“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. . .I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
One day when a group of Pharisees were following Jesus and the disciples around in hopes of catching them doing something wrong so they could discredit them, they noticed that the group was not performing the special washing rituals prior to eating that were prescribed in the Talmud. They pounced.
Jesus and the disciples were guilty of breaking the Law and were ceremonially unclean they argued. Jesus immediately fired back that what goes into a person from the outside cannot make you unclean. Rather, the things that make a person unclean are already on the inside, in the heart.
What this means for us is that we need to guard what has access to our hearts. Our hearts are like a well of water that feeds the rest of our souls. Everything is watered by what is found there. If there is junk at the source, the only thing that is going to come out of us is junk. I like to think about it like this: What do you get when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste? A big glob of toothpaste. Why? Because that’s what’s on the inside.
In the same way, what do you get when you put a person in an emotional or relational or spiritual or financial squeeze? You get a big glob of whatever happens to be on the inside. If there is sweetness and life, that’s what you’ll get. Those kinds of folks are not merely cool under pressure, they’re gracious beyond words. They are almost more pleasant to be around when things aren’t going well than when they are. If, on the other hand, there is various kinds of junk in a person’s heart, that is what’s going to come out in the pressure situations of life.
So, how do we control or change what’s at our own source? By doing exactly what the psalmist proclaims here. If we want good stuff to come out of us when things get tough, we have to actively put good stuff in us so we have something from which to draw. On our own, our well is polluted from the start because of sin. The antidote to sin is God’s Word. The more of it we can get inside of us the better. When our well is filled to the brim with the Scriptures and the life found within them, when we go to draw from it, we will only find good stuff. We don’t be able to find the sin that used to be there because it will have been drowned out by the Scriptures.
How do we do this? Well, reading things like this is a good place to start. More importantly than that, though, is spending time in the Scriptures every single day. Find a good reading plan, stick with it until you finish it, then start another one. Use your physical Bible if you prefer that. Use an electronic tool like the YouVersion Bible App that I use if you prefer that. Read both for depth and for breadth. Read big chunks at a time, but also read little bits and spend more time meditating on what you find there. Keep a journal nearby to jot down your thoughts if you are a writer. Don’t be afraid to write in the margins. When you have them, ask questions of people who can help you find the answers. Some Bible apps have a function that allows you to listen to the text. Do that some too.
More than even all of this, memorize the text. Aim to memorize a verse per week each week. When that becomes easy, increase to two. Try to memorize whole chapters. Hide God’s word in little pockets all over your heart. Hide it in obvious places, but also in the corners that sometimes get missed. Cover your heart with the Word so that your well is filled with the riches that are found within it. When you do this, you will find the life of righteousness something entirely more manageable than you will without it.