Theme: The Need for Direction
This stanza of Psalm 119 tells us that studying God’s Word will bring delight in his decrees.
Scripture: Psalm 119:33-40
John R. W. Stott’s book Your Mind Matters deals with six areas of Christian living. Each, he maintains, is impossible without a proper and energetic use of our minds. In yesterday’s study we looked at the first three areas: Christian worship, Christian faith, and Christian holiness. Today we continue with the remaining three areas of Christian living.
Our minds matter in seeking personal guidance as to how we should live and what decisions we must make, because the principles by which we must be guided are in the Bible. God does not guide us by mystical revelations, and we cannot count on God’s providential ordering of events alone, though he does indeed order all things. The chief and usually the only way God guides is by the Bible. To be guided by God we need to study to understand God’s Word and then apply its principles. That cannot be done without thinking.
Our minds matter in evangelism, because if a person must have faith to be saved and if faith is responding to the Word of God and acting on it (as I have just written), then we must present the teaching of the Bible and the claims of Jesus Christ so others can understand them. They must know what they are “believing.” If they do not understand what they are believing, and therefore are only able to respond emotionally, their “faith” is not a true faith and theirs is not a true conversion.
Finally, our minds matter in ministry, first, in seeking out a sphere of service (“What am I good at? Where do my spiritual gifts lie? What is God leading me to do for him?”), and, second, to serve in that sphere well (“How should I go about the work I have been given?”).
Stott argues that anti-intellectualism is “part of the fashion of the world and therefore a form of worldliness. To denigrate the mind is to undermine foundational Christian doctrines.” He asks pointedly, “Has God created us rational beings, and shall we deny our humanity which he has given us? Has God spoken to us, and shall we not listen to his words? Has God renewed our mind through Christ, and shall we not think with it? Is God going to judge us by his Word, and shall we not be wise and build our house upon this rock?”1
2. The feet: “Direct me in the path of your commands” (v. 35). The third verse in this section teaches that if we are going to make progress in God’s school we also need God’s Word before our feet, to guide our paths. The great Puritan commentator on Psalm 119, Thomas Manton, wrote,
“David, in the former verses, had begged for light, now for strength to walk according to this light. We need not only light to know our way, but a heart to walk in it. Direction is necessary because of the blindness of our minds; and the effectual impulsions of grace are necessary because of the weakness of our hearts.”2
What is this way in which we should walk? The Hebrew word translated “path” is from a root verb meaning “to tread” and therefore means “the trodden way” or an accustomed trail, not a new direction. In other words, it is a path because of the trodden earth of the many who have gone before us. Herbert Lockyer speaks of “an accustomed trail, plain with the track of all the pious pilgrim’s feet of past times.”3
It is hard not to think here of Jeremiah 6:16, a verse that meant so much to the Puritans and others who have followed in their paths.
Stand at the crossroads and look;ask for the ancient paths,ask where the good way is, and walk in it…
We live in an age of constant innovations. Everything old is thought to be bad, and what is good is new. Even old products are sold by giving them a new twist or look: “The New Ford Taurus” or “New Improved Efferdent.” We tend to think this way, too, because of our cultural environment. But the psalm reminds us that the Lord’s way is not a new or novel way, but rather that old established way in which the people of God have walked from the very beginning of his dealings with the race.
In terms of the Christian life we are not innovators; we are imitators. We want to be like those who have gone before us and walk as they walked. We want to be like Abraham, Moses, David, the Apostle Paul, the Reformers, the Puritans and the giants of our own time. But we also remember that this is a narrow path and there are only a few who walk it (Matt. 7:13, 14).
1John R. W. Stott, Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1972), p. 26.
2Thomas Manton, Psalm 119 (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990), vol. 1, p. 334. Original edition 1680.
3Herbert Lockyer, Sr., Psalms: A Devotional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993). p. 549.
How do we use our minds in seeking God’s will?
Describe how Stott defines anti-intellectualism.
Why is a complete understanding of the gospel so important to new believers?
What does it mean to have God’s Word at your feet?
Reflection: What is your attitude toward using your mind in your Christian faith?
Key Point: In terms of the Christian life we are not innovators; we are imitators. We want to be like those who have gone before us and walk as they walked.