God's Word, a Lamp in a Dark Place
Copyright © 1978
Indian Hills Community Church
2 Peter 1:19-21
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh on April 28, 1996)
We are at the close of the first chapter of 2 Peter today. As we conclude the first chapter, we are preparing to move into what becomes the central section of the book, which will focus on the danger facing believers in the presence of false teachers and false doctrine. Peter will show a great concern for the spiritual health and well-being of these believers as he anticipates the time when he will no longer be present with them. Know one thing about the devil and his work in opposing God and the people of God. He is not particularly original, and I do not mean that in a disparaging way. I have great respect for the devil and his power and brilliance, and yet as we look at the way that he has worked down through history, there is almost a boring sameness to it. The plan or the pattern is basically the same. It is just done in different dress time after time. This is true going all the way back to the beginning.
Let us look in the Old Testament at the background of the material Peter is going to be addressing at the end of chapter 1, regarding the place of the word of God in our lives as God's people. Turn back to Genesis 3:3. In the garden of Eden, we find Satan, using the serpent, to address the woman. At the end of verse 1, he raises a question: "...Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?'" The woman said, "Well, we can eat from all the trees except one." Verses 3-4: "But from the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' The serpent said to the woman, 'You surely shall not die!'"
If you mark your Bible, highlight, underline or circle God has said in verse 3, then do the same to the last three words, you will die. That is what God said would be the result of their disobedience. "God has said...you will die." Then underline in verse 4, "The serpent said... 'You surely shall not die.'" See the contrast? "God has said...you will die," compared to "The serpent said... You surely shall not die.'" You see, the plan of Satan to attack the veracity of God. "Can God be believed? Indeed, has God spoken truth that will come about?" Satan launches an attack on the very word of God. Satan claims that what God has said will not happen.
Not only is the truthfulness of God brought under attack, but Satan continues by offering an alternative explanation to what God has said. Satan says in verse 5: "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." You ought to underline in verse 5, you will be like God. Do you see what he has done? Not only did he say that what God said is not true and it will not happen, he adds that there will even be benefits if you do not believe what He said and if you disobey. There, in a concise way, you see the plan of Satan, and it has not changed down though history to this very day. He launches an attack on what God has said in an attempt to undermine the confidence we have to believe the word of God. Then he follows up by trying to show the benefits that will come if we do not do what God has said. That plan has worked again and again down though history. Of particular concern is the effectiveness of that plan with and among the people of God. This plan particularly works when Satan deals with people who have received the word of God as Adam and Eve had done.
1. Battle Always Focuses On the Word of God
The battle always focuses on the word of God. That is why it is absolutely essential that we, as the people of God, be firmly, unshakably, anchored in His truth. Some people like to say, "Oh, we worship a person, not a book." If somebody says that to you, ask him to tell you everything he knows about this person apart from the book. God has ordained that all we know about Jesus Christ is contained in this book. All that we know for sure about God is contained in this book. The explanation of the revelation of creation must come though this book. Personal experiences, to be understood, must come in light of the interpretation from this book.
As Moses prepared for his departure from this earth, having led the people of Israel for 40 years, he gave them extensive instruction in Deuteronomy, chapter 32. Drop down to verses 45-47: "When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, 'Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life...'" Do you see what the word of God is to the people of God? It is their life. Moses' concern was that God's people will continue after his death to devote themselves to the word of God, to live under its authority, to obey its instructions.
Turn over to the book of Joshua. Joshua was the successor of Moses as the leader of Israel, and in chapter 1 we have the record of God's conversation with Joshua after the death of Moses. And He says - pick up in the middle of verse 5 - "...Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous..." - jump to verse 7 - "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you' will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." See how it is all intertwined? Be strong and courageous, do not be dismayed, the Lord God is with you, keep the word of God on your mind all the time. Meditate upon it day and night, think about it, allow it to shape your life, mold your thinking, control your conduct, because as Moses said, it is your life. This brings the blessing of God and the confidence of God into the lives of God's people.
Turn to Isaiah, chapter 8. For some reason, even God's people
constantly want to drift. The
only explanation is the spiritual warfare in which we are involved and the sinfulness of the human
heart. God's people are like children. You know how you are with your children. You give them
clear instructions. You are going out for the evening, so you write down the instructions. You remind them
of how important it is to do what you have told them. But when you come home, they have not done
it. "Oh, I forgot to read it! I was watching television." I am afraid we are like that spiritually as
well. God says, "Here it is in black and white. It is in the book. This is your life. Focus on it,
meditate on it, live it." As David said, "I esteemed your words more important to me than my
daily food, more precious than riches of gold and silver."
