# 14 of 30 – The Working of the Word

Preaching in Kenya with my friend and translator, Isaac Mathembe

This is # 14 of 30 ways that God’s Word, the Bible, works in the lives of His people.

God’s Word brings the believer God’s salvation. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18).


# 4 of 30 – The Working of the Word

This is # 4 of 30 ways that God’s Word, the Bible, works in the lives of His people.

God’s Word brings the new birth. Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).

The Parable of the Grave Robber

Only two more months and Martin was going to retire, but this could ruin it all.

Martin worked at Shady Lawn Memorial Gardens. He began as the grounds keeper 40 years ago and worked his way up to supervisor. Nothing like what he found this morning had ever happened before.

As he walked into the graveyard this morning he was startled to see some of the graves freshly dug up. No, these were not newly dug graves, but only ones dug up, the caskets removed from the ground, and the bodies stolen.

Police from three different cities were swarming all of his freshly cut grass and a row of television satellite trucks from every newsroom were broadcasting live. Someone had stolen 17 bodies during the night. There didn’t seem to be a pattern to the robberies according to the police; the bodies were just gone.

Martin heard of this happening before over the years, but it had never happened at Shady Lawn. He suspected that new Christian man who’d moved in across the street of being the culprit. He even told the police so. That guy was a nut job, always reading the Bible and preaching about Jesus to everyone. A fanatic kook like that had to be responsible for the missing dead.

God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).


What Is Repentance?

You can have many reasons for being sorry. You may be ashamed because you’ve been caught doing something forbidden. Maybe there’s fear of what others will say, think, or do when they find out what you’ve done. You could be sorry for the hurt or embarrassment you’ve caused others. But repentance isn’t the same as being sorry.

Repentance isn’t admitting you’re a sinner, repeating a prayer of forgiveness, or crying. Repentance is hating your sin because its rebellion against God. False repentance dreads the consequences of sin; true repentance dreads sin itself.

Repentance is a change of purpose, heart, and mind about sin that results in turning to godliness. It is a complete change in direction from doing what you like to doing what pleases God.

Repenting doesn’t make anyone saved. Salvation is only by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Repentance is a fruit of salvation, not the root of it.

How do you know if repentance is genuine? Your life permanently changes as you live a life in obedience to the Word of God. You hate your sin and love righteousness. You increasingly become like Jesus.

… how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9)


Finding the Next Spiritual Level

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3).

When God created the universe, it wasn’t as flying particles and residual goo that took billions of evolutionary years to coalesce and become something complete. God created all things complete.

Adam was formed complete. God didn’t plop Adam down in the middle of the Garden of Eden as a baby needing special treatment. The first man was created as an adult with everything necessary for him to live each day and serve God to the fullest.

In the same way, the moment a sinner is born again, God gives him everything he needs to live the Christian life and grow in godliness. There’s no second blessing of the Holy Spirit or some additional experience necessary. You are born again complete in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

Some people go through their spiritual walk constantly looking for something new. A new message, a new experience, a new method, a new power, a new move of God or the next level; these are an endless pursuit in futility. There is no next level in the Christian life! Christianity isn’t a multi-level marketing con-game. If you are born again, you already possess everything that God has for the spiritual life; if you need something more, you may not be born again! Your need isn’t gaining or achieving something new, but walking in the growth, nurture, and development of what God has already given.

How does maturity come? How do we grow in God’s grace? How do we begin to experience all that God gives us in salvation? By the study and application of God’s Word.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


A Shooting Star

My grandfather warned me of shooting stars in the church. Beware of shooting stars. As quickly as they appear they burn out. 

A shooting star is a small, rapidly moving meteor. As it enters Earth’s atmosphere, friction causes it to burn, leaving a blazing trail of rock, dust, and ice behind it. When there is nothing left to burn, it vanishes.

Many pastors give special recognition to new converts. They are allowed to testify, or because of their eagerness to be involved, given a part in the work of ministry. Sometimes these new converts are elevated because they are seeking attention; sometimes it’s the pride of the pastor desiring to be recognized for leading someone one Christ. Either way, the problem created is two-fold.

First, it is impossible to know that someone has been born again until that person’s faith has been tested. Anything else is a dead confession or profession. No matter what someone professes, Faith without works is dead (James 2:20).

Jesus warned of the deceptiveness of counterfeit converts in a parable. He said, He hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Others hear the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he become unfruitful (Matthew 13:20-22). Salvation is marked by the growth and increase of Christian virtues (Mt 13:23; 2 Pet 1:3-11).

Second, being recognized so quickly creates a false assurance in that person. He believes he’s saved, after all the pastor said so. When faith proves to be counterfeit after being paraded in the church, it causes other believers to stumble.

How do you know true regeneration? Not because you repeated a prayer, joined a church, were baptized in water, or accepted Jesus in your heart. You know you are born again because the Holy Spirit is actively producing and increasing the fruits of Christ-likeness in you. That is something proven only by the dual tests of time and trials.

Don’t create shooting stars which are here today but burn up and disappear tomorrow.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).


