Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 92: Trusting the Facts
2 Peter 1:16-21
October 21, 2012
When I was at my old church, I got urban legend emails a lot:
* Scientists with JPL have discovered the missing day from the book of Joshua.
* Oilman drilling off of the coast of Siberia have were able to hear the screams of Hell.
* The FCC is trying to ban all religious broadcasting.
The insufferable know-it-all part of me secretly enjoyed being able to debunk them and set that nice old grannies right.
* But even deeper I hated the gullibility among Christians.
Lack of critical thinking frustratingly common among Christians. It is one of the reasons “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles.”
Q If you are willing to pass on a 30 year old hoax without taking 1 minute to verify it, what does that say about how much thought you have put into the truth of Christianity?
Encouraging critical thinking is one of my personal missions as a pastor. I want Christians to be in the habit of thinking clearly and asking hard questions.
* Faith is not believing stupid stuff, but holding onto what you really believe when you don’t feel it.
I am a Christian because I am convinced it is true, and encourage others to seek and discover. I am confident that it will withstand scrutiny.
MYTH FREE ZONE
Despite what outsiders think, Christianity was always meant to be built on evidence and proof, not blind faith. The writers of the NT never say, “just believe,” but “come and see.”
Luke 1:3-4 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-- this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
And that is the perspective Peter was writing from, not as someone who had blind faith but as someone who was there:
2 Peter 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
The word for “stories” is “myth.” The religions of Peter’s day were built on myths, clever stories about what the gods did, or how they were born or influence or caused earthquakes.
* Christianity is very different in that very real people actually saw it happen; they were eyewitnesses.
NO FAIRY TALE LAND
About ten years ago, Marilyn and I went to Israel. It is something I has always wanted to do and I had received a small inheritance that made it possible.
The last thing I wanted was some fuzzy “feel the Spirit flow in the Holy Land!” thing. I wanted facts, I wanted to understand what was true and what was myth.
We choose to go with “Jerusalem University College” and our guide had her doctorate in historical geography. She would tell us how likely it was that each place was actually what they said it was.
Because of how long ago the Biblical events happened, a lot of sights are guesses, and some of them are not very good guesses. A shrine was set up 1,000 years ago and now everyone says that this is where Jesus fed the 5,000. So we learned to be a little suspicious of any claim.
* Then we went to Capernaum and saw “Peter’s house” and our instructor said it was very likely.
* Here is a closer picture of it.
* And here is a boat from Jesus’ time recovered from the water.
This is probably the place where Peter, the guy who tried to walk on water, denied Jesus, and wrote “we were eyewitnesses” lived. Not fairly land, but a real place. Not myths but historical accounts.
[HAND OUT POTSHERDS]
* I left that trip getting how really real the world that the Bible occurred in was.
1. They were pre-scientific people:
Yet they had a pretty good idea that these sort of things didn’t happen: Joseph assumed Mary wasn’t a virgin. The Greeks laughed at the idea of resurrection.
2. The eyewitness lied:
Peter could have been lying, but shortly after writing this, he chose martyrdom over forsaking his testimony. Furthermore, he preached against profiting for the Gospel; what was his motive?
HIS COMING MAJESTY
Back to the passage, I learned I had been misreading it for years. When Peter says, “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he was talking about his life with Jesus.
* The term “coming” is a very specific term: Parousia, which means Jesus second coming.
What he is saying is, “Yeah, we lived with Jesus as you all know, but we got to see that he was way more than a man. We got to see him in all his majesty.”
2 Peter 1:17-18 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
In this, Peter is retelling the story of the Transfiguration, when Peter, James, and John got to see God temporarily restore Jesus to his former glory.
* There were thousands of witnesses of Jesus the man, hundreds of the resurrected Jesus, but three of Jesus in all his glory.
Because Peter had the image of this Jesus burned into his skull, he had complete confidence that Jesus would indeed return in power as he had promised.
ANCIENT FALSE TEACHERS
This is important because 2 Peter was written to refute certain false teachers that had sprung up among the church. Basically these guys were saying that Jesus wouldn’t ever return.
