“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).

I was so excited to hear that at least a couple of you have decided to take me up on my idea that since you’ve now got the time, that you’re going to make the most of the time by really reading God’s Word for yourself, perhaps for the first time in your lives. 

As you have launched yourself on this ambitious project of likely reading at least the whole New Testament during our national pause during the Covid-19 Pandemic, I thought it would be good to provide you with some ideas about how to make the most of your time in God’s Word.

Hebrews 4:12 has become predominant in my mind as I considered this task.  So it will form the basis of much of my encouragement here:

First, consider what the Bible says about itself: It is “the word of God.”  What an awesome thought that is all by itself!  To think that the awesome Almighty Eternal All-Knowing, Loving, Holy Creator of the Universe and life itself would go to the trouble of creating a book full of His wisdom out of his love for us over a period of at least 1600 years is quite incredible in and of itself. 

This book is set apart from any and every other book you’ll ever read by that one fact itself—it is from God Himself; it is the very wisdom of our Creator; it reflects His loving care and kindness toward us and is his instruction book for life.  Wow!  How could we even think of ignoring it, or putting it off?  Why aren’t we more excited about this tremendous gift He has provided us with?  How in the world could any of us be so foolish as to think that any other book or any other education could or should have priority over what this book has to offer?  It is, after all, the very source of spiritual and eternal life, and according to no less an authority than Jesus itself, it has the power to set us free from the negative things of this life—little things like sin and death.  Again, what a gift!!!

So, the very first thing that should characterize our approach to God’s Word is this:  Gratitude!  Be thankful for God’s Word!  Thank God for it!  Value it for how unique, how wonderful, how amazing it really is that the Almighty God would want to communicate His love and His wisdom to us and that He went to so much trouble to provide it for you!  After all, this was Solomon’s wisdom–the wisest man’s wisdom for his own sons—as he wrote Proverbs 2:1-7:  “My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you,  Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.”

My second encouragement is to approach your Bible reading prayerfully.  This is evident even from the passage just quoted:  “if you cry for discernment, lift up your voice for understanding . . . then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3-5).  Prayer is part of the process.

And this dovetails perfect for the central assertion of Hebrews 4:12:  “For the word of God is living and active.”  These are not dead words on a page.  These are words inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity who lives in us and is powerfully working in us to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.  Reading God’s Word is no mere academic process.  It is not just about knowing something about God.  It will be life-changing if we are at all prayerful about it; at all submissive to what God wants to do in and through us.  It will be a supernatural, life-changing experience.

So, pray, asking God to show you what He wants you to learn and how He wants to change your life—how he wants you to minister to others, as you are reading, and before you are reading. 

At times, I’ve had certain passages seemingly jump off the page at me as I read them—that were especially relevant to the circumstances I then faced.  Other times, God has spoken to me (in my mind) in response to prayers I’ve prayed that I’ve found in the Scriptures, or in response to them.  You are reading the Word of the living God, and though these haven’t been everyday experiences for me, they do happen, especially as you seek His face (Psalm 27).

Don’t be surprised if God shines a light on your motives, as you read the Word.  That’s the sense of the rest of Hebrews 4:12:  “and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 

Just how revealing the Word can be is expressed by the idea that it is able to pierce as far as the division of soul and spirit.   After all, just exactly what is the difference between the soul and the spirit?  The two are said throughout the New Testament to be separate entities.  Yet, both are invisible to us.  So exactly how are the two different or separate?  Obviously, this is a very challenging question, a question that the author to Hebrews had difficulty answering.  Yet, He says the Word of God is able to separate the two and is therefore also able to judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.  Yep, God will use the light of His Word to shine upon and reveal the deepest, and sometimes darkest, thoughts and intentions of your heart.  This is a good thing!

Finally, a big help in understanding any book of the Bible is knowing the circumstances surrounding its writing—its “situation in life.”  Who, in terms of human authors, wrote it?  To whom did he write it?  When did he write it?  For what purpose did he write it?  What were the circumstances and culture at the time of the writing?  Was there a problem or issue he was trying to resolve.  What’s the over-all them of the book?  Having the answers to these questions can go a long way in increasing your understanding as you read. 

How can you discover the answers to these kinds of questions?  Yep, you can probably find them on a reliable site on the internet—beware though of false teachers and teachings there as well.  But to make it easier on yourself, get a good study Bible.  We have some great ones at the office—NASB Study Bibles, which provide all this information as an introduction to each Bible book.  These are quality Bibles, and if you would like one, we’ll give it to you!  Just let Blair know during office hours (Monday-Thursday, about 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and she’ll make sure you get one.

Finally, the ultimate step is obedience—doing what God says to do.  Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17).  Knowledge is good, but only if it’s applied, in God’s book!

On a personal note:  I’ll miss seeing you all tomorrow—Sunday!  We’re working on getting our sermons at least, and perhaps a service of sorts, on-line.  My computer here at home is failing, so I’m replacing it come Thursday with one which will enable us to record or live-stream a service from our home.  I’ll be sending a link next week to each of you about how you can join our service for next Sunday on-line—Lord willing. Also, if you’d like to give this week, you can go to our website and get it done.  You can send it into the office at 1855 Sullivan, #160, Sparks, NV.  I’ll be sending the number for texting asap.—Love, Pastor Jim