“Man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that keeps proceeding from the mouth of God.” Matt.4:4
Three times the devil came to Jesus and each time questioned His relationship with the Father; “If you are the son of God…”. Each time Jesus had to take a stand against these accusations and He did so with the same words; “It is written…”
Notice Jesus at this point did not look to his own earthly record. He never said, “I am the son of God because of what I have done”. If anyone deserved to point to their record as a justification for the blessing of God it was Jesus, but where did He point to in order to resist the devil? He said; “It is written. Man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that keeps proceeding from the mouth of God.” (Matt.4:4). Jesus pointed to the bond between Himself and His Father, to their communion. He refused to be His own source of life, to sustain Himself apart from the Father. This was a consistent truth that Jesus kept returning to; that the persons of the Godhead do not see life as an individual pursuit, but only through relationship. (John 12:49,50. John 14:9-11, John 16:12,13).
The voice of condemnation still points each of us to our record and says; “Call yourself a Christian?” Without a revelation that the source of our new life is our union with Christ, many believers fall into condemnation and discouragement as they attempt to ‘prove’ their Christian credentials by their church work. Instead of growing up in the revelation of their new life as united with Christ (1Cor.6:17, Col.3:3), through being taught about the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17, 2Cor.5:21, Hebrews 5:13), much teaching instead repeatedly points them to their lifestyle; (public behaviour, church-going, Bible knowledge and evangelistic activities) as what will really please God. This unfortunately starts believers off on a treadmill of attempting to enter God’s favour, instead of entering His rest!
Without a foundational understanding that their old, ‘try your best for God’, self, died with Christ (Gal.2:20, Col.3:3) and that now Christ’s life is their life (1 Cor.6:17, Col.3:4), many Christians spend a lifetime still thinking and so living from self-alone. Yet the Cross was God’s way of bringing that old self-alone life to an end.
The image of the Cross looks like the letter “I” with a stroke through it. That is precisely what God did at the Cross. Christ took your old separated from God (sinful) condition and died it away, that you and I would no longer live cut off from Him in our thinking and living, but would live drawing life from our union with Him.
When we are tempted to doubt or despair, it is often because we are looking in the wrong direction; at our natural circumstances, rather than our eternal life. Don’t look at what’s coming against you. Look at who you are hidden in and joined to. To tempt Jesus to despair, Satan pointed Him to the dry and hard environment He was in and claimed that a son of God shouldn’t be in this situation. Jesus’ reply showed that His identity, His very life, was not rooted in what was happening to Him, but in His relationship with His Father. He refused the idea that life could be defined by one’s own performance, or by the accumulation or consumption of natural resources (Matt.4:4, Luke 12:15). Rather true life was ‘being together with’ God. In fact, Jesus defined eternal life in terms of relationship with the Father (John 17:3). Because Jesus knew that through His own life, death and resurrection, man could once more be joined in spirit to God, this is why He was able to declare “I am the life”. As we are taught by the Holy Spirit to think about life as God thinks, then we too come to see that apart from union with God through Christ, men are not really living, only existing! To the world who points to their material gains, the Christian with a revelation of their union with God (in Christ), can (like Jesus) say to the world, the flesh and the devil….”But that’s not life!” Man cannot live on bread alone because He was not made merely for natural things (like bread and possessions), but made for God, for communion with Him and that communion (the very words God speaks to Him) is life itself.
Of course God, as any good Father, desires that men and women are well provided for in the natural realm, but that is not His definition of a “good life”. Imagine if you were the father of a child that had been born in prison and grew up in solitary confinement. Would knowing that all their needs, for food and shelter and even education were being given to them in their cell satisfy you that they were having a “good life”? Knowing the life of relationships they were missing out on, you would know that they couldn’t possibly grow into the person you wanted them to be, apart from those relationships. You would barely describe what they had as life. To you they would be existing in that cell, but not really living.
The difference between being in relationship with God, in communion with Him through Christ and being apart from Him are so great, that to God, anybody living without Christ looks to Him to be in solitary confinement! Think of that. A man or woman may appear to have many friends and a busy social life, yet deep down remain afraid of being alone, for all their human relationships are not fulfilling a deeper desire for communion within their soul, a need only God can fill.
Yet Christians too, without a revelation of how God sees life (as communion), can be so influenced by the spirit of the world (I need more in my life) that they live continually trying to please God as if there is something more He would give them if they behaved better. Meanwhile the Spirit that comes from God is seeking to open their eyes to see that God has freely given all He has to give (Rom.8:32, 1Cor.2:12, 1Cor.3:16,21-23), because perfect love doesn’t give on the basis of our worthiness to receive, but on His willingness to give (Rom.5:8).
So “pray harder, worship better, give more, try harder, one more big push and God will give you what you need”, is a message for the blind leading the blind. Go back to the Cross and look at God in Christ giving everything He has on Calvary, even unto death and ask yourself this question, “Does that look like God is withholding Himself from me until I do better?” (Rom.8:32)
The worst thing someone can do for us is to keep directing our attention off Christ and onto our Christian works. It takes our focus off what Christ has done and shifts our faith off that rock and onto the shifting sands of our performance. That has the same effect as Peter dropping his gaze off Jesus and onto the wind and the waves; we sink into self-condemnation.
Religion says that a man gets what he deserves, so try harder to deserve more. Make every effort to enter His favour. Pray harder, Worship harder. The problem is when that doesn’t work, (and it can’t because God doesn’t bless you on the basis of your righteousness, but Christ’s), the disappointment only makes you harder in your heart. Sit under that message long enough and you will get disappointed often enough in God that unbelief will grow in you because “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Prov.13:12) An unbelieving heart struggles to receive the truth of God’s grace; that in Christ we already have God’s favour! If you will not as a believer repent (change your thinking) about how much you already have in Christ (all you need), then you will never in this life enjoy the rest in your soul that allows the fruit of His life to blossom, for as long as you are striving to enter His favour, you cannot enter into the experience of His rest (Ps116:7, Rom.10:1-4).