I am reminded at the outset of the preacher who was warning his congregation about the evils of liquor, or at least he thought he was. At one point he bellowed, “Who has the money to spend?” Then he answered his own question and said, “Not the drinker, but the saloon keeper, he has all of your money to spend.”
Then he asked the audience, “And who has the biggest house?” Once again he answered his own question sarcastically and said, “The saloon keeper has the biggest house paid for with the drinker’s money.”
Again he asked, “And who has the finest furs and most expensive jewelry?” And once more he answered his own question, “The saloon keeper’s wife my friends.” And then finally he shouted out, “And who pays for all of this?” The answer followed, “You drinkers do, that is who!”
A few days later, a couple who had been in the audience met the eloquent battler of booze and they congratulated him on the wonderful speech. The pastor said to them, “I’m pleased to see that you’ve given up drinking!” The man said, “Well not exactly, but we did buy a saloon.”
Apparently, his oratorical skills and speaking technique, while they sounded good, did not produce the desired results, but instead resulted in the exact opposite. Some strong words from God were needed but were in short supply in his message. Scriptures like Proverbs 23:29-35,
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has
complaining? Who has wounds without a cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”
“Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine.”
“Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly;”
“At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper.”
“Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind will utter perverse things.”
“And you will be like the one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or
like one who lies down on the top of a mast,”
“They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it.
When shall I awake? I will seek another drink.”
In those verses God is talking about ole-red eye who is a slobbering drunk and who tells you that his name is Captain Hook and that you have a blankety-blank green monster on your head. He has no idea where he is and has lost all sense of reality and danger. Not exactly in top mental condition, he puts himself in peril like the man who lies down in the middle of an ocean – shark bait. Or on the top of mast – a doomed drunken aerialist. So then in his soused stupor he gets his brains beat out and doesn’t even know it. Then to ease the hangover when he comes out of his alcohol-induced black out, he asks for another drink.
No wonder that Verse 31 warns us not to even look at the cup when it is red, which is the process of fermentation – alcohol, let alone drink it. Not only don’t drink it, don’t even look at it. Abstinence! When is the last time you heard a good old rip roaring sermon on total abstinence and why preached from those Scriptures in our modern churches where social drinking is a common practice including among the pastors? Half of the church would get hot under the collar, register their complaints against the preacher with their deacon-drinking buddies, and then go home and take a couple of belts to soothe their guilty uneasiness.
Many churchy types are so hooked on wine and liquor these days that they are winos and alcoholics and don’t even know it. But they need their 4 o’clock scotch-on-the-rocks afternoon happy hour, and if they don’t get their drink, they look and act like a dying-of-thirst prospector at a dried-up waterhole.
GOD’S WORD – A RAZOR SHARP SWORD
It started in modern times, let’s see, I think it started when Madeline Murray O’hare complained that she didn’t want prayer in our schools and America said, “OK.” Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school, the same Bible that says you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not commit adultery, and you must love your neighbor as yourself. And America said, “OK.”
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock came along and said that we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem. And America said, “OK. Hey, an expert should know what he’s talking about so we won’t spank those little rascals anymore.” Then came along prominent “Seeker Friendly Preachers” who state publicly that we should not preach on sin and Hell anymore for we might hurt people’s self worth and do emotional damage to them. And much of the modern church says “OK.” It seems to be working as they are filling their churches with the “soothed” and the “salved” which is today version of the “saved.”
Hebrews 12:4 states,
“For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged
sword, and piercing as far as the division of souls and spirit, of both
joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and
intentions of the heart.”
Thank God for Gideon pocket New Testaments, but don’t ever mistake the Sword of the Spirit for a pocket knife. God’s Word is a sword and not a jackknife. It has been polished by the Holy Spirit into a mirror finish in which we can see ourselves. If you will,
“THE WORD OF GOD IS TO SIN WHAT A MIRROR IS TO THE FACE,
SHOWING CLEARLY EVERY BLEMISH AND FLAW.”
It has been honed by the Holy Spirit into a razor’s edge that can cut through the spiritual hardness of any calloused heart like butter.