It is easy to say that End Times stuff doesn’t matter, but it does – what you believe drives what you do. Because they didn’t believe Christ’s return, they didn’t believe in future judgment.
* And because they didn’t believe in judgment, they didn’t care about how they lived; there was no fear of God.
These guys used their position to get the same three things that tempt every pastor: Money, women, and fame.
Second Peter was written to show that these guys were full of it; their beliefs were no more than cleverly invented myths designed to get them what they wanted.
More importantly, Peter is warning Christians to stay true to the historically verifiable events. Stay away from silly myths, hold true to the reasonable faith.
TRUSTING GOD’S WORDS
While false teachings come and go, Peter’s words still guide us. But not just his words, but the entirety of Scripture:
2 Peter 1:19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
In other word, Peter says, “I saw prophecies coming true before my eyes. If I ever doubted the Scriptures (and I did many times, especially after Jesus died), I would bet my very soul on them.”
2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
“Carried along” implies that the Holy Spirit moved them as wind moves a sailboat. The vessel was the author’s – the words, expressions, and experience. But the direction came from God.
* He means NT as well, as we see in 2 Peter 3:15-16
BET YOUR SOUL
Why does he say “above all?” Because you need to be very careful what you bet your soul on.
Q Are you getting direction from God’s words or someone else’s?
I am sure you have seen “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” in all its many variations, including (I am sure) “Tofu Soup for the Vegan Soul.”
* These books aren’t evil and have a lot of helpful stuff, but they are ultimately human wisdom.
But in the dark times of your soul, what are you leaning on, what are you following? Is it a trustworthy guide?
A GUIDING STAR
When I went to school in SoCal, I would drive back in one shot to save on motels. One time, Marilyn was with me, we left L.A. around five PM. At around 4 or 5 AM we got to Sacramento.
We hit the thickest fog of my life, on the freeway, fighting to stay awake, only able see a couple of feet ahead. In fog you are supposed to watch the fog lines, not trust your instinct.
So I watched that fog line for the life of me, it was my “light shining in darkness” and waited for the morning. I remember how welcome that sight was, at first barely perceivable light, then dawn, then morning, and we could see.
WHO ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
There are a lot of ideas out there, how can we know which one to trust? Shall we just ignore all of them? At some point, you have to believe something, even if that something is nothing.
There are still plenty of false teachers and bad ideas, some of them benign (like urban legends), but many of them very deadly:
* Jesus was just a good man.
* God just a loving grandpa, not a righteous judge.
* Any path to God is fine.
You can either trust mans ideas, your own, or place them in something you have good reason to believe came from God.
Q It is common today to say “God is this” “God is that,” but what it that based on? Clever-sounding myths or eyewitnesses?
Peter was an eyewitness, I trust his opinion more than the latest guru.
Q What are you trusting in?
BELIEF HAS IMPLICATIONS
Most of us would more or less agree that we believe in the Bible. But as I said what I spoke on James, belief is only belief if you do something with it.
* If you don’t do, you don’t believe.
So if you do indeed believe that that God spoke through the prophets, that has some pretty big implications:
1. Your job is to understand, not co-opt for your purposes.
Let’s say you are in a platoon that was cut off by the enemy, and now HQ has to communicate with you a plan for getting out, but over unencrypted radio, so it is all in code.
* You would not get the platoon together to figure out what the message “means to you,” you would diligently try to decode it.
Because I believe the Bible really is God’s word, I try very hard to understand it and teach it his intent. Sometimes my preexisting belief is contradicted. Sometimes the party line is.
Q Do you read the Bible for a “pick me up” or for communication from your Lord?
2. You must approach Scripture with humility.
* Thomas Jefferson’s Bible
It is popular to decide which part of the Bible you want to keep, but once you understand, it becomes about obedience.
* You must come to the Bible as its student, not it’s judge.
* Be more suspicious of yourself than of Scripture.
3. You must depend on the Holy Spirit’s help to understand and apply.
The Spirit directed its writing, you need his help to understand, but, more importantly, to do.
* Every time you read the Bible, begin with prayer.
Story of Larry Powers.
* Please text “Sunday School Teacher” ; service is almost over
Q & A