God’s Word at Work in You (Part I)

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English service on February 19,2017

Messenger: Pastor Jim Allison

I Thessalonians 2:1-13 

(New International Readers Version, NIRV)

“God’s Word at Work in You (Part I)”


Today again we take time to look into God’s word, the Bible.  We do that practically every time we gather here at Open Door.  But it’s possible that, though we do it so often, we may never stop to think why we do that or what it means.  


Also, as I think you’ve noticed if you listen to the news, our world is changing quickly, and there is a great amount of division among people.  The gap between people on one side of an argument and the other often seems to be growing wider and wider.  It feels more and more difficult for people to actually agree on anything.  On an individual level, it is very easy to get lost in all the change, fighting, and confusion.  It can be very difficult to know what is right or wrong, even if there is a right and wrong.  We may struggle greatly in finding ways to arrange our lives with some clear sense of what is important, true, and good.  


With all these needs in mind, God has given us the amazing gift of His word, the Bible.  Some people accept it as God’s word and some do not.  It was written over hundreds of years by the hands of a wide variety of people in many different places.  Yet for thousands of years now, it has served as a remarkably consistent guide to life for people of every culture and age and social class who are willing to accept it.  It gives, among other things, a clear set of teachings and standards that many people find very helpful in making sense of the world we are in.  


For example, Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity, wrote, “There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history.”  Charles Dickens, the British author of A Christmas Carol (Scrooge, Tiny Tim, 


etc.), A Tale of Two Cities, and many other stories, believed, “The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.”  Napoleon Bonaparte said, “This book, surpassing all others. I never omit to read it, and every day with some pleasure.”  (We might wish he had read the parts like “Love your neighbor” and “Love your enemy” a little more, but he knew there was something special in the Bible.)  


God’s people even long before Christ’s time showed how much His word meant to them when they prayed (Psalm 119:114), “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”  They knew that God’s word was reliable because God is reliable.  We sometimes call the Bible “Scripture.”  When Jesus came along, He said, “We know that Scripture is always true” (John 10:35).  


Some people, for example one of America’s early leaders, Thomas Jefferson, have found some parts of the Bible helpful but others very difficult to understand or accept.  Jefferson took the parts he believed were really important and put them in a collection now called “The Jefferson Bible.”  We may do that, too.  We may take parts like the law that children should be killed for being disrespectful to their parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) and decide, “That’s not God’s word.”  But “God is love” (I John 4:8) of course is God’s word.  Some people take just the New Testament or just the gospels or just the words of Jesus.  


But there’s a problem with that: Jesus Himself said, “What I’m about to tell you is true.  Heaven and earth will disappear before the smallest letter disappears from the Law.  Not even the smallest stroke of a pen will disappear from the Law until everything is completed” (Matthew 5:18).  So it’s really difficult to say that Christ makes His followers free to take the parts of the Bible we think are right and leave the others off.  That may sound like freedom, but He tells us that it leads to something that is not freeing but enslaving in the long run.  When we find those difficult parts of the Bible, He seems to be telling us it’s better to be honest and say we don’t understand them.  Then we can go to God with them, confessing that we find them hard to accept.  But let’s take them all seriously, and let’s not reject any of them if Christ does not.        


How you understand the Bible and what you do with it is a key part of life for every Christian person.  That’s because we listen to God’s voice through the words of the Bible.  We can hear Him speak through prayer and many other ways, too, but none of them conflicts with the message He gives through the Bible.  For those of us who stand here or sit with students in a Sunday school class to present God’s word, the way you see and interact with it will make a lot of difference.  If you have children, it will make a great difference in how you raise them.  For all of us, how regularly we set aside time in each day’s schedule to really listen to God through His word, will greatly impact the way we see the events of each day, feel about them, think about them, and respond to them.


Today’s Bible passage gives us quite a few really clear, practical examples of how God wants us to handle His word and how He does not.  Let’s look at several of each, beginning today with ways it is possible to misuse the word of God.  


1.First, we can misuse God’s word by misunderstanding it.  For 

example, you may think you are telling God’s word when you really are just telling your own opinion or repeating some idea that comes out of your culture or whatever.  To understand God’s word (or any book, or just to live each day), each person chooses something as a standard for judging things as good or bad, right or wrong, important or not.  If you make yourself, your particular culture, “today’s world,” or anything besides God and His word your standard, a lot of Bible words may be coming from your mouth, but you are not really speaking the word of God.  When everything depends on your interpretation, everything depends on you.  In the end, you are putting your own meaning into God’s word, not taking out of it the meaning He has put there.  This is self-seeking, not God-seeking.


