For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)God's Word makes up the first of the 3 "Ws" of the Get a Grip framework introduced in my previous post. This is convenient from a teaching perspective, because the three middle fingers are held up together in American Sign Language to form the letter "W".
Given the clear priority Biblical understanding is given throughout Scripture as well as in the various teaching and discipleship programs I've encountered throughout my Christian walk, I continue to find it astonishing how little we actually heed our own advice. As I observed over three years ago in response to a depressing Pew Forum Poll on Religion and Public Life, "... people who identify themselves as Christians (including those who call themselves 'evangelicals') overwhelmingly hold to a host of unbiblical beliefs."
It's not hard to guess why this is true. The Bible is an inconvenient book! Taken seriously, it forces us to live like we don't feel like living, as well as to hold unpopular views on a range of topics. It generally puts us at odds with the society around us. Of course, this is the program we sign up for when we follow Christ, but we easily get tired of it and long to settle into a comfortable accommodation. Of course, if we actually spend time in the Word, we find that (groan) God isn't primarily interested in our worldly comforts.
King Josiah knew something was amiss in Judah from the time he began to seek God's face as a teenager. He began his bold program of reforms early in his reign, tearing down the places of idol worship and restoring God's temple. But it wasn't until his secretary Shaphan read him the words of the Law of God, which had been lost for so long in the temple's cluttered storerooms, that Josiah saw with clarity the gravity of Judah's sin and the decisions that lay before him:
When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan , Abdon son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.” (2 Chronicles 34:19-21)Then Josiah did a remarkable thing ... he assembled his people and delivered what we would today consider to be a long and tedious sermon:
Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book. (2 Chronicles 34:29-31)Oh, Josiah! Give us a break! This is sooo outdated! Nobody's paid any attention to this stuff since King Hezekiah (whoever he was). We're so much more enlightened now! Why can't you preach on something fresh and relevant to today's society? You made us miss the Joel Osteen show over at the amphitheater ...
The fact is, in a society so divorced from Biblical principles, what could be more fresh and relevant than the truth? Will some be offended? Absolutely! Will some walk away and not come back? Almost certainly! News flash ... that too is Biblical! As I observed not long ago in another context:
This was foretold by the Apostle Paul: "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Timothy 4:3) We need to be very careful, and recognize that when the church becomes like the world (i.e., when we sacrifice obedience to “relevance”), we cease to be change agents. We lose our “saltiness” and are “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)As my introductory verse makes clear, the living and active Word of God is a primary instrument of God's Spirit in judging the "thoughts and intentions of the heart." When we choose to neglect it, we choose to neglect God Himself. We will most certainly lose our grip, just as did the people of Judah. We become ripe for Satan's picking, for he will offer us no shortage of easier, more contemporary and worldly answers.
Let us instead heed Josiah's message and example, and renew our covenant to make God's Word integral to our lives.
Next: Part 3: Worship