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Well, let me begin by just saying what a pleasure it is to be with you here this morning, at Christ Covenant Church. And actually this morning I really wear a couple different hats. It’s Reformation Sunday, as you’ve already heard, and if you’re wondering what in the world is Reformation Sunday, it’s always the last Sunday in October because Reformation Sunday celebrates the nailing of the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church on October 31 by Martin Luther. And if you’ve been at Christ Covenant a while, you know that I often come as the President of RTS to preach here at Christ Covenant on Reformation Sunday and that’s a long tradition because of the great relationship between RTS and Christ Covenant.
So it’s a privilege to be here wearing that what, but also I’m wearing another hat. You’ve already heard from announcements from Kevin and last week in the bulletin that I’ll be joining the staff soon as the teacher in residence here at Christ Covenant, and although my role does not officially kick in ’til January 1, it’s great to be here now preaching the word to you, knowing that’s on its way, and my family and I have enjoyed so much being here over the last few months and look forward to many more years together as we labor in God’s Word with you.
And this morning, because it’s Reformation Sunday, there’s a particular passage of Scripture that is going to get our attention, so if you have your Bibles, let’s turn there together. Hebrews chapter 4, verses 12 through 13. Now as you’re turning there, I know that many of you are probably thinking, “Why not stay in the book of Acts?” That’s what the series has been over the last few months, and certainly we could have, but on Reformation Sunday we wanted to pick a theme that’s germane to the Reformation and also fits with the book of Acts. And in fact, that’s what is before us today in this very well-known passage about the centrality of God’s Word.
In fact, even the hymns sung so far this morning, we’ve already picked up on that theme, that God’s Word is central to everything we do in the Christian life. That is a legacy of the Protestant Reformation, and it’s also the theme of the book of Acts. The Word of God going forward and spreading throughout the world is the theme of Acts, and so this is a fitting passage for us consider today for this special Sunday.
So Hebrews chapter 4, just two verses, verses 12 through 13. Let’s listen to see what the Lord has to say to us today. Here is a word about the Word: “For the Word of God is lifting and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Amen. Let’s pray and ask God to bless this passage of Scripture today. Let’s pray together.
Lord, this is an amazing passage, a word about the Word, and Lord, it’s short and it’s sweet and we know it well, but Lord, then again we don’t really know it well. We haven’t really let it in. Lord, renew again today in our hearts a deep, abiding, profound affection for Your Word that is really, as we’ll see, an affection for You. We pray all this in Christ’s name. Amen.
Three words, three words that if you lived in the time of the Protestant Reformation, in fact, if you lived anywhere in the time of the medieval church, there’s three words you would never want to hear, and those three words are “Do you recant?” Do you recant?
I can promise you, you would never want to hear those words but it was Martin Luther, actually, who heard them. And he heard them at what might have been one of the most central, pivotal, and certainly probably the most dramatic moment of the Protestant Reformation when he was actually on trial of sorts. It was a tribunal in 1521 and it was in this particular German town and everyone was gathered and Luther was standing in the middle of this great hall and at the center of the whole thing was the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V himself, and he was surrounded by all his Imperial Guard, dressed in their best and brightest, and then surrounding them were all the highest ranking officials of the Roman Catholic Church and then surrounding them and filling the hall were all the aristocrats and princes of the nation of Germany. And then in front of Luther was a table, and laid out on that table were all his writings that they had collected, his works on all sorts of things, his writings about the doctrine of justification, and his complaints about the doctrine of purgatory, and maybe above all of it, all his writings going after the idea of indulgences. And at that moment in that trial, someone points a finger at Martin Luther and points to the books and says those three words you never want to hear, “Do you recant?”
Now if you think about that moment, that was the moment, where you could also imagine the entire Protestant Reformation hanging in the balance, based on what one no-name monk from Wittenberg would say. And you might think what must have been going through Luther’s mind at that moment? What would this reluctant hero, thrust on the world stage, do in a moment like that?
