Living in Freedom: A light in the Darkness

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Recorded on October 4th, 2020

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  • Sunday Full Service

Have you ever longed for Scripture? Do you anticipate time with God and the Bible? Remember that New Relationship Energy? If you are searching for answers or battling demons, if you engage scripture with active anticipation of an experience with God – you’re going to receive it.

Transcript of Sermon:

Today’s scripture is psalm 119 verses 129 through 136. they will be on your screen if you like to read along with me your statutes are wonderful therefore i obey them the unfolding of your word gives light it gives understanding to the simple i open my mouth and pants longing for your commands turn to me and have mercy on me as you always do to those who love your name direct my footsteps according to your word let no sin rule over me redeem me from human oppression that i may obey your precepts make your face shine upon me and teach me your decrees streams of tears flow from my eyes for your law is not obeyed this is the word of god for the people of god thanks be to god when i was a kid i’ve told you that i grew up in california and california is huge right so san diego and san diego is only about an hour and a half away from one of the most magical places on the face of the earth i wonder if you can guess where that is that would be disneyland disneyland was so close to where i lived that even though we did not have a lot growing up we got to visit it a few times a year also because back then it wasn’t nearly as expensive as it is now but i remember in preparation for those trips the best anticipation of almost my entire life happened then just thinking about what we would get to do thinking about the magical feeling that would happen when we got there especially because my family was a little bit chunky rough around the edges and when we got to disneyland that tended to float away and we just got to be this fun-loving people in the midst of a magical place and i loved just the waiting the anticipating for that moment as i’ve gotten older there have been things in my life that i enjoy like that and i know that you probably have things like that too when i think about where i live now what i think about is college football for a lot of you you anticipate the football season the same way you listen to football radio you listen to you read articles you read about what players are coming to different teams you read about your coaches you talk about your coaches you talk about your players you smack talk with each other and you anticipate the season and then once the season starts you anticipate one game to the next and it’s this joyous love-filled sometimes tear-filled experience for you now for me i like football a lot i like college football a lot we watch it every week but i don’t anticipate it like you all do not yet maybe a few more years here i’ll probably get there but for me and don’t laugh at me when i tell you this i mean you can laugh just don’t tell me the thing that i anticipate like that is the great british bake off now i have to laugh saying it because it sounds as ridiculous as it is but i love that show that show is an escape for me it is like this purely innocent little wonderful thing and it comes around once a year sometimes i have a little christmas thing if i’m lucky and i always wait for it and when it gets here i wonder should i watch one episode at a time or should i wait until they’re all done so that i can watch them in big chunks but i i just anticipated like i was a kid waiting for disneyland the same feeling of anticipation the same feeling of joy and wonder is that feeling that we tend to have at the beginning of relationships when we’re getting to know each other and you can’t wait for the next phone call or i guess today it would be the next text but when i was dating was definitely phone calls maybe an email the next time you got to see each other the next time you just got to be in each other’s presence you couldn’t wait you couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning so because you wondered what was going to happen and if you were going to get to see them this feeling of anticipation is something that we’re going to look at today as we dig into psalm 119. now somewhat psalm 119 is our next step in the journey now you and i just finished a whole series of galatians we went through the entire book of galatians learning about what paul had to teach us about our place as children of god that you and i were created very intentionally specifically that we are children of god and that our place in this world is to live in the freedom that was bought for us by christ on the cross but we have realized that because the spirit lives in us once we accept jesus into our lives the spirit comes to live in us but our fleshy side does not leave we still are human we still have our sinful nature in us somewhere and so the spirit and the flesh war sometimes and we’ve learned that because this war exists we need some tools we need some practical advice in figuring out how to live into our life as children of god and so towards the end of our journey in galatians we looked at two tools the first one was stop drop and roll right stop drop and roll was a tool to help us remember that before we ever act we think of what we’re going to do we realize it in our brains and so when we’re going to do something that’s of the flesh we need to stop we need to drop that thought we need to drop that feeling and roll onto something that’s of the spirit like love and joy and patience forgiveness right we stop we drop we roll and in that process we become more christ-like we become more of the people we were created to be so that was one of the tools that we’ve learned in this long journey and then the second tool we learned last week is this idea that when you and i are trying to do the work that christ asks us to do when we’re trying to be the people we were created to be it can be hard and in fact we give up sometimes because we don’t see the outcome we’re expecting and when we don’t see the outcome we’re expecting we just kind of throw up in arms and say never mind but what we learned last week is that the point is not the outcome the point is the process right the point is not the outcome the point is the process so we have two tools stop drop and roll and reminding ourselves that the point is not the outcome the point is the process today we’re going to add another tool to our toolbox by digging into what david has to say in psalm 119 so let’s look at that in psalm 119 let’s remember first what psalms are psalms are some of my favorite things to go into in scripture when you’re looking for a way to cry out to god and you don’t have words when you’re looking for a way in access into scripture when you’re not quite sure where to start the book of psalm is a great place to start because really it’s just human beings expressing their feelings to god expressing their praises expressing truths about god expressing truth about humanity but that’s what you see here and what psalm 119 is first of