Main Text: Hebrews 4:12
Point of Emphasis: We need the Bible for health and growth
Memory Verse: "Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11)
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
When it comes to our health we are willing, sometimes, to do almost anything. The health industry has increased dramatically over the last few years. We have diet plans, pills, procedures, and therapies we are willing to endure for the sake of our health. Ask your class what are some of the new things they have tried to be healthier. (e.g. exercise, diet, gastric bypass, etc.) Then ask them to discuss the amount of pain involved in those choices.
We as a people, in general, have a high threshold of pain if we believe the benefits will outweigh the pain. Ask you class if this is true of their spiritual life as well. To what extent are we willing to go to become spiritually healthy?
The verse we are going to look at this morning deals with the way in which the Word of God is able to provide massive benefits for our spiritual life, but it also is accomplished, at times, through trials and pains in our lives. Read the text to your class and explain that we are going to break this verse down thought by thought, similar to the Pronounce It! method from Rick Warren we learned in 40 Days in the Word.
The Bible is Active
The first thing that we notice in this passage is that it is about the Word of God. Briefly, it should be noted that some people believe this passage is referring to the Bible and some think it refers to Jesus (cp. John 1). It is both. The nature of Scripture is that it is God speaking to us, as we have already discussed. He speaks to us through his Word, Jesus. As we discuss this passage in relation to the Bible I think it is beneficial for us to think that we are hearing from Jesus, since He is the Word. Psalm 147:15 says that the word of God runs swiftly all over the earth.
This Word of God, Scripture, is also active for our lives. The passage says that it is "living and active." Think about that for a moment . . . what does that mean? Most of the things that we read are passive. This lesson you are reading, the Newspaper, a blog, or Crime and Punishment, are all good reads, beneficial in their own ways, but none of them are what we can call "active" or "alive." They are just writings written by men that probe our intellects but leave change up to our own wills.
This is not so with Scripture. The nature of Scripture is that not only do we read it, but it reads us. (I will say that again). There are times we come to a text that we have read a million times but are affected by it differently each time. This is an instance of the active nature of Scripture. It is alive and interacts with our lives. An important attribute of Scripture that should drive us to read it more often.
Discuss with your class how Scripture, no matter how many times it is read, always teaches them something new.
The Bible is Accurate (a precision instrument)
The second attribute of Scripture in this passage is that it is accurate, "sharper than any two-edged sword." It is common to illustrate this section with a large sword and point out how it pierces, how strong it is, etc. But an aspect of this text is that IT IS sharper; a two-edged sword is sharp enough to kill or dismember but a sharper instrument like a scalpel—a surgeon's tool, is sharp enough to heal. This is a feature of Scripture as a sharp, accurate implement. Just as a surgeon needs something sharp he also needs something precise, a scalpel is exactly what he needs. Scripture is the scalpel, the precision instrument to heal our injuries.
The Bible, the Word of God, exists in such away that it has the ability to address our spiritual needs in the most accurate way. Psalm 119:49-50 says, "Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." The word to the servant here is the Word of God to his people. We approach the Bible with the understanding that it exists as a precise cure for the afflictions of life. We come with hope that it will accomplish in our lives what it claims, that greatness will be done for us, that sin can be overcome and righteousness achieved.
Discuss with your class how a Scripture at the right moment has proved to be accurate, dead-on, in particular situations in their lives.
The Bible Penetrates
Third, we notice that this accurate tool also has the ability to penetrate. Notice the description of that scalpel can also be a bone saw, "piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow." This is a precision instrument. The Bible has the ability to find the smallest cancer in the deepest recesses of our lives and remove it. It is able to see the hidden maladies of our souls and extract them. This is the nature of Scripture; it seeks out all irregularities within our spirits and acts as a surgeon to remove them.
Just as with bodily surgery, spiritual surgery is such that it is necessary, but may be painful and need weeks of rest for recovery. What we often forget is that sin is vicious and dangerous, the work of the Bible in our lives functions in such a way to help us overcome sin and live righteously. However, we often allow sin to persist because we are afraid to go through the surgery that the Bible may bring to us. We often do not long for correction like James 1:2-3, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."
Discuss with your class how they have refused to read the Bible because they knew it would convict them or reprove them.
Discuss with your class how the Bible has helped heal them of spiritual ailments.
The Bible Perceives
Finally, we see that the Bible perceives, "and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." This is closely connected to how the Bible is active, but is a specific way the Bible is active in our lives. It knows what is going on with us, it perceives our hearts. We cannot open up the Bible and hide our sins, frailties, and failures. The Bible even has the ability to point out sins we do not recognize. More than a rule book for life, the Bible is a book of life that should rule.
Specifically this means that we don't just read the Bible it reads us. This was mentioned earlier. When we approach a text in the Bible it has the ability to change our lives because it knows the very needs of our lives, since it is God-breathed and are his very words. It knows the sins we currently struggle with and the areas we need to grow. We must allow it to read us thought, we must come to open and ready for change.
Discuss with your class how they have allowed Scripture to change them.
This is the nature of Scripture, it knows how to look deep into our souls and change us to be more righteous. What we need to do, in application, is live out the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
When we live out our faith, by reading our Bibles and letting Scripture read us, we can fulfill this prayer in our lives. However, if we refuse to read, we are not allowing God to search us or try us. Though spiritual surgery may be difficult, it must be done, for what is at stake for us is "the way everlasting."