Well, here’s where he uttered some very profound words, words that we know and have heard many times, but words that capture the theme today, words that actually explain why we have Reformation Sunday at all, words that actually explain why when you hear the message today, you can hold a Bible in your hands.
Here’s what Luther said: “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, then I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other.”
Now, in that moment, Luther in every literal sense of the word banked his life on the truth of God’s Word. Knowing he didn’t know at that point whether he’d be whisked away to prison, burned at the stake, executed. He had no idea what the future held for him, but he literally risked his entire life, banked it all, on this understanding that God’s Word is central to everything in the Christian life and reigned supreme over all.
Now, truth be told, when I, when I hear that story, I sort of put myself in the story. Now, maybe you do that, too. Maybe you would put yourself in the story like me and ask, “What would I have said?” If I were standing there, would I have been as brave as Martin Luther, to take my life and put it all on God’s Word? Are we willing to do that today in our lives?
Now, chances are none of us, in this room at least, are probably going to find ourselves in front of some tribunal, although you never know what the future holds in the United States or in the western world, but there is a sense in which we always feel a little bit on trial in our culture today for what we believe about God’s Word. There’s a sense in which people, they don’t say it this way, but look at us and say, “Are you sure you don’t really want to recant what you believe about God’s Word? Are you sure you really believe this book and all the things in it and all the crazy stories and the teachings that seem ridiculous and stories that our modern world finds offensive? Wouldn’t you really rather recant it all?”
There’s a sense in which all of us are faced with the same dilemma that Luther was faced with, which is are we going to put our entire lives, really fully on God’s Word?
Now, the audience that received this letter we just read, the letter to the Hebrews, was in a very similar situation. They had to make a decision, too, about whether they would trust fully in God’s Word and we don’t have time here to look through Hebrews chapter 3 and 4 leading up the passage that I just read, but you know the book because you’ve read it before and the message is very simple. Our author is telling the audience, “Look, don’t make the same mistake the Israelites made. They wandered through the desert and they didn’t believe God’s Word, they didn’t listen to God’s promises, they didn’t obey what God said. They took God’s Word and it went in one ear and out the other. Don’t make the same mistake they did.”
Now if you think about it for a moment, it’s rather remarkable that the Israelites doubted the word of God. Wouldn’t any people in the entire planet that had the most reasons to trust the Word of God be those exact Israelites who just saw ten amazing plagues on the Egyptians? Who just saw God do unbelievable miraculous things? Who just saw a sea parted and manna from the sky and water from a rock. Surely they would believe God’s Word easily, but they didn’t.
And it reminds us of something very important about this passage today, is that we all need to hear again why God’s Word is so central, so important, so critical, for everything we do in the Christian life.
So here’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to dive into this short passage and mercifully there’s only two verses, right? How much can be said, you might wonder, about these verses? But, when we break these down, we’re going to see that there’s really sort of three attributes of God’s Word I want you to pick up from this passage today that it lays out there and I don’t typically use alliteration in my sermon points, but I, I’ve got alliteration today, love it or hate it. We’re going to have three P’s today. Three P’s as we walk through this passage, three attributes of God’s Word that once you get these three, and you know these three, Christ Covenant, you already have these three, but once we’re reminded of these three, this is going to hopefully shore up and reassure us why God’s Word maters so much.
Let’s dive right into the very first “P” in our passage, and that is God’s Word is “personal.” God’s Word is personal. And here we come to our very first verse, verse 12. Look down there again with me. I want to pick up on this very first adjective, “For the Word of God is living.” It’s alive. There’s a person in this book that manifests Himself there.
