"God's Reality Check" #81-26 Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 2, 2014 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker (Why Is The Bible So Important?) Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed and because of Him, we can live life boldly when it really matters most. Amen.
Have you watched a viral video recently? I love the one where the little baby brother, "Charlie," bites the finger of his big brother because the brother puts it in his mouth. Remember him saying, "Charlie, that hurts"? Well of course it did. Or, remember the mom who filmed her two boys the day after Halloween, telling them that she had eaten all of their candy. Those boys were precious, they even became somewhat of a national sensation because of how well they reacted. When something or someone goes viral, it is literally seen in mere hours and days by millions of people all around the world.
These days, people try to get things to go viral too. You might even be one of those people. I know, I know, you're probably not one who's looking for fame and a future from a viral video; but, maybe you're just that someone who forwards an e-mail, or reposts something on Facebook, or retweets a favorite link on Twitter just to see how many people will like what you like or like what you say. And, guess what, if enough people pass along that news item or link, it can reach millions of people in just minutes. If it's helpful information, it can be a great blessing.
But going viral is not just about being helpful or having fun. There are people who've found destructive uses of that process too. For example, if a rumor goes viral, something untrue or even damaging, lots of harm can be done in a very short amount of time. Confusion can take over if something inaccurate goes viral. And there are people who love to help make that happen too.
Here's just a few examples of people up to no good. Someone has started the rumor that Mr. Rogers, of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" television fame; they've said that he was a Navy SEAL sniper. That's not true, by the way. Another one that is even out to hurt our little ones; the rumor is that the animated television show "SpongeBob SquarePants" is going to be cancelled this year. Once again, this is not true. I don't want to panic any SpongeBob fans out there. Rumors, innuendo, false witnesses, public lying; it can be damaging in a world that can go viral in an instant.
So, in a world of viral half-truths and rumors, of spin-doctors and P.R. machines, how do you discover the truth? One helpful tool in that regard is the website "Snopes.com." Snopes evaluates rumors, myths, and urban legends to see whether they're true or not. Hundreds of thousands of people go to Snopes.com every day to check out whether what they've heard is true or false. The researchers of Snopes try to provide the real story behind the rumor. They dig around to find eyewitnesses and accurate data that can help clear up controversy.
Well, today, the Bible wants you to know the truth too; and we're not just talking about day to day rumors or urban legends; we're talking about the truth of the big questions of life, especially the truth of God at work in the world through Jesus Christ. With this word from Peter, he wants to be your "Snopes.com" for the things that ultimately matter in life!
Peter says, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16).
For truth and life, we need to know The Way, The Truth, and the Life. And the Bible says that anyone looking for those things needs to look to Jesus Christ alone for the answers. But already during the first century, about 30 years after Jesus' resurrection, some rumors and false teachings were threatening to go viral about Jesus. False teachers were trying to change the clear message of Jesus as the world's Savior. Some people were adding to the message by requiring special secret knowledge, knowledge they invented. Others were making up stories to discredit Jesus so that they could gain a following and make lots of money.
Some things never change, do they? The Christian faith is still subject to plenty of false rumors even today.
Even now, at this time in our culture, probably the worst false rumor about Christianity is that Christianity is a religious system of rules, regulations, and negativity formulated by human beings to restrict people's lives, drain the joy out of existence, and to churn out haters. The rumor makes the Christian faith about politics and prejudice, power and profit.
David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons surveyed non-church going sixteen to twenty-nine-year-olds and compiled the results in a book called UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity...And Why it Matters. When asked to describe the church, this age group responded with words like: "judgmental," "hypocritical," "boring," "insensitive to others," and "out of touch with reality." The authors reported that even young Christians ages 16-29 "worry that the message [of the church] has become one of self-preservation rather than one of world restoration."
But, dear friend, that story is ultimately a myth. There's all kinds of reasons why it has been propagated, some that even the church may have caused, but that rumor about the Christian faith is false.
So, if you're a believer who has been doubting your own faith, if you're a Christian who has been losing confidence in the purpose of Christianity, take heart. The Apostle Peter is your Snopes solution! He speaks up to debunk the myth. He goes on record, no matter the cost to himself, to separate truth from fiction. So, I'm asking you, my friend, especially if you may have been turned off by the Christian faith or maybe you've been one who has been hurt by people who claim to walk with Christ, please listen to the Apostle Peter as he clears the air and reports the real story, the truth about faith in Jesus Christ for your sake and for mine.
Peter says it plainly, "We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16).
Did you hear it? Peter says it plainly, "The message of the Christian faith is about a Person!" Peter was not promoting a list of religious rules. He was not pushing an ideology. He wasn't trying to gain power. Peter was talking about a Person, unique in all human history, Someone he saw with his own eyes, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Peter tells you about Jesus as he recounts the actual events that he and his fellow disciples, James and John, the things that they witnessed when Jesus was transfigured before their eyes, displaying the complete glory of God. He said about Jesus, "The voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This (Jesus) is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!'" (2 Peter 1:17-19).
