It Stands Written

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After Jesus was baptized by John the scripture says, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry” (Mt. 4:1-2).  In the ensuing verses Matthew records how the devil tempted Jesus in three ways that summarize every kind of temptation that can befall us.  An important aspect of this record is the fact that in each instance the Lord responded to the devil’s temptation by quoting scripture.  In vs. 4, 7, and 10 the Lord said, “It is written”, and then quoted the appropriate scripture to deal with the temptation.

In the original language in which the New Testament was written the phrase “it is written” has the force of long-standing and enduring truth.  If we were to translate this phrase literally it would read, “it stands written.”  In other words, the word of God had been declared, it was then in force, and it would remain in force forever.

The fact that God’s word has been written is significant.  That which is written does not change.  It is not dependent on our frail memories in order to be remembered.  Anyone who reads it, in whatever time or place or circumstance, receives the very message that the author intended when he wrote it.  We see this principle at work every time we follow a recipe to make a favorite food or dessert.  If we follow the instructions in the recipe, we will end up with the same dish every time.

This is why God committed His word to written form, beginning with the two tablets of stone upon which He wrote the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.  This is why God directed Moses to write His law in a book.  In Deut. 31:9-13 the scripture says that Moses wrote that book, which we call Deuteronomy, and gave it to the priests.  They, in turn, were to read it to all the men, women, and children of Israel every seventh year at the Feast of Booths.  In reading what had been written, every generation would learn to love and obey God.

This is also why the books of the New Testament were written.  The truths of the life and ministry of our Lord, of His sacrifice on the cross for our sins, and what we need to do in order to be saved, are clearly stated within its pages.  Anyone with normal intelligence can pick up the written word and know exactly what God intends him to do in order to have eternal life.  Paul said that this written word was inspired by God and equips us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Peter said that this written word is everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).  For this reason Paul said, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Because God’s word stands written, it will be the final arbiter in determining who enters heaven at the end of time.  In Rev. 20:11-15, as John witnessed the vision of final judgment, he noted that everyone who had ever lived stood before the throne of God.  Then, he says books were opened, and everyone was judged from the things written in the books.  Those whose lives were found wanting were cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death (vs. 14-15).

Final judgment will not be based upon feelings or opinions.  It will not be based upon the views of the majority, or on the whims of society at the end of time.  It will be based upon what is written in the books.  The psalmist said that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psa. 119:105).  If we follow God’s word, it will lead us all the way to heaven and eternal life.  It will do so without fail, because it stands written.

Let Me Be Clear . . .

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One of the trademarks of most politicians is the ability to speak without actually saying anything.  This often happens when a reporter asks a question that the politician does not want to answer.  Instead of refusing to answer, however, he or she will respond with a lengthy comment that dances all around the question.  In many cases, a particularly ambiguous part of the response will be prefaced with the phrase, “let me be clear.”  The sad irony is that the clearer the response is asserted to be, the more convoluted and vague it typically is.  We have become accustomed to this practice, even while being frustrated by it.

Most of us prefer a straightforward answer to our questions, even if we do not agree with the response.  We appreciate an individual who speaks from the heart and who clearly states his position on any particular subject.  We especially need this kind of clarity when it comes to the laws that govern our lives.  If a law is so vague that it may be interpreted in multiple ways, it seriously complicates our ability to obey it.  This is why we cringe when our elected officials offer thousand-page bills designed to regulate some aspect of life.

Most of us are genuinely disgusted by the kind of ambiguity and duplicity that exists in our political system today.  We correctly understand that this ambiguity is intentional in order to subvert the system in favor of the ruling class and their contributors.  However, in spiritual matters many among us have embraced the very ambiguity that we despise in secular affairs.  Instead of viewing the scriptures as the clearly revealed will of God, these folks suggest that God was less than forthcoming in many of His commands.  This leaves the way open, they say, for multiple interpretations of important issues such as salvation and worship.

The assertion that the scriptures are ambiguous enough on these matters as to allow for various interpretations calls into question God’s ability to communicate.  If the scriptures are not clear on the subject of salvation, for example, which is the most important question of all, what does this say about our Father in heaven?  The only options are either that God is incapable of clearly communicating His will, or that He purposely chose to disguise His will from us.  Neither of these options speaks well of Him.

The plain truth, however, is that God is not only able to clearly communicate His will, but He has done so in unmistakable terms.  In Jn. 12:48 Jesus said His word will judge us at the last day.  In Rev. 20:11-15 the scriptures say that when we stand before God we will be judged by the things written in the books.  If the books, which are God’s word, are not clear enough for us to understand and obey, how can God judge us justly from them?  All through the scriptures, literally from beginning to end, we are told to do exactly what God has commanded.  For example, in Deut. 5:32 the scripture says, “So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.”  We are also commanded to neither add to nor take away from all that God has commanded (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19).

Some assert that the existence of so many interpretations suggests that God has been purposely vague on the matter of salvation.  Therefore, they declare that all these interpretations must be valid.  The simple answer from God’s word, however, is that only those who do the Father’s will are going to enter heaven (Mt. 7:21-23).  The fact is that some people just don’t like the answer they find in God’s word.  Therefore they turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  Those who do so place their souls in eternal jeopardy.

