It is Written…Series: Deeper in the Word.

Mathew 4:1-11

A simple tool in the history of human civilization that has led to great success, failures and shaped history in many ways I believe today is the pen. With the pen men have turned thoughts and ideas into reality, lives have been changed, altered, shaped because knowledge has been penned down. People have been convicted, killed or prospered because of what was written down by a simple pen.  Buildings, roads, business empires and all constructions have been raised up and brought down because of what was penned down as a plan. People have been treated or mistreated because of what was penned down as a prescription. We cannot underestimate the power of what is written. Perhaps the largest production from human kind is thoughts, knowledge and ideas recorded in billions of books, literature, digital and others.

The words “It is written….” Are used to bring a finality to a matter. But of all the zillions of what is written, all claiming a level of authority, and truth…. Does the word of God stand a chance?

Christianity begins with the conviction that God himself has spoken in Scripture. As Christians we hold that the Bible is the inerrant and authoritative word of God, it is reliable and true, from cover to cover, in every jot and title. We believe that Scripture therefore is the standard by which we must test all other truths. Because …it is written?

Our theme for this year is Exponential- where we seek to grow and reproduce ourselves through the power of God’s LIFE working in our lives. We will do this by growing Deeper, Moving Forward and Reaching Wider as expressed in the early church of Acts 2:42-44. So for the first quarter we focus on Growing Deeper and this month we look at Growing Deeper in the Word.

Last week, we challenged us to Love the Lord with minds. A mind is such a terrible thing to waste, to waste a mind is to waste a person. But most importantly our Faith in God must entail an engagement and renewal of the mind. We must fight distractions of the mind when it comes to faith, we cannot afford to be passive and leave our minds asleep when it comes to Faith. We must invest our minds if we are to discern the will of God. Did you bring your mind along to worship?

The content of what we hold as true or false is critical, the evidence of what we hold as true and false increases our strength in faith and lastly the application for what we hold as true and false becomes what we hold as convictions about our faith. Revealed, Confirmed and Applied. Seeing, Seeing as, Seeing that.

Today, we question the conviction of …It is written as regards the scriptures. Is the Bible in and of itself sufficient to furnish us with complete Faith? Is Scripture sufficient diet for Christians?

Many Christians today seem to imagine that the Bible is not Modern enough or sophisticated enough to equip people to live in the 21st century. There is a lot of expertise that seem to indicate that we must look beyond the bible for principles of leadership and success from the business world. Psychologists claim the bible is too simplistic to help people deal with the complex emotional and psychological issues. In every new age, scripture is being set aside in favor of new philosophies, scientific theories, experimental behaviors and counselling techniques, political correctness and other similar fads of modern opinion.

One author a professor in a seminary even confessed that the data gathered indicating that there are more divorces from Christian marriages than there are in non-Christian marriages, suggest that the Bible does not have all the answers when it comes to keeping a Christian marriage together.

But the sad truth is that the failure of supposedly Christian marriages today is not proof of insufficiency of Scripture, but the proof of weakness and biblical illiteracy of those who claim that Scripture is the word of God.

Sadly, it does not stop here. The Question is Scripture sufficient food for the believers is made worse by many Christians who suggest that scripture must be supplemented by entertainment, drama and music and the arts for it to be appealing to the unbelievers, so churches can easily become amusement spaces.

Another sad one as Africans is that the rise of evangelical mysticism – the belief that Christians need to listen to God speaking directly to them through strong impressions in their mind, a voice in their head, or other mystical unprovable means…have led many to ignore the study of God’s word and become obsessed with powers and exposure to the occult and demonic oppression. It seems to them that the Bible is not sufficient revelation of God’s truth. This has led to the rise of men of God, self -proclaimed prophets and seers who are custodians of secrets and powers and methods to effect God’s word.

We must then have a strong conviction about this matter. Is the word of God All sufficient? Is what is written…Neno Tosha. And if so, what priority and value must we place on the word of God?

To borrow words from the A.D 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, for man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture- Unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the spirit, or traditions of men.

