The Word of God is Alive and Powerful

Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) 12 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.

Last week we looked at Hebrews 4:8-11. We understand from Hebrews 3 and 4 that Israel could not go into the promised land because of a pattern of rebellion and disobedience that led them into unbelief. Their unbelief descended into disbelief as the continued for many years in this pattern.

The message of both Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 4 is that we should not follow their example. God has something for the church that is even greater than what the Joshua generation received when they did eventually go into Canaan. The bible says their remains a rest for the people of God that no other generation has enjoyed. Hebrews 4 makes it clear that the nature of this “rest” is faith in God. If we give in to the same rebellion and disobedience that Israel did, we will not experience the rest of faith and we will not see our full destiny.

How can we be sure we will not fall after Israel’s example? We must labor or be diligent to enter the rest. We must make entering the rest of faith in God a priority in our lives. We must be willing to work to build faith to the point where we are no longer trying to believe. We must come to the place where we simply believe. That place is called rest and it guarantees our victory.

How do we enter this rest of faith? What is the nature of our labor? Hebrews 4:12-16 reveal two truths that make the rest possible in our lives. This week we will begin to study the first of these truths. The Word of God is alive and powerful!

I was born again at age 14. I grew up Catholic. We were not very good Catholics. We did not go to church much. I did the usual Catholic things that children do. I had my first communion and confirmation, but my family did not attend church regularly. When I was thirteen, I met the Baptist minister’s daughter who would become my wife. She led me to the Lord. At seventeen, I received the call to ministry and was sovereignly led into the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

From the age of 14 to 24, my wife and I learned all the popular charismatic teachings that flowed through the body of Christ. I went to work in a factory out of high school. I went through a few difficult years, as I did not want to work in a factory for the rest of my life. I thought God had made a terrible mistake by not putting me into fulltime ministry right away.

During this time in my life, I began hearing a message that changed everything for me. That message is the thing that unlocked the Word of God for me. The message was a simple truth but it confirmed some things I thought should be true but had never heard preached. That message was that the Word of God was a higher truth than natural truth.

This does not seem like such a big thing until you begin to realize the ramifications. If the bible is true, God created everything by speaking his Word into a void. In Hebrews 11:3 we read this.

Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV) 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

This verse says that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. We see this described in detail in Genesis chapter 1. God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. God created with his Word. The truth that changed my life was that the nature of his Word did not change when it was written down. It is still creative in nature and the natural world created by the Word of God will still respond to that Word.

I learned that if I would believe the Word of God, I could bring about change in my life and in the world around me. I did not have to live dominated by life and by the world. I could believe “all the promises of God” which are yes and amen in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20) Faith would come by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). This faith could cause the natural world to be conformed to the promise. This faith could change me and help me become the person who could walk in the promise.

There have been many variations on this teaching. It has grown into a movement that has been both good and bad over the years. There have been misinterpretations and false ideas that have grown out of this teaching. That happens with any truth God reveals to the church. That does not change the fact that the Word of God is the highest truth in the universe and it has the ability to change the world that it created. (Is. 55:8-11)

I bring this up because Hebrews 4:12 cannot be completely understood outside of the context in which it appears. How can we avoid the mistakes that Israel made? How can we enter into the rest of faith? What is the nature of the labor we must do in order to enter this rest? Hebrews 4:12 follows Hebrews 4:11. I know that this is a bit obvious but it is important. The one follows the other because they are related.

The very first thing I must understand if I am going to enter the rest is that the Word of God is alive and powerful. That is the truth that started me on the journey I am sill on today. Some would say that this is speaking of the aspect of the Word of God known in Greek as Rhema. Rhema means the Word that God is currently speaking. It is Rhema that produces faith in Romans 10:17. They argue that we cannot treat the written Word, Greek Word Logos, the same as we do the Rhema Word of God. I would disagree.

Rhema comes from Logos. When I read the Logos of God in the bible, it contains the power of rhema. That power is in seed form. However, that does not mean it is any less powerful. Hebrews 4:12 begins by telling us that the Word of God is alive. The Greek word for “Word of God” in this verse is “Logos.” It is the written Word or the Word that God has already said that is alive and powerful. It is the written Word that will become the Word God is currently saying or Rhema when we allow it to fill our hearts and minds.

