Have you ever noticed how different at times the Bible is from the way that you think or act? This happened to me the other day as I was thinking about Psalm 119. The writer(s) of this psalm say things like: “My soul is crushed with longing for Your ordinances at all times,” and “Your statutes are my songs.” When is the last time that you could describe yourself as “crushed with longing” after the commands of God in the Bible? Have you been humming any tunes that have to do with the lists of do’s and don’ts in the Old and New Testaments?
I haven’t either, but we simply cannot stop here at the point of self-realization. We must press into this vast divergence and find out what God is trying to say. So, what could the Lord be trying to show us? What does He want to change? I believe that He is desires to refocus our focus.
Maybe this example will help. Three and half years ago, I got married, and it was awesome. Leading up to that day, all I could think about was how wonderful it was going to be spending the rest of my life with my wife. All the dreams, the chances to experience life with her were constantly in my thoughts. Since we exchanged vows and rings, we have been seeking out the plans that God has for us. We have had good times and hard times, but we still are overwhelmed at the gift of marriage.
Notice what my focus was and is in terms of my marriage. I constantly look to the opportunity that marriage grants me. When considering my marriage, I would never focus on the obligations of marriage. What if I responded to my wife with things like this: “Well, I have to love you because I told you that I would when we got married, so…” and, “The Bible told me that I have to treat you kindly, be enthralled with your love, and submit to you, so I will do it because I have to.” Her knees would really be knocking, wouldn’t they?
How absurd it is to focus on the obligations of marriage instead of the opportunities of marriage! Why would anyone do this? Yet, as Christians, we get these mixed up all the time. All we do is set our sights on the rules of the Bible instead of the relationship offered through the Bible with Jesus. We think obedience is about right and wrong, where it is actually about having opportunities to know God more.
Please realize that both obligations and opportunities are important in the Christian life. I have no intentions of convincing anyone that the obedience to the commands the Bible is not essential. However, I do want to express the need to have the right focus concerning obligations. And I believe that the correct way to view them is by focusing on the opportunities created by the obligations.
The obligations of the Bible given to every Christian are not just to “keep us in check.” They are designed to create the opportunity to be in real relationship with Christ. I do not treat my wife the way the Bible tell me to and the way that I vowed to in order to do my duties; I treat her with respect and kindness so that I can maintain and mature our intimate relationship. My focus is on the relationship as I fulfill the obligations.
So, the difference between us and the writer(s) of Psalm 119 is focus. The proper focus should be on the relationship with Jesus created by the fulfillment of the obligations. As the Lord shifts our focus, we will begin to see the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the Bible as the creative agents which produce occasions of intimate fellowship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
May you and I be crushed with longing after the ordinances of God because we have our focus set upon the opportunities for personal fellowship with Jesus. May we sing our songs of joy because as we obey, our hearts are opened to our God.
[Clay Kirkland lives in Athens, Ga. His wife and he both are associate directors at the UGA Wesley Foundation, a campus ministry. His wife is also in grad school studying community counseling, and Clay is pursuing a masters in Christian Leadership from Asbury Theological Seminary via virtual campus.]