Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself. (DANIEL 1: 8)
In addition to an overall commitment to pursue holiness in every area of life, I find it helpful to make specific commitments in areas where we’re particularly vulnerable to sin. There’s great value in identifying those areas — either in what we do (for example, gossip) or in what we fail to do (such as loving our wives as Christ loved the church) — and then making specific commitments of obedience to God in those areas.
I urge you to list any areas of temptation wherein you need to make this specific commitment. Do you need to make a covenant with your eyes about what you look at (Job 31: 1), or with your mouth about what you say, or with your mind about what you think? Is there a particular temptation or sinful practice that arises in your work environment that needs a commitment to fortify you against it? Write these commitments down on paper, for your eyes only, so you can review them and pray over them daily.
Perhaps there’s a particular area in your marriage or in your relationship with your children, your parents, a friend, or an associate at work where you aren’t demonstrating the Spirit’s fruit of love, patience, or kindness. Do you need to make a commitment that, in dependence on the Holy Spirit to enable you, you’ll seek to display that particular “fruit” toward that individual? If so, I urge you to make such a commitment. You may find the need to make several commitments — sins to put off or avoid and Christlike traits to put on. If you don’t commit yourself to the pursuit of holiness in these specific areas of your life, you’ll find a tendency to vacillate in the face of these temptations.
God . . . through Christ reconciled us to himself. (2 CORINTHIANS 5: 18)
Total reconciliation demands a total effort by the offending party to make amends. When Jesus satisfied God’s justice and propitiated God’s wrath, He did all that was required to remove the enmity of God toward us. By His death He bridged the vast gulf of divine alienation between us and objectively restored us to a position of friendship and favor with God. But it was God, the offended party, who sent His Son to reconcile us to Himself. “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5: 10, NIV).
This historical, objective work of reconciliation by Christ has to be personally received by each of us. That’s why Paul wrote, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5: 20).
This is a most amazing passage of Scripture. Having objectively secured reconciliation for us, Christ now appeals to us through His gospel messengers to “be reconciled to God” — to receive His work of reconciliation. We ourselves should have been on our faces before God, imploring Him to be reconciled to us. Instead, we see God reconciling us to Himself through the death of His Son, then appealing to us to receive that reconciliation. What pure grace and mercy on God’s part!
To add to our amazement, we know that, left to ourselves, we would never even want to be reconciled to God. According to Paul, we were so blinded by Satan that we could not even see the light of the gospel and receive it (2 Corinthians 4: 4). Therefore God sends His Holy Spirit to open our hearts to understand and receive the message of reconciliation (Acts 16: 14). O, what wondrous love, what matchless grace, that God would do everything necessary to reconcile us to Himself!
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (JOHN 14: 15)
A loving obedience to the commands of God is one clear evidence that we’re living by grace. Anyone who thinks, Since God’s love is not conditioned on my obedience, I’m free to live as I please, is not living by grace, nor does he understand grace. What he perceives as grace is really a caricature.
Jesus said that if we love Him, we’ll obey His commands. The term command suggests clear direction. We’re told what to do or not do. We are not left in doubt how we’re to live. The commands in the Bible provide a clear set of moral standards.
In the popular philosophy of situation ethics, actions are morally evaluated in terms of a “loving” response to the situation at hand rather than by application of moral absolutes. Situation ethics knows no external, objective standard of behavior; it responds to what seems right at the moment. But Scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17: 9, NIV). Anything can be made to “seem right.”
Through “Christianized” situation ethics, all kinds of sinful actions have been committed in the name of “love.” Christians have engaged in illicit sexual intimacy on the pretense that they were acting in love toward a lonely or hurting person. Recently I heard of a man who allegedly conspired to have his incurably ill wife murdered because “she would be happier with Jesus.” This is the type of trap even Christians fall into when we don’t let the commands of God give definition to love. God’s commands provide us this objective standard and, when obeyed, keep us from falling into situation ethics.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. (JOHN 15: 14)
Under the reign of grace, is the moral will of God (considered as a whole) a request or a command? The word request connotes desire; whereas the word command connotes authority to require. Response to a desire is optional; response to a command is not. So when Jesus said we love Him by obeying His commands, was He using the word command as we ordinarily understand it, or was He using it as an expression of God’s desire? In the realm of grace, does the moral will of God express the desire of God as to how He would like us to live, or does it express the requirement of God as to how we are to live?
