• Introduction: There is always a curiosity on what to do in life.  But particularly at the beginning of a new year, the question is now what?  What changes need to be made to improve life?
    • In the message given the first Sunday of 2021[1], it was mentioned that pundits and commentators on television from both sides of the aisle thought 2020 was a bad year. It was difficult to tell whether 2021 would be worse or better than 2020.  People now wonder the same about 2022 relative to 2021.
      • When this sort of uncertainty happens, some people look to horoscopes for advice.  Horoscopes are usually “narrowed down” to an individual based upon the portion of the year in which they were born.  I guess some people really desperate for advice may nonetheless read all twelve horoscopes and pick the best one. ☹
      • Others seek out financial planners.  That’s probably not a bad idea given the huge rate of inflation we experienced throughout 2021 with no end in sight for 2022.
    • The reality is God’s word is the only place for real answers to all questions about life.  The forecast particularly for our eternal life in Christ is everything good.
      • After all, our Lord is the creator and giver of life.  One of the Old Testament (OT) writers, Nehemiah, wrote by inspiration - “You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their lights, The earth and everything that is on it, The seas and everything that is in them. You give life to all of them, And the heavenly lights bow down before You[2]. Doesn’t it make sense to go to the manufacturer in order to get advice on how to operate the machinery?
      • The Psalmody we read and confessed together a few moments ago is the inspiration for our message on today.  Psalm 119 is an acrostic, meaning that groups of passages start with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The passage of Ps 119 I refer to as letter “m”, points out from where we gain understanding which will be useful in navigating through life in 2022 and beyond (Ps 119:97-104). 
  • Let Us Pray: O Holy Spirit, You came into our soul through baptism.  To this day, You instruct us in wisdom, understanding, counsel or purpose, strength, knowledge, godliness, and fear of the power and authority of the Triune God (Isa 11:2-3).  Today’s Psalmody provided instruction toward understanding that we so desperately need to survive and act as the King’s kids.  Please be present and inspire us to learn from the Word, who like You was sent by the Father to save us from the corruption of sin we have inflicted upon this Age.  Inspire us now as we explore the Word of Psalm 119 now and throughout 2022.  We entrust this petition to You, Holy Spirit, who reigns with the Father and the Son, one God, now and throughout eternity. Amen.
  • Things to do in ‘22: At the risk of sounding like one of those self-help authors who provide for their future by telling people what they need to do to succeed in life, I will spend the next several moments reviewing each verse of Ps 119m. I will take them out of order from the way they are presented as part of the Hebrew letter, Mām[3], because we will explore the verses topically starting with the instruction our Lord provided to us in His word on what to do in ’22.  I will quote each verse from the NASB20 version of the Bible[4], with one exception, verse 104[5].  The verses will sound slightly different from what we read together earlier on today, so you may want to follow along with the outline printed on the back cover of your bulletin.
    • We begin with verse 101I have restrained my feet from every evil way, so that I may keep Your word.
      • There is a Lutheran doctrine known as 3rd use of the Law.  To recall, the Law from God’s word is what God expects of us. There are three ways in which to classify and use the Law portion of God’s word.  The Law is a curb in the sense that we keep our behavior within the straight and narrow as some have said in the past.  We do this because we don’t want to get punished by earthly authorities. We speed down the road past a police car and the punishment is a ticket and an associated fine.  That threat keeps us holding closely to the posted speed limit.
      • A 2nd use of the Law is a mirror.  Any time we look into our soul and honestly assess whether we are a sinner, is an example of the Law being used as a mirror.  We look into the mirror at the start of each church service here at Christus Rex, when we confess that we have not kept the Law of God perfectly.
      • The 3rd use of the Law serves as a guide on how to live as one of the King’s kids.  You might ask, doesn’t the 1st use of the Law already do that?  The difference is the 3rd use of the Law is because we want to do things which are pleasing to God as opposed to following the Law so we don’t get into trouble.  Listen to instruction King Solomon wrote in the Book of Proverbs - 20 My son, comply with the commandment of your father, And do not ignore the teaching of your mother; 21 Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk to you[6]. King Solomon exhorted the reader of Proverbs to follow the Lord’s commandments taught by parents so that the offspring would live a life guided by God’s word.  Solomon’s writing here is an example of 3rd use of the Law just like Ps 119:101.  There are benefits of having a constant guide throughout life in order to avoid the minefields of hazards that await everyone due to the corruption of sin in this Age.
