“Alive” and “Powerful”: these are two very simple words but are packed with meaning. I’ve been smacked in the face repeatedly with these words since a camping trip that I took with 3 very close friends several years ago. It was during this trip that the 4 of us began to discuss the topic of tattoos and Christians. Several verses in contrary to this concept rose to the surface (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:19) as they normally do. This debate will probably never be solved for good, but that is not the point I’m driving towards here. Our group came to the conclusion that “if” a Christian “were” to get a tattoo, wouldn’t it be awesome to use it as a tool for sharing said Christian’s faith. Every guy who was a part of that conversation, plus one more who has a strong disdain for camping (you know who you are), now walks around with a cross tattooed to their arm. These 5 crosses have several different verses inscribed on them. Several of us have Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Little did I know, while having this verse inked on my arm, how much impact these words would have on my life. I made reference to this verse in the very first blog that I wrote on this site 2 years ago and now I’d like to really unpack it.
The word of God whether spoken or written is alive. It is active, moving, interactive, and everlasting. Think about the relationship that you have with your best friend. You may know this friend better than anyone else on the planet, but you still cannot predict their every move. You have interactions with this friend because you enjoy it and they do as well. Chances are at times you have disagreements, but this does not end the relationship. In actuality, it makes the relationship stronger. With your best friend, there is openness and transparency, there is freedom to be yourself, but there are boundaries as well. If we allow it, the same can be true with God and His word. Have you ever read a verse that you’ve read hundreds of times and all of a sudden something brand new jumps out? God uses His word to speak to us in new and fresh ways. While there is an underlying truth that does not change, sometimes that text that we know by heart has something brand new that we didn’t consider that directly applies to something we are facing. The more time I’ve spent in His word the more it has transformed my life. You cannot spend time in the Bible without it affecting you. Have you ever read a verse or passage that just will not let you go? Some describe this as a “calling” and it could lead to something as simple as a conversation or as drastic as moving your family to a foreign country. When was the last time that you interacted with a non-living object that did something of that nature?
The word of God whether spoken or written is powerful. “When God sets it home by his Spirit, it convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It is so powerful as to pull down strong holds (2 Cor. 10:4, 5), to raise the dead, to make the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk. It is powerful to batter down Satan’s kingdom, and to set up the kingdom of Christ upon the ruins thereof” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary). The word of God interacts in a way that brings about change. You can read the Bible and see example after example of this, but these aren’t just history lessons. The words, accounts, and directives that we see in the Bible are fully applicable to now. As Henry states, whether it is convicting, converting, or comforting it does these things with a sense of power and urgency. We see the spoken word of Jesus do amazing things through the accounts in the Bible and we can see amazing things in our own life if we are willing to turn our lives over to the power of God and His word.
Hebrews 4:12 goes on to describe the word of God as a sword that cuts between joint and marrow and that it exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. If you’re being cut, it doesn’t get much deeper than marrow and this isn’t going to be a cut that you can ignore. If you’re cut to the marrow you’re going to react–immediately. Not only are you going to react immediately, this cut is going to affect how you do things for a while. God’s word is like that. It has a way of permeating the deepest parts of our being. Let me pause here for a minute and refer back to the best friend analogy. You’ve spent a lot of time with your best friend and I imagine you are probably more open and transparent with them than with most people. In other words you’ve allowed them VIP access to you. Without that, the relationship wouldn’t have grown to where it is. You have to do the same with God. If you’re closed off or never invest the time in His word, the relationship isn’t going to go far. However, open yourself up and make the investment and it will transform your life. Sometimes this means facing things about ourselves that we don’t like. Sometimes this means facing things about others that we don’t like. Sometimes this means being called to do things that we never thought we would or could do. Opening yourself completely to God and what His word spurs you to do is sometimes joyful, sometimes scary, sometimes saddening, but always the right choice. I can attest from the last two years that we’ve experienced all of those emotions, but our life is richer than it’s ever been. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have days that really stink…we do. Some days we get it completely wrong, but that doesn’t invalidate God or His word. We’ve come to learn that God loves to take those things that we say we’re never going to do and show us just how amazing and rewarding it can be.
Look at the folks in the Bible that God used to deliver much of His word. You see, adulterers, drunks, worriers, murderers, etc. Does this take away from the message? The answer is a resounding NO! The fact that God’s word can be delivered by the most unqualified people shows just how powerful it really is. In spite of the lack of credentials held by those that delivered the word, it transformed lives then and continues to transform lives now. How encouraging! The effectiveness of His word doesn’t rely on my ability to eloquently deliver it. It’s my willingness to deliver it that matters. It’s my willingness to allow it to permeate every area of my life that matters. This also goes for others in our lives as well. We’ve seen the scenario play out time after time: the esteemed preacher is caught up in sin or some scandal and people who seemed so committed to God before begin to drop out of church and maybe write God off altogether. We can’t confuse the Word of God and the messenger. The Word of God cannot be invalidated by the actions of a person delivering that Word. God has used imperfect people to deliver His word from the beginning of time and that will never change. Believe it or not, your pastor makes mistakes, little ones and big ones. However, it doesn’t matter how big of a mistake he makes it will never invalidate the message that God has delivered through him in the past or will deliver from him in the future. As much as this doesn’t invalidate the Word it also doesn’t excuse the mistakes.
God and His word are alive, powerful, and at work all around us. The Bible contains historical accounts, but the Bible isn’t just a history book. The Bible is the living Word of God. It has the ability to transform our lives like nothing else, but it will not force its way in. God loves us too much to force us to live in a way that is contrary to our desires. Therefore, the transformation, many times, is directly in relation to our willingness to let it in. I can’t tell you how many times God has asked me “Do you believe those words, do you actually believe the whole alive and powerful part”? I’ll be honest, sometimes the answer was “no”. But every single time that the answer has been “yes” and I/we have moved forward with some decision that seems like the craziest possible next step we’ve never been sorry. The Bible says that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8) so it really should be no surprise when He asks us to do something that, to us, looks outrageous…God is in the business of outrageous. Feel like God is calling you to do something outrageous? I challenge you to take that leap and I guarantee you that He is waiting on the other side to walk you through it.