Psalm 119:1

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Puritan Board Freshman
Could someone give me some practical advice on how someone sets out to live according to the Word of God.

Doesn’t this imply that we must first learn the “law of the LORD” before we are able to obey it?

Is it a day-by-day learning/obeying cycle?

Where would you begin?

I know for some these are simple, even childish questions, but I could use the help.


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
You need the Word of God dwelling richly in you. The Word and Spirit are the agent and catalyst for transformation. Desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby. Progress to the meat of the Word.

To be a follower of Jesus, you should spend time with him (in the Gospels, but also in the rest of the Word which came through him, and which he embodied). You "live" a lot like the people you grew up with, emulating parents and other role models without even thinking intentionally about it.

You should know your Lord's commands. Not only those from his own mouth, but communicated through his apostolic messengers in the NT. And understand, being eternally divine, he was pronouncing wisdom even before the Incarnation through his prophets. So, there's much truth to be gained in the OT.

The Bible teaches us first who God is, and secondly who we are or ought to be in relation to him. Godliness is "God-like-ness." But, even if you know every last relevant command in the Bible, and spend lots of energy keeping right in line with all of it as best you can, that behavior is NOT "living according to the Word of God."

Even someone living according to all the commands even the irrelevant ones isn't living according to the Word (think RHE's "year of living biblically). The reason is, living biblically isn't fundamentally a matter of law, but of grace. The commandments of God (i.e. the moral law, the 10C in summary, a relatively short expression) are where we look when we need a reminder what "love of God" and "love of neighbor" looks like in real terms, in tangible ways. And sin, of course, is our failure to so love God and others as our Lord demands.

The NT Epistles are quite rich with things to be believed, accompanied by duties that flow or follow from the faith we acquire or profess. If we will order our lives so that we take divine counsel before other inputs, believe God, and ask him for grace to obey and serve him and his loved ones--then we will be "living according to the Word." Through his Word and Spirit, God reshapes our character so that we will be disciples, and like our Master.

The Christian life is one of daily (sometimes hourly) faith and repentance. Every step toward God is a step of repentance from dead works. We only know the direction God is from where we are through attending on his Word. Be not hearers of the Word only, but doers.

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
We obey God's law chiefly because we first hear, answer, and obey his gospel.

I don't wish to make too much of the law/gospel distinction, but when asking where we begin in obeying God, the distinction is helpful. We don't begin by studying what God says to do and then determining to do it. Rather, we begin by hearing the good news of salvation in Christ and embracing him with joy. That is what compels us to learn still more and obey robustly.

This is not a one-time event, but an ongoing and foundational habit. We cling daily to Christ and the fulness of all he offers in the gospel.
* This way we gain the comfort that we are forgiven and counted righteous, which allows us to look deeply into God's law without ending up in despair.
* This way we gain love for our God who first loved us, making us eager to obey him with the purest of motives.
* This way we gain the sense of belonging that makes us glad to be living up to our status as children of our Father, serving him freely, joyfully, and with honor as sons rather than as slaves.
* This way we gain confidence that by the Spirit in us we can successfully fight sin, which encourages us to study and follow even the most challenging parts of God's law.
* This way we gain the hope of heaven, which makes us desire to live as heaven-bound children already today.

So begin by drawing near to Jesus, always. Start daily with prayer, a basic act of faith in your Savior. Ask for his help, reminding yourself of his constant love for you, and get to know him in the Scriptures. Obedience is not chiefly a performance for God, but an outworking of his grace in you. "Abide in me, and I in you," Jesus said. "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Where would you begin?

Hi Derik,

There's some sound advice for you above.

I know that what follows may not seem to be the help you requested. But since you ask, "Where would you begin?" I have a comment or two on the heart of the Psalm's author.
The author is thought to be King David, and in my opinion, it sounds a lot like things I know about David's life. David, a man after God's own heart, (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) was a true saint —and a sinner. Think of what it means to be a man after God's own heart as we look at Psalm 119 and several other Psalms of David.

In the first three verses, David pronounces a blessing on a group of the Godly he refers to as "they." David doesn't know these people for they are an idealized fiction. They don't exist. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

Psalm 119:1-3
1 Blessed are they that are perfect in the way,
Who walk in the law of Jehovah.
2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, That seek him with the whole heart.
3 Yea, they do no unrighteousness;
They walk in his ways.​

Then David's thoughts turn from fiction to reality as he considers his own fallen heart.

Psalm 119:5-6
5 Oh that my ways were established
To observe thy statutes!
6 Then shall I not be put to shame,
When I have respect unto all thy commandments.​

David often lamented his transgressions against the Lord. His was indeed a life of faith and repentance. Here are a few examples:

Psalms 39:8
Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.​

Psalms 51:1,3
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.​

Psalm 38:1-6 (see the whole Psalm)
1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.​

So Derik, where would you begin to learn the Law of God?

Begin by agreeing with God that in you (that is, in the flesh) dwelleth no good thing. (Romans 7:18) Then make much of the love and grace of God "Who hath delivered [you] from the power of darkness, and hath translated [you] into the kingdom of his dear Son." (Colossians 1:13) Accept the fact that by nature, your heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." (Jeremiah 17:9) Then come to God in prayer seeking the help of the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth. Pray through these and like considerations until your heart and mind is adequately affected by such thoughts. Humbly pray, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." (Psalm 119:18) Then hear God's answer to you in Scripture, "I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." (Psalms 81:10) Now you are ready to learn the Law of the Lord.
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