    • Next from Ps 119m - 102I have not turned aside from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me.  The Psalmist confessed that God Himself had taught the lessons on life.
      • We have clarification from our Epistle reading for today on how that would be possible.  I repeat Eph 1:13 – In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of the promise…[7]  The Holy Spirit continues to instruct us ever since our baptism, because we were sealed in Him as a sort of deposit to guarantee our inheritance of eternal life in heaven.  The only way an adopted child of God will miss out on entering into heaven is denial of the Holy Spirit’s continued testimony that we are a sinner, and that Jesus came to save us from our sins.  In other words, our free ticket into heaven is already in our possession. We can screw it up, but the screw up would be anyone denying Jesus is Lord.  The denial won’t be God’s fault if it happens that way in our future.
    • My quote of Ps 119:104 is from an original translation of the Greek - 104From Your commandments I got understanding. Therefore, this I hated - every unrighteous way - because You instructed me.
      • A portion of the recipe for success in 2022 is recognizing there are two (2) paths in life.  We can follow God’s word.  Or we can rebel and go in the opposite direction.  The Apostle Paul cut to the chase on this concept with something he wrote to the Galatians - For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want[8]
        • The Holy Spirit continually speaks to us in our soul.  This is in addition to being born with a sense of right & wrong, because our original parents ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.  Listening to the Holy Spirit will provide understanding. Along with understanding of God’s will, we get to the point of hating all unrighteous ways of life as the Psalmist observed.
        • The alternative to listening to the Holy Spirit is rebelling in the flesh against the Word.  I don’t advise trying this, but if you continually tell the Holy Spirit to talk to the hand when confronted with your sins and sinfulness, He will eventually throw up His hands and say, far be it from me to force you to follow Jesus.
          • I’ve seen a lot of people in the Pima County Jail who decided to do life on their own terms and even ignore knowledge of good & evil.  There are some people who no longer have a conscience because of repeatedly ignoring God’s word and the testimony about Christ by the Holy Spirit.  I will advise you – don’t go there.  It doesn’t end well for your eternal life.
  • Three (3) examples of being equipped by the Lord: So far, we’ve had three “ingredients” from Ps 119m which served as guidance for 2022. There are three examples in this same portion of Ps 119 on what it looks like to be equipped by the Lord through His word.
    • The first example is from verse 98 - 98Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine.
      • The mention of enemies brings to mind an interesting contrast. God’s people seek to bring salvation from sin to those who are slaves to sin.  In His first sermon after being baptized, Jesus read from Isaiah 61 - The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD anointed me To bring good news to the humble; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim release to captives And freedom to prisoners[9]…  Did Jesus mean just those held in prison or by an invading army?  No! Jesus later on in His 3yr earthly ministry noted 34 …, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin[10].  However, the whole point of Jesus’ coming in this world as a baby and live a human life, was so that He could complete the release of the captives to sin, death, and the devil.  If Jesus set mankind free from sin, it is assured those who confess Him are really free (John 8:34-36).  The ministry of the church is to now proclaim the liberty we have in Christ.  A person who is converted from sin and slavery is a Christian when they confess their sins and acknowledge Jesus as Lord.
      • Contrast that with God’s enemies who seek to eliminate God’s people. There are Jesus-haters in the world. And since they hate Him, they also hate us who follow Him.  Our enemies are everywhere as the Apostle Paul wrote about - 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places[11].  That’s a pretty tough bunch of haters.  But with the understanding the Lord provides to us, we are wiser than these enemies.
    • Through instruction from the Lord, we possess more understanding than those who are our earthly teachers.  From verse 99 - 99I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.


