THE POWER OF THE WORD
The story’s told of a South Sea Islander who rescued a wounded G.I. during WWII. While the G.I. was recovering, the Islander proudly displayed his Bible to the G.I. He explained how he’d received it as a present from a missionary just a few years before. The soldier said, “O, I’ve outgrown that sort of thing.”
The native smiled curiously and said, “Well, it’s a good thing we haven’t, because if it weren’t for this book, you’d be our dinner.”
The power of God’s Word to change lives goes far beyond anything we can imagine. It has changed lives and civilizations for thousands of years, and yet, every generation gives rise to those who deny its truth even while multitudes can’t resist it.
Today we come to the classic text on the power of the Word of God found in Hebrews 4:12-13. Our scripture begins, “For the word of God is living and powerful.” Now is a fitting time to reflect again on what it says and means.
Hebrews 4:12 begins with “for” or “therefore” which ties what follows with what the author said previously about the consequences of Israel’s disobedience. The author wants us to get it through our thick heads that Israel’s awful tragedy can strike us as well.
Today I want you to see with me Four Reasons Why We Should Not Disregard the Word of God!
First, It is a Living Word (v. 12a)
“For the word of God is living…”
The Bible, the word of God, is unlike any other book you have in your home or in the library. The Library of Congress lays claim to being the largest library in the world, with more than 130 million items on approximately 530 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 29 million books and other printed materials, 2.7 million recordings, 12 million photographs, 4.8 million maps, and 58 million manuscripts. Yet, among all these volumes the only ones that can lay claim to being alive and powerful are copies of the Bible. This places the Bible in a unique category all to itself.
The Greek word “zon” means “living”, and as it’s written, it’s meant to be emphasized. The word of God is not a dead letter, but as the word of the living God, it cannot fail to be living.
As the living word, it continues through each age with compelling relevance. “Gipsy Smith told of a man who said he had received no inspiration from the Bible although he had “gone through it several times.”
Smith replied, “It’s good that you’ve gone through the Word. Now if you’ll allow the Word to go through you just once “then you will tell a different story!” [source unknown - www.bible.org/illus/Bible (application)]
The Word of God is not only a living word but,
Secondly, It is a Powerful Word.¬ Verse 12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful.” The word translated “powerful” (energes) is the word from which we get energy and energetic. The word literally means “at work.”
Charles Swindoll commented, “News articles may inform us. Novels may inspire us. Poetry may enrapture us. But only the living, active Word of God can transform us.”
Have you ever wondered at the many Christians who are “pew-potatoes”. Have you ever heard of a pew-potato? It’s like a couch-potato, who is content to sit in front of a television, never doing anything. A pew-potato is content to attend church each week, sit for a few minutes and listen to a sermon, soak it all up, but they never transform what they learn into action. If the Word of God is not really alive within you, then at the end of time, if you’re a pew-potato, you’re going to end up baked. To avoid being “baked”, you need to allow that Word to come alive in you.
Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, says, “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ….”
“…James says: ‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions’ (James 4:3). To ask ‘rightly’ involves transformation, total renewal. By studying God’s Word and giving ourselves to prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts; to desire the things He desires; to love the things He loves. Progressively we are taught to see things from His point of view.”
The Bible is living and active, and so when we read its words, they reach out and touch the needs of our lives in a tangible way. Isaiah 55:11 describes scripture as being a living agent or messenger that God sends to touch our lives. Listen to what God says in this passage: “ ....My word will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The Bible is living and powerful and…
Third, It is a Penetrating Word (v 12c) “… sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…”
Like a sharp sword which can lay open the human body with one slashing blow, so the sword of the Scripture can open our inner life and expose it to ourselves and to others.
In the Roman world there were two distinctly different swords. There was the large sword. It was long, heavy and destructive. And there was a short sword (machaira), it was lightweight and double-edged and deadly because it cut both ways. What the author is saying is that God’s Word can reach into the innermost recesses of our being! No heart is too tough and no soul is too dark.
The Word of God Is Not Only A Penetrating Word but…
Fourth, It is a Discerning Word. “…and (the Word) is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
From this passage I want us to glean Three Truths.
1st: God Sees Everything. There Is No Escape.
We want God to see us when we’re hurting and when we’re going through difficult times. We want Him to see and come to our aid. But when it comes to our sin and wrongdoing, we would rather that God looked the other way. But verse twelve concludes by saying that the Word of God “… is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The word “discerner” (kritikos) is the word from which we get critic. As the word of God penetrates into the innermost recesses of man’s being, it does so as his critic or judge.
2nd: God Sees Everything There Is No Hiding.
Only the Word of God is capable of exposing the thoughts and attitudes of a single human heart. There really is no use in hiding. Why is it, when we fear that something isn’t quite right physically, we tend to put off going to the doctor? It’s because we fear hearing bad news. The same is true spiritually.
Verse thirteen says that before God “all things are naked” or literally “laid bare.” The word (tetra-chelis-mena) literally refers to bending someone’s neck backward so the face is looking upwards. It’s a vivid term describing the grip on the neck of a victim being prepared for sacrifice. Sometimes it was used to describe how a man being led to execution had a knife placed beneath his chin so that he could not hang his head in shame to avoid the gaze of onlookers.
In other words, to be in the grip of an all powerful God is to be helpless, vulnerable and to have all our secrets known.
The Word of God perceives all inconsistency even in our motives. With God, we cannot hide the real intentions of our hearts. We may appear to be sincere, but God knows if there’s an ulterior motive.
3rd: God Sees Everything. There Is No Excuse.
The last part of verse thirteen says, all things are “… open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” This verse is telling us that a day is coming – a day of reckoning – when we’ll each be giving an account for our lives. The day of excuses will be over.
The book of Romans tells us there’s coming a time “when every mouth will be stopped” (Rom 3:19). There won’t be excuses. The Apostle Paul warns in 2 Cor. 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
Let me conclude by sharing something written many years ago by Samuel Chadwick. “I have guided my life by the Bible for more than sixty years, and I tell you there is no book like it. It is a miracle of literature, a perennial spring of wisdom, a wonder of surprises, a revelation of mystery, an infallible guide of conduct, and an unspeakable source of comfort. Pay no attention to people who discredit it, for I tell you that they speak without knowledge. It is the infallible Word of God itself. Study it according to its own direction. Live by its principles. Believe its message. Follow its precepts. No man is uneducated who knows the Bible, and no one is wise who is ignorant of its teachings.”
If God spoke to you this morning in some special way, write it down and think it over. Ask yourself, “What action is God telling me to take?” As God’s children, we should always be seeking and thirsting for more of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Please join with me in prayer: Heavenly Father, search our hearts for each flaw that keeps us from You. Grant us the courage to correct it that we may know true life and live more completely, more faithfully in Your will and purpose. In Christ’s name, we ask it. Amen.