The Sword of the Spirit is sharper than any two edged sword. Sharper than any two edged sword, my, that is really saying something. Sharper than the sword with which David cut off Goliath’s dead head. Sharper than the sword with which Peter lopped off the soldier’s ear. Sharper than any knife you have in your cutlery collection. That’s the Word of God. All swords and knives in the world are dull in comparison to:
“The Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)
What the Bible writers are saying is that both edges of the Sword of God’s Word are razor sharp! Touch them and you bleed! The Sword of God’s Word cuts sharply both ways. It does its piercing work in our souls in our coming and our going – when we are coming to Christ pierced with guilt and when we are the slightest bit going away from Christ. It will cut us totally lose from our sins and it will deeply cut us with conviction when we are tempted to go back to our sins. It slices and dices both ways. It will always keep us on edge.
That is why Romans 1:16 says that,
“It is the power of God unto salvation.”
Not only does the Sword of the Spirit cut us lose from the shackles of sin by bringing us to Christ, but the Sword of the Spirit also protects us when Satan tempts us with sin by inflicting deep cuts in the Devil’s hide so that he goes away licking his wounds. When the Sword of the Spirit gets done with Satan, he is not just nicked but he looks more like chopped wood.
So we read how Jesus wielded the Sword of the Spirit against the tempter with three mighty and defeating slices as recorded in Matthew 4:4,7,10-
“It is written….” “It is written….” “It is written….”
Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! Satan left Jesus and went away all cut up something fierce, as we then see a black form receding into the distance. Satan is a really kind of dumb and a slow learner when it comes to spiritual warfare. He just kept coming back for more. But you see when it comes to his hatred of Christ, Christians and Truth, Satan is a raving Osama-Bin-Laden militant. Someone should have said to him after He tempted Christ the first time and got cut so badly by the Sword of the Word, “I think you better shut up stupid.”
“THIS IS THE AWESOME POWER, ENERGY AND CUTTING FORCE OF THE
SWORD OF THE SPIRIT. AND IF IT DOESN’T HAVE THIS EFFECT UPON
THE HUMAN HEART OF SIN AND THE DEVIL IN THE CHURCH, IT IS
BECAUSE THE PREACHERS ARE USING RUBBER- PLAY
SWORDS WITH NO PIERCING , PAINFUL OR
For we must once and for all realize that the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit we are talking about, and not some Fischer Price Toy. This Sword of the Spirit is not meant first of all for soft-seminarian hands but rather for combat-hardened hands. And the preacher who wields the Sword of the Spirit can be a little mite of a fella, yet with the Sword of the Spirit be a mighty warrior of God.This is the powerful “Divine Dominator” that God has put in the hands of all of his warriors.
You have heard those advertisements for cutlery that never needs sharpening. Yah, sure and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I will sell you cheap. But the Sword of the Spirit never needs to be sharpened and it never loses its edge, because it is eternally alive and has a life all of its own. For you see, it is the very extension of God the Holy Spirit Who never grows dull either. It is the eternally living Word of the eternally living God Who never has a dull moment.
Our problem today is that God the Father is being presented by the modern church as chiefly a Santa Claus with His Goodies Bag, Jesus as a Rich Tycoon, and the Holy Spirit as a Cooing-Morning Dove. We have lost sight of the awesome and fearsome King of Heaven who has a Sword coming out of His mouth – The Word of God. We read in Revelation 1:16,
two edged-sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.”
And it is always “Active.” The Word of God is pure action without a moment’s inertia, because it is God’s Word Who Himself is pure action! You and I will have all the “Divine Action” in our lives and the church that we can possibly imagine or manage when we truly and faithfully allow the Sword of the Word of God to wield its full power in our lives, in the church of Jesus Christ, and on the spiritual battlefields of this world.
The Word of God, or the Sword of the Spirit, is not some sacred art object, but is the eternally razor sharp and piercing tongue of God coming out of His mouth eternally. Are you sure you want Him to speak and are you sure you want to speak to Him? For be sure of this, if you do, you will at the least get the point!
Many years ago in the Saturday Review there was a cartoon which showed a plump woman flopped out on a couch, feet up, and a box of chocolates at her elbow. The caption read, “I love to curl up with a good book.” Of course, that characterization of the Word of God as the “Good Book” has been around for years. Not exactly the imagery that captures Hebrews 12:4 and Ephesians 6:17. Not even close!
