Growing up in Columbus’ South side I had my comic book heroes: Superman, Spiderman, Aquaman, Iron Man, and others. As a scrawny kid these fellows inspired my imagination for big and exciting things. In church I also learned about some mighty heroes like David, whose faith in God enabled him to bring down a giant when he was still an insignificant boy like me. And then there was Samson, who destroyed an entire building full of Philistines with his bare hands. Of course I had to read about Daniel, for I had the same name. He and his friends had the courage to withstand the greatest king on the earth, and was vindicated by God against lions and a raging fire.
At the same time I had difficulty connecting these great stories with Christianity as I then understood it. My mom’s family, she was one of 13 children, were mostly in the church. Some of them liked to debate on some of the minor issues of the day, like the appropriate dress of women in the church. It then seemed to be more about what I cannot do than anything else. This was really no fault of the church. Now I fully realize that the don’ts in life are the real sticky points for all of us. Adam and Eve had the freedom to eat of every tree in the garden but one. That one restriction was the one that got their attention.
Some of us eventually found what it was really all about. Christ came to save us from our messed up way of thinking and living. He desires true fellowship with us. When we truly have an encounter with Him, the limitations become less of an issue. We realize how much He loves us and we want to return that love that He has placed in our hearts. This is what it means to be “born-again.” This is what it means to be a New Covenant Christian, a child of the Living God!
Now that we know that it is not about rule-keeping, the rest should be easy, right? Well, sort of…. As I look at myself and others who have come into this great experience, some problems still exist. Born-again Christians sometimes tell lies, get angry and even hate, become addicted to harmful substances, commit adultery and other actions that are contrary to the nature of Christ. Some are still tempted to do things they have turned away from because of Christ. Yes, forgiveness for all these things is readily available from Him, but the damage we do to ourselves and others in the process is very real.
Now that we are not under rules, we tend to forget how much we still need the words they contain. Sometimes I chuckle under my breath when I hear people say that they don’t live by a set of principles. They think they only follow their consciences, or the Spirit of God, or their instincts. The fact is that anyone who says, “I only follow what my heart tells me,” has already established a principle or a set of words that they live by. There is even a code among the most lawless in society. To turn in a fellow thief is unforgivable to the other thieves. Some intellectuals today with the most “liberated” thinking can get very heated when their rules are violated!
People can even get very legalistic about their not being under law!
So far I have not found anyone who does not hold to words that they live by. You can hear the clichés most every day. In Early America, we had, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Standing up for the American Revolution, Patrick Henry cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Later revolutionaries stated that all men are created equal, with certain unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That concept of equality is even more powerful today. How about later slogans, like “Make love, not war!” Or “Give peace a chance?” A common and popular statement in our time in essence is “there are no absolutes,” which in itself states an absolute.
There is even a creedal quality to “we are not under the law, but under grace!”
The point is, we are going to live by someone’s word’s. Whose words are we going to live by? What works for me is to find those individuals who have been listening to the Voice of the Lord, and to glean from their words. They are those who have taught me how to listen to God for myself, how to dig into the Scriptures and to allow the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to embed the very words of God into my heart and life.
Words from God are not to hinder or limit us. They empower us to resist the pull of destructive habits and behavior. As bread nourishes our physical bodies, the Word of God is bread to our inner life. It builds up the New Man that He has made us to be. God’s Word is a creative force. When He says, “Let there be light,” there is light! When He says “You shall not steal,” there is power in that word when mixed with faith to make me into a giver rather than a taker. When we read, Galatians 5:22-23: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law,” we are reminded of the virtuous life that results from the Spirit-filled life.
The Psalmist said, “Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalms 119:11).
It is evident that Jesus in His humanity had the word of God hidden in His heart. When visited by the tempter, He resisted him with the very words of Scripture in the proper context. In Him there was no disconnect between the Spirit of God and the Word of God. The two resonated together within Him and propelled Him forward in His mission.
In us, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We need for these wholesome words to become flesh. We need the Living Word of God to transform our thoughts and emotions, bringing them in line with our spiritual life. “For the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” If we need our daily physical bread, how much more do we need our daily spiritual food, for “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 26:41, Romans 8:6, Matthew 4:4).