Sharp Words

We are often discouraged from using sharp words when talking to others. It is usually meant by this that we Christians should talk to people with gentleness and humility, and not to be rude, hard or harsh. This is all quite true, but not the point of my post today.

I instead want to think about another form of sharp words:

For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 There is no creature that is hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.

Hebrews 4:12-13 WEB

The Bible, here called the Word of God, is a sharp word. While it is never intended to be harsh, it can be a difficult pill to swallow at times.

These verses tell us that the Word is both living and active. To be “living and active” means that the Bible is not some ancient, dead or irrelevant work with no bearing on life today. The culture may have changed, but the Word has not, yet this does not make it outdated. God does not change, and neither does His Word. Our design and purpose as humans has remained the same, even if the world around us is different from what it once was.

If you want to know your purpose, and if you want to know how to live well on this Earth, then you will need to engage with this living Word. It teaches us who God is. It tells us how we ought to live. It instructs us in how to please our Creator. It sets out how we can be saved from our sin, and be united with Christ for all eternity. There is nothing more relevant; nothing more necessary.

The Word of God is sharp, indeed sharper than a two-edged sword. It can pierce. It can divide.

When we venture into sin, the Bible can pierce our hearts. That stab of guilt and shame we feel as we face our sinfulness is found only in knowing we have fallen short of God’s standards. The Word does not condemn us, but it does convict, prompting us to change. Condemnation leads only to death, but conviction through the Word and the Spirit leads to life. Practically, if your feelings of guilt and consciousness of sin lead you away from God, then that is condemnation. If they spur you on to live better and follow Him more deeply, then that is conviction.

The Word of God can divide. It separates flesh from spirit, showing us when our desires are selfish or selfless. It discerns, as it says above, between the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. This is a key point. Too many of us do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. We pray loudly and earnestly in front of others, hoping they will think us saintly. We sing loudly and robustly in church, while at the same time wondering what we will eat for lunch. We bless our brother or sister in Christ, then tear them down with gossip over coffee the next day.

The Bible reveals all such things to us. It is a mirror that we can gaze deeply into, and as we do, it will show us not just where our actions fall short, but where our heart does as well. The wonderful thing about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (from Matthew 5-7) is that He shows us that the thoughts of our heart are every bit as important as our actions.

If you look lustfully on someone who is not your spouse, then you commit adultery. Even if you do not physically go near them, your heart betrays you as you have gone there in your mind. To hate your brother is the same as killing them, as surely to hate is to wish someone dead. Such thoughts are every bit as bad as their corresponding actions.

Verse 13, quoted above, tells us that we are naked before Him to whom we must give an account. This means there is no place to hide. We cannot push our sins under the rug and hope He does not notice them. All will be uncovered; the good we did with wrong motives, and the good we did not do for similar reasons.

That is why the Bible is a sharp word. It forces us to face ourselves and a level of honesty most of us do not dare enter.

If you find this difficult, then that is exactly right. If the thought of exposing your heart makes you uncomfortable, then you are feeling precisely the correct emotion. If our sinfulness does not make us squirm, then we have not fully understood it, nor our need for a Saviour.

If our sinfulness does not make us squirm, then we have not fully understood it, nor our need for a #Saviour. #Jesus #Bible #Christianity #sin

The poisonous feelings of guilt and shame must lead us to the antidote – and His name is Jesus. As we gaze into the Bible, it shows us of our need of rescue and points us to the One who indeed saves.

The sharp words ought to make us turn more fully to God. We cannot approach Him in our own merit, but instead come to Him cleansed in the blood of the Lamb.

As you study Scripture, try not to stick with your favourite passages or books. Look at the parts of the Bible that challenge you. If you notice you are falling short in some way, rejoice that God has shown you and then work with Him to come up higher. Instead of feeling guilty about your failures, turn them into reasons to praise God for sending His Son to save you.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16 WEB

Praise God that He has given us His precious Son that we might be freed from all guilt and shame. Thank God for His Word, sharp as it may be at times, that shows us the way of salvation.

Have a blessed day!

Receive Forgiveness

All the prophets testify to this: everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 10:43 (ISV, emphasis added)

I don’t remember a time before I believed in God, but that doesn’t mean I was always a Christian. When I first started to hear about God, the truth is I was afraid. I was afraid that I wasn’t forgiven, and was really motivated by not wanting to pay for my sins in eternity – although I would have had little idea what that meant!