Some people readily say God desires that we be holy, but God does not require that we be holy. They maintain that under grace we have been freed, not only from the curse and condemnation resulting from breaking the law but also from the requirements of the law as a rule of life. They believe that to insist on obedience as a requirement for a Christian is to teach legalism instead of grace. In other words, to assign the concept of requirement to the will of God is legalism, but to assign the concept of desire to it is grace.
I believe such a view is a misunderstanding of grace. God’s grace does not change the fundamental character of God’s moral Law. Rather, the grace of God provides for the forgiveness and acceptance of those who have broken the law. The good news of the gospel is that God has removed the guilt we incur by breaking His Law and has bestowed on us the righteousness of Christ, who perfectly kept His Law. Legalism does not consist in yielding obedience to the law. Rather, it is to seek justification and good standing with God through the merit of works done in obedience to the law — instead of by faith in Christ.
“The sinful unregenerate person cannot help manifesting his or her TRUE CHARACTER neither can the regenerate person” – this statement from the post says much [many claim to love and follow Christ] but the “fruit” (spiritual fruit) is undeniable and will be present in the outward appearance of a converting-and-regenerate-person. Thanks Pastor MacArthur your teaching has helped many tremendously….
Few issues can make a person cringe as much as slavery. It’s not the subject of casual, carefree conversation. Whether one refers to past injustices or modern evils, the subject of slavery is usually met with angst and contempt. With that in mind, slavery isn’t the metaphor we tend to reach for to communicate encouraging spiritual truth.
Not so with God’s Word. Scripture repeatedly uses the imagery of slavery to poignantly describe unrepentant man’s relationship with sin (John 8:34; 2 Peter 2:19). It’s an apt metaphor—sin marks us as its own, it rules without mercy, binds us in chains, and won’t let us go.
But in Romans 6:17-18, Paul writes about a different kind of slavery for believers. Contrasting our new position in Christ against our former slavery to sin, he writes,
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness (emphasis added).
Dead to Sin
The key to understanding what it means to be slaves of righteousness is that we have first been set free from our slavery to sin. Earlier in the chapter, Paul asks his readers a pointed rhetorical question: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2).
In his book The Gospel According to the Apostles, John MacArthur explains that the Greek word translated “died to sin”
speaks of a historical fact referring to our death in the death of Christ. Because we are “in Christ” (Romans 6:11; 8:1), and He died in our place (Romans 5:6-8), we are counted dead with Him. We are therefore dead to sin’s penalty and dominion. Death is permanent. Death and life are incompatible. So the person who has died to sin cannot continue living in iniquity. Certainly we can commit sins, but we do not live anymore in the dimension of sin and under sin’s rule. Sin is contrary to our new disposition. “No one who is born of God practices sin,” according to John, “because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9). It is not merely that weshould not continue to live in unbroken sin but that we cannot. 
John adds that “dying to sin implies an abrupt, irreversible, wholesale break with the power of sin.”
Justified and Sanctifying
In the moment of salvation, God breaks the power of sin in our lives as part of His work of regeneration (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 6:6-7). But we are also instantaneously justified in God’s sight, free from the guilt and punishment of our sin. In effect, the slate is wiped clean. John MacArthur explains it this way:
In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. 
Those changes are called sanctification. We’ve already defined God’s sanctifying work, but it’s important to consider how it differs from justification. As John explains,
Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Justification imputes Christ’s righteousness to the sinner’s account (Romans 4:11); sanctification imparts righteousness to the sinner personally and practically (Romans 6:1-7; 8:11-14). Justification takes place outside sinners and changes their standing (Romans 5:1-2); sanctification is internal and changes the believer’s state (Romans 6:19) Justification is an event, sanctification a process. The two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation. 
