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The Foundation of Faith

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
September 26, 2022 2:00 am

The Foundation of Faith

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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September 26, 2022 2:00 am

Join us as we worship our Triune God- For more information about Grace Church, please visit www.graceharrisburg.org.

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If you will turn with me to the second Peter, and we are finishing up chapter 1 tonight. 2 Peter, we'll be reading verses 16 through 21. We ourselves heard this very voice born from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, 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. Let's pray together. Father, we thank you that you have revealed yourself through the written word, through the living word, and you have preserved your word for us. You have made it available to us in translation, and you have given us your spirit to illuminate and guide us into the truth of your word. May we rest our lives on the truth that you have revealed. We ask in Jesus' name, amen.

You may be seated. By God's grace and mercy, I was born into a Christian family. In fact, I'm told that for nine months before my birth, I was carried to the assembly of God's people. Throughout my childhood and high school years, I was privileged to sit under the teaching and preaching of the Gospel. I was encouraged to memorize the Scriptures, to read the Bible, to read the biographies of men and women of faith, and to spend time with other believers. After high school, I went off to college, and though it was a church school, I sat under men who didn't really believe the word of God. My religion professor was a graduate of Yale University, and the Bible was subjected to what was called higher criticism. We were taught how to determine what parts of the Bible were true, what parts were added and just thought up by men. I remember in times in the student lounge, one of the professors, he was a typical stereotypical professor, a neo-orthodox, you know, with the sweater and the pipe clenched in his teeth, and he would say things like, yes, I believe in the virgin birth, but not because the Bible says so.

Those kinds of things would bring doubt. A few years into my ministry, I went through a time where God was taking me through a time of very intense growth in my faith, and came to the realization that I was, in Jesus' words, building my house on the sand. I came to understand that I had no solid foundation, and the Lord led me to receive the Bible as his word. I came to appreciate the truth of Ephesians 2.20, and the fact that the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus is the cornerstone that ties it all together. That truth is reiterated in our passage that we're looking at tonight. The foundation of our faith, our certainty, our assurance is grounded in the testimony of the apostles, in the prophetic words of Scripture, and Jesus Christ is the center of it all. So as we begin to look at this passage tonight, if you'll notice the first phrase of verse 16, Peter says that he did not follow cleverly devised myths when he made known to us the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That word is myths in ESV, some of the translations call it fables. Our faith is not grounded in fable.

There are many fables prevalent in Peter's day, and that's still true in our day, isn't it? It's interesting that as Peter begins this section, he changes the pronoun. In the earlier verses, back in verse 12, he was using the first person singular. He said, I intend always to remind you of these qualities. I think it's right as long as I'm in this body to stir you up.

I know that putting off my body will be soon, and I will make every effort so that after my departure, you may be able at any time to recall these things. Then in verse 16, he says, for we, plural, did not follow cleverly devised myths. I think he's identifying himself there with the apostles. He is asserting authority as an apostle, one who was an eyewitness, one who was with Jesus and spent time with him. His message now is authoritative, and so he's asserting this as he distinguishes his message from the fables of the false teachers. In fact, later on in chapter 2, verse 3, he's going to say, they and their greed will exploit you with false words.

NIV translates that an interesting way. It says, with stories they've made up. Peter is distinguishing what he has to say from those who are teaching falsely. Fables are not just some ancient thing. Fables are a part of our current milieu. Our pastor mentioned this morning one of the fables that he ran into in looking at what one had to say about the resurrection.

Peter uses this phrase cleverly devised myths or cunningly devised fables. Liberal scholars start out with presumption that denies the supernatural, that denies the miraculous, and they try to explain away the Old Testament miracles and even the account of creation and the fall of man. I remember my first year in seminary. In fact, I was in the same seminary that our pastor mentioned this morning for a year, and it was a bastion of liberality at the time. He got to read a particular systematic theology book.

I was given the option of reading one of two. I could either read Emil Bruner or Paul Tillich, not known to be conservative biblical scholars. But I remember in my Old Testament course, we had our midterm exam right before Thanksgiving break, and we had yet to get to Genesis. We were still studying Gilgamesh and the Mesopotamian fables that they were teaching that the Old Testament was based on.