THE MODERN CHURCH CHANGES THE METAPHOR
Couldn’t the metaphor of the “Sword” be toned down to perhaps a “Mealtime Knife or Fork “or something far less threatening? You know, like maybe a “Steak Knife.” But of course that is to completely miss the point and blunt the edges of the Word of God. Steak knives are meant to cut meat, but swords are designed to cut men. For many modern Christians, Christianity is viewed more like “Mealtime at Mr. Steak,” when in fact authentic Christianity is “Sword Time on the Spiritual Battlefield” against the World, our Flesh and the Devil.
Yet I hear the protest against the Word of God being called The Sword of the Spirit, “I mean to say, what a metaphor with which to describe the Word of the God of love! Dear Lord, that sounds like something to run from, for if the preachers truly start swinging that ominous two edger in church, it may feel like you are not going to escape with your lives.” True, you may just lose your life but that is the only way to find new life in Christ.
Let’s be sharply honest here about the sharper-than-any-two-edged Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The Word of God is a deep and painful ‘OUCH’ before it ever becomes a soothing and healing ‘AAAH.’ People today want the ‘OOOHS’ and ‘AAAHS’ churches, not any longer the ‘OUCH’ churches. But I got news for you, if you are in a church that is mostly ’OOOHS‘ and ‘AAAHS’ with little ‘OUCH,’ you are not in a “Holy Spirit Sharp Sword Church.” You are instead in “Toys R Us” where you can buy and then play with rubber knives that have the same effectiveness as a limp discolored carrot.
Listen once more to Hebrews 4:12,
“For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged
sword, and piercing as far as the division of souls and spirit, of both
joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and
intentions of the heart.”
Those truly are some of the most amazing words in the Bible about itself. That is what it is! Not what it may sometimes but seldom become! Being sharp and cutting and piercing and active is not the Word of God being out of character but being fully in character. It is not a part time sword! Listen, when the preacher truly holds the Sword of the Spirit in his hands, he is not there to cut out paper dolls and soldiers. Whether we like it or not, he is more like a Confederate or Union Soldier fixing his bayonet to do battle with the enemy. Whether we like it or not, we are the grass and he is the lawn mower.
That is what the picture really is and nothing less, of course in a spiritual sense whether the adversary is Satan or sin or both. For instance, we should never forget this and not even in the least try to kid ourselves about this:
“IF RAGING SEXUAL OR MATERIAL LUST IS OUR CONSTANT COMPANION,
SATAN THEN IS SURELY OUR MASTER.”
Only Jesus who is the Word can set us free from it and him, for Jesus Himself said in John 8:32,
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
And He went on in John 8:36,
“If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
You cannot have Jesus without the Word. You have to have Jesus in one hand and the Sword of the Spirit in the other.
And did it ever dawn on us in this regard just how sharp and piercing the Sword of the Word of God really is? It is so sharply precise and penetrating that it can cut and divide soul from spirit, joints from marrow and thoughts from intentions. Man oh man, I have heard of and even used a fish-fillet knife, but this is something else I tell you. Poor fish! Yah, but poor us! Filleting soul from spirit, joints from bone marrow, and thoughts from intentions. Are you kidding, and all of that without anesthetic! There is Ouch with a capital “O.” And note I said precise. Oh the precision of the Word of God! This is not a violent stabbing which will cripple or kill us, but a merciful precision surgery which will deliver, heal and restore us.
And don’t ever believe the doctor when he says, “This may be a little uncomfortable.” Likely story! I’ve heard that at least a dozen times in my life, and every time it meant that this will really be uncomfortable and more often than not it was so. How so?
Now listen carefully:
“IF THE WORD OF GOD EVER TRULY DOES US ANY GOOD, WE WILL
FEEL IT LIKE THE SHARPEST OF TWO EDGED SWORDS DIVIDING
AND SEPARATING US FROM OUR DEAREST LUSTS
AND PET SINS.”
And when Jesus does this by the Sword of the Spirit, you will discover that it is far more than a little uncomfortable. We then find that it is a sharp and searching Sword-Word, as it pierces into our very hearts, exposes and reveals to us all of those deep, resident corruptions and intentions, and cuts them out one by one from the roots up. And all of this without sedation, for then we forever remember how hideous and painful sin was and how glorious deliverance and forgiveness is.