Put simply, “Justification frees us from the guilt of sin, sanctification from the pollution of sin.” 
Dying to our sin is then the first step in the process of sanctification. It’s the process through which the Spirit refines us, killing off the remnants of our former selves—our sinful habits, tastes, and desires—and replacing them with godly affections and inclinations. It’s the active, ongoing transformation of your heart, mind, and entire self, beginning at the moment of salvation and continuing throughout the remainder of your life.
When we are born again [regeneration], God not only declares us righteous [justification], but He also begins to cultivate righteousness in our lives [sanctification]. Thus salvation is not only a forensic declaration; it is a miracle of conversion, of transformation. There is no such thing as a true convert to Christ who is justified but who is not being sanctified. . . . As the sinful, unregenerate person cannot help manifesting his or her true character, neither can the regenerate person. 
As slaves of righteousness, it is impossible to remain slaves of sin. Our new nature in Christ guarantees a transformed life. Paul emphasizes the change that ought to be manifest in every believer in Romans 6:3-5.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.
As John explains,
In Christ we are not the same people we were before salvation. “Our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). . . . Our new life as Christians is not an amended old life but a divinely bestowed new life that is of the same nature as Christ’s very own. . . .
That does not mean our sinful tendencies are annihilated. The Greek word translated “done away with” literally means “to render inoperative, invalidate.” Sin has lost its dominating control over us. Obviously we all struggle with sinful propensities. Death to the sinful self does not mean death to the flesh and its corrupted inclinations. Because of the pleasures of sin and the weakness of our remaining flesh, we often yield to sin.
The tyranny and penalty of sin have been nullified, but sin’s potential for expression has not yet been fully removed. Our human weaknesses and instincts make us capable of succumbing to temptation. . . . We are, in short, new creations—holy and redeemed but wrapped in grave clothes of unredeemed flesh. We are like Lazarus, who came forth from the grave still wrapped from head to foot in his burial garments. 
As slaves of righteousness, our entire being has been rescued and reoriented under the authority of Christ. Through the work of the Spirit, we are being conformed into Christ’s character and refined for the work of His kingdom.
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12)
A Christian has no desire for his past life of sin. As we see in our text, we should “flee these things” and “lay hold on eternal life,” putting off whatever is old and instead putting on what is new. The second verse of our study hymn “Higher Ground” expresses this as well.
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
One of the most precious promises of Christianity can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:17, where we see that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” We are told that we can put our old habits of sin behind us and live a new life in victory over sin and death. No longer can sin reign over us—we can live in victory. Even doubts and fears can be dismissed from our presence. Our God has promised throughout His Scriptures: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
There is no need to be anywhere else. My prayer and my aim is to walk where He leads and be where He wants me to be. Only while there can we be assured of higher ground with Him. JDM
(Days of Praise)
The sins of the godly go nearest to God’s heart. The sins of the wicked anger the Lord. The godly man’s sins grieve Him. The sins of the wicked pierce Christ’s side. The sins of the godly wound his heart . . . How far from being godly are those who scarcely ever shed a tear for sin!–Thomas Watson, “The Godly Person Weeps”
The assurance of His total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don’t have to play defensive games anymore. We don’t have to rationalize and excuse our sins. We can call sin exactly what it is, regardless of how ugly and shameful it may be, because we know that Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross. ~Jerry Bridges
““He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”~I Peter 2:24
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”~Romans 6:16
“Salvation is far from the wicked, For they do not seek Your statutes.”~Psalm 119:155
“The Lordis far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.”~Proverbs 15:29
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”~James 5:16
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
For those who are too proud to confess the things they struggle with, how immature they are in places, the things they do that they do not want to do, etc., and who seem to convince themselves that their faith is active and their fruit is bountiful and they have it all together…a word of truth forya…
You should be very afraid.
“….confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it.”