And this first “P” is incredibly important, because I think we have a tendency in the Christian life to think of the Bible in a way totally different than that. I think we have a tendency in the Christian life to view the Bible mainly as sort of a, a book of, of information that’s true. If you want to know fact about God, well, you’ve got a Bible to tell you those facts. If you want to know data and information about what Jesus is like and what He said, well, the book can give you that. If you want to know what true doctrines are and how to think of them and how to break them down, well, the Bible is your, your source book for this, and so the Bible becomes sort of a religious encyclopedia. It sits on our shelf and when we want to know something true about God or Jesus or doctrine, well, we’ve got it right there. It’s a religious encyclopedia and I can pull it out and because we believe in inspiration and inerrancy, I know that whatever I read in the Bible is going to be true and reliable so it’s a great book of data.
Truth be told, after a while, that affects the way we view the Bible. The Bible becomes a bit stale, a bit boring, a bit lifeless, and then we begin to think something else. We begin to think, “You know what? If I really want to have a relationship with God, if I really want to encounter the Almighty, if I want to have a spiritual experience, the Bible’s not the way to do it. The Bible is just a book of information. If I want to know God, I’ve gotta bypass the Bible and go to God directly.”
But then this passage comes along in verse 12 and drops this word in here that’s remarkable and a game-changer, “For the Word of God is living.”
What do we mean when we say the Word of God is living? What we mean is that there’s a living person manifested in His Word. There’s a living person encountered in the Word when we hear it proclaimed or hear it taught. God’s living personal presence empowers His Word.
In fact, I want to read a quote from John Frame on this, actually an RTS professor. He captured it so well, and just let his sink in, because this is really a mind-blowing way of putting it. Listen to what he says: “When we encounter the Word of God, we encounter God. His Word, indeed, is His personal presence. Whenever God’s Word is spoken, read, or heard, God Himself is there.”
Now when you let that in for a moment, it is going to be mind-blowing, it’s going to be in your mind from him, you’re going to recognizable something remarkable, and that is what makes the Bible unique, what makes the Bible distinctive, what makes the Bible what it is, is not just that it’s true. Of course it’s true, of course it’s reliable, of course you can get data and information and facts there, all those things are true. But that’s not what makes the Bible utterly unique. What makes it different than any other book on the planet is you meet the living God in it.
I tell my students all the time, and this is an illustration I use with them often, I say you know, think about another book about another person, and then you’ll notice how different the Bible is. Imagine that you went into a library and you wanted to read about, say, Abraham Lincoln, and you wanted to learn all about Abraham Lincoln. You checked a book out of the library and you began to read about Lincoln and you looked at where he grew up and his personal life and his burgeoning political career, and you looked at how he, you know, engaged in the Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation and so on, you’d learn a lot of interesting data and facts and information about Abraham Lincoln, but in a book about Lincoln, here’s one thing you’ll never do is you’ll never meet him. You’ll never meet him.
But when you read the living Scriptures, you encounter God Himself in His Word.
Now if that’s true, if the Bible is a living book, then before we leave this first point, let me just draw out a few implications of that for our lives, because the implications are vast and deep and many. A few thoughts for you, implications on that first point.
First implication: If that’s true, then the Bible now is the primary means by which we fellowship with our God.
You know, I hear a lot of chitter-chatter in our world today, in our culture, where people say, “You know I love God, I’m not sure I love the Bible. I love, I think I love Jesus, but I don’t really love the Scriptures.” And they think, sort of, like “Can’t I just have a spiritualism where I, I separate the two, sort of Oprah Winfrey style, right? So can I not have sort of a direct encounter with God and I can just leave that old dusty book on the shelf and not worry about it at all.”
But when you realize what’s going on here, you realize that when you study God’s Word, when you engage God’s Word, you’re engaging God. That is the primary means by which you fellowship with Him. It’s not the only thing: There’s worship and prayer and so on, but the Scriptures, the Word of God, stands as a central means by which we fellowship with our God and that will revolutionize your devotional life.
Because when you sit down with the Word, you’re not just thinking what true information can I learn today about God, but that I am encountering the living God in as much as I encounter His Word.
Now, as a second implication of that, and that is a bit more frightening and scary implication, if, if in fact when you encounter God you encounter His Word and there is a certain trepidation that ought to give us in terms of how we treat His Word. What I mean by that is when we encounter Scripture it can’t be something that we just sort of tinker around with, right?
