Pastor Walther / February 26, 2017 / Transfiguration / 2 Peter 1:16-21
2 Peter 1:16-21 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 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.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, 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. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Is the Bible REALLY the True Word of God?
The glorious spectacle of the Olympics was something to remember this past summer. The Rio Olympics held nothing back. The opening ceremony always seems to impress as they had theatrics and pyrotechnics, dancing and music, athletes from all over the world, and of course the lighting of the Olympic torch and cauldron. The Olympics truly appeared to be a sign of the world working together as it put the human race on the gold pedestal.
Even though the Rio Olympics appeared to be a step forward for the human race, the glory of mankind proved hypocritical as human wisdom only tried to cover up the issues within the political structure of Rio and Brazil. The wisdom of the Olympics and wisdom of the world was simply to turn a blind eye to Brazil’s economy. Rio was broke before the Games even began and things only got worse from there. Everything from corruption to the doubling of the unemployment rate have made it difficult for both Rio and Brazil to stay afloat. It has only taken 6 months for the glorious arenas and venues that were built specifically for the Olympics now to be falling apart and being ransacked by people desperate for shelter or materials.
The world often flaunts its wisdom and forward thinking as if the world has come so far. But there are glimpses of the hilarious shallow nature of the world’s wisdom, unfortunately at our own expense. The wisdom of the world with the Rio Olympics was to unashamedly conceal and look away. And yet interestingly, the world and our sinful minds are never ashamed and never bashful questioning the wisdom of God. For thousands of years, philosophers have considered religion to simply be a crutch to weak minded individuals. You know, just as I do, of the family and friends and the society around us that think that Christianity is silly and that’s it’s narrow minded.
A lot of times we have the same questions and the same doubts. You can’t help but notice that these are the same questions voiced by Satan to Adam and Eve: Did God really say that or did God make it up? Where is this “return” Jesus promised? Is this Bible really speaking the truth or is it a long novel compiled by some fishermen who had the knack for story telling?
And don’t get me wrong, we as a society love a good story. We love going to the movies and we love reading stories. The ancient world was no different, especially in the Greek speaking world where story tellers would promote myths about gods and demigods and heroes battling the antagonist. It was actually a frequent concern for the Apostles in their letters because these myths and stories were made up and yet made to sound wise and learned, made to question what we know as truth.
Even the apostle Peter’s faith in Christ was sometimes shaky, as is ours, because we can often be disappointed by the subtle, hidden way in which Christ comes: The manger, the cross, baptism, and the Lord’s supper promise victory by faith, not by sight or doing. As if Peter is reminding himself, he convinces us with the proof and validity of God’s Word that we are constantly needing. This proof was something Peter never forgot and he didn’t want his friends, like you and me, to ever forget either!
Being the nerd that I am, I love history and have loved studying it since I was a little kid. Because of that, I naturally took extra history classes. You can read and study all you want about history and about war, but it is so stale when you only see it in a book or in a documentary. I always appreciated the time when I was able to interview the veterans in my family or friends to question what happened and how they felt, because I saw history in a different light. I had proof that that moment in history existed and was connected to it because my family members were there putting their life on the line.
And so Peter asks us, “You want proof if Jesus really is God? You want proof that the Bible really is true! I’ve got that! You can trust me because I was there.” Peter, together with James and John, had seen Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. The three were eyewitnesses. They saw what happened, how His face was like the sun and His clothing became like lightning. Peter wasn’t trying to dupe his readers, but he had the facts. He was an eyewitness to this awesome experience.
In today’s experience-minded society, many Christians look to determine the truth or validity of Christianity by experience alone. They look for a particular way that God has worked in their lives or a particular emotion that they felt in order to determine if it’s true. I don’t mean to discredit the fact that God works in our hearts in many different ways. But we can’t simply rely on experience to give validity to our faith, because the apostles didn't and Jesus didn’t describe faith like that either. Peter could have spouted off all miracles he had seen Jesus perform and the experience and the emotion involved in each and every single one of them, but he didn’t because the beauty of the experience faded when something much greater happened. Peter gives the coolest and raddest reason for knowing that Jesus was the truth: It’s because God said so himself. They heard the voice of God the Father come from heaven and declare, “This is My Son!” These three witnesses weren’t just eye witnesses but were ear witnesses, reassuring Jesus’ disciples and reassuring us that Jesus truly is God. No wonder why Peter after 35 years or so fondly recalled all these events.