This is not conjecture but a tragic fact, and that is that much of the modern church has traded in the “Sword of the Spirit” for “Itch Scratchers.” What are they for, but to scratch the modern church’s fiery, carnal itches of the False-gospels of “Materialism, Mammonism and Moneyism?
The Lord tells us in his Word that the day would inevitably come when the church would be filled with people with “Itching Ears” that need to be scratched on Sunday morning. This isn’t just the “Seven Year Itch.” This is the “Great End Time Itch” for false doctrines and false gospels in the church fired by “LUST.”
“For the time will come that they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own
lust shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they
shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Come now, you know what Paul is talking about. The very same thing that the Apostle John is talking about in I John 2:16,
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and
the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.“
Sexual lust, material lust and status lust shall in “The Last Days Itch” fill the church! Shocking hey!? But true, and the itchy last days in the church are here!
Let me change the metaphor from itching ears to itching backs for illustration purposes. As in, “Pastor, that’s it, a little to the left, you’re there, now scratch my money/mammon itch, my adulterous itch, my status itch, and my perverted itch. Aaaah yes, scratch my back harder pastor, harder. Come on man, use both hands, none of this one-handed scratching. Please tell me that I can lay up treasures on earth for that is God’s will for our lives. Please tell me that I can have that other woman and divorce my wife and still be in good standing with God. Please tell me that, aaaah, and please don’t stop. Pastor you hit it, thanks. And tell me that same-sex sex and marriage is perfectly acceptable with God. Aaaaah yes, further to the left, there it is, aaaaah! And please tell me that there is nothing wrong with being proud of my accomplishments and possessions. Aaaah!”
And what is more, the “Last Days Itchy Church People” will and now get this:
“ HEAP, PILE UP THESE LUSTFUL, CARNAL, PROUD ITCH-SCRATCHER PREACHERS
AND TEACHERS WHO WILL TELL THEM EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR.”
Note that the Bible says HEAP UNTO THEMSELVES ITCH SCRATCHING SERMONIZERS. Gobs of them! They will come out of the walls by the thousands to scratch their itchy millions. And they have! The next thing we know we have back-massaging and vibrating pews to supplement the sermonizing-itch scratchers.
These modernistic, materialistic, temporalistic, mammonistic, adulteristic, perversionistic itches in the church today have spread into massive rashes which itch far more than the worse case of burning athletes foot and a thousand mosquito bites. Scratch it Pastor, harder, that’s it, and the more the scratching only makes the itch worse, even as the “Gambleholic” becomes more addicted with every bet with the prospect of hitting it big with a winner at “Church-ill Downs.”
But this is the huge difference between the true “Sword Gospel” and the false “Scratch Gospel” –
“IN THE ‘SWORD GOSPEL’ THE PAIN COMES FIRST BUT PASSES INTO
ETERNAL GLORY, WHILE IN THE ‘SCRATCH GOSPEL’ THE FALSE
PROSPECT OF GLORY COMES FIRST AND THEN PASSES
INTO ETERNAL PAIN.”
I recall joyfully and longingly the blessed Charismatic Renewal of the late 20th century when preachers would preach sermon series on “The Call to Righteousness” and not “The Call to Riches.” I was graciously given the privilege of associate pastoring in such a church for 12 years that grew from 230 to 4000. Every Sunday morning and evening, the altar-call nets would be full of fresh fish. There they would stand at the altar ,weeping in the pain and shame of sin-shattered lives, and then entering into and erupting into the “Joy of Salvation in Jesus Christ.” No pain not gain, no sword no salvation!
If I heard it once, I heard it hundreds of times at First Assembly of God in Grand Rapids, when people in the new/convert prayer room would say things like, “When the preacher preached, I had no choice but to say that this is my sin, and I am the sinner that was preached about. If I didn’t know better I would think that the preacher was hiding out in my house or somehow could read my heart. He rang my doorbell and dialed my number this morning.”
Those that endured the pain of the Sword and didn’t run from it found the joy of the Lord forever. God, please bring back the “The Gospel of the Sword” again before it is to late and the modern church scratches sinner’s burinng-fleshly itches all the way to a far worse burning Hell.