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#5 A Light in a Dark Place

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A LIGHT IN A DARK PLACE

(A Godly People – Series in II Peter)

Westgate Chapel 4/21/01                                    2 Peter 1:20-21

PROPOSITION:  The Christian is to follow God’s Word like a light in a dark place.

I.INTRODUCTION

-     TWO Sundays ago we were taking a close look at four navigational markers for life’s journey from 2 Peter 1:16-19.

-     ANYBODY remember what they were?

1.   Seeing God yourself.

2.   Hearing His voice.

3.   Experiencing His presence.

4.   Having His Word made more certain.

-     THE apostle Peter follows those verses up with a ringing endorsement for the authenticity of God’s Word.

-     IN fact, look back with me at verse 19 (page 1204),

      “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.”

-     DO you hear the earnestness in the apostle’s voice?

      “…you will do well to pay attention to it…”

-     PAY attention to what?

-     TO God’s Word…because it is,

      “…a light  shining in a dark place...”

-     AND you are going to need His Word for navigation…

      “…until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

-     REMEMBER, the apostle Peter is writing to Christians who were being pulled away from Truth by the fanciful stories of false teachers who were manipulating the message to their own ends.

-     SO Peter speaks with urgency about the importance of them being grounded in God’s Word.

-     SO look with me at the next two verses,

      “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. (21) 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.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

-     (Hold up the Bible) THESE are God’s words spoken through men of God…not man’s words.

-     AND this is one of those few places in Scripture where the Bible talks about itself.

-     ANOTHER similar passage is 2 Timothy 3:16, where Paul writes to his protégé,

      “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

-     SO these verses from 2 Peter give us a golden opportunity to talk about God’s Word.

-     AND the role of God’s Word in your journey of faith.

-     AND it is a journey of faith…of trusting in God.

*     Your salvation was by faith.

      “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

*     Walking in victory over sin is by faith.

      “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)

*     In fact, Romans 14:23 says that

      “...everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

-     WELL, you may ask, “Where is all this faith going to come from? Right now I don't seem to have much!”

-     FAITH comes from God into your spirit and He uses the Bible to build His faith into your life....and to release life-transforming grace. 

-     ROMANS 10:17 says that

      “....faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

 

-     JUST like the basis of a healthy relationship is good communication and lots of mutual self-disclosure, so confidence, love and trust in God will be built into your life as you take time to discover Him in His Word.

-     FAITH in God is not an emotion that you “feel” during a service or worship or at an altar. If that were the case, your faith would waver with your emotions or your circumstances.

-     NO! Your confidence and trust in God’s love, in His power, His promises, His salvation, His soon return.......can only be built into your character by His Spirit, through God's Word. There is no other way to receive faith.

-     THIS is why Peter was so adamant that his readers “pay attention to God’s Word.”

-     YOU see, you are incapable of changing your life. Only God has that kind of power....and HE releases that power to change you from the inside of you....that’s where He does His work.

-     BUT you have to hide God's Word in your heart so that He will have the material with which to build a new you.

-     THAT’S your part. Your part of the pathway to spiritual maturity is the discipline to read, study, memorize and meditate on God's Word.

-     The benefits of this effort are incredible. The Word is effective...powerful....sharper than any double-edged sword. 

                                                                                                                         

1.      It will uncover the real intentions, thoughts and motives in your life. (Hebrews 4:12)

2.      It will bring you to repentance. (II Corinthians 7:8&9)

3.      It will cleanse you. (Psalm 119:9)

4.      It will show you the way to salvation. (II Timothy 3:15)

5.      It will bring you to salvation. (I Peter 1:23)

6.      It will show you what to believe. (Luke 1:1-4)

7.      It will give you the truth. (John 8:31&32)

8.      It will give you wisdom. (Colossians 3:16)

9.      It will give you hope. (Romans 15:4)

10.    It will light your path. (Psalm 119:105)

11.    It will nourish you. (Matthew 4:4)

12.    It will instruct and reprove you. (II Timothy 3:16)

13.    It will comfort, revive and strengthen you. (I Thessalonians 4:18)

14.    It will give you joy. (I John 1:3&4)

15.    It will melt, purify and break you. (Jeremiah 23:29)

16.    It will keep you from sin. (Psalm 119:11)

17.    It will be a sword for defense and offense in the battle.    (Ephesians 6:17)

18.    It will tell us about things yet to come. (Revelation 1:1-3)

19.    It will assure you of your eternal life. (I John 5:13)

-     NOW remember, as you read and study God’s Word,  that it is supernatural in content and power.

-     IT is not just stories in black ink on white paper, like any other book. This is the voice of God. It is a spoken Word.

-     IT is a Holy Spirit inspired and authored revelation of a person and should be approached that way.

-     THE apostle John starts his gospel by writing,

      “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

-     AS you read you are receiving Him into your life by faith.

-     DON’T read expecting certain “emotions” or exhilaration every time.

