The pastor of a church was shaking hands with the worshippers one Sunday as they were exiting after the service. One member looked intently at the pastor as he was shaking his hand and commented, “Powerful sermons, Pastor. Thoughtful, well researched. I can always see myself in them…and I want you to knock it off!” (From a cartoon by Lee Johnson, The Best Cartoons from Leadership Journal, Vol. 1, Broadman & Holman, 1999, as cited in PreachingToday.com.)
Having been a preacher for over 40 years, I can identify with this story. I’ve never been told to knock it off but there’ve been a few times when members have told me their toes were aching a little bit when they left the service. It’s not that I ever intended to step on anyone’s toes but when I am preaching from God’s Word, even my own toes have hurt sometimes.
God’s Word was not written to flatter us. It’s described as being sharper than a two-edged sword that cuts both ways and, as we’ll see, for our own good. Here’s what Hebrews 4:12 says:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (King James Version, KJV)
Let’s analyze this verse. God’s Word is quick—that is, it is alive. Second Timothy 3:16 says, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” The Greek word for “inspiration” is “God-breathed.” His Word, both Old and New Testaments, is active and alive in the sense that it provides instruction and nourishment for healthy and productive living. That’s what makes the Bible powerful. It’s the true Source of energy that lifts us up when we’re feeling down, giving purpose and meaning in life. That is why it is so profitable in so many ways.
At the same time, it is “sharper than a two-edged sword.” You don’t have to be a sword fighter to figure out the implications in this statement. A double-edged sword has a right edge and a left edge. Swing a razor-sharp sword to the right, and it sheers off anything in its path. Swing to the left, and it sheers off anything in its path.
A sword also pierces into the object into which it is thrust. It enters the flesh, and reaches all the way through to the heart if placed in the proper area of the chest. In the process, it divides asunder any other organ it touches, including joints and bone marrow as well as the lungs. In effect, the piercing of the sword stops the breathing (spirit = breath) and the beating of the heart and renders the victim lifeless (soul = life and one who possesses life).
One could conclude that this paints a rather morbid picture of God’s Word. On the surface it seems so. But that aptly describes what makes his Word so effective and vital in our lives.
God’s Word “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It cuts into our pride when our ego gets too big. It pierces our conscience when we feel guilty for a wrong that we’ve done. It penetrates and exposes our fleshly desires. In essence, it keeps us disciplined so that we might be saved. As a matter of fact, when we realize from reading God’s Word that we need to repent of our sins and accept Christ into our heart, we die to sin and put on a new life in Christ.
Sometimes when the preacher shares from God’s Word and it hurts our toes or our feelings a little, we might feel like telling him to knock it off. But if we remember that it’s not the preacher but God’s Word that is speaking to us, we can use the pain to learn and grow according to God’s grace and truth. It’s like they say when it comes to getting our bodies in shape: No pain, no gain.
This is a message we can take to those who do not understand or even accept the truth of God’s Word. Christians are often a minority when it comes to standing up for the moral issues of our day because the vast majority of people do not want to recognize that God’s Word is a two-edged sword. It cuts to those on the extreme left and it cuts to those on the extreme right. And it pierces the hearts of those hardened against any moral standards at all. In these days of perverted thinking and political correctness gone wild, our world could benefit from the mighty power of the inspired Word in our battle for decency and order.
The conditions of our times should encourage us to use the Sword of God’s Word “…for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” In fact, I believe we should be even more fervent and vigilant in this respect as we see the Day of Christ approaching. Unbelievers will oppose us in this fight but don’t forget, the Word of God is quick and powerful. It is also an important part of our spiritual armor as good soldiers of Christ: It’s “the sword of the Spirit,” (Ephesians 6:14-17). Indeed, it is thoroughly adequate to equip us for every good work that we do (2 Timothy 3:17). Keep it handy; wield it often.
Good News to YOU!