Doing good? One more time....
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
~I John 1:8
And something about “bearing one another’s burdens”. How can we do that if we do not share them? Well that would be downright disobedient as well as stupid! And prideful. Will the prideful share in the Kingdom? Um…..no. Talk about stupidity! That’s following Satan, not Christ who, being God in the flesh, humbled Himself, even to death on a cross….
Open up….your brethren need your truthfulness all the way around. Let’s be bearing one another’s burdens and praying for one another. Two are better than one, and we each need that shoring up. Otherwise we will end up being enticed by or own lusts and dragged away, and no one to help us stand. We need to be open and honest about our sins and our immaturity(s) in the faith. That is a given in a marriage relationship where after God the spouse is the one we share with, but it is also commanded as well as in friendship and fellowship. Start at home, after that, the rest is, as they say, gravy. And who doesn’t like gravy?
That is one of the biggest ways we grow in Christ.
My dearest sister and friend shared this wonderful sermon from her pastor with me, and I am now sharing it with you. If you are like me, you will recognize yourself in some things he has to say. Not the great things, the things that expose the uck still within the heart….so if you do, I hope that you will join me in repenting of what God shows you here, and will be encouraged to have a new resolve to live as our dear Father commands, as well as the courage to confess the things you see to others so that they may be encouraged to do the same. Repentance without change is not repentance. Sure He helps us in being molded into His image, but WE have to do some work too. He is not our servant, we are His. So buck up….hold up that mirror, and show the truth of you to you through this really good sermon….and the word of God it contains. It rightly defines exactly what it speaks of. So we don’t have that “out” either. Hey…sanctification is a hard process, but one we must ALL go through if indeed we belong to Christ. If you wonder why no one can see your fruit…..perhaps one of the reasons is here:
Most of Psalm 131 is holy eavesdropping. We have intimate access to the inner life of someone who has learned to have a calm and quiet soul. This man isn’t noisy inside. He isn’t busy-busy-busy. Not obsessed. Not on edge. The to-do list and pressures to achieve don’t consume him. Failure and despair don’t haunt him. Anxiety isn’t spinning him into free fall. Irritation and dissatisfaction don’t devour him. He’s not stumbling through the minefield of blind longings and fears.
About the Psalm
First, think about who’s talking to us in Psalm 131.
We are listening to the inner conversation of someone whom God called “a man after His own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14).
In other words, this man processes life the way a human being is meant to process.
We know many things about David:
the youngest of eight brothers;
a fierce protector of his flock;
a young man with striking good looks and evident talent;
a skilled musician and poet;
a deadly soldier;
a loyal subject even while a fugitive;
a tender and faithful friend;
a savvy military and political strategist who secured the throne;
the husband of a harem and father of countless children;
an adulterer who murdered by proxy;
a broken-hearted penitent.
But two characteristics stand out.
First, the LORD chose David, anointed him, loved him, and blessed him – God was with David.
Second, David knew this LORD – he walked with God. We are listening in the words of such a man.
A millennium later, someone else lived this psalm even more fully.
Update the heading: A Song of Ascents, of Jesus.
Psalm 131 expresses Jesus’s life experience, the inner workings of His consciousness.
The Father’s chosen, anointed, loved, and blessed Son lets you listen in.
God who became a man thinks out loud for you.
Second, get a clear picture of what Psalm 131 is not.
What it is not.
It does not portray unruffled detachment or stoic indifference.
It’s not about having an easygoing personality or low expectations.
It’s not retreat from the troubles of life or retirement to a life of ease.
It’s not the quieting of inner noise that a bottle of scotch or a daily dose of Prozac produces.
After all, Jesus and David were both kingdom-builders in real life, real time.
They expected—and achieved—huge things in the midst of commotion and trouble.
They experienced pressure, joy, heartache, outrage, affection, courage.
So Psalm 131’s inner quiet comes in the midst of actions, relationships, and problems.
Third, understand rightly what Psalm 131 does describe – this calm and quiet is learned, and it is learned in relationship.
