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Hold fast to the Word

November 22, 2012 No Comment

by Peggy Pedersen

We live in a world flooded with words, all clamouring for our attention—newspapers, magazines, books, television, radio, computers, and smartphones. Yet Paul in His letter to the Philippians counsels us to hold fast to the “Word of life” (Philippians 2:16).

Just what does this mean? First, let’s clarify what we mean by “Word.” At the most profound level, the Word is Christ Himself. The Apostle John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). This Word, as the Bible testifies, was made flesh and dwelt among us, and His words were full of grace and truth.

This Word, as the Bible testifies, was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Jesus said that His words were not His own: “For I do not speak of myself, but from the Father who sent me and commanded me what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49). Likewise, God spoke through the prophets. For that reason St. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).

In Holy Scripture, then, we have God’s Word of revelation about Himself and His plan of salvation. So when we speak of the Word, we mean Scripture. But we also mean the living incarnate Word who is Christ. He speaks in what we read and hear in the Scriptures, and these words are unlike any other words: they are the very Word of God. And God’s word is always true, always powerful. When God said, “Let there be light,” there was light.

It has been said that we do not read Scripture; it reads us. In other words, it reaches the hidden places of our hearts and reveals the truth about us to ourselves. It answers our questions and fills the needs of our spirits. It meets us where we are. As we read God’s Word—I like to read it aloud so that it enters my ears as well as my eyes—we actually have a conversation with God. That’s why prayer and Scripture reading naturally go together.

Martin Luther wrote that “he who would correctly and profitably read Scripture should see to it that he finds Christ in it; then he finds eternal life without fail.” That’s because all the Scriptures testify to Christ. Indeed, they are all about our salvation in Christ—from Genesis to Revelation. In the Bible we find God’s promises for us. He reveals and heals our sin-sickness, working in us faith and life in Christ.

We need air, water, and food for daily life. Our spirits also need to be fed, and the food needed is the Word of God. Jesus said that no man can live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. For faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. And just as we can’t live on mere snacks or infrequent gasps of air, but need to have full meals and deep breaths, so we need to feed deeply and daily on God’s Word. He has promised that His Word never returns void, but that it rather always accomplishes its purpose. And what is that purpose? To give us life eternal.

The first commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. To love God with our mind is to fill it with His Word, to think of His Word, to speak of His Word, to meditate on His Word. To love Him with all our soul is to trust in the promises He gives us in His Word, to cling to them as to life itself. To love Him with all our strength is to let His Word be our strength in our daily living, teaching us His ways and bearing fruit in our lives. To love Him with all our heart is to cherish His Word as our dearest treasure, to turn to it as a sunflower seeks the sun.

To love Him with all our heart is to cherish His Word as our dearest treasure, to turn to it as a sunflower seeks the sun.

Scripture warns us that where hearts grow lukewarm and do not seek and hold His Word, His Word does not remain—like a passing shower of rain—and faith grows thin, weak, and dies. But where it is loved, and hearts are hungry for it, it is like a spring of living water. For God’s Words are unlike any other words; what they speak, they accomplish.

We are blessed that, as we meet in His Name, He pours His Word into our ears and through it, His grace into our lives as His Word combines with Sacrament. For wherever His Word is heard, He is present in His Spirit to draw us to Him, enlighten our minds, give peace in our hearts, speak forgiveness, faith, and life.

There are no more beautiful words than His words: “You are forgiven.” And again: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hold fast to those words and all that He has spoken.

May the Holy Spirit give us a hunger and thirst for His Word, and may the Word of God dwell in us richly, overflowing into abundant life.

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Peggy Pedersen is a freelance writer in Victoria, B.C., where she is a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church.

Image: africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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