Robert Jeffress - The Truth That Transforms
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. There have been thousands of great books written over the centuries, from Plato and Aristotle to Shakespeare and Tolstoy. These timeless works have been the subject of countless hours of study and discussion. None, however, can compare to the greatest book ever written, the Bible, and we ought to be doing everything possible to fully experience the purpose and power of God's word. My message is titled "Truth that Transforms", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
One way you know you're getting older is when you read that pop star Madonna turned 60. Did y'all see that a couple of weeks ago? She turned 60. How could she get so old, so fast? Doesn't happen to any of the rest of us, does it? But as I read that about Madonna and her 60 years of life, I was reminded of something that happened a few years ago. She made a new year's resolution I will never forget. She said that she had a resolution for her and her young daughter at the time. They were gonna watch less TV. That's a good thing, and she was also going to start reading the Bible to her young daughter. Isn't that interesting? Madonna reading the Bible to her young daughter. But she was very quick to explain. She said, "I want my daughter to read the Bible, but I will explain to her that these are stories that people made up to teach people, and the Bible is not the rule".
Wouldn't that be a great series for children? The Bible according to Madonna. It could really inspire children to read the Word of God. You know, we read that and we kinda cringe. The Bible is a bunch of stories made up? They're no better than Aesop's fables. How could you say such a thing, Madonna? That's heresy. And yet the fact is, many of us who are Christians treat the Bible in exactly the same way Madonna does. We read it, we admire it, we may even teach it to others, but we never allow it to perform its real job of penetrating and renovating our hearts. You know, God gave us his word not to just read, admire, or even defend. He gave us his word to convict us and to change us, and that's the truth of the passage we're going to see today.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Hebrews chapter four, Hebrews chapter four, as we talk about the real purpose and the power of the Word of God. We're going to look at just two verses today, but they are perhaps the two most familiar verses in the entire letter to Hebrews. In fact, I imagine you've read and maybe even memorized these verses before, but to understand these verses, you have to understand the context. Look at Hebrews 4, verse 12. "For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of the soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and it's able to judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart". Look at chapter four, verse one. "Let us, therefore, fear lest, while a promise remains of entering God's rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it".
Remember, this is part of one of those warning passages, where the writer stops what he's talking about, the superiority of Jesus Christ, and issues a word of warning to his listeners, listeners who were primarily Jewish. He's stopping here and saying, "By the way, you've been listening to a lot of theology. You'd better pay attention to what you're reading, or listening to, so that you don't make the same mistake that your Jewish forefathers made when they fell short of entering into the Promised Land, because of sin".
And remember, the writer uses the term rest here in three distinct ways. We talked about that last time. Sometimes, the word rest in this passage is used to refer to our future rest, that is, heaven. He says in verses eight and nine, "For Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken of another day after that. There remains therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God". There is a future rest, a future place of blessing we were all enjoy, if you're a believer, and that is in heaven, a future rest. There's also, secondly, our past rest. Verse 10, "For the one who has entered his rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from his". The way you become a Christian is by quit working and start resting in what God has already done for you. You don't get saved by working for God. It's when you quit your works, and instead, trust in what Jesus did on the cross for you.
That is the past rest that he refers to, but there is a third kind of rest. It is our present rest. "Therefore", verse 11, "Let us be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience". Think about the Israelites for a moment. They failed to enter the rest of God had prepared for them in the Promised Land. What is our present rest? It is the place of God's blessing right now in your life. When the Israelites failed to believe God, when they refused to trust in God, they didn't miss heaven, their future rest. They were saved, but they failed to enter the Promised Land God had for them. They refused to obey God when ordered. The same thing is true for you and for me. God has a present rest that he wants us to experience, and by rest, I don't mean taking a nap.
When we talk about his present rest, we're talking about that place of blessing God wants us to experience in our marriages, in our school work, in our relationships, in our finances, that no matter what is going on around us, we can have peace of mind. We can experience God's best in every one of those areas. That's what God wants for us, and the writer is saying, make certain you don't make the same mistake that your forefathers made, who by sin, failed to experience what God had planned for them. Well, you say, "What's the key, then, to experiencing God's rest"? Well, that's the context of verses 12 and 13. Notice right after that warning in verse 11, not to mention the rest, he says, "For the Word of God is living and active and it's 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. And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do".
I want you to write down this statement on your notes, because this is the theme of what these two verses is all аbout: God's word frees us to experience God's rest. God's word is what frees us to experience God's rest. Remember what Jesus said in John 8:34? "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin". It's failing to trust God. It's failing to obey God in your everyday life. That is what keeps you from the place of joy, that place of rest God wants you to experience right now. That was what was going on with the Israelites.