I believe the first step to entering the rest of faith is to believe that the Word of God we find in the Bible is alive and powerful. Let us read this verse in the Amplified Bible.

Hebrews 4:12 (AMP) 12 For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.

The Logos is alive and full of power. The expansion of the word “power” is this. It is active, operative, energizing and effective. That is what the Bible is when I put it into my heart. It is active in me. It is operating to bring about the will of God in my life. It is energizing my spirit and strengthening my soul. It is effective in doing what needs to be done in my life and situation.

If I make the choice to believe that about the Word of God I will take the first step to entering the rest God promises us in this chapter. If I keep it in my heart and mind and meditate on it day and night, it will change me and then my circumstances. This is the first key to the rest of Faith in God. (Joshua 1:8)

Be Diligent to Enter the Rest

Hebrews 4:9-11 (NKJV) 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

This week we are looking at Hebrews 4:11. Hebrews 4 gives us a key to opening the gates of the supernatural in our lives. We see that the first generation of Israelites could not go into the Promised Land because of their unbelief. Verse 2 tells us they did not mix the promise of God with faith. As a result, the promise did not “profit” them.

This is such a descriptive term in my mind. I have been in the ministry for more than 37 years. I have watched far too many people who knew the Word of God and who were good church members fail to receive because of this same tendency. Just because we know the promise, does not mean we believe the promise. We must determine that we are going to do what we must to mix the promise of God with faith so that we do not fall short of our potential the way the Israelites did.

Yesterday we saw something that caused Israel to lack faith in the promise. They were disobedient. Absolute obedience to any human leadership can be a problem. Absolute obedience to God and to his written Word is vital. The way to cultivate disobedience is to disobey in the small areas. The way to cultivate obedience is to obey in small things. Whichever path we follow will determine whether we will obey when it is critical.

In our study of chapter 4, we have seen that the writer of Hebrews equates rest and faith. True faith is a rest. I like to illustrate this by sitting in a chair. If the chair is one I know to be sturdy, I can sit in it and be completely at rest. I know it will hold the whole weight of my body. I have been in places where this was not the case.

One year we were in a town in the former East Germany. I had my youngest son with me. At that time, between us we weighed 180 more than we do now. After service, we had a meal. I had been the preacher that night and I was in my nice suit. They had tables with detached picnic type benches. When I looked at the quality of the benches, I wondered if they would hold both my son and me.

I told him to sit over the leg because I thought he might break the middle of the bench. We sat down gingerly and within seconds, I knew we were in trouble. The leg folded under my son, the bench collapsed and I, in my preaching suit, fell under the table behind me. How dignified!

I was traveling with a dear senior ministry friend of mine and I was hoping for a little sympathy. I got none. He laughed like me under the table was the funniest thing he had ever seen. To this day, all you would have to do is mention the name of the town and he will dissolve into laughter.

Two years later, we were back in that town and they still had those tables and benches. Although we had both lost a great deal of weight, I could not be at “rest” sitting on them. I found a nice stable chair and sat very comfortably in it for my meal. My friend looked over at me periodically and every time he did, he broke out in laughter.

Faith is a little like a stable chair. If I have confidence that the chair will hold me, I am at rest. I do not sit there in fear that it will fall. All of my weight is resting on the chair. In Germany, the seat would not hold that weight. I could not sit there comfortably the next time. Faith in God can hold the weight of your life and circumstances. Real faith is rest.

Hebrews 4:9-10 tells us that there is a rest of faith available to the people of God. It begins when we cease from our own works. We must not think we can take care of things by ourselves. We must do our part but we must come to a place where we let faith do the work.

Hebrews 11 says that if we enter the rest of faith we will not fall into disobedience. The implication is that if we find a way to enter the rest, we will not be disobedient. Verse 11 says that we must be diligent to enter the rest. I believe part of the diligence is obedience. Israel was not obedient so they could not enter the rest. If we are diligent to enter the rest, we will cultivate obedience by default.

What does it take to enter the rest of faith? This verse gives us a large part of the answer. We must make entering the rest of faith a major focus of our life. It cannot be an option.

