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The Sword and the Scalpel - Shepherd of Hope

“no weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn” – Isaiah 54:17

 

I teach at a local Bible College. One of the first things I do with my students is to share with them how to approach God’s word. It’s important to approach God’s word properly to glean from it the revelation God provides for us in its contents. What follows are some hopefully helpful insights and instruction about how to use God’s word effectively for His glory.

The word of God is the most important God-given tool for ministry. When it is coupled with prayer and the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit, truly, “no weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn” (Isaiah 54:17).

But how does the servant of God use this mighty weapon of God? It is likened to “the sword” Jesus brings at His Second Coming when He is ready for war. It is the rhŏmphaia, a sabre, a long broad cutlass (Revelation 2:16 and 19:21). It is a weapon of war to lay a decisive blow in battle. And it is the machaira, a smaller knifelike tool used to kill and carve up flesh; a scalpel for spiritual surgery (Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12). You will need to learn how to use God’s word in the appropriate way. Otherwise you will be hacking and hurting those who need healing, or trying to do surgery on patients unwilling or unprepared for your care. The Spirit will lead and enable you to apply God’s word in the appropriate way.

But how do we learn to use this sword and scalpel?

BOOT CAMP BASICS:

KNOW YOUR COMMANDER – You can’t use God’s word without knowing the Author. We need the Spirit to comprehend this life mission adventure (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). The greatest advantage, blessing and eternal worth of this magnificent sword and scalpel of God’s word, is that it reveals to us the way to know our God (John 17:3). He is our Creator, our Supreme Commander (Joshua 5:13-15). By knowing Him, we become a part of His ever-victorious impregnable army of the heavenly host.

When you enlist in the Lord’s army, you do so by responding to His call, in humble repentance. We become an accepted part of the Lord’s army by faith in Jesus receiving forgiveness for our sins, a new heart, and a “new creation” purpose in life (2 Cor. 5:17). God takes us off the ash heap of humanity and gives us a new reason to live; new meaning; new purpose; new hope; a new worldview found in His word. And He does all of this as a gift of His grace.

No soldier of the Lord joins His army as a favor to Him. It is He, by grace, that provides us the privilege of serving Him. It is a supreme honor to be enlisted in the Lord’s army. There is no greater honor. He is our Lord, our Leader. He leads us from the front not the rear. He doesn’t ask us to go anyplace or go on any mission that He Himself hasn’t already accomplished. He has demonstrated His courage, sacrifice and love at the cross. He has demonstrated His power in rising from the dead. He has shown us His grace and mercy by providing us the opportunity to be a part of His eternal plans. For that, we should be eternally thankful. For that, we should present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice, ready to obey in any way, no matter what, for His glory, forever.

TRUST YOUR WEAPON – Understand that you have been issued the most effective, reliable, trustworthy, and eternally valuable weapon. There is no better weapon. God’s stamp of approval and guarantee are on this weapon:

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NKJV) – 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This God provided equipment can’t be beat. It is specifically ordained and anointed by God for the express purpose, “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” You have been given the very best. Trust your weapon.

GET TO KNOW YOUR WEAPON – A sword is the weapon of a soldier of the Lord ready for battle. A scalpel is the weapon of the Lord’s spiritual surgeon ready to perform spiritual surgery on disease and darkness of the soul. A good soldier can disassemble and reassemble their weapon blindfolded. That’s because through concentration, repetition and consistent constant use, they know their weapon. They know every part, every connection, everything about their weapon. Before you learn how to use your weapon, you have to familiarize and get to know your weapon. There are no shortcuts to getting to know your weapon. This is a vital part of your basic training:

2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV) – 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

To know your weapon, you have to prayerfully read through it over and over again for life. You have to take time, to spend time in God’s word. You are called to service for life. Therefore, you have to be consistent in your reading, research and review of this word weapon of God. I suggest an annual or two-year plan to read through your Bible. Four chapters a day will get you through the Bible in a year. Two chapters a day will get you through in two years. If you want to be truly and effectively used by God, you have to make a commitment to knowing God’s word. For the rest of your life, read through God’s word consistently. That will give you the ammunition you need to bring glory to His name. This is the most basic of boot camp basics. This is a holy habit you should establish and live out for life. (Journaling and meditating on God’s word are valuable as well.)