Turn then with me to where it is written….In Mathew 4:1-11 a very familiar passage about the temptation of Christ.

Read

Much has been taught about this passage, today allow me to zero in on those powerful words…. It is written… In modelling and teaching us- How did Jesus handle the enemy when He was tempted? It is worth noting here that the temptations were real. Not imaginary emotions but actual events that happened. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and surely he was hungry, weak and vulnerable. A perfect state for the enemy to attack?

These temptations equate to the summary of man’s longings after the fall, similar to the temptation of Adam in Genesis. Note both temptations bring to question ‘What God has said….What is written

Did Jesus use some complicated exorcism formula to bind the enemy and banish him to hell? Did he begin to sing a worship song to get in touch with his spirituality to confront the enemy? Did he issue a political statement of all authority given to him….No He simply used the Word of God. He stood for truth, authority and power for what is written. He exercised the power of God through the Word of God.

As a young boy- Jesus had developed the practice of going into the synagogues and learning and questioning the authorities about the law and what was written. He had invested and applied his mind to know the word of God.

Allow me to address this subject in 3 questions:

  • Is the word of God sufficient to Preserve you?
  • Is the word of God sufficient for our Security/to wipe away all doubt
  • Is the word of God sufficient for devoted Worship

First Is the word of God sufficient to preserve you– The first temptation addresses the desires of the flesh- These are the longings of the body to survive, finances, food clothing, shelter, the need to survive physically, the desire for good things.

In these changing and dynamic world, everyone is in a pursuit for survival. As they say shillingi ya kenya inatuzungusha. It is increasingly the norm that man shall sweat to eat. He cannot leave bread alone. Man must have bread. To do this he will rely on his own resources, ability and strength to keep going.  Yet Jesus profoundly and simply puts it…it is written, Man shall not leave on bread alone.

A careful examination of Christ’s replies to the temptations, seen in their contexts, may open a deeper level of understanding.

The first answer (vs4) is from v.3 in Deut.8:1-4  (read) Back in Exodus 16, The Israelites were in the wilderness for a parallel 40 years as Jesus had been in this wilderness for 40 days. He just as they certainly needed bread to survive.

Then God gave them manna. But the manna came daily as a provision for their strength however by this God reminded them that they needed God’s word more than the manner. In this context Jesus implied that while Manna could sustain them, only the Word of God would satisfy them.

He reminded them that their sustenance and satisfaction came as a result of living obediently to the word of God. A key principle from Christ response was that Life is not about the functionalities of survival and self –existence, but more importantly a relational reality with the word of God. We need God to complete us, not things, not even food.

Our work then is not a means to survival and preservation, but a means to practice obedience in the stewardship of God as taught in the scriptures and then he will provide. Work then is the avenue to apply and test God’s word as True.

How differently would this change our study of God’s word? We would be praying Lord lead me to work in the wilderness to realize how true and satisfying your word is? Not how money and food can sustain me.

Sadly, because of the dichotomy of the secular and spiritual- Faith is seen as the preserve of the weak and lazy people. My parents were not particularly excited when I told them I wanted to be trained in the church instead of pursuing a high paying job, they fought it and particularly reminded me the path of poverty I was choosing.

But is it really? Our relational reality with God makes us Study the word of God as all satisfying and source of sustenance for everyday living.

It’s like a farmer- Though He plants and tills the land, He ultimately knows it takes faith for the seed to grow. His role is to obey the instructions of proper farming techniques. He must then Know and understand the techniques and then apply them.

David says “ I was young and now I am old,  have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children asking for bread.

Psalm says: Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners or seat in the company of the mockers- This is how we feel we are to survive in todays times ( our networks and connections with who and who’s of this world) but His delight is in the law of the Lord on it He meditates day and night- That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaves do not whither. Whatever He does prospers. Tell your neighbor …It is written.

Secondly is the word Sufficient to keep you secure and free from Doubt?