Sometimes I meet people, and in my world, in the theological seminary world, I see this a lot. Sometimes I meet people that sort of study the Bible like it’s a hobby. It’s not that different than the way they sort of track sports teams and memorize stats for their favorite sports team, or maybe they’re into cars of fishing or whatever hobby happens to be the thing they’re in to, and the Bible is just another, another hobby. They, they love to learn about it and it’s something they kind of tinker around with, and it never seems to dawn on them, and sometimes it doesn’t dawn on us, that when we tinker around in the Bible, if God is there and it’s a living book, then we are tinkering around with God. It’s a powerful manifestation of God’s presence.
But here’s one last implication on this first point before we leave it, and this really is a whole new way of looking at it. If, in fact, the Bible is a living book and it’s personal, then this gives a whole additional reason for why we trust it.
You know one of the perennial questions out there is, “Why do I believe the Bible when it tells me something? Why do I believe it’s true when it declares something?” And almost inevitably when we answer that question, we only answer it almost in a clinical scientific way, like “If I want to know the Bible’s true, then the best thing I can do is just go look at a bunch of historical evidence and I get a bunch of historical data and I put these things together in my little apologetic argument and therefore I conclude the Bible’s true.”
And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with historical evidences, and there’s nothing wrong with the historical credentials of the Bible and finding out what those are, and those can be reassuring. But if this is true, we have another, and maybe even better reason to trust what we read in the Bible, and that is because we trust the person who speaks there.
Another way to say it is this. Instead of evaluating the truth of the Bible only on sort of scientific or factual grounds, maybe we need to think about it more relationally. We trust the Bible because we trust a person, namely that when God tells us something in this book and He manifests His personal presence there, that we believe Him when He tells us things.
You know, it’s not that different than the reason you believe other things, if you’ve thought about it. Most of us don’t realize that some of the core truths in our lives that we believe, we don’t believe because we’ve personally investigated them. We actually believe them because someone we trust told us those truths, and since we trust them and we have a relationship with them, we believe them. This is especially true with parents and children, right? When a child hears something from their parents, they don’t say, “Well, look, let me hire a private detective and I’ll go find out whether that’s true or not,” but of course, if you have teenagers, that might happen more than you think, right? “I don’t know, Dad, if you what you say is true. I’m gonna go independently verify it.” But most children, before they become teenagers, believe their parents because they know their parents love them, they don’t go out and privately investigate it, they believe it because of the relationship with the person, and so it is with the Word of God.
One more reason, not the only reason, one more reason to believe in God’s Word is because it’s a living book, and if you believe God, then you can trust what He tells you here.
Now that’s just the first “P” in this passage. There’s more to go.
Let’s look at the second one here. The first “P” in this passage is that God’s Word is personal. Second one is equally important, and that is God’s Word is “powerful.” God’s Word is powerful.
Back to verse 12. Look again there: “For the Word of God is living,” we already talked about that word. Look at the second adjective: “The Word of God is active.” The Word of God is busy. Another way to think about this second “P” is to say that the Word of God doesn’t just say things, God’s Word does things. It accomplishes things. God’s Word achieves things. In fact, it achieves incredible things, amazing things. This is the way God accomplishes His deeds and acts and purposes in the world as it’s through His Word.
In fact, it’s interesting to note here that the, the underlying Greek term here for the word “active” is actually the Greek word “energes.” Now when you hear “energes,” just like anybody would hear that and think, “Well, that sounds like a little bit like the English word
‘energy,'” and that’s exactly right. To say the Word of God is active is say it’s, it’s energetic, it’s busy, it’s explosive, it’s powerful, it does things. And in fact, if you think about the history of, of Scripture, this is exactly what you have in the history of Scripture is God’s Word accomplishing things, amazing things, through history. In fact, when God created the world, what did He do? He spoke, and things came to be.
