A Census of the Soul



Last night I was reading Psalm 40. Anytime I read this particular Psalm I can’t help but think of the group U2. They sing a song called “40” which is on their 1983 album, War. The song, appropriately titled, is a modification of Psalm 40. Consequently, I started humming the tune as I continued to read.

You can listen to it below.

While reading the Psalm, verses 9-10 caught my attention:

I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

As I read this I pictured the Psalmist, David, making a case for himself before God. I see him bowing humbly before Almighty God while pouring out his heart. In the previous verses David has already acknowledged that God had heard his cry and raised him up from the muddy pit of despair. He recognizes his own sin and God’s goodness. He now says, in essence, “God I stand for you. I haven’t made my belief in you a secret. In fact, it’s plain for everyone to see. You are my salvation, and I want everyone to know your love and truth. I will be counted as one who belongs to you.”

I continued to think about the boldness with which David shared his faith even as I read through to the end of the Psalm. Finishing up I searched the front of my Bible for a bookmark to hold my place and came across our unopened 2010 Census Form. As I held it in my hands I considered the millions of people who would be filling out this same form (reluctantly or otherwise) in the coming days in an effort to be counted.


Governments everywhere demand an accounting of individual citizens for varied reasons including representation, taxes, and provision of public services. In the New Testament we read that the census is what brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

Believe me – this is not an effort to give you warm fuzzies about filling out your census form. The truth is there is another far more important census taking place. It’s not a questionnaire that you need to fill out or a blog post you need to respond to. It is a census that takes an accounting of each heart. It asks, “Where do you stand? What do you believe, and who do you live for?” These questions are a great deal more personal that the ones you will be marking down on a black and white piece of paper.

But in contrast to the frustration we might feel toward our own government and its census this heavenly kingdom that deals with our hearts is governed by God and has eternal benefits and consequences. We must all decide for ourselves if we will stand up and be counted as a citizen of this kingdom.

Hebrews tells us that this is not an optional census. One day we will each give an account of our lives:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 
God created everything we see. Nothing that we have done or will do comes as a surprise to him. He knows our weaknesses before we even begin to list them. So even though we will give an accounting, we won’t measure up to God’s perfect standard without giving our hearts and lives to Jesus and accepting his sacrifice for our sins.

Whether we choose to live for Jesus or not Paul tells us in Philipians 2:10-11:

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 
In Revelation John writes:

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

 
This passage speaks of events that will occur in the future. It references every part of creation giving praise to God. The U2 video here demonstrates that people have a desire to worship and will give their praise to someone or something. Regardless of the other things we choose to give our attention to here on earth eventually we will all bow before Jesus.

The question at hand is, “Are we willing to stand up and be counted for Christ now – at home, at school, and at work?” The decision we make here establishes where we will spend eternity. David determined that he would stand and proclaim God’s salvation and truth to everyone within earshot. How will you respond?

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  • T Mackenzie

    I don’t mean this in a bitter way, but can think of only one way to say it: Words are cheap.

    (And, may I also say that sometimes I find David to be more full of himself, than full of God? Not that I am unsympathetic or immune to that frame of mind!)

    Evangelism to me means less ‘proclaiming’ and ‘testifying’ and using words to persuade, convert and change than it does ACTION. Christian actions are far more important and have more immediate impact on our world than mere words.

    It’s not the noise you make, it’s what you DO as a Christian that makes a difference. You could remain entirely silent, in fact, and accomplish more, grow closer to God, and persuade others more effectively through active love than anything mere words can do.

    I’m seeing a lot of noisy Christians out there these days that seem more focused on the rules and regulations of everyone else’s life (and the rules and regulations of their Church and government) than love through action. Is this not the direction to which Christ tries to turn us?

    Frankly, it doesn’t really matter what the rules are of any governing body, good,bad, religious or secular. . .it’s what you do, period.

    To paraphrase St. Theresa: “God Save Us From Noisy Christians!”

    • http://www.jps-jive.blogspot.com JP Murie

      Thanks for you comment.

      I agree that noise for noise sake is a bad idea, and Christians should use words wisely. Words can be cheap, but are not always. The question raised here is not a political one. It is one that deals directly with a person’s relationship with God. When confronted with Jesus and the sacrifice he made – what will each of us decide? Who will you follow? When given an opportunity to stand for Jesus or deny him what will we do?

      Certainly a Christian’s most important witness is through actions, but that will at some point be accompanied by words. Throughout the Bible we see the two working together – even in the life of David.

      We’ve always been dependent upon words passed from generation to generation. There were even a few times in the Old Testament when the people were dependant on the words written in the scrolls because the previous generations had not demonstrated their faith in word or action.

      The two should work together to demonstrate truth and love while bringing glory to God.

  • T Mackenzie

    I can see that I just skipped a few stones over the wider, deeper river you presented.

    I missed the heart of your piece and headed right to the stomach! Got it now. . .

    And now to correctly quote Theresa: “God Save Us From Gloomy Saints!”

    Me being one of those today, so sorry.

    • http://www.jps-jive.blogspot.com JP Murie

      I hadn’t heard that quote before. Thanks for sharing it. I guess we all fall into that category now and then.