all is the longest psalm in all of the book of psalms it is 176 verses now i could have stood here and read all 176 verses to you but that would have taken us all day so i’m taking a section of it that represents the rest now this psalm is an acrostic which is a fancy word that just means that it was set up like in an alphabetical order where each of the stan each of the sections it has chunks is starts with a different letter of the hebrew bible which is kind of cool and this one this chunk that goes from 129 to 136 represents kind of the whole of what 119 talks about which is the word of god the statutes of god the laws of god the precepts of god so every time you hear one of those words laws statutes precepts they’re all meaning the same thing so when we dig into this understand that this is a hymn of praise about how wonderful the word of god is and what david is going to show us here is how the word of god can be a light to you and i and that’s the tool we’re going to take today is the light but it’s going to be a very specific way we have to apply this tool in order to use the light so let’s look at verse 129 it says your statutes are wonderful therefore i obey them and i think one of the first dangers that we run into is we look at something like the word wonderful and we just gloss over it because we use it for everything we use it to describe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after we’ve been really really hungry and we use it to describe something as beautiful as a sunrise but what david is saying here is that god’s statues god work god’s word is wonderful it causes wonder it is something that makes us stop it is something that makes us think it is something that makes us pause it is awesome makes us stop in awe and think about what it is that is before us it is wonderful and because it is wonderful i want to david wants to we want to obey all of them it says the unfolding of your word gives light and it gives understanding to the simple the unfolding of the word gives light not just to the most smart not just to pastors not just to holy priests but to the simple to everybody anyone who gets into this word there is light available to us as we unfold the word of god david says in 131 i open my mouth and pants longing for your commands longing for your commands turn to me and have mercy on me this is a prayer he takes this this this praise this hymn and now he’s praying to god within this praise he says turn to me and have mercy on me as you always do to those who love your name direct my footsteps according to your word david’s saying here that not only is the word wonderful but the word also directs our steps it gives us specific direction and david says let no let no sin rule over me so as we’re directed by the word no sin can rule over us and he continues redeem me from human oppression that i may obey your precepts so as we’re directed by god’s words as we are set free from sin we’re living into the freedom that we have been given as children of god we are able to obey and we are set free from those things that have caused us oppression and then david says make your face shine on me god i love that statement so much just the thought of god’s face shining on me and teach me your degrees and this david’s saying that god will teach us not just are we going to open this and read words but in the active pursuit of that god will teach us and then david ends by saying streams of tears flow from my eyes for your law is not obeyed i think what david is saying here is that not only when he doesn’t obey but when the rest of us don’t obey when the world doesn’t obey it causes pain but when we all obey when he obeys and when his family would obey and when the world would obey could you imagine what this world would look like now when i say the name david i’m talking about king david king david is most likely the person who wrote this hymn to god but more than anything what we need to understand about david is that he’s just a human who’s experienced relationship with god so how do we take this and turn it into something that is actively useful to you and i in our relationship with god how do we let it be a true light in our relationship how do we let this knowledge of what the law is because what basically david is saying is that the word of god is a light in the darkness but from what i know as a pastor is that many of us struggle to let scripture be a light in the darkness one of the most prominent questions that gets asked of me is how do i know how do i know if i’m on the right path how do i know if i’m making the right decision how do i know if i should take this job how do i know if it’s just my internal longing or if this is god that is leading me how do i know if i’m on the right journey and that’s a hard question to answer and christians tend to say well you know just you know being be in the word and we try to give these try answers but they’re they’re they sound trite because when we try them on our own once or twice they don’t give us the result we’re looking for but they’re not trite because at their core the truth is the word of god this living word of god the statutes the laws everything in here are life-giving they will give you answers but if we tend to if we come to them like we have in the past they won’t be the light that we’re looking for you know i’ve had lots of people um well i say lots of people let’s just put me in that box too where we say okay god um i’m wondering if i should do such and such and then you kind of go like this with your bible and then you open it and you go i’m going to read this verse right here have you ever done that i might have done that once or twice now i’m not saying that god can’t speak to you that way i’m just saying that there’s a better way because that’s a passive way of interacting with scripture the same thing is true of devotionals which i want you to keep doing so don’t hear that but devotionals are a passive way of interacting with scripture because they’re not scripture themselves now what david is describing here is a very active relationship with the word of god listen to the words that he uses the first thing that he says here after calling the words of god wonderful is that he says in verse 130 the unfolding of your words not the reading not the listening but the unfolding unfolding denotes something very active very intentional very purposeful you’re digging into it right you’re not just sitting and reading it but you’re engaging with it but i think our real answer comes in verse 131 and 131 says this i open my mouth and pant longing for your commands now i can tell you that there have been a few seasons in my life where i’ve actually truly felt this about scripture but only a few and i wish i could tell you that every day i wake up and i felt exactly as david put here on paper that i wake up anticipating that time anticipating god’s word but that is what we are called to in relationship with god remember how we began talking about how i felt about disneyland and then my baking show and and how some people feel about football and then how we feel at the beginning of relationships this hope this joy this anticipation of meeting