Doubt is one of the powerful weapon of the enemy today. You can begin to crumble someone’s faith by simply throwing or planting seeds of doubt in what they know and believe. With so much knowledge, information and expertise, it is common that the word of God could easily become an opinion. To which is subject to debate, or every man’s form of reasoning. The result is everything is relative, there is no absolute Truth, and Nothing can be trusted. Not even God. This is Satan’s ultimate weapon

We are to doubt everything and prove it only true by the word of God and not the other way round. We tend to doubt the word of God until it is proven true by our human experiences. Sadly this is the world our children are thrown into, science is questioning everything to mere opinions and relativity for our children. Some believe in Darwin, some in some big bang and then there are those who believe in a higher power….

The second temptation was to question Jesus Identity- If you are the son of God- Please note God’s word had just come in the previous chapter where he was baptized and the word of God came from heaven saying you are my son whom I love and I am well pleased.

But a caution here, is to note the Devil also quoted scripture. And Jesus also rebuts with a scripture. At a basic level this was a question of correctly handling the word of Truth.

The enemy quoting Psa 91: 9-13 alludes to the fact that if God is with you He will protect you, However he insinuates that Jesus needs to prove this point and run ahead of God and see if God will be true to His word.

This is the typical test- to run ahead of God in our desires and see if God will come through with his word. This is the same thing that happened at the garden, eat and see if what God said is true.  The deception here is very subtle but powerful. The truth is God’s word goes before then we Act, not the other way round.

Jesus responds “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. This second answer from Deut.6:16, also reflects Exod.17. When the people complained against Moses about thirst asking why God had brought them to die of thirst in the desert and leave them to die.  They wanted proof that he was with them, so they had the nerve to put him to the test.

Jesus did not require such proof.  Because He was sure of who He was and that God was with Him. The principle here is that God is to be trusted not to be tested.

Is the word of God sufficient to give me security for all my doubts….Again the pursuit of ‘tested’ products and services even in the church has led many to walk away from trusting God in His word, to testing God to prove His word? The so called mighty men of god are known for tests of how they are effective, we see adverts of questionable exorcism, healing and things to prove something.

In Luke 16, is the story of Lazarus and the rich man. When Lazarus died and went into Abraham’s bossom, the rich man died and went to the place of torment. Interesting from his position of suffering he pleads with Abraham….

Send then Lazarus to my father’s house so that he can warn lest they also come to this place of torment. He adds that if someone comes from the dead and goes to them they will repent.

But Abraham says, But they have Moses and the prophets (the law) with them, if they don’t hear them they will not be convinced by someone from the dead.

Sadly many of us think our faith is not secured simply by what God has written in the word of God. We must see the dead come to life, for us to believe. God here says even if they saw the dead raised they would still not believe…. All Miracles, signs and wonders as already recorded in scripture are sufficient for our salvation. No new miracle is necessary for the Gospel to do it’s work in changing lives. Why because the word of God through the inspiration and illumination of the Holy Spirit is powerful enough- it is all sufficient to guarantee our salvation.

Read: Ps 119: 137- 144    

But lastly is the word of God sufficient to keep my devotion to God and keep me from turning to other gods.

Again the temptation to veer off from the truth in this 21st century is seen in the rise of many new and fascinating gods who will equally call for our loyalty and worship. Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy 6: 13, is in the context of asking that when the children get to foreign nations and hear of their foreign gods, and see the success of these nations….He warns that they should not forget the Lord their God. Indeed they were to Worship the Lord God Only and not any other.

As the world becomes smaller, our children will explore further territories than us. They will be exposed to foreign nations, ideologies and gods. They will encounter the gods of Buddhism, Shintoism, Materialism, meditation, they will encounter the illuminati, they will discover LGBTQ community….what then is a sure investment of their Faith.

The word of God is the surest investment for the generation to come.

Jesus resisted the gods of the modern world- all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor because God’s word anchored his worship of the one true God. The word of God is the testimony of God about himself, when we will not be there, God’s word will speak for himself and it’s power will still be as potent.

Paul warns Timothy

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All of scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Ps 119:  89-96 (Read)

I affirm to you again, scripture is true, reliable and above all is sufficient to guide every aspect of developing a life that honors God now and in the times to come. Tell your neighbor …it is written.

Song (Ancient words)

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