The King James Version uses the word labor. We must labor to enter the rest. Too many Christians labor in the Kingdom of God without having a point to their labor. Worse still, there are those who are laboring for the wrong goal. They may be laboring for recognition. They may be laboring to have a big ministry. They may be laboring to overcome a sense of unworthiness and failure they developed growing up. Whatever the case may be if we labor for the wrong reason or for an unclear purpose, we will not enter the rest. The point of our Christian labor must be to enter the rest.

Many people go to church, do Christian service, pray and study the word. They do it for the reasons stated above or they do it out of simple obligation. “Somebody said I should read the bible so I guess I better read the bible.” That kind of labor will not get us to the rest. We must understand that our goal is to come to that place where we can rest the weight of our lives on faith in God.

The Greek word used here is defined as “to use speed, i.e. to make effort, be prompt or earnest: – do (give) diligence, be diligent (forward), endeavor, labor, study.” I think the use of the word “speed” in this definition is interesting. It implies that we must give this some urgency. We can also see that entering the rest is going to take some effort on our part. It may seem that rest and effort are opposites. That is not true.

We are going to put an addition on our house. One of goals is to expand our bedroom. There will be much labor involved but the labor will have a point. When we are done, we will be able to rest in our new bedroom. All rest must be preceded by some kind of labor. In the natural, it may be someone else’s labor that produces your rest. In the spirit, you can only find the rest of faith if you do your own labor.

Some will say, “I just can’t do it. I don’t have what pastor has.” One of the beautiful things about labor is that anyone can do it. If you are healthy, you can labor. One of the first jobs most people get in life is the job of laborer. It requires little education. It requires no special gift. All you need is the will to do it. Many people today do not have that will. People who started as laborers built some of the greatest business empires in history. The labor led to learning and the learning led to success.

It is no different here. You can labor. You can be diligent. You can do the work that will result in entering the rest of faith. It is not something you will do once for all time. You will have to continue to labor and as you do, you will strengthen and broaden your faith. The one thing that is not possible is for someone else to do the work for you.

Labor to enter the rest. Once you are at rest in your faith, you will see that the supernatural gates have been open and the power of God will be at work in your life.

The Rest of Faith Opens the Gates

Hebrews 4:1-2 (NKJV) 1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

I believe God is opening the gates of the supernatural into the world in 2015. The church is the key to any move of God and this one is no exception. If God is going to pour out his spirit in the world, we must be what and where God wants us to be. That is my focus for this year.

As I have been praying about this, the Lord has been speaking to me about what opens the gates and what closes the gates. Unbelief closes the gates. Active faith in God, believing, opens them. Grumbling and complaining closes the gates while thanksgiving opens them. Understanding the goodness of God opens the supernatural gates to the world. God equated the goodness of God with the glory of God in Exodus 33. When we evaluate life according to the goodness of God instead of evaluating the goodness of God by our life experiences, we open wide the supernatural gates.

I recently heard a preacher say that all the weapons of God fire the same ammunition. That ammunition is faith. In the same light, I would say that the one thing that all “gate openers” have in common is faith in God. Faith makes the connection between the natural and the supernatural. Faith opens all of the gates!

I have studied and preached faith for most of my adult life. I was 24 years old when I began in fulltime ministry. At the same time I encountered a message we called “the uncompromised Gospel.” The heart of that message was the truth that the Word of God was true and that faith in the Word could change things in the natural world. That simple thought revolutionized my life. I can honestly say that faith in the Word of God has caused my wife and me to live a wonderful and productive life to this point.

Even though I have been walking by faith for more than 37 years, I believe something has changed since the beginning of 2015. I know that a major part of this change is the timing of God. God wants to move in the earth. We must see God move in the earth! He looks for people who will cooperate with what he wants to do, and I have tried to be one of those people. So part of what I am feeling is that the time has come for a new move of God to begin.

There is another aspect to what I feel. I know faith. Everything I have done has been by faith. I have built a wonderful church with a debt free building by faith. I have seen people changed by grasping the reality of faith in God. God has healed people and kept me healthy by faith. I have traveled the world by faith. All of my children are serving God because we believed for their salvation and destiny. I am no stranger to how faith works and what I am going to try to convey does not really sound like anything different to me, but somehow it is.