God uses Isaiah as His spokesman. Look at Isaiah 8:19-20: "When they say to you, 'Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,' should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn." There is no light. They are in darkness. Where do the people of God go for information? To God. To His word. Note that verse 19 says they should consult their God. The word of God they had at that point was the law and the testimony. That is where you go to find out what God has to say. Yet Israel is thinking about going to the mediums and spiritists.
2. A God Good Only for Yesterday Lacks Worth
We see the same from the people of God today. Yes, it is wonderful to have the Bible. But they are off chasing after this or that, then they chase after something else. "Yes, the word of God is fine, but we need more answers. We need more help. We need something more practical, more pertinent. We need something more for today." Should not a people consult their God? If your God was only good for yesterday, He is not much of a God. If He was only good for the problems of ancient history, He is not a God worth being God. You say, "That is blasphemy!" Exactly! We maintain good doctrinal statements, but if we are not careful we live denying lives.
Turn to Galatians 1:6. The Apostle Paul brought the gospel to the Galatians. Now he writes them a letter and says, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you..." Paul is saying, "I am amazed. It has not taken you any time at all to desert Jesus Christ "...who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another..." The thrust of that word different is that it is a totally different gospel. It is a totally different kind. It is not another one like Paul's; it is totally different. Verses 8-9: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed!" You know what happens? In no time at all, people who heard the truth and responded in faith to the truth are swayed by false teachers who come along and want to move them away from the truth.
That is what Peter is concerned about in 2 Peter. His departure from this earth through death may happen at any time. He said in verse 14 that his death is imminent. He realizes that he may be taken to execution at any time, so he wants to remind them of these truths of God's word and of His Son, Jesus Christ. Why? So that even after he has gone from this earth, these believers will continue to call them to mind, verse 15. To assure them that what he has said is indeed true, he gives two lines of evidence and support at the close of chapter 1.
The first in verses 16 to 18 is that Peter and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He relates to them a summary of what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, which was a preview of the glory and the power that will characterize Jesus Christ when He comes in glory and power to establish His kingdom on this earth. So Peter is saying, "When I preached to you Jesus Christ and a gospel that has as its culmination the return in glory of our Lord and Savior, I want to tell you I have had a preview by God's grace. I saw Him! I heard the voice from heaven. You can believe that this is indeed true."
3. Scriptures Provide Unshakable Confidence in God's Revelation
Now with verse 19 he picks up a second argument regarding the reliability and truthfulness of what is being preached about Jesus Christ, and that is the prophetic Scriptures. The Old Testament Scriptures are absolutely reliable. They are the word of God, and they testify to Jesus Christ as well. See what Peter is doing? He wants these believers to have an unshakable confidence in the revelation that God has given. That revelation is all we have. God is a spirit. No man has seen God at any time, and none of us has seen Jesus Christ, who became a man. We realize that all we believe and all that we know and respond to in faith is contained in this book. If this book is unreliable, we have nothing. That is why the first move of the devil is to undermine confidence in what God said. Satan says, "You really believe that is what God said?" We start to stammer, "I, ah..." Satan jumps right in. "No, that is not true. Let me show you why it is not true." Then he begins to dismantle the word of God, and pretty soon believers are shaky and in a position to be brought to confusion.
Peter wants his readers to be confident and unshakable even after he is gone from the earth. Look at verse 19: "So we have the prophetic word made more sure..." That little word So that begins verse 19 is the Greek conjunction kai, which normally is translated and. So verse 19 literally would start: "And we have the prophetic word more sure..." Peter is saying, "Here is the second line of evidence to give you confidence in what I have been saying." In verse 16, he said, "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ..." In effect, he is saying, "You can have full confidence in the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for two reasons: first, because of the experience of the apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration, and second, because we have the prophetic word made more sure."