Such purposeful quiet is achieved, not spontaneous.
It is conscious, alert, and chosen.
It is a form of self-mastery by the grace of God: “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul.”
And it happens in living relationship with Someone Else.
1) We are “discipled” into such composure.
2) You learn it from someone.
Can we get to this quieted place, here and now, in our actual life? Yes, we can get there from here.
Psalm 131 aims to become our words as a chosen, anointed, loved, and blessed child.
Deliverance from Noise
Faith delivers us from our biggest problem, a proud self-will.
David says to the LORD, “I am not self-trusting, opinionated, and headstrong. I am not superior to others. I am not attempting the impossible.”
The process through which he was tamed is still implicit (until verse 2).
The reason for such astonishing calm and humility is still implicit (until verse 3).
We see the results first, and are intrigued.
David is quiet.
He has consciously distanced himself from everything that rattles inside us.
To be able to say “I am not something,” we must learn to identify the something.
What makes us so noisy inside? Turn the psalm into its opposite, the anti-psalm:
“Self, my heart is proud (I’m absorbed in myself), and my eyes are haughty (I look down on other people), and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me. So of course I’m noisy and restless inside, it comes naturally, like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap, like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries. I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time. ”
Proud hearts are the source of the noise.
Do you remember Alice in Wonderland, how Alice was either too big or too small?
Because she was never quite the right size, she was continually disoriented.
We all have that problem – we are the wrong size.
We imagine ourselves to be independent and autonomous: proud hearts.
We become engrossed in trivialities of our own devising.
We pursue grandiosities and glories.
We become afraid of our own shadows.
Seventeenth-century English had a great word for how we stir up much ado about nothing: vainglory.
Of course, this doesn’t seem like much of a problem while we busily telemarket our pride both to ourselves and to others.
“I just want a little respect and appreciation. Of course I want the things at home to work and the car mechanic to be honest. That’s pretty normal. I want approval and understanding, to be included. Is that too much to ask? I want the church to thrive, my sermon to go well, the worship to be biblical. It’s for God, after all. I want satisfaction and compensation for the ways others did me wrong. If others would just own up, and then treat me right. I don’t want much. If only I had better health, a little more money, a more meaningful job, nicer clothes, and a restful vacation, then I’d be satisfied. I want a measure of success—just a bit of recognition. I want control. Who doesn’t? Comfort, ease, convenience. Why not? I want to feel good. Doesn’t God want me to feel good? I want to feel good about myself, to have more self-confidence, to believe in myself. I want…well, I want MY WAY. I WANT THE GOODIES. I WANT GLORY. I WANT GOD TO DO MY WILL. I WANT TO BE GOD…Doesn’t everybody?”
Our slavery to selfish desires seems so plausible.
Our restless disorientation seems so natural, so desirable.
But it’s noisy.
Anxiety, irritation, despondency, or ambition makes sense from within the logic of a proud heart.
If you are not proud, then quietness and calm make sense.
It also comes with the territory that we are opinionated, routinely judging and belittling others:arrogant eyes.
Pride is not just about ME.. It’s also about you.
I must look down on you in some way.
I must establish my superiority in some way.
Some people wear their arrogance and superiority openly, and even boast of their boasting.
But our absorption in judgmental opinions runs very deep.
1) Pride says, “I’m right in myself.” Arrogant eyes say, “I’m right compared to you.”
2) Have you ever noticed that even people who feel lousy about themselves are judgmental towards others?
a) When we feel inferior to others, we don’t admire and respect them, or treat them with merciful consideration.
b) Instead, we envy, hate, nitpick, grumble, and criticize.
c) Even self-belittling tendencies—“low self-esteem,” self-pity, self-hatred, timidity, fearfulness, diffidence, fears of failure and rejection—fundamentally express pride failing,pride intimidated, and pride
d) Such pride, even when much battered, still finds someone else to look down on.
e) It is no accident that the church fathers discussed fear of man as a subset of pride when they contemplated the “seven deadly sins” besetting every soul.
