Following Jesus

Shaken to the Core

Bringing the Word into Your Heart

April 7, 2021 by


Last night as we were visiting with friends in our home, my husband suddenly said, “This morning I had a revelation. I always give thanks to God for bringing me through the night to a new day. But today I realized that had I died in the night, I would still give thanks because I would be with the Lord.” Jerry has been living with cancer for the past five years. To hear his clear affirmation of thanks and trust shook me deeply; at the same time, it brought me a great peace.

Fifty years ago we were also shaken deeply; really, to the core. On a two-day visit to the Bruderhof we were confronted by our faith made visible, by the word of the Bible taken to a radical, new, living level. In those few hours we actually experienced what Jesus speaks about in his Sermon on the Mount, chapters from the Gospel of Matthew that we had read and re-read in church for years. Months later, deeply moved by what we’d seen and heard, we read Salt and Light by Bruderhof co-founder Eberhard Arnold, and those scriptures were illuminated as never before. We joined the Bruderhof then. In all these years since, we have returned to Arnold’s prolific writings continually for strength and guidance as we learn every new day that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

The Living Word is the fifth and final volume in Eberhard Arnold’s Inner Land series. With the previous volumes, The Inner Life, The Conscience, Experiencing God, and Fire and Spirit, we have what Arnold considered to be the culmination of his life’s work, a guide into the heart and soul of the Bible. As such, it reveals the breadth and depth of his understanding of the calling to and the revolutionary living out of a life in Christ.

There are many Christians who place Bible reading at the top of the requirement list for an active Christian life. While Arnold would not necessarily disagree with that, he challenges us in The Living Word that what is essential for Bible readers is to recognize that the written word is not a collection of ancient, dead letters but a vibrant, living message – a holy “thou must” – that meets readers in their innermost hearts. If we are to discover the true meaning of the written word, we ourselves must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Arnold uses strong metaphors to convey this concept:

. . . whoever does not receive his spirit, will never be enlightened and instructed by God to understand the scriptures. Bible in hand, such a person holds nothing but a manger without the Christ child, a wooden cross without the Crucified One… All our own efforts to grasp the dead letter are in vain (39).

His exhortation goes farther as he makes clear that to be the living word, it must not only guide our own lives but show itself in daily deeds and in our relationships with others:

. . . When God himself speaks his holy word into the depths of our hearts, its working will emerge in deeds and works that in everything are God’s works alone. . . . It emerges from the innermost recesses of our hearts and becomes a visible reality in life (69).
. . . The written Word (which must be a dead letter to unbelief) becomes so alive in a believing heart that at every crossroad and in every danger it is ready to be our unerring guide. Through his Word, Jesus comes to meet us as our Lord. His authority to lead us and to direct our lives in all things is felt in our innermost hearts to be his holy right, and to obey it is our highest calling (74).

When this happens we experience a foretaste of the kingdom of God here on earth today – one of the exciting and prophetic messages of the whole of Inner Land.

Jerry and Nancy Voll live at Fox Hill, a Bruderhof in Walden, New York.


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