It was the summer of 2001 and we were in the beautiful resort town of Lake Tahoe, California. My wife Michele and our children and I had come to minister to about 60 or so college students who were there to participate in what in many circles is called a “beach project.” Going into it, I had an idea that God would use me in the lives of others, but I soon found out that aside from that privilege, I would also see the Lord at work dramatically in my own heart.
It was as though God brought about a “perfect storm” of various fiery trials and exposure to certain ideas that would impact me for many years to come. We had two little ones ages three and under. My wife was also pregnant with number three. I had dragged her there not because she was opposed to ministering to college students, but because of my insanity of bringing a nine month pregnant woman to such an intense mission so far from home. Maybe you can imagine what stressors that situation might place on a couple at such a time as that! It was these trials as well as another difficult issue that God used to drive me to my knees in prayer and to seek Him in His Word. Aside from prayer and Bible reading, I also picked up a book by Pastor John Piper called Desiring God. What I read in the first chapter changed the direction of my life. In it, Piper compiled quotation after quotation of Scripture verses demonstrating the Biblical teaching of the absolute sovereignty of God.
I had already been exposed to these ideas in the past, but what singularly struck me here was the clear and abundant teaching of Scripture on this matter. To this day, I can remember reading Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens, he does whatever he pleases.” God indeed ordains and carries out His will in all things. He is in total control of all things. It was that day that I was thoroughly convinced of this and also convinced that it is the Word of God that the Lord uses to impact lives. It was the Word of God, pure and simple that was presented before my eyes with respect to this one issue – and look how it changed my thinking and heart! I decided I would do whatever it took to study more of the Bible and to be equipped to preach and teach others about this Great God that redeemed a people for Himself through His Only Son the Lord Jesus Christ. I decided to go to a seminary where I would learn the original languages of the Bible as well as how to preach and communicate the Word of God to others.
Today we see all kinds of emphases on how to minister to others – whether in evangelism, sermons or church planting. These range from the silly and superficial to more substantial means. In some cases these are additions to the divinely ordained means of ministry which God has appointed and sometimes they outright replace them. We especially see this tendency in the field of world missions, whether in the case of innovative church growth methods or radical redefinition of important aspects of faith and practice in the name of contextualization. It is imperative that the Church recaptures her commitment to prioritizing the Word of God as the means by which the Holy Spirit will impact hearts.
We are told in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that: “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.” What can be more effective in ministry and in life in general more than what has been “breathed out” by God Himself? The passage clearly outlines the effectiveness and usefulness of the Scriptures: they are “profitable.” The Westminster Confession of Faith puts the idea this way, “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture., or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men” (WCF 1.6). If we are to be effective at all in evangelism and in ministry, we will need the power of the Holy Spirit working through His Word to convince sinners of their need for Christ and to affect sanctification in the lives of His people. Only God can change the hardened hearts of men and women. It is interesting that the Apostle Paul points out the role of Scripture in our salvation. He reminds Timothy of the power of the “sacred writings” and how they are used by the Lord: “…from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). It is amazing how God will use His Word to bring people to faith in Christ and to help them to learn how to grow in their walk with Him. In fact, they point to Jesus. Notice that Paul pointed out that the Scriptures make us wise for salvation “through faith in Christ Jesus.” Our trust is in the Person and work of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God as the means to drive us to Him, whether in our initial trusting in Him or throughout our Christian lives!
The Word of God not only leads us to salvation, but also gives us confidence in the truths of the gospel. The Apostle Peter tells us that,
…we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes form someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:19-21).
This is the second of a two-pronged argument Peter gives for the credibility of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:16). His first point was that he was an eyewitness of the glory of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pet. 1:17-18). The prophetic word of the Old Testament gives us confidence that the Apostolic teachings about the life and person of Jesus are true. This is the case because no “prophecy of Scripture” was produced by men, but by the Spirit of God. The Word of God as special revelation stands as God’s own testimony.
Much more could be said about the Word of God. Suffice it to say that if we want to see the power of the Holy Spirit manifested in the salvation of souls and the sanctification of God’s people, then we ought to depend upon this precious treasure that God has given and seek to make it known to all. Indeed, we ought to crave this gift from the Lord as we would other treasures such as gold or honey,
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb (Ps. 19:7-10).
These truths about the Word of God and its centrality in the ministry hold true whether at home or on the missions field. Fancy methods, superficial means or innovative styles will not produce the kind of transformation of the spiritually dead and those with hardened hearts that the power of God’s Word being used by the Holy Spirit will bring about as He sovereignly makes it effective for His purposes. We pray that the proclamation of the Word of God in Uruguay will be used by the Lord to bring many to faith and to edify and strengthen His Church!
…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Is. 55:11).