There are certain things you are not supposed to do if you are a Christian. Sin, that list of forbidden things a Christian cannot do. Other people do them. They seem to enjoy it. They even talk about how much fun they had. As it is so often said, “How can something that feels so good be wrong?” But many people see these restrictions as zapping the fun right out of life. Some people avoid the whole issue by not becoming a Christian saying, ”You only live once! Right?” Others attempt to pursue the best of both worlds with a workaround approach. I will discuss the workaround approaches and then I will share a little-known secret to serving God without cumbersome restrictions.
The Work Around Approaches
The first work-around is the “God will forgive me” approach. It is nothing new and is employed by many people. In Old Testament times it seems people who committed a sin simply made a sacrifice for it. This did not seem like a huge problem for them because they could easily make a sacrifice to God for forgiveness. The sacrifice made it all right with God, it seemed. This work-around is easier yet for the Christian. It is a simple trip to confession with a priest, or for those who do not have a priest, a quick prayer asking God to forgive them of their sin will do. Either way it seems to take care of their sins and they are forgiven, and all is okay with God. OneRepublic’s song Love Runs Out brings out the sentiment of the “God will forgive me” work-around:
My momma raised me good, momma raised me right.
Momma said, "Do what you want, say prayers at night",
And I'm saying them, cause I'm so devout.
'Til the love runs out, 'til the love runs out, yeah.
But God does not want sacrifices for willful sins. He does not want such prayers either. He wants obedience. “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6) NASB95. See also Psalm 40:6, Proverbs 21:3, Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7, and Hebrews 10:5,8.
Another kind of attempted workaround is the “Almost Sinning” or “not quite sinning” workaround where a person imagines a line they can get as close to it as they want without sinning as long as they do not cross the line. To get close to the line is to enjoy as much of the world as possible without sinning. This is good in theory and looks good on paper but, there is a problem with it. People who push God as far as they can and try to get away with flirting with sin do not put the line in the right place. Their line is not where God puts the line. Maybe at first, but the line gradually drifts farther from where God puts the line and farther into sinning. Eventually, when they think they are barely skirting God’s line dividing the acceptable from the sinful, they in all reality are well within the devil’s territory. All the while it is where God puts the line is all that matters.
The Failure of the apporaches
These workarounds just do not agree with God. Not only does God see all and know all, but He also knows what is in our heart and that is where the workarounds fail. These workaround approaches are not for the Christian or even for a person considering Christianity. Now, are you ready for that “little-known secret approach to serving God without cumbersome restrictions.” One finds the secret in Psalms 37:3-5. I will focus on verse four first.
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:4)
When I think of “delight,” I see my children when they are excited about something that they must tell me about. Their eyes brightened as their face radiates their delight. I follow their expressions and embellished gestures as they tell their story. Then they end with a big smile and say, “And that makes me so happy.”
To delight in the Lord is to allow adoration and appreciation of God flood ourselves such that it makes us “so happy”, and it spills out into the rest of our lives. Our spirit finds a vitality when we worship and praise God, love and adore Him from our hearts. That is when we discover delight in the Lord.
When we delight in the Lord, things on the forbidden side of the line that once looked so attractive will lose their luster because we do not want to offend the Lord. Our own desires change to align with God’s desire for us and sin is no longer appealing. Our former desire to “not miss out” on the things of the world that are sinful turns into a desire to “not miss out” on the things of God. The formerly dreaded restrictions on the Christian life are no longer cumbersome. Instead, they become a blessing because our desire is for God rather than the forbidden fruit. Our desire for God becomes a protective hedge keeping us near Him and away from sin. This desire stems from our delight in the Lord.
It may sound well and good to delight in the Lord but how does one delight in the Lord? Psalm 37:3 and Psalm 37:5 speak of trusting the Lord and doing good, committing our ways to the Lord, dwelling in the land, and cultivating faithfulness. These go along with delighting in the Lord. These things hinge on the three regular fundamental activities of Christianity. These are prayer, understanding the Bible, and having fellowship with other believers.
Psalm 37:3 begins with “Trust in the Lord and do good.” If we think of the parent-child relationship, we see that the parent knows what is best for the child; yet the child must choose to trust the parent. Just as this often becomes difficult for teenagers, we too can have difficulty trusting God to know what is best for us. The word “good,” in this verse refers to what is morally good. Which is what God wants for us, for He says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44) NASB95. The first step is to trust God to know what is best for us and live a moral life loving God. To trust God is to have faith in Him. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” Romans 10:17 NASB95. We must study our Bibles to grow our faith in God.
Secondly it says, “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” Originally written to the Israelites where God’s people lived according to His law as a nation, dwelling in the land referred to the land of Israel. Today’s counterpart for the Christian might be a Bible believing church where one attends regularly, and the people of the church cultivates a faithfulness to God’s word within each other. Within the church is also where we can gain Bible knowledge which helps us to be faithful to God as we apply this knowledge in our lives. A person should also habitually study the Bible on their own, but we also need the church community. We do not know how to be faithful to God without knowing God’s will for us as found in the Bible.
Thirdly it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord” which is what we are working on right now. This is followed by a fourth command, “Commit your way to the Lord.” Sometimes people realize they are not giving God His proper place in their lives. They lament how they need to get closer to God. Really, a person is either for God or against God rather than close or far away from Him. What they mean to say is that they need to make their commitment to God more resolute. They want a stronger commitment to God. A person achieves this through building greater faith through regular personal prayer. This is time spent alone with God in Prayer. People who pray tend to live out what they believe. Those who don’t, don’t.
Delighting in the Lord comes through a combination of things we receive through the habits of Christian fellowship at church, personal prayer, and Bible study. Our relationship with the Lord will fall into place if we focus on these things. Our desires will change to the point that we no longer want any of things forbidden by those former restrictions. The restrictions no longer restrict us anymore because we do not want those things. Our desire is for the Lord and we are satisfied with our delight in the Lord and the things of God. A person should examine their heart if they feel restricted in their Christian life. Then strive to delight in the Lord.