Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Quake-proofing - Part 17

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24, NASB

Psalm 119

Early in 1995 an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale struck the oil town of Neftegorsk on the island of Sakhalin, off the Pacific coast of Russia. Blocks of five-story apartment buildings collapsed, crushing hundreds of people. Of the 3,000 people who lived in the town, about 2,000 were killed.

Shoddy Soviet engineering contributed to the destruction. Although earthquakes are common in the region, the buildings in Neftegorsk were not built to withstand earthquakes. Because budget cuts had closed five of the island’s six seismic stations, the city received no early warning. “We live from earthquake to earthquake,” said Aleksei Nikolayev, director of the Center for Seismology and Engineering in Moscow. “Until something happens, no one does anything about it.”

Today we can do a great deal to prepare for these geologic disruptions. We know how to build buildings that can withstand earthquakes. We have instruments that can detect signs of an approaching quake. But Neftegorsk did not use this knowledge. The city failed to prepare, and when the earthquake hit, the city was caught off guard.

In the same way that communities can prepare for the cataclysm of earthquakes, we can prepare for the catastrophe of moral earthquakes. We can build upon sturdy foundations — solid enough to withstand the worst disturbances imaginable. We can ensure the safety of those around us. We can quakeproof our lives simply by following the prescriptives of wise living outlined in the Scriptures.

X marks

The question is posed, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” (Psalm 119:9, NASB). At first blush, we might answer rather negatively. After all, we live in the midst of a culture that is literally wracked with seismic disturbances of monumental proportions.

More than one million teenagers will run away from home this year in America, many of them because of physical or sexual abuse in the home. This is America at the dawning of a new century: one out of every ten teenage girls will get pregnant this year; half of all marriages will end in divorce, leaving hundreds of thousands of teenagers fearful of making commitments themselves later in life; and before the year is through, half a million teenagers will attempt suicide.

The present generation faces an entirely different culture than the one in which their parents were raised. Our teenagers today are involved in a culture that is dragging them constantly down into a moral abyss. Young people beginning careers today are facing pressures they have never known before. It is a transition time for them. Others are leaving home for the first time, going off to college. They will be faced with increasing challenges: no one to check on them, living in coeducational dorms, no curfews, roommates — some with very different moral values — and all sorts of things taking place in the halls of their dormitories.

Other teenagers are entering high school or junior high for the first time. They will be faced with increasing pressures of wanting to be accepted, wanting to find their place and trying to fit in with a world that has gone mad.

So the question the psalmist poses is as startlingly relevant today as when it was first penned, “How can we keep pure?” And the answer to that question is certainly no less urgent today than it was then.

Nuts and bolts

The first word of the question how is typical of youth. It is a good question. How can I survive adolescence? How can I make it through these college years and stay pure in morals, pure in mind and pure in my motives? How can I make it through this transitional change into this career while surrounded by temptations I never really knew existed? How can I make it through these teenage years when my body keeps changing, and I feel so dumb and insecure and hurt? How?

In the midst of all, God’s Word speaks poignantly. The psalmist thus answers, “By taking heed according to your Word.” He continues:

With my whole heart I have sought You;

Oh, let me not wander from your commandments!

Your word have I hidden in my heart,

That I might not sin against You.

Blessed are you, O Lord!

Teach me Your statutes.

With my lips I have declared

All the judgments of Your mouth.

I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,

As much as in all riches.

I will meditate on Your precepts,

And contemplate on Your ways.

I will delight myself in Your statutes;

I will not forget Your word (Ps. 119:10–16).

Young people and young adults are engaged in the most promiscuous culture known to the Western world, right here in America. Several factors come into play. The first is an element of intimidation. We have raised a generation in a public education system which has intimidated them intellectually into a belief in relativism — into accepting the absurd notion that everything is relative, that there are no moral absolutes. This intellectually indefensible position has given rise to all sorts of things, such as coeducational dorms.

For example, a preacher and his wife were sending their daughter to a school in the East. When they took her there to check into the dorm, they discovered it was coeducational. However, there was one floor that was reserved for only girls. Relieved, they were going to place her there until the dorm mother said, “Unless she’s a lesbian, she doesn’t want to be on this floor, because this floor is made up of lesbians.” So she moved to a coeducational floor.

