“Oh, that my actions would consistently
reflect Your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed
when I compare my life with Your commands.”
Psalms 119:5-6 NLT
In our pilgrimage through life why is that we inevitably do things that we shouldn’t? Intuitively we have a good idea of what we should be doing. Much of the time we know what the Bible says about the way we should or shouldn’t live. At other times we receive a disturbing nudge from our consciences. But come what may, we still end up frustrated with ourselves because we did wrong. The Bible calls this dilemma sin. I’m sure we’ve all been in this place, and we will come up against it again in tomorrow’s part of our journey, but that is of small comfort. As I said earlier – we inevitably do things we shouldn’t. The Psalmist in today’s verses was equally frustrated. We don’t know what he’d done to cause his cry of exasperation, but it was something that didn’t line up with God’s ways. And it was something he was ashamed of, so perhaps there was a public element about his actions.
The Apostle Paul expressed a similar degree of annoyance with himself. He said in Romans 7:21, “I have discovered this principle of life – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” Sound familiar? He goes on to say, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
Thankfully Paul’s journey didn’t end in verse 24 of Romans 7. We read in the next chapter, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”
At this time of year we remember the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Son of God was born into this world, where He experienced all the problems and temptations that we do. And because of that He understands our issues of life. He understands our constant battles with sin. He was here Himself, but he didn’t sin. In fact, at Calvary He took on all our sins Himself to free us to live in line with the Holy Spirit life to which we have been called.
The Psalmist felt and expressed that heart cry – how can I live God’s way without polluting it with my sin? And in answer he tried to line his life with God’s decrees. A form of legalism? But sadly, it’s a trap we too can fall into. We try and live by our own efforts to avoid having to come as a repentant sinner into God’s presence. By setting ourselves rules and regulations that we can keep, and that makes us feel holy and righteous. But there is no alternative to living under God’s grace, living the Spirit-filled life. So instead of living by rules, we live our lives infused with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to lead and guide us, allowing Him to bring to the surface all our sins and allowing us to repent of them. Living a life walking close to God, not through our efforts trying to live by His rules. Jesus said, “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). That’s the only way to live.