Series Title: Jesus is GREATER than…
Message: ‘The ESSENTIAL Word’
Text: Hebrews 4:12-13
Introduction: I found this on COVID19.ca.gov
On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 directing all residents immediately to heed current State public health directives to stay home, except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors and additional sectors as the State Public Health Officer may designate as critical to protect health and well-being of all Californians. In accordance with this order, the State Public Health Officer has designated the following list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers to help state, local, tribal, and industry partners as they work to protect communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. PP: (3 slides)
- Health Care / Public Health
- Emergency Services
- Food and Agriculture
- Water and Wastewater
- Transportation and Logistics
- Communications and Information Technology
- Government Operations and other community-based essential functions
- Critical Manufacturing
- Financial Services
- Chemical and Hazardous Materials
- Defense Industrial Base
- Industrial, Commercial, Residential, and Sheltering Facilities and Services (End quote)
Dictionary.com defines essential as:
- absolutely necessary; indispensable.
So… let me ask. Do you notice anything missing from the essential list? By the way, this list is pretty much the same for every state.
- It was deemed non-essential and that’s why all religious organizations from the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, were shut down…
All during the COIVD pandemic, politicians were the ones who determined which services were essential and which weren’t. And to be honest, a lot of people of faith, got pretty upset about that. Rightfully so.
But, lets take a closer look at people of faith, Christians in particular.
- Are we as consistent in our righteous indignation when it comes to what we deem essential in the church?
PP: Next Slide
It’s the opinion of many in the church that the #1 thing we no longer deem essential… is the Bible. Now we don’t come out and say that. We say things like…
- Of course the Bible is not inerrant.
- It’s juvenile to believe that the Bible is infallible.
- PP: Look, the human writers of the Bible didn’t know what we know today. So on those issues where current knowledge, and cultural practices, differs from what the Bible says, we can just edit those parts out because they are no longer relevant.
John Gaston writes the following:
ILL: Darren Middleton once told how he built a picket fence around his front yard. He was very proud of it and bragged about it to his family. A few days later his father showed up. He went to Darren’s garage and got Darren’s level. He went out and checked the fence and came back to say that one section of it wasn’t level.
Darren said, “Now I had two options: I could take down the unlevel section and rebuild it level, or I could conveniently misplace the level, which seemed the easiest…solution.”
When part of our lives are out of level with God’s Word, it’s much easier to just, put God’s Word away and stay in our sin, rather than remove the sin because it conflicts with God’s Word.
Friends, over the past 30 years, more and more churches are putting away the level, are abandoning the absolute authority of the Bible.
- And that would make the Bible, God’s Word, non-essential… at least as it relates to current secular knowledge and cultural practices.
PP: Next Slide
Another way we see the Bible has lost its essential status in the church is in how we worship. I challenge you… go to other church web sites where you can see an Order of Worship… see how many use Bible verses as part to the worship service. Sure, most will have one for the sermon, but is that the only place they use the Bible, God’s Word?
- While I was preparing for my Doctorate in Worship, I studied that very thing. What I found was the many ‘contemporary’ churches rarely use any Bible verses in worship except for the sermon text.
You’ll find large, professional sounding worship teams, lots of singing, videos and live action drama… Scripture, God’s Word… not so much.
Let me tell you what I believe. 2 Timothy 3:16 PP: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
(2 Timothy 3:16)
- As a pastor and a Christian, I have a very high view of Scripture and its sole authority over the faith and practice, over the lives of all followers of Jesus Christ.
- And I don’t apologize for not editing the Bible to accommodate secular knowledge or cultural practices.
- I don’t apologize for giving God’s Word, the Bible, a prominent place in our worship celebration on Sundays.
- I wholeheartedly believe that God’s Word, the Bible, is still in the life changing business.
- And is essential to all that we do and say as followers of Jesus Christ.
And the writer of the Book of Hebrews will agree in our text this morning.
Transition: Open your Bibles to Hebrews 4:12.
- Hebrews 4:12:b The Word of God
PP: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Background: The word for connects verse 11 with verses 12-13. That tells us there is a direct connection between entering Gods rest and the Word of God.
- To put it another way, there is no rest, apart from God’s Word.
Sidebar: Biblical scholars are divided over what the Word of God is, here. Contextually I believe:
- It refers to God’s Truth; it’s what He says… OT or NT, whether its spoken through God directly, through the prophets, through Jesus, or through what we have today, the written Word of God, the Bible.
The writer told us in verse 11 strive to enter that rest,
and right after that in verse 12 he tells us what that striving looks like, it’s holding a high view of the Word of God and its authority.
