This is the Sunday, April 13th sermon I will be preaching Sunday morning at the church I pastor, Faith United Church, Hempstead, Texas.
BY THE BOOK
God loves us and longs for us to be a people that govern their lives by the book – the Bible! God Himself when He deals with us always does so by the book – the Bible! And according to the book, He loves us so much that when we wander and drift He disciplines us so that our eyes may be opened and we may turn back to Him.
Now let me state right off the bat that I’m not saying that every affliction and suffering that you are I face is because of God’s discipline. So please don’t leave this place this morning thinking that is what I believe. However, according to the book – Scripture – God does discipline us at times. I personally think that during times of affliction, it is important to seek the Lord and see if it is His discipline.
Discipline is never a very fun thing. In fact, it can and often is a painful thing to go through. The subject of discipline is also something that is not very popular in the modern church. I mean, people don’t come to church to hear about discipline, they want to learn how to be totally blessed in this life now. The problem is, God has called me not to just preach on His blessings, but also on the whole counsel of the Word of God. And sometimes that means uncomfortable things like discipline.
My goal for this body is to see you all grow in the fear, love, and knowledge of God. So this sermon is not done out of anger, or because I may know something about you, but it is because the Lord laid it on my heart as I was studying the Scripture.
This kind of reminds me of a story I heard between two friends, one a prideful educated man, the other a humble, uneducated man.
Two old friends met one day after many years. One attended college and now was very successful and prideful. The other had not attended college and never had much ambition, and was very humble, yet he still seemed to be doing well. Curious as to why, the college graduate asked his friend, “How has everything been going with you?” The less-educated, less ambitious man replied, “Well, one day, I opened my Bible at random, and dropped my finger on a page. The word under my finger was oil. So, I invested in oil, and boy, did the oil wells gush. Then I tried the same method again, and my finger stopped on the word gold. So, I invested in gold, and those mines really produced. Now, I’m as rich as Rockefeller.” The successful, prideful friend was so impressed that he rushed to his hotel, grabbed a Gideon Bible, flipped it open, and dropped his finger on a page. When he opened his eyes, he saw that his finger rested on the words, “Chapter Eleven.”
This is not the recommended way of doing bible study by the way. This humorous story does have a biblical backdrop. God lifts up the humble, He brings low the prideful, but He loves both. He loves both so much that He will work, “by the book,” so that both will know His love – one with blessings, the other with discipline.
Let’s look at our text this morning and see what God would say to us.
Psalms 119:65-68 ESV – You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word. (66) Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. (67) Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. (68) You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
1. God deals well with us by the book.
Psalms 119:65 ESV – You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word.
A. First off, God doesn’t deal with us according to what we deserve, but according to His word – the book.
And we should be a thankful people for that. We don’t deserve His love, grace, and mercy. But according to the book, He gives us those things anyway.
B. Let’s look at the word, “Well,” in this verse.
The word in Hebrew means, “Good, better, well, fair, favor, pleasant, and bountifully.” All these words in this definition is how God deals with those He has called – His children.
I want to look at several verses here where this same Hebrew word is listed and notice how it is translated. This will give us a good idea as to how God deals with us.
Psalms 119:17 ESV – Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.
Psalm 13:6 ESV – I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 16:5-6 ESV – 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 18:35 ESV – You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
1 Chronicles 29:14 HCSB – But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand.
2. He longs for us to increase in our judgments and knowledge of Him.
Psalms 119:66 ESV – Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
A. Let’s look at the word “judgment” in Hebrew and see what we can discover.
It means, “Advice, understanding, and discretion.” As people who endeavor to live by the book, we need to learn about God and His ways, follow His advice, and use discretion in our everyday lives.
B. Now let’s look at the word “knowledge” in Hebrew.
It means, “Knowledge cunning, perception, awareness, and wisdom.” What God has in His book is perfect knowledge and wisdom concerning this life we live.
C. So taking the definitions of these two words we can come to a couple of conclusions from this verse.
God longs for us to learn from Him. He has wise counsel and advice to give us by the book. When we heed His wise advice and counsel, it will help us use discretion in our everyday lives. Why do we need discretion? Well, there are a number of things in the world today that we don’t need to participate in, nor allow in our lives. We can only know what these things are if we ask the Lord to teach us to understand, and receive wisdom by the book.
3. When we stray, He lovingly disciplines us by the book.
Psalms 119:67 ESV – Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
Psalms 119:176 ESV – I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.
A. Here we see that the Author of this Psalm admits to straying.
Why does He admit to it? Well, for one thing, He is human, and we humans have a tendency to stray from the correct path at times. The Author longs for God to restore Him, to bring Him back into right fellowship with Him.
David said something similar in another Psalm. Notice his humility in this confession of sin to the Lord.
Psalm 51:9-12 ESV – 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
B. It was the Lord’s affliction and discipline that opened the Author’s eyes to His condition.
Notice He says that before He was afflicted, he went astray. This affliction from the Lord didn’t start until He strayed. And the purpose of it was to open His eyes, so that He might return and be restored.
C. We see something rather similar in the New Testament concerning the Lord’s discipline.
Hebrews 12:5-14 ESV – 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
D. Now there is something about discipline that we need to understand.
Discipline is not for punishment purposes. Christ has been punished for us and in our place at the cross. But it is to expose areas of correction, and open our eyes so that we may return to the Lord and be restored in right fellowship with Him. So don’t go around thinking that God is punishing you. He loves you enough to discipline you so that you might return to Him.
4. We return to the Lord because He deals with us by the book.
Psalms 119:68 ESV – You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
A. Notice this passage declared how He deals with us.
He is good and therefore does good toward us. His dealing teaches us His statutes – His book.
B. You see, God loves His children and disciplines them.
And His discipline is for our good.
Romans 8:28 ESV – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
C. His kindness and goodness to us is what leads us to repentance during times of discipline.
Romans 2:4b ESV – God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.
God never disciplines us out of anger and frustration, but out of His love, goodness, and kindness.
God deals with us by the book, which should be an encouragement to us. He does so because He longs for us to be people who live by the book.
When we stray, He will lovingly discipline us, so that we can repent and be restored.
Don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, but cry out to Him and let His kindness restore you today.