What has changed in my heart is that I have found a deeper dimension of the “rest of faith.” Paul said to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12) There is a fight of faith. Certainly, the devil will challenge us when we choose to believe in what God is saying to us. There are principles that we must learn to apply where faith is concerned. Hebrews 4:11 says that we must labor to enter the rest.

This almost seems to be expressing two opposite ideas but it is not. We have a labor to do. We must study and meditate in the Word of God. Faith comes from the Word of God. We must cultivate fellowship with the Lord through prayer and worship. We must do acts of faith and service. However, the message of Hebrews 4 is that faith is, above all else, a rest.

When I believe something, I am not striving over it. I believe it. You cannot try to believe. Either you believe or you do not believe. We have studied the story of the father and son in Mark 9. The father came to Jesus because he had faith that Jesus could do something. Disappointments and discouragement disrupted that confidence and assurance, that rest. This is what he called unbelief. It stopped the flow of the supernatural.

There is another story of a man who maintained the rest of faith. It is not that his faith was not challenged. It was challenged mightily. He chose at Jesus’ word to keep believing. His name was Jairus.

Mark 5:35-36 (NKJV) 35 While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”

Jairus put his trust in Jesus to deal with the most important issue in his life at that time: The life of his daughter. On the way to minister to her, a woman who also needed healing stopped Jesus. He took time with her and met her need. As he was stopped, a messenger came from the man’s house and told Jairus that his daughter had died. Jesus told him to keep believing and not to be afraid. He told him to maintain the rest of faith.

How do we know that Jairus did what Jesus said? As a father of six I know how I would have reacted if a doctor stopped to treat someone else and the resulting delay caused my child to die. I would not have remained silent. I would have reacted in either grief or anger. I would probably have displayed both loudly! Jairus did not.

The rest of faith is the absolute assurance that God will do what he said he would do. It is the ability to look at contrary circumstances without being affected by them. When we come to the place of rest, we simply know that God will do what he said. There is still a challenge in our emotions however; we simply know that the Word of God is true. Jairus was at rest because Jesus told him to rest. We can be at rest because the Word of God becomes so real in our heart that it is as if Jesus was beside us just as he was beside Jairus.

The message of today’s scripture is two-fold. One, Paul wants us to understand that finding that place of rest is a key to opening the supernatural gates. Israel could not find it because they focused on their lack and not on God’s ability to do what he promised. We must focus on what God has said until our lack of ability becomes irrelevant. We are at rest when we believe God will do what he said, not when we believe we can believe what he said. (I know that sounds like I am talking in circles, but give it some thought. It will make sense.)

The second part of the message of Hebrews 4 is that there remains an element of this rest that neither the first generation of Israelites nor the Joshua generation found. That rest is for us. Paul says that someone must enter into God’s rest. We need to be that generation. You need to enter that rest. It is the will of God for your life. It is the key to victory in the challenges you face. It is channel, the open gate, through which the supernatural will flow to our world.

The rest of faith depends on a simple thought. Whatever I am believing for is not about me. It is about Jesus! He will do what he said he would do. He will do what I cannot. I cannot really say why but I know that in my life this is being worked out to a deeper degree than ever before. Perhaps because God knows that what must happen in the earth now cannot depend upon any ability of ours. I must depend on God’s ability.

Labor to enter the rest that is true faith in God!

Supernatural Salt and Light

Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV) 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven..

This year the Lord spoke to my heart that he wants to move in a new and great way in the earth. Born again Christians are a supernatural people. We have a vital connection to the creator of the universe by virtue of our salvation in Christ. The bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. Old things have passed away and all things have become new. Salvation is not a change of theology or of philosophy. It is a change of nature.

Part of the reality of this change is that we have access to supernatural power when it comes to our personal lives. I can expect that the Holy Spirit will help me in my job, my family, my finances and every other area of life. This is not some mythological idea. The supernatural life of God is our heritage.

The supernatural nature of our own lives is only half of the equation. We are also the source of supernatural contact to the rest of the world. In Matthew 5 Jesus tells us that we are both salt and light to the world. That means that we are supposed to influence the world for Jesus.