Jesus, of course, in His ministry, reflects this very principle. How does Jesus accomplish almost everything He does in ministry? It’s by words. He spoke, and diseases are healed. He says words, and demons are exorcised. He looks at the wind and the waves, and speaks directly to them, and says, “Cease, be still.” He speaks to a dead corpse in the grave, Lazarus, and says “Lazarus, come forth.”
God accomplishes incredible things, amazing things, by His Word.
Now this actually highlights one of the classic passages of Scripture that you and I all know too well, and we’ve read a thousand times, but when you read it again in light of this, you realize that God’s Word if it does things and it’s powerful, then it can accomplish the kind of things we need in our lives.
2 Timothy 3:16 is this passage. You don’t need to turn there, but let’s listen. You know it well. And listen in light of this second attribute of God’s Word. We read there: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable” for what? And then there’s this long list: “Profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and equipped for every good work.”
I want you to think about that last phrase in particular: “Every good work God’s Word is sufficient to bring about in your life. No matter what the challenge, no matter what the problem, no matter what the issue, no matter that thing you’re struggling with, God’s Word is powerful enough to address it.
Maybe this morning for you it’s worry, and anxiety. Maybe it’s depression and grief. Maybe it’s resentment, frustration with the world that God has given you. Maybe it’s an addictive behavior that you know you want to stop and can’t.
Now here’s the truth of the matter. All of us, we do this every morning, and I do this every morning when I look at myself in the mirror, I get up in the morning and I look at myself in the mirror and I think, I wish I were different than I was. And I don’t mean physically, although that’s starting to happen more, too. But I mean just in life. Do you not do that? When you look in the mirror, like, I, I want to change, I want to be different. I don’t want to be struggling with the things I’m struggling with. Where do I turn? What do I do?
And here we see the answer that we always knew, which was God’s Word can do things ’cause it’s so powerful.
I came across a crazy article just a few weeks ago that the title stopped me in my tracks. And maybe it would have stopped you, too, but I was reading, I don’t remember it was some news site, it was actually ABC news website, and here’s the title of the article: Want to Get Rich? Write a Self-Help Book. Want to get rich, write a self-help book. And I thought to myself, well, my, my current publishing strategy is not working very well to get me rich, so maybe I ought to read this article. So I dived into the article and what I discovered is something that you already know, and that is that the self-help industry in the United States is incredibly vast, wide, and deep. In fact, it’s been on a meteoric rise for the last 10 to 20 years, so much so that they project at the end of 2019 that that industry will reach over $10 billion. $10 billion of people reading self-help books and going to self-help seminars and retreats and videos and other types of tools that they can find in the world, and that same article projected that by 2021 it’d be over a $13 billion industry. People are desperate for change, desperate for help, and in fact, as that article points out, entirely convinced that if they could just spend enough money they can get the help that they need.
But yet, it doesn’t seem like people are actually making much progress. The industry keeps growing and the more money is spent, but we don’t know how successful it’s actually been, and one of the things that we realize in this passage today is that in spite of all the rhetoric about the self-help world, we have in the Scriptures themselves the greatest wisdom and power all for our lives.
That’s not to suggest that you cannot ever get good help from people who are in the non-Christian world. It’s not to suggest there’s not good advice out there to be had in other sources. Yes, there is, by common grace insights. It’s not as if the only book we ever read is just the Bible. That’s not the point at all. The point is, though, to recognize how desperate people are for change and how quickly we go to other things besides God’s Word to get it.
The second “P” reminds us, though, how blessed we are to have a Word that is powerful enough to really change our lives, if we’ll only trust it, rely on it, and use it.
And that brings us to a third “P” this morning in this passage. The Word of God is personal, we’ve already seen that. Secondly, the Word of God is powerful. It does things, it’s active. And then thirdly, and this I think is the crescendo of the passage, this is actually where, where everything is driving to and building in our text, and that is that the Word of God is “penetrating.” It is penetrating, it is sharp, it cuts.