-     REMEMBER, it is by faith (trust and confidence in Him) that you receive Him when you read. You will not always “feel” the benefits at the moment, but you are still receiving Him whenever you pick up the Bible and read in faith.

II.THE BIBLE: GOD'S WORD

-     THE Bible is the very Word of God, without error in the original autographs.

-     IT has stood the test of time and survived the attack of thousands of critics…but it emerges every time as a reliable revelation for faith and practice.

1.   It is God-inspired, God-breathed, God-influenced; written by men who were guided in every word they wrote by the Holy Spirit of God. (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:20,21)

2.   Hundreds of prophecies, foretold in scripture, have been verified as accurate and have come to pass.

3.   No matter how many times critics of the Word have tried to destroy the credibility of scripture, and remove it from human history, God has preserved it....and will continue to preserve it firm and changeless forever.

*     There are several thousand copies of whole books and fragments of books of the Bible, thousands of years old. And the only differences between all these copies is only in incidental words and punctuation that do not interfere with the meaning of the text at all.

*     It is written by over 40 authors, over a period of 1600 years, in different places, in three languages….yet the content of its 66 books are in absolute agreement.

*     Many historical documents are considered, by the world's "authorities", to be authentic when validated by three or four copies found still in existence. There are thousands of copies of scripture preserved over thousands of years.

*     The Bible has thousands of scrolls and parchments of all of the books of the  Bible....discovered all over the middle east...well-preserved and dating back closer to the actual events than any historical writings in existence.

4.   The power of God to transform lives, through the Word, has been in evidence for almost 6,000 years.

*     Joshua read from the writings of Moses in the Genesis and Exodus records.....and God used that Word to build his faith to lead Israel into the Promised Land. (Joshua 1:8)

*     King Josiah had the law read publicly and the whole nation of Israel came into repentance. (2 Kings 21)

*     Nehemiah had the Word read to Israel during the rebuilding of Jerusalem and revival broke out.

*     The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah and received Jesus and was baptized.

*     That power of the Holy Spirit in the Word is still changing lives today.

III.  IS THE BIBLE RELIABLE?

-     BUT is the Bible reliable?

-     IS it really the revelation of God, or the writings of an assortment of men.....writings that have been distorted down through the ages in translation.

-     THE main attacks made on the Bible fall into the areas of…             

1.   CRITICISM re: authorship....the critics say that the men who claimed to write the books didn't actually write them.

*     The critics use literary style, vocabulary and historical arguments to try and discredit biblical authors.

*     These questions are adequately answered in books like, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, by Dr. Gleason Archer, that affirm the authorship of the books of both testaments.

2.   CRITICISM re: the fallibility of human authors.....the critics don't believe that God  could use human authors and provide reliable Scriptures through them without  error.

*     In the 66 books of the Bible....written by men who did not collaborate...and were, in some cases, hundreds of years apart.....there is no contradiction regarding historical facts.

*     All 66 books are really all about one thing: God's plan of redemption for man, finally revealed in His Son, Jesus, and received by faith in Him. Written over a 1,600 year period none of the 66 books deviate one bit from that single theme.

*     Many historical facts that were initially disputed and attributed to error in "human" authorship....eventually have been proven by subsequent research.

      e.g. Exodus was initially discredited for mentioning the Hittite nation in Canaan. The Hittites, according to modern archaeology, never existed. A recent dig in Palestine, however, uncovered an ancient civilization that were known as the Hittites. Once again the reliability of the Bible was vindicated.

3.   CRITICISM re: the number of translations, and apparent discrepancies between copies of ancient manuscripts and the unbelievable nature of many  of the miracles.

*     The Old Testament books, as we have them today, were first copied and read for generations, in Hebrew, in the Temple, in synagogues and Jewish households. Their divisions were different than we know, but the “accepted” books included were the same as they are today. The oldest manuscript that we have is a portion of the book of Isaiah, dated from the second century B.C. (Found in 1947 in a cave in the Dead Sea).

*     The whole New Testament was originally written in Greek. The books that we presently recognize as New Testament canon are those accepted by the early church, over a period of several hundred years, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The tests for canonicity that were applied by the early church were;

•     Was the book authoritative…did it obviously coming from the hand of God?

•     Was the book prophetic........was it written by a man of God?

•     Was the book authentic......does it check out with other books of the Bible?

•     Was the book dynamic.....does it have life-changing power?

•     Was the book received, collected, read and used by the people of God?

*     The first major translation of the bible was the Latin Vulgate, in 382 AD, commissioned by St. Jerome, using available Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

*     There were many English translations undertaken to provide readable scriptures for the common man. (Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale from 1384-1600.)

*     The various versions of the Bible aroused so many arguments that James I appointed 54 scholars who took 7 years to translate the King James Version in 1611. This translation was considered the most acceptable in the English speaking world for over 250 years.

*     During the last 100 years, the knowledge from newly-discovered manuscripts, archeological discoveries and recent scholarship has led to revision in the newer translations. The New International Version (NIV) is the translation most commonly used in evangelical circles today.

