Hebrews 4:12 says:
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
The Bible isn’t just a mirror, in this passage it is more like an x-ray because it says it helps us discern the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Now we don’t always want those to be discerned. But with the Bible, we are in the MRI tube, if you will, and it gives us this internal picture of what’s going on in our lives. So, it is so important, when it says examine yourself, you can’t do that without the Bible. It is the primary mechanism whereby we examine ourselves.
I have found that the more I sin, the harder it is to read the Bible. Why is that? It is because we know it is going hurt. It is going to reveal the thoughts and attitudes of the heart and I don’t know if I want to hear that today. Can I tell you that the less you want to read it, the more you need to read it? If you start reading it, what will happen is, the spiritual tide will begin to turn and it will begin to help you remedy the sin that is already there. And here’s what it will do, the Bible is the best preventative medicine that I know. It is the greatest single deterrent to sin that I know. There is no substitute for it. So, if you want to live a life that is glorifying to God, want to overcome some of the sins you are struggling with, you have got to stay in the Word! It is your only hope! You’ve got to stay in that place where you are looking in the mirror and allowing God to continue to x-ray your soul.
What I’m saying is that we need to examine ourselves and the Bible is the best way to do it. I think we need to examine lots of things, attitude, motive, that’s a tough one, and we need to examine our actions. But in the context of this verse, it is a theological examination, isn’t it? It says examine yourselves to see that you are in the faith. How do we do that? How do we know that we are in the faith and what exactly does that mean?
I think that this is where the conversation gets interesting because this is where, in a sense, we begin to talk about some heresy that began to creep into the church and that I think in some ways is still affecting us today. Now, there are a lot of heresies that sabotage the gospel, dozens of them. We are not going to talk about gnosticism or modalism or docetism, but I paid a lot of money at seminary so I just wanted to share those with you! However, there are a couple of heresies that I think are still prevalent.
The Ebionites basically denied the divinity of Christ. They believed that He was the Messiah but they didn’t believe He was God. They generally believed that He was a prophet. Is that still floating around any place? Jesus was a good person, a wise teacher, a miraculous teacher, an amazing prophet, but I just don’t know that I can cross the line to Son of God? Divine? I don’t know about that? See, now a whole lot has changed. It has adapted a little bit over the years, but that is certainly still a heresy that we still wrestle with.
It is interesting because for every heresy, what you generally have is kind of a creed that the church comes up with to combat it, in a sense. So you have all these different heresies they are dealing with, and then over a number of years, really it was the Council of Nicea is 325 A.D. where the church formulated one of its earliest creeds. It’s even on Wikipedia, so you can go there and find that and look at it. It’s a very basic creed. Then you’ve got the reaffirmation of that creed in 381, the Council of Constantinople; 431 A.D. the Council of Ephesus; 451 A.D. the Council of Chalcedon. You have reaffirmation of this basic creed, but I’d like to take you all the way back.
Would you like to know what the first creed was? I think that the consensus is that the first creed was only three words, which is fascinating to me given the volumes of theological tomes that I’ve studied in seminary and all the different varied beliefs, but the first creed really was believed to have been just three words. Those three words were this: Jesus is Lord. Now, you might have noticed in II Corinthians 4:25 there is a reference to that in Paul’s letter where he says, “We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.” It is an affirmation of this very first creed. Then I think it is interesting to read Romans 10:9-10. This is a passage with probably one of the clearest, simplest descriptions of what it means to be in the faith in the entire Bible. What you are going to see is that this creed is actually in this. Many of you probably know this verse:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
So what you see is an affirmation of a very simple creed – Jesus is Lord. Now, to fully appreciate that statement, I think you have to realize that this letter was written to the Romans, and did you know that in the Roman empire, a common greeting, like if you bump into someone and we say, ‘What’s up?’ in Rome you might say, ‘Caesar is Lord.’ It was a very common greeting in that culture. In fact, it was believed at this time that Caesar was divine. So what you have here, I love, is Paul is like, watch this, I’m going to take your common greeting, I’m going to steal it and redeem it and then use it. So it’s almost like, I’m going to dish on Caesar and affirm the divinity of Christ all at the same time. So he says, “Jesus is Lord.” And that’s one reason why Christians were viewed as a threat in that culture, because in some ways it was just a displacement of the authority of Caesar.
Jesus is Lord. Jesus did not claim to be a healer or a teacher or a prophet. Did He heal people? Yes. Did He teach? His parables – amazing! Was He prophetic? Absolutely. But He didn’t claim to be those things. He claimed to be the Son of God. He said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, no one comes unto the Father but by Me.” And so what you have here is really true and false. There is no in between when it comes to the gospel. Either you believe He was or He wasn’t. So I think what you have to understand is that if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, if He wasn’t who He claims to be, then we are fools and we are wasting our time.
But if it is true, then the only logical response is a complete submission of your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ. So, I’m afraid that sometimes we live in this no man’s land in between, but that’s not the place that we are called to. It is either yes or no, true or false.
From Heresy, Mark Batterson, thetheaterchurch.com. Used by permission.