Saturday, January 16, 2016

Living life before God

Because today is the sixteenth day of the year, I am going to offer brief thoughts on the sixteenth psalm. Today's psalm concerns the devotion and dedication of the servant of the Lord. In a way, it is a portrait of the consciousness and thought of someone whose life is utterly surrendered to God in every way. The opening lines speak of the psalmist's total dependence upon God:

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
  I have no good apart from you."

The ending of the psalm speaks to the confidence that the psalmist has in God's faithfulness, after all is said and done:

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
  my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
  or let your faithful one see the Pit.

Of course, Peter references this passage in his sermon on Pentecost: Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day (Acts 2.29). The true Faithful One who did not see the Pit, whose life was not given up to Sheol forever, is Jesus Christ. In light of this, it might be helpful to read Ps 16 as describing the inner life and devotion of Jesus to his Father.

We see the devotion of the psalmist in Christ's life as we read the gospels. Especially significant for me are these verses:

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
  in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the LORD always before me;
  because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

The life of Christ is one of tireless devotion to God and service to other people. How is this possible? How can we begin to appropriate that example in our own lives? It seems to me the answer is found in these verses: to keep the LORD before our mind always, and to follow his counsel.

When Christ was tempted in the desert, he responded to the challenges thrown his way by the Devil through the scriptures. Citing from Deuteronomy, he reminded himself of the direction and guidance which God gave his people in his law, and so was able to see things clearly in spite of the temptation. And in John, Christ says that I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak (John 12.49). In everything, he always is guided by the Father, and keeps the commandment and the love of the Father before his mind.  He says that the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing (5.20), and this is what keeps him going in everything.

As I have suggested implicitly in recent postings, much of our spiritual life comes down to our thought and our consciousness: what do we think, what do we believe, what is before our minds as we go throughout our day? This awareness will guide our actions and will shape our characters. That's why Paul speaks about being transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom 12.2). We should think like the psalmist and Christ: I keep the LORD always before me.

Living our lives coram Deo, in the sight of God, with a consciousness of God in what we do, will form us and shape us into Christ.

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