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The Word That Works

Ministry Staff Reflections

“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. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!” 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

 

There are many who have little regard for the Bible. They are those who see the Bible as a collection of fables that we should be rid of. There are others who have a high esteem for the Bible. Yet, they see it not as what it is, the Word of God, but as the words of men. You cannot just have a high esteem of the Bible. You cannot look at it merely as a book from men. You have to see it for what it really is, the very Word of God.

What's the difference between seeing the Bible as a book of men or as the Word of God? This is the difference. When you affirm that the Bible is the Word of God, you are saying this is the place where God speaks. You are saying that this is how God speaks and informs your life. The Bible isn't where God merely informs, it's where God performs. God's Word has a transformative affect in your life.

So what's the problem with merely esteeming the Bible? When you stop short of seeing the Bible as God speaking, then the Word will not do its work in your life. Only by embracing the Bible as the Word of God will it be able to do it's work in your life. The Word is a mighty worker. It is not lifeless or inert; it is not dead. It is a living and active thing (Hebrews 4:12). It is alive and doing things in the lives of believers. God is not just informing you through Scripture; he is transforming you by the means of Scripture.

An Application Approach

We often approach the Bible with an application approach. We read it, see what it said, and then apply it to our lives. This is an alright thing, but there is an inadvertant slip in this method. We begin to think that the BIble is ineffective until we give it life by applying it to our lives.

You need to remember that the Bible is more than that. It is the Word that works. The key is not so much applying the Bible to you life. Rather, it is applying your life to the Bible. The Bible does stuff to your life when you give it your heart and mind.

Evidence of the Word at Work

So how do you know if the Word is at work in your life? The proof, the evidence, the sign that the Word is at work in your life is that you become an imitator of other Christians. This doesn't mean a copycat, look alike imitation. It means a profound substantive change, a change of character. The Word works in your life and molds you into the image of Christ. As the Word does this, you recognize that all Christians look oddly alike.

Yes, we are all strangely different, but in many ways, since we are all imitating Christ, we all behave similarly; we all exhibit similar character.

The Cruciform Shape of the Bible

So how does the Bible shape you? The shape that the Bible takes in the life of believers is one of cruciform joy. The Word at work sustains you with joy, even as you suffer as an imitator of Christ. And suffering you will experience. The Word at work doesn't alleviate suffering. It actually brings it on (see the above Scripture).

The Word causes you to become cruciformed into the shape of Christ just as Christ was crucified. Just as he suffered with joy, you will suffer with joy.

This is a stunningly counter-cultural claim in the face of global Christianity. The world expects material blessing and prosperity, but the Word shows us that we will experience a cruciformed joy in Christ as we allow the Word to do the work in our lives.

Yielding to the Bible's Voice

Where does the Word do the work? It does the work in believers. You embrace the Word of God for what it really is; you believe it as the Word of God, and it changes you.

We often look at the Bible as a product to use. But no, the Bible is a voice that we yeild to and listen to.

You need to lay your life open to Scripture. Instead of looking at it as a product to use, look at it as something that does something to you. Open yourself to the Scripture and see how it speaks to you. Listen to it reverently, humbly, putting yourself at its feet. Reverently hearing the Word exercises humility. It enflames you with love, inspires you with zeal, and lifts you up to heaven.

The Word that Works Checkup

So how are you doing at letting the Word influence you? The best way for you to let the Word do the work is by memorizing it. This is how it shapes the architecture of our mind and heart. We need to dwell in the Word of God so that Word of God will dwell in us.

As a church, we've been challenged to memorize Scripture. In fact, much of this article is a review of the sermon I preached at the beginning of the year as we kicked off Tested Texts. So how is it going for you? Are you getting into it still? Are you memorizing Philippians 2 with us now? Are you opening yourself up to the person of Christ, becoming conformed to this incarnate one so that you can be transformed according to the cruciformed shape of joy.

I encourage you to continue to integrate Scripture memory into your small groups, into your family worship, and into your personal devotion. Let's finish this year strong.

Todd Wilson is senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church. Follow @toddadamswilson on Twitter.