The Code: Who?

“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” (Psalm 15:1)

Psalm 15 is not just about discovering the code to living unshakable lives; it’s about something much deeper. It answers the questions in today’s verse – what kind of life does God want from us?

sand_350God dealt differently with his people then. God’s place on earth was in the tabernacle (or sanctuary) on Zion, Jerusalem, God’s “holy hill.” David was asking what it takes to be worthy to come before God and worship him, to be his guest, to spend time with him.

Of course, those of us in Christ understand that nobody is worthy of living with God forever because of our sin. We must first be forgiven through faith in Jesus to be granted a spot in the eternal choir of worshippers in the new Zion. But David’s questions still matter to us.

How do worshippers of God live? What’s their code? What choices of ours does God really care about?

Think: Does it matter to God how Christians live now if we’ve already been forgiven for our sin through faith in Jesus?

Pray: Ask God to give you a deep passion to be a person of everyday integrity.

Do: Look up the definitions of “character” and “integrity” in an online dictionary. Copy and paste them into an e-mail and send it to yourself.

The Code: Do Good Not Bad

“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous . . .” (Psalm 15:1-2)

David begins to answer his own question about the kind of lives God-worshipping people lead. And the answer seems a little too obvious at first glance: Don’t do bad and do good. Be “blameless” and do “what is righteous.” Right.

sand_350But think about it. To be blameless has to do with your reputation with your friends and family. How do the people in your your neighborhood or church think of you? Sincere God-worshippers should not be known as liars or people who disrespect others regularly. That doesn’t fit the image of someone who “lives with God.”

But it’s not enough to just be the guy or girl who never does anything wrong. I know lots of Christians that define “living for God” by all the nasty things they don’t do. That’s not living! That’s just sitting around. People who live for – and with – God are people who do things that can be called good.

Think: None of us is perfectly blameless or righteous, yet. What are some blame-worthy things you need to start punting from your life? What are some good things you can find to do more of?

Pray: Ask God to help you want to bring him glory by living a blameless, good-doing life.

Do: Ask someone you trust and who also trusts Jesus if there’s anything obvious in your life that is “blameable.” If you’re still feeling bold after that, ask if he or she has noticed any of the good things you’ve been doing.

The Code: Character Assasins

“. . . who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman . . .” (Psalm 15:2-3)

In describing his code for how God-worshippers should live, David starts to get more specific with today’s verse. “With God” kind of people don’t tell lies. Specifically, they don’t tell lies to hurt other people. Or to put it in the positive, as David did, they “speak the truth from” their hearts.

sand_350It’s not just about not lying. David says that a person of character refuses to join in attacking someone else’s character. He will not make up stories to make someone look bad. His code leaves zero options for tearing others down to build himself up. He just will not throw mud that might damage someone’s reputation.

Often that means just keeping our mouths shut. But speaking truth from our hearts requires talking. The key is that our hearts have to be full of genuine care for the people in our lives. Once we get the anger out of our hearts, we’ll be ready to talk to and about our friends and neighbors in helpful ways – truthfully.

Think: People talk about others all the time. What do you think about the character of someone who is constantly saying hurtful things about other people?

Pray: Ask God to fill your heart with real compassion for your family members, friends, and neighbors – and for that compassion to come out in the words you say about them.

Do: Make a little score card to carry with you today. Give yourself a point one way or the other depending on whether you say something positive or negative about another person. At the end of the day, see which side wins.

The Code: Good Hate?

“. . . who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD . . .” (Psalm 15:4)

Wait a minute! Didn’t David just write that part of this God-woshipper’s code was not to be hurtful to people, to carry compassion in our hearts and speak it with our mouths? Yes, that’s what I heard, too. So how does he turn around and say we should “despise” the bad guys?

sand_350The context here is important. David is not saying we should walk around with bitterness and resentment in our hearts toward anyone who does something wrong. He’s talking about what you will do with your own personal influence. In David’s time, people would give their loyalty and allegiance to a leader based on what he could do for them.

But what if that leader is a “vile man” who worships false idols, who participates in human sacrifice, who takes advantage of people for his personal gain? A God-worshipper should not give his “stamp of approval” to that person, even if it will make life easier for him. A “with God” person points his friends and neighbors to other God-honoring people.

