How do I know I am in God's will? That is the question really at the heart of a prayer searching for guidance and deliverance.
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*not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript*
MY CHRISTMAS LIST
PART ONE: PRAYER FOR GUIDANCE AND DELIVERANCE
This is the time of year that one question gets repeated over and over to you. Especially if you are a kid. “What do you want for Christmas?” Those asking are wanting you to provide a list of the items you are wanting that will make you happy. Nothing wrong with that. They care about you, and you ask them because you care.
However, as I have gotten older my Christmas list has changed dramatically. And as I have come to know Jesus, I realize he is more than an eight-pound six ounce infant baby wearing golden fleece diapers lying in a manger. So, my Christmas list has become more of a prayer list. Through this advent season, I hope this list will become your list as well.
In our text week, the Psalmist has written a prayer to God. My NRSV has the heading “Prayer for guidance and deliverance” over this section. To me this is a prayer that will reveal God’s will to us, and how to know if we are following His will.
READING THE TEXT: Psalm 25:1-10
1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. 3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. 4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD! 8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. (NRSV)
This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.
IN THE TEXT:
Verse 10 tells us, “All paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness.” This means that no matter what path you take if your faith is in Jesus you can never be outside the will of God. All the pathways that are based in him are good and trustworthy. I know this is a wild statement, and some of you are looking to see if you have Dr. Powell’s phone number to report me. But hear me out. As we dig in, and if I am faithful in presenting this to you, you will understand what I mean when I say, “if your faith is in Jesus you can never be outside the will of God.”
How is that statement true? For starters, notice I did read all of verse 10 to you, only the first bit. The second half says, “…for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.” That brings us to the questions, what is his covenant? What are his decrees?
In verse 8, the Psalmist acknowledges that God is “good and upright.” He goes on to explain that God is open to teaching sinners like the Psalmist, you and me, about His laws and covenant. But notice what verse 9 says, “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” We must be open to learning what God is teaching us. So what does it mean to be humble, or open to learning from God?
Throughout this text, the Psalmist has been defining what it means to be humble to us. They begin by writing, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust.” (verses 1-2). When the world around the Psalmist goes dark, where does he turn? He turns to hope. Who is his hope? God. This is more than a cute little Sunday School phrase, but a life’s commitment. His trust in God is so great, all this man’s hope are placed in this one Person. Part one of being humble is this kind of trust in God.
“Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” (Verses 4-5) When living in hope becomes your lifestyle, then it opens your eyes to how deeply you need God in your life. Rather than toss up an empty, foxhole prayer, the Psalmist passionately pleads with God to lead him to truth and teach it to him. The Psalmist desires for his heart to beat in rhythm with God’s, and a desire like that leaves no room for the old life. Nazarene theologian, WT Purkiser put it this way, “Human life cannot be lived in a vacuum. The ways of evil can be displaced only as the ways of the Lord are embraced.” To allow God’s holiness to consume you and become your lifestyle is to abandon whatever is false for what is true. Part one of being humble is trust in God, part two is pursuing God.
Holy living and trusting God are great, essential to being humble. But to trust fully in God, you must learn to trust Him above yourself. To live a holy life means you must recognize your inability to so on your own. The Psalmist knows that about himself, so he writes, “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me.” (verse 7) When he says, “do no remember the sins of my youth,” the Psalmist is asking God to forgive his thoughtless actions that went against God’s law, those habits that always miss the mark that is God’s will. But the Psalmist does not stop there, he goes to mention his moral rebellion. These are the actions where he knew what God’s law said, but intentionally did the opposite. Regardless, the Psalmist believed God’s grace was sufficient to show mercy toward both. Part one of being humble is trust in God, two is pursuing God, and the last one is being repentant to God. Realizing you fall short and need His grace to make up the difference.
FROM THE TEXT:
What is verse 10 saying to us? “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness.” As long we have faith in Jesus, no matter what path we take it will not be outside the will of God.” The word translated “paths” is referring to “tracks” or “ruts” made by the wheels of wagons passing over the same ground. (Adam Clarke) God’s ways are always good, true, and part of His loving kindness. When we are humble, trusting in God, pursuing God, and repentant toward God, that is seeking to align our tracks with His tracks.
Notice the second half of this verse, it is very important in connecting my claim with verse 10. “For those who keep his covenant and his decrees.” Our responsibility in our relationship with God is to trust Him, pursue Him, and be repentant toward Him. If our heart is full of His Holy Spirit, and we are seeking to align our tracks with God’s tracks, do you believe that His Spirit will allow you to go outside the will of God unchallenged? If you heart is truly seeking to align your tracks with God’s tracks, when challenged by the Holy Spirit you will be obedient to His leading. Even if that means you need to repent. You and I respond to God in humility, that is our responsibility. God is faithful to His end of the deal, and will respond with grace and mercy.
If you want “all the paths of the Lord” that are “steadfast love and faithfulness,” to know that the path you are on will not lead you outside the will of God, then you must trust in God. Not a fluffy prayer, but make a life commitment to place all your hope in God and His Holy Spirit living within you. Then live in that hope. Living in that is being humble, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead you and challenge you. When you are challenged, it is to see that God is renewing a broken pattern in your mind or correcting moral rebellion in you. And responding in repentance to His challenge.
BEYOND THE TEXT:
How do I know I am in the will of God? When I accept my need of Him and live in that acceptance.
Season 1 Episode 33, "Most important question." The text for the message is from Mark 8:27-30, part 1 of a series called The Son of Man. The question we are trying to answer is "What is the most important question?"