Sunday, June 12, 2011

Living and Powerful

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 04:12, NKJV).
Before I became a Christian, I did not understand the Bible, nor did reading it hold any attraction for me.

When I finally did read it, my motivation was to find fault, to undermine the growing faith of someone very close to me because ongoing changes in that person's behavior toward me, scared me, and not for the reasons you might think.

The situation at that time in our relationship was such that anger, resentment, bitterness, and even hatred, I could understand. What I received unexpectedly instead was understanding, gentleness, patience, and love. I did not trust it, but I knew it was directly related to that person having begun reading the Bible herself - a lot. The connection between her changed heart, and that book was undeniably clear.

I wanted none of it.

So I embarked on a mission to discredit the Word of God. To do that effectively, I knew I had to do some first person research, and I must admit I was intrigued by the prospect that I would finally be able to lay this faith in God nonsense to rest. I would employ my vaunted and laser-like intellect to undermine all of Christendom.

That is not what happened. Not even close.

I finished reading the Old Testament fairly quickly, at first just because I wanted to get through it, but later because my fascination (and hunger) grew with each chapter. When I was done, I came to the surprising conclusion that I could believe that God existed and had intervened in human history for His good purposes.

The reasoning behind this conclusion, though important, is not nearly as significant as the fact that what I had consciously set out to do was the opposite of what, in fact, happened. I can honestly attest that my intentions were not only unfulfilled, but transformed, and not by any conscious volition on my part. As I said, I was surprised, and so were the people who knew me, and some, unpleasantly so.

As I continued into the New Testament, I hit a real stumbling block when I realized, perhaps for the first time, that the writers of the gospel accounts and epistles wanted me to understand that this Man, Jesus, was God Incarnate. Being raised where and how I was, I, of course, had heard the words before, but did not understand what that really meant.

This was a hurdle of immense proportions for me because I now wanted to believe in God, and it seemed that just when that was about to happen, I got hit with Jesus.

I recall completing the Gospel of Matthew and being sorely disappointed. I was supposed to believe that the Almighty God of the Old Testament, He who dwelt in eternity, outside of time and space, was also this Jesus of Nazareth who was born of a virgin woman in the backwoods of ancient Jerusalem?

There was still something (Someone?) that compelled me to keep reading, even through my disappointment.

During this entire endeavor, that person who served as my initial motivation continued to grow in the grace and knowledge of the One she now called Lord and Savior. Her transformation was… miraculous.

And all from this ancient and disturbing collection of writings written over the course of 1600 years by 40 different authors and yet - and yet - containing an obviously unified message that appeared to recount history before happened. 

By the end of the New Testament, I knew in my head it was all true; everything from Genesis to Revelation. God wanted us to know Him so lavishly that He sent His Son to become one of us, to be a partaker of flesh and blood just like us.

And more than that, He wanted to rescue us from certain damnation so that we could continue to know Him… forever.

I knew it in my head, but not yet in my heart.

For me that required an encounter with His people in a church that convened in a warehouse off a congested, but second-rate interstate highway.

There I saw the love of Christ worked out in hearts and heads other than mine, and a man I will never forget and will always be indebted to, invited me in to pray with him, seeing that I was obviously emotional after being in the service.

I told this man, though I was barely able to speak coherently, that I would do whatever it took, sign whatever paper was needed, pay whatever fee, to be part of what I had just experienced.

"If this is what you want," he said to me, "you need merely to ask with all your heart, and it is yours freely given."

Almost overnight I was fundamentally changed without effort on my part. It just happened.

Since that day, the Word of God has continued to transform me from a mere man to a child of God, saved by grace through faith.

What was dross and horror behind a facade of bare civility became something very much different. Sometimes the transformation seemed painless. At others, it was like deep surgery without anesthetic.

It was not magic, but it was supernatural. It was not me. It was God working in me through His Word.

I am, and will always be, forever grateful.

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, NKJV).