I remember going to bed at night asking God to forgive me for as much as I could remember. I’d go back through my day trying to recall every little thing I’d done wrong – likely forgetting most of it.

I was terrified that Jesus might return in the night, and that I hadn’t asked Him to forgive me for some thing or other. I’d ask over and over again, accutely aware of how bad I was. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a bad kid at all, I just felt that way when faced with the reality that there is a God who judges us.

The cycle would go on and on. I’d go about my day, make various mistakes along the way, then lay in bed at night asking God over and over to forgive me. I’d get up the next morning and do it all over again.

It was exhausting!

One day I listened to someone teaching who shared a very similar experience that they had gone through. At one time while they were repeatedly asking God to forgive them, God interrupted them to say – “I forgave you the first time you asked.”

This hit home to me.

My problem was not about asking for forgiveness, but rather about not receiving it from God

Truth be told, I had no real understanding of the cross or what Jesus had done for me. I didn’t know that God had washed me clean, and that I was a new creature in Christ. Through my ignorance of this, I just kept repeating the same request for forgiveness over and over, hoping God would be gracious enough to grant me my request.

In many ways, I was acting as though I was living under the Old Covenant as described in the Bible. I had no temple or animal sacrifice to make, but I kept coming back to the altar day after day, offering up my apologies and ever falling short of God’s glory. I was “hoping” for God’s mercy, and had no concept that it was already mine in Jesus.

Asking was not the issue; receiving was.

I don’t believe I am alone in this.

Perhaps it is not as obvious as what I am about to express, but our thought process goes something like this:

  1. We are conscious of a sin we have committed (how we have fallen short of God’s standards in some way)
  2. We ask for forgiveness
  3. If you ask us, then we’ll say that God has forgiven us
  4. We think it cannot be so easy, and so either plead our case or beat ourselves up.
  5. That “beating ourselves up” can last a few hours or days, depending on how serious the sin was (in our minds at least).
  6. Once we have “suffered” enough, or more accurately punished ourselves enough, we move on.

Does that seem in any way familiar to you?

If it does, then the Gospel really is good news for you!

The first two steps are healthy; when the Holy Spirit shows us we have sinned, it is right for us to ask God to forgive us.

Everything after that is wrong however.

If you sincerely ask God to forgive you, and put your trust in Jesus Christ, you can count on His mercy and receive your forgiveness. You don’t need to beg or plead, you can’t earn it, and all you need do is trust God.

We err when we stray into the third step and beyond.

It really is that easy! God is not making it hard for us to be forgiven. He does not put barriers in our path or frustrate us, rather He wants to forgive us far more than we want to be forgiven!

Beating ourselves up for something we have done wrong is an attempt by us to add to the cross of Christ. I’m certain we would not say that aloud, but it’s true. If we truly believed that Christ’s death at the cross was sufficient, then we would not need to add to it by punishing ourselves.

So what should we do?

He has no need to offer sacrifices every day like high priests do, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he sacrificed himself.

Hebrews 7:27 (ISV)

This verse speaks of Jesus. Firstly, He does not need to offer a sacrifice for Himself as He never once sinned against His Heavenly Father. Secondly, because He was the perfect Sacrifice, He does not need to offer Himself over and over again. Rather, Jesus did it once and for all.

When He cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” It really was.

I don’t believe that forgiveness is something you must keep refilling on. I think it is something God gives you once and it covers you for all eternity. Christ’s sacrifice was a one time event and will never be repeated. It never needs to be.

I rarely ask for forgiveness anymore, and certainly not because I get everything right! Instead, I thank God for the forgiveness He has already given me, and rejoice in that truth.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying sin is not important and that we should not deal with it. Indeed we should. When the Holy Spirit reveals to us that we have fallen short in some way, we should thank Him. We confess the mistake we made, ask for His help to not do it again and thank Him for covering us in the blood of the Son.

There’s a good chance you will sin this week… same goes for me. Instead of beating yourself up and asking God over and over to forgive you, ask just once. Put your faith and trust in Christ and move on.

If you don’t, I can guarantee that you will spend more time thinking about it than God is.

For I will be merciful regarding their wrong deeds, and I will never again remember their sins.

Hebrews 8:12 (ISV)

Truly live in freedom this week. Jesus has dealt with your sins once and for all. You are clean and free! Rejoice in that truth! Don’t spend your time asking God to forgive you, instead receive the free gift He offers.

 

To find out more about the Gospel – good news about Jesus – check out my Resurrection Sunday blog post.