Peter was there; saw it, he heard it all. That's why He goes on record for your sake and mine. He saw the glory, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, not just on the mountain, but on the cross. Peter saw Jesus' majesty. It's interesting to note that the only other time this word for majesty is used in the New Testament for God's majesty is immediately after the transfiguration account in Luke, chapter nine. It is used in reference to the event where Jesus ended up healing a boy who was plagued by an evil spirit. After this miraculous healing we hear, "And all were astonished at the majesty of God" (Luke 9:43).
The majesty of Jesus was not seen in a list of rules or an institutional structure He set up. The majesty of Jesus was seen in His loving and miraculous help that He alone could give. He wasn't merely a Miracle Worker, a Healer, or One with authority, He was Savior in the flesh for all.
That's why people believed in and followed Jesus. He helped people. He healed them. He was a Friend of sinners. He showed mercy and brought hope. He did miracles. He spoke the truth. He forgave sins. Jesus was a Person unlike any other.
He declared clearly that He was the One who had come to "seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). And when He suffered willingly, crying out from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), people knew that they were in contact with a Person unlike any other. Even one of the soldiers who helped crucify Jesus shouted out, "Truly this one was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54).
And then, even after Jesus breathed His last, the real story didn't end. Jesus rose from the dead. Peter saw Him alive again. Hundreds witnessed the risen Christ. And they knew that this Jesus offered them something they could find in no other person.
Remember how clearly Jesus Himself spoke about these things. He said of Himself, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). So people followed Him. In His perfect goodness, He gave people the gift of life, real forgiveness from sin and guilt, and a hope that was not just for today, but forever!
That's the real story of the Christian faith. It's a message of, it's a relationship with, the Person of Jesus Christ. Have you heard that before? Did you know that being a Christian is first and foremost about receiving God's life for you as a gift by grace? I wonder if you really knew and believed that, just think about how such real good news would change your life.
Just three years ago, a young woman named Lyndsey McLaughlin was dying as her lungs failed because of Cystic Fibrosis. The twenty-six year old was on the organ donor list for months. She needed new lungs. Lyndsey's mother said, "I used to go to her apartment every day when she really got sick, and I would walk to work crying knowing that my daughter was dying before my eyes and there wasn't a thing I could do about it."
Then a phone call came notifying Lyndsey of an organ donor. Adrian Rodriguez, an eighteen-year old aspiring chef, slipped off a train platform in New York as he was on his way to school. He was rushed to the hospital, but after attempts to save his life failed, he was declared brain dead. Adrian's grieving mother made a decision. She would donate Adrian's organs.
That's how Lyndsey McLaughlin received new lungs. After the successful surgery, Lyndsey wanted to say thank you. Through the New York Organ Donor Network, she found out that Adrian's family was eager to meet her as well. So just a few months ago, Lyndsey McLaughlin met Diana Rodriguez. Lyndsey expressed her gratitude with a heartfelt "Thank you." She said she thinks about Adrian and gives thanks every day.
That's what happens when a person does something extraordinary and another person receives something incredible as a gift. When it happens to you, you cannot help but give thanks. You can't stop thinking about the person who made it possible. You can't stop thanking that person, their family from being a major part of your life going forward. Why, because the gift changed everything.
Well, that's the point about Jesus. His gift of life and salvation really changes everything for everyone.
He sacrificed everything for you and me. He loves you. He earned a new life for you when He died in your place and rose from the dead. In your baptism you received the "transplant" of His holiness, the outpouring of His gracious breath of life. It's no chore to follow this Person. How can you stop thinking about your Savior, your Friend, the One who gave you life, Jesus?
With the Person of Jesus Christ, there is good news for you and, incredibly, with the Person of Jesus Christ, there is also a plan for your life, too.
Peter says, "And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Peter is describing a very good plan outlined in a book called the Bible. For every life struggling in darkness, for every person wrestling with confusion and a lack of clarity, the Apostle Peter lets us know that we have the trustworthy Word of God to lead us and guide us, God's light in our darkness.
Just last winter, two mountain climbers in New Zealand found themselves in terrible trouble. During their descent in a whiteout condition, the experienced climbers became trapped in a crevasse, a deep chasm found in ice and snow. No one could see them. No one could hear them. There was no communication available to the outside world. Desperate for help, the climbers tried the only thing they could think of: they jammed an ice axe in the snow, hung a headlamp from it, and flashed the light to try to attract attention. The climbers dangled in the crevasse for two days. Two avalanches rumbled over the chasm that held them. They shared their meager provisions in order to survive. From a hut on a plateau, rescuers saw the flashing light. A helicopter was called in. It lowered rescue personnel on a line and brought each climber to safety. The mountain climbers were saved because of a lamp.
The Christian faith is not so much a set of dos and don'ts; it is not ultimately a critical diatribe against behaviors and beliefs; the Christian faith is a shining light. It is a life-saving lamp in a world that is dark, treacherous, and deadly; a Godly way out, a Godly way through.
We hear about God's Word in Psalm 119:105; it says "Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path."
