************ Sermon on Matthew 4:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 11, 2005
"Living on the Word of God"
Subtopic: Ignorance of
June 1940: Hitler's armies were poised to destroy the cornered British Army, stranded on the beaches at Dunkirk. As the British people anxiously await word of their fate, a three-word message is transmitted from the besieged army: "And if not."
The British public instantly recognizes the message – a reference to the words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing before King Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace. "Our God is able to save us ... and if not, we will remain faithful anyway." The message galvanizes the British people. Thousands cross the English Channel in boats to rescue their army.
January 2001: President George W. Bush delivered his inaugural address. Dick Meyer of CBS news confessed, "There were a few phrases in the speech I just didn't get. One was, 'When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.'"
Meyer concluded, "I hope there's not a quiz."
What a difference six decades make. For centuries, biblical references were understood by everyone. As Dunkirk demonstrated, citizens were so immersed in the Scriptures that they immediately recognized a reference to even a lesser-known passage. But today that memory has been erased. This is even true, I am afraid, among members of the church. For instance, at the end of July I spoke three times at Trinity's campout. I used a Question and Answer format. Is it fair to say that sometimes I got blank looks when I asked questions about lesser-known Old Testament stories?
Not only do many believers not know the Word of God, many believers no longer memorize the Word of God either. The followers of some pagan religions are often required to saturate their minds with their sacred writings. For instance, no one can teach in a Muslim mosque until he has first memorized the entire Koran! When I was in Myanmar I heard a Buddhist monk for 21 straight hours chanting his sacred literature from memory, seldom if ever making a mistake.
Subtopic: Ignorance of, Perilous
Michael Billester once gave a Bible to a humble villager in eastern Poland. Returning a few years later, he learned that 200 people had become believers through using it. When the group gathered to hear him preach, he suggested that before he spoke he would like each person to quote some verses of Scripture. One man rose and said, "Perhaps, Brother, we've misunderstood you. Did you mean verses or chapters?" Billester was astonished. "Are you saying there are people here who could recite complete chapters of the Bible?" That was precisely the case. In fact, 13 of them knew half of Genesis and the books of Matthew and Luke. Another had committed all the psalms to memory. Combined, the 200 knew virtually the entire Bible.
It seems to me that believers of previous times and other countries know something we tend to forget or neglect: that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
This morning we officially kick-off another church year. As we begin another church year we discover that Jesus and Satan offer dramatically different teachings on what real life is all about. Jesus tells us real living involves the Word of God (HOLD UP BIBLE). Satan tells us real living involves physical things like bread and clothing, shelter and jobs, comfort and relaxation (HOLD UP LOAF OF BREAD). My hope and prayer is that during the coming church year – and in the years to come – all of us will engage in real living as defined by Jesus.
I Real Living
A What is real living? Satan offers one definition in the first temptation that he offers Jesus.
Jesus has been in the wilderness for 40 days: 40 days of fasting; 40 days with nothing to eat. His body has long since burned all its fat. He is hungry enough to eat almost anything.
Along comes the Tempter and basically says something like this: "You are the Son of God. You, of all people, should not have to suffer. Command these stones to become bread so You can eat Your fill. Command these stones to become bread so You can live."
According to Satan, real living involves an absence of pain and deprivation. Real living involves the fulfillment of wants and desires. Real living means bread in the stomach (HOLD UP LOAF), clothing on the back, and a roof over the head. Period. That's it. That's all.
B What is real living for you? As I mentioned, the last weekend of July we were part of the church campout. The weather was wonderful. The food was great. The fellowship was wonderful. The camp-fires and talks were great. We were able to go for walks and bike-rides. Many people would say, "That's the life. That's real living."
What is real living? Some say real living is a Caribbean vacation, or a ski vacation in Colorado, or winter in Palm Springs. Some say real life is sitting in front of a crackling fire with a loved one and a glass of wine by your side. Others say real living is having lots of toys: boats, ATVs, cars, bikes, computers, TiVo, X-Box. And still others say real living is having a boyfriend or girlfriend, being a volleyball or football star, and pulling straight "A"s in school.
Don't get me wrong. I am not saying there is anything wrong with any of this stuff. But if that is all there is to real living, then you have fallen into Satan's trap.
Satan tempts us, just like he tempted Jesus. He tempts us to think we need all of this stuff to experience real living. He tempts us to think we don't really live until we have our vacations and recreation and toys. He temps us to think real life is bread (HOLD UP LOAF).
C Jesus knew what real living is all about: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
God took forty years to teach the people of Israel this lesson. Six days a week God gave them "manna" to eat. The word manna is not a name; it is the question "What is that?" And every morning the people had to answer their own question: "This is food provided by the Word of God." Moreover, during those forty years the people's clothes did not wear out (Deut 8:3,4). God was teaching them every day that He takes care of His people simply by the Word of His mouth. Ordinarily, we need the baker and the seamstress, the grocery store and the clothing store. But God is not dependent on them. He is God. All He has to do is speak, and the rain falls or the sun shines. All He had to do was speak, and all of creation sprang into being. All He had to do was speak and the widow's jar of oil and flour did not run out. "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
Yet Israel never learned this lesson.