I read about a woman’s description of this problem in her life.
She said that she had almost no true peers, people with whom she related eye-to-eye.
Her relationships were not characterized by generosity, openness, or trust.
There were a few “pedestal people” in her life, people she thought walked on water, who could do no wrong.
There were many, many “pit people” in her life, people she looked down on for one reason or other.
The two categories were connected only by an elevator shaft!
1) A person could fall off the pedestal and end up in the pit.
2) But no pit person had ever been rehabilitated.
She had a long history of disappointment in every relationship – family and former friends lodged in her mental dog-house.
Unsurprisingly, she was a woman with a lot of inner noise: fretful, self-preoccupied, easily offended, depressive, competitive.
But as she grew in Christ, she grew in calm and quiet.
As she learned to live in the way of peace, lo and behold, she began to discover peers and to build friendships.
Another way of putting this is to say that she stopped pursuing impossibilities.
That’s the third phrase in Psalm 131:1: not going after things that are beyond you.
Even the small, everyday things that everyone races after are, in fact, “beyond us.”
From our daily bread to our abilities and opportunities, these are gifts from God that we don’t control.
What happens when we attempt to control another person’s attitudes and choices, to bend them to our will?We set ourselves up for despair or rage, anxiety or short-lived euphoria, suspicion or manipulation.
What happens when we attempt to ensure that we will not get sick and die? We become obsessed with diet and exercise, or litigious towards doctors, or plagued with fear that any nagging pain might be the big one that finally gets us.
What happens when we are obsessed with getting people to like you? We become flirtatious or artificial, a coward or a deceiver, a chameleon or a recluse.
But when we pursue what we are called to pursue, calm and quiet in the soul follows.
III. The Process of Peace
To gain calm and quiet in the soul is to go through a weaning process.
Something that once meant everything to you comes to mean nothing.
Notice that you are definitively different at the end of the process.
You aren’t “sort of composed, sort of quiet, sort of weaned.”
You once were noisy, and now you’ve learned quiet.
Dying to your restless, fretful, and irritable ways does not come easily.
There is no technique, automatic formula, or pat answer.
To quiet your soul means literally to level it.
Bulldoze the building site.
To quiet your soul means to silence the noise and tumult, to quiet your desires, fears, opinions, anxieties, agendas, and irritabilities.
In verses 2-3, we see that David had gone about unplugging the noise machines and knocking down the stairways that led to nowhere.
This sort of composure and quietness is not apathy, but alertness.
It is conscious, not unconscious.
It is the poise of self-mastery by grace, not the carelessness of sleepy ease.
How do you purify your heart? How does a proud heart become a humble heart?
We do not wrestle ourselves down by doing penance.
We can beat on ourselves, resolve to mend our ways and still be proud.
We do not destroy the tumult of self-will by sheer will: “I will stop being irritable. I will stop being fretful. I will stop imposing my will on the universe.”
Can the leopard change its spots?
We are not strong enough; We are too strong.
We only wrestle ourselves down by the promises of God’s lovingkindness.
1) We need the invasion of the Redeemer in our lives.
2) We need great help, the way a drowning man needs great help from outside himself to rescue him.
3) Only one thing is strong enough to overpower and slay unruly cravings and a stormy life: what God promises to do in us and through us in Jesus Christ.
a) From God’s side, we escape ourselves by being loved by Jesus Christ through the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit himself.
b) From our side, we escape ourselves by learning a lifestyle of intelligent repentance, genuine faith, and specific obedience.
In the 1700s, Katarina von Schlegel wrote a hymn about wrestling to calm and quiet her soul. It is an extended personalization of Psalm 131:2, presumably written in the context of some great loss.
Be still, my soul. The Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide. In every change, He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul. Thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Think about that, and still yourself. Remember the Lord’s favor, control, faithfulness, and friendship. Remain patient in your sufferings.
