Thursday, January 4, 2018

Following God

Many of us are looking to the future and what lies ahead in 2018. Some make resolutions, some set goals, while others do what the always do and try to wing it. I do not make resolutions. I tried it for years but after a few weeks - or a few months if I work hard at it - the resolutions are forgotten. For the last few years I have been setting goals rather than making resolutions. This year one of my goals is to follow closer to God. Over the years our Christian walk has continued to grow deeper and stronger, but there is always room for improvement. The other day Psalm 15 provided some insight into how we can grow deeper in our walk with Christ.
Psalm 15:1-5 (NKJV) LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

Living in relationship with God and under His protection does not mean everything will turn out the way we want. There is not one hero of the Bible that led a life without trial and tribulation, but there is a way to live in His will under His covering and have a close personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe.  Psalm 15 asks and answers two questions, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?”
How can we abide in His tabernacle and live in His Holy hill. First I wish to dispel the concept that the psalmist is referring to going to heaven when we die. There is a tendency to spiritualize scripture which actually applies to our everyday lives. At the time the Psalms were written, eternal life and heaven was not universally accepted by the Jewish people. The Hebrew word that is translated as “Tabernacle” refers to the Holy place where God dwelt while the Jews were out in the desert. But the word has a deeper meaning as a tent or covering. While only the priests could enter the tabernacle, you and I have the opportunity to live our lives under the covering and protection of God. The Psalmist is asking the question, “Who can receive this covering and protection?” His next question is worded differently but has a similar meaning, “Who can stay on Your Holy Hill” The Hebrew word “qodesh har” refers to a sacred high place as opposed to a common or profane place. The bible refers to the holiness of God not only to the mystery of his power, but also to his character as totally good and entirely without evil. Holy objects therefore are those with no moral pollution. They are not merely dedicated, but dedicated to what is good and kept from what is evil.
So what does this mean to you and me in twenty first century America? Too many Christians have adopted the Antinomian attitude that they can do anything they want and still live under God’s protection and maintain an intimate relationship with the Lord. Many so-called Christian business people, politicians, and even clergy act in ways which are contrary to God’s will and still believe they are due God’s blessings.
Psalm 15 provides great insight into what it takes to live under God’s umbrella [tent, tabernacle, etc.] of protection and have that close personal relationship.
1.         Walk blamelessly. Whenever we sin we create a hole in the Lord’s umbrella of protection. Be careful of what you do or say so that there would be no cause for others to condemn your actions. There may be times when you are blamed for things over which you have no control, but be careful of the consequences of your actions.
2.         Do right things. It is not enough to not sin nor commit wrong acts, you must to right things. Remember, it is more important to do right than to be right. Be just in all your thoughts and actions.
3.         Speak the truth from the heart. It is easy to stretch the truth to impress someone or to cover up something we do not want others to know, but speak truth from the heart. But what if your wife asks, “Does this dress make me look too fat?” Try to avoid
4.         Do not slander. Do not tell false things about others.
5.         Do not do wrong to your neighbor. Instead always to the next right thing. Actually we are commanded to not do wrong things to others, but especially not our neighbors. Our neighbors may be anyone we know in our community.
6.         Do not make disparaging remarks about others.
7.         Despise evil, but honor those who fear the Lord.
8.         Keep your promises even when it hurts to do so.
9.         Lend money without exorbitant interest. You may collect modest interest on money you loan to others, but do not take advantage of their situation.
10.       Do not take a bribe against the innocent. There are times when it may be to our personal gain to blame someone else for something in which they are innocent. That would be taking a bribe.

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