God has given me a motto for our church in 2009 and it is, “The Year of the Word.” The challenge will be that each of us will increase the amount of time we are spending in Bible reading. To emphasize the Year of the Word, I’d like for us to allow WORD to stand for
The goal is that each of us will read the Bible Monday through Friday, have Saturday as an “off day” and be exposed to the reading and teaching of God’s Word on Sunday. Let me also say that Sunday School and Wednesday night studies are a great supplement to the Word of God that is preached each Sunday. In addition to reading the Bible five days a week, as a church, we’ll be emphasizing a book of the Bible or two each month that we’d like you to commit to reading in addition to whatever other devotional reading you are doing.
Today will be the last day that the main sermon text is put up on the power point screen because I want each of you to bring your textbook, your Bible, to church with you. That way, if God says something to you during a message, you have an opportunity to make notes in your Bible by the text that you might need to remember. If you think you might forget it, purchase an extra Bible and leave it in your car. I’ll be preaching weekly from the NIV.
Next week you’ll hear more about how you can also purchase a Bible for sanctuary use. We’re going to be purchasing new Bibles that will be in the back of the sanctuary each week for people that might need one to use and return.
We’re also going to be putting Bible trivia up on our power point screens each week that will come from the book or books of the Bible that we are challenging you to read. My Wednesday night Bible study will follow the book we are studying, line by line.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, we’ll be handing out a quiz at the beginning of each month for you to use as a study guide of that book. Once it is filled out with your name on it, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a prize, a good prize valued at 25.00 or more. We’ll draw a name on the last Sunday night of each month where we’ll be having a question and answer time about the book or books of the Bible that we have just read. Is anyone excited yet? Students, this challenge is for you too.
Listen, we are to be people of the Word and that means we need to carry the Word, read the Word, recite the Word, study the Word and share the Word with everyone we meet. To help you remember to work on reading daily, we have created bookmarks that are in your bulletins for you to use. The first book we’ll read together is the book of Galatians. It’s short enough that you can read it in one sitting, so you’ll actually read it multiple times. By the end of January, you should be an expert on the book of Galatians.
Let’s stand now, for our main texts this morning.
The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any doubled-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.” Hebrews 4:12-13
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. II Timothy 3:16
The Word of God is Dynamic
When I think of people who are dynamic, I think of people who are achievers; people who get things done. The Word of God is dynamic because it gets things done. Isaiah 55:11 says that the Word of God leaves the mouth of God and doesn’t return to God empty. It accomplishes what God purposes it to accomplish.
Hebrews says the Word of God is LIVING and ACTIVE. In the Greek, the word “living” means “having living power as the rod of the mouth and the breath of the lips of the living God.” That is dynamic power. It was the mouth of God that spoke creation into existence. It was the breath of God that brought life to the first man. It’s living.
It’s also “active.” The Greek there means energetic, but it’s not random energy. It’s not just Joshua Pratt after a day of chocolate cake and mountain dew at grandma’s house. It’s purposeful energy. It accomplishes, in an active way, what God sends it forth to do.
You don’t even have to understand it for it to accomplish what God desires. There was an old man that lived in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. The old man had a big family. One day one of the old man’s grandsons approached him with a problem. The Grandson said, “PAP, I read the Bible and I don’t understand it, and what I understand I forget as soon as I close the Bible covers. What’s the use of reading the Bible?” The Grandfather ordered the grandson to get the basket they used to carry the heating coal into the house and run down to the river and bring back a basket of water to the house. To please his grandfather, the boy grabbed the basket, ran to the river and got a basket of water. By the time the lad reached the house the basket was empty. The grandfather told the boy to hurry and bring him a basket of water. The boy ran quickly from the river, the basket was full when he left the river, but by the time he arrived at the house the basket of water was dry. After his third trip, the boy told his granddad, “It’s no use. I keep the water in the basket until I get here. It is useless. The grandfather looked at the disgusted young boy, and said, “So you think it is useless?” “Yes! Pap it is useless to try!” the boy replied. The Grandfather said to the boy, “BUT LOOK AT THE BASKET, CAN’T YOU SEE SOMETHING?” THE SMALL BOY WAS AMAZED, AFTER THREE TRIPS TO THE RIVER, THE DIRTY COAL BASKET WAS CLEAN. Pap said, “See, that is what the Word of God does to you. As you read, you say you don’t retain and understand it, but your basket is cleaned. THE WORD OF GOD DOES THE WORK OF GOD. We are cleansed through the Word of God whether we understand every word or not. It transforms us because it always accomplishes what God intends.