When you do that, you are presenting the word of God “as a human word,” v. 13 says.  There is a tendency for us to reinterpret the parts of the Bible we don’t like until they start to feel acceptable.  When we do this, we do what II Corinthians 4:2 calls “distort[ing] the word of God.” 


2.The text warns us in v. 5 that it’s possible to tell God’s word insincerely.  If we do, it’s as if we’re wearing a mask while speaking.  It seems that people in Thessalonica had been saying Paul, Silas, and the others were bad people doing bad things.  Acts 17 tells us how a few trouble-makers and a crowd took some supporters of Jesus’ followers to the city officials.  They said they were causing trouble with their teachings.  The writer in v. 3 feels the need to tell the readers, “The appeal we make is based on truth. It comes from a pure heart. We are not trying to trick you.”  This is not only because they have been opposed in telling people about Christ.  They also understand that some people do use the word of God in order to deceive people.  We can say nice words about God to cover up sinful longings, v. 5 reminds us.


2A. For example, I can misuse God’s word by telling it with the motive of trying to make myself look good.  The writer claims in v. 6, “We were not expecting people to praise us. We were not looking for praise from you or anyone else.”  There’s a temptation to put ourselves and the image we project at the center when we tell God’s word.  That can be an active desire to look good, or it may be more of a fear of looking bad, uncool, narrow-minded, or whatever.  


It may be more popular or “politically correct” to have certain opinions on various moral issues today.  It usually depends on what group of people you are with.  Whatever the opinion or belief is, the opposite one is probably more popular somewhere in another part of the world’s society.  But if where you are, most people think differently about that question from the Bible’s teaching, you can feel pressure to do the same.  We may feel afraid of what will happen if we actually receive God’s word and follow it.  That can be the fear of rejection, failure, being on “the wrong side of history,” or other things.  


Someone in the U.S. recently tried to put a movie advertisement on a signboard.  It had the quote, “I would rather stand with God and judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God.”  The company that owned the signboard said no and did not rent the space for that message.  They said it was “too incendiary,” that too many people would get upset when they saw it.  That began another argument about whether it is O.K. for businesses to refuse service to customers who do things they think are bad.  The point here is that when you tell God’s word, it will not always make you popular.  If you are telling God’s word with the real goal of being popular, you may not be telling His word honestly.        


2B. It is possible to use God’s word to try to get money.  In v. 6 the writers say, “As Christ's apostles, we could have caused you some expense.”  In verse 9 the author, no doubt Paul, says that instead of insisting on the financial support that he had the right to, he worked long, hard hours so that he could tell God’s word for free.  That would help ensure that the message would not be damaged by the fear that he was really just speaking in order to make money.  He probably felt the need to do that partly because there actually were people who would “peddle the word of God for profit,” as 2 Corinthians 2:17 calls it.  


Today, too, there are teachers, preachers, self-help book writers, motivational speakers, and others who tell the prosperity gospel, for example.  One of them gave a prayer in Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony recently.  That set of teachings says, basically, that God loves you and wants good things for you.  So, if you ask Him in faith, you will be sure to receive money, nice material goods, many things to help you “prosper.”  That means that, if you pray for good things and don’t get them, it’s because there is something wrong with your faith.  You just need to pray and believe more.  The teaching that God might allow or actively send trouble into your life to teach, test, and train you is missing.  In the end, it sounds good, but it’s not the Gospel.  


2C. Another sinful desire I might try to cover with the word of God is the wish to hurt people I don’t agree with or like.  I can try to use the Bible as a weapon.  The problem with that is, God is love, so the word of God is the word of love.  If you can’t tell the word of God with respect for people who don’t agree with you, you won’t communicate it honestly or effectively.  Even if you get the words right, they won’t come across as authentic and uplifting.  They can, in fact, do real damage to people.  You can be right but do nothing to help strengthen people’s connection with God and with each other.  When we use God’s word that way, we are really misrepresenting it.  Especially in the us-vs.-them atmosphere of the political-social world we often are in now, that is important for Christians to remember.  If you have to scream your opinion, even or especially about God’s word, you may already have defeated yourself and damaged both your cause and the cause of Christ.


2D. Another example of the sinful longings we may feel like masking is an unhealthy desire for power.  Several decades ago, a Presbyterian pastor named Norman Vincent Peale wrote a popular book with the title, The Power of Positive Thinking.  His key idea was that the important thing is not 

our life situations but how we think about them.  If we refuse only to look at our situation and instead always take a positive attitude, we can make a new reality.  One young person who went to this pastor’s church in New York City was very impressed by his teachings.  He was Donald Trump.  He has taken that approach to his business work, and you can often see these beliefs shaping the way he looks at events each day.


