This week we have been looking at truth. We have covered a lot of territory. On Monday we talked about being aligned with the truth. On Tuesday we talked about the the culture of Egypt that is ingrained in us. Wednesday, we talked about the problem of my truth. Yesterday we talked about a life built on the truth. Today, we’re going to wrap all this up by looking at the concept of the whole counsel of scripture.
In Acts 20:27, Paul is talking to the leaders of the church of Ephesus, giving a defense of his ministry and says, “for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Luke 24:27 tells of a time when Jesus taught a few disciples immediately following his resurrection and says: “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
When Jesus is in the wilderness being tempted b the devil, we discover something incredible. If you’re not careful, you might miss it. Having fasted for 40 days, Jesus was hungry. I don’t know if you’ve ever fasted, but I imagine if you haven’t eaten for 40 days, hungry is probably not an appropriate word. Jesus wasn’t just hangry. He must have been famished, probably incredibly weak. In this moment of weakness, the devil comes to tempt him. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
There goes the devil again, using that word if. “If” you are the son of God. For God knows that “if” you eat of the fruit, your eyes will be opened. Stupid devil, stupid word.
How did Jesus reply? Scripture. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” That verse goes on to say, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus was the word that came from the mouth of God by the way. And Jesus told his disciples to eat him like bread. But that’s not for today.
Satan tempts Jesus again to trade in his real identity for the fake identity he could offered. Jesus doesn’t go for it, but responds again with scripture: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”
Loser-face doesn’t stop there. What does he do? He quotes scripture at Jesus to try to get him to make a spectacle of himself and his power. Satan quotes from Psalm 91:11-12 when he tempts Jesus the third time. Did you see that? The devil uses the Bible. The devil knows the Bible and isn’t afraid to use it against you.
How does Jesus respond? With more scripture: “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Isaiah 7:12
Psalm 119:160 says: “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”
The reason Jesus was able to withstand the temptations the devil was throwing at Him was because Jesus knew the bigger picture of scripture.
I love Jesus. I do. I read the in the gospels every day and have done so for years now. I want to know Jesus more, I want to spend time with Jesus every day. I love Jesus.
Jesus directly quoted scripture at least 78 times, which is the safe side. Because there are also allusions to Old Testament passages that Jesus makes that aren’t counted as quotes. He quotes from about 27 books of the Old Testament, most frequently from Deuteronomy, Psalms and Isaiah. He also quotes form Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah and Malachi. To name a few.
As the psalmist said, “The sum” of God’s word is truth. Not just the parts we like. Not just the parts that fit within our particular belief system. Not the parts that make us feel good. The Sum. Or as Paul said, the whole Counsel.
Becoming like Christ is something we do every day not in a day, knowing the truth of God’s kingdom has to be a daily pursuit. It’s impossible to build your life on the truth that you don’t know.
I don’t know how familiar you are with the Christmas movie “Elf”, but there’s a scene in it where Buddy is leaving the North Pole to go find his dad. He jumps on a sheet of ice that breaks off and starts floating across the sea. The next scene shows buddy landing on the other side of the shore on a tiny little piece of ice barely big enough to stand on.
The same is true for us who desire to live by the truth and ultimate reality of God’s kingdom, but in reverse. At first, as we begin our walk with Christ, as sure as our faith may be in Christ alone, the diameter of our foundation is small. Yes, it’s solid but it’s small. As we learn and grow, we add more and more foundation. As we learn, grow and walk in God’s truth, the foundation beneath our feet continues to increase in size. Still just as solid as before, but with more room to move around.
Unfortunately, many believers in the world today build their lives on a very small selection of scripture. Most of that scripture has been preselected by whatever pastor’s podcast or sermons they choose to listen to. If you’re entire scriptural foundation is build only on what you learn from me, you’re going to have a small foundation to stand on. Yes, I read the Bible a lot, but when I teach it I can only use small sections.
And because many believers have only this small little footing to stand on, when the waves come crashing over them, it doesn’t take much to knock them off the ice. The ice doesn’t move, it is not shaken by the waves. But, our knowledge of the truth was so limited we couldn’t take even a step to stabilize ourselves and we fall into the frigid waters of Santa land. Satan comes along with his vast knowledge of scripture and because our knowledge is so limited, we have nothing to check his claim against. So, we succumb to the waves.
Jesus, when He was explaining the parable of the sower says this: “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” (Mark 4:16-17). Without a proper footing, without a solid foundation, it’s easy to fall away.
Jesus was able to take the devil’s misuse of scripture and run it through the filter of other scripture to verify that the devil’s claim was false. It was because of this that he resisted the temptation. In our brains we have a system called the “Reticular Activating System.” It’s the brains way to filter the millions of data points around us in a given day to help us focus on what’s really important. This filter is formed our entire lives, from the early points of our consciousness, even in the womb. It’s formed and deformed by all the flawed ways of viewing the world we encounter on a daily basis. We have to programmatically and systematically reprogram this part of our brain with God’s truth, so much so that it becomes the filter through which we run everything.
“But” you might say, “Wasn’t Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit?” Absolutely. Can the Holy Spirit mystically put ideas in our head, sure. Is that the norm? No. What happens to me most when I’m in conversations is the Holy Spirit brings up something I’ve read. Usually, something I’ve read enough times to remember the gist of what is being said.
Paul says to Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)
If we’re going to survive the my truth storm that is raging around us, if we’re going be able to successfully escape the influence of the culture of Egypt that is abundant around us, if we’re going to be able to see the bigger picture of God’s reality that the world is built on, we absolutely must become regular consumers of God’s word. It’s by immersing ourselves in the truth that we know how to rightly handle the truth. And that doesn’t happen by accident. It happens over a lifetime of intentionally spending time in God’s word every day, letting God speak to you through the words on the pages, learning what His voice sounds like so when He speaks to you in your heart, you know, without a shadow of a doubt, this is the reality God wants you to step into.