Have yâ€™all seen the stories on the news this week about Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda? For the last few years, Mr. Miranda has claimed to be Jesus himself. He says he had a vision in 1973, then after 3 marriages, 5 children, a heroin addiction and a couple of jail sentences for petty theft, in 2000 Mr. Miranda claimed to be Jesus himself. Mr. Miranda says there is no devil or sin because all of that was defeated 2000 years ago, prayer is a waste of time, and he teaches that his followers have a â€œfreedom to indulgeâ€ because his followers are predestined for salvation no matter what they do on earth. He tells all of his followers that all churches and religion are heresy and they are to burn religious writings and attack local churches. Heâ€™s been banned in several countries. Heâ€™s in the news this week because he now claims that besides being Jesus, heâ€™s also the anti-Christ. He is a â€œgoodâ€ anti-Christ, though, because there is no such thing as evil. To mark this new revelation, Mr. Miranda now has a very prominent â€œ666â€ tattooed on his forearm. Of course, his followers happily had their own â€œ666â€ tattooed on their arms.
1 John 2:18: â€œDear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” We know that this Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda is not Jesus because of scripture passages such as, well, the entire book of Revelation. Itâ€™s also clear from scripture that Mr. Miranda cannot be both Christ and the anti-Christ at the same time. If you ever watched â€œStar Trekâ€ youâ€™d know heâ€™d explode and the universe would cease to exist.
Why are people misled by a charismatic preacher? Itâ€™s because they do not know who Jesus really is or what Jesus says. Colossians 2:4,8 says, â€œI tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.â€ Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Peter faced similar situations with false teachers. Peter and the apostles had been in direct communication with the Lord Jesus Christ and knew exactly what Jesusâ€™ message was. The Word of God was shared through oral traditions and through the Holy Spirit, but the written word, the New Testament, had not yet been written. There was a vacuum of information, and men being what they are, unscrupulous or misinformed people stepped into the vacuum and began to spread problems of all kinds. Legalism was taught, authority of God was challenged, the core teachings of the gospel were challenged, and even the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus was challenged. The apostle Peter wrote this scripture specifically addressing the true theology of Christianity. He wanted Christians to know the truth, the freedom of living in Christ, and put to rest the false heresies that were being spread.
Letâ€™s look at 2 Peter 1:12-15
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
Peter tells the early Christians that they already know the truth, but Peter will â€œalways remind them.â€ Peter tells them he wants to â€œrefresh your memoryâ€ for as long as he lives. Letâ€™s see if Peterâ€™s assessment holds true for us today â€“ do we know the truth about Jesus? Are we firmly established with this truth and what Jesus wants for our lives? I think so. So why is it important to be reminded of these things and to have our memories refreshed?
Let me ask it in a more personal way. We are not perfect like Jesus, are we? We are tempted and fall into sin, whether it is lust of the eyes, hurt with the tongue, worshipping money and idols, sin of pride, something personal we struggle with as we persevere in our faith. When we sin, is at that moment that we stop believing in God? When we sin, is it at that moment that we stop believing in the bible? No, not at all. Of course we believe. What we have forgotten, though, is the truth of the Word. We forget that sin has consequences. We forget that Jesus paid an incredible price for that sin. When we fall into sin, we donâ€™t become unbelievers. We become un-rememberers. We forget our need for grace. We forget God is watching every move and listening to every thought. Peter doesnâ€™t want the believers of Asia Minor to forget. God doesnâ€™t want us to forget.
When Peter says â€œas long as I am in this tent,â€ this of course, refers to Peterâ€™s mortality. Our bodies are frail, they are impermanent, and they are imperfect. We have only so much time on this earth to do Godâ€™s will. When we are aware of our limited time here compared to our eternal destiny, it should give us some urgency to do Godâ€™s will while there is still time.
Peter knows that his time is short â€“ Jesus hinted to Peter in the book of John (John 21:18) that someday Peter would also be crucified. â€œI tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.â€ Peter had an urgency to share the gospel, but we, too, have the same urgency.
Letâ€™s read 2 Peter 1:16-18 â€“
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. 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.
Peter is telling us the truth; false teachers are not. Peterâ€™s words have the strength of his conviction behind him, the truth of the Lord behind him, and the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. Myths about Roman gods were passed along from generation to generation that illustrated a particular Roman lesson, but they were myths. Peter reminds us that the story of Jesus is not a myth. Peter didnâ€™t learn about it from others, it wasnâ€™t hearsay or gossip passed along. Peter was there; he was an eyewitness to Jesusâ€™ miracles. Peter was there on the mountain when he heard God speaking from the heavens. And notice Peter says â€œweâ€ â€“ Peter, James and John were there on that mountain and were direct eyewitnesses to the transfiguration of Christ. God directly spoke from the heavens that Jesus is the son of God and that God is well pleased with Him.