 

 

  • Ever since the Scopes Monkey Trial of the 1925[12], it has been acceptable to teach various theories of mankind evolving from lower life forms.  What is easier to believe? That humans evolved over the course of millions of years from mutations, or that God created everything? Mutations of something are weaker than that from which they mutated.  We see this with the Delta and now Omicron variants of Covid19. Contrast this with instruction from the Lord in addition to the six-day account of the creation of the world and all that is in it - ‘See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can save anyone from My hand[13].  To me, it is a lot easier to have faith in the simple explanation there is a God so powerful that He created the heavens and earth and all that is in them in six, 24hr days.  There are a tremendous number of dependencies and wild theories with no evidence one must accept in order to have faith in whatever the latest theory of evolution states.
    • And lastly, another benefit of instruction from the Lord is - 100I understand more than those who are old, because I have complied with Your precepts.
      • Is it true that he who dies with the most toys wins?  That was bumper-sticker wisdom I remember seeing in the 1980’s.  A lot of people who believed that are now elderly.  Maybe we should ask the rich man of whom Jesus referred to in a parable recorded in Luke ch#16 that I’m not so sure is just a parable.  The rich man died and saw Father Abraham holding a man named Lazarus.  The rich man looked over from hell to see this, and wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers of impending doom.  A child of God is instructed to place a higher value on the wealth of having a good name with family and friends rather than on financial wealth. Family and friends who confess Jesus become treasures in heaven.  Corrupted gold and silver from this Age will not be found in heaven.
  • Recipe for 2022 from Ps 119m: There are two (2) remaining verses from the Psalmody that complete our recipe for good spiritual health in 2022.
    • The Psalmody started with 97How I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day.
      • Let’s resolve in ’22 to grow in understanding through regularly reading the Lord’s word.  In the OT reading for today, King Solomon started his reign over a united Israel when he was around 20yrs old.  When God asked Solomon, “Ask what I shall give you[14]”, Solomon asked for discernment in understanding good from bad in ruling the people of Israel (1Ki 3:9).  This request of Solomon is something we should emulate 3,000yrs later.  It is difficult to understand good from bad when the dominant media of today reveres the opposite of what God calls good.  We must do something regularly to have the truth in our life.
    • We can’t grow in understanding of God’s word without regularly reading His word.  It is my sincere prayer for everyone of Christus Rex to enjoy the same pleasure with God’s word as the Psalmist wrote - 103How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
      • During Advent there were a couple sermons which indicated the life of a Christian can suck sometimes.  And yet, the Lord will make life easier than it would otherwise be when you put trust in Him above all things.  Listen to what King Solomon wrote sometime after asking for discernment and understanding - Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight[15]
      • Don’t think that the Lord rewards because we are such great people. Blessings do not come to us in a quid-pro-quo relationship.  Blessings come to us out of the Lord’s great mercy, and the integrity He has with regard to promises He made through His word (Ps 109:21).  Yes indeed, a recipe for a good 2022 is to seek understanding from the Lord.  Amen.

[1] Complete message found on-line at https://www.christusrexlutheran.org/2021-sundays-after-christmas

[2] Neh 9:6 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/neh/9/1/s_422001

[3] Pronunciation obtained from the Greek, μημ, as found at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/119/1/p0/t_conc_597097

[4] All quotes from Ps 119m are found at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+119&version=NASB

[5] The exception being Ps 119:104 which is an original translation from the LXX 118:104 found at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/119/1/p0/t_conc_597104

[6] Pro 6:20-22 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=pro+6&version=NASB

[7] Eph 1:13 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/eph/1/1/s_1098001

[8] Gal 5:17 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/gal/5/1/s_1096001

[9] Isa 61:1 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/61/1/s_740001

[10] John 8:34 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/8/1/s_1005001

[11] Eph 6:12 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/eph/6/1/s_1103001

[12] Learn more at https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1100/scopes-monkey-trial

[13] Deu 32:39 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/deu/32/1/s_185001

[14] Portion of 1Ki3:5 from ESV at https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/1ki/3/1/s_294001

[15] Pro 3:5-6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=pro+3&version=NASB