manton

By God’s grace and with his help, let us learn from the Psalmist how we can avoid the sin of double-mindness – loving, choosing and pursuing what pleases God; hating, fleeing from and avoiding all the rest.

A. sold out to God v.113

not simply hating with nothing specific to fill the void; instead, purposely loving God and his revelation – whole-hearted devotion to God

show devotion to God by loyal obedience to his word: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word”. John 14:15, 21, 23

must remember: to be sold out to God means God calls the shots, all of them, all the time

don’t get to pick and choose when / in what circumstances we’ll let God direct, rest of the time do it our own way

problem is: the Fall turned things upside down – like Manton said, love and hatred fixed on wrong objects; love what we ought to hate, hate what we ought to love

are powerless to change that by ourselves; absolutely requires work of God’s grace to give new desires, inclinations, abilities

God doesn’t wave magic wand, transform all of us all at once; 2 Cor. 5:17 yes, we are new creations in Christ, but…still living in sin-corrupted body that likes old ways

conversion of soul is instantaneous, that of mind and body takes a while – minds need to be renewed (Rom. 12:2), bodies will need resurrection change

meanwhile: Rom. 7:21-24I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.For I delight in the law of God according to 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 will deliver me from this body of death?”

so…if we are sincerely sold out to God, what should we do in the strength God gives to avoid double-mindedness?

B. surrounded by God v.114

this one deals with how we satisfy our desires – what is our “go to” place of safety? all sorts of dangers that will draw our loyalty away from God, some even come from within

Psalmist’s solution – surround himself with God, hide in God, hide behind God, take shelter from danger…in God

doesn’t matter what direction he looks, he sees God; doesn’t matter what direction danger comes from, must come through God

for God to be hiding place, means you will be content with what God supplies in your place of safety; you don’t bring your own supplements, you don’t take your cell-phone so you can call out for extra supplies

you definitely don’t listen to all the promises from the world (and self) that claim to do as well as God or better to meet need

fear, anxiety, loneliness, hardship – those are the issues; safety, security, comfort, peace, companionship, provision – the desires

here’s the question: can God address those issues, adequately satisfy all those desires, or other legitimate ones you might have

to look anywhere other than God first means trusting an idol rather than God to meet need, to supply satisfaction

reality is: only God can fully and perfectly address those issues, satisfy all our desires, meet all our needs

of course “God in his ordinary providence makes use of means, yet is free to work outside, above and against them at his pleasure.” LBCF 5.3

requires we do all we can to purposely surround ourselves with what leads us to God – people, things, influences, activities

C. separated to God v.115

it’s about both: what we bring into our lives and what we try to remove / avoid – one without the other only partly helpful

couple practical points: can’t just say “no”, something will fill the void; and…life is like your closet, only room for just so much

if you’re going to “make room” for God in your life, other things must go; if God is going to be the priority, competitors / detractors must leave

psalmist is committed to obedience, recognizes people set on evil will get in the way of his commitment

principle applies regardless of how evildoers are presented to us: in person, in the media (electronic or otherwise), even things that encourage sinful behavior

must be careful not to be seduced – influence to draw/direct away from God is often subtle and gradual

means the longer we spend in presence of evil / sinful influence, greater cumulative effect it will have on us

one of most dangerous centers on thought life: what points of view are ones we hear the most – can come to us in conversation, music, video

the ones that would lead us away from God, encourage us to think like the world – to extent possible should be eliminated

can’t live in a bubble, God doesn’t expect it; but…we can take initiative – influence others more than they influence us

change the conversation, switch channels or stations, patronize a different business, choose different activities and friends

D. strengthened by God v.116-117

all practical advice in the world even when it comes from spiritual source (the Bible) and to spiritual people is only that – practical advice – when is not accompanied by power from God

there’s more…and it’s worse: can give appearance of godliness without the substance; can try really hard in our own strength to behave like a Christian, can pull it off…for a while

true godliness that goes all the way to our core requires the power of God in order to live it – continual dependence on God

2 Cor. 12:9-10But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”


give me something to lean on like you promised so I can keep going; don’t have the strength to continue without continual help and encouragement

both this and next verse have ongoing need, that requires continual supply from outside source; idea is that without God’s help we are at risk of falling with every step

like Paul must life in constant dependence on God and his Word and his Spirit for strength and direction


no support other than God can be trusted to keep us safe, especially from idolatry / double-mindedness

“The greatest weapon that we have in the fight against idolatry is God Himself – to be with Him, to know Him, to delight in Him, to treasure Him, to commune with Him, to be under His Word, to dwell on His precious promises, to believe those promises, to rehearse those promises to ourselves.” Duncan

E. straying from God v.118-119

should regularly consider the consequences of drifting, wandering, flat-out walking away from the path we know God has for us

consequences in store for evildoers should act as deterrent for believers: fear is good, especially if it keeps us faithful

are other more noble motives: fear of displeasing God (rather than fear of consequences); gratitude for God’s grace that spares us those consequences; love in return for love God has showed to us

let’s take it up another step: since Jesus experienced consequences for us, we should avoid adding to his burden by willful sin

and…recognizing the nature of sin and God’s just judgment on sinners should encourage our efforts at evangelism

F. awe of God v.120

the fear of the Lord is the fear that conquers every other fear – not kind of fear that makes us run away, the kind that draws us closer

reverential awe of God is the antidote for every kind of sinful behavior including double-mindedness or idolatry

True piety is loving God as Father and so fear Him as Lord, that even if there were no hell we would tremble to offend Him.” Calvin

important to remember both love and fear go together – have an understanding of God’s majesty and purity and greatness, at the same time have experienced his Fatherly love and tender care

both together cause us to want to please him, be close to him, worship him, experience him, serve him, enjoy him forever

That kind of whole-hearted single-minded relationship with God doesn’t just happen; requires effort and choices and commitment. It’s worth everything we put into the relationship; reward, blessing goes beyond what we can even imagine. Devoted trust in God and dependence on him always gets a good response! Are you committed? Sold out to God?


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