Archives For April 2005

Heb. 4:12
Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
© Andy Campbell, 04/17/2005

When you think of “the word of God” what comes to your mind? For most of us, we think of the Bible, God’s written word. Most of you have Bible somewhere in your house. It may be in your living room on the coffee table, welcoming your guests. Perhaps it’s buried in a bookshelf somewhere.

I keep in touch with the world through email. Right now on my computer I have over 500 saved emails. I’ve kept them because they either contain important information I don’t want to lose, or they require some response on my part. I doubt that I could go a full day without access to my email. It is an integral part of my life. Emails are the words of other people. The Bible is the written word of God. Do we feel the same way about the necessity of the Bible as I do about my email? Most of us would have to answer “no”. According to a recent survey published by the Barna Institute, only one in three of you have read anything out of the Bible in the past seven days.[1]

Why is that? I think that one of the reasons is the age of the books that make up the Bible. They reference places, customs, and events that are strange and unfamiliar to us. We weren’t alive back then and most of those customs are not actively practiced in our society. Most people are content to know the highlights – the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and maybe a few Old Testament stories like Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses and the 10 commandments. The rest of it, like the exhaustive genealogies in 1 and 2 Chronicles, seems a bit hard to access.

I think that our understanding of the word of God is far too limited. The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote that God’s word is living and active. Peter wrote that we have been born again not by a seed that perishes, but by one that cannot perish – the living and everlasting word of God. Hmmmm, that doesn’t sound like the leather bound book that sits at home, does it? That book isn’t alive. I, for one, have never seen my Bible grow. There are the same number of pages in it now as there were when I bought it several years ago. And active? I can assure you that it’s never turned it’s own pages or put itself back on the shelf. What about everlasting? Well, with the way that I underline things and fold the corners of pages, I doubt that it will be around forever.

So, maybe we’re looking at this all wrong. Maybe the word of God isn’t a “what”. Maybe it’s a “who”. John began his gospel by telling us that in the beginning of all things was the Word and that the Word became flesh and lived on earth. I don’t think he was talking about a book. Jesus himself said he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets – God’s written word to Israel. The word of God is Jesus. So, according to the scripture we read earlier, Jesus is living and active. I think that it is easy to overlook the importance of having a living and active word of God.

The world’s slowest growing tree is a white cedar found in Canada. One specimen, after 155 years of growth, had only reached a height of 4 inches and weighed just over half an ounce. That tree is alive, but it is not very active!

Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano. It has been erupting continuously since 1983 and discharges about 177 cubic feet of lava every second. That’s enough to fill Lincoln Financial Field from the playing surface to the lights in just 6 days! That is one active volcano, but it’s not living.

Jesus is not merely a dead prophet whose words still have an impact today, some 2000 years after he spoke them. He arose from death, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God even to this day. He was alive, he is living, he will continue to live. “It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” (Rom. 8:11). “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20). “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The Word is living, and because he is, so are we.

On the other hand, Jesus is not a detached theological concept relegated to dusty books and the claustrophobic halls of academia. He is more than a divine watchmaker who sits in a far off place observing, but not interacting, with the Father’s creation. Jesus is active in those who claim Him as their Lord, their Savior. He said that he would remain in us as long as we remained in Him and as a result we could ask for whatever we wanted and it would be given to us. He is so active in us that he said without him, we wouldn’t be able to do anything (John 15:5-7). He actively pursues those who do not yet know Him. He compared himself to a shepherd who leaves his whole flock behind to pursue one lost sheep, or a woman who lost some money and turned her whole house upside-down to find it (Luke 15:4-10). He stood in our place when he was crucified for our sins, he stands in our place when we fail to offer our praise and worship to the Father, he will stand in our place on the day when we are held accountable for how we spent our lives. He was active, he is active, he will continue to be active.

There is this program on The Learning Channel called “A Baby Story”. Each episode follows a couple sets of expecting parents through their final few weeks of pregnancy, culminating in the birth of their child. The parents talk about how the birth of the child changed their lives forever, brought them fulfillment, a new level of responsibility, and a depth of love that they didn’t know previously. When April was pregnant with our daughter, we would watch that show often. It was neat to see the stories of those new parents. But to me, that’s all they were… stories. Once the program was over, I seldom thought about those new parents or their babies again. I can’t tell you the names of any of the parents, children, hospitals, or even cities that were part of the show. It was just a story, being told for my entertainment or education. It didn’t continue to change me after the story was told.

Then came December 12, 2003. On that day Sydney Grace was born. Since that day, my life has not been the same. I am experiencing all those things that the people on that show experienced. The biggest difference is that I have not stopped changing and growing in relationship with Sydney since the day she was born. She is living and active in my life, she’s not just a story. I can’t help but to be changed.

The word of God in the person of Jesus Christ is meant to have the same type of effect on us as Sydney has on me. Once the word of God enters into your life, living and active, you will not cease to be changed. It’s not just a collection of stories and ethics. Those things are present, just as the story of Sydney’s birth is a part of who she is. However, Sydney is more than just her story. The word of God is more than just a collection of stories. It is a person. Jesus Christ is living and active in the written and spoken word of God.

I challenge you to look at the word of God from that standpoint. The next time you open your Bible, realize that what you read is not merely static information fixed in a time long past, or lofty theological constructs useful for instruction and debate, but it is a living story. It will change your life forever, bring you fulfillment, challenge you to rise to new levels of responsibility, and place within you a depth of love that you didn’t know previously. In this way, you will be impacted by the living and active word of God.


[1] This statistic reflects a 2005 survey conducted by the Barna Institute which determined that 34% of those living in the Northeastern United States have read their Bibles in the past seven days. More information can be found by visiting the Barna Institute’s website at http://www.barna.org.