After seeing Jesus at his Transfiguration, the Bible passages and the Old Testament prophecies that Peter and the apostles had grown up with, all of a sudden made sense, because they knew how God spoke through Moses to his people. God gave him the words. The same was true of every Old Testament Prophet. God gave them the thoughts and the words to preach. They all pointed to Jesus and were fulfilled by Jesus. And in the same way, Jesus wasn’t the product of some drunk fisherman’s story telling. The words of the apostles were the very word of God because they spoke the truth. The Bible is the very word of God, which is why Peter tells us not take it lightly. He tells us to pay attention to it!
Do we always pay attention and treat the Bible as if it is really God’s Word? Sometimes our thoughts and lives are rather careless with the idea that the Bible really is God’s word. Do we see the idea of coming to church as a burden or do we view it as getting to hear what God has to say? Do we live a life devoted to what God’s Word says, or do we live a life that looks far from what Christ earned for us? Do we think that any church denomination will do simply because its more convenient or do we pay attention to what the Bible says? Do we care what the pastor has to say, and the words to the songs, and getting to hear the gospel being preached, or do we care more about the building and the experience?
The wisdom of the human race would tend to dismiss God’s Word as just another interesting myth with some higher truth behind it. Sadly, even many Christians today are treating the Scriptures like a myth, as if they know what God is “really” saying. Because of their agenda, they interpret the Bible to get their agenda across. Satan uses so many of these false teachers to push Christians into all kinds of darkness, simply because people don’t want to hurt each others’ feelings with what God’s Word actually says. False prophets foretold that Jerusalem would never fall, that it would crush the Romans, because that is what Israel wanted! But Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, just like God told his people in simple terms. But that is what human wisdom does best, just like the Rio Olympics. Human wisdom only wants to conceal or look away from the real problem at hand. This was already a problem at Peter’s time.
That’s why Peter explains to us that only God’s interpretation is trustworthy, not human wisdom, because prophecy is NOT a matter of private interpretation. It is the Holy Spirit who moved the writers to write, so only God can reveal its true meaning. Don’t freak out, though. We don’t have to look far for his meaning! God’s Word gives meaning to itself and explains itself.
The bible is so important because it is the truth and it proves itself over and over again. It is actually God speaking to us. It’s ridiculous to think that some people are willing to discredit real events like the Holocaust as if they never happened. It’s ridiculous because we have eyewitnesses and victims of the Holocaust. When it comes to the validity of the Bible, we have the eye-witness, the ear-witnesses, and the prophets who can testify to Jesus and to his return. We have this wonderful portion of Scripture that testifies to the fact that Jesus really was God, that he became flesh and blood for our sakes, that his death on the cross really did count for the sins of all people, that he really did rise from the dead, that he really did ascend into heaven, that he really is with us today guiding and protecting us, and that we simply have a home with our God.
God’s wisdom chose not to just simply dismiss the real problem at hand. He didn’t just look at our sin, throw his hands up in the air and say, “Too bad so sad! Deal with it yourself.” Nor did he put up some grand shell of a building to aspire to that simply conceals the real problem at hand, like the Olympics. No, we see that against all human wisdom, God loved us and removed the real issue at hand. He removed our sin forever. That is a true statement because that comes from God’s Word!
There are so many dark moments we must face in life. But then God’s word sustains us and comforts us like the simple reminder that we are forgiven. The material things of life are short lived, but the truth of God’s word will never change and will never fail. I encourage you to see how the Bible really is God’s Word, just like the apostles did as they heard the words from the Old testament fulfilled every step of the way by Jesus. I encourage you to see what the Bible has to say in your own private time and to get familiar with it, not just here in church. And then try bringing your own Bible to church to follow along and take notes. If you don’t want to listen to the encouragement of a young guy like me, you can’t really argue with the apostle Peter when he says, “Pay attention to it!” Take a sigh of relief and hear what the Bible has to say, because the Bible REALLY is the True Word of God! Amen.