It was one of the first verses I memorized when I first became a Christian nearly forty years ago and only recently have I started to truly understand it. Talk about being slow! It’s a good thing we have eternity, because I am going to need every minute of it to really understand the Scriptures. So here’s that verse I memorized.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. (Psalm 119: 9,11)
There it was, the prescription for dealing with sin. All I had to do was memorize more Scriptures – the right Scriptures – and apply them in strategic situations to dispatch sin right out of my life. So I spent more time memorizing more Scriptures. I even memorized the entire book of Philippians. But somehow sin still found a way in. Sin had a way of circumventing my scriptural blockade and I was left devastated, ashamed and confused. Why didn’t it work, this magic elixir, these words of power that promised so much? Precisely because I was treating the Scriptures as a magical remedy. I was led to believe that just having the words was enough, that the string of syllables found in my Bible and implanted in my mind could hold back the tidal wave of sin. It was not so.
Now before I continue on, let me pause to clarify. I actually think that memorizing Scripture is a good practice for any Christian. I think that too many of us don’t know our Bible well enough and that memorization seems to be a lost art much to the detriment of individual Christians and the Church as a whole. I am not against Scripture memorization, I am just more critical of the way it has been applied. So let me now go on.
I was so focused on the words of the Scripture that I lost track of the Word in Scripture. So intent was I on discovering the perfect combination of verses to deal with whatever was ailing me at the moment that I lost focus of the Perfect One. I missed the incarnate Word and saw instead an incantation. I missed treasuring HIM in my heart. That is the only way to stay pure, by staying focused on Christ. So what does that really mean? That is a nice concept but how do we do that. Let me suggested three truths, three ways to focus on Christ so that He will become a treasure in your heart.
First, meditate on the great wonder that the Father chose you from the beginning of world to be with Him, to be saved, redeemed, adopted, accepted. He actually chose you, not a people group, an ethnic group or a church denomination, but He chose an individual – You. Next, having grasped that concept (if you can), think about the extent to which Jesus was willing to go to ensure your company with Him for all eternity. Finally, as you consider these two great and breathtaking truths, turn every moment into an opportunity to say Thank you to Him – to live in thanksgiving and gratitude. You see, I think that if we make Christ our focus and live out of that grateful heart, Sin loses its luster, its appeal fades, its power diminishes and before we know it, Sin no longer controls. It is not a matter of trying harder not to sin, of doubling our effort, of shouting Scriptures so that we can somehow scare Sin away, instead the only way is to stay focused on THE WAY. It is about a Person and knowing Him. One of my all-time favorite hymns captures best what I am trying to say. Here are the words:
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
So, how can a young man or young woman, old man or old woman keep their way pure, by keeping it according to THE Word and looking full in His wonderful face.