Think: How are you using the power of your influence? What people, TV shows, and bands do you officially “approve”? Do you honor people of character or people who openly do wrong without caring about the consequences?

Pray: Ask God to help you use any influence you have to promote people who honor him.

Do: Make a list of the top ten leaders, entertainment, and books you “approve of” with your friends. Put a check mark by the ones that demonstrate respect for God.

The Code: Painful Promises

“. . . who keeps his oath even when it hurts . . .” (Psalm 15:4)

We’re getting back to where we started this week. Today’s piece of the code for a man or woman who would be welcome in God’s house is often included in the codes of cowboys and TV mob guys and superheroes. “A man’s word is his bond.” “If I said it, I’ll do it.” In an action movie, sometimes the hero even dies keeping a hard promise.

sand_350Keeping your word still matters in our culture. And in David’s world, an oath was a huge deal. Taking an oath was a way of making a contract, a promise beyond just agreeing to do something. God’s Law made it a sin to willfully break even a thoughtless oath. (See Leviticus 5:4) Jesus told people not to take oaths. Just have so much integrity that your “yes” and “no” stand on their own. (Matthew 5:37)

Sometimes keeping our word costs a lot more than we thought it would. Sometimes we have less time or money than we hoped when it’s time to pay up on a promise. David and Jesus say that should be our problem. Don’t promise easy. And be willing to suffer the pain of keeping those promises.

Think: How often do you say you’ll do something – and then not do it? Why do you think that’s so common in our culture? What can you do about it?

Pray: Ask God to help you to become known as a person who does what you say you’ll do. Ask him to help you to be willing to suffer for that character quality.

Do: If you want to get an idea for how good you are at keeping your word, try this. Ask a couple of close friends or family members to rate you on a scale between 1 and 10 for this question: When you say you’re going to do something, how confident are they that you’ll actually do it?

The Code: Used People

“. . . who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.” (Psalm 15:5)

The last item on David’s list of character qualities for an unshakable life is this: Don’t use people for your own advantage. Innocent people. Broke people. Desperate people. They’re not meant to be chess pieces on the game boards of our lives to be manipulated to get ourselves ahead.

sand_350I know. Who does that except for rich oil barons and corporate execs and bad movie villains? Well, honestly, we all do it a little, don’t we? You might not make high-interest loans to people who can’t get money at a fair price. (That’s what usury is.) And you might not take a bribe from a corrupt business person to allow needy people to be mistreated. That’s true.

But I’ve seen lots of people make friends with someone hungry for a friend just to get something from them. I’ve seen socially desperate people used and mocked and ignored and avoided because they might bring another person’s status down a notch. That goes against the code. That’s lousy character.

Think: What are other ways you’ve seen desperate people get used or mistreated in everyday life?

Pray: Ask God to help you be a defender of people who are easy to take advantage of.

Do: Think of one lonely or broke or desperate person you could help out today.

The Code: Unshakable

“He who does these things will never be shaken.” (Psalm 15:5)

Old West gunfighters. Mafia and martial arts guys on TV and in movies. Marines. All these guy’s guys are said to live their lives by a code. They don’t always do good things – and sometimes they do evil things – but they’re famous for honoring some kind of code for what’s okay and what’s not.

sand_350In Psalm 15, King David of Israel describes a code to live by. It’s not the Ten Commandments; it’s not the Law. In 5 short verses, he describes a life code to live by that accomplishes two things: First and most important, it’s the life God wants to see in his people. The second result of following the code pops up in the last sentence, today’s verse: “He who does these things will never be shaken.”

The boring word I’m trying not to use here is “character.” A person of character lives by a code of right and wrong, doing things that please God and skipping those that don’t. Even in the worst moments of life, that code tells him or her how to live in a way that is not worthless.

John Holt put it this way: “The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don’t know what to do.”

Think: Is it necessarily noble to live by a code if it’s the wrong code? How do we know a good code from a worthless one?

Pray: Ask God to help you want to be a person of character. Ask him to help you live in a way that pleases him.

Do: Write down one or two Do’s and Dont’s you would include if you were building your own code for life.