of seeing each other of getting to know each other you just can’t wait and that’s what david is describing here this active engagement and if you look at what the rest of david says you could see why david is so excited why david is opening his mouth and panting why david is longing to engage with the word of god because when david engages with the word of god this is what david gets david gets mercy david gets direction david gets redemption david is empowered to obey david gets instruction and david feels the light of god’s face shine upon him did you hear that mercy and empowerment and direction and redemption this light of god’s face now if you knew that every time you encountered scripture you were going to be engaging with that kind of force would you not be a little bit more excited would you not go to bed at night not being able to wait till you woke up the next morning and open scripture to see what god had waiting for you but you and i are so stinking practical with our scripture we open it up and we want to say okay well i read my verse for today check or we open it up and we say i have a question and i need you to answer it today and that’s just really what i need you to do thank you very much and if you don’t have an answer for me well then i’m disappointed or we open it up and then we feel a little bit lost and out of control and then we feel overwhelmed by it and so we just kind of push it aside because we don’t know what to do with it the world that we live in has made us such action-oriented and results-oriented people that we save all our anticipation and joy and wonder for the things of this world for human relationships but what we can get through scripture is a relationship with god and what david is encouraging us here is to approach scripture to approach god’s words god’s precepts god’s laws with an active anticipation a relationship that will grow over time that every time you encounter god’s word your relationship will grow just like a love relationship that every time you get together with god you will know god better and god will know you better you will feel more known every time you reach into this word you will feel more directed because you will understand better your relationship with god you will understand these words of god better you will open this book and you will start to feel the redemption you will start to feel the empowerment you will start to feel god’s face shine upon you you see what david’s encouraging us to do is to come to god’s word with an active anticipation of god’s presence do you do that because if you did i think you couldn’t wait i think you’d pant with anticipation i think you’d rearrange your day to make sure that you got to be in this word so that you can make deeper your relationship with god so that you can encounter the light of god and i know that it will feel awkward in the beginning because that’s what it was like for me and i’ve seen people i’ve walked with people through this process in the beginning it takes us people who need something very physical very real who are used to something very physical and very real but it takes us time to understand it takes this time of actively engaging of actively anticipating in order for that change to happen but i promise you the more that you encounter scripture with an act of anticipation the more you will begin to want the more you will begin to be excited the more that your heart will begin to change i had a season in my life probably the first season in my life when i really engaged scripture i remember god calling me very specifically to stop reading books about scripture and just start reading scripture but that was scary for me i didn’t grow up in a christian home i didn’t have very many references about the bible and reading the bible all by itself was very hard for me it was confusing i didn’t understand all the words i didn’t understand all the people were but i just knew that i was supposed to try and over time it got easier over time i started to understand more about who god was but more than anything over time i started to understand my relationship with god i understood that every time i met this word i was met by god i understood what it meant that this is the living word of god and when i started to approach scripture not with the expected outcome of an answer but simply with an expected outcome of god’s presence my life began to change you know so many people want to have a moses moment where god would simply just show up in a burning bush and tell them exactly what they need to know moses didn’t have scripture like we have you and i get to have unfettered relationship with god anytime we want to and as that relationship grows the intimacy that comes out of relationship becomes the light in our darkness it becomes the thing that lights our path it becomes the thing that helps the spirit show us what is the right way and what is the wrong way it helps us be able to discern god from the rest of the mess inside of us it helps our flesh to fade away in the spirit to shine through us this world is full of darkness this world is full of answers empty answers and when it’s dark and you are searching for answers that matter that will lead you to life and happiness and joy what is promised to us is that we can find them in scripture and i don’t know what you’re searching for today i don’t know what answers you need today but i know that if you engage in scripture that if you come to scripture with an active anticipation of an experience with god you’re going to receive it and that the more that you do that the more you will experience of god and the brighter the light will get that you will receive mercy that you will receive direction that you will receive empowerment that you will see receive redemption every time you encounter god’s word it’s a promise and it’s available to us as children of god and if you haven’t accepted christ into your life yet i ask you again why are you waiting because i promise you there’s nothing in this world that can lead you to the place that you’re meant to be other than god other than a relationship with god and god loves you god loves you so much that god sent his son to save you all you simply have to do is accept jesus’s work on the cross for you to to repent of your sin and i love to help you do that so that you can engage this word and receive the fullness of the light available in it for all of us i ask what are we waiting for why are we wasting our time and all of our anticipation and all of our wonder on the things of this world when the most wonderful thing available to us is right here waiting waiting to give us light in the middle of a dark and dingy world let us pray god i ask you to please guide us to understand what wonder is and what it means to be in relationship with you and what active anticipation of your word means god every time we approach your word help us to feel your presence your real presence teach us what a relationship with you looks like teach us how that relationship changes us molds us guides us teach us may your face shine upon us lord it’s in the name of jesus we pray amen

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