Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The power of the Bible to change lives is why this book is always a bestseller. Its precepts cut to the core of our being, telling us who we are and who God is. Today, a personal look at what its power can do in your life and in mine. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win, with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, as our culture darkens ever further, the rift between light and darkness widens. To quote Daniel, those who are wise by the power of the Spirit through the Word of God will shine as the stars forever.
Dave, you're right. That's why the Bible says that the Word of God is a light for our path, a light in the darkness. Well, this is the last day of the month, but it's also the last day that we are making available a resource that we think will be of tremendous help to you. It's entitled, Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible. Some of the chapter titles, The Bible's Claims About Itself, The Historical Reliability of the Bible, The Prophetic Predictions of the Bible, The Claims of Christ, The Harmony Between Science and the Bible, all of this is available to you for a gift of any amount. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let us be reminded of the power of God's Word. It is a sword with two edges, and you'll notice it says it is sharper. Here we have the language of dissection. The Greek word is very clear here. It means to cut, to dissect, piercing as far as division of soul and spirit. The idea is going right through the soul and through the spirit, all the way through. And may I simply interpret it this way, it does not mean that it divides the soul and the spirit, as if to say that they are intertwined and it has to divide them. Rather, the idea is it goes through the soul and it goes through the spirit, just like the joints and marrow do not have to be separated, as the text goes on to say here in a poetic way to emphasize with imagery the power of the Word of God, because the joints and the marrow are not even really together, but rather it goes through the joints and it goes through the marrow. We might say that the Word of God cuts through to the bone, it dissects every single part of us, and the text says it is able to judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart. That word, thoughts, in Greek means words that ideas that come to us that we meditate on.
A good word would be reflections of the heart. The things that we think about when we're going along the expressway, the thoughts that we have about different people, the anger that arises within our hearts, or our reflections as we come to church about things that happened to us this past week, or things that are going to happen in the future, and also the intentions of the heart, what we intend to do, the things that we would like to do but can't, all of the musings of the mind and the heart, the Word of God sits in judgment upon and discerns moment by moment, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, it's all, it's all there. Now, why is this so important? Because you and I are born sinners. We are born sinners, and as a result of that, we are born with a defense mechanism, and there are some people whose mechanism is more finely tuned than others, and we do not want anything to penetrate across our radar.
We don't. And we can see it more clearly in people who are addicts, like alcoholics, who oftentimes build up such a defense system that they cannot be at fault. Everyone has to be at fault. No one can find out what they are going through. Everybody in the family has to lie for them.
There's a whole network that is built up to protect, to protect this citadel, to protect people from knowing who that individual really is. But you know, that's true of all of us. It's true of all of us. And we do it through rationalizations. We do it through avoidance. We are people who want to protect ourselves and will not allow anyone in behind the armor, including God, including God. And what the Word of God does is it cuts through, it goes right under our radar system, it cuts right through, and it lays us bare, lays us bare, sees the whole thing. In fact, that's the second point I'd like to draw from the passage. I've emphasized just a moment ago that the Word of God cuts us open, but it also lays us bare.
The imagery of an operating room continues. Notice, and there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. And this is now talking about Christ.
Here's the point. Do you notice how closely verse 12 is united to verse 13? It is the Word of God, you see, that cuts us open. And it lays us bare, and we're being laid bare by the Word, which is by God, by Christ, to whom we must give an account.
That's what the text actually says here. So here we have an autopsy being performed here, and everything is laid out. Every cell, every thought, every intention, every dream, every hoped-for moment, every sin, every carefully concealed iniquity, it's all bare, it's all laid out.
And there you have a tumor, and there you have disease, and there are cells that obviously are affected by the disease, and over here you have a spine that is crooked, and here you have some bones that are out of joint, and here lies the heart with all of its aspirations. And the Scripture says that there is nothing that is hidden from his sight. All of it is naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. And listen to me carefully. What a person is lying there on God's table is what he really is, and nothing more, nothing more. That's it.
Wow. Now, how does God do this? How does he dissect us this way? Well, you see, it's through the Word that we begin to see God.
You see, up until that time, we only see others. One of our defense mechanisms is always to find somebody else who's worse than we are. And I'll tell you something, that is not hard to do. It's not hard to do.
If you want to find somebody who's worse than you, just look around. Just take a moment. Just look at the person who's sitting next to you and the person who's behind you.
I'll give you a minute to do that. It's easy. All that you have to do is look around. There's somebody who's worse than you are.
It could well be that it's somebody you had breakfast with this morning, somebody you had an argument with in the car as you came over. They're worse than you are. No question about it. So you're comfortable here in church. Very comfortable.
Too comfortable. Listen. When the Word of God penetrates us, when we are laid bare, there is no one to whom we can compare ourselves. All that there is in the operating room is us and God. That's it. And all things are bare and opened onto the eyes of him with him to do. And every single cintillic of thought dividing the soul with all of its soulish ideas, some of which are of mixed motives, dividing it, the Spirit separating it, finding out all of the wrong motives that are mixed with good motives and the whole sight as it is laid bare before God. And that's it.