The prophetic word is a reference to Old Testament Scriptures, which have their fulfillment and focus in Jesus Christ. Remember after His resurrection from the dead that Jesus met with His disciples and explained how Old Testament Scriptures related to Him. Luke 24:27: "Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in the Scriptures." Verses 44-45: "Now He said to the, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." He took them back to the Old Testament Scriptures, to the law, to the Psalms, to the prophets, and showed how it all related to Him, His coming, His death, His glory. The Old Testament Scriptures - the prophetic word - have as their heart and center Jesus Christ.
So we have the prophetic word, the Old Testament Scriptures, "...made more sure." Note the word made in your Bibles is in italics. When you translate from one language to another, you try to clarify things - "...the prophetic word made more sure..." I think that might be a little bit confusing. I think Peter basically is saying, "We have as very sure the prophetic word. So, first you have the testimony of us apostles regarding what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration. And secondly, we as God's people have a very sure prophetic word, a prophetic word that is very firm and thus so totally reliable that we can have our confidence in it. We have the prophetic word as very sure, very firm, very settled."
4. False Teachers Are Frighteningly Effective
"...to which you do well to pay attention." We will see some of the explanation of this when we get to verse 21. In verse 20, he makes basically the statement that we do have the Old Testament Scriptures and they are very sure, very firm, and you do well to pay attention to them. Here we get to what is at the heart of the issue. The false teachers supposedly will bring additional information. In their teaching, they will effectively move people away from a firm confidence in God's word. As chapter two begins, Peter warns them in verse 1 that there will be false teachers among them just like there were false prophets in the Old Testament. Note verse 2: "Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned." The frightening thing about false teachers is that they are effective, and often they confuse believers and discredit the word of God. Peter says, "You do well to pay attention to the Scriptures" - to the word that God has given them.
This is a word of encouragement so that they might continue their focus on the word of God. We never outgrow God's word. We have to remind ourselves just like we do with our children in our homes. Sometimes we are telling them something, and we know they are not listening. Why? They think they have outgrown the need to hear that, but they really have not. So you try to impress upon them to pay attention. Often we are like that spiritually. "Well, you know I have been a believer now a number of years. I have been through the word; I know pretty much what it says. I do not know everything, but I know it pretty much, and..." It is like we have outgrown the need to be seriously involved in the word of God in an in-depth way.
But do I ever outgrow God? I mean, this is the revelation of His person, His mind. He is infinite. One thing I have come to realize is after years of studying and teaching the word of God I know far less than I thought I knew when I started. I used to be concerned about what I was going to do when I finished preaching God's word. Now I know. I will be in glory before I even scratch the surface because it is an infinite God, and His word is the revelation of an infinite God. That is why we have a hard time doing more than one or two verses each Sunday. We are doing three today. Be of good cheer.
"...you do well to pay attention..." Now note the comparison, "...as to a lamp shining in a dark place..." Know the word of God is compared to a lamp shining in a dark place. The psalmist said in Psalm 119:105 - a verse that many of you have memorized - "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." The word of God sheds light to enable me how to live, how to proceed. This world is characterized by darkness. This particular word for darkness is interesting. It has to do with filth and dirt which shows up when it is put to the light. It is the only time this particular word for a dark place is used. And this world is a dark place, characterized by filth, corruption, vileness. The word of God is a lamp to show you how to proceed, to keep you on the path.
5. Lamp in Dark Places Stirs Up Animosity
It also reveals the filth of the world for what it is. I was called to be interviewed for an article or program on same sex marriages this week, and by the grace of God I was not able to get back to the person for the interview. You know I would have had something to say on that subject. But what I have to say is out of step with what is going on in the world. How does the world operate? They want to ask people, "How do you feel about this? Let us interview some people who are doing it. They say good has come out of it. Their lives are much more satisfying now." But what happens when you bring in the light of the word of God? It is revealed for the filth that it is. That is why they do not want to hear what the Bible says. It stirs animosity. Why? You bring the lamp into the dark place.
Suppose we turn off all the lights, and I walk in. You have never seen me, and I begin to describe my appearance as having wavy, black hair, olive-colored skin, teeth like pearls. Somebody turns on the light, and the reality is a disappointment. Why? The light has come. That is what the word of God does. It is a lamp, a light in the midst of darkness. And this world is pictured as dark. 1 John 1:5 tells us "...that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we are involved in a spiritual warfare against the spiritual forces "...of this darkness..." - the darkness that characterizes this world, spiritual darkness. People stumble along in that darkness. They have no concept of right and wrong, good and bad. Worse yet, they do not want the light brought to the situation to reveal their wretched condition. They want to pretend it is different than it really is.
