Shutting the Door of Our Minds
A man approached a speaker and said, “You Christians are all brainwashed.” The speaker replied, “I think we are all brainwashed to a degree. The important thing is that we Christians choose what we want to wash our brains with.”
G. K. Chesterton observed that an open mind, like an open mouth, does have a purpose: and that it is, to close upon something solid. Otherwise, it could end up like a sewer, rejecting nothing. The psalmist has closed his mouth on something solid: God’s Word. Our culture is moving in another direction. It is an open sewer that swallows all ideas and practices, no matter how bizarre or sordid. It is an open sewer which rejects nothing. There is no force within our secular world that will stop this destructive slide. That is why Christians, who have found the truth in God’s Word, need to speak out clearly and forcefully to their decaying world. We believe the Word of God not because it works (it does), not because it is good (it is) but because it is true. We close our doors to all other claims to ultimate truth because they are not only false, but also evil. As we take time to go though this stanza, let us ask God to help us sense the absolute necessity of letting God’s Word rule over our thoughts and our actions. May God speak clearly and powerfully to your soul and may you become a God-honoring, Christ-exalting thinker.
129 Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from the oppression of men,
that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant
and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed.
Verse 129: “Your statutes are wonderful, therefore I obey them” — God is not a drag. He is the God of joy. He is wonderful! His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). They may appear to be as we sit in blindness and ignorance on the valley floor. But, when the Spirit opens our eyes and softens our hearts to God’s commands, when the self-worshipping clouds are rolled away, we are able to make our way up the mountain of revelation. Then we are enabled to gaze upon the mighty peaks of God’s glory. Unfortunately, many will fail to climb the mountain because it goes against what is popular and acceptable. That is the essence of the following paragraph written by Richard Froude to Thomas Carlyle:
“The mists of criticism do hang about a mountain. Men who want no mists must be content with plains and deserts. Mists come with mountains. Soon the mists will evaporate, and the mountain will stand out in all its grandeur in the morning sunlight. Multitudes will stay in the valley, for there are few who aspire to reach the summit.”
I pray that we will not be content to stay in the valley. Let us enter into this study with prayer and a passion to reach the summit so that we may see more of God’s truth and wonder at His wonderful glory.
Verse 130: “The unfolding of your words give light, it gives understanding to the simple” — Psalm 19:12 says, “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” The simple are those whose door to their minds are always wide open. They are easily deceived into following the latest fad just because it sounds good or because everybody else is doing it. The newer the better. The more popular the idea the more likely they are to join the gang. They have no conviction. They have no roots. They have no stability. They are at the mercy of every slick salesman who promises them instant happiness and success. It is not so for the one who is a student of God’s law. I say student because it takes active, aggressive, and determined study of God’s Word to mine the treasure He has hidden there. That is why the psalmist talks about the “unfolding” of God’s words. The truths are wrapped in parchments waiting for the student to unfold the pages by reading, study, memorization, meditation, and prayer. When we love the Word of God enough to devour it, we will uncover life-giving, life-sustaining food. The roots of God’s wisdom will go deep into our minds and hearts, and will enable us to discern the schemes and lies of the enemy, no matter how attractive they appear on the surface.
Verse 131: “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” —
“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4. God’s words are not peripheral. They are essential. I know what it is like to strain and gasp for air. I have come close to death on at least two occasions when asthma narrowed my lung’s capacity to receive and deploy oxygen. My whole chest would heave in pain as I strained every muscle in my body for just a little bit of oxygen that I so desperately needed. It was a matter of life and death. Then, the medicine was applied and the lungs relaxed and the air flowed. My whole body would come alive as the life-giving oxygen made its way to the millions of cells that sustained my body’s life. That is the kind of passion the psalmist speaks of. God’s commands are what sustains his joy. To know them and to breath them is his life. When we have that same kind of longing, God will send His life-sustaining Spirit. The Scriptures are the medicine that opens up the lungs of our souls to receive the joyful life that is found in Jesus. May we strive for God’s commands in the same way we strive for our next breath.