The Bible does not teach that positive thinking is bad.  But Mr. Peale’s book was The Power of Positive Thinking, and if the point of it is mainly to get power, some real dangers come with it.  God’s word does not teach power itself as either good or bad, but we know that it easily can become a tool for putting people down and taking their freedom in many ways.  When that happens, power does become bad.  The desire for it is not always a healthy thing.  It can lead people in dangerous directions if not directed by a humble spirit and real care for other people.  Especially for people who tell others about God’s word, this is too important to forget.


3.Besides the dangers of misunderstanding God’s word or using it with bad motives, there is also the fact of our human weaknesses and how we handle them.  The pressure to give our best time and energy to other things—busy-ness, distraction, fatigue, other things—will take first place if we allow it to do so.  Treating as number one something that is not number one is, in the Bible’s terms, idolatry.  That may not seem to be related to God’s word, but the problem with all these things is this: they will leave us unable to hear the word of God, even when He is speaking.  To live listening to God’s voice and help others to do the same, we have to make Him number one and keep Him in first place.  Our human weaknesses are in part unavoidable, but with God’s help, they will not stop us from receiving His word and passing it on to others faithfully and effectively.      

Today we have seen particularly some things God asks us to avoid doing in handling His word.  Next time, let’s closer at things He does want us to do.


What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?  One key thing it means is to live as people of God’s word.  We are not alone.  We don’t have to figure out all of life for ourselves.  We have a roadmap to follow through our journey each day.  Thank God for His word.  Now let’s ask Him to help us live in its truth and power each day.


God who created the whole world through speaking, thank you for the faithful people you raised up over the centuries to write down the words of the Bible under your leadership.  Thank you most of all for Christ, whom you called “the Word.”  Enable us to seek and find ways to arrange our lives according to your word, the Bible.  Help us to love it because we love you.  Empower us to discover day by day, each in our unique situation in life, what it means to follow you as you lead us in the light of your word.  In Christ’s name, amen.   




Bonaparte, N. AZQuotes. Retrieved February 12, 2017 from http://www.azquotes.com/quote/603561

Bond, P. (July 13, 2016). “‘God's Not Dead 2’ Billboard Nixed at GOP Convention After Being Called ‘Incendiary.’” The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 14, 2017 from http://www. hollywoodreporter.com/news/gods-not-dead-2-billboard-909226

Dickens, C. “The Faith Behind the Famous: Charles Dickens.” Christianity Today. Retrieved February 12, 2017 from http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-27/faith-behin d-famous-charles-dickens.html 

Newton, I. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. Allibone, S. Austin, ed.

Retrieved February 12, 2017 from http://www.bartleby.com/349/authors/149.html

Peale, N. V. (2003). The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results. New York City: Touchstone, Simon and Shuster.










例えば、引力を見つけたアイザック・ニュートン博士は「聖書の中にはどんな世俗的な歴史に見るよりも多くの確実な痕跡がある。」と書いています。クリスマスキャロル(スクルージ、タイニーティムなど)やア   テールズ オブ トゥー シティズなどたくさんの物語を書いたイギリスの小説家チャールズ・ディケンズは「新約聖書は世界で知られている本の中で最もすばらしい本であったし、これからもそうだ。」と信じていました。ナポレオン・ボナパルトは「この本は他のどの書物よりも優れている。私は聖書を読むのをうっかりして忘れるということはない。日々喜びをもって読んでいる。」と言っています。(私たちはナポレオンが『あなたの隣人を愛せよ。』とか『あなたの敵を愛せよ。』というような箇所をもうちょっと読んでいてくれたらな~、と思ってしまうのですが、でも彼は聖書の中には何か特別なものがあることを知っていたのです。)
















































Bonaparte, N. AZQuotes. Retrieved February 12, 2017 from http://www.azquotes.com/quote/603561

Bond, P. (July 13, 2016). ‘God's Not Dead 2’ Billboard Nixed at GOP Convention After Being Called ‘Incendiary.’The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 14, 2017 from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/gods-not-dead-2-billboard-909226

Dickens, C. “The Faith Behind the Famous: Charles Dickens.” Christianity Today. Retrieved February 12, 2017 from http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-27/faith- behind-famous-charles-dickens.html 

Newton, I. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. Allibone, S. Austin, ed. Retrieved February 12, 2017 from http://www.bartleby.com/349/authors/149.html

Peale, N. V. (2003). The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results. New York City: Touchstone, Simon and Shuster.