After Contrition: Psalm 119:25-32

Psalm 119:25-32

How’s the memory work going so far? Don’t worry if you have fallen behind or simply cannot get the psalm to stick. This isn’t a contest, just a chance to let God’s Word percolate in our minds and hearts. Enjoy it!

Speaking of enjoyment, that is precisely what I have been praying for as I memorize this psalm: true enjoyment of God’s word. In treasuring the Word, I find my eyes are opened more and more as I go.

In my last post, I discussed one of the lies Satan uses to entrap people: using shame to drive them into hiding from God. However, that is not his only trick.  They are innumerable, truly, but before we move on I would like to touch on the lie that I believe is even more effective than shame today.  In a nutshell, it is the lie of complacency: that what God says is sin is not really sin.

In my own life and long before I was ashamed of my sin, I believed that sin was relegated to the Charles Mansons and the Jeffery Dahmers of the world — the gruesome and horrible. I did not recognize simple things like my own pride as sinful. In fact, I didn’t believe I had anything to worry about at all.

This is one of the Deceiver’s greatest lies; if he can catch a person before shame (which, for him, can be dangerously close to contrition), he can convince that person that what God calls “sin” is really just a choice, a lifestyle, a habit… anything but a crime against their Creator.

When I was young, I swallowed this lie readily.  I spent my twenties with this particular hook firmly embedded, and I literally had to allow God to tear it free when I finally surrendered to Him because I was well and truly captured.

I embraced a humanist worldview and did what I wanted, accepting no standard for right and wrong save the one I made up for myself. Like all such standards, mine  fluctuated as often as I needed it to in order to justify my actions. I often measured my actions against other people: “Well, I may not be a great person, but I’m not as bad as so-and-so.”

Just before God called me out of the darkness, I was set free from this lie only to be briefly imprisoned by the first trap we discussed: shame. Once I understood the truth of sin, I was so filled with remorse and self-loathing that I gave up on  trying to justify and simply took risks hoping that some accident would end what I lacked the courage to end of my own accord.

Then I met God, and my world was undone. I was overwhelmed by His forgiveness, and while the deceiver strove to keep me ensnared in shame, my gracious Lord set this captive free. Like David, I chose the way of faithfulness and set His rules before me. They are still my map for this journey, the necessary instruction I need so that I do not wander off the narrow path and become lost.

In this stanza, David asks that he may be given life through the Word of God after his grief has been expressed. For us, too, once sorrow has brought us to a place of confession, we can find life in the Word. As I learned in my late twenties, once contrition has yielded a properly humbled and teachable heart, the work of turning away from sin and turning toward God begins.

This will be a life-long work, a process known as “sanctification,” and there will be many turnings from sin as we misstep and stumble during our trek on the narrow path.  As Charles Spurgeon points out in his Morning and Evening Devotions, “Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day.”

As God had to show me,  much of repentance is the putting away of deceptions. In our psalm, I find it interesting that David attributes the work of putting aside false ways to God, but the choice to do so is his own. He knows he needs saving, and that only his Savior can complete this work.

Though we may try by human effort to resist temptation, it is the transforming power of God’s grace that will finally bring victory. He alone can really put our false ways to death.  Our work is in choosing.

But how?  David writes, “…I have set Your rules before me. I will cling to Your testimonies; let me not be put to shame!”

When the devil accuses and shames or when he seeks to lull us into a drifting spiritual slumber, may it be that we cling to the testimonies of God. May the evil one never ridicule us, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, nor may he ever pacify us into a false sense of security.

May we always praise the One we can ask for help in putting false ways far from us. May it be that we, too, run in the way of His commandments with large and expansive hearts!

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