Verse 132: “Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name” — This reminds us that we never “naturally” desire God’s love and mercy. Even our hunger for it is a gift of sovereign grace. That should provoke two responses: 1) A deep sense of thankfulness for God’s sovereign grace that would choose to shower us with His mercy; and 2) A life of prayer that continually asks for more of that mercy. As we respond to God’s initiative with prayer, He gives us more grace. He who responds in faith to the truth which God has revealed, opens himself up to more of God’s grace. As we continue to know Him and obey Him, there is a growing appreciation of His mercy and love in our lives. A confidence builds and results in new faith and bolder efforts to spread the glory of His name by our obedience. We are His children. We have His name. In the same way we wanted to make our earthly fathers proud, we seek to make our Heavenly Father proud. In the same way we wanted to make others know how proud we were of our earthly father, we want to let others know how proud we are to be children of our Heavenly Father. Our joy is multiplied as more and more of our friends and family come to enjoy the riches we have found in the Father through Christ Jesus.
Verse 133: “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me” — Sin is the failure to glorify God and value Him like we should (Romans 3:23). In this regard we have two serious problems: 1) We sin and are not aware of it. 2) We are aware of the danger of sin but we are tempted to do it anyway. That is the point of Psalm 19:13: “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant from willful sins. Do not let them rule over me.” Every day we sin against God and are not aware of it because of the hardness of our hearts and the ignorance of God’s law. Here, along with the psalmist, we cry out for pardon. We thank God that the death of Christ upon the cross covers our sins, both past and present, hidden and known. Then, faced with known sin and knowing our need of God’s strength, we cry out for power. With individual temptations He gives us grace to be obedient (1 Corinthians 10:13). “Then” we can rejoice with the psalmist and say, “I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”
Verse 134: “Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts.” — Lorne Sandy, when the was president of the navigators, made this observation:
“If you are suffering without succeeding, then someone will succeed after you … If you are succeeding without suffering, then someone suffered before you.”
The Biblical truth is that suffering and persecution is the pathway to victory. That pain extends to our relationship with men. Sometimes we are so enamored with what God is doing in our lives that we are shocked and shaken when our faith is resented and ridiculed by men. I think the psalmist is making reference to such pain. God may not stop the persecution or the pain, but He will give us the grace and the hope to rejoice in the midst of such hurt. Rather than that becoming an impediment to bold witness it should have the opposite effect. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). Suffering for Jesus is a sure sign that you are in the right company. You are in the company of persecuted prophets and your crucified Master. So, rather than resorting to self pity and complaint, we should rejoice and be glad. Let the oppression of men remind you of your great reward. Let it move you to cry out for strength to obey God’s precepts no matter how hot the battle becomes.
Verse 135: “Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees” — The knowledge of the law is more than just knowing a written code or obeying a set of rules. It is about a friendship between God and man. In other words, you cannot separate the Scriptures from a relationship with God Himself. Let me show you what I mean by that. In John 15:5-6, Jesus states, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” There, Jesus says fruitfulness depends upon a man being in Jesus and Jesus being in us. In verse 7, He says it a little bit differently. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” There the answers to prayer are conditioned by a man being in Jesus and “my words” being in man. I think what Jesus is saying here is that His remaining “in us” in verse 5 is the same thing as “my words” being in us in verse 7. What does that mean to us? Jesus is present in us by the presence of His words in our hearts. In some mysterious and wonderful way, Jesus is personally present when we hear and obey His words.
John 14:20-21 says a similar thing: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Christ’s showing Himself to us is the same thing that the psalmist was praying for when he prayed that God would “Make your face to shine upon your servant.” God comes in the knowing, and in the loving, and in the obeying of His Word. When we are obedient, we feel His personal pleasure resting upon us. That is awesome truth worth meditating on.
Verse 136: “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” — Finally, when we are God’s friend and His Word and ways are precious to us, we will be greatly saddened when evil reigns and the Name of Jesus is defamed. We get ticked about a lot of things, but are we grieved over the failure of our nation to know and glorify our Lord? Do we ever weep over the ravages of sin in our life and the lives of our family and friends. It is possible to be a believer, to know Christ and even to be in full time ministry and not be moved by the things that caused Jesus to weep over Jerusalem. That is me. I confess that so much of my time is spent grieving or complaining about my name not receiving the glory I think it deserves, and care little about how the precious name of Jesus is ignored and blasphemed. May God forgive me and us for our sin. May He cause such a love to grow for Him and His Word that tears flow naturally whenever we see the ravages of sin in our lives and the lives of others. But let us not stop with tears. Let us pray that God will make us an instrument of His mercy. Let us shut the doors of our minds to evil. Let us throw open the doors of our mind to His truth. Let us speak the truth to our world.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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