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Caution, Sharp Objects Inside

Read these three Bible passages and look for the pattern:

For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other Apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:37 (NIV)

But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My Word.
Isaiah 66:2b (NASB)

See the pattern? All three passages juxtapose God’s Word and the human heart. The passage from Hebrews reminds us that the Creator who breathed life into Adam’s nostrils is the One who sends His living Word to make incisions in the soul more nimbly than any heart surgeon. His Word is not a carbon-based life form, yet it is nonetheless alive, accomplishing His purpose. The Acts passage includes a description of how the Jerusalem crowd responded on the Day of Pentecost, feeling the surgeon’s knife doing a work in them as they listened to Peter’s message. The truth about Jesus’s identity sliced open their hearts. This deeply-penetrating revelation led 3,000 people to accept life-saving spiritual surgery. In the Isaiah passage, we learn about God’s gaze. He looks toward humble people who are deeply affected in spirit and who approach His Word with respect, trembling in reverence.

The cover of your Bible is like a leather sheath which protects the master-crafted, razor-sharp, steel-bladed knife cradled inside. Such a knife out of its sheath must be treated with the utmost respect because sudden thoughtless moves can result in certain injury. Likewise, the Holy Scriptures are sharp, and wisdom dictates that we handle God’s Word with care.

It’s fitting then, that there is a Bible study concept called the Sword Method which centers around personal engagement with God and is designed to get you close to the exposed blade. Four basic questions form the basis of each session of study: “What does the passage teach me about God?” “What is God saying about me and others?” “What examples are there for me to follow?” “What commands in the passage call me to obedience?” Please know that even though the word “me” appears in each question, the Sword Method is not a subjective exercise where one attempts to find his own truth. Truth is immutable, and its incisive nature changes those who embrace it.

The Sword Method is not the only Bible study template out there, but it’s great for deepening your time with the Lord. Rather than just getting filled with knowledge, the student gets filled with Him. As disciple makers, we need to do more than memorize Scripture. Memorizing the Bible is a good idea, but our main goal should be to submit to its living content. I think the world will yawn if I just nestle the tone-arm on some groove in my grey matter. Precious Bible truths deserve more than rehearsal and playback. You and I are not data banks of stored information. Rather, God calls, prepares, and sends Gospel people because souls constantly saturated with His Word can effectively reflect the image of God to each other and to the world (Romans 10:15; 2 Timothy 1:9).

If we humbly approach God’s Word, and thereby become filled with His presence, we will be encouraged to fan into flame the gift of God (2 Timothy 1:6). Humans aren’t robots who need reprogramming. Humans need new hearts. Stirred up people who are being transformed into God’s image stir the world as God’s life in them shines for His glory.

Are you looking for action? Each Sword Method Bible study session will cause you to grapple with this question: “Now what am I going to do?” God’s Word cuts to the heart. Sometimes it’s violent like the stab felt by Peter’s audience in Acts 2, which elicited a cry for help. Sometimes it gently judges our attitude, causing us to rethink our approach to others. Sometimes it’s sublime, giving us better insight into God’s nature. But it is always alive. It is always effective. It is always compelling.

In God’s wisdom, effective disciple makers rely on divine power instead of their own. The world notices something about believers who spend time with the Revelator, who worship Him in spirit and in truth, who deeply drink in the Spirit’s holy writ, who invite Him to cause the Scriptures to change them forever. The glory and grace of Jesus Christ brought you and me to our knees before Him; remaining in that position while trembling at His Word is a distinctive of His followers as they travel into the world, broadcasting the Gospel as they go.

This is God’s plan. He is sending transformed people out into the dead world to speak His living Word:

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10,11

God’s desires instead of mine. God’s purpose instead of mine. What could be more satisfying for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and make it their goal to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9)? When unregenerate people sense the reality of all this, they will take notice.

Do you regularly receive treatment from the Surgeon? It’s glorious how He transforms us sinners into salt and light, accomplishing His will, the living Word growing in us and through us. As transformed and transforming people, then, we are “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

God’s Word is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), but I must maintain a trembling posture before Him and remember that before taking His sword into battle “out there,” I need to keep my heart exposed to His heart. It may feel crippling as the purity of the truth comes into proximity of my sin-prone mind, thereby cutting me deeply, or it may feel enlightening as His glory cuts through the thickness of my doubting obtuseness. Either way, I won’t be the same because I’ve spent time with the Creator.

After all, how can I expect to make disciples of Christ through His Word if I’m not pursuing it myself?

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