Now Jesus follows the same course as did Israel. He spends forty days in the desert, representing the new Israel. And the tempter suggests that He relies on Himself rather than on the Word of God, that He take matters into His own hand rather than wait on the Lord, that He turn stones into bread.
Jesus' point is this: we don't have life when we have bread (HOLD UP LOAF); we don't have life when we have food in our stomachs, clothing on our backs and a roof over our heads. Rather, we have life when we listen to what comes out of the mouth of God.
That is real living. That is what life is all about.
D Why? Why does real living require the Word of God? We can think of two reasons.
First, the Word of God is God's rules for successful living. It is like the manual given to new drivers. To operate a car safely and successfully you need the manual. To live successfully, we need the manual.
Second, the Word of God is the Word of life because in its pages we meet Jesus. Remember what Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." In Scripture we meet Jesus. And, in meeting Jesus, we gain life. In fact, apart from the Word we cannot and do not meet Jesus.
II Living it Out
Do you really believe this, my brothers and sisters? If you do, then you will spend time with the Word!
If we really believe that "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" then we will set aside time each day for the Word of God in personal or family devotions. Last year the family visit reports from the elders were very distressing – they reported that in home after home devotions were not being done or rarely being done. To encourage devotions we make available the Today booklet, Our Daily Bread, and a Spanish booklet (HOLD THEM UP). We give Children's Bibles to families that cannot afford the cost.
Topic: BibleIs it too much, then, to ask that God's people spend time with the Word?
Subtopic: Study of Commanded
How much time do we spend on various pursuits during our lives? For most of us, making a living consumes at least 50 hours, if not more, every week, or about 2,500 hours annually. Each year we sleep nearly 3,000 hours. Add another 550 hours per year for eating, and about 1,500 hours per year for watching television.
How much time, then, does it take to read the Scriptures? At a very moderate rate, the entire Bible can be read in about 70 hours -- 52 hours for the Old Testament, and 18 hours for the New Testament. Even the longest portion of the Old Testament -- the Psalms -- takes only four and a half hours to read, while the Gospel of Luke would occupy less than three hours of our time.
If we really believe that "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" then we will try to be at worship twice every Sunday – for it is in our worship services that we can hear the Word proclaimed.
If we really believe that "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" then we will become part of a group that studies God's Word. We are at the start of another church year, that time of the year when such groups as Men's Bible Study, Women's Bible Circle, Men's Society, Coffee Break, Sunday Evening Fellowship, Young Couples, and Young Adults start up again. Every person here should be able to find one study group they can join.
A problem that exists in most churches is also true for us: there is a real and distressing problem with the few number of men who are involved in any systematic study of God's Word. Across the Christian Reformed landscape it is becoming more and more evident that most men are not part of a Bible Study group. I realize you men are busy with jobs, family, recreation, the school board, consistory, various committees, and so on. Nevertheless, if you take to heart the words of our text then you will be involved in a group that studies the Word.
If we really believe the words of our text then our youth will be involved in Cadets, GEMS, Early Teen Ministry, Youth Group.
"Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." It is because we know the centrality of the Word that our children start Church School and Catechism today. Last year's Church School attendance records for each quarter as well as the whole year were distressing for they showed many children and youth were not in Church School and Catechism. It is because we know the centrality of the Word that the Christian Reformed Church so strongly encourages that our children and youth receive a Christian education where every subject area is based upon or is taught from the perspective of the Word. It is because we know the centrality of the Word that we have Adult Church School.
"Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." It is because we know the centrality of the Word that we invite neighborhood ladies and their children to our church for Coffee Break/Story Hour – for in this program they spend time with the Word. It is because we know the centrality of the Word that we invite our neighbors to come to our worship services with us to hear that Word.
In the life of God's people the Word is central. In the education of our children the Word ought to be central. Our lifestyle, our priorities, our outlook ought all to reflect the centrality of the Word.
B "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Because Jesus knew the Word we see in our Bible reading He was empowered to fight off Satan's temptations and attacks. And, of we know and read and study and contemplate the Word we will also be empowered to fight off Satan's attacks. I said before that Satan offers us one view of real life and Jesus offers us another. Satan tempts us and lures us so that we see real life and real living apart from the Word of God.
Did you notice what Jesus said with all 3 temptations of Satan. He said, "It is written. It is written." That's what He said. "It is written." And every time Satan opened his mouth Jesus quoted Scripture:
(Mt 4) It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone. Every time Satan tempted Him, Jesus responded to him with the Scriptures. And guess what happened? Satan left! Like Jesus, you don't have to fall for Satan's temptations. Like Jesus, respond to Satan with Scripture. Spend time with the Word, and Satan will leave. Spend time with the Word and you can easier stand up to him.
It is written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.
My brothers and sisters, to live, to really live, to live forever, none of us can look to bread alone (HOLD UP LOAF). All of us must learn that we don't have life just because we have something to put in our mouths. "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (HOLD UP BIBLE).
I ask you, congregation, what this coming church year will be like for you? Will you try to live on bread alone (HOLD UP LOAF)? Or, will you also live on what comes from the mouth of God (HOLD UP BIBLE)?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page