Cut to the Heart or Ground the Teeth
Sunday, January 21, 2018
What is the Bible? The Bible isn’t just a collection of our ideas about God, nor is it a fiction to entertain us. Then again, what is the Bible? It is the Word of God–and that makes all the difference.
But what does that mean? What is the Word of God? Now, a person’s words are distinct from that person, but they are the embodiment of that person’s mind and will. Therefore, the Word of God is the revelation of God. It is the embodiment of God. This is the reason why we give the Bible the place of ultimacy in our hearts when it comes to making decisions. This is why we have to honor and submit to the authority of the Word of God. Often, we turn inwards to ourselves and prioritize our feelings, knowledge, or experience. Although we are called to be open and honest to ourselves before God, we are also called to turn to the Word of God. This is why we need to read the Word of God. Meditate on it day and night, examine your life in the light of the Bible, and conform your life to what Scripture says for it is God’s revelation to us.
But it is challenging. It is not an easy thing to submit ourselves to the Word of God because of what the Word of God can do to you. It will cut your heart. It will give you pain. It will make you feel uncomfortable. It will stir something inside of you. It will draw negative reactions within you.
Hebrews 4:12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The Word of God cuts your heart open, search through deepest places of your heart, finds evil in you, and confronts you. If that’s the case, how would you respond? The Word of God is bringing your dirtiest secret to the surface, is calling you a sinner, and is stirring your heart to repent. How will you respond?
Usually, there are three ways to respond to situations that are stressful or that are inducing fear in you. The three options are: flight, fight, or freeze. First, some people choose to fight. They go into a fight mode. They get defensive. They will argue with you and try to belittle you. Second, some people choose to flight. They take off. When they feel distressed or sense a crisis, they disappear. Third, some people choose to freeze. They go blank. They simply do not know what to do and can’t move an inch.
Now, I am going to share with you the story of Stephen and let’s see how people responded to him in three ways. Stephen was a zeal, devout follower of Christ who preached the Good News to people. When he proclaimed the Word of God, the Word of God was cutting people’s hearts. Here’s the first group of people who chose to FLIGHT from the Word of God:
Acts 6:9 [they] stood up and argued with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit[c] with which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly instigated some men… 12 They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes.
It does not explicitly state that they left the scene, but the word, secretly, certainly indicates their disappearance in order to instigate others to overpower Stephen.
Then we have another group of people chose to FIGHT the Word of God.
Acts 7:54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen… they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him;
They were outraged to the point where they stone God’s messenger to death. They are the ones who deviated from God’s definition of good and evil, seized autonomy apart from God, and came up with their own definition of good and evil. The line that draws good and evil became very subjective. What is good became what is good to me even at the expense of other. I don’t care what God thinks about me or my sins. If He makes me feel uncomfortable and calls me a sinner, God must be evil that I must get rid of in my life. I don’t need Him anymore if God calls me I’m wrong. This is why they killed Stephen. They thought by killing Stephen, their sins won’t be revealed.
Right there, we have a young man who froze by what he was witnessing. He did nothing either to stone Stephen or stop the crowd.
Acts 7:58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
His name was Saul. Yes, Saul that we all know. Saul who became Paul. Paul who wrote 13 books of the 27 New Testament books. Paul, our great apologetic theologian who defended the Christian faith with reasoning and missionary who introduced Christ to the Gentiles, stood there not knowing what else to do.
We have seen three ways how people respond to a situation where the Word of God cuts their hearts. But this is not how I want for our church to respond to the Word of God when it cuts our hearts. I don’t want us to neither fight against the Word of God, flight away from the Word of God, nor freeze before the Word of God. But I want us to have faith in God and in the Word of God. That means to respond to the Word with faith and obedience.
Here is an example in the Bible of responding to the Word of God with faith. This is after Peter speaks to a group of people.
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
The people who heard Stephen were also cut to the heart. So were the people who heard Peter. The Word of God did what it supposed to do, cutting people’s hearts and bringing out their sins. When the Word of God was proclaimed, there was some sense of guilt in the hearts of the two groups. Stephen and Peter preached the same Word of God. They shared the same Good News of Christ. They gave the same invitation to come before God. But their responses were drastically different. The problem was not the preachers or the message they proclaimed but was their own hearts.
People who heard Peter responded with faith, went further, and asked, “What should we do?” They were asking, “Now that I am aware of God’s presence. Now that I am aware of my sins. What should I do? What do I have to do to restore my relationship with God that was cut off by sin? What do I have to do to gain God’s favor again?”
Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. Then, do you know what happened next?
41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
Can you imagine about 3,000 people coming to Christ and profess their faith? But that was not the end of the story. They didn’t stop at “God loves me, forgives me, and empowers me.” But “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They didn’t stop there but they opened themselves to the teachings of God to continually be molded and transformed into what God wants them to be.
What I want for our church is to have faith in God when the Word of God cuts your heart. Do not fight the Word of God. Do not flight away from the Word of God. Do not freeze before the Word of God. But have faith in the Word of God. Respond to it with obedience and faith.
Have you been cut, impacted, and shaped by the Word of God? Has the Word of God cutting your hearts and reshaping you? I mean you’ve got to preach to yourself. You’ve got to study the Scripture and preach to yourself because the devil is speaking to you every day. The devil even uses the Bible and knows it well. The devil says in Matthew: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’" The devil is quoting Psalm 91:11 when tempting Jesus in the wilderness. The devil is using the Word of God against God. This is why we have to know the Bible well and carefully discern its true message.
To hear the Word of God does not mean receiving dead words or memorizing lines. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit and life.” Therefore, having His words abiding in us means to receive the Spirit of God and life of God. Read your Bible. Mediate on it day and night and take delight in his laws for the Word of God judges our thoughts and hearts. It brings us back to the light and it brings us back to life.
Let us be a church that does not live by bread alone but every word that comes from the mouth of God.