But we, as God's people, are to give attention to this word as a lamp in a dark place. You know what happens when you are walking through the woods at night. You have a flashlight, but the batteries get weaker and weaker and you can see less and less. As a result, it gets more difficult to walk safely. There is nothing new in how the devil works. He seeks to remove, however subtly, the word of God as the focus in the lives of the people of God. As a result, the light they have is dimmer, not because the light is dim but because the people of God are not utilizing it. Pretty soon the people of God are stumbling around and are susceptible to deceptions. "Oh, walk over here! Walk over here! It is safe over here! It is okay here!" And you see the people of God stumbling around.
What is wrong? When you take a stand as to what the word of God says, people say, "Oh, you are too harsh!" I am not saying we should be harsh, but we must be firm, and some people do not know the difference. The word of God has spoken. We have light. Now people in the darkness who have never seen me may not know that I do not have black, wavy hair and olive-color skin and all that goes with it. But those of you who have seen me in the light know. We are to be a people of the light in this darkened world. Concern for me is not that the world is in darkness; the concern is that the world is trying to dim the light. That is why the devil is happy. We have less and less focus on the serious study of the word of God in our pulpits today. What happens? People are not giving attention to the lamp that shines in the midst of darkness. "Oh, we are doing good things. We have life-oriented preaching. We have practical sermons. We..." Those are all different ways of saying, "The devil is at work."
6. We Must Pay Attention to Lamp Until Christ Returns
When we get to chapter 2, we will see how these believers get deceived and deluded by false teachers. They do not pay attention to the lamp in the dark place. Peter goes on: "...you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until..." When will you outgrow the need to do this? When there no longer will be the need to pay attention to this lamp in the dark place - "...until the day dawns..." I take it the day dawns is a reference to the return of Christ in glory. In Romans 13:12, Paul says, "The night is almost gone, and the day is near..." That is the picture. The word of God is a lamp in the lives of believers who are in the world today. But when Jesus Christ comes, the day will dawn. The fullness of the glory of God will cover the earth because the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. So when the day dawns, that is when I will no longer need to pay attention to the lamp. There will be the word of God, but it will not be a light in the midst of darkness because the light will cover the world. No one will need to teach others the word of God because everybody will know, as the prophets have told us.
"...and the morning star arises..." The morning star is usually viewed as the planet Venus. Just before the sun comes up over the horizon, its light reflects off that planet. You know the sun is about to rise because the brightness of that planet increases as the light is reflected, and so the morning star arises. That is the picture here. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus said, "I am...the bright morning star." Along with His coming will be the dawning of the day when a kingdom is established over which He will rule and reign. But we, as God's people, sometimes think, "It has been almost 2,000 years since Peter wrote that. Do you think we still have to give the same attention and diligence to it?" Well, has the day dawned and the morning star arisen? No. Is Jesus Christ here ruling over the earth in all His glory and power? No. Then be diligent. Give attention to the word of God. It is the lamp in the midst of darkness; do not fool yourself. If you do not pay attention to the lamp, you will stumble in the darkness.
Why is there so much confusion, turmoil and disarray among the people of God these days? Keep in mind when Joshua, back in Joshua 1, was told not to fear or be dismayed. Why not? Because God told him he would have success as long as he meditated on the book of law. He was told not to let it depart out of his mouth. He was told to stay focused on it. What happens is that we lose our focus on the word of God, then confusion and uncertainty comes in. Then the devil comes with his alternative, and we are moved further from the word of God, further from the light. We become confused, and we go from bad to worse. Yet you get accused of being simplistic when you tell God's people to get back to the light.
You know, we have done a beautiful thing in our bedroom. We put a coffee table at the bottom of the bed. It is a terrible place for a coffee table. I know it is there, but I get up at night and invariably I have got to find the coffee table. Once in a while I am sure I know where the coffee table is, and I start walking - Oww! Marilyn says, "What happened? What happened?" I say, "I hit the coffee table! Why do you have this coffee table here? We do not have coffee here! Take it out of here!" But all I have to do is turn on the light. I never bump into the coffee table when the light is on. Turn on the light!
