We are living in a troubled world. Every time we listen to the news on the radio, pick up a newspaper, or look at the television, there is trouble somewhere, and the trouble seems to continually worsen, just as God said it would.
God tells us the reason we live in perilous times: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” 2 Timothy 3:1–4. That is quite a list! Living in the last days, we could expect that godless people, professing nothing of God, would be acting this way. But verse 5 tells us about whom God is talking: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
Perilous times will come as a result of those professing to be God’s people acting like the world. These people have a form of godliness, a profession of godliness, but they are lacking the power of godliness in their lives.
Jesus tells us more about these people in Revelation. “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked . . . .” Revelation 3:17.
Jesus is saying that these people who have a form of godliness but deny the power, believe they have the power. They are totally deceived. They say that they are increased with goods and have need of nothing. Yet Jesus says, You do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, without power. If they believe they have the power with the form of godliness, they must be sensing something that gives them an idea that they have the power.
What are some things that would make them believe that they have the power, when in reality they have no power? We hear about such things in Christianity today. Professed Christianity is boasting of its increased number of members, and when we see those numbers, and the increase of wealth, and the larger-sized church buildings being constructed, what might we think? We might think they have the power of God. What about their influence, the influence they seem to have on the world? Could this lead them to believe that their influence means they have the power of God? What about their good works? There are many good works being done by professed Christian institutions today. Can we rely upon works as evidence that they have the power of God? What about the unity that we see coming into the midst of professed Christendom, do they call that the power of God?
Power of the Word
All, or any one, of these things might lead them to believe that they have the power of God working in their lives. But God says, They have a form of godliness, but they deny the power. What is this power that God says is lacking among His professed people in the last days? Paul describes it: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3. The power that is lacking is the power of the Word of God in the lives of His professed people! Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God—God speaks and something happens! The things that we see are not made of things that appear.
“In the creation of the earth, God was not indebted to preexisting matter. ‘He spake, and it was; . . . He commanded, and it stood fast.’ Psalm 33:9. All things, material or spiritual, stood up before the Lord Jehovah at His voice and were created for His own purpose. The heavens and all the host of them, the earth and all things therein, came into existence by the breath of His mouth.” The Ministry of Healing, 414, 415.
There are many things that we have seen that are very powerful, but there is nothing as powerful as the Word of the living God. God can take nothing and make something out of it! Nothing else that we can think of is that powerful. God says, I brought all things into existence by a word that I spoke. Even though you think you are nothing, God can make you something, if you are willing to receive His Word. God’s Word is the most powerful thing in the entire universe.
How powerful is it? Peter says God’s Word is so powerful it can separate a sinner from his sins: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” 1 Peter 1:23. Not only does God’s Word bring inanimate nature into being, it can change animate nature, your nature, my nature, back into the original intention of His mind for our creation.
How powerful does Paul say God’s Word is? “For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. The Word of God makes things happen instantaneously. We do not have to wait and wonder, if we choose to receive God’s Word. We can believe that whatever He has promised is happening.
How is God able to separate a sinner from his sins? God says, through the apostle Paul, “All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. If the sinner receives God’s Word, it will correct him. Most of the time we do not like to be corrected, because we think that we are right. But we have been proven wrong. God’s Word is able to help us see the difference between what is right and what is wrong. If we are willing to receive God’s Word, He is able to correct us.
God’s Words are Righteous
Besides being the most powerful thing in the entire universe, there is another quality to God’s Word. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth [in] righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Isaiah 45:22, 23. All of God’s words are righteousness. He says they shall not return. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11.
God’s words are not empty words. God never speaks empty words—He speaks words of righteousness, and He said His words will accomplish what He intends for them to do. And they will accomplish what He wants today. God wants us to not only hear the words He has spoken but to receive them. He has something in mind to accomplish in us.
