“Is not my word like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:29)
It would be to our great disadvantage to see the Bible only as a book designed to bring cosmic comfort to the soul. To be sure, this is one of the things the Word of God does in the lives of all those who read Scripture with the eyes of faith. But the prophet Jeremiah declared that the Bible also strikes a blow like a holy hammer, breaking a rock in pieces. What is that “rock”? It is your rock-hard heart and mine, with all its self-righteousness and sinful pride.
The problem in far too many pulpits today is that the preacher is more concerned with pleasing man than he is with pleasing God. Messages designed to tickle the ears and minister to felt needs dominate the theological landscape. But when the whole counsel of God is preached, it wields a holy hammer that begins breaking away pieces of our pride and self-righteousness, exposing more and more of the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are many false prophets who preach “Peace, peace,” but God would have us know there is no peace for those whose eyes are fixed on self, rather than the Savior. The natural man craves this false peace, for his greatest goal in this life is to be happy. But God desires so much more for His people! In God’s perfect plan for our imperfect lives, holiness, not happiness, is the path God intends for us to travel. And the pathway leading to holiness is not lined with peace, but rather, persecution.
Here is a phrase I learned many years ago that I have repeated from the pulpit on many occasions: as a minister of the Good News of Jesus Christ, God has called me to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. The Christian life is not designed to be lived within a “safe space” of comfort, for a comfort zone is not conducive to conformity to Christ.
The Bible’s blow is the believer’s blessing. Comfort must be mixed with challenge; peace must be mixed with pain. On more than one occasion, the apostle Paul used the metaphor of a race to describe the life of a disciple of Christ. One of those metaphors is that of a runner, who will never reach the goal of winning a race without developing the discipline required to push past the pain and discomfort of training.
We are not called to comfort; we are called to Christlikeness, and Jesus Christ “was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). The Word of God is designed to train us up in the way we should go, and that way is marked by weeping as much as, if not more than, by rejoicing.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
So . . . when was the last time the Scriptures caused you to weep? When was the last time you felt the Bible’s blow, hammering away at your old sin nature within, penetrating to the essence of your soul and laying bare that which is displeasing in God’s sight? Remember, Jesus promised that the truth would set you free, and the truth of God’s Word is designed to turn your life inside-out and upside-down as God reshapes and redesigns His image in you.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!