The Power of the Word, Part 1
The prophet Isaiah declared a timeless truth, “the grass withers and the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isa. 40:8 NKJV) God’s Word is eternal and stands forever. To the follower of Christ, this is comfort, hope, and a source of strength. Over the next couple of weeks, I want to examine the intrinsic power of God’s Word and His promises to us.
It is important to know God’s Word to remain steadfast in Him and live the abundant life Jesus invites us to as His followers. For example, Paul wrote of our adoption into God’s family through Jesus,
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,” (Rom. 8:16-17a NIV)
Through faith in Christ, we are God’s children, co-heirs with Jesus in God’s family, and heirs of God’s inheritance! Such joy and promise to the believer. But Paul continues in the verse,
… if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:17b-18 NIV)
Paul is encouraging believers to have courage during suffering—for we are God’s children and part of His family. Further, the suffering we experience on this side of eternity pales compared to the glory we will experience through Him.
Yes, it is glorious to know that we are adopted, loved, and accepted by God. It’s even more powerful to know that as His child, we are secure in Christ during the sufferings and challenges of life because we belong to Him.
Understanding the fullness of God’s Word empowers us to live confidently in a turbulent world. Let’s recap from the last couple of weeks on our discussion of spiritual blindness to begin our new study on the power of God’s Word.
Jesus corrected the disciples for having hearts that were hard (Mark 6 & 8)
The disciples were unable to spiritually discern who Jesus was (the promised Messiah) and believe the works He performed. Human reasoning created an inability to discern and see clearly what God was revealing.
Human reasoning apart from God’s understanding is illegitimate. Often, it is counterfeit faith, fear masquerading as wisdom. To our natural minds, five loaves and two fish, or seven loaves and a few fish, never feed multitudes with leftovers … but with God, all things are possible!
As the writer in Proverbs states, learn to: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV) How do we completely trust the Lord? By knowing and trusting His Word!
Human reasoning calculates by seeing, then attempts to believe. But this is not true faith! Our natural tendency is to have “faith” in what we can see and touch. This is called sense knowledge faith versus real faith through the revelation of God’s truth.
Jesus is truth and His Word is truth! Start by reading and obeying God’s Word. Many are blinded because they ignore what is obvious in His Word and are influenced by culture and not the truth of God’s Word.
For example, Jesus is God’s gift to humanity, the savior of the world (John 3:16). But God’s Word declares He is savior to those who believe, not to everyone. To culture, this seems harsh, narrow, and exclusive.
Jesus stated clearly in John’s gospel, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) He is savior of the world, but for those who believe. Obedience to His Word demonstrates our allegiance to Him. Jesus came to make disciples, followers of Him, not just converts to principles.
One of the principles to overcome spiritual blindness is to grow your faith which aids you in developing your ability to hear from the Lord.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.” (Heb. 11:1 NKJV) Faith is like holding a ticket for food ordered that you are about to receive!
Keep in mind, God doesn’t force faith, He invites us to faith. Through Jesus, God’s gift of eternal life has been freely given. For those who believe, the Holy Spirit has also been given, as Paul states, “shed abroad in our hearts.” The Spirit now leads and guides us into all truth. It begins with understanding the power of God’s Word.
Paul stated, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV) The English word for word is from the Greek word rhema which primarily means utterance, or Spirit-breathed. God breathes on the written word (Greek is logos), and the word now becomes a rhema word to us.
The faith of God is given to those who position themselves to hear and see. It begins with trust, not relying on your senses or understanding, but by revealed truth and revelation of God and His Word.
Understand God’s Word, received in your heart and believed, will prosper. God’s Word is living, active, and powerful!
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11 NKJV)
When our hearts are soft and open to God, quickly God’s Word produces fruit. But when our hearts are hardened, God’s Word may not prosper as He intends. Let’s examine the parable of the sower in Mark 4 to gain further insight into this truth.
In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus begins to teach in his favorite setting—the open-air meeting by the sea of Galilee.
He has been teaching and demonstrating the Kingdom of God among them. Large crowds have followed. Then, accusations and opposition began to occur with the religious leaders. His family misunderstood Him, and Scribes accused Him.
In Mark 3:20-21, 22-30, 31-35, Mark embedded three stories into one section in order that each story may help interpret the other.
In the first and third stories, Jesus is misunderstood and thought “out of His mind” by His own family. The second story involves the Jewish scribes declaring that Jesus was casting out demons by the “prince of demons.” The supernatural workings of God seem irrational and even insane to an unbelieving world.
