A Response, Not a Religion

On vacation and with no schedule . . . so doing double readings in my daily plan fit pretty well. As a result it creates a little bit of a different dynamic as I work my way through Psalm 119. Rather than reading single 8-verse stanzas each day, now I’m combining two. And this morning the 16 verses I read caught my attention because of their “bookends.”

Deal bountifully with Your servant,
that I may live and keep Your word.
. . .
I will run in the way of Your commandments
when You enlarge My heart!

(Psalm 119:17, 32 ESV)

I have a friend who often reminds those around him that Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship. True enough. But this morning I’m reminded that it’s also a response.

Religion would rewrite the songwriters opening line, “I live and keep Your word, Lord, so deal bountifully with Your servant.” I perform, You reward. I obey, so You owe. I’ll try to be good for You, in hope that You’ll pour out some of Your goodness on me.

But this morning these bookends remind me that a master owes his servant nothing. Nor are we as the Master’s servants capable of stepping it up apart from His help.

Thus our plea, “Deal bountifully!” No legal claim hear, only an appeal to unmerited favor. As Spurgeon says, “Let my wage be according to Thy goodness, and not according to my merit. Reward me according to the largeness of Thy liberality, and not according to the scantiness of my service.”

Don’t hold back, Lord, on Your benefits. The blessings with which we have been blessed in Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3), let them be poured out afresh! Not because of who we are, but only because of who You are.

Enlarge my heart! Make room for Yourself amidst the clutter of self that tends to build up. Open wide to Yourself what has a tendency toward being ensnared by the world. Claim again as Your own what is often distracted with idols. Make broad the inner man–the mind, the heart, my soul, my strength–to receive Your word.

And then, in response, I will seek to walk in a manner worthy of Your calling (Eph. 4:1). I will desire to keep Your word as You enable me. And I will run the race as You empower me.

Though, within the bookends, I may know scorn and contempt (119:22), though my soul, at times, clings to the dust and melts away for sorrow (119:25, 28), when You deal with me according to Your steadfast love, then my soul will return to its rest and my lips will sing again of Your praise.

Oh, the burden of religion. The weight of having to gut it out before the Almighty in some disillusioned, desperate hope that, if we can do enough, then He will make known to us His presence.

But when His presence is first known, when His Spirit testifies again to our spirit of the promise, then, instead of the burden of religion, there is the blessedness of response. Of loving Him because He first loved us. Of keeping His word through the abundance of His grace. Of running the race because He has made ready our heart and straight our path.

Response . . . not religion. Is that the way of life and life to the full? I’m thinkin’ . . .

Also thinking I might like doing double portions in Psalm 119 over the next few days.

All by His grace. All for His glory!

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One Response to A Response, Not a Religion

  1. Hi Pete,
    Good to hear you are in Hawaii (one of the two states I haven’t been in yet). Your breakfast reminded me of the properity Gospel and a funny article I read this morning. Here is the link if you have a moment. http://babylonbee.com/news/bee-explains-prosperity-gospel/
    Prayers & Blessings,
    Bob

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