The WORD as Transformative Agent in Our Lives

More and more, I am convinced that the Word of God—the written Scriptures as revealed by the Holy Spirit and implanted and absorbed deeply into our spirits—is the real agent of effective change in our lives. Deep-rooted change only occurs as we are brought into alignment with the eternal purposes of the Living God by soaking in this Word. Listen to what one writer says:

      In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

      Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

       But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. (James 1:21b-25, THE MESSAGE)

Absorbing the Word into our very being—what has through the centuries been called “meditation,” “Bible study,” “praying the Scriptures,” etc.—is what changes us into the image and character of God. If he truly is alive in what he has called his word, then we do well to try to get hold of as much of that part of God as we can.

One of my greatest sadnesses—and yet one of the most powerful components of our present Information-Age society—is its focus on the visual (to the exclusion of the aural/oral heritage our ancestors valued). A century of visual media has brought us into a type of unquestioning EDtv mentality, where our lives are a 24/7 “reality show” that has become as unreal as that of the character Truman (Jim Carrey) in The Truman Show, like Jim Carrey. On one level we are watching ourselves and aware that we are being watched, and so we “performing,” on-stage, our own “American idol,” internalized and always playing to our own music. We post on Twitter and Facebook our locations, our actions, and our thinking, hoping somehow that all this will make us feel truly alive.

We used to say, “Seeing is believing.” Perhaps we have come beyond even consciously thinking in those terms—we are simply immersed in seeing, and being seen. We don’t want to spend time alone, time in the quiet of our inner minds. We need the distractions of the autistic, over-inputted culture we’ve created for ourselves. We can’t stand not being bombarded with information, with pictures and mindless information coming at us from all angles. Sometimes, we are afraid of being alone and quiet because we fear finding we really don’t have any inner substance that we can call our own.

Meditating and internalizing Scripture can change that. It can quieten us, lead us beside “still waters,” restore our souls. It can enable us to find value in ourselves, in that part of us that is connected with God, that is coming alive as we tune into him, allow him time and place to quietly replace that frenzy we have thought was aliveness, but was really distractedness and was slowly sapping any true energy we had, evaporating any residue of real life we once knew, if indeed we ever did know it.

Because we are so visual, pictures speak to us, and that is not a bad thing in and of itself. Visualizing something enables us to bring it into being, and if we can begin to visualize settings where the Word can do its transformative work, then we can use where we are to get to where we want to be. The verb “to meditate” in Hebrew has as one of its more visual meanings, “to chew the cud.” Picture a cow that has plucked enough grass to fill its first stomach, lying down peacefully and regurgitating to chew on it more fully before swallowing into a second stomach to get the most out of the meal. If we can take the Word and let it work in us that way, finding those Scriptures which fill our first longing, draw it into our mind again and yet again and truly digest it, finding more meatiness and deeper satisfaction as we “chew the cud,” we will find that we are changed “from glory to glory,” more fully into the ikon of Christ, the image of God.

Another image Scripture uses in speaking of the value of the Word is that of silver “refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). Adam Clarke, a Bible expositor writing in 1832, described the process this way:

Silver tried in a furnace of earth
A reference to the purification of silver by the cupel. This is a sort of instrument used in the purification of silver. It may be formed out of a strong iron ring or hoop, adjusted in width and depth to the quantum of silver to be purified, and rammed full of well pulverized calcined bone. The metal to be purified must be mingled with lead, and laid on the cupel, and exposed to a strong heat in an air furnace. The impurities of the metal will be partly absorbed, and partly thrown off in fume. The metal will continue in a state of agitation till all the impurities are thrown off; it will then become perfectly still, no more motion appearing, which is the token that the process is completed, or, according to the words of the text, is seven times, that is, perfectly purified.

Picture ourselves as going through this refining process to such an extent that the Word in us becomes that mirroring silver, so totally pure that we truly reflect the glory (beauty, abundance, radiance, brilliance, weightiness) of God in our lives! What a goal! The Word does indeed have that transformative effect.

Another picture we can relate to is the full moon, which has no light of its own yet can shine in brilliance by reflecting the sun (Son?) to such an extent that there’s difficulty sleeping because of the light coming in the windows. Or that same full moon can sometimes be seen as a huge red or orange ball on the horizon, or the golden globe of harvest. Our lives can become this brilliant as we reflect on—and reflect— the Word that they too shine and hold in awe like such a full moon, or cause others and ourselves to have difficulty sleeping.

My words here are a feeble attempt to point to what the pure word “refined seven times” is capable of in our lives. Psalm 19:7-11 (NKJV) says it well, using multiple synonyms for the Word:

7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
8The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 119 is another psalm that uses multiple synonyms for the Word. It has 176 verses, beautifully set up as an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet (the first 8 verses begin with the letter aleph, the next 8 with the letter beth, etc.; 8 x 22 Hebrew letters yields 176 verses).  One of those verses (72) says:

Your teachings are worth more to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. (NCV)

If we really believed that, where would we be investing? What is the current value of a minimum of one thousand ounces of gold and one thousand ounces of silver? At a price of $1,700/ounce for gold and $34 for silver, that calculates out to close to two million dollars! Who wants to be a millionaire? Maybe we should take James’ advice:

Act on what you hear!”

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One Response to “The WORD as Transformative Agent in Our Lives”

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