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According to the Word of God

Category Articles
Date September 13, 2012

The Psalmist asks, ‘Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?’ How, in other words, may he lead a holy life? And, in this Psalm of praise to God, he thus answers his own question: ‘By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word’ (Psa. 119:9). For, as The Shorter Catechism puts it, the Bible ‘is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him’ (Ans. 2), which is to be our chief aim as we make our way through life. In his commentary on this Psalm, Charles Bridges explains why ‘the young man [is] so especially called to cleanse his way’; it is ‘because God justly claims the first and the best’. And he adds, ‘Is it not a most affecting proof of the alienation of the heart from God that the youth of man . . . should naturally be devoted to the service of sin?’

Manifestly, what applies to young men applies equally to young women, and thus also may older people lead lives devoted to God and not to the service of sin. All must attend to the teachings of the Word of God, a book which is utterly reliable. From beginning to end it is without error, for it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. This Psalmist found it to be a light to his feet and a lamp to his path (v 105) on his way through life. And so will we if our understandings are opened to receive its directions, by the powerful work of the Spirit who inspired it – for, as Bridges warns, ‘except the teaching of the Spirit accompany the Word, all is darkness, thick darkness’.

If then we are to make our way safely through this life and if we are to be fit to meet a holy God when we pass into the eternal world, we must pay serious attention to what God is telling us in his Word. So what does the Bible tell us is the right way, the clean way, through life? It is the way of obedience – to God’s will. And his will is spelt out for us in the Ten Commandments. Apart from small groups of people who have, through the Spirit’s teaching, recognised its divine authority, no one has ever welcomed the entire law of God as a guide on their way through life; the Commandments too much restrain the human desire to depart from God and to follow out the sinful impulses of a corrupt heart.

Yet people, implicitly if not always explicitly, recognise the need for some moral code. They may protest that the Ten Commandments are well over 3000 years old and claim the need for another moral code, one that is suitable for our scientific, technological age. In fact, because the Ten Commandments were given by a God who is infinitely wise and possesses infinite knowledge, they are as well suited to the best-educated people of the present day as they were to the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness or when they settled down to till the fields of the promised land. God’s law is permanently relevant, for it is the reflection of his holy, unchangeable being. He never changes; so his law will never change.

Why is the Sabbath not universally observed in the way that the Word of God demands? Why is it not kept as a day when, as far as possible, people confine their activities to the worship of God and to what is spiritually profitable? It is because the natural mind is not subject to the law of God. Unless people have been renewed by the Spirit of God, they find such a day tedious; the activities which God’s Word points to as appropriate for his day are not according to their taste. So, unless they are restrained by custom or by conscience, unconverted people will treat the Sabbath like any other day of the week. They reject the authority of God’s law and do whatever is right in their own eyes. And they are the losers by doing so.

Why is the Seventh Commandment so much ignored? Why is immorality so rife? It is because so many people live as if there was no God and reject the authority of his Word. In a relatively short space of time, the institution of marriage has been very significantly devalued. First, divorce has been made easier and easier, in the face of the restricted grounds for divorce specified in Scripture. Then it was seen as utterly normal for a man and a woman to live together as an unmarried couple. Now it is proposed to redefine marriage so that a man can ‘marry’ a man, and a woman a woman.

But none of this is according to the Word of God, which tells us: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they [one man and one woman] shall be one flesh’ (Gen. 2:24). Yet when Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, announced proposals for same-sex marriage, she claimed, ‘This is the right thing to do’. It is a claim without a foundation, for God has defined what constitutes marriage, and no human being has any authority to specify what is right except on the basis of Scripture.

How wonderfully clean Saul of Tarsus’ way through life appeared to himself! ‘Touching the righteousness which is in the law,’ he could honestly claim, his life was ‘blameless’ (Phil. 3:6) – before his fellow men. But he needed to learn that the law of God takes to do with the heart, not only with what is outward. Unless he had a clean heart, Saul was not fit for heaven. And his heart was not clean; in contrast with his opinion of himself, he was totally unfit to enter the presence of God. So, in taking heed to our ways according to the Word of God, we too need to pray, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ (Psa. 51:10), and we must so pray in the name of Christ, the one Mediator between God and sinners like us.

The Bible teaches us about the seriousness of sin: it is committed against a holy God, who created us and to whom we therefore owe perfect obedience. We cannot possibly enter heaven if the guilt of our sins is still our own responsibility and if our hearts have not been renewed. How that thought should make us take heed to our ways, in the light of God’s Word! How earnestly should unconverted sinners search the Scriptures to discover the way of salvation – not only so that they would gain some outward knowledge of the facts there revealed about God sending his Son to be the Saviour of the world, but with the desire that the Holy Spirit would powerfully apply these truths to their souls. How attentively should they also listen to the preaching of the Word in the hope that, as they do so, the Spirit would so work within them, opening the eyes of their souls to look to Christ Jesus as the Saviour appointed for sinners.

If we take heed to our way in the light of God’s Word, we will consider seriously where our way will end. Will it be in heaven or in hell? Today’s secular mind assumes that death is the end of everything. But a sense of the solemnity of what is revealed about the consequences of an ungodly life would surely banish all talk about euthanasia and assisted suicide. The fact is that a holy God must punish sin and, for Christ’s sake, reward the godly. Again it is the Word of God which gives the necessary perspective, not only on this life, but also on the eternity which lies beyond it. And the Word shows us the one, narrow, way to heaven – through Jesus Christ, the crucified Redeemer – although it is so much despised by those who want to believe that they are thoroughly up to date in their thinking. They may be up to date, but that is of no advantage when their thinking is wrong.

How busy Satan has been since he first entered the Garden of Eden to deceive Adam and Eve! His attempt to deceive them was, solemnly, entirely successful – when he first questioned, and then denied, the truth of what God had said. And he has been very active ever since in casting doubt on the Word of God, in tempting sinners to ignore it, and even to deny its authority and its truth. Sadly, much of the professing Church of God actively rejects the accuracy, the inspiration and the full authority of Scripture. Yet these remain undiminished; Scripture is – as it has always been and always will be – a perfectly reliable revelation from our Creator. And if we are to go safely through this world, we must take heed to our way according to it.

Kenneth D. Macleod is pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church in Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris. He is the editor of The Free Presbyterian Magazine, from the September 2012 issue of which the above editorial has been taken with permission.

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