Philippians 2:16 calls it the Word of life. It’s not only living, but it gives life. It is prescriptive medicine for those who are dead in Christ, for those who are confused about their purpose in life and for those who are anxious over the cares of life. It is the Word of Life because when you allow it to shape you it will change your life forever for the better.
Listen, other books were given for our information. The Bible was given for our transformation. You want to be different and have a different life? Read and swallow deep into your soul, the Word of God.
A Christian university student shared a room with a Muslim. As they became friends, their conversation turned to their beliefs. The believer asked the Muslim if he’d ever read the Bible. He answered no, but then asked if the Christian had ever read the Koran.
The believer responded, “No, I haven’t, but I’m sure it would be interesting. Why don’t we read both together, once a week, alternating books?” The young man accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened, and during the second term he became a believer in Jesus.
One evening, late in the term, he burst into the room and shouted at the longtime believer, “You deceived me!” “What are you talking about?” the believer asked. The new believer opened his Bible and said, “I’ve been reading it through, like you told me, and just read that the Word is living and active!” He grinned. “You knew all along that the Bible contained God’s power and that the Koran is a book like any other. I never had a chance!” He never had a chance because the Word of God is living and active. It changes people when people are willing to be changed.
The medical staff at the hospital was puzzled why a patient was not improving. The nurses were giving the proper medication. Yet, there was no improvement. The following day the nurse gave the medication and hid. Thinking the nurse had left, the patient spit it out. Too many Christians act similar when hearing the word of God. They retain it for a short time, then spit it out. As the result, there is no improvement in their Christian life. They wonder why they don’t see themselves gaining strength as a Christian or why they aren’t experiencing more of the abundant life Jesus promised. It’s because that which gives them life isn’t being ingested and digested. Take in the dynamic Word of God.
The Word of God Dissects People.
I remember 7th grade Science. I dreaded the day some in their twisted minds looked forward to. We had to dissect a frog. There was nothing pleasant about cutting and picking apart that hard amphibian. But to understand how it worked and to gain a better understanding of how the human body worked it was a helpful exercise. You’d never know from looking at the outside of the frog that all of that stuff was actually on the inside.
Hebrews four says the Word of God is sharper than any doubled-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Cut to the chase.” That’s what God Word does. It’s straightforward. No mincing of words. It doesn’t just say it’s sharp, but sharper than any double edge sword. It cuts deeply, dissecting us in order to heal us. You’ve heard the expression, the truth hurts-but the reality is that it also heals. The same sword which pierces us and pains us causes us to change which heals us. The truth is we all need surgery. We need the dissecting work of God’s Word to reveal what is actually inside of us.
As the powerful chain saw cut its way through the oak tree, it uncovered an object foreign to a tree. There, embedded in the tree was a 22-bullet, once hidden from view, now made visible by the cutting of the tree.
From the outside, the point of entry was no longer visible, but on the inside, the path of the bullet had clearly left its mark in the wood. Compared to the size of the tree, it was an extremely small mark, yet by its presence, had caused the area surrounding it to turn black with rot.
If someone had been present when the bullet entered the tree, it would have been possible not only to see the mark, but to dig the bullet out. However, with the passing of time, the tree grew larger and stronger. The bark had grown thicker and the bullet remained hidden, a part of the tree.
Just as the bullet penetrated into the tree, so sin penetrates us. The point of entry may not be visible to anyone else, but the sin becomes embedded in our lives, and unless it is removed, causes a growing spot to rot. We need the dissecting of the Word of God to reveal what is in us, what is rotting, what is causing decay in our lives, in order for that sin to be removed and for us to experience the life God’s Word promises.
The fact that God’s Word penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow means, for all of you hunters and fisherpeople, that God fillets us. He lays us bare, exposing who we really are so that we can see our need for Him. This double-edged sword is a blessing, because it is this spiritual surgery that winds up saving our lives.
The Word of God is Discerning.
Discernment is about wisdom and coming to right conclusions. It involves good judgment. God’s Word accurately judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The root word for “judges” is the word kritikos, from which we derive critic. So the emphasis here is on the discerning judgment of “the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The heart is the seat of human personality. It is hidden from all. Yet, God’s Word sifts through its thoughts and attitudes with unerring discrimination.
If we really want to understand ourselves and come to right conclusions about who we are and why we exist, we must fill our souls with God’s Word. A woman was asked if she enjoyed reading her new Bible. She replied, “Sir, I am not reading this Book. This Book is reading me!”
James indicates that God’s Word functions as a mirror revealing who and what we really are. James 1:22-25 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.
