Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Word of God: Hidden Glory

God hides His glory in the humblest of places, like the birth of the Savior and Creator of the world in smelly, manure-filled stall. What good could come from such a stench-filled place! Curiously, He did the same thing with the most concentrated, life-transforming wisdom this world has ever known. He placed it in a book written by human hands, in human language, portraying more human failings – the Bible.

Had not the shepherds been  alerted by angels to this strange event, they might have passed by Jesus’ manger only to laugh in scorn at the poor family “cursed” to give birth in such squalor. Failing to see the glory contained within its pages, passers-by, even seminaries, now scorn the Bible as a mere human document.

I just lifted from the web a saying ascribed to Martin Luther:

  • The Bible is alive; it speaks to me. It has feet; it runs after me. It has hands; it lays hold of me!
Whether or not Luther actually wrote these words, I think they indicate that there is glory in its pages – a glory that will be perceived only by heavenly intervention.

Jesus referred to its cleansing hands that have laid hold to us and won’t let us go:

  • You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (John 15:3) 
He prayed to the Father “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). In a glorious way, this Word is able to cleanse and sanctify us. It did so for Moses after He had spent 40 days and nights with the Lord. His face had been so transformed that it glowed, and he had to cover it.

Some people wrongly think that the glow was merely the product of being with God all that time. However, according to Scripture, it was a product of the Word, “because he had spoken with the Lord” (Exodus 34:29). And when He finally spoke with the Israelites, there was not a word about his incredible mountain-top experience. Instead, it was all about God’s words.

This is because God stands behind this Word. Paul calls it “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16.) Later, he reiterates the power of this Word to cleanse believers of their sin and its tarnishing effects:

  • Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. (Ephes. 5:25-26) 
How can mere words cleanse? They can’t, apart from the Holy Spirit. In the hand of God, the Word is able to make surgical incisions to expose and remove cognitive malignancies:

  • For the word of God is living 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)
These malignancies consist of our sinful thinking that opposes itself to both life and God.

Peter describes this saving Word as “living and enduring,” imbued with divine attributes:

  • For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." [Isaiah 40:8] And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)
It is so incredible that Scripture is endowed with divine attributes, that many want to deprive Scripture of this honor. They do this by pointing out that Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1). However, in no way does this verse suggest that there is only one Word of God – Jesus – and therefore, Scripture cannot also be the Word of God.

However, Peter explicitly states that this Word of God which saves is that very Word “that was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:25). There is no getting away from the fact that God uses Scripture to evoke understanding and miraculously transform us. In this regard, Peter makes a radical statement we tend to gloss over:

  • Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:2-3)
Amazingly, God imparts to us every spiritual blessing through the knowledge of Him! This can happen in very simple ways.

For decades, I had suffered from severe depression and panic attacks that left me utterly devastated. Nothing could lift me out of these attacks. I was left utterly powerless. Many nights, I could not sleep, pray, or even read the Bible. When I did read the Bible, I could only understand the simplest statements. However, on a number of occasions, I would read a simple statement like, “And the Lord heard him.”

I experienced nothing short of an explosion as the Spirit made these words come alive for me. The depression was swept away as if they were no more substantial than scattered crumbs. I knew that my God had heard me and nothing else mattered!

I had many such experiences, However that had been many years ago. After the depression and panic attacks shriveled away, these intense illuminations also bid me farewell, but not what they had taught me.

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