How does he do it? The Word of God. Listen. Freud wasn't wrong about everything. And when he said that there is beneath us a subterranean part of us, I don't know whether or not he would use the word evil, but I would, that is evil. It's there.
It's there. There are some serpents that lie coiled on the floor of every one of our hearts. There is fungus that grows up like in a dark, deep cellar with all of its darkness and its dampness. And suddenly the light comes. And when the light shines like the light of the sun, it's all there.
And there's no place to hide, and there's no place to run, and there's nobody who can possibly give you shelter. It's just you and God. That's it. Wow. And the Word of God does it.
Does it. A man who occupied this pulpit for nine and a half years who had a great ministry, and there are at least a few of you here, I'm sure, who remember him is Dr. Alan Redpath. He preached here at the church for nine and a half years. And he always emphasized yieldedness and the filling of the Spirit, and sometimes he chided the congregation quite harshly as I've been told about the fact that they should just get with the program, get yielded, get sanctified.
And all of us preachers, we do that. And then God gave Dr. Redpath a stroke. And I remember an article he wrote after that which I wasn't able to lay my hands on this week.
If any of you have it, I'd really like to get it because it was absolutely breathtaking. But I remember the essence of it was this. He said that when he was recovering there in the hospital, every sin that he thought he had long since given up suddenly rose up in his heart, including envy and anger and lust and self-will and rebellion and unthankfulness. He said that it was just an absolutely awful sight, awful. And then he said there in the hospital, I concluded something I never fully understood before, that the only good thing about Alan Redpath is Jesus Christ. That's the only good thing about him. People say to me sometimes, well, pastor, what is God doing in your life these days?
Well, I'll tell you one of the things he's doing. I would like to learn that the only good thing about Erwin Lutzer is Jesus Christ. And I'd like to learn that before I get a stroke personally.
And I'd like to learn that before I'm told that I have terminal cancer. That's what God is teaching us. And you know, the more holy you get, it is not that you are unaware of your sinfulness, the more sanctified you become, the more helpless, the more desperate you become before God, because the more snakes and evil and desires and wrong motives and the whole bit, it all comes to the surface.
And then you have no means by which you can rationalize it. You see, if Alan Redpath were not a Christian, he'd have been able to handle that very naturally and just say, well, that's just normal part of being human. But you can't do that in the presence of God. The word of God came to life in his heart, and he realized something. And by the way, in the early 80s, I had him come here and speak at the church. And some of you may remember that sermon too.
I'll never forget it. He apologized to this congregation for having preached a number of sermons. And he actually gave the number. He figured out about the number of sermons he had preached from this pulpit. And he said he preached sermons that he himself did not live up to. Well, you know, all of us as preachers have to confess at that point, of course I preached messages I've not lived up to. All of us have done that. But you see, you see what we need to do, folks, is we need to see ourselves in this text in verse 13, that the word of God comes and demolishes all rationalizations, all sense of image, and it leaves us absolutely bare and there's nothing to cling to because we have been smitten by God.
He takes his knife with unerring accuracy and goes through the whole thing. And listen, the spiritual development that you will make as a Christian is directly dependent upon your willingness, your willingness to be honest in the presence of God about what he sees when he cuts you open. If you're still hiding, the grace of God does not enter those closed doors. Now, you say, well, please don't leave us here. No, I don't intend to.
I don't intend to. God's word cuts us open, it lays us bare, but it also heals us. It heals us. It says in Deuteronomy, a lovely text, I found it only this morning. So that gives you an idea of how recent these messages sometimes get. But I found it only this morning in a commentary.
I'd not seen it before. It says, I am the Lord who kills and makes alive. I am the Lord who wounds and I am the Lord who heals. I said, Lord, thank you for that text. Thank you.
Thank you. Why? Because God doesn't just wound us and then leave us along the side of the road bleeding. It is his intention to bind up our wounds. But you see, most of us say, Lord, don't cut me. I want chemotherapy, but don't touch me with a knife. I want vitamins. I'll take all the vitamins, Lord, you'll give me. I'll go to church as often as you want.
If that's a vitamin, I'll take it. But don't you dare begin to cut. God says, you know why I'm going to cut you? Because the deeper I cut you, the deeper your experience of repentance will be.
And the deeper the experience of repentance, the more thorough my work can be in your heart. So God just goes on cutting whether we like it or not. He goes on cutting and we're stripped bare.
Listen, you know what he does? He comes along and he offers us forgiveness. You see, the answer is not to run from God because he knows us so thoroughly in a horrifying way. No, no, no, we come to him.
In fact, here in Hebrews it says, verse 14, since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens. Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Verse 16, let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. No, just because the Word of God cuts you like this, don't run from the one who is able to heal you because the one who cuts is the one who heals.
How does he do it? He offers us forgiveness, forgiveness. And in that forgiveness, he wants humility and brokenness. How blessed are they whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered?
The whole ugly mess cleansed away. He comes into the cellar of our experience and he takes care of the fungus on the walls by scrubbing them clean. He offers us forgiveness. He, of course, helps us. The Lord is my helper and we come to him as that.
