Grace to Die and to Live

I have only recently begun to enjoy the benefits of reading Scripture aloud while sitting alone. There have been numerous times that I have thought, “I never knew it said that…” Psalm 119 has also been a longtime favorite portion of Scripture for me, but this was my first time to read the whole thing aloud in one sitting. I found myself thinking at least three things as I read, and I continue pondering them now.

First, my soul felt deep conviction every time I read “…with my whole heart…”

I know that Christ’s summary of God’s law is a preeminent love for God with the “whole” or undivided heart, but I have long understood that my heart was wholly devoted only before I became a Christian and that devotion was not in the category of ‘love for God.’ Upon deep reflection, I am not sure there is a single second of my experience when I have wholly sought God, kept His law, or observed His precepts. Even at my best moments of truly seeking, keeping, and observing, I remain fully able to relate to the ‘wretched man’ of Romans 7. I find a true heart in me (thanks be to God), but still a divided one.

Second, my heart longed to swim in the delight of the psalmist… the delight found only in the presence of God, which is experienced in and through His word.

I recall fleeting moments of this delight, temporary indulgences in the sweet joy of God’s imminence. Oh, I know that He is always near, but there have been those times when I have come to the end of myself, times of utter despair with regards to temporal securities, and the awareness of God’s faithful presence has been so palpable that I lose all but love and joy and peace and contentment in Him. These memories were the longing of my heart as I read about the psalmist’s delight. I too delight in God, find joy in His promises, experience safety under His precepts, and long to feel the soul-invigorating nearness of presence.

Third, my resolve was inflamed among the flickering repetition of the psalmist’s own commitment.

I will meditate…” and “I have chosen…” and “I cling…” and “I hasten…” and “I incline my heart…” These are the words of one who has set his mind on conforming his will, and this is no dispassionate task. What determination must a man have to rail against his own will?! Only those who have set themselves on such a course will know of its ominous and arduous path. And yet, this is the call of every Christ-follower – take up your cross and die… lose yourself… put away your old self… and deny yourself. These are the demands of the highest call, and these are the promises of the One who is faithful to enable, to enliven, and to bring such a transformation to completion.

May God forgive and correct my divided affections; may He make me aware of His nearness; may He grant me grace to die and grace to live.


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