How happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk according to the Lord’s instruction! Happy are those who keep his decrees and seek him with all their heart. – Psalm 119:1-2 (CSB)
What brings happiness? Acquiring more stuff? Getting the promotion? Having lots of friends? Having kids that obey? Those bring a type of happiness. But none of them lead to true and lasting happiness. Any one of these could be gone in an instant taking with it our happiness. David understood that real happiness – the kind that is with us regardless of our circumstances – is found elsewhere. It’s found when we surrender ourselves to God and walk in obediene to his commands. When we do that, we discover that holiness is the path to happiness.
“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand.” (Psalm 130:3 ESV)
We naturally overestimate our own goodness. We minimize our sins and instinctively magnify the sins of others. We arrogantly claim in both word and deed that we know better than God. Worse, we scoff at the notion that a loving God would call us to live in ways that are at odds with what we want and how we feel. Were it not for the indescribable mercy of God, we would all be doomed. Yet there is hope.
“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:4 ESV emphasis mine)
When you owe a debt that can’t be paid and you receive forgiveness, the natural response is humility, reverence, and awe. You don’t look for loopholes. You don’t pretend you know better. You don’t take advantage of the situation. You seek to do the will of the one you have offended. You follow him even when it doesn’t make sense or it goes against what you feel. Forgiveness fuels a life of holiness. It leads us to say, “yes” when we want to say, “but.”
One of the hallmarks of conservative Evangelicalism is its commitment to interpret Scripture according to it’s plain meaning whenever possible. I believe in this hermeneutic and try to employ it during my own study. But I have a confession to make – I don’t often live by it. I don’t think I’m along either.
Have you thought about the implications of applying the Bible at face value? The call to holy living is undeniable. The standard it sets is unattainable. No one can consistently practice every command. Unless, of course, someone else is actually empowering and enabling you. Maybe we all need grace in measures beyond our wildest imaginations.