-     MOST critics of the Bible have decided, ahead of time, that they will not accept the supernatural contents of the books of the Bible and its demands on their lives. They approach the Bible, therefore, having already rejected it in their minds and looking for ways to discredit it.

IV.  GETTING THAT KIND OF POWER INTO YOU

-     THE responsibility of every believer is to get the Word into him/her.

-     IN Daniel 11, Daniel is prophesying about the anti-Christ, Antiochus Epiphanes.......and, prophetically, foretelling the work of the Anti-Christ in the world at the end of time.

-     IN verse 32 Daniel speaks of those who will be able to resist the anti-Christ spirit and deception. He says that

      “…those who know their God will firmly resist him.”

-     THERE is only one way to resist the anti-Christ spirit in the world today.....a spirit that is at war against YOU every day, seeking your destruction.........and that is if you “know your God.”

-     THOSE are the only people who will stand in these last days.

-     AND that was why Peter was adamant that the Christians in Asia Minor should “pay attention” to God’s Word. 

-     The Bible itself tells us that we are to;

*     Love, delight in and rejoice in the Word. (Psalm 19:8-10)

*     Read and hear the Word. (I Timothy 4:13)

*     Study the Word. (John 5:39)

*     Meditate on the Word.(Joshua 1:8)

*     Be taught in the Word. (Acts 18:11)

*     Believe the Word.( Acts 24:14)

*     Do the Word. (Deuteronomy 13:18)

*     Teach the Word to our children. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

-     SO how and where do I start?

-     HERE are some practical suggestions, just to get you started;

1.   Decide that you are going to obey what God says about the priority that the Word must have in your daily schedule.

2.   Set aside a daily time and quiet place to read God's Word. Start with just 15 minutes a day and ask Him for help in the discipline to be consistent.

3.   Begin with a prayer to acknowledge God's presence with you and in His Word. Ask Him to reveal himself to you through His Word. Believe in faith that he will.

4.   Choose a translation of the Bible that makes most sense to you and is easy to read.

5.   Use a method of Bible reading that will reveal "all of the counsel" of God to you at one sitting. Don't get bogged down in one book. You need the whole counsel of God. Let me suggest just such a method;

                          

v. conclusion

SUGGESTED BIBLE READING METHOD

A.  Divide the Bible into five major sections.

1.   The History Books. (Genesis through Job)

*     These books will give you perspective on God's original intention for mankind, His selection of a people through whom He would reveal Himself and their struggles with that call.

2.   The Poets (Psalms through Song of Solomon)

*     This will give you a time of praise or exposure to the wisdom of God for every-day life situations.

3.The Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi)

*     This will reveal God's patience with His people, yet His ultimate intolerance of sin.

*     His people tried to obey the law...but, for the most part, failed. Jeremiah confesses that the heart of man is terribly wicked and always does evil.

*     You will also enjoy the beginnings of prophetic anticipation of the coming Messiah....and the "Day of the Lord" at the end of time.

4.The Gospels (Matthew through Acts)

*     This reading will focus on Jesus, the answer to man's sin problem and salvation.

*     Acts will focus on the Body of Christ......God's new testament witness  to the world.

5.The Epistles (Romans through Revelation)

*     This reading will deal with the "nitty gritty" of the new life in Christ and how it is to be lived in power in the real world.

B.  Read one chapter from each section per day

      This will give you the “whole perspective” of who God is and how He works.......at one sitting. On a daily basis you will be working progressively through the whole revelation of God. (History, worship, prophecy, gospels and epistles.) It will also provide a great deal of interest in your reading and the variety will provide motivation.

      You will find that God will often weave the message of the five chapters together on a particular day and speak very powerfully to you through it.

1.   Divide an index card into five columns...using front and back.

2.   Write the headings, "History", "Poets", "Prophets", "Gospels" and "Epistles", one per column, on the index card.

3.   Then write the name of the first book in each section in the column and record the chapters as you read them. This way you can keep track of where you are on any given day. You will be moving on to the next book of the epistles long before you are finished reading Genesis. You will also be finished with the "gospels", and repeating them, before you are finished with the "history" books.

4.   Your index card will look something like this on the first   side...after the third day in the program;

                                           HISTORY                       POETS                     PROPHETS

                                        Genesis1/2/3/              Psalms1/2/3/                 Isaiah1/2/3/

C.  Get the Word Into You

      To help you avoid just reading without thinking, here are some questions to ask yourself as you read and complete each of the five chapters;

1.   What is the main point of this chapter? What does it mean to me? How does it apply to me?

2.   What does this chapter say that I don't understand? Make a note of your question and get an answer from some other resource.

3.   Are there parallel teachings in some other passage of scripture? Look them up.

4.   What promises does God make here that I can hold on to?

5.   What warnings do I need to heed?

6.   Is there a command in this passage that I must obey?

                          

      It would also be good to get involved in Bible verse memorization. A verse a week would be a good start. Navigators Press has a good set of wallet-size cards for this purpose.

      Finally, we would encourage you to get into a Sunday School class or Home Fellowship for the study of the Word.

 

 

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