You see, they had wrong thinking that led to wrong actions, and because of that, they missed God's place of blessing, and here's the problem. Every one of us, when we were born into this world, we are born with the defective operating system. We have a mind that normally, automatically thinks wrongly. We default into a wrong way of thinking. That's how we're born. For example, we are born, our natural thought is we are responsible for our future, therefore we are enslaved, we are bound up with worry. We think that money is the answer to every need we have, so we are enslaved, we are bound up in greed. We naturally think that it's our responsibility to avenge any wrong committed against us, so we are bound up in bitterness. But it is the Word of God that slices through that wrong way of thinking and allows us to experience God's freedom and God's rest in our life. That's what he's talking about here.
The Word of God is alive and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. Isn't that what Jesus said in John 8:32, when he said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free". You know, I've seen those words before. Perhaps you have, etched on some building at some prestigious university, and the words you see, you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free! In other words, if you'll enroll in this college for four years and give us $250.000, we're gonna set you free. No, you won't be set free. You'll be imprisoned by debt for the rest of your life, but you won't be set free. It's not academic truth that a university teaches you that sets you free. That's not that Jesus is talking about. The truth he's talking about is God's truth. God's truth is what sets you free. God's word is like that sword that slices through our wrong thinking, and frees us to experience his best.
Will you notice here, the characteristics of God's word that make it so effective. First of all, God's word is living. The Word of God is living. It is alive. It's not some dead piece of literature, it is a living piece of literature. I wanna ask you a question. Have you ever thought about this? How many people do you think in the United States today or around the world, how many people do you imagine this morning got up at 7:30, got dressed, got their children up, and went to a central location to listen to a lecture on the works of William Shakespeare? How many people do you think did? How many people gathered together this morning to listen to a lecture about the works of Aristotle? How many people use their only day off to get up and gather around and talk about and discuss the writings of Plato?
And even if some happened to do it this morning, do you think they'd do it the next Sunday morning and the next Sunday morning, and the next Sunday morning? And yet, today, there are millions of people all around the world who got up and went to a church, many of them in third world countries, at the risk of their own lives, and they sat down to listen to the Word of God. Why is it? Because the Word of God is alive. It is alive, and that's what makes it different from any other book that is written. Jesus said in John 6:63, "For the words I have spoken to you are life". Not only is the Word of God living, the writer says it is also active. That word, active, means it is full of energy. The Word of God is both living and it is active. I like the way somebody said it. "The Bible is alive. It is always doing something to anyone who reads it or hears it".
It is alive, it is active, and third, it is sharp. In fact, it is so sharp, it is sharper than any two-edged Roman sword. That is the power of the Word of God. It frees us to experience God's rest, for the Word of God is alive, it is active, it is sharper than any two-edged swords. I want you to notice, God's word is not only a sword that frees us to experience God's rest. It is also a scalpel, a surgeon's scalpel that cuts us so we can experience God's healing in our life. He talks about the conviction of God's word in verses 12 and 13. Look at it with me, the last part of verse 12. "And piercing as far as the division of the soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from God's sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do".
I was just reading this last night, late. It's interesting how the writer goes from talking about God's word to talking about God himself. You know why? There's no difference between the two. God's word and God are inseparable. You can't hide from God's word because you can't hide from God. Think about Jonah. He had heard the Word of God. He decided to go in the opposite direction from Nineveh, but after a few nights in the belly of a great fish, he had a change of heart.
Fact is, you cannot hide from God. How foolish it is to say, "Well, I just don't believe the Bible any more. I just don't believe it's God's word". Do you think that changes anything? Just because you don't believe in gravity doesn't mean gravity doesn't exist. It's there whether you believe it or not. Somebody has said, "The Bible is alive. It speaks to me. I has feet, it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me". God's word is like that surgeon's scalpel that cuts us, pierces us in order to heal us. What does that have to do with us today?
Let me just share with you in closing two principles that I hope will change your attitude towards God's word today. Number one, view God's word as medicine and not poison. God gave us his word to bring healing into our life, to remove the discomfort from our life that comes from disobeying him, and yet, you know, many of us have the same attitude toward the Bible that we do toward broccoli. I know it's good for me, but it makes me gag, and we continue to suffer the results of not having that regular intake from the Word of God. Treat the Bible like medicine and not poison.
The second important principle, I think, from this passage is this: allow God's word to perform its work. Allow God's word to perform its work in you. Yes, the Bible is like medicine, but it's also like the surgeon's scalpel. It is able to cut into the deepest part of our lives and lay out real motivations open, not only before God, but before our own hearts as well.
You know, God's motivation in cutting you with his word is not to bring hurt into your life, but to bring healing, but sometimes the hurt has to precede the healing. For some of you right now, as Christians, God has been working on you, working on you, but every time he tries to slice you open, you climb off the operating table. Not today, Lord, not today. The most important time in your life is when you come to that point as a Christian and say, "God, you're right. I'm wrong. Do your work in my life, so that I can experience your rest". Of all people, it was president Woodrow Wilson who said, "When you have read the Bible, you will know it's the Word of God, because you have found it to be the key to your own heart, your own happiness, and your own duty".