Remember today’s text from Hebrews 4: 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.” No one can hide from God’s discerning judgment for which the standard is God’s Word. We tell our kids not to compare themselves to others because others are not the standard by which we live. God’s Word, is, however, and you can be sure that one day everything will be laid bare in front of God and His Word will be that which judges us.
The wise Christian invites the penetrating, discerning work of God’s Word in his life.
God’s judgments are accurate because He sees all! “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
A. W. Tozer sums this up beautifully when he says:
God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones, and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.
“Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” “Uncovered” is literally “naked.” Everything — everyone — is stark naked before him. There is nothing to hide in or behind.
Laid bare” literally means “twist the neck” or “take by the throat.” It can be used for bending back the neck of a sacrificial animal to kill it. It was sometimes used to describe a wrestler’s hold on the opponent’s throat, rendering him helpless. All creatures are in the grip of God, totally vulnerable, helpless, and “laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
We may fool ourselves or other Christians with our spiritual lives, but we cannot deceive God. He knows who we really are because the word of God is full of discerning, judging power.
The Word of God Gives Direction
Thom got, I mean, I got a GPS for Christmas. Thom enjoyed coming home from Cincinnati yesterday because the GPS maintained that the shortest route was through the remotest parts of Ohio. He called it a GPS adventure. It took us a different way than we would have reasoned, a different way than we had certainly ever been before, suspiciously past an old college girlfriend’s house on 125, but nevertheless it was supposed to be the most direct, shortest and quickest route home.
The truth is, without the Word of God, we’d be left to human reasoning which would be our best guess about how to live. How many of you know that would lead to disaster?
II Timothy 3:16 says,16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
That means God’s Word can help you accomplish everything you need to accomplish. You want to wander through the wilderness of life? Ignore God’s Word. You want the shortest, most direct route to happiness, peace, contentment and the will of God, follow the GPS, God’s Penned System, the Bible.
Psalm 119 wonderfully illustrates the direction giving power of God’s Word:
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
“Ta da!” (Inside joke with the youth group) There it is. Live according to God’s Word to keep your way pure. The pure way is the way to live without regret. Listen, young people. There are many adults in this room who would tell you through tears to follow God’s Word. They have the scars on their hearts and lives to prove that human reasoning or living according to what feels the best in the moment isn’t the way to go. If they had it to do over again, they would have taken the direction given in God’s Word.
10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
Do you hear the commitment to God’s Word in verse 10? The Psalmist is saying, “I’m even focusing the hidden part of my life, my heart, on your Word. Don’t let me stray from your Word, God. I need your help to follow Your direction.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
He goes from saying, “I’m going to focus my heart on your Word” to “I’m going to fill my heart with Your Word, Lord.”
12 Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.
Do you see the deeper commitment? I’m going to focus my heart on Your Word by filling my heart with Your Word, and God, you be the only Faculty member at this school of God’s decrees. Be my teacher. I don’t want to learn Your Word from anyone else.
13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
The Psalmist didn’t just want to be in the school of God’s Word where God was the instructor and where the only subject was the Bible, but He said out of my mouth Your Word will flow. He said, “I want to rehearse Your Word out loud, like a person rehearses their lines for a play.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
He goes on to say He is jazzed about following God’s Word; It’s like coming in to a big inheritance.
15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
You can see the progression. Meditating on God’s Word becomes the Psalmist’s way of life.
16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
It’s a joy for Him to study God’s Word. How many of us can say we didn’t neglect the Word of God in 2008?
127 Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold,
Acquiring God’s Word becomes the Psalmist’s passion. I collect Bride dolls. Thom collects eagles. Hannah collects ceramic animals. Joshua collects dust. The Psalmist implies that He collects God’s Word. Why?
128 and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path. 129 Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
How do you find out that something is right? How do you conclude that you are headed in the right direction or on the right road? Isn’t it usually because you’ve been on the wrong road? You’ve trusted the wrong wisdom? You’ve often learned how to do something the right way by doing it the wrong way? I get the idea that the Psalmist had learned some things the hard way. He has come to the conclusion that God’s Word is wonderful and keeps him from trouble.
Not to belabor the point, but the next three verses could become the New Year’s resolution for us all.
131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. 132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. 133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
God’s Word is dynamic.
God’s Word will dissect you.
God’s Word is discerning.
God’s Word gives direction.
Will you embrace God’s Word and submit to the work He desires to accomplish through it in your life? I believe a greater commitment to God’s Word is in our best interest and will make glad the heart of God. Will you join me in 2009 and WORK ON READING DAILY?