God has spoken clearly about all things that are essential for us to obtain eternal life.  Anyone of honest heart and normal intelligence who reads the scriptures will know exactly what God requires in order for us to be saved.  On this He has been absolutely clear.

What A Friend!

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One of the popular text-messaging abbreviations today is BFF.  It stands for “best friend forever” and designates a person with whom one has had a long-term or life-long relationship.  BFFs are those who stand by their friends through thick and thin, and can be depended upon in every situation that might arise.  Not everyone has a BFF, and some of us may think we don’t need one, but there is no question that those who do have BFFs are blessed.

Friendship is an important part of life, at whatever level we may experience it.  It is part of our DNA, as it were.  We are social creatures who need and crave interaction with others, especially those who share similar interests.  The primary basis of friendship is what we often describe as the “give and take” of it.  Friendships are founded and maintained by the exchange of good things within that friendship.  This exchange might include actual gifts and such, but is more often demonstrated in acceptance, encouragement, consolation in times of loss, and personal involvement in each other’s lives.  To be a friendship, however, both parties must do these things.

Sometimes we sing a song in worship entitled, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  This hymn is primarily focused on the importance of prayer, but there is no question that we have no friend like our Lord and Savior.  He has never failed us and will never fail us in time of need.  He has never done and will never do anything to hurt us or to discourage us.  He is the epitome of what a friend should be in every sense of the word.

The greatest demonstration of the Lord’s friendship for us is His death on the cross to pay the debt for our sins.  On the night of His betrayal He told the apostles, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).  Then, the very next day, He did exactly that.  He who knew no sin, went to the cross and bore the sins of all mankind for all time on His own shoulders.  He suffered excruciating physical pain, and the unbelievable spiritual anguish of being separated from His Father, so we might have the hope of eternal life in His name.  Even the soldier whose life was spared by a comrade sacrificing his own life on the battlefield has not had a friend like this.

We understand that friendship requires actions on the part of both parties, and our friendship with the Lord is no exception.  The Lord Himself dictated what He requires in order for us to be His friends.  In Jn. 15:14 He said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.”  Earlier the same evening in which He said these words, the Lord also said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15).  Thus, we see that for us to be friends with Jesus, we must obey His commands.

This makes sense, of course, because it is impossible to be friends with those of opposing points of view.  We recognize and practice this in our human friendships, and have no qualms about doing so.  How much more so, then, in spiritual matters? In Jas. 4:4 the scripture says that friendship with the world is hostility toward God.  We cannot be on good terms with worldly things and still be friends with the Lord because the two are diametrically opposed to each other.  Only one can be our friend, and we must choose who that friend will be.

The choice should be an easy one, for friendship with the world cannot offer us what friendship with the Lord does.  The world has done nothing, and can do nothing, for our eternal good.  The Lord, however, gave His life to be our Savior and friend.  Because of this we can truly say, “What a friend we have in Jesus!”  How can we reject such friendship?

Not By Bread Alone

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When Moses was preparing Israel to enter the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, he restated for them the entirety of the Law that God had given them on Mt. Sinai.  He also reminded them of all that God had done for them up to that time.  A key feature of this reminder is found in Deut. 8:3.  Here Moses said, “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”

Moses wanted Israel to understand that there was a spiritual foundation for all that God had done for them, and for all that He required of them.  He was not interested solely in physically sustaining them in the wilderness.  He wanted their souls to be bound to Him by their reliance upon His word to guide every step they took in life.  This principle was validated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He faced temptation from Satan.

Satan began his temptation by telling the Lord to turn stones into bread because after forty days of fasting He was hungry.  The Lord responded to Satan by quoting Moses’ words from Deut. 8:3.  In Mt. 4:4 Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'”  Then, to underscore this truth, the Lord quoted scripture to defeat each of the other temptations that Satan placed before Him on that occasion.

The Lord’s reliance on the word of God to sustain Him in the face of temptation is a practical example of the principle of which Moses spoke so long ago.  While our bodies need physical food to sustain them, the most important need that we have is the word of God.  It is our most important need because it sustains our souls all the way to our home in heaven at the end of time.  Without it, we will perish.  It is just this simple.

The anonymous psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105).  There is no more simple or more profound statement in all of scripture.  Without the word of God we stumble about in the darkness, unable to see the path before us.  With God’s word firmly in hand, we can clearly see the path before us, and will find our way to the place being prepared in heaven for the faithful.

Some today mock those who rely solely on the inspired scriptures to guide their steps in life.  However, the scriptures declare that they are sufficient for this important task.  In 2 Tim. 3:16-17 Paul said that all scripture is inspired by God and that it equips us for every good work.  In 2 Pet. 1:3 Peter said that God has granted to us all things pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  Therefore, we can turn to no other source in order to reach eternal life.

James called upon his readers to “receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21).  Paul reminded Timothy that from a child he had learned the sacred writings which “are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).  For these reasons we must commit ourselves to diligently feast on the spiritual sustenance that God has provided for us by means of His inspired word.  Today, as it was in the time of Moses, we do not live by bread alone, but we live by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.