Allowing the Bible to Read Us
How Does the HSTP Word Transform Us?
Having understood the cost of transformation – of allowing the Bible to read you –
- We also need to know exactly how the HSTP Word of God accomplishes this transformation.
- We can’t have any false perceptions and expectations.
The Bible leaves no doubt that God’s word is at work in us.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV) — 13 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.
A great place to see exactly how the HSTP word of God is “at work” is Hebrews 4.
- Its imagery conveys graphically the way God’s word works.
- And in doing so, further highlights for us the pain and cost of transformation.
Hebrews 4:12–13 (ESV) — 12 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. 13 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.
We are going to focus are attention on the:
- “living and active” (vs. 12)
- “sharper…piercing…soul and of spirit…joints and of marrow” (vs. 12)
- “all are naked and exposed” (vs. 13)
Living and Active Word:
(1) “Living and active” means this (D.A. Carson):
- Isaiah 55:11 (ESV) — 11 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.
- God’s word does this because it is HSTP – as we saw last week.
This is massively encouraging for the believer longing to be transformed.
- God’s word does not fail!
- It does what it says it does.
(2) It also carries with it the following idea:
- To be “confronted by the word of God, we are confronted by God himself, and nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” – D.A. Carson.
- Because God’s Word is HSTP, we are confronted not just with God’s thoughts and ways, but His “living and active” thoughts and ways.
BTW – This is exactly why “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” are unable to hide, and are left exposed.
The importance of this is found in the following observations:
- “The inner life of a Christian is often a strange mixture of motivations both genuinely spiritual and completely human. It takes…the Word of God to sort these out and to expose what is of the flesh” – BKC.
“God’s word penetrates to the deepest recesses of our being, opening us up and judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” – D.A. Carson.
(3) “Living and Active” also relates directly to the third leg on the knowledge stool form last week.
- By the Spirit, in Christ, we exist in relationship to God’s Word spiritually and physically in a real way.
God’s word trades in both spiritual and physical realities to transform the believer.
- The world has no way to comprehend this at all.
Obviously, this is not an attempt to convey the physiology and spiritual nature of humanity.
- Here Hebrews is using a powerful metaphor to direct our attention to some profound truths.
(1) The writer of Hebrews is making clear that there is not one part of you that is immune to being shaped by God’s word.
- The idea behind the “of soul and of spirit” and “of joints and of marrow” points to, in the Christian sense, the “whole person” – Michael Heiser.
- What this means is that there is not anything that you are doing or thinking that is unable to be transformed by God’s HSTP word.
- Your depravity is never too much to be transformed by God’s word.
(2) This language also speaks of the thoroughness of the action of God’s word.
“The Wod of God goes to the very center of what we are. It cuts through to that which bonds us together as a being” – M. Robert Mulholland.
How do we know this?
The Louw-Nida lexicon makes this point about the use of “joints”:
- “The emphasis is not upon the joints as a moving part of the body but as a means by which different parts of the body are effectively joined together” – Louw-Nida.
- Or put another way, Hebrews is referring to that which “holds the parts of something in proper relationship” – Mulholland.
This is very important to grasp.
- Your identity is “joined together” by a variety of different things.
- These things are your experiences, worldview, psychology, etc.
- God’s HSTP word can penetrate these things and remake them.
What about the marrow?
The “marrow” is “that which is at the heart or essence of something” – Mulholland.
- In other words, the thing around which the parts are “assembled” and “joined together”.
- For the Christian, this “thing” is to be Christ.
- You are a new creation in Christ and are to be “joined together” by the Spirit around Him.
Problem – Beware:
All of this points us to a problem (yet another reason for the pain of transformation):
- The believer, compared to the old-self, has a new “heart or essence” and is “joined together” differently than he used to be (this is what happens at regeneration).
- This is a fact even though we can’t see this or “feel” this.
And yet, the old-self (the flesh) is still exerting its influence.
- Romans 7:15–16 (ESV) — 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
So how does God’s HSTP word contend with this?
By His HSTP word, God does the following:
- He, and often painfully, excises the old-self from the new-self with His word.
- He cuts away the flesh of the old-self (NT sense) from our new identity found in Union with Christ.
- When we go down to the Jordan He can cut; when we stay in the waters of Damascus He doesn’t.
This process has been beautifully described as:
- God “‘shaping persons’ identities so decisively as to transform them” – David Kelsey.
- The very thing we are learning about – being transformed by God’s Word.
- It is the “so decisively” part that can be painful and costly.
And this process is a picture of what it means when I say –
- We must learn to let the Bible read us.
Naked and Exposed Before God’s Word:
It is already clear from what we have seen thus far that we are “naked and exposed” before God’s word.
- But, the imagery conveyed with this phrase is even more startling that what we have seen already.
“Naked” carries with it the humiliating notion of “exposure to examination” – Heiser.
- God’s “living and active” HSTP word is brutal to the flesh.
- And for those who remain in the flesh – judgment and condemnation results.
- We either submit to it or we run from it.
- Standing still is running.
“Exposed” contains such violent imagery, that I will quote Kenneth Wuest at length:
“The verb means ‘to seize and twist the neck or throat.’ It was used of combatants who handled their antagonists in that way. It meant also ‘to bend back the neck of the victim to be slain, to lay bare or expose by bending back.’ Hence the verb came to mean ‘to lay bare, to uncover, to expose.’ The three possible metaphors in this case seem to be (1), the athlete grasping his opponent by the throat; (2), the bending back of the malefactor’s neck and the exposing of his face to the spectators; and (3), the drawing back and the exposing of the neck of the sacrificial victim at the altar. The last one suits the previous figure of a sword better than the others. The metaphor of the victim’s throat bared to the sacrificial knife is a vivid illustration of the total exposure of the human heart to the eye of God whose inspired Word is as keen as a two-edged sword.”
Jeremiah hints at this aspect of God’s word, but in a more palatable way:
- Jeremiah 23:29 (ESV) — 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
This aspect of God’s word should invoke a little healthy fear of God.
- Because, this means that to transform us is, in a sense, to be judged by God.
- The aspects of our “joints and marrow” that don’t mirror Christ are judged and found wanting.
And this aspect of God’s word is shown in a profound way in Revelation.
- Revelation 19:13–15 (ESV) — 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
- This is the “living and active” confronting the “naked and exposed”.
- This is real stuff and aptly demonstrates the real power of God’s word in all its meanings.
Are we willing to posture ourselves naked and exposed before God, and His Word?
- And from that vulnerable posture, submit to being pierced by its “two-edged sword”?
- This is how to let the Bible read you and transform your life.