This is the way it is on many college campuses around America. There are few moral absolutes anymore. How can we keep pure in a culture that is telling our young people that no one can stay pure? It teaches them sex education from the time they are knee high, speaks very little — if any — about abstinence and hands out condoms in secondary schools. How can we keep pure in a culture that keeps telling us we can’t?

Well, it’s not true. Young people can stay pure, and many do. The greatest gift young persons can give to their future husbands or wives is their own moral purity.

Isolation is another problem in today’s culture. The urbanization of America, the move to the cities, has brought anonymity and loneliness. You’d think it would be just the opposite, but it is not. No one knows who you are, no one knows where you go, no one knows what you do, no one knows what you watch and no one cares. You are away from those who care. Many children come home to houses that are empty after school. They sit in front of the television set and watch talk shows that are filled with degradation and blatant sexual talk.

Third, there exists an element of the counterfeit. It is all over this culture. There exists a lot of imitation role models, especially of families in our culture. They are called “families,” but it is really a facade. One example is the “family” of a fourteen-year-old young man named Peter. His parents divorced when he was six years old. He lives with his mom, but spends weekends with his dad. He hates it because his dad’s new girlfriend doesn’t like him. Time with his mom is strained, too. She remarried when he was nine; she had another little boy who is now four, then divorced again. Peter and his little half-brother get along well, but his half-brother is gone a lot visiting his dad. Peter’s mom married a third time, and her new husband has two teenage kids who push Peter around and treat him badly. His mom and dad fight a lot on the phone — mostly over child support payments. His dad thinks they are too high; Peter says that makes him feel rotten and worthless. He notes that his daddy had money last year to buy a new sports car. He wonders if his dad really loves him, because he seems more interested in his new girlfriend. That’s Peter’s family. The name is the same — family — yet it is a hollow corrupted version of the word.

Fourth, there is the element of information — false information. The media has a negative influence on moral values. Recently, the front page of my hometown newspaper carried a big story on “a new kind of family,” about two gay men and two lesbians who wanted to have children through artificial insemination, and they did. Then in the “Metro” section there was another big article on the gay lifestyle and the acceptability of it. In the “Today” section of the same paper, another article advocated the acceptance of the gay lifestyle. It is overwhelming and morally wrong.

Lastly, there is the element of inculcation — impressing something upon the mind through repetitive, frequent repetition. Young people today are bombarded by advertising that tells them a hundred times a day that illicit sex is normal, that it ought to be the center of their lives. Consumerism teaches them to find satisfaction and hope in materialism and self-indulgence.

When many parents were teenagers, the moral climate was drastically different. They didn’t have to deal with intimidation and relativism — the Ten Commandments were on the wall of public school classrooms. There were moral absolutes. They didn’t have to deal with isolation. Everyone knew their neighbors. On my block we knew who lived next door to us. We knew almost everybody. In fact, if one kid did something wrong, the neighbors would take care of it, and his dad would thank them for it later.

It is a challenging world out there. So the question is, “How can a young man keep his way pure?”

According to the psalmist, in the midst of all these cultural challenges, we have but one chance: to center our lives in the Word of God. First of all, he says to keep the Word of God in your head. Know the Word. Second, he says to keep the Word of God in your heart. Stow the Word. Hide it there. Third, he says to keep the Word of God in your life. Show the Word by heeding the Word. Fourth, he says keep it on your lips and sow the Word with your mouth.

Know the Word

God’s Word is a stable rock which we must use to support us. It is our foundation. We can keep ourselves pure. In your head, know the Word. “Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes” (Ps. 119:12). It is difficult for the Bible to impact your life if you know little about it. In school, you are taught information and then comes a test. If you don’t know the material, you fail the test and eventually the course. The same is true of a football team. Each team member learns all the plays. If a player doesn’t know the playbook, he won’t know where he’s supposed to go when the ball is snapped. He will be out of step, affect the whole team and lose the game.

It is the same with the Word of God. The most important book in anyone’s educational experience is the Bible, but it will do you little good if you don’t study it. A lot of believers say they love the Word but never study or learn it. How can you keep yourself pure? By saying, “Lord, teach me your statutes.” In our head, we must know the Word. In the average church, if the preacher were to say, “Let’s turn to Hezekiah,” many people would start hunting, flipping through the pages. They wouldn’t find it; it’s not in there.

