“The best defense is a good offense”.
That’s what you say when you have a terrible defense. If you’ve got a terrible offense you switch it and say that the best offense is a good defense.
Either way, I think Christians have learned this secret when it comes to erecting barricades around those places in our lives that we don’t want to see touched.
Think with me about the nature of Scripture. Many of us preachers have made a point from Ephesians 6 that the sword is the only offensive weapon in the list of armor. And I think that’s a valid point. God’s Word, after all, is what Jesus used to cause the devil to flee in Matthew 4.
Furthermore, we read in Hebrews 4:12 that God’s Word 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”.
God’s Word is very powerful. And it is meant to accomplish His purpose of rooting out sin and unbelief and replacing that with passionate worshippers of Jesus. To this end, the sword can cut you to pieces.
Using The Sword Defensively
The sword is meant to be used offensively—and particularly against the works of the devil. That means in a large part the sin and unrighteousness that is holed up in the deep crevices of our own hearts. That is at least the picture that Hebrews 4:12 has in mind. It goes to the deep places and exposes us as we are.
But sin has a funny way of turning us inward. It also has a way of tricking us into using the instruments of righteousness to serve the works of the devil. Or to put this another way the word of God is a dangerous tool in bitter hands.
This text is meant to cut to the heart of the miserly. It is meant in the life of believers to lay us bare and cause us to cry out for mercy. Far too often we shut out compassion. 1 John drives us to our knees pleading that we’d look more like Jesus and less like Cain.
But imagine with me a person that has time and time again squandered financial resources. He has been a terrible steward of the little that God has given him. Truth be told, he should be spending a good amount of time reflecting on 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12.
But instead of reading those passages that will address his own heart, he’s scouring the Scriptures to sword the people that aren’t helping him. He’s been feasting on 1 John 3:17 and its gotten him fired up. He wonders why professing Christians are turning a blind eye to his plight. (He might even have a valid point).
That is what I mean by using the sword defensively. We use it to knife up our brothers and sisters in Christ instead of using it to uproot sin in our own hearts. And we do this as a way to defend ourselves from actually have to address the junk going on in our own hearts.
A Few Questions for Application
Here are a few questions that I try to ask of my own heart to make sure I’m not trying to use the sword of the Word as a defensive weapon.
- Is my aim in quoting this passage to please God?
- Is quoting this passage muting my own need of repentance in a different area?
- Have I applied the Word to my own heart in this area?
- Is my aim in quoting this to help a brother/sister or is it to cause harm for them? Can I say before Almighty God that any harm that this passage may cause by me applying it is meant to bring them redemptive good and not hurt?
- Am I trying to use Scripture to justify my own sin?
- Am I actively using the sword of the Word to rip idols out of my own heart?
These are a few of the basic questions that I ask my own heart to try to asses whether or not I’m inappropriately using Scripture to dice up a brother or sister in Christ. Chances are if I’m being torn asunder and healed by God’s powerful Word I’ll be less quick to use its sharp edges against a brother or sister in Christ.
May the Word afflict our own sinful hearts before we use it to penetrate the depths of our brothers and sisters.