The Platitudinous Power of the Word

Platitude. It's a word that's rarely used (which is probably why I like it). A platitude is basically a well-worn truth that has become ordinary, dull, and lifeless to the point of not meaning anything; no one really believes it anymore. 

One such platitude comes from Isaiah 55:11: "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." It's echoed by Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

If you're a Christian, you believe (at least, you should) that God works through his Word. But does that play itself out in your habits, words, and actions?

Too often we treat the Sword of the Spirit more like a letter opener. It sits collecting dust day after day on the bookshelf without ever being cracked open. Even in church, our actions don't line up very well with what we say we believe. We teach from the Bible more because it's customary (we're "supposed to") than because we actually believe it does anything. So we hold onto it for the sentimental value, sort of like Grandma's old china, but we keep it locked away in the cupboard for fear it might drive away the guests if we actually bring it out and use it.

In the meantime, we try our own methods to bring people in the doors and change them. We grow out our goatees, scour the Internet for great stories we can use in sermon intros, and become well-known for our relational skills. We change and change again our music style or organize bigger and more expensive outreach events. As for the Bible, we water it down, cut out inspirational snippets, treat it like a book of stories, and use it as a resource for trivia and jokes (e.g., Where is tennis mentioned in the Bible? In Genesis where it says that Joseph served in Pharaoh's court.). We do just about everything we can to blunt its force.

Now, there's nothing wrong with goatees (I used to sport a very nice one), stories, relational skills, (good) contemporary music, or doing outreach events. But the question is, what are we relying on to change hearts? God promises to bring about change through his Word. Are we Word-based?

Here's a good test. When someone's heart is changed by the Word, are you surprised? When you read it, do you expect it to transform how you think about yourself, God, and the world? It's as if we didn't know the Bible could do that!

The simple fact of the matter is that God's Word pierces the hardest heart and shakes the sturdiest defenses. It's the Sword of the Spirit, slicing open calluses and demolishing facades to expose the true condition of your heart. It's true, you can try to resist it. You can shut your eyes, stop up your ears, and sandbag yourself in your house, but the Word will still accomplish all that God intends. That slim black or brown book sitting on your nightstand or coffee table—the one you carry under your arm to church—is the most incredible, powerful force in the entire universe. 

"The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live." (Ezekiel 37:1-5)

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