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 through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
First, I’ll ask a different, but related question: what is a book?
I was recently skyping with my mother, and encouraging her that she could save a lot by buying a Kindle (only an initial investment of buying the device) and then the ease of which taking your library with you everywhere you go would let her see that this is beneficial. At the time of writing this, I’ve currently got six free Bible translations I’ve been able to obtain for The Kindle.
Anyway, she responded as I expected, and as I did when first told about e-readers:
“I like the feel of a real book in my hands.”
Lest you think this is a promotion for the Kindle, which I assure you it’s not, I have a direction I’m going with in my thinking for you. But, what is a “real” book? It wasn’t until the printing press was invented that it helped revolutionize the way information was spread. Historians even differ on if it was invented to help propagate the Bible and get it into the hands of the common man, or to help spread Catholic propaganda, like indulgences.
But at any rate, for most of Church history, after the first century, the believer was not able to turn to a book and read the words of Christ. Only the elite few clergy and rich people had access to these types of materials. Is a book only a book if it’s on paper, or on an electronic device?'It isn't truly a book unless you're reading it on parchment scroll.' -Book snobs in the 15th centuryClick To Tweet
The Truth That Exposes Deception
Recently, at an English outreach/teaching ministry I’ve been volunteering with on a weekly basis now, I went out to eat with some of the Peruvian brothers who frequently come out. Because I’ve only been doing this for about six weeks, I don’t yet know which of them are believers, and which ones are benefiting from the English lessons, centered on and oriented around the Bible, but who have yet to make a life commitment to become followers of Jesus Christ.
I got talking to one brother in particular as we ate, and talked in and out of English and Spanish. He can wax eloquent about the Bible and gives lots of “correct” answers to questions, but the two ladies who run this ministry assured me is not a Christian (yet). So in this discussion I tried gauging where he was at by using the Word of God since the Bible states:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13, ESV)
You see, the Word of God is NOT a leather-bound book. It is not ink on paper. It is the words and life of Jesus Christ through us. We manifest the Word of Christ, but it is not limited to being a book in our traditional physical formats. It’s not limited to digital methods of reading like on an iPhone or Kindle e-reader, either.
As I got talking to this Peruvian brother who is a little bit older than me, I could locate where he was at by the outward reaction that he had to hearing these truths communicated to him. Does the sword cut, or bring life when I share it with him? I also let him read some of these passages for himself. Because he had shared with me that my pocket Bible’s font was too small for his eyesight, I used my Kindle and zoomed in to a suitable font size he could read with ease, and shared with him the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John.
It was in this moment I was having an epiphany for this post in particular, as I’m using a digital technology that didn’t even exist decades ago, to share with him the words written before even the printing press technology had been invented.
The Light That Exposes Darkness
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
The Word of God is living and active, and dwelt amongst us. To piece together statements from both Hebrews and John; the Word of God is a man. It is God. He judges the motives of the hearts and when He sets foot back on the earth again, the imagery used in The Revelation, also written by this Gospel’s author, it says that he had a sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth (Rev 1:16). This Man whom John looked at in all His glory was NOT some limp-wristed effeminate bloodied hippee nailed to a cross like some of the popular paintings and art work have portrayed Him to be.
The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (Rev 1:14-17a)
THIS man, mentioned in all his glory in this passage at the end of John’s life, is the Word became flesh. And in His presence, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” fell as though dead at His feet.
As I stated in a post of mine called The Recovery of Sharpened Proclamation,
The passage (Heb 4:12-13) used at the outset states how when our thoughts and intentions are held to the standard of the Word of God–a living sword, we are as though naked and exposed. We are stripped of any defense we can hide behind when our darkness is exposed by the light of the ultimate standard–God’s standard–His Word.
And also in my post, Jesus’s Eyes of Fire,
King Jesus doesn’t merely examine our hearts, but He tests and evaluates our true spiritual condition, and then brings His fire to effect a greater purity and usefulness in our lives…
…Jesus desires intimacy with us; He longs for a people who intimately know Him face to face, but in order to get closer to Him, those eyes of fire are going to test the pure motives of our heart and let us know that He is committed to burning up the chaff in our lives. He will remove the dross, for it’s impossible to get closer and closer to the heat source without things getting brought to the surface in our lives and removed.
The Word of God does this in our lives. Seek greater intimacy, friend, with the Word became Flesh. Study the Bible, yes, and develop intimacy with the Son of Man. But remember, whether it’s something you’re reading on an electronic device, or paper and ink, it doesn’t matter. Get it in you!
Back to the Peruvian brother.
The reason I found myself thinking off the top of my head to show him this passage, was he had told me he considers himself to be a Christian. He told me that he has a relationship with Jesus (a very works-oriented understanding, by the sounds of it listening to him share with my why he felt he was one). And when I suggested to him one surefire way to know what God was like, was to read His will and testament, the Bible, I showed him this passage and watched it give him watery eyes. I am not sure what seed was planted, or how much closer this brother is to Christ now as a result, but when you read this pray for him that the scale would be tipped all the way and in the near future I’ll post a positive story of a commitment to Christ.
Fellowship With God is NOT Studying a Book
But for the meantime, remember: The promise of the Father was the Holy Spirit, not a Bible. The written Word, the Bible, has replaced the Holy Spirit in many Christians’ lives. The promise of the Father was the Holy Spirit, not a book, and the book as it has been printed and gotten into the hands of the multitudes over the centuries has replaced intimacy with the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit and the Word are one. Don’t exclude one (the Spirit) at the expense of only adhering to and studying the book.