Every time we study the Bible we ought to pray with the psalmist, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). To fully understand God’s Word, we need spiritual help. The Bible is a foreign language without the Holy Spirit’s interpretation. We need to ask, “Lord, open my eyes this morning, that I will see wondrous things from your Word.” Indeed, “Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89). 

Some young people go to college where professors scoff at what the individual learned in church since nursery days. They are told, even in many so-called Christian colleges, that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are not historical. They are told that, at best, Jonah is an allegory. Yet long after those skeptics are gone, the Word of God will still stand true. As Isaiah proclaimed, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isa. 40:8).

There will be times when those going off to college may feel lonely, burdened and rejected. During such times they may be tempted to go out with the wrong crowd and do things they shouldn’t. Let those be times when, as the psalmist says, “When I was afflicted, it was good for me, for then I learned your statutes.” Make up your mind that not a day is going to go by in your life that you don’t expose your mind to the Word of God. How can a young person keep himself pure? In your head, know the Word of God.

By heart

Stow the Word of God in your heart. The psalmist said it well: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You (Ps. 119:11).

And again, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways” (Ps. 119:15).

It’s not enough to keep the Word in your head. You need to store it in your heart — memorize it, then meditate on it. Do you remember the instruction God gave Joshua? “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Josh. 1:8).

Some of us are crossing over into a new land, like Joshua. And if that advice is good for those going into Canaan, it is certainly good for those going into college, those going into careers and for all of us who wish to quakeproof our lives.

Meditate on the Word of God. Going over and over the Word deepens its impression. It is like a tune that we can’t get out of our minds. Imagine what would happen if we couldn’t get Scripture out of our heads. What would be the effect if we memorized Scripture daily? What would our witness be like if we always carried a Scripture memory card in our pocket?

Why not try this? For one month, stow the Word of God in your life. How? Take the Book of Proverbs and read through one chapter each morning. Thirty-one days in the month, thirty-one chapters in Proverbs. Whatever the day is you start reading, you start on that chapter. Keep it correlated with the day of the month, then you’ll always know what chapter you’re in. It will take five to ten minutes each morning. As you read that chapter, ask God to give you one verse to memorize. Write it down on a card and keep it in your pocket. Then when you’re eating breakfast, take it out, read it and then put it back in your pocket. When you’re at a stoplight, take it out, read it again and put it in your pocket again. Do this as often as you can throughout the day. Meditate on it all day long. What will happen if you keep doing this all day with one verse? You will know it by heart. Then the next time temptation beckons, you will be prepared: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You (Ps. 119:11).

Why should we memorize Scripture? “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Ps. 119:114).

When you memorize God’s Word, it becomes a hiding place for you. And as we live each day in the fallen world, each one of us is going to need a hiding place in some way or another. The psalmist says, “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me (Ps. 119:30).

We must make a choice to know God’s Word. It doesn’t come easy; it takes discipline. Yet if we want to keep ourselves pure, we must know the Word in our heads and stow the Word in our hearts.

Of course, there will be distractions, reasons why we should put off our Scripture reading. Plan for those times. Make an appointment with God each morning and don’t break it — no matter what.

Remaining pure is a choice that we have to make. Daniel made that choice. It says that he purposed in his heart not to eat the king’s meat. The psalmist made that choice: With my whole heart I have sought you; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments (Ps. 119:10).

We must choose to build upon the solid rock of God’s word. Nothing else is truly stable.

Our solid foundation

If we base our lives on the ideas of our culture, we are like rock riddled with cracks, faults and fractures. The rock crumbles under new pressures. It will not stand the test of time or the beating of the waves. The house built on that rock will fall, as if it were on sand. Yet if we build upon the Word of God, our house will stand forever. It rests on that solid faultless rock. Nothing the world has to offer measures up to this precious, infallible and inerrant Word.

Moral soundings

  • How much time do you spend each day in the Word?
  • Do you spend more time absorbing the ways of this world than in the Bible?
  • Do you know the Word — do you aspire to thoroughly study it from cover to cover?
  • Do you regularly memorize the Word?
  • Are you building your house on the rock or on the shifting sand?
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Learn more about Mission:Dignity.