THE BIBLE-IT IS GOD'S WORD
Dear Christian friends,
It was a hot summer afternoon. Two high school girls went for a walk in a very large city. They soon found themselves in front of a huge cathedral looking at some very beautiful stained-glassed windows. An art teacher at their school had recommended the class take a look at these windows the previous Friday. But as the girls stood there they were not impressed. One said to the other, “Looks like a bunch of dirty glass to me.”
An elderly lady, who was walking by at the time, overheard the remark and pulled the two girls aside and said, “You can’t judge stained-glass windows from the outside. You have to go inside.” She took the girls inside. The girls were awestruck as their faces were bathed with a rainbow of colors. The windows were simply beautiful.
(Show a worn Bible) This Bible used to have a nice cover on it and all the pages were bound and in place. Not very nice on the outside, is it? But inside? That’s another story. I have heard people say some pretty silly and stupid things about the Bible, but I am positive they never took a look inside.
Today on this Transfiguration Sunday. We remember how the disciples saw the glory of Jesus on the mountaintop 2000 years ago. Peter speaks to us today about the glory of God found on the pages of Scripture. “The Bible—It Really Is the Word of God.” 1) It is the account of eyewitnesses; 2) It is the product of divine inspiration.
Peter, the author of this letter, was writing to people who were firmly established in the Christian faith. The problem, however, was that they were the minority. He wrote a few verses prior to this one, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” In other words, what Peter was telling them was nothing new. So if you hear things repeated on Sundays or in Bible classes, don’t feel bad. In fact, that’s good. After all, we go out into the same old world and commit the same old sins every day. So it is a good thing when we can hear about the same old story about the same old forgiveness that Christ won for us a long time ago.
There is another reason we need to hear the same things week after week. In this same letter Peter writes to brothers and sisters in the faith. He knows the Devil is going to challenge everyone and anyone’s faith in Jesus. We need to be constantly reminded of the truths and promises that God has given us. Remember when the Devil tempted Adam and Eve with the phrase, “Did God really say that?” They needed someone to say, “Yes, God said!”
I have had people say, “That’s not in the Bible, is it?” We need to be familiar so we can go to chapter and verse. When we are able to do so, someone’s argument with us is no longer between that person and you but between that person and God.
Doubt is what trapped Adam and Eve. Not taking God at his Word is messing with so much danger. It leads to basic and huge questions of the truth God wants us to know. “Did those events really occur?” “Is Jesus really the Son of God?” “Did he really forgive me?” “Is he really coming again?” Doubt replaces unshakeable. Uncertainty replaces truth and faith.
Peter says, “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.” We must remember that many whom God used to write the Bible were people who saw with their own eyes plus their eyes of faith. Peter was one of them. John was another. Both John, Peter and James were on that mountain they day he was transfigured.
John wrote about his encounter with Jesus, “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” The writer to the Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” People like to dismiss this point about eyewitnesses so easily, and they have no business doing so. The Bible is filled with all kinds of eyewitness accounts.
Peter went through thick and thin with Jesus. He saw the Savior despised and rejected. He also saw Jesus heal his own mother-in-law. He saw Jesus do all kinds of miracles of healing. He saw miracles done to nature. He saw and doubtlessly ate the bread and fish Jesus broke for the five thousand and the four thousand.
Believing didn’t come easy for Peter. Along with the other disciples, he had a tough time believing even when he saw. The disciples had an awful time when it came to the resurrection. Jesus even called them “slow to believe.” They were not given to say, “Jesus, I knew you going to come through all along.” In fact, remember how Jesus invited them to touch his side and touch his pierced side to believe it was really after the resurrection. They had to be convinced. And you know what? They WERE. And they wrote these things down.
In this Scripture Peter talks about how they were witnesses. He remembered what he had heard and seen on top of that mountain. “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.”
A personal experience is often a very effective way to get a point across. I am like that and I know many of you are too. A personal example from someone’s life is a real picture for others. Peter says he remembers that personal experience he went through when he, James and John were on top of the mountain and saw Jesus changed right before their eyes. He remembers hearing the voice of God. He remembers being there with Moses and Elijah; he remembers seeing, Christ’s face shining like a bright sun and his better-than-bleached clothes.
After they descended they could tell people that Jesus was not some religious crackpot; he was not even a kind a regular prophet; he was not some Nazarene carpenter’s son trying to make it big. He was God’s Son with whom God was well-pleased. Peter was an eyewitness. Why wouldn’t we believe him?
There was more to come. There were more people who saw. Over 500 people saw Jesus alive after he arose from the dead. Jesus didn’t have one apostle, he had twelve. There were lots of prophets who spoke of his coming.
There are really only a few other books that people claim came from God. Joseph Smith said he received a revelation from God, but you know what? No one was with him. It is called the Book of Mormon. Mohammed said the same thing. He claimed that Allah gave him the words to write down. It is called the Koran. Mary Baker Eddy said she was divinely inspired too. She is the founder of Christian Science and wrote their “bible” - “Science and Health, Key to the Scriptures.” But for each there was only one witness - themselves.
There were many witnesses and writers of the Bible. The Bible presents a whole crowd of witnesses. Many saw with their own eyes and touched with their own hands and heard with their own ears and walked along side him with their own legs.
But not only is the Bible the account of eyewitnesses, it is also the result of divine inspiration. Peter says, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 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.”
In the present day there seems to be two doctrines of the Bible that seems to be criticized more than others: One is creation and the other is what the Bible is and where it came from. When pastors were asked in one mainline denomination where the Bible came from less than 20% said that it is the Word of God. Many say this is an open question for which there is no answer. But do you know that the Bible says over 2000 times this book came from God. The apostle once said, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.” In other words the Holy Spirit spoke through him. Another passage says, “ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The phrase “Thus says the Lord,” is used literally hundreds of times. On the eve of his death, Jesus promised the disciples his Holy Spirit and that same Spirit would remind them of everything he taught them. That promise was fulfilled on Pentecost. Jesus doesn’t lie people. He proved the truth that he speaks to the truth when he promised to rise from the dead and did so.
When Peter says, “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,” we don’t know exactly how all that happened. But one thing we know for sure is that the finished product was the Word of God. The Holy Spirit was somehow working in those pens with which they were writing. What they wrote is what God wanted them to write.
Is there anything more comforting than that? While it is true there are parts of the Bible that we find hard to understand and part of the Bible that truly challenge human reason, there is comfort even in that. We have a God who is greater than we are. If we could understand and fully comprehend all that God said, then God couldn’t be that spectacular.
And yet the main point of the Bible is loud and clear and very understandable. Peter says, “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.” God doesn’t want us to live in darkness. God doesn’t want us not to know the way to heaven. God doesn’t want us to live in hopelessness. God doesn’t want us to be uncertain about our relationship with Him, the one who created us. To rectify that relationship and reconcile us to himself Jesus was promised and sent to be our Savior and light and life. .
But in the end we need to have more than pious words and pious thoughts when it comes to the Bible. We need to do more than speak of it with flowery words. It doesn’t do any good taking up space on the bookshelf or coffee table. It needs to be used. It needs to be read. It needs to be believed and put into practice. Someone once said, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” It is filled with truths and promises and assurances, the foremost of which is that through Christ we are right with God and stand in his favor, here and now and there forever.