He restrains us from evil. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee. How do we deal with all of the lusts and the desires of the heart? Jesus said these words, now you're clean through the word that I have spoken unto you. And wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?
How in the world are you going to keep pure in a society that is so impure, that majors in impurity by taking heed thereto according to thy word? The word of God, memorized, hid in the heart, the word of God meditated upon, becomes to us what we need in order to thread our way through a society that is so overwhelmingly committed to sin. And so there it is.
There it is. He forgives us. He helps us.
He restrains us. He prospers us. Psalm 1, the person who meditates in the law of God, he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of living water which brings forth his fruit and his season. His leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does prospers. He comforts us.
Psalm 145, the scripture says that he heals the broken hearted and he binds up their wounds. It is all, it is all in the word of God. Now how do we experience his transforming power?
How do we get changed from the inside out? Well, what we need to do is to pay attention to the book because listen carefully. The attention that you pay to God can be directly measured by the attention that you pay to his book. If you, week by week, blow off the word of God, you're blowing off God.
Let us at least be clear. And as a result of that, what we need to do is to bring ourselves into submission to this word and it needs to become a part of us. We need to eat it as Jeremiah did so that it becomes a part of our system, so that it becomes to us the joy and the rejoicing of our heart, all that we need in his book.
Don't miss where we've been and what we've done. The word of God has the characteristics of God. The word of God has the power, the power of God.
Let me give you a very brief suggestion. First of all, meditation, meditation. It's not enough to read the Bible. I know that we say, you know, a chapter a day keeps the devil away. Well, a chapter a day will keep the devil away if you remember what the chapter is all about. But, you know, you read a chapter and like D.L.
Moody says, you know, when he was hoeing potatoes, he always had to put a stick in where he had hoe because when he came back, he had no idea where he had ended. And that's the way we are too. So what we do is we concentrate and we say, Lord, I will not put your word down until you have given me a thought, an idea, an assurance, a promise for today. For example, last night before I went to bed, I've been reading the book of Acts, a chapter a night just before I drop off to sleep and I was reading Acts chapter five and I had a tendency to put the Bible down, but I said, I still do not have my thought. So I reread it until I had the thought for the night because that's the way the word of God lodges in our mind.
The best way to meditate is to memorize, but if you can't memorize, at least meditate. Don't don't put the word down until you have been ministered to. That's first of all meditation. Secondly is of course confession. The dealing with sin that the Holy Spirit of God points out through the word and then always, and here's the biggie now, submission. Lord, allow your word to sit in judgment of me.
Whatever you reveal to me by your grace, I will submit to. What happens is the word of God begins to be all that we need within our hearts. Do we need guidance?
Oh God, how we need guidance. Thy word then is a light onto my path, lamp into my feet, and it guides me. Do I need the comfort? Do I need all that the Lord has given to me? The answer is yes. Do I need to know how to go to heaven?
Yes. It's in the word. I conclude with the words of John Wesley. I am a creature of day passing through life as an arrow through the air.
A few months hence I am no more seen. I drop into an unchangeable eternity. I want to know one thing, the way to heaven.
God himself has condescended to teach the way he has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book. At any price, give me that book.
Friends, you have one, don't you? Become a lover of God's book and you'll be a lover of God. Let us pray. Father, we marvel at what you say about your word. We marvel, Lord, at the fact that it is so, so much like you are, pure and right, sure, all of the attributes that are attributed to it. Father, we marvel at the fact that it has such power to penetrate, to get past all of our defenses, all of our rationalizations, all of the screens that we put up that we say he will never get through to me.
God will never, never get through to me. Father, you can separate all that and you can demolish it. We ask, Lord, for a spirit of submission, for a spirit of meditation, of yieldedness to your holy word. We thank you, Father, that it has been proven again and again and again.
It is indeed your power. Help us to love it, to believe it, to live it, to memorize it, and to represent you well in the process. In Jesus' name. Amen. Yes, my friend, think for a moment of what life would be like without the word of God.
No guide, no direction, even as we are headed for an unchangeable eternity, as Wesley said. My own heart rejoices in the fact that we have a word from God that helps us in this dark world. We are making a very special book available to you. It's entitled Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible. I wrote this book to encourage people's faith. This past week, I was with a pastor who said that he has given out multiple copies to college students, to others who are struggling with Christian belief. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours, and I need to remind you that this is the last day that we are making this book available.
Seven reasons why you can trust the Bible. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's R-T-W-Offer.
Of course, as you might know, R-T-W-Offer is all one word. Rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let me thank you in advance for helping us as we continue to get the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. Ask for the book Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible. And to give you that contact info again, go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And above all, be sure to open your Bible, read it, meditate upon it, for in it we find the mind of God.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Why is it that some kids want to break out and experience what the world has to offer? Often they end up in ruins, wishing they'd never left. Next time, we begin a series on the prodigal son. We'll look first at one son who left his father and never returned. His name was Absalom. Plan to join us. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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