All of God’s words are righteousness. He does everything right; He says everything right, and when He says we need Him, He means what He says, and all we have to do is believe and respond in simple faith, taking Him at His Word. Remember, His Word is the most powerful thing in the whole universe. His Word brought this universe into existence. His Word can help separate you from sin and make you fully His. He wants to see His Word prosper in us!
What makes God’s words righteousness? “Thy righteousness also, O God, [is] very high, who hast done great things: O God, who [is] like unto Thee!” Psalm 71:19. Why does God speak words that are righteousness? Because He is righteous, so the words that He speaks are righteous. We have all at some time spoken words of unrighteousness, because our character is unrighteous, but He wants us to be like Him.
“The righteousness of God is absolute. [You can depend on it.] This righteousness characterizes all His works, all His Laws.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 198. Those ten brief commandments, by which God is going to judge the entire world, have been given in righteousness. It means that the Ten Commandment Laws which God has created are for our benefit. They are laws that are right for you and me, if we will receive them.
John says it well, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3. They are not grievous, because they are right for us. His words are all powerful; His words are all righteous!
Words of Certainty
There is another quality, revealed in Proverbs 22:20 and 21, which God’s Word possesses. Solomon says, under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, “Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?” The only words of truth in this world today, the pure truth, are the words of the living God that come to us from His Holy Book.
There is certainty in God’s Word. We just saw that God’s righteousness is absolute; we see now that God’s Word is certain. We can trust what it says about us; we can trust what it promises to us, because the God of righteousness stands behind it. The reception of God’s Word is the most powerful thing that can happen to us in our lives. It can change us! That is the expected end that God has in mind for His Word. That is what He wants it to accomplish in us. It can do what God intended for it to do, if we are willing to receive it. It is certain! Its warnings are certain, and its promises are just as certain. We can rely fully upon God’s Word. It can correct us; it can reprove us; it can instruct us in righteousness; it can make us perfect in character, like Him.
God’s Word Eternal
There is one more quality to consider in regards to God’s Word: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Isaiah 40:8. The Word of God is not only powerful, not only filled with righteousness, not only certain, but it will last through eternity!
Word Became Flesh
Man’s condition in this world, without God’s Word, is one of hopelessness. The Word of God is the only hope for man, but God saw that man was going to need more than the written Word, so He devised a plan: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1–3. Who is the Word? The Word is Jesus Christ. He proclaims Himself to be the Word. Now notice what the Word became: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Verse 14. The Word became flesh! God became man! Why? to reach man where he is with the Word, the most powerful thing in God’s entire universe.
“Since Jesus came to dwell with us, we know that God is acquainted with our trials, and sympathizes with our griefs. Every son and daughter of Adam may understand that our Creator is the friend of sinners. For in every doctrine of grace, every promise of joy, every deed of love, every divine attraction presented in the Saviour’s life on earth, we see ‘God with us.’ ” The Desire of Ages, 24.
Jesus not only came into this world to be our substitute, to pay the penalty for our transgressing God’s Law, which penalty is death (see Romans 6:23), but He came to be something more. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21. Jesus is not only our substitute, but He is our example. This is where nominal Christianity parts ways with true Christianity. The majority of the professed Christian world wants nothing to do with following the steps of Jesus. They are satisfied with speaking His name; they are satisfied with singing His songs; they are satisfied with praying to Him, but they do not want to go further.
Christ our Example
“By His humanity, Christ touched humanity; by His divinity, He lays hold upon the throne of God. As the Son of man, He gave us an example of obedience; as the Son of God, He gives us power to obey.” The Desire of Ages, 24. How did Jesus, in the flesh, realize the power of His own Word? How did He recognize the righteousness of His own Word in His life? How did He recognize the certainty of His own Word? “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. Jesus met every temptation with the Word of God—the Words that He had spoken. His own Words were the power of His life. He not only listened to His Word, but He received it; He acted upon it; He met every temptation with “It is written.” (See Matthew 4:4.)
