Sermon October 10, 2021

Living with the Living Word

Hebrews 4:12-16

 

The story is told that George Whitfield, the great Eighteenth-Century evangelist, was hounded by a group of detractors who called themselves the “Hellfire Club.” After hearing George Whitfield preach in May 1750, John Thorpe and three friends went to a tavern and began mimicking Whitfield. At Thorpe’s turn, he grabbed a Bible, jumped on a table, and shouted, ‘I will beat you all!’ He began to imitate Whitfield with brilliant accuracy, perfectly imitating his tone and his facial expressions. His friends were laughing, having a wonderful time, but then Thorpe’s eyes fell on a Bible passage that read ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’ Suddenly Thorpe was struck by his own sinfulness. His lips began to quiver, his eyes began to water, the color drained right out of his face; his friends thought he was getting sick. Then Thorpe fell to the ground and cried out to God asking the Lord Jesus Christ to save him. Two years later he became one of John Wesley’s itinerant preachers and went on to become a prominent Christian leader in the city of Bristol. (http://docshare01.docshare.tips/files/1922/19223769.pdf)

 

So convicted did he become from reading the words of the Bible.

 

Hebrews tells us:

“12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.”

 

When you think about it that is a fearsome description, and Hebrews intends it to be. The writer wants to remind his readers of who God is, and the reality in which they live and the hope to which they have been called.

 

We too should conclude that God’s word is not to be trifled with. One may ignore, defame it, change it, misuse it, but you will do so at your own risk and consequence. Mostly because no matter what, it reveals the reality that we are living in.

  • All are sinful.
  • God is holy.
  • God will separate the left from the right, the wheat from the weeds, the sheep from the goats, the light from the darkness, and those who have lived according to the Spirit from those who have lived in just the temporary skin of life.
  • Also, heaven is real.
  • Jesus is risen.
  • Salvation and eternal life are available to all who believe.

Say what you want but the truth will not change. God has spoken.

 

Maybe we think we can ignore God’s word by simply closing the book or leaving that Gideon Bible untouched when we stay at motel. However, I want you to know that God’s word is not something that you can simply avoid.

 

We are told that God’s word is living and active. This means God’s word is not merely in the Bible, but rather God has sent his word out into our world.

 

The Greek word for living is the word that gives us our word “zoology.” We are reminded that God’s word pulsates with ongoing life. It is wild and untamed. When you visit a zoo there are always barriers between the people and the animals. You never know what a wild thing is going to do. CS Lewis portrayed this idea in his children’s stories, the Chronicles of Narnia. He imaged Christ as being the Lion Aslan. When the children were going to meet Aslan. One of them being told he is a lion asks, “Then he isn’t safe?” “Safe?” Comes the reply. Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” The story reminds us that Aslan is good and benevolent, but still untamed and wild.

 

“The word of God is living.” The participle, living, is in the present tense which denotes continuous action. In other words, literally translated it says, “the word of God is continuously and always living. Living among you and within your life. If you have the word of God about you, then you have a lion loose in your life. We are not safe or able to claim ignorance about God’s word, because there are no bars that separate us from it.

 

God’s word fills every space of life. God’s word has been given to us through the Bible. It is the revealed truth of God at work in history and among the human race to bring us into God’s presence. The words within the Bible were born within certain times and places, and reflect the moments in which they were written, but they also transcend time and history and reveal to us God’s ongoing presence.

 

God’s word came to us in the person of Jesus. In John, Jesus is identified as being the living word of God through whom all things came into being. The word of God is the creative power of God. In the beginning God spoke and all that is came into being. In Jesus God has continued to speak most intimately and directly to us and to bring us into fellowship with himself. In Jesus we behold the likeness of God.

 

Also, God’s word is in our lives today. Yes, every sermon you hear may be God’s word to you. God may choose to use the words of another to speak a message to your heart. God may use the words of those around us.

 

So, through the Bible, by the power of our resurrected Lord, through the Holy Spirit that dwells within, in the words of a neighbor, these are all ways that God’s word may speak to us and reach us. Who is it that does not encounter the word of God in some manner every day? If you simply get up and look out upon creation, God is subtlety speaking to you through all of creation and the in the air that you breath.

 

We are also told that the word of God is active. The Greek word used, “energes” gives us our English word “energy.” It actually comes from two Greek words: the word en, which means “at”, and the word ergo, which means “work.” So together the Greek literally means “at work.” Just like in physics energy is defined in simple terms as the ability to do work. The text is telling us that the word of God is at work and it works.

 

Not only does God’s powerful word surround your being, but it is also at work in you life. God’s word is powerful, energizing, and activating. Someone once put it this way:

 

It has convicting power. When Stephen preached the word of God, the Bible says in Acts 7:54 that, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart.”

 

It has converting power. We all know we are saved by grace through faith. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

 

It has cleansing power. Jesus said in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” This is the living word of God at work within our lives.

 

Hebrews go on to tell us “And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” God penetrates our hearts with his word and lays us open before His eyes.

 

The word “laid bare” literally means “put a knife to the throat.” One source suggest that this word was used of criminals who were being led to trial or execution, and often a soldier would hold the point of a dagger under the criminal’s chin to force him to hold his head high so he would have to look into the gaze of the judge instead of dropping his head.

 

Likewise, the Bible is a sword that causes us to look God square in the eyes and face the reality of what we really are. Verse 13 ends with “to whom we must render an account.” This last word about rendering an account is the same word as in the beginning of verse 12 that was translated as God’s word –the Greek word logos. In other words, as God’s living and powerful word has come to us, so God also demands some word to be given back.

 

Hebrews 10:31 we read, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Well, that is precisely where we are. Hebrews will repeatedly warn us of a coming judgment. What are we to do? How can we survive when we are indeed surrounded by God’s ongoing, living, and active presence? Hebrews gives us the answer.

 

14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

The only account we can give for ourselves, the only word we can give back to God which will save us, is the word of what Jesus has done for us. We have no power or righteous, but in Christ we have mercy and grace. No matter where we stand God’s word can make the difference for us. God’s word comes not to destroy us, but rather to bring healing and life. When we hear it, we hear good news, not judgement but grace and life. Our better choice then is but to receive God’s word and surrender to it. For this is life to us. Many are the lives that have found the life that God has given to us. May it be so for you. May we find room in our own hearts to be so touched and changed by God’s wild, living, and powerful, life-giving word. Amen

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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