Going Under the Knife of God's Word

"There is really no easy way to say this: We have to operate." While that hard truth is something a doctor says to a patient, it can also be applied to any person who is engaging in premeditated and deliberate sin. The only way to cut out the cancer of sin is through surgery. And only God can perform this task in a person's soul.

The "surgeon's knife" of the Great Physician is Scripture. "For the Word of God is living 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) Sinful strongholds get "cut out" of us as the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and works the miracle of "godly sorrow" in our heart.

So just what is "godly sorrow" you ask? Scripture informs us, "See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done." (2 Cor. 7:11) That's quite a list, and only God can produce those things in the heart of a sinner.

There is a huge difference between "godly sorrow" and "worldly sorrow." The Bible says, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Cor. 7:10) Worldly sorrow is sorrow over getting caught. Godly sorrow, on the other hand, is a miracle of God which leads a person to be truly alarmed at sinning against God. Worldly sorrow is of no benefit to a person's soul, while godly sorrow is the result of the Lord's supernatural surgery on man's heart.

Without repentance, a person cannot be a Christian. "But I have faith." Not without repentance you don't. At least not biblical faith. True faith in Christ is always accompanied by the miracle of godly sorrow and the supernatural work of repentance in the heart. "But I thought I could repent on my own." Nope. No can do. You need the conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding your sin and the blessing of godly sorrow. The Word of God produces this life-changing result.

"We have to operate." That is, we have to address the sin so that the sinner "owns it," confesses it, and turns away from it. "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)

"But I thought I just had to confess it. What's this renouncing stuff all about?" A person who renounces his sin turns away from it. He heads in the other direction. He hates the wicked and evil thing he had previously been pursuing. It is now repulsive to him. Why? Because surgery has been taking place in his heart. God has been cutting it out of him. That is to say, God has been replacing the man's love for his sin with a hatred for it and a recognition of just how evil it is in God's sight.

There is not one of us who hates our sin. But God does. And His work in our hearts produces a hatred for anything which is evil in our thinking and behavior. It's not natural to hate our sin. Instead, it is the supernatural work of Almighty God. And it requires an invasive surgical procedure. This is why it is so critical to have the Word of God preached to us. This is where God "gets our attention" and begins to convict us of our sins. Without that conviction of sin, we cannot know God and we cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit.

If you want to know the Lord, you will need to go under the knife of God's Word. There is no other way. And yes, it can be painful to be filled with remorse over sinful choices and wicked deeds. But you can thank God that you now recognize it as evil, whereas before, you were likely justifying it and rationalizing it. That's what we tend to do as human beings. And we need God to grant us godly sorrow if we are going to make it to Christ. No godly sorrow results in no repentance and no salvation. That's just the way this whole thing plays out.

This is why it is so critical for pastors to preach under the anointing of the Holy Spirit as they proclaim God's Law and Gospel. If I don't proclaim the Law, especially in a world clamoring for more "tolerance," how will people become convicted of their sin and their need to repent? How will sinners turn away from sin unless they are told the truth from God's Word? A surgeon cannot beat around the bush with a patient who needs immediate surgery. And if it is critical for the physical well-being of a person's earthly body, how much more critical is it for the spiritual well-being of a person's immortal soul?

Physical knives cannot get to the soul, but the Word of God cuts that deep. That is, when it is proclaimed through the power of the Holy Spirit and without changing it to sound acceptable to modern ears. If we tamper with God's Word, we infect the "operating room" with our germs and we do great damage to the patient. The Holy Spirit will do His work if we are faithful to deliver the Word which God has given us to deliver. If we sugarcoat it, we become guilty of seeking to please man rather than the One who gave us His inspired and powerful Word.

No wonder biblical Christianity tends to be so unpopular with anyone who doesn't want to go under the knife. The truth is that none of us really welcome surgery. We would rather assume the illness will go away all on its own. But we need to be told that some of our behavior is wicked and sinful.

Sinful? Who wants to hear that? Certainly not man in his natural state. But when man comes under the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, man begins to crave this "cutting away" of the cancer of sin within him. Man begins to hate his sin because God has started to produce this hatred for sin within man's heart.

I know it sounds crazy to our natural way of thinking, but that's just because it is supernatural and so "otherworldly." Christianity is not about sinners trying to act holy. It goes so much deeper. It is about sinners going under the knife, and doing so over and over again.

Just as some people today are addicted to "cutting" their bodies, believers in Jesus have an addiction of sorts to being worked on by the sharp sword of the Holy Spirit. We crave it because we know we need it. We must regularly be pointed away from sin and directed toward righteousness. And only the Great Physician can perform this invasive surgical procedure upon man's soul.

So the next time you sense God nudging you with the thought, "We need to operate," go ahead and welcome that surgery as a necessary part of your spiritual healing. You can place complete trust in the Great Physician to heal your soul. And you will feel so much cleaner and stronger after going under the knife of God's Word.

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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