How is it with us? Are we following the example that He has left us? Do we believe that His Word has power in it to separate us from our sins, to make us like He was regarding every temptation? There is only one thing that can produce such an experience as that of Jesus, an experience that we have been called to receive. Only one thing can produce such a life. As Christians, we are called to be like Him. The secret to becoming like Jesus is found in Psalm 119:11: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
You see, God’s Word was hidden in the heart of Jesus. He met every temptation with a “Thus saith the Lord.” He recognized where temptation would lead, and He said, No! He did not go beyond the temptation, and He wants to give us that kind of power, that kind of righteousness, that kind of certainty in our lives. We can have it, if we are willing to receive His Word, not merely believe it.
His Law in our Hearts
The only thing that can produce such a life is having the Word of God in our hearts. What else is going to be in the heart of such a life? “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of his God [is] in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.” Psalm 37:30, 31.
God wants to help us make progress in the Christian life. We do not have to be backslidden, and if we recognize that we are, then God is calling us to the power of His Word, because God wants us to experience eternity with Him. If we are to receive God’s Word in our hearts, His Law will be in our hearts.
“The word of God must be interwoven with the living character of those who believe it. The only vital faith is that faith which receives and assimilates the truth till it is a part of the being and the motive power of the life and action.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 576.
Until the Word of God is received, we are left destitute of the very power of that Word.
Believing and Receiving
You may ask, How can I know if I am believing and receiving, or just believing? I would ask you, How did you meet the temptations of yesterday? Do you sense and see that you were defeated? Then you are merely a believer, not a receiver. If you sense victory, you are a believer and a receiver; you are allowing the Word of God to do what God intended it to do in your life. You are becoming like Him.
There are four essential areas in which we need to cooperate with God’s Spirit to allow Him to produce a believing, receiving experience. The first three are found in one text of Scripture: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
The motivating factor of a believing, receiving Christian is found in the last phrase of that text. Paul recognized that Jesus loved him enough to die for him, to become his substitute. This was the motivating factor in the apostle’s life. Our love to God can never be the motivating factor in our Christian experience. It must always be His love for us—never, our love for Him. We are not to estimate our experience by what we are doing for God. We are to estimate our experience by what God has done, and is doing, for us.
This realization led the apostle Paul to declare the second essential: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live.” He further states: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14. When we recognize the tremendous love that God has for us personally, and that He was willing to demonstrate that love by becoming our substitute and dying in our place, we are going to be willing to die, to our sins, for Him.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live.” Is that not a paradox? We die, but we live? The Word of God is able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think. It may look like we are going to lose our lives if we give ourselves over to Him, but in fact, we gain everything—we have won.
Paul recognized the love God had for him, personally, and he was willing to, with the help of God’s Spirit and His Word, to separate from his sins. But then he makes plain the third essential: “the life which I now live in the flesh [this fallen, sinful flesh] I live by the faith of the Son of God.” He was living the faith; he was exercising the faith that Jesus exercised. What kind of faith did Jesus have that Paul said he was also exercising?
We can get a glimpse of Jesus’ faith: “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1–3.
Jesus had the faith of a child—the faith of a child who knew that His parent loved Him, and He chose to love that parent. That is the kind of faith we must have.
The fourth and final essential that we need if we are going to have a believing, receiving experience is found in Luke 11:28: “He said, Yea rather, blessed [are] they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” Jesus said, the words that I speak unto you are Spirit and life. And to those who hear them and keep them, they will have the power of God, the righteousness of God, the certainty of God, and they will have an eternity with God.
Such an experience that we have studied is answered by the good ground hearer in Matthew 13; it is answered by the wise virgins in Matthew 25; it is answered by the man who built his house on a rock versus the man who built his house on the sand in Luke 6. What we have just studied from the Word of God, is the truth of God to our hearts if we are willing to receive it.
Are we allowing God’s Word to do its work? If we are, we shall have the power that we need; we will have the righteousness, the certainty, and we will have an eternity with God.
Craig Meeker directs the Bible correspondence school for Steps to Life Ministry.