Salt is a preservative and a flavoring agent for food. We are to influence the world by preserving the connection between God and man. In Noah’s day, that connection was so broken that it could only be fixed by destroying civilization and rebuilding it with the one man left who had that supernatural connection. It is our job to see to it that this never happens again. We are to stand for God’s will and God’s ways even when that stand is not popular. Like salt, we may be an irritant as well as a preservative but in the end, the result will be the maintenance of the knowledge of God’s will and God’s ways in the earth.

We are also to flavor our world with the supernatural. The world should be a better place because of your presence in it. You should bring joy and peace to your workplace. You should flavor your neighborhood with good humor, character and integrity. We were not sent into the world to condemn the world anymore than Jesus was. We are sent with a message of reconciliation between God and man. Our lives before others should reflect that message.

We are also light in the world. Light illuminates. Light reveals things that are hidden. Light enables people to find their way. Light removes fear by revealing the truth. As a supernatural people, we are the light of the world. We are the source of illumination for the people around us. It is our responsibility to shine light upon what Satan would like to do in the earth. We are the only ones who can show people the way back to the Father. We can lead people from fear to faith by shining the light of the gospel in their lives.

How are we to be light and salt? First, we must realize we are already those things. We are not becoming those things. We are light and salt because we are supernatural people. Jesus tells us what the problem is in Matthew 5. We are salt and light but we must not let our salt lose its potency or our light be hidden under a basket. We must let our salt be salty and our light shine.

Salt that has lost its potency is still salt. A Christian who is not preserving and flavoring his community is still a Christian. He is still loved by the Father and the Lord will continue to work in his life. The problem is not his eternal soul it his temporal effectiveness.

Light that is hidden is still light. You can cover a lamp in your home but if it is plugged in, turned on and has a good bulb in it the light is still there. It is shining away under the cover but it does no good for the room. The same is true of a Christian. You do not have to try to be light you just have to take the cover off. The illumination is automatic.

Too often, when we look at these scriptures, the devil uses them to condemn us for what we are not doing. We know that we are embarrassed or too afraid to speak up for Jesus. Some Christians may be rebellious and unwilling to speak out for Christ. I believe that is not the case for the vast majority of born again believers. Rather than try to force ourselves to do what is difficult for us, we should begin by understanding what is natural. I am salt and light.

Our salt loses its potency when we allow condemnation or guilt to enter our thinking. I am not saying that we do not have to be willing to witness for Jesus. I am saying that most of us will have a difficult time if we start with the thought, “I have to talk to people about Jesus!” I believe we need to start by believing what Jesus said. “I am the salt of the earth. My presence preserves because it brings the Lord into the situation. My life flavors my world because Jesus is in it.”

This may seem too simple but I believe it will help us be salty again. We do not have to force conversations to try to witness. We need to be salt and the conversations will turn on their own. We must be willing to live as Christians in front of the world. We must not participate in what the world does. We must not speak as the world speaks. Our lifestyle and conversation must reflect the Lord Jesus and his Word. If it does not, we are not salt.

Sometimes this will result in some uncomfortable situations. Look at the context of Jesus’ statement about salt and light.

Matthew 5:11-12 (NKJV) 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Being salt will usually result in persecution. We must understand this but we do not have to look for it. In other words, we do not go into the world and act “holier than thou” just so people will react to us with persecution. All we have to do is be a Christian before the people around us. We must not hide our beliefs. We do not have to flaunt them either. Just be salt.

What must we do to be the light of the world? We must shine and we must not cover our lamp. That is all. When our saltiness causes a response, be ready to give an answer. I do not believe we need to give a “canned” response. I believe we need to be willing to say and do what we really believe. That is all.

When we choose to be light and to be salt in our community, we open the gates of the supernatural. Jesus told the disciples to go into the world and preach the gospel. Mark 16:20 says that when they went out the Holy Spirit worked with them confirming the Word with supernatural signs following.

Do not let the word “preach” frighten you. It just means proclaim. We preach with our words but we also preach with our lives. It is the Word of God that the Holy Spirit will confirm with signs following, not our own words. You are salt and your are light. You do not have to become them. Just let your salt be potent and let your light shine. You will see the supernatural bring change to your world.