The lamp of God's Word unfolds His gracious and loving plan to save us from the crevasse of helplessness, brokenness, and sin. In the darkness of a world that hemorrhages bad news, that is filled with division and violence, that gives empty promises that fail us so easily, God provides a plan that brings us life and hope.
In fact, the Bible even says it clearly, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11-12 NIV).
Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). This is God's plan for you.
Sometimes you feel that you're hanging helplessly in the darkness. Family struggles, personal despair, grief in your heart, feelings of hopelessness, all these things can overwhelm you. You wonder if there are any answers. You crave some real insight, some help, and hope.
I want you to know, dear friend, that because of His love and grace, God speaks to you. He shines the lamp of His Word into your life. He lets you know that all is not out of control. He assures you that He is with you. There is a plan. His plan of grace will prevail. You can count on it. You have His Word and that means everything.
So, today let Peter bring us all a reality check. Lord knows we need that in a world of rumor, false piety, broken hopes and dreams. I hope that you can see the real story, the real story that holds today. I pray that you've encountered that in this message, the Person who really cares for you deeply, who gave His life for you, and who calls you to be His own--Jesus, your Savior.
So, with Peter today, I'm going to rejoice in the Person of Jesus and the plan of God that He has for your life and for mine. I hope you receive it. I hope you receive it and share it. Wouldn't it be great if that went viral today? I think that's exactly what God wants and I know that is exactly what we all need.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for March 2, 2014 Topic: Why Is The Bible So Important?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, Christians are always talking about the Bible; but what makes the Bible so important?
SELTZ: Mark, I'm glad that Christians are talking about the Bible. I hope they do it so other people can hear!
ANNOUNCER: But, these days, many people are forgetting about the Bible, sadly even some churches!
SELTZ: And that's amazing, because we live in a day and age when people are looking for meaning and wisdom, and the Bible is still the most relevant and important resource around.
ANNOUNCER: Why is that?
SELTZ: Simply said, the Bible is God's Word. I know people say other holy books are, but there is no other book in the world like the Bible; and that's really just a fact. And the Apostle Peter says it plainly. It's not a book that people thought up and put together. He said, "No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: So people wrote down the words of the Bible, but the Holy Spirit inspired and even gave them the words they were to record.
SELTZ: Exactly, it's called the inspiration of Scripture. The Apostle Paul talked about it when he said, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV). Other translations of this verse say that the Bible is, "God-breathed" or "inspired." God caused the Bible to be written and formed as His Word for our lives.
ANNOUNCER: And that passage also mentions the benefits of the Bible.
SELTZ: That's right. Not only can we trust that the Bible is God's Word, but we can rejoice in the blessings the Bible brings. As the verse from 2 Timothy 3 says also, God's Word brings us what we need to be complete people, people who are filled with God's goodness and ready to serve Him and others.
ANNOUNCER: And there's even a greater purpose behind all of that.
SELTZ: There sure is. The main purpose of the Bible is to bring us the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Paul says, "it makes us wise unto salvation," and the Apostle John says: "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: And that's more than intellectual information.
SELTZ: Absolutely. In fact, God lets us know that this Word is living; it's active (Hebrews 4:12). So, God's Word, powered by the Spirit, goes deep into our lives. It changes our hearts. It renews our souls. It works, for lack of a better way of saying it. I love what Isaiah, chapter 55 says about the effectiveness of God's Word. It says, "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; says the Lord, it shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that for which I purpose, and send it" (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: And here God promises that His Word will be effective and active. But sometimes that Word is difficult to understand.
SELTZ: The Bible is not always easy to read, especially certain books in it. But, sometimes, I like to say it this way; it helps to know a little bit more about the historical context and the like. But sometimes it's just because we are sinful and don't want to know what it plainly says. But here's the point; God promises that reading His Word will bring blessing. It's clear; it's understandable. Psalm 19 says it this way: "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple" (Psalms 19:7 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: And the Bible is important, too, because it gives us something the world cannot give us.
SELTZ: That's right. In the Bible, we hear a unique, powerful message of a Savior who rescues us from sin and death. In it, we are assured of hope for and hope in heaven, a certain blessing found nowhere else. And, in it there's a Spirit-filled message that leads us, guides us, and gives us an abundant life that the world just can't give. There's no other way to say this; the Bible is an amazing blessing.
ANNOUNCER: And echoing once again the words of the Apostle Peter who says that the Bible is a "lamp that's shining in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19).
SELTZ: Or as the Psalmist says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalms 119:105 ESV). So, if any of our listeners want to get started reading the Bible today, I would recommend they start with the Gospel of John, the fourth book in the New Testament. They'll get acquainted with Jesus and hear words of life from their Savior.
ANNOUNCER: And, if you need more guidance concerning the Bible, please contact us here at the Lutheran Hour. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"God Has Spoken by His Prophets" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
At Sunday school tonight the kids are making care packages for the homeless. The will each take one with them and when they see someone they ( along with their parents) can give it to them. Here is what kids can bring : beef jerky, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, packs of gum or candy, socks, and gloves. See you tonight.
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