His point is this: The ancient Israelites wandered the wilderness for 40 years, because they didn’t believe all that God had said, they didn’t obey all that God had said, they held a low view of God’s Word, one that they thought could be edited and disobeyed w/o consequences.
- Well, they were wrong, weren’t they?
- And so is everyone today who makes God’s Word less essential, in any way.
Transition: OK, so now the writer tells us about the Word of God and why it is to be held as the most essential thing I our lives.
- Is living PP: For the word of God is living
For so many today, even in the church, the Bible is often toned down in favor of human philosophies, personal experiences, or cultural practices.
And in many areas of our lives, it’s ignored as if it’s dead or obsolete.
Yet, Jesus said in John 6:63b: PP: …The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
For the word of God is living. God’s Word, whether spoken by Him, Jesus or found in the Bible.. is alive, it’s living. AND… because it’s living it has the power to give us spiritual, eternal life.
PP: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30–31)
And this is promised for more than just those who lived when Jesus walked the earth. Because God has told us that His word is eternal… making it forever relevant.
- PP: since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Pet 1:23–25)
PP: Next Slide
Theologian Martin Luther once said: The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me. (Jerry Flury)
O, Christian, that God’s Word would penetrate our lives in that way.
- Is active
PP: For the word of God is… active
Another way to translate that would be For the Word of God is… effective. The Apostle Paul said the same thing to the Christian in Thessalonica: PP: And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers
(1 Thessalonians 2:13)
The Word of God is active, effective, it works, today and every today, in the heart that’s willing to receive it and obey it.
The Word of God is active, it can also be translated powerful as in Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… (Romans 1:16a, ESV)
The Word of God has had a powerful effect on the lives of so many throughout the centuries. Even just one word can transform a life for eternity: Did you know that C. H. Spurgeon was saved by one single word from the Bible.
ILL: As a young lad of 16, under conviction of sin, he wandered into a small meeting house one Sunday morning. It was storming on the outside and he came into the church to get out of the storm. For some reason, the preacher did not come that morning. An old man got up who was a blacksmith and took a text from
“Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth for I am God and there is none else.” (KJV). The old man spoke about 10 minutes and didn’t have any more to say. He ran out of words to say, so all that he could say was “Look!” He pointed to the different ones who were there and told each one to “look” to the Lord. He pointed to Spurgeon and said, “Look!” Spurgeon looked that morning and was saved. One word did it. (Jack Arnold)
God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah said: PP: so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
- Christian, have you ever read a verse or passage from the Bible and it touched your heart? Perhaps it convicted you of a sin, or brought comfort to your broken heart.
- Christian, have you ever sat during a sermon and thought the pastor was speaking to you?
PP: Next Slide
One last illustration: Pastor Rick Crandall writes:
ILL: Gaylord was the General Secretary of the Bible Society in Zimbabwe when he tried to give a New Testament to a very grouchy, hot-tempered man. The man gruffly said he would take the New Testament, but only so he could tear out the pages, roll them up, and use them to make cigarettes. Gaylord told the man,
“I understand that, but at least promise to read the page of the New Testament before you smoke it.” The man agreed and the two went their separate ways.
Fifteen years later, the two men met at a Methodist convention in Zimbabwe. By that time, the Scripture-smoking atheist had trusted in Jesus and was a full-time evangelist! He told the people, “I smoked Matthew, and I smoked Mark, and I smoked Luke. But when I got to John 3:16, I couldn’t smoke anymore! My life was changed from that moment.” That Scripture-smoking man was saved by the miraculous power of God’s Word, the Bible.
God’s Word is that powerful, that effective, that active.
- Is sharp
PP: For the word of God is… sharper than any two edged sword
PP: The Greek word for sword refers to a 2 edged sword that is very sharp and can cut with both edges. This is the weapon the writer compares God’s Word to. The idea is the Bible can cut two ways as well: it can judge or save.
- When the Gospel, Gods Word, is offered, one can reject it, leading to judgment or accept it leading to salvation.
For the Christian, it’s our only offensive weapon against the works of Satan. and take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17b)
Rev R. B. Thieme wrote: First of all this sword was short, which meant that anyone could handle it. One did not have to be a physical giant, for it was tight and maneuverable. The second thing about this sword was that it never left the user off balance or vulnerable. The Christian who uses God’s Word is never off balance… oriented and stabilized, which is one of the things that characterizes the faith-rest life.
The Word of God is sharp.
- Is piercing
PP: For the word of God is… piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow,
This sword was not only sharp so it can cut precisely, it’s point allows it to go deep into the enemy. And Word of God is the same.
