“For the word of God is alive and powerful…it exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.”
I was reflecting this week on the difference between reading the Bible to become an expert on what it says, and giving my heart motives over to its scrutiny in real time. There is an important contrast between seeking mastery and seeking to hear from the Master.
It’s easy to decide in the time crunch of the many things on my agenda that since I grew up hearing what the Bible says, I can get by on what I already know. But I’m learning that I need to hear from God on this day, too, rather than living on left-over lessons. I can assume that I’ve woken up with my priorities in order and that my actions are being driven by the right reasons, but that’s rarely the case. Honestly, I am in dangerous territory when I cease to be wary of my own heart, when I feel I do not need the help of God’s word to understand myself and the world afresh.
The word of God exposes my innermost thoughts and desires for what they really are. It lays things plain and bare and shows me when I am using the word “responsibility” to cover up that I’m really just worrying and when I have substituted “busy” for “faithful.” I can memorize the Word of God and still live a life that is sorely lacking in love. What happens when I rely on just my memory instead of making time for fresh truth? I remember what suits me at the time. I do what looks right on the outside, but I am driven by selfish ambition.
“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”
At least in my life, this is pattern: when I decide I understand the Bible well enough for now and leave behind a regular quiet time, pride is at work. I give the right answers. I tolerate others, but I don’t love them. I love me and I go after whatever I want, instead of giving myself away. I forget my calling, I forget to love, I forget my God, and that forgetfulness shows up in my irritable, impatient reactions. I can hide how I feel, but it sucks the joy from my day.
Just like regular financial giving is a way of taking my trust off of my money and putting it back on God as my provider; regular quiet time is a way of taking my trust off of my own understanding, and putting it back on His guidance. It is a way of humbling myself by asking Him to show me what it is I DON’T know and DON’T see, even in my own heart. (Psalm 139:23-24)
I cannot safely decide I know exactly what God thinks or how he would have me handle a situation without asking Him again. His ways are “past finding out” and his judgments are “unsearchable.” (Romans 11:33) That is why I am told to:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all of your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”
I may be familiar with scriptural principles, but that is not the same as a daily, living relationship where I am guided step by step.
The challenge? I avoid reading the Bible sometimes, even when I know I need it. Here’s my guess as to why: regular time reading God’s Word usually shows me something I’m doing wrong. For once, I would just like to hear that I’m getting something right! So I look for likes on facebook and kudos at work and I set aside my Bible for “later,” because I may need it, but I need to feel accepted and approved of more.
But in Hebrews, the statement that the Word of God reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart and that all is laid bare before Him is followed by the reassurance that He is gracious and understanding toward weakness (verses 15-16). He tells me He’ll point out my issues, but THEN He tells me to come to Him boldly for help and He will give it! I am not being called to the principal’s office, I am being pulled into a huddle with the coach. And His words hold warm approval even as they spur me forward to trust Him for new things.
I do not need to fear or avoid the sharp words of God, I need to fear what I become when I harden toward what they say, when I stop listening, when I think I understand things well enough on my own, and when I run out into the world desperate for the precious acceptance that He has already given me in Christ.
I have a God who sees all things, to Him only I am accountable. I do not have to measure up to the expectations of anyone else.
I do not have to have it put together, nice and neat and perfect. I am not accountable to the pressures that demand I shove down what’s on the inside and make everything look good. I do not need the facebook reassurance, because I am accountable to the God who dares me to bare what is inside to Him and promises that He will be kind to me in my vulnerability.
This is what that God asks of me in Hebrews chapter 4:
- Hear my voice.
- Let my words inform you on the inner workings of your own heart.
- See me as the kind High Priest I am toward you, rather than turning away from my correction.
He does not reveal my sin to crush me, but to show me new areas where He can give me hope and grace. He does not make me aware of my weaknesses to discourage me, but to help me see the new territory where His strength will make all the difference.
Teach my heart to seek your words, to listen to them and soften toward what they say, even when it’s hard to hear. You are understanding toward even my biggest weaknesses, and you instruct the messiest of hearts to come boldly, for you have made them clean.