Look back down again at verse 12: “For the Word of God is living,” we looked at that, active, we looked at that, and then this next clause, “Sharper than any two-edged sword.”
Here’s where we recognize something about God’s Word that maybe we haven’t really thought about, or at least articulated in this way, and that is that God’s Word is designed to penetrate the hardest substance on earth. When I say the hardest substance on earth, I’m not talking about rock or stone or granite or even diamonds, but that God’s Word is designed to penetrate the hardest substance on earth which is nothing other than the human heart.
The human heart, and nothing comes close, honestly, is by far the hardest substance on the planet. You know this yourself, because for one you’ve tried to change your own heart. Ever, ever tried to do that? When you know you want to be different and think differently and act differently, and you know that the change can’t just be external, because external change lasts for a moment and then wisps away. A change, real change, has to start in the heart, and so you try to reach your own heart and you can’t get there. You’re blocked. You try, you don’t know how to do it.
But you also know that it’s the hardest substance on the planet because you’ve tried to change other people’s hearts. No doubt there’s that person in your life, that loved one, that child, that sibling, that relative, that coworker, you’ve tried to reach, you’ve tried to talk to, you’ve tried to convince about the truth of the Gospel and it’s like running into a wall. And you think to yourself how do I possibly get in there, to the human heart?
And then we come across this passage today and our author here is telling us very plainly that God has given us the exact divine tool to cut into the very thing we can’t cut into, to reach the very area we need to reach but can’t reach, and that is His Word, because it’s so sharp it can do it.
In fact, there’s little doubt here that this idea of a two-edged sword would have been a well-known thing to the audience in this letter to the Hebrews, because this was no doubt a reference to the Roman short sword, also known as the gladius in the ancient Roman world, and this is different than the sword you might have in your mind. When people think of swords now, they think, they tend to think of knights and castles, right? A really long sword with a two-handed grip where you fight and so on, and that’s probably not what’s in view here. What’s in view here is a much shorter sword, probably about 2 feet long, you hold it in one hand and you hold the shield in the other, and it’s designed for close combat. You’re to block your enemy and you get in with the short sword, it can cut both ways, and what is it designed to do? It’s sharp on both ends, so it can penetrate the armor of your enemy. It’s designed for one simple thing: To cut and to cut deep.
And that’s exactly the language we see here for this. Look what it goes on to say: “Sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow,” and there it is, it’s coming, “discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This is the sharpest surgical scalpel available to you and it can reach the human heart like nothing else can.
In fact, it’s funny whenever I read this passage, I can’t help but think of those, some of you who grew up in the 80s maybe like me, or lived through the 80s, can think of those, remember those Ginsu knife commercials in the 1980s? You guys ever used to watch those? There’s like these 30 minute informercial about the sharpest knife on the planet and the guy would cut through a tin can and then he’d cut through a tomato and then he’d cut through something else, and the declaration was always the same: This is the sharpest knife in the world.
And in one sense God is coming to us and saying, “You want the spiritual scalpel to do the work you need to do, this is where it happens.” The sharpest thing on the planet is God’s Word. It penetrates the human heart.
Now once you get that, that is an immense amount of explanatory value for why we do what we do at Christ Covenant. I mean, it’s surely not been lost on you that almost everything we do here centers on God’s Word in some way. I mean, you go to Sunday School and the Bible is taught. And you come in to worship and the Word is taught and you singe the Word effectively and you, you pray about the Word, and then you go to a small group Bible study during the week and the Bible is taught there, and then you go to youth group and the Bible is taught there, and you might get this impression that, that everything we do, and this is the great thing about this church, everything we do is somehow centered on the Word of God, and anybody coming from the outside would look at that, I hope, and say something very noteworthy, which is “they must believe that the key to unlocking the Christian life has to be centered on God’s Word, otherwise they wouldn’t do it in every venue of their life.”