The Hebrews borrowed from those stories to create what we now know as Genesis. But I think a far more credible assertion is that Paul makes in the first chapter of Romans when he says, Men who by their unrighteousness suppressed the truth, although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man. I don't mean to be arrogant or to be ugly and demeaning and judgmental toward other men, but how can you be a professor of Christian religion when you don't believe the tenets of Christian religion? False teachers abound in our day, just as they did in Peter's day. They not only deny the creation, the beginning of history, but they also deny the culmination and scoff at the culmination of history that God reveals in the Word, the return of Christ to establish his eternal reign and his kingdom. It was true in Peter's day.

It's true today. In fact, over in chapter 3, Peter will point this out in warning about scoffers. He says, they will say, where is the promise of his coming?

In fact, this is probably a doctrine that is as controversial as any doctrine as we look at that in our day. But Peter says, we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He's pointing to that second coming in affirming the foundation of our faith in apostolic testimony and in the Word of God. Doctrine of the second coming, there are a couple of extremes that we can get into with regard to the second coming. Too many of us just ignore and don't ever think about the second coming and are not being watchful as we should be. There are others who just become obsessed with last things and second coming.

I remember when Libby and I were in the Dominican Republic in Missionfield, we had a missionary come to town in Santiago. And the first thing he did was to set aside a room in his house and he put his chart up. He had three walls covered with his timelines and all the dates and nations and he had it all worked out and figured out the end times. But what does scripture teach? We need to be solidly grounded in what scripture tells us about the second coming of Christ. First thing it tells us is that Jesus will return. And he will return the same way he went. He will return bodily and visibly. He will return and it will be sudden.

We need to be watchful and alert. His return will be glorious. I love John's description in Revelation of the risen Christ. And he says, he saw one like a son of man clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest, his hairs and his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze refined in a furnace and his voice was like the roar of many waters. From his mouth came a sharp two edged sword and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. We cannot even begin to imagine the glory that will be revealed when Christ comes.

And yet that is what Peter and the other apostles got a glimpse of on the Mount of Transfiguration as the radiance of God's glory emanated from him. His return will be glorious and it will be the final triumph over evil. He will set everything right. He will judge and quicken the dead. And when will it happen?

Nobody knows. Jesus said to his disciples that just the Father knows that, not even the Son knows when that will be. So, as we think about the foundation of our faith, we know that our faith is grounded in fact, not fable. The apostles witnessed the majesty, the glory of Christ. As Peter points to the Transfiguration and speaks of that, he there with James and John saw a foreshadowing of Christ's return to glory. You remember Jesus' prayer in John 17, verse 5 of John 17. He says, Now Father glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. They had a glimpse of that eternal glory, the majesty of Christ.

And that will be manifest when he comes again and is revealed in all of his glory. So, the apostles testified to the facts of what they had seen and witnessed. And they were eyewitnesses, as Peter says. And so they gave testimony. Christ had told them that they would be his witnesses.

You remember Acts 1-8, he says, You shall be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the outermost parts of the world. And the book of Acts tells us how they fulfilled that and carried that out as they proclaimed the good news all across Asia and into Europe and as far as Rome. So, what were the facts that they declared about Jesus?

They declared that Jesus is the Son of God, equal with the Father. They declared that he was born supernaturally of a virgin. They declared that he worked miracles. He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the mute to be able to speak. He turned water into wine.

He fed thousands with just a handful of bread and fish. He calmed the sea and stilled the wind with just a word, even raised the dead to life. They declared that he was crucified, dead, buried, and on the third day rose again. They declared that he ascended into heaven and that he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within his people.