Now, some biblical scholars go to great lengths to explain to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow. I honestly don’t think that was the writer of Hebrews intent. I think he’s just saying
- God’s Word easily gets right down to the center where we live, to what’s truly in our heart and what controls our minds.
PP: In other words, the Word of God penetrates our defenses. No matter how clever we may think we are, the Word of God,
- because it is living and active, because it’s sharper than any two-edged sword, it can penetrate, pierce through our best human defenses and get to our heart.
We see just this on the Day of Pentecost. PP: 2 slides
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:36–39)
- They were, cut to the heart, moved by God’s Word, to the very center of their being.
- Their defenses of sin were revealed and removed and the light of God’s Word, His grace and forgiveness, shined in… bringing new and eternal life.
And listen, the Word of God… still does that, everyday!
ILL: My good friend Jeff Murad just took a job at Orlando Health Dr. P Phillips Hospital, as head of radiology. He knows that while Ultrasound machines, CAT scans and MRI’s can look deep inside our bodies, he also knows as a Christian, that nothing can penetrate our lives, like Gods Word.
Transition: Next the writer tells us why the Word of God is piercing.
- Is discerning
PP: For the word of God is… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Some translations read judging the thoughts and intentions of the heart. But, I don’t believe that’s right.
I think it has more to do with revealing, causing us to see and examine, whether our thoughts and intentions are godly.
- You see, in verse 13 we’ll find that God sees all that we are, think, do, and say.
- Here, I believe the writer says that God reveals to us our sin so that we can get right with Him, so that we can agree with God (confess) our sin and find forgiveness.
So the idea here is the Word of God helps us discern, expose, reveal, our innermost thoughts and the motivations behind them. For the purpose of choosing to follow God’s Truth and not our sinful desires.
Transition: The writer then tells us that we might as well admit our innermost thoughts and motivations because God already knows what they are.
- Hebrews 4:13 The eyes of God
- God sees all
PP: And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
God is omniscient and omnipresent.
- He knows all, everything, because He is everywhere, at the same time.
- Nothing, no one, escapes God’s view or knowledge.
He uses the words naked and exposed to describe that we can never hide anything from God.
- All are accountable
Not only does God see us, but the writer wants us to know that one day we will see God. He gives us a visual picture when he writes something that his audience would have been familiar with.
- but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Bible Teacher Don Anderson explains it this way:
ILL: When a guy is guilty of a crime, this word was used to describe what happens to the criminal, when he goes before the judge and what happens as he goes to execution…. In that day, they took a dagger and stuck it right at the throat. His throat was naked and exposed and he had to look into the eyes of the judge, as he received his sentence. He had no choice as he walked, down the street, to the execution. And he looked into the eyes, of all the people he had offended, he had no choice.
I believe the writer is singling out those who have yet to place their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin. Who, in other words, will die, unforgiven and unsaved.
They… will be forced, like the criminals in the illustration, to look their judge, Almighty God, in the eyes.
We find this in revelation 20:11-15. Those who reject Jesus in this life, will face the Great White Throne Judgment.
- Since they chose not to believe, not to obey but instead to reject Jesus,
- they will not join Him in His rest in Heaven. .
So, if you have not given your heart to Jesus, there will be a day of reckoning, a day to give account to God for rejecting Jesus.
But… there’s some good news. The writer will show us as we progress in the Book of Hebrews, that Jesus is our High Priest, who invites us, all of us, each in our own way, to draw near to the throne of grace that we might receive mercy and grace to help in our time of need.
- But, you need to be certain Jesus is your High Priest by personally placing your faith in His finished work of the cross for your sin.
PP: Next Slide
Conclusion: So.. let me close by gleaning some truths, some personal application from our text.
- Treasure God’s Word in your heart and mind.
- Read, study and meditate on God’s Word.
- Obey God’s Word, even when it’s not easy.
- Live in such a way that your heart is exposed to God’s Word… Worship together, study together, pray together, fellowship together, with other Christians.
- Allow God’s Word to be the supreme authority in all of your life.
- Refuse to edit Scripture because it doesn’t fit your lifestyle or the prevailing cultural norms speak out against it.
Hear me out… When you place the Bible in your hands, you hold the most powerful book ever written.
- It has the power to transform your life and give you a new heart of faith to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sin.
- It has the power to bring you rest for your weary souls.. today and every day.
- It has the power to direct your life towards life, towards eternal rest in heaven.
One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 15:16 PP: Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts.
- Allow God’s Word to be your foremost authority
- and the pervasive source of your joy.
In other words, live as though God’s Word… PP:
- is essential to your life.