June 12, 2012

How's your marrow?

If you've stopped by my blog lately, you know I've been writing a lot about my sister-in-law's stem cell transplant (which is also commonly referred to as a bone marrow transplant). I wrote about it here, here, and here. I gave a description of the process here. I shared a link to a video about help from the Fisher House at Andrews AFB here, and wrote about marriage in the midst of a debilitating illness here.

It's obviously been on my mind lately.

And I've learned a lot about stem cells and bone marrow, although only a thimbleful of the ocean there is to know about them.

Here's the main idea: bone marrow is the true lifeblood of the human body. It is the source from which the critical, day-to-day elements are created. After years of dealing with other auto-immune disorders, Michele developed MDS, which means that her bone marrow did not produce enough blood for the body. This led to anemia, lack of the ability to fight infection, and easy bleeding. Allowed to continue, it would likely have developed into myelogenous leukemia, fast growing cancer of the blood and marrow.

Moral of the story: healthy marrow produces healthy blood, which helps the body to become stronger and fight off its enemies. Unhealthy marrow weakens the body, leaving it susceptible to attacks and, ultimately, death.

In the midst of learning about all of this, a verse came to mind:
For the word of God 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. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
Guess what. We all have a problem. We are all born with a diseased system. The disease is sin.
"...None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-11 ESV)
It has taken dozens of doctors years to diagnose Michele's disease. And over those years, the bad marrow continued to do a poor job of generating all of the critical elements that comprise what we call blood, causing who knows how many other issues in Michele's frail body. We have a similar struggle as we try to self-diagnose our disease.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
And yet, the writer of Hebrews tells us that God's word cuts right to the chase, right to the source of my spiritual problem: the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

John Piper says it much better than I ever could:
The writer gives an analogy: it's like dividing joints and marrow. Joints are the thick, hard, outer part of the bone. Marrow is the soft, tender, living, inner part of the bone. That is an analogy of "soul and spirit." The word of God is like a sword that is sharp enough to cut right through the outer, hard, tough part of a bone to the inner, soft, living part of the bone. Some swords, less sharp, may strike a bone and glance off and not penetrate. Some swords may penetrate part way through the tough, thick joint of a bone. But a very sharp, powerful double-edged sword (sharp on each side of the point) will penetrate the joint all the way to the marrow.
What then is the point saying that the "word of God" pierces to the "division of soul and spirit"? The point is that it's the word of God that reveals to us our true selves. Are we spiritual or are we natural? Are we born of God and spiritually alive, or are we deceiving ourselves and spiritually dead? Are the "thoughts and intentions of our heart" spiritual thoughts and intentions or only natural thoughts and intentions. Only the "word of God" can "judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" as Hebrews 4:12 says.

Practically speaking, when we read or hear "the word of God," we sense ourselves pierced. The effect of this piercing is to reveal whether there is spirit or not. Is there marrow and life in our bones? Or are we only a "skeleton" with no living marrow? Is there "spirit," or only "soul"? The word of God pierces deep enough to show us the truth of our thoughts and our motives and our selves.
But that's not the end of the story. Just as Michele received a transplant which is, hopefully, giving her new bone marrow which will produce new blood, creating a new immune system which can fight off the enemies of her body, we've been promised a new spirit which creates something amazing within us:
A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you . . . I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes. (Ezekial 36:26-27 ESV)
 Again, John Piper helps us to understand what this means for the believer...
Ultimately, all the good inclinations or preferences or desires that we have are given by the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit we are mere flesh. And Paul said in Romans 7:18, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing." Apart from the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, none of our inclinations or desires is holy or good, "for the mind of the flesh is hostile to God's law and does not submit to it because it cannot" (Romans 8:7). The new birth is the coming into our life of the Holy Spirit to create a whole new array of desires and loves and yearnings and longings. And when these desires are stronger than the opposing desires of the flesh, then we are "walking by the Spirit." For we always act according to our strongest desires.
The Holy Spirit produces in us desires for God's way that are stronger than our fleshly desires, and thus he causes us to walk in God's statutes.
As the Psalmist before me, I rejoice over this gracious gift and pray that it continues in my life.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:14, 23-24 ESV )

If you'd like to know more about the cure for your sin disease, here is a great place to start. Also, I always love to hear from those who stop by my blog, but I'd especially love to know if this post in particular has been an encouragement to you.

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