The Living Word

Hebrews 4:12 

How well do you know your Bible? Do you even know where your Bible is? Is it tucked away on a shelf gathering cobwebs, or on a coffee table collecting dust? Maybe your Bible is shiny and new with the gold leaf still on the edges or perhaps it is worn and tattered from constant use. When a scripture reference is mentioned can you easily and confidently turn right to the book of Zephaniah, or do you have to look in the table of contents to figure out where a book of Bible can be found?

And perhaps you’re thinking, “What’s all the big fuss? It’s just an old, antiquated book and besides I don’t like to read.”

Each year, I try to provide a new Bible reading plan for the year. Sometimes it’s all the way through the Bible, other times it’s been just the NT or just the OT. Other times it’s been journaling through the Bible. This year I’ve been including memory verses for each day.

And the purpose of getting you to read your Bible is not so that you will know more Bible information, but so that you will come to know the author better. When we talk about spending time reading your Bible, it’s not so much a matter of you getting into the Word as the Word getting into you. Reading the Bible should not so much be an educational as a transformational experience.

Let me tell you why I say that. I had never read the Bible before I was 16 years old.  The truth is I had never opened a Bible before I was 16 years old – except to use the big family coffee table Bible as a press for my leaf collection in science every year. Other than that I knew nothing about the Bible. I didn’t know there was an Old and a New Testament. I had never heard of Paul, I couldn’t tell you who Moses or Abraham were, I had never heard of the Holy Spirit – I knew nothing about the Bible.

But in the summer after I turned 16 I came to church for the first time. And for the first time in my life I was introduced to the Bible. I started reading it every day and started learning things most of you have known since you were toddlers. I soaked it in and my thirsty soul hungered for the Word to fill that place that had been empty for so long.

Yes, I began to learn more biblical information, but as I came to know more Bible, I also grew to know God for the first time. The Bible was the door through which I walked into God’s kingdom and suddenly found myself face to face with the Father and the Son and the Spirit. I fell in love with Jesus and his church. In it, I found the source of life, and it changed my life.

The Hebrews writers tells us: 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. (Heb 4:12)

This is the living Word, not some ancient, outdated book full of dead people and antiquated rules that someone pulled off a library shelf and decided it should be on everybody’s reading list.

In this Word you will find life. And the reason I can say that is from what the apostle John told us in the opening words of his Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)  Jesus was the living, eternal Word, and this Word is God’s revelation of himself through Jesus.

And at the end of his Gospel, John declares the reason he wrote: But these are written 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 20:31)

When you read your Bible do you find yourself lulled into a monotonous routine or do you read it with a hunger to find the word of Christ which brings faith and life?

When John wrote his Gospel he always called the miracles of Jesus “signs.” And the reason he did that was that they were intended to point people to God, if they were looking.

If a person is driving from California to Kansas and they get to mile marker 113 and see the sign that says “Glenwood Springs next 2 exits” they will probably just fly by on their way through, because this isn’t what they are looking for. But if we’ve been camping in Moab and see that sign, we’re getting over in the right hand lane to take the exit because we know we’re almost home.

If a person was seeking God, then the miracles Jesus performed were like neon road signs flashing “Look here and you will find God!” If a person wasn’t looking for God, then the miracle would simply be a miracle – amazing yes – but nothing that will make them take notice because that’s not what they were looking for, like the 5000 people Jesus fed with five loaves and two fish. Some saw that miracle and believed in Jesus, but others said, “Give us more bread so that we won’t ever go hungry again!” They missed the fact that Jesus himself is the bread of life.

The Bible is much like that. If you are reading just to read, then it’s likely that you can flip through page after page and never really see anything that grabs your attention. But if you are seeking for God, then on every page something is going to jump out at you and yell, “Isn’t God amazing!”

Jesus told his followers, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.”

If Jesus is the source of life – real life, abundant life – then his Word is the conduit for it. In the Word we see God in all his might and power, in all his grace and mercy, we see Jesus compassionate and caring, selfless and sacrificial; we see the terrible cross that he bore for us and the empty tomb that promises eternal life. We are challenged and convicted, we are comforted and inspired.

Paul calls the Word of God the sword of the Spirit. It is a powerful weapon against the attacks of Satan. What did Jesus do when Satan tempted him in the wilderness? He quoted scripture.

But the Word is also a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting away the sin from our lives and bringing true healing and wholeness.  The Holy Spirit uses this Word to transform us more and more into the likeness of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says it is “from one degree of glory to another.” In Galatians 4, he talks about the process of that transformation, “until Christ is formed in you.”

But if you neglect the Word and leave your Bible unopened and gathering dust, you are taking away the most important tool the Spirit has to do that transforming work.

Jeremiah spoke these convicting words to Israel when they turned their backs on God: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer 2:13) The Bible is that spring of living water that refreshes our souls and brings joy to our lives. When we neglect that, it means that we are looking elsewhere for life, we are dipping our ladles in wells that are empty and bring nothing but brokenness.

Isaiah uses that same kind of imagery when he writes: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” (Isa 55:1-3)


These words of Jeremiah and Isaiah suggest that inactivity is not neutral, that not relying on God isn’t just a symptom of being too busy, but of putting our trust in something else. When we don’t spend time in the Word of God, we’re letting all the other voices in the world have their say, giving them a platform to speak into our lives, while muffling God’s voice from speaking.

But when you not only read your Bible, but spend time laying it up in your heart, that Word starts to live within you. It becomes a familiar voice that gives you guidance and counsel when you face various situations in your life.

To use a different image, it is like a workman sharpening his tools or a warrior sharpening his sword. A rusty tool or a dull weapon is useless when it comes time to use it. Only as we keep it sharp and ready can we use it when the need arises.

David wrote in Psalm 119: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps 119:11)  Job counsels us: “Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart.” (Job 22:22)

Let me say a couple of practical things about our daily Bible readings:  If you take the time to read all of the scriptures on a particular day, it will get you into the Gospels in the NT, and into the Letters; it will take you into the OT with the Psalms and historical books and into the prophets. By the end of the year you will have read completely through the Bible.  And each daily reading will take about 20 minutes.

But I realize that some of you aren’t readers, and 20 minutes might be more like 30 minutes and it’s more than you really want to bite off. There is nothing magical about reading through the Bible in a year, so let me suggest that you just read one part of the daily readings – just work through a Gospel and then switch over to the Psalms, and then come back and read the letters. Just spend a little time every day in God’s Word. If you feel like even that is too much time, then just spend a few minutes reading and memorizing the memory verse each day and at the end of a year, you will have laid up 366 verses on your heart.

Our purpose in the daily readings is to get the Word into you and for you to spend some time every day letting God have a voice in your life.

We talked about prayer a couple of weeks ago, and I likened it to an ongoing conversation with God, and really, reading the Word is the other side of the conversation where God speaks into your life in response to your speaking with him.

Let me close with a familiar passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 3:14-17. In these words, Paul blesses his son in the faith Timothy with an exhortation to make the Word of God an integral part of his life:  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Make Paul’s blessing to Timothy your blessing. Let the Word of God have a place in your life.