And he will come again in glory to establish his kingdom and to complete the final triumph over evil. So our faith rests, first of all, in the testimony and witness of the apostles. The apostolic testimony recorded for us in the pages of the New Testament. But Peter then goes on in verse 19 to say that there's something more sure than that apostolic testimony. He says in verse 19, we have something more sure, the prophetic word. He's speaking, of course, of the Old Testament prophecies that declared what God would do in Christ when he came. And so Peter is saying that even the glorious experience of being on the Mount of Transfiguration and of seeing Christ radiate the glory of God, this word is even more sure than that. We must be careful that we understand that our experience, as glorious as it may be, is nothing compared to the certainty of God's word.

That is our foundation. I remember one time in a church I was working in the educational area and overseeing some of the Bible School, the Vacational Bible School. And one of the ladies wanted us to do some really exciting, upbeat, wonderful kinds of things. And she was talking about how all this would really draw people in. And I was reminded of what John says about the fact that people saw miracles and ran to Jesus because of the miracles, and yet it says that Jesus didn't reveal himself to them because he knew what was in their heart.

They were after the food and they were after the healing, and they weren't really pursuing God because they were not of his. So Peter says we have something that is even more sure than our experience, as glorious as it was, and it's nothing less than the word of God himself, the prophetic word, the Scriptures. I mentioned the fact that in earlier verses he had used this plural we as he identified himself with the apostles. I think here he's using we in a different sense. He's speaking here of the fact that we are all part of the body. We are all together in this, and he says we have this, this more sure word. I believe that's affirmed of the fact that he goes on then to say, to which you do well to pay attention. He's including us in this certainty of the Scriptures that God has given to us.

This word pay attention is interesting. It literally would be hold your mind to the Scriptures. Hold your mind toward the Scriptures. The world, the flesh, the devil all try to distract us from the truth of what God has said. In fact, that has been the enemy's tactic since the Garden of Eden, has it not?

He came to Eve and he said, did God really say? That distraction from the truth of what God has said is one of the primary tactics. We need to pay attention to what God has said in his word. He says we are to pay attention as to a lamp shining in the darkness, in a dark place. We've all experienced what it's like to be in a dark place and all of a sudden somebody turns on a light. You don't have any problem focusing your mind on the light when it comes in and just almost blinds you.

That sudden brightness of the light. Peter uses this illustration to show us how diligently we should focus our mind on God's word. He says you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place. I'm reminded of what Paul says in Philippians chapter 2 when he's talking about the believers dwelling in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. He says we are to shine like lights among those who are in darkness, holding forth the word of life. We are to be a light in the dark place and we need to keep on doing that.

Look at what he says here. Shine as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your heart. Often in the early mornings I go out into our little closed in breezeway there and that's where I spend time and the word. And many times when I get out there it's just pitch black. In fact I feel kind of like I'm in a fish bowl when I turn the light on so sometimes I'll pull the curtain across the glass there just to kind of feel like I'm not in the fish bowl. But before long you begin to get a glimmer of being able to see a little outside as the light comes and it grows and it expands.

And pretty soon everything is brightly lit and it's full day and you can see. And Peter says that we are to pay attention to the word of God as to a light shining in a dark place and we keep doing that, keep at it until the day dawns and the morning star arises and it's full day and the light of truth floods our soul. But then he gives us caution in verses 20 and 21. We are to pay attention to the scripture but he says, know this first.

No prophecy of scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. That's a verse that has been a matter of controversy and varying explanations and interpretations. Roman Catholics often will use that verse to support their idea that people, the common people of the church should not be reading the scripture on their own but they must depend on the teaching interpretation that the church gives. That it's dangerous for people to read the Bible on their own.

Don't think that's what it means. I do know that scripture talks about the difficulty of interpretation and understanding prophecy. In fact, scripture even says back in 1 Peter that the prophets themselves didn't really understand what they were writing. Let me turn back over to 1 Peter in the first chapter of his first letter, verse 10. He says, concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Understanding prophecy is not an easy thing.

It requires the illumination of the Spirit of God and his direction and guidance. But as we look at this verse here in 2 Peter, verse 20 of chapter 1, it says, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. It's a pretty good translation. Some of the translations use the verb is or is a matter of.