This is why it’s so sad for us in ministry to see some churches talking about stopping the teaching and preaching of the Word. There have been famous pastors who’ve decided that when they preach, they’re no longer going to preach the Bible because they believe for whatever set of reasons that the Bible gets in the way, that the Bible is a stumbling block, that the Word of God would bore people or turn them off, and we ought to preach using something other than the Bible. And when you hear that and you look back at a passage like this, you see how out of sync that is. If you take the Bible out of the equation and put it on the shelf, you’ve just deprived yourself of the only thing, the main thing, that God uses to reach the human heart, and that’s the one place you’re trying to get.
Of course, it’s not just people out there that do that. It’s also us, isn’t it, that does that. I want you to think for a moment right now about that one person in your life that you’re trying to reach. Maybe it’s a sibling, child, relative, coworker, and it’s just you’re hitting a brick wall every time. Are you using the Word of God to reach them?
Now that doesn’t mean that we walk around all the time and just quote Scripture. It doesn’t mean that every conversation I have with my non-Christian friend or my sibling or my coworker is just a recitation of Bible passages. That’s not what that means, but are you leaning on biblical wisdom, biblical truth, trying to get them into the Word in some capacity, knowing that that is the instrument that can do the job that we as humans cannot do?
Now here’s the thing. Once you realize God’s Word is designed to penetrate and to get inside the human heart, there is a second question that arises, though, under this point, and this is where things get really interesting. If God’s Word is designed to get inside the human heart, what’s it do once it gets there? Why does it need to get in there? What is it trying to do once it’s there?
And here’s where the passage, honestly, gets a little frightening, because when we look back down at it, we realize that it does something that maybe we really don’t want it to do after all.
Look at the end of verse 12 again, and then verse 13. What’s it do once it gets inside you? Discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and then verse 13, “and no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
You know what Scripture does when it gets inside of us? It’s like putting us in front of a giant mirror. And perhaps for the first time showing us what we’re really like. It exposes us, it reveals us, it shows us who we are. And let’s be honest – that’s very uncomfortable.
And sure, in our lives, I’m sure you had occasions where you’ve noticed something about yourself or saw something about yourself that you never saw before and you had that moment, that flash of realization that I never knew I was like that. That typically happens in pictures, right? You severe see a photo of yourself and you, you look at your spouse and you say, “Do I look like that? Is that really how I look? I want to delete that picture. Please don’t send it out on Instagram. Surely I don’t look like that.” And you have this sense where you can sort of step outside yourself for a moment and say “I look this way” or if you’ve ever seen yourself on video and you’re like “I sound that way?” and “I don’t want to see myself on video.”
In my world, we do all these sorts of videos and clips and I know Kevin does this, too, and the last thing I ever want to see is, when it’s over, I never want to watch the silly thing, because when I do I’m like, “I can’t believe that that’s what I look like. I don’t want to look like that.” There’s a sense in which we don’t want to know what we’re really like.
Here’s the amazing thing about Scripture. It does something different than you think it does. Scripture does not only reveal God to us, it reveals us to God. It doesn’t just tell us what God is like, although it does. Scripture will tell you what you’re like in who you are, and in a world that’s obsessed with figuring out your identity, with a world that’s obsessed with figuring out who you are and what you’re really like, the only place that you can really go to know that fully is in God’s Word, where you’re exposed to God and exposed to yourself, really at the same time, meeting yourself afresh. And maybe in a way you never knew before.
I came across a study recently from the National Institute of Health that struck me as very remarkable, and it really reminded me of this passage. It’s not like I spend a lot of time reading articles in the National Institute of Health, but this one caught my eye, and if you read many articles on healthcare you know that almost every article is about how there’s people who need healthcare that don’t have it, and those are important articles and I expected this to be another article about how more people who don’t have healthcare need to get it, but that’s not what this particular article was about. It wasn’t about people who lacked healthcare, it was about people how had access to really good healthcare and to really good doctors and had plenty of money and had a good insurance plan, and still never went to the doctor.