7. Believers: Get Back to the Light
Why is not it that simple for believers? They stumble around, and their lives are in confusion. They are overwhelmed by fear. They do not know for sure what the will of God is. They are muddling around, and you say, "Get back to the light!" And they think you are being overly simple. They say, "You really do not love people, do you. You have a simple answer for everything." Yes. "Turn on the light! If you do not want to bump into things, turn on the light. If you want to bump into things, please do not call me. Get back to the light." The church is in such a mess because people do not know whether they ought to be marching for Jesus or doing prayer concerts. They do not have the foggiest idea. Get back to the light. It is not so difficult. "Oh, you think you know more than anyone!" No, I do not. I know I do not. Give me credit; I am stupid! But I know God knows more than anybody. He has given them the light. He says this is to be your life. You have to live it. It is you.
That is why I have such concern for the adults in this congregation.
Do your children - the
young people of this church - know that the word of God is your life? Do they say of their parents,
"Yes, they are like David. The word of God is more important to them than their food. It is more
important to them than material things. It is their life." Or do they hear you say, "You know, I
do not like getting up early Sunday mornings. We do not need to be in church."
In talking to our people who work with young people, part of the problem we have with children is that their parents do not want to come to Sunday school. It is hard to get the kids here without the parents. I say, "Well, that is a great model! And they are going to wonder why their children will not have much time for church as they get older." But do you know why your kids will not have time for church, for God? Because the word is not your life. I realize the kids are wretched little sinners; we raised a couple ourselves. But that is why it is all the more important to keep the light as the focus. They must see the light in your life. They must know that it is your life, that it is everything.
"...until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." There has been some discussion about this, and I had several views I was going to mention. But I will just go to the one I think is simple. Grammatically here, I think in your hearts connects to you do well to pay attention because the next verse begins with a participle - "But know this first of all..." - or knowing this first of all - "...that no prophecy..." That knowing goes back to you do well. I think the flow here is, "You do well to pay attention in your hearts, knowing that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." That is the flow as I see it. We do not have the beginning of verse 21 translated as a participle. We have it translated as for - a preposition. But it is really a participle - knowing "...that no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will..."
8. Scripture Is not Matter of One's Own Interpretation
So it is in your heart that we do well to pay attention until the time when Jesus Christ comes in his glory, and the fullness of His presence is here. Verse 20: "But know this first of all..." - or, knowing this first of all. Peter calls attention to the fact that this is of prime importance in understanding the Scripture. He is saying, "This is the basics. This is foundational. Everything else unravels if you do not have a firm handle on this. Knowing this "...first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." Nothing that the Scripture has prophesied or said is a matter of one's own interpretation. The word translated interpretation means to unloose something, to explain something. So interpreted is a good translation. This is the only time in the New Testament that this particular word is used.
This word often is used outside of Biblical passages in the context of explaining or interpreting puzzling or mysterious statements, riddles, dreams, visions. I think that is what is in view here. Peter is saying that God used signs, dreams and visions when He spoke to the prophets. The prophets did not give their own interpretation of those events; God gave the explanation to the prophets. So, no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, meaning the prophets' own interpretation. The explanation of verse 21 provides clarification: "For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will..." It was not the activity of the human prophet that provided the interpretation and explanation of the events that transpired. It was the work of the Spirit of God in the prophet that brought God's word through the prophet.
This is in direct contrast to the way false prophets operated. Turn back to Jeremiah 23:16. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility. They speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord." You see, that is what all the false prophets did. They gave their own interpretation. They said they had a vision. They had a dream, and they told you what it meant.
I read a book recently titled Hippo in the Garden by James Ryle, a Colorado pastor and a key figure in the Promise Keepers organization. Ryle believes God speaks to him though dreams and visions. I think the man had too much pizza before he went to bed. Hippo in the Garden was one of the dreams that he had. A man was leading a hippo into the garden. The man represented God; the hippo represented the spirit of prophecy that was going to come into the church and bring about drastic changes. Then he gave an interpretation out of his own imagination. The book already is in its fifth printing, which shows how those who profess to be the people of God run after this foolishness. Do not believe it! How do they get conned into this stuff? It just is not true.
Look down at verse 25 in Jeremiah 23: "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, 'I had a dream, I had a dream!' How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even those prophets of the deception of their own heart." People often ask me, "Do you believe these men really know they are being deceptive?" I think a lot of them are self-deceived. Their own hearts have been deceived. When you move away from the word of God, you can totally deceive yourself, including those prophets, verse 27, "who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal?"
