Thursday, October 1, 2009

Psalm 119: The Instructional Psalm for the Life of a Set-Apart Disciple

The Psalms teach us how to think, live, feel, and pray. Our emotions are shaped and guided by them and they direct us into a pure and holy lifestyle. In the words of John Piper, “the purpose of the Psalms is to be shaped by God.” They renew our minds.
As I've been reading through Psalm 119 this past month, it dawned on me that this particular Psalm speaks boldly of a set-apart disciple. This disciple has nothing to do with trifles. His mind is undeniably focused. Walking obedient in the way of the Lord is his life.
Psalm 119 begins very simply by describing those who walk in the law of the Lord as "blessed." If we turn back to Psalm 1:1, we will find a description of a how a "blessed" man does not walk. We need to keep turning ourselves back to Psalm 1 as we read through Psalm 119 because the two are very intimately tied together.


"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word."- Psalm 119:9
When a disciple is meditating on His word day and night and seeks Him through earnest prayer, a change begins to take place. God begins to grant this disciple "spiritual taste buds" for eternal, holy things. The disciple is suddenly no longer content with earthly pleasures. Such things will not suffice. He begins to see beyond the trifles of this world. His whole world of thinking, feeling, and living is purified as the Holy Spirit cleanses him. The way he communicates in his relationships and the way he organizes his lifestyle all speak loudly of the Holy Spirit's purifying work in his life. He no longer deals with things in a fleshly, self-seeking manner. All his life is taken up by his heart's sole desire to seek and glorify the Lord in all that he does.


“Delight comes from significant beholding, searching, and lingering.”
- John Piper
What do you delight in? What do you spend most of your time thinking about? Who do you spend most of your time with? Where and to whom is the gaze of your heart turned?
A disciple's sole delight is in God alone. We take note of this by reading how much this "blessed" man of Psalm 119 is very much in love with the Lord and His way.
Psalm 110:24, 35, 47-48, 162-164. Psalm 1:2.
The Lord's words are like honey to his mouth (119:103) and he pants for them (119:131). He considers them wonderful, therefore, his soul keeps them (119:129).
There is some serious delighting going on in this Psalm. And this is where our lesson lies: a true disciple seeks not earthly loves or pursuits, but all his/her energy, time, and heart is invested in the Lord.


But what exactly are these pleasures and pursuits of the flesh that I keep mentioning? Anything that your heart seeks rest, enjoyment, and pleasure in. The simplest way to discern where your heart lies is to ask yourself, "When I am tired and exhausted - what/whom do I seek comfort in" or "When I am frustrated and troubled - what/whom do I go to for answers and rest?" It could be things as innocent and simple as watching movies, shopping, playing video games, music, internet, playing with the latest iPhone, texting away, food, particular people in our lives, etc. This list takes in anything or anyone that we're tied to and seek satisfaction in.
I can sense the rising protest already. Does this seem extreme? Is this too hard?
Some of us are called to rule these things out of our lives completely while others are not. The point is that many of us have become slaves to our movies, iPhones, texting, computers, games, music, clothes, hobbies, etc. These are the things that turn our head and take up our time. A disciple of the Word does not live this way. You can't be a disciple AND be tied to this world's toys. We are to be DISCIPLINED in every area of our lives. If you are not disciplined in this area than you are a slave to your flesh.
When we set out to stay our hearts on God and truly walk in His ways, we begin to taste the joys of being yielded to the Spirit and not the flesh. We are suddenly no longer slaves to the mindless pleasures and pursuits of our flesh which are always unsatisfying and leave our hearts empty and minds dull. When we run in the way of His commandments, he sets our hearts free (119:32) to live for eternal pleasures and be no longer slaves to trivial, fleshly toys and pursuits.


A disciple prays like the "blessed" man of Psalm 119.
"Teach me, O Lord..."
"give me understanding..."
"lead me..."
"Incline my heart..."
"turn my eyes..."
"confirm to your servant..."
"Turn away reproach..."
(Psalm 119:33-39)
"deal bountifully with your servant..."
"open my eyes...."
"give me life..."
"strengthen me..."

His prayers are saturated with Biblical thinking and God-centered delighting. We know this because he spends time in meditation and memorization of the word - "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (verse 11).
What are we storing in our hearts and minds? The lyrics to the latest album in our music collection? The lines to our favorite tv shows? The list of things we could be storing in ourselves is exhaustive. True disciples of Christ reflect Him while the rest of us just reflect our latest obsessions.

“We are not going to live if we’re not meditating and saturating ourselves in the Psalms day and night. If our souls aren’t being filled and replenished daily with the Word than we’ll just be brittle and frail and chaff-like (Psalm 1:4)."
“Form the habit of living in the Psalms so much that the world of your thinking and the world of your feeling would be transformed into full-blooded Biblical thinking and feeling.”
- John Piper