All’s Well That Starts Well

All’s Well That Starts Well

Matthew 4:1-11

Dr. Jim Denison

We’re all salespeople in life. We all have something we want others to “buy” or believe.

According to Newsweek, Andrew Fischer is selling his forehead. The 20-year-old Nebraska man decided to auction it as ad space for 30 days, and received more than 100 bids. The winner is a snoring remedy named “SnoreStop,” which will pay him $37,375 to display their logo. He says he’ll use the money to pay for college. With a son in college myself, I’m wondering what a pastor’s forehead goes for.

Last week, two men robbed a pizza delivery woman. Then one of them called the victim on his cell phone to apologize, and asked her for a date. She declined, gave his cell phone number to police, and they arrested the man. What he was selling, she wasn’t buying.

My father sold electronic components to oil companies. I’m a salesman as well, with a specific product to sell you this morning. I’ll show you why you need it, how to use it, and what happens when you do. Then I hope you’ll buy what I’m selling–not for my sake, but for yours.

Why to live by the word of God (vs. 1-4)

As our story opens, we catch up with Jesus after he’s spent 40 days in solitude with his Father. He’s in the wilderness area between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea known to the locals as “the Devastation.” It is desert, full of rocks and sand, parched, cracked, dusty hills and valleys, “Death Valley” in our country. No wonder he’s able to be alone with God.

He has just fasted 40 days, abstaining from everything and everyone but his Father. No one could be closer to God than him, right now. Just then Satan appears out of nowhere with his first of three temptations. The Greek reads, “Since you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (v. 3).

The wilderness surrounding Jesus is covered with small, round, sun-bleached rocks which look amazingly like the bread baked in his day. Imagine you have not eaten for 40 days, and you have the ability to turn a tennis ball into an orange or a sandal into a steak. You would have to rely on yourself rather than your Father for your needs, using your powers for your purposes rather than the One you have come to serve. But you would be tempted.

Here’s how Jesus responds. Here’s what to do the next time Satan comes calling: live on “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (v. 4).

Jesus quotes a statement made by Moses to the children of Israel after they learned to trust God for the manna which kept them alive in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:3). The point is simple: we do not live on our ability but God’s provision. Not on our resources and experience and education, but on the word and grace of God. Your next breath is his gift. Your abilities and opportunities come from his hand. You didn’t deserve to vote in America and not Iraq. It all comes from the grace of God.

So before you begin your next day or make your next decision, go first to his word. Go to Scripture before you go anywhere else–to your own education and ability, the advice of friends, the counsel of worldly wisdom. Seek Scripture first. Ask what God says on the subject, and choose to do it. Live by the words of God.

Why trust the Bible with your life?

Because it is literally the “word of God”: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Because it has been accurately transmitted to us. “Textual critics” are scholars who compare ancient manuscripts to produce a copy as close to the original as possible. Whether they are Christians or not, they know that the Old and New Testaments we possess today are virtually identical to the originals. The only questions which remain affect matters of spelling, punctuation, and isolated verses; none relates to essential doctrines or practices of the faith.

Because archaeology confirms the accuracy of Scripture. For instance, the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:2) was once dismissed as non-historical. Now tour guides in Jerusalem point groups to its location in the northeast quarter of the Old City. I’ve seen the ruins myself. We have a stone inscription documenting the life and office of Pontius Pilate; the ossuary (coffin) of Caiaphas, the High Priest of the crucifixion; an inscription found at Delphi which describes the work of Gallio, proconsul at Corinth (Acts 18:12-17); and scores of other artifacts which document the accuracy of biblical history and description.

Because the Bible keeps its promises. A mathematician once investigated the statistical probability of one man’s fulfilling eight of the 61 major Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah, and calculated the odds as one in 10 to the 17th power (one followed by 16 zeroes). That number of silver dollars would cover the state of Texas to a depth of two feet.

Because the Bible changes lives. I once owned a 1965 Ford Mustang, and found myself under its hood as often as I was behind its wheel. Chilton’s Car Repair Manual became my constant companion. I learned to trust its advice because it worked.

In a postmodern world which believes truth is relative, a book must be relevant to be accepted. Try living by the word of God, making its truths the guideposts of your life. Go to Scripture first. See what God says on the subject you’re considering, the decision you’re making. And you’ll learn for yourself that you can rely on “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

How to live by the word of God (vs. 5-7)

Now Satan, seeing that Jesus is going to fight his temptations with God’s word, uses Scripture himself. Taking him to the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem, 450 feet above the Kidron Valley, he challenges him to throw himself down since the Bible promises God will protect him (Psalm 91). Then the crowds will see and be amazed, and he can be their Messiah. He can avoid their rejection and the cross it will bring.