In fact, this whole category, I never this this before, this whole category is called healthcare avoidance. Healthcare avoidance is apparently an epidemic, particularly in the developed world, where you have people who have plenty of money and great healthcare and they have excellent doctors and a good plan, and they refuse to go to the doctor and they won’t go, they won’t ever to, and the study was trying to determine why is that people do this, it seems so nonsensical, and they came up with lots of reasons, but at the very top of the list, the number one reason that people don’t go to the doctor, even though they have one, is because they’re afraid they might actually be sick.
Just let that sink in for a moment. Let me get this straight. So you’re, you’re thinking you might be sick and you’re afraid you’re sick, and so instead of going to the very place you can get help when you’re sick, which is the doctor, it’s the very place you won’t go. Why won’t you go? Because I’ll learn that I’m sick and I don’t want to know I’m sick. You realize there’s something very broken there.
And you know what? The same thing is true of our spiritual lives. We don’t want to know, if we’re honest, what we’re really like. We’d rather not know, we’d rather avoid going to the doctor.
If that’s true for you today, and it’s true for all of us to some extent, isn’t it? The last place you ever want to go, if that’s you, is anywhere near God’s Word. If you are a spiritual healthcare avoider, then stay away, as far as possible, from Scripture, because one of the primary things that Scripture does is it will show you who you really are and expose us and lay us bare.
But here is the thing to realize – God wants to do that for us because He knows we need divine surgery, and once we realize we need divine surgery, then we can come to Christ and get it.
You know, for those of you who are afraid you might be sick this morning, spiritually speaking, I’ve got, I guess, bad news for you, and I include myself in this, and that is you are. Let’s just put it out there. You don’t even need to go to the spiritual doctor to know we are all spiritually sick, all sinful people who have at some level rebelled against God.
But that might be the bad news, but I’ve got good news for you, and that is we have a Savior who came not for the healthy, but for the sick. We have a Savior who came not for the righteous, but for the sinner.
And the only way you see that, the only way you know that, the only way you keep going back to the well and dipping into God’s grace again and again, is when you see your great need and who you really are and turn again and again to the great grace of Christ at the cross. And what does that more than anything else is encountering and listening to His Word.
You look at these three pieced together – God’s Word is personal, it’s alive; God’s Word is powerful, it can accomplish the things in your life; God’s Word is penetrating, it gets inside of you, it doesn’t just show you who God is, it shows you who you are, so you can come to Him for grace and forgiveness. You realize God’s Word is central to everything we do.
I started with the story of Martin Luther and that was true, as we already know, for Luther’s life. If you don’t know how that trial ended, he was whisked away and protected by a very wealthy prince in Germany and he actually lived a fairly long life. It’s actually interesting. Toward the end of Luther’s life, people began to ask him kind of how he did it. I mean the Reformation, think about it, the Protestant Reformation, maybe the greatest sort of overturning of the world order that has been seen for thousands of years, and they effectively went to Martin Luther towards the end of his life and said, “Martin, how’d you pull it off? How’d you pull of the world’s greatest reformation?”
And then Luther said, “Well, you know, I’ve written this little book called Seven Ways to Start Your Own Reformation, so check it out.” [laughter]
No, that’s not what he said. What did Luther say? Some of the most poignant words toward the end of his life, and my prayer is that these words would not only be true for you individually and me individually, but true for Christ Covenant Church. Here’s what Luther said when asked how he did it: “I simply taught and preached and wrote God’s Word, otherwise I did nothing. The Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
May that be true of us as God’s people, and may that be true of Christ Covenant Church, that we can say we did nothing, the Word of God did everything. Amen.
Let’s pray. Lord, we confess that we don’t always believe what this passage says. Lord, we confess that we often run to many other things other than Scripture for empowerment and help and vitality. O Lord, remind us again, Your Word is not just true, but is the very thing that empowers our lives by the power of Your Spirit to change. And Lord may You use it to do that in our lives even today. We pray all these things in Christ’s name. Amen.