This isn't exactly a new observation but it's something that struck me after I'd finished preaching on Luke 3 on Thursday. I said in the talk that it was quite something that the word of God came to John (v2), and it was. It was the end of the intertestamental period and the long awaited arrival of The Voice. There had been silence and then it was broken. The word of God came. This is a big deal. The first time that ever happened the universe God created. This time it was the announcement that the LORD was about to set foot in his creation in the person of Jesus. When God speaks it's never a minor occasion. How seriously am I listening out for what God says - when I open the Bible the creative-word is set loose among people.
Then what... the word collides with dead hearts and shines light into them to re-create them in the image of God. And the word of God collides with living hearts to expose their motives and attitudes - to discern our hearts. Studying Galatians 2 with Alex this afternoon I realised afresh how we need the word to expose our hearts. The remedy to legalism and gospel-distortion in Galatians 2 is what Paul does with Peter and the churches of Galatia - he walks them back to the cross. It calls us to ask - does the cross look big in me? Or does it look small, diminished and even denied.
The problem is how do you tell. Some new people arrived in the room at dinner time and Peter changed tables to eat with the new arrivals. On one day that would be courteous and polite. That day in Antioch it was cross-denying folly. One day Paul considers the possible circumcision of Titus to be gospel-harming, another day he requires Timothy to be circumcised. Two students get a first - one works hard and achieves, the other is an idolatrous workaholic. Two students fail their course - one worked hard and couldn't achieve, the other is lazy.
I can't read peoples hearts from their behaviour but in the shadow of the cross and the sound of God's word our hearts can be discerned and challenged. Probing questions can help - like the X-Ray Questions (from New Attitude Conference). There have to be some telling signs - Paul observes in the Galatians changes in behaviour - from faith to works... loss of joy... lack of love for others. Nothing will beat what God's word can do - the universecreating-heartexposing word searches our hearts and directs us back to the Cross of Christ where our life is found!