Summary: God gives us his word that we might see to live.
One of the fun parts of a vacation way in the north woods is that we were far from city lights. Gazing across Lake Huron offers a virtually uninterrupted perception of darkness. The black seems solid, so effectively does it hide all other objects. On Saturday night, however, I glanced down the beach and was surprised to see, clearly and distinctly, dozens of campfires. The cloak of night could not stop the light. Like an arrow propelled by limitless force, it pierced the armor of darkness.
Peter must have been familiar with darkness, as everyone of his day was. No thousand-watt municipal street lamps ripped open the night. He saw the small, oil lamp a mile distant. And it gave him an idea for illustrating how to use the Bible. God gives us his Word, that we might see to live, even in a dark world. [Read 2Peter 1.16-21. Pray.]
On June 23rd in Nashville, Indiana, the Brown County Chamber of Commerce held the Fourth Annual “Tall Tale Tell-Off.” Contestants pay $5 each to tell a story that is “plausible but not possible, a proximity to reality.” It is a contest with a $1000 prize for the person who can tell the best fib. You know, of course, that West Virginia must have a similar event. The prize is different — a golden shovel and the prestigious title, “Biggest Liar,” until Memorial Day weekend of the next year.
Telling big whoppers with only some “proximity to reality” did not originate in West Virginia. We have been “stretching the truth” since The Fall in Genesis 3. Nor is the subject of religion exempted from myths and tall-tales. People have lied in the name of God throughout human history.
King Ahab was famous for promoting deceptive preaching in Israel. He reacted badly when a prophet gave an unpleasant sermon, so they “cleverly devised myths” to protect their own lives. One time, when Micaiah was summoned to tell Ahab what would result from his military plans, another prophet pulled him aside and said, “Listen, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” “Save yourself!” Micaiah ended up in jail.
The pattern continues through Jewish history. Even as Jeremiah laments the desperate need of God’s people in exile, he offers little hope because, “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading” (Lamentations 2.14). Israel demanded soft sermons to tickle the ear, but now the blunt edge would not pierce a hard heart.
The New Testament church, likewise, was threatened by “religious” lies. The Bible books entitled, 1Timothy, 2Timothy, and Titus, are known by Bible scholars (as a set), as, “The Pastoral Epistles,” because they are Paul’s two training manuals for young pastors. In these letters, the mature and experienced Apostle warns both Timothy and Titus (his two young interns) of the danger of false stories masquerading as the true faith.
1Timothy 1.3-4: “Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”
Titus 1.13-14: “Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.”
And Peter warns the church of the same risk in the letter we are studying this morning.
2Peter 2.1-3: “But false prophets also arose among the people [in Old Testament times], just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them…. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words….”
We ought to note that the story of Jesus is particularly susceptible to wild exaggeration because it is such a fantastical tale. God comes to earth as a man and is slaughtered as a lamb to make all things right. Then, “up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes,” and disappears into the sky to prepare a mansion for his people. Those who believe are to wait, watchful and patent for his return inaugurating a new heaven and new earth. No wonder Peter was criticized: “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2Peter 3.4).
So can we trust the Bible? Peter gives two reason you should trust his story.
1. We Must Trust This Story Because of the Witnesses (2Peter 1.16-18)
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had a article about the debate in Birmingham between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox. Mr. Dawkins is the infamous atheist who said “Christianity is dangerous,” and called the Bible Belt States the “reptilian brain of southern and middle America” in contrast to “the country’s cerebral cortex in the north and down the coasts.” Mr. Lennox is a professor of philosophy and mathematics at Oxford, as well as the Chaplain of Green College. At one point in the debate, Mr. Dawkins said, “for all Mr. Lennox’s attempts to show the scientific existence of a creator, he still cannot prove that Jesus was the son of God or that he was resurrected.”