“I like that he speaks from the book.” This is the answer a man gave for why he gets on a bus and travels two and a half hours each way to come to Mars Hill every Sunday. This man isn’t even a Christian—he’s a former Muslim who’s drawn to the church, not because of feel-good sermons, but because our pastor is preaching from the Bible, from the pages we claim hold the truth of eternal hope and salvation through Jesus. And from this faithful proclamation, the Holy Spirit is moving!
Bask in the power of God's word
Could it be possible that the Bible, the inspired word of God actually has the power to stand on its own? That it’s not relevant because of our efforts to make it more palatable, but it’s only and forever relevant because of Jesus?
When we have non-Christians coming into the church and by their own admission telling us they come to hear the word of God preached, and not for a motivational speech with a few verses crowbarred in, this should cause us to step back, rejoice, and bask in the power of God’s word being used by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Handle with care
As pastors, teachers, and believers in Jesus, we are called to be “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). This literally means, “to rightly cut, to cut straight.” Think for a minute about a medical student working on a cadaver. The student understands that they must make careful cuts in order to better understand the human body they’re working with. It would be absurd, dangerous, and meaningless for the student to take a butcher knife and start hacking away.
So why would we do this with God’s word?
If we really believe that God’s word 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” (Heb. 4:12), this should urge us to carefully handle all of Scripture in a way that clearly communicates its truth, and points people to Jesus, because it has the power to transform lives! I can’t do this, you can’t do this—only God can.
Only God's words offer new life
This should also cause us to resist the temptation to offer behavior modification as the primary means of restoration. People aren’t restored or made new because they change their behavior; they’re restored and made new because Jesus is their Savior.
The power of what God himself has breathed should move us to proclaim faithfully all of Scripture, not to adopt a pick-and-choose mentality, realizing that God’s word is indeed offensive because it points out our sin and disobedience, but also offers hope to the offender through the grace of Jesus. As Augustine says, “If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Every Sunday I see people come through the doors of Mars Hill churches and leave changed. This isn’t because of a fancy illustration, a polished to-do list, or the promise of a better tomorrow. People leave changed not because of moralistic suggestion, but because of God’s truth that points to Jesus from which the Holy Spirit moves. The truth is, our words will always fall flat; only God’s word offers new life. So when we open our mouths to speak, may we never speak out of our own humanity, but instead, may we always speak from the book.