To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to harden one’s heart so completely that one refuses to recognize the acts of God and even attributes to evil the good works done by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. The result: a person shuts the door to the Holy Spirit’s inner work of grace that leads to conversion.
Ironically, the demons could recognize who He was, but His family, many supposed followers and religious leaders couldn’t. Why were they so blind? The parable of the sower gives an answer to the varied response to Jesus.
The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9)
Jesus announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God in Mark 1:15, and then He began to explain the meaning of the Kingdom through parables.
The religious leaders, his family, and most of the nation were blinded to the truth Jesus was bringing. He was bringing a message about God’s kingdom being established, but His message was hidden to them, their expectation was different.
They were expecting a Messiah who would establish a dominating kingdom that would overthrow the Romans and other Jewish enemies. Rather, Jesus was saying God’s kingdom is coming more like a farmer sowing seed, much of it apparently going to waste because the soil isn’t fit for it, can’t sustain the truth the seed contains. You could say His message wasn’t popular or politically correct!
This parable is fundamental to comprehend the Kingdom of God. Truth is to be believed and practiced. Truth progressively matures in our hearts and lives as we listen and obey God’s Word.
What is a parable? A parable is a short, memorable story or image, usually drawn from nature or daily life, which conveys spiritual truths. The parable is a “similitude,” a story to tell, containing a spiritual truth to be discovered. A parable is also like a dream with symbols.
In this parable, Jesus describes different types of soil and how these soils determine the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the Word sown.
Verses 3 & 9 refer to listening. “He who has ears to hear let him hear.” Verse 3 literally means “Listen, look!”
Deut. 6:4, “Hear, Oh Israel!” To hear means to absorb, to appropriate deeply, and to allow the message to sink in and change one’s whole life. Jesus is in fact doing this—He is teaching them about the Kingdom of God, but not all are hearing.
Humanity can “listen” but not really “hear” or “understand” what is being said. The Word is proclaimed (seed sown), but it must be heard (received) and responded to. It is not enough to hear a Word spoken to you; faith and obedience are required to see fulfillment.
Parables did not cloud the truth, rather, they revealed the state of human blindness. To understand the Kingdom Truths, one must “pursue” God—not “resist” God.
Question: Are you listening for God’s voice? Activity is required on your part to really “hear.”
The Mystery of the Kingdom (Mark 4:10-12)
Later, Jesus is alone with His disciples, and they ask the meaning of the parable. He explains the mystery of the Kingdom has been revealed to them. But, to those on the outside, everything comes in parables—stories that veil the truth.
The key to understanding this is found in the word “mystery.” Mystery as used in the OT refers to God’s plans that are secret yet revealed to the prophets for the sake of God’s people (Dan. 2:19, 28; Amos 3:7).
Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7 CEB)
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— (Rom. 16:25-26 ESV)
God’s hidden purposes are not a “puzzle” to be figured out through human wisdom. The mystery of the kingdom is not understood through intellectual pursuit, rather truth is discovered through God’s revelation to us. Truth unfolds through Jesus Christ!
“To you it has been given to know …” (Mark 4:11 NKJV) God reveals truths to create growth and expansion of the Kingdom. Revealed truth is an invitation to encounter God and grow spiritually.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Prov. 25:2 NKJV) Hunger will lead you into encounter with the Lord and greater revelation of His truths.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29 NKJV) Revelation is also generational. What we discover in God can be passed to those who follow us.
But what about those outside?
God wasn’t cruel to ancient Israel nor to mankind today. Hardness of heart (Mk. 6:51-52) causes people not to “see” and “hear” what God is revealing. The Kingdom of God is concealed not by God’s divine choice but by human will.
John 3:16 most Christians know, and many who are not. But what about John 3:18? “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (ESV) Yes, Jesus is God’s gift to humanity, He is the savior of the world. But He is savior to those who believe in Him as Lord.
A further factor is the tendency of humanity to evaluate truth from human reasoning. Consider Jesus’ interaction with Peter,
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mk 8:33 NIV)
Truth is understood by God’s revelation to receptive, childlike hearts.
For those who persist in their human reasoning or selfish ways toward God, the parables remain “opaque,” so they “see and don’t perceive… they hear and don’t understand.” God’s desire is that they would repent, turn to Him, be converted and forgiven. This principle can apply to all truth.
Next week I’ll continue with this parable and the power of God’s Word!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “The Power of the Word, Part 1”