Monday, June 12, 2006

Every Word that Proceeds from the Mouth of God

“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Note that He did not go into the wilderness on his own, and then happened to be tempted while He was there. No, He went in order to be tempted by the devil. Yet it wasn’t his idea in the first place, since the Holy Spirit took him there (in Mark it says the Spirit drove Him into the desert!). The fruit of what He endured there is, as always, “for us and for our salvation.”

My purpose here, however, is not to talk about temptation, but about the word of God. In the throes of hunger, and with the demonic suggestion that He produce food for Himself by means of a miracle, Jesus reminds us of a piece of Scripture that should be our daily food: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3). We are meant to live by the word of God, to be thus sustained in our spiritual life and guided in our thinking and acting.

As I was reflecting on yesterday’s reflection, the words of Jesus in the Gospels seemed to acquire an even more awesome majesty and power than I had already attributed to them. For if Christ is the center of the universe (He is), and if all things were made through Him and for Him (they were), and if He is the divine and eternal Word of the Father (He is), then we ought to be on our knees every time He opens his mouth to speak the word of life to our souls. The words of Jesus that we read in the Gospels are not merely the words of a sage, a prophet, a holy man, but are the words of God, words conceived in the human consciousness of a Divine Person. As everything in the universe is oriented toward God in its very being, it only makes sense that the words of God should be life and light and joy and strength for us who hear or read them. The Bible does not contain mere advice or counsel or even wisdom. It is Truth, Life, Meaning, a living connection with the Source, the One who designed the universe and your own unique and immortal soul. As the Father said on Mount Tabor: Listen to Him!

One of the great tragedies of our time is that too many people live by every word that proceeds from the mouths of media personalities, from the TV, magazines, movies, and various other opinion-shapers that masquerade as mere entertainment. People live by advertisement-fed desires, by peer pressure, and by whatever offers comfort, pleasure, or material security to their lives, which are always seeking the path of least resistance. But all that is the “bread” (and stale, moldy bread at that) by which Christ said we cannot live. We can perhaps survive for a time on that unhealthy diet, but we cannot live, cannot grow into that which God created us to be, cannot attain the everlasting joy He has prepared for those who love Him. We can only live if we embrace everything that proceeds from the mouth of God, with all that his words entail.

So take up the Gospels and read, listen. God is speaking. Every word is important. Even things that may not seem to apply to you at the moment must be treasured for future reference. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). His word is valid for all times. So don’t look to the latest polls or trends or “alternative lifestyles” to discern the meaning and direction of your life. Live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free—free to find genuine life in the One who made you and who loves you, and who is planning to give you the Kingdom of Heaven. The mouth of the Lord has spoken; the rest is up to you.