Be still, my soul. Thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul. The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Why does she have to keep reminding herself, “Be still, my soul”? We need to be stilled. Who is strong enough to rule the unruly things that wail, rattle, or shout within us?
1) God is purposively active in His children.
2) He will have final say.
3) Christ ruled the storms, rules them still, and will rule them.
Be still, my soul. When dearest friends depart, and all is darkened in the vale of tears, then shalt thou better know his love, his heart, who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears. Be still, my soul. Thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away.
Perhaps irreparable loss is the hardest thing to face.
1) A loved one dies, and will never again walk through the door to greet us.
2) We retire, and can never again return to the work into which we poured our talent, time, and concern.
3) We will never again be young.
4) No second chance to do our college years or that failed marriage over again.
5) Such things devastate us. Can we quiet ourselves? Jesus gives us himself.
Be still, my soul. The hour is hast’ning on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul. When change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Katarina von Schlegel was the ultimate realist.
Most of the noise in our souls is generated by trying to control the uncontrollable.
We grasp after the wind.
We rage, fear, and finally despair.
But this wise sister refocused onto a hope more enduring than fragile, destructible hope-so.
Be still, my soul. All that is hard now will be forgotten amid love’s purest joys.
This slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17).
Psalm 131 faith lives with eyes open.
David drives this home with a wonderful metaphor: like a weaned child on his mother, like a weaned child, my soul rests on me.
When a hungry child is placed on his mother’s lap, he is agitated.
He moves around, squirming anxiously.
If he doesn’t get immediate attention and satisfaction, he frets and fusses.
He is frustrated and cranky because he wants something.
He needs something – the mother’s milk means life, health, satisfaction, joy.
If the mother doesn’t deliver right now, he’ll thrash about.
His emotions range over the whole spectrum of noisy, negative emotion.
In this imagery, we witness the childish versions of things that destroy adults: anxiety, depression, anger, jealousy, discontent, and confusion.
But then have you ever seen that same child two weeks later, when he is successfully weaned?
The difference is amazing!
A dramatic change has taken place.
Now when that child is placed in his mother’s lap, he sits quietly, giving his attention in a different direction.
The child rests upon his mother, at peace.
The child has changed.
That’s the picture of learning peace.
The Reason for Peace
The last line gives the reason – The LORD, Jesus Christ, is our hope.
Pride dies as the humility of faith lives.
Pride and arrogance lowers their eyes as the dependency of hope lifts up its eyes.
We stop pursuing impossibilities when we start pursuing certainties.
This simple sentence distills wonders.
Consider the command and invitation you are now receiving.
We are called to hope in the LORD.
Who is this person who topples all the stairways to nowhere and gives us something better?
He is the true God, the only Redeemer from the idols we construct.
Our hope is in “I AM,” who becomes known simply as “the Lord.”
Eventually, he more immediately and personally names Himself: Jesus Christ is Lord.
What exactly are you to hope for? Jesus Christ himself.
1 Tim. 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…
We are called to such hopes now and forever.
David speaks in a generality, literally, “from now until forever.”
That pretty much covers the territory!
But the time frame of our hope is even more clearly defined than David could have known.
We hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:13).
Both now and forever shine with newer, brighter meanings for us who read Psalm 131 in the light of Christ.
