In the last article we considered the above-mentioned subject from the viewpoint of a question proposed by the inspired psalmist in Psalm 119: “How shall a young man cleanse his way?” This question was answered without hesitation: “By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps. 119: 9).
The question implies that the young man (and by implication the young woman) mentioned knew the awful reality of his own sinful nature. He also knew that he could not deliver himself from the power of the sins of immorality. He needed guidance from someone else whom he could follow and depend on. Only God can give the absolute answer to the question, and He does so in the word that comes from His own mouth and that is now recorded infallibly in the Holy Scriptures to be the guide of His redeemed people.
Ideally, covenant young people are taught from early childhood about the power and destructiveness of sin by their godly parents. They learn of this through the faithful preaching of the gospel in church and in the catechism room from good pastors entrusted to watch for their souls.
Young men and women do not yet have a lot of life experience in this ungodly world. They are not yet as deeply aware as they should be of sin’s power and destructiveness. This is the nature of youth. They easily boast of their own power to stand against sin and temptation. Their sinful nature rages with sinful passions, yet they often imagine that this is not the case. But this is their foolishness in the days of youth. They do not yet know how desperate their need is for God’s guidance in their daily lives in this evil world in which we live. They are vulnerable to the attacks of the devil who goes to and fro in the world seeking whom he may devour. While the devil may be unsuccessful in bringing some to ruin by other means, he is often successful in spoiling the beauty and glory of youth through the powerful temptations of immorality. Even strong men, according to Proverbs, are brought down to hell by the sins of immorality.
Our way necessarily leads us through an increasingly corrupt and desperately evil world as the last days are upon us. Our way includes the whole of our life, both our outward deeds and words as well as the thoughts, desires, and purposes of our hearts. As we live in the last days, the corruption of this world grows worse and worse and the instruments it has to tempt covenant youth increase and are more powerful. The outstanding example of this today is the power and accessibility of the Internet, with the graphically portrayed evil it sets before the eyes of those who enter its many dark and forbidden sites.
False teachers, even sometimes right in the church at large, are deceiving our young people by teaching them that the world is getting better and better, and that warnings about it are no longer necessary. They say that the sins of immorality are quite harmless. They say the ways of immorality offer great excitement, entertainment, and fellowship with the world.
It is urgent, then, that the young man and woman know how to cleanse his/her way. Cleansing means washing our way, making it pure and holy in the sight of the holy God. God’s purpose for His people is to make them holy even as He Himself is holy. This is a glorious, wonderful, and blessed work of God through the Spirit of Christ Jesus in our hearts. By accomplishing this work in us, God demonstrates His great love to us by delivering us from the power and destruction of sin. This is God’s final, glorious purpose for our everlasting salvation and glory. God has and does cleanse us through the exceedingly precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ shed on Calvary’s cross. According to Ephesians 5, Jesus gave Himself for His beloved church to wash and cleanse her from the corruption and defilement of sin. His final purpose is to present us spotless and holy in His own holy and glorious presence. Young people, as well as we adults, must know Christ Jesus and His saving power, and the urgency of His abiding in us and we in Him.
We need cleansing from the very beginning of our lives because we are conceived and born in sin. We need cleansing because we often are tempted by the world and often fall again into sin, sometimes even grievous sin. We need cleansing because we need to preserve our lives holy from day to day as we face the great perils of this evil world.
The purpose of the Word of God is to lead us to Christ. The Word of God nowhere teaches the false imagination that we can save ourselves through our own power and inherent wisdom. This is forever impossible. As Jesus says in John 15, “without me ye can do nothing.” Every word of Psalm 119 has as its purpose to lead us to Christ and cause us to rely completely on Him alone. To do this we must know Him and His perfect righteousness, as well as the manner of His saving work in us through His Word and Spirit operating in our hearts continually.
The young man needs to guard his way through the guidance of the Word of God. Following the instruction of the Word of God will leave the young man and young woman without doubt and confusion concerning true morality for every part of his/her life. Following the Word of God, the young man and woman will never fall. They will have the victory over sin, the devil, and the temptations of the world.
Psalm 119, as we said above, uses twenty-two synonyms for the law and Word of God. These synonyms are not to be viewed merely as repetitions or a matter of poetic style on the part of the writer. Each of the words used has its own nuance of meaning. When we study the Word of God, we must study each word carefully, and so by the Spirit of Christ we understand the depths of meaning and power of the Word of God to save us.
All of these terms have their beginning with God. The word in verse 9 emphasizes that God’s Word is the very utterance of His own mouth. Another word reminds us that the word of God is what God has decreed and established for all time. Yet another speaks of the fact that God’s Word is something established and fixed by God, and therefore will never change over time and in different cultures. Another word used in Psalm 119 speaks of God’s Word as being the absolute truth over against all the lies of worldly men and of the devil. Another one of the words tells us that the Word of God is the revelation of His own righteousness. God who is the Holy One is the God of our salvation. And He is the beginning and end of all these words used in Psalm 119. This is the amazing reason why God’s Word is the absolutely perfect guide for all of our life in the world.
We ought to take heed to this Word of God. This means that we must study it carefully, meditate on it every day, and deeply consider its meaning. It means that we must carefully think through the practical application and wisdom of the Word of God for our lives. Taking heed to the Word of God includes listening very carefully to this Word in the preaching of the gospel and in the catechism class. It means that we are interested in studying the Word of God with our fellow saints in the church of which we are part.
In order to take heed to the Word of God, every young man and every young woman should so discipline his and her personal life that they make room for regular, personal devotion times. Every believer must have regular times of earnest, prayerful study and meditation on the Word of God every day. Soon young people will be out of the home and have the responsibility of living on their own. Tragically, few among covenant young people, (as well as adults) follow such necessary discipline. In order to attain an advanced degree in science, math, or some other discipline to prepare for one’s life occupation, we need much disciplined study and tireless pursuit using our every God-given power of intellect and energy. The same kind of diligent and constant effort is required for morality and godliness.
Covenant young people must make God’s Word their own. They cannot just believe what their parents have taught them. They must make God’s Word their own belief, relying on its absolute truth. The study of the Word of God must be the never-ending, earnest, and prayerful pursuit of the Christian’s life.
Another excellent way to take heed to the Word of God is by reading solid Christian books, including doctrinal books. These, when rightly applied, will help to build a strong foundation for life. There are many worthless books churning from the presses of the world, books full of error and worldly philosophy that deceive young people. But there are also many excellent books. Look for these, and exercise the powers of your God-given intelligence to understand God’s truth. How much better this activity is than watching the immoral movies of the world and spending hours on the Internet through your mobile devices. What are you watching on these that so excites you?
Those who are weak in the knowledge of the Word of God will be easily led astray, tossed to and fro with every ‘new’ philosophy and behavior promoted by the world.
Hear the Word of the Lord:
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exerciseth loving kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight (Jer. 9: 23, 24).
Psalter #428 has an outstanding commentary on the verse from Psalm 119 we have been considering. It is in the form of an earnest prayer:
O Lord, how shall a youth preserve his way,
At every turn by vanity surrounded?
In truth, if he Thy statutes will obey,
If on Thy Word his attitudes are founded.
Thou whom I’ve sought, O let me never stray From Thy commandments, lest I be confounded.