9. Believers Turn from Truth to False Revelations
See what is happening? We have the signs-and-wonders movement, and there is all this emphasis on dreams and prophesy. What happens? It makes people forget the true and living God. It moves them away from the truth of God to the visions and revelations of these false prophets. Turn over to Ezekiel, chapter 13. In verse 2, Ezekiel is commanded: "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration..." That is why Peter says the true Scriptures we have did not come from the prophets' own interpretation. Verse 6: "They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, "The Lord declares,' when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word."
I read in yesterday's paper that a well-known faith healer from Florida is coming to Omaha. He has a church of 10,000 people down there. The doors will be open two hours early, and they will be closed when the auditorium is packed. Do I think he really heals people? I think he hopes for the fulfillment of his word. According to the article, a magician who is associated with Campus Crusade has been analyzing this man's ministry over the years. Being a magician, he is aware of how people can be fooled. "After all these years," he says, "I am still waiting to see one true miracle of healing." But 10,000 still people flock to his church in Florida, and probably thousands will flock to the meetings in Omaha.
What is wrong? People of God today are just as gullible as they were in Old Testament days. We see in verse 6 that the false prophets "...hope for their fulfillment of their word." Verse 7: "Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, 'The Lord declares,' but it is not I who have spoken." Note in verses 8-9 that God takes this seriously. "Therefore, thus says the Lord God, 'because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore behold, I am against you,' declares the Lord God. 'So My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will have no place in the council of My people..."
Could God be any clearer? God's people need to pay attention to the light in a dark place. Otherwise, they sit back and say, "You know, here is a person who says he was healed of diabetes. We just should not say that it did not happen." And on they go, muddling around. I say, "Go to the light and find the truth. Then pay attention to that lamp in the midst of darkness." Verse 10: "It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, 'Peace!' when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, they plaster it over with whitewash." That is a warning that this is just whitewashed teaching. There is a splash put over it to make it look genuine, to make it look good, but do not be deluded.
Come back to 2 Peter. You can be absolutely sure that Peter had the entire Old Testament, just as Jesus did during His earthly ministry. The entire Old Testament was the Bible of the Jews. When we get to chapter 3, verse 15, Peter will include the writings of Paul, one of the apostles, among the inspired Scriptures. So you can have absolute confidence in the Scriptures. None of it - not one word - came from the prophets' own dreams and interpretations. Verse 21: "For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will..." This is strong grammatically. No prophecy ever happened this way. Not a single prophecy ever was given at any time by an act of human will, so you can have full, absolute confidence in everything the Bible says.
10. Holy Spirit Imparts Truth Through Godly Men
We saw acts of human will by the actions of those false prophets we read about in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and those were just samples. The prophetic literature is full of such accounts. How did it happen then? "...but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." Note that you do not remove men from this. Men are the spokesmen, but the false prophets are men who come up with their own dreams or their own interpretations of their dreams. Men who are God's spokesman are moved by the Holy Spirit. The word moved is a picturesque word. It is also used in the book of Acts, where it speaks of the wind carrying a ship along. It means to carry something along, to bear it along. God's spokesmen, then, were carried along by the Holy Spirit. When they gave the Scriptures, they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit, and so they spoke from God.
What you have here is the mixture of a human instrument entrusted with God's words. How do you know he does not mess it up? They were carried along by the Holy Spirit. That is how it happened. Unbelievers do not understand it. They constantly say they are going to find errors and things that are not true. They are going to try to undermine confidence in the Scriptures because Isaiah was only a man; Jeremiah was only a man. But you see, when God wanted to speak through a man, the Holy Spirit carried him along and guaranteed he would not mess it up. Peter referred to this back in 1 Peter 1:10. "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquires, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow."
This work of inspiration is a marvelous work. You will note this inspiration occurred not only when the prophets were speaking live, but Peter says this also is true of the record we have of the prophetic words. They did not just become a human typewriter or computer. God selected the various individuals in order to use their personalities and uniqueness to communicate His words exactly as He wanted it shaped by their personalities, which were all under the control of the Holy Spirit. That is why we have a book that is absolutely trustworthy and completely reliable.