(This does not mean you can play make believe and plaster on “grace” and continue in your old ways, or decide that you are already okay and don’t have to address anything here. If you continue in your old ways, even some of them, I would really begin to question the veracity of my profession if I were you. What it DOES mean is that you simply cannot continue in your self centered, haughty, proud, cowardly or “positive self assessing” ways. You belong to the biblical Christ. You have to LIVE it. It’s your choice. Life. Or death. You decide. If you love the Lord He will be everything to you, you will not be your main focus nor will you be constantly trying to get your own way. You will be working in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to live HIS way. You will step up no matter how difficult because it is CHRIST’S reputation that is on the line in that, through you. If you find that you are doing some of or all of the things listed above, you need to repent and stop it. And if you truly repent, then you WILL obey His clear commands found in His word, regardless of how foreign to the flesh they may be or how difficult it may make your “world”, or how hard that self crucifying is. Being in Christ is a matter of dying to self and living FOR Christ alone. No man comes away from a true rebirth and lives even close to the same as he did before the event. As in birth of the flesh, does one come out of the womb and then live in a fetal position, seeking food from an umbilical cord, living in the dark? No. And it is the same in spiritual rebirth. No one continues to live as before except the still dead in flesh, and God says that only leads to what? You got it! Death. Listen…we can be David or we can be Saul….I choose to be David, or the female equivalent. I want to be a woman after God’s own heart. Not a woman who breaks it. How about you? His “well done” or His sorrow at seeing the yuck inside that you want to keep and not give up? And really….if you want to keep it, how can you ever truly have Christ, or THINK you have Christ? Ain’t no room for the “Me Me’s” in the Kingdom. We can only wrestle ourselves down by the promises of God’s lovingkindness and specific obedience. Only through our Redeemer. Think about it. If you wanna talk, I’ll be in the repentance corner….pull up a chair.)
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” “Jesus said to him — Away from Me, Satan!” — Matthew 4:10 There is a dreadful intensity of meaning in the words, as applied to Jesus, “He suffered, being tempted!” Though incapable of sin — there was, in the refined sensibilities of His holy nature, that which made temptation unspeakably appalling. What must it have been to confront the Arch-traitor? — to stand face to face with the foe of His throne, and His universe? But the “prince of this world” came, and found “nothing in Him.” Billow after billow of Satanic violence spent their fury, in vain, on the Living Rock!
Reader! you have still the same malignant enemy to contend with; assailing you in a thousand insidious forms; astonishingly adapting his assaults to your circumstances, your temperament, your mental bent, your master passion! There is no place, where “Satan’s seat” is not; The whole world lies in the Wicked one. — (1 John 5:19) He has his whispers for the ear of childhood; hoary age is not inaccessible to his wiles. “All this will I give you” — is still his bribe to deny Jesus and to “mind earthly things.” He will meet you in the crowd; he will follow you to the solitude; his is a sleepless vigilance!
Are you bold in repelling him as your Master was? Are you ready with the retort to every foul suggestion, “Away from me, Satan!” Cultivate a tender sensitiveness about sin. The finest barometers are the most sensitive.
Whatever your besetting frailty is — whatever bitter or baleful passion you are conscious aspires to the mastery — watch it, crucify it, Nail it to your Lord’s cross! You may despise “the day of small things” — the Great Adversary does not. He knows the power of littles — that little by little consumes and eats out the vigor of the soul. And once the downwards movement in the spiritual life begins — who can predict where it may end? — the going on “from weakness to weakness,” instead of “from strength to strength.” Make no compromises; never join in the ungodly amusement, or venture on the questionable path, with the plea, “It does me no harm.” The Israelites, on entering Canaan, instead of obeying the Divine injunction of extirpating their enemies, made a hollow truce with them. — What was the result? Years upon years of tedious warfare. “They were scourges in their sides and thorns in their eyes!” It is quaintly — but truthfully said by an old writer, “Sin indulged, in the conscience, is like Jonah in the ship, which causes such a tempest, that the conscience is like a troubled sea, whose waters cannot rest.” — (Thomas Brooks)
“Keep,” then, “your heart with all diligence,” or, (as it is in the forcible original Hebrew,) “keep your heart above all keeping, for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Let this ever be our preservative against temptation, “How would Jesus have acted here? Would He not have recoiled, like the sensitive plant, from the remotest contact with sin? Can I think of dishonoring Him by tampering with His enemy — incurring from His own lips the bitter reflection of injured love — ‘I am wounded in the house of My friends!'”
He tells us the secret of our preservation and safety, “Simon! Simon! Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you — that your faith fail not!” “Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.”~MacDuff, John
I Corinthians 10:12-13….12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.13No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
James 4:7-9….7Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.… 9Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.…
James 1: 13-15…..13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.…