“Scripture in the trade language only hits the surface, but in the Biangai the message goes deep. If everyone hears this they will all repent,” the youth pastor exclaimed with a wide grin. My parents, missionaries in Papua New Guinea, had just tested a newly translated passage of the New Testament on some local believers.
This small people group had access to the Bible written in the common language which united the 800 others spoken in that island nation. But when they read the same words in their native tongue, it came alive, evoking a response. Because the Bible is living and active, it pierced deep into their hearts.
My appreciation for the Word of God came from witnessing my parents’ dedication to it. Concerned for the many Bible-less people around the world, they left their home in America and traveled to a distant shore. Then they learned an unwritten language, created an alphabet, and ultimately translated the New Testament. Watching its words penetrate deep into their hearts convinced me of its power and veracity and led me to also become a cross-cultural worker.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews describes the Bible’s unique properties:
The word of God is alive 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.Hebrews 4:12 NIV
This text—often memorized as a stand alone verse—follows right after the author’s argument that Jesus offers better rest for his children than the one the Israelites failed to enter (i.e. the promised land). “Make every effort,” he says, “to enter that rest, so that none of you will perish by following their example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:11 NIV).
In this context, then, the Bible is the means by which believers strive to recognize patterns of disobedience. While reading and studying, they allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate their souls, discern their intentions, and reveal their true attitudes and desires. All this is for the purpose that they might enter God’s true rest—his past, present, and future salvation offered to us in Jesus.
God, through his Word, regularly discerns the intentions of my heart. One unforgettable lesson came after my husband and I left the mission field. The church we served provided our housing and utilities and a car had been given to us but our only income was the part-time salary my husband earned in between attending classes. This cash-in-hand supplied only our basic needs. I began to indulge in self-pity. Lord, I don’t like being poor. Counting my pennies is not fun. I want to take a vacation, travel, and go out to eat.
Knowing I needed help with my attitude, I turned to my Bible. In my scheduled passage, I read these convicting words: “Be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14 NIV). Not the answer I wanted to hear but the truth I needed nonetheless. That day, God’s Word pierced deep into my heart exposing discontent, complaining, and lack of joy. The contents of my soul revealed, I responded with acceptance of my lot.
God’s Word continues to live, pierce, and discern to this day. Just as the Biangai did, let it go deep into your heart. How will you respond to what it reveals?
Holy Spirit, thank you that your Word remains as powerful today as when it was first written down. Send it deep into my heart and the hearts of all cultures around the world. And may we respond in obedience to whatever it reveals.