The word there in the Greek is the word genomai. It really has the idea of something arising or originating from, coming out of, coming into existence. And so I think the ESV is a pretty good translation there, that no prophecy of scripture comes from or arises out of one's own interpretation. But I think the key really to properly understanding this is to see that verse 20 is not isolated.

It's part of a context. And it leads right into verse 21. He says, 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. The reason no scripture is of anyone's own private interpretation is because it's of God.

It's not of men. We must understand that scripture originates with God, not man, and therefore it is absolutely trustworthy. So our faith is founded in apostolic testimony, it is founded in the prophetic word, and Jesus Christ is the cornerstone that ties it all together. One of the ways that we know and understand that is through the fact that in Christ all this Old Testament prophecy was divinely fulfilled to the letter in every detail. God's promises regarding that first advent were fulfilled in detail in Jesus Christ. Let me just remind you of some of the ways that the prophecy of the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ. First of all, the prophecy told us what tribe he would come from.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet. Genesis 49, 10. We're told even what family of that tribe. The Lord swore to David, a sure oath, one of the sons of your body will I set on your throne. Psalm 132. We're told the place of his birth. But you, O Bethlehem, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me, one who is to be ruler in Israel. Micah chapter 5. We're told of his virgin birth. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7. We're told about healings. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute shall sing for joy.

Isaiah 35. We're told of the triumphal entry. Zechariah writes, rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a cole, the foal of a donkey.

We're told details of his death and his burial. Psalm 22, for dogs encompass me, a company of evildoers encircles me. They've pierced my hands and feet. They stare and gloat over me.

They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. And again in Isaiah 53, they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth. God's promises were fulfilled in complete detail in that first advent, and God's promises regarding the second coming will be just as certainly fulfilled. It's not a fable.

It's not a myth. The apostles were willing to endure persecution, even death, to declare the truth of what they had witnessed in Jesus Christ. And the words of the prophets came to full fruition hundreds of years after they'd been written. In the church, following the death of Christ, martyrs have withstood the ravaging of wild beasts and been hanged and beheaded and burned at the stake for the gospel's sake. And yet despite all the opposition of the enemy and the enemies of God, the church has flourished. What greater witness could we have than the fact that after all the persecution and the attempts to destroy and to tear down, Jesus said not even the gates of hell can stand against his church.

He will build it. And I was interested, I just looked up today just to see what the professing faith is around the world. Christianity is still the largest, greatest professed faith in the world. Over 30% of the world's population professed faith in Christ.

The closest thing to it is Islam, and it's like 24% as compared to 32%. So the church has flourished in spite of all the opposition. And it's because we are grounded and founded in truth. The scriptures, no scripture was ever produced by the will of men, but men spoke from God. The word of God is the word of God, and it is absolutely trustworthy.

It is true. The psalmist says that the word of God is like silver tried in a furnace, seven times completely refined and purified so that there is nothing but truth. And so by grace through faith we are in Christ. And all the promises of God, all the promises of scripture are found to be true in him. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, they find their yes, their amen in him. So we've heard the testimony of the eyewitnesses. We have been given the written record of God's redemptive work. We know the reality of the church in the world today. And so the question we face is this. Do I believe what the Bible says?

That's the bottom line. Is the testimony credible? Are the promises of God to be trusted? Can you build your life on this foundation? You remember the words of Jesus after the servant on the mount? He said, everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house.

But it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house.

And it fell and great was the fall of it. What are you building on? Building on sand? Or are you built on the rock? The foundation of apostolic testimony and the prophetic word of God and Jesus Christ at the center of it all. Let's pray. Father, we do not have words to express our gratitude for the word. In the very beginning, you simply spoke, let there be light.

And it was. And you have spoken and our hearts have been filled with light. The glory of God shining through the face of Jesus. Thank you, Father, that you not only have given your word revealing yourself. You have preserved it and you have made it accessible to us. And you have given us your spirit to guide us into truth. Grant us grace simply to trust your word. We ask in Jesus' precious name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-08 20:04:35 / 2023-01-08 20:15:03 / 10

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