LOVE YOUR WEAPON – Your life and the lives of those God calls you to minister to depends on your skill with your weapon. Your weapon is meant to protect, empower, provide and pry open doors of understanding for you and those around you. Therefore, learn to appreciate your weapon. Establish a healthy love for your weapon. Love the word of God. Take it everywhere you go. Read it at every chance you get. It’s not only an instruction manual for life, it’s a love letter from the One who loves you most.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR WEAPON – A good soldier takes good care of their weapon. They don’t leave it hanging around. It doesn’t get rusty from disuse. They keep it well-oiled with the oil of the Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). They keep it in good working order and close by so that at a moment’s notice they are ready for whatever situation arises. Respect God’s word. Reverence it. Know why it is God’s weapon of choice. Know why it can be trusted. Know how and why it transcends any other written document known to humanity. Know why though it has human authors that it really only has One Author. Be thankful for it. And let your treatment of it reflect how you feel about it.

USING YOUR SWORD/SCALPEL:

PRAY – It’s through prayer that we get our marching orders from the Lord. He will give us our mission assignment as well as tell us the tactics to use to accomplish our mission. If you are a pastor and teach through the Bible verse by verse at your church, then your mission is set, (although our Commander reserves the right to redirect you if He so wills). If you are assigned to teach a devotional or class or counsel someone, your prayer time with the Lord will help you to determine the part of God’s word He wants you to use.

TAKE UP THE WORD – Take your Bible and something to put your thoughts down on. Put all other resources aside (e.g. commentaries; dictionaries; other’s sermons; etc.). This is a time for you to seek the Lord; just Him, His word, and you.

Familiarize yourself with the portion of scripture He’s assigned to you. Do this by reading and rereading it over and over. Immerse yourself in the passage. Own it. Meditate on it. Think it in your head. Feel it in your heart.

Start to note what the Spirit brings to your attention: What sticks out to you? What is important? How do things fit together? Theme? Subject? Fire?

START ASKING QUESTIONS – Then ask the following questions: What is the major theme or topic of this passage? What message is the inspired author trying to convey to their readers? What terms need to be clarified? What words need to be examined and more deeply defined? Understand these words and be able to explain them to others. What’s the point? How is this relevant to me now? How is this relevant for solving a problem the Lord has brought to my attention? How does this answer a question the Lord has brought to my attention in my mind or through someone else? Why is this important to know? What does this tell me about Jesus? (Hebrews 10:7). How does this bring me and others closer to Jesus?

START ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS – From the passage under study prayerfully seek the Lord for answers to the question He has brought to your attention. Begin to expand your territory of evidence collecting: Like a concentric circle – the verse you are studying, to the paragraph you are studying, to the chapter you are studying, to the letter or book you are studying, to the Testament of the letter or book under study, to the entire Bible. Use cross references

FORMULATE HOW THE ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS CAN BE PRACTICALLY APPLIED TO YOU AND/OR THOSE YOU WILL MINISTER TO – Answer the “So what?” question. What difference does what I’ve discovered make to me and those around me? How do my findings help me and others to know God better, more deeply? How can my findings be applied in a way that helps me and others to live a holier life, a more loving and God glorifying life?

CHECK YOUR FINDINGS WITH OTHERS – Here’s where you look for further godly counsel from saints of old as well as contemporaries. Research and look at works of saints who have gone to glory. Look to the classics. Look at the tried and true students of the word. Look to the spiritually gifted living saints the Lord has put in your life. Talk to godly peers. Continue to pray for direction and insight.

PRAY IT HOME – Keep praying for God’s anointing to deliver His message in an appropriate life changing way. Pray God’s word to the target. Pray it through the target. Pray for its lasting effects on the target. Pray it home.

THANK HIM FOR HIS FAITHFULNESS – Always remember, it’s not about you, its about Him. Increase, blessing and victory come from Him not you (1 Corinthians 3:7).

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