11. Different Translations Do Not Influence Inspiration
Yet we still have - if I can use the Biblical phrase - unlearned and ignorant men who constantly come up with dumb questions like, "Well, look, my translation is different than yours." That has nothing to do with the issue of inspiration. Anybody who knows anything about the text is not using that argument. They may reject the text, but it is not because we do not have a faithful and accurate text. One of the leading scholars of the past generation, who himself was not a believer but devoted his life to the study of the Greek text of the New Testament, thought it was foolishness that people would be trying to argue against whether we had a reliable and faithful text. So certain questions that sound impressive come out of ignorance.
What we do have is God providing to us an accurate record. Here we have the seal of God on the record we had, particularly through the Old Testament Scriptures, and we will see it applied to the New Testament Scriptures when we get to the last chapter of this book. This is the word of God. God speaking through men. How do you know those men did not foul it up? Do you believe there is a God? If so, does He have power? Yes! So when God the Holy Spirit carried them along, do you think He dropped them once or twice? No. Then there is no mistakes. That does not mean I have all the answers. It means I have truth that I yet do not understand in places. But it is truth. Now if we had that kind of unshakable commitment to the word of God, why would we look in other places at other things. If God has spoken, should not a people consult their God? And if your God is not adequate for the problems and difficulties of this life, then you ought to find another God to worship.
I was reading a theological magazine before I came this morning. In it were testimonies of various people who have graduated from this theological institution. They were saturated with such things as, "Now I am going out to help people learn to integrate healing, health and psychology into their lives as believers." I do not need it. I do not go to the spiritists who peep and mutter. I consult my God. "Oh, but the unique and overwhelming problems of today." Yes, I have an all-powerful God. I consult Him. I pay attention to the light in the darkness. I do not go out and grope around in the darkness hoping I might stumble on something that will be good. I take the light.
Now this is preparation so that when we start chapter 2, beware, there will be false teachers among you just like there were false prophets among the people. They are clever, effective and appealing, but false. Pay attention! Keep the light ever before you. I trust to be a testimony in this church until Christ comes, so that people will say of us, "They are devoted to the Scriptures. That is their life. They believe that has all the answers; it is everything." I hope we serve as a model for the generation coming up, so we can clearly show them we are a people who are totally absorbed with the word of God. I want them to hear us say, "I never get enough of it. It is my delight to be here early on Sunday morning to study with God's people. It is my delight to study it in worship. It is my delight to come back on Sunday night. It is my delight."
I do not want the young people in this church to say, "Boy, they did not enjoy it, but they made themselves do it because they just had to." That does not sound like David to me. Remember, he considered it better than food and more important than riches. "But, oh, I am too tired to go to church tonight." I will bet if your kids watch you, they will not find you too tired to eat. We have got to model the importance in order to pass it on to the next generation so they will grow up with a sense of that importance.
12. Give Young People a Running Start Toward Truth
I think it is true as well for the children who are not yet believers. I believe part of what we do with our young people is to bring the word of God before them and build it into their hearts and minds so that when by God's grace they do come to believe, they have a running start. They do not have to start out saying, "Where is Genesis? How do you find Nehemiah? Is that after Revelation?" No, I can not save them. But we can give them a thorough exposure to God's truths, and we can pray that God in His grace will touch their hearts. And you can model it by the way you live and in the commitment of your life. This is our life. This is what Indian Hills Church is about. We are devoted to pay attention to it as a lamp in the midst of darkness, that God by His grace might continue to change our lives.
Let us pray together. Thank You, Lord, that You are sufficient and adequate. You are the all sovereign and powerful God, and You have chosen to reveal Yourself to us in the written word. That word is precious to us. It is more than a book, it is life. It is Your power. Thank You, Lord that the word of God is alive and powerful. It is nourishment and food to our souls. Lord, may this be a place where the word of God is honored and exalted, where we pay attention to it as a lamp in the midst of a dark, filthy, vile world. Lord, may we not just love the book, but also the God of this book - the Savior who is presented in all of its pages. Thank You for this time together, for the faithfulness of Your people, the encouragement they are to me, to the other elders, leaders and teachers as they express their interest and delight for love and truth. Use us together to honor Jesus Christ until the day dawns, the one who is the bright morning star arises and we are privileged to join together in the glory of His eternal kingdom. We pray in His name. Amen.
Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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