Enduring Hardship

We are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5).

Nothing reveals the heart of a person faster or more accurately than trouble. People are often willing to follow an idea or a leader as long as it’s made easy and doesn’t cost anything personally. Trouble and temptation weed out those who are only emotional or mere intellectual followers (Mt 13:20-22).

Even today there are many false followers of Jesus. They appear by all outward scrutiny to be Christians, but in reality are Christian in name only and not from a changed, born-again heart. These people are along for the ride because it’s culturally popular, it satisfies a personal longing, or it fulfills a tradition. Trouble or temptation strikes and they abandon their drummed up faith.

Christian faith, however, doesn’t fail when trouble rises. Saving faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9). The Christian doesn’t endure hardship because he is strong, but because he is held and kept by a strong Saviour.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).



After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1-2).

For 33 years, everyone only saw a man, until Jesus gave three of His disciples a small glimpse of His eternal glory.

The word transfigured comes from the Greek word metamorphosis, meaning to be changed from the inside out. Rather than a heavenly light shining upon Jesus, a bit of the glory from within Jesus and which belonged to Him from eternity was visible.

No one can free himself from himself, so we turn to outward pressures. We yearn for someone or something like a Marine Corps drill instructor to force us into a desired behavior. Weakness of spirit and character demands that someone control us by commands like: Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle (Colossians 2:21). We beg to be under the conforming thumb of a slave master with rules, regulations, pressure, fear of punishment, or promises of reward as a way to control our actions and thoughts.

God transforms from the inside; only He can change the inside of a person. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind … (Romans 12:2). The word transformed is the word metamorphosis or transfigured used in Matthew 17:2. God’s transformation of the sinner isn’t by outward pressure, but by an inward changing of the mind and heart.

The unconverted heart of man is corrupted incurably by sin; it can’t be mended or repaired, it must be made wholly new. A new heart comes only by a new birth, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). From a new heart God transfigures us, transforming the way we think, talk, and act. From within He changes our goals, morals, and desires, fitting us for Heaven rather than this fallen world.

The Spirit of God works through the Scriptures transforming us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), internally and not by slavery to an outside influence.

As the free children of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we don’t know all of what we’ll be like in the end, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).


Are You Gold?

Be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble (2 Peter 1:10).

Puritan pastor Thomas Brooks wrote, Assurance is the believer’s ark where he sits, Noah-like, quiet and still in the midst of all distractions and destructions, commotions and confusions

Peter wrote the last of his letters to reveal the evil character of false teachers and show that growing Christ-like character is the proof of salvation.

Years ago I bought a used Ford Taurus that two days later had engine trouble. In the glove box I found a note from another purchaser only a week earlier reporting the same problem. Attached was a statement from the dealership’s own mechanic that the car needed a new transmission.

Since I bought the car from a dealership, Oregon’s Lemon Law allowed me to return the car for a full refund. There is little more frustrating to a consumer than buying a product only to discover that it isn’t what is claimed.

In the same way, Peter tells each of us who claims the name of Christ to eagerly prove and guarantee to ourselves that our salvation is what we claim it is. He says that the assurance of genuine faith is based on the character of Christ being formed within us.

Salvation isn’t proven through the repetition of a prayer, a feeling in the heart, the joining of a church, or having someone else affirm us. By these outward means we falsely claim converts. Assurance of salvation – like Noah sitting still and quiet in the ark – is the result of the Spirit’s internal work, proven by a tried and tested faith (Matthew 13:18-23).

Paul was persuaded or convinced by evidentiary facts that he was saved and nothing could separate him from the love of God in Jesus (Romans 8:38). His faith had been tested again and again by trials and hardships and proven genuine (Romans 8:35-39). His Christlike character proved him to be a conqueror not a victim as every circumstance in his life was working together for good (Romans 8:28).

As you are tested, genuine saving faith is proven the same way it was in Job: When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10).


The Chief of Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to  believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Pastors fear to preach the message of sin. They fear to preach even more so to their own congregations, that they – even after they are born again – are sinners. They cringe at the idea, but such an understanding is not only the beginning of the gospel, but the continuation of the gospel, because without sin there is no need for a Saviour.

Child of God, do you not still need the Saviour? Have you moved beyond and become independent of the cross? Do you recoil at the suggestion that you are a still a sinner in desperate need of the Saviour? Do you suppose you’ve reached an apex of spiritual superiority and are a perfected saint who doesn’t sin, aren’t a sinner, and your life is filled only with occasional mistakes because you’re a king’s kid?

Written near the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul called himself at that time the chief of sinners. He knew he needed that fresh and daily reminder that his sins were forgiven by the redemption in Christ’s blood. He relied upon the continuing firm assurance that his spiritual life was only each day by the grace through faith supplied by Jesus Christ. He rejoiced in hearing the same gospel he was preaching to the lost, that the death of Jesus is forever of eternal value, meaning, and power for every sinner called by God.

The chief of sinners kept continually at the cross so that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him.

A Christian never outgrows the cross! It is where living begins!