Itâ€™s important to remember that Jesus appeared to thousands or people. When Jesus fed the 5000, how many people were there? Ok, that was a trick question. The point is that these 5000 people were still alive and it was very easy to check to see if the story was true. These were real events that had occurred during the last 20 or 30 years, during their lifetime.
Letâ€™s say I told you that 20 or 30 years ago that Richard Nixon was a great war hero and had fought in Vietnam and because of his great leadership the Vietnam war was won? It would not be a credible story because there are people here in this room that know that isnâ€™t true. In Peterâ€™s day, Jesus was well known. He had appeared to thousands of people, taught thousands of people, and after he died and was resurrected appeared to hundreds of people. They were eyewitnesses. The apostles were so sure that Jesus was the messiah, the son of God, that they were willing to die for preaching Christ crucified. Not one of them recanted their story, even though they were martyred for preaching the gospel.
Peter knows without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus came as the Messiah, as the Christ, as the Son of God, that Jesus died and rose from the dead after 3 days and ascended into heaven. False teachers could not claim that, nor could they dispute Peterâ€™s eyewitness account. What other miracles did Peter see first hand?
Thatâ€™s why Peter knows he is speaking the truth. Through divine revelation, Peter heard the very words of Jesus. The faith of Christians is not based on clever stories. Christianity is based on real, historical events with multiple eyewitnesses. Can you imagine seeing the transfiguration and hearing God speak from the heavens? Can you imagine how confident Peter was in his faith after seeing that? God wants us to have that same confidence in Him. How does God do that?
Letâ€™s read the rest of our verse for today, 2 Peter 1:19-21 â€“
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. 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.
I love that part â€“ you will do well to pay attention to the Word of God; itâ€™s like a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts. Psalm 119:105 says, â€œYour word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.â€ Godâ€™s Word gives us confidence; even though we are not eyewitnesses, we have the words of the eyewitnesses.
The bible is a unique book. There are 66 separate books written over 1500 years, by over 40 separate authors from all walks of life. Amos was a farmer. Luke was a doctor. Ezra and James were ministers. David and Solomon were kings. Daniel was a political prisoner. Peter was a fisherman. Mathew was a first century IRS agent. It was written in Europe, Asia, and Africa, from deserts, dungeons, palaces, and battlefields. It covers all sorts of controversial topics such as raising your kids, improving your marriage, managing emotions, handling money, breaking bad habits, and inheriting eternal life, all in unity. And yet the entire bible has one hero â€“ the Messiah, Jesus Christ. One villain â€“ Satan. One problem â€“ sin. And one purpose â€“ salvation. The entire plot of the bible can be summed up by â€“
Jesus is coming (the Old Testament)
Jesus is here (The 4 gospels)
Jesus is coming again (The New Testament epistles)
Peter reminds us here â€“ heâ€™s always reminding us, isnâ€™t he? And then heâ€™s reminding us that heâ€™s reminding us. He reminds us that the Word of God is not written by man. Man may have been holding the pen and using his own unique personality, but the Word of God is provided by the Holy Spirit. Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. This is repeated in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, â€œAll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.â€ Scripture is spoken by God, every word inspired by the Holy Spirit working through men. And itâ€™s not just relaxing Sunday-morning reading, we are to use the Word. It teaches us, it rebukes us, it corrects us, and it trains us in righteousness.
If we take Godâ€™s word that the bible is indeed Godâ€™s word, how does that affect our relationship with Him? For one thing, if this is Godâ€™s Word, does God make mistakes? No, we know God is perfect and holy and infallible. Therefore, we take every word in the bible to be true, holy and infallible.
I heard a story about a pastor who was going to be preaching about Noah and the ark and the Great Flood. A couple of boys decided to play a prank on the pastor, and they snuck into the sanctuary and glued some of the pages of his bible together. Sunday morning, the pastor started reading from the bible and it came out a little different than he expected. He read, “And Noah took a wife, and she wasâ€ (here he struggles to turn the page) â€œ450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall.â€ The pastor stood there stunned for a minute, and then said, â€œI have been reading this Bible for 30 years, and there are still some things that are hard for me to believe.â€
Skeptics and atheists claim the bible is full of discrepancies and inaccuracies, but theologians have a scholarly rebuttal to each claim. Some scripture, a lot of scripture, may be difficult for us to understand, but what we have to recognize is that the problem is not with the bible. The bible is incredibly consistent, and when we come across what appears to be inconsistent scripture, we can recognize that the problem is with us. We have limited understanding. With study, prayer and meditation, we can understand more and more, and when we arrive in heaven, we will understand all of it. Right now, in our mortal life, we have a limited view of an unlimited God. Eventually, if we continue to seek him, the full meaning will be given to us. We can learn to doubt our doubts.
What do we do about scripture we do not understand? In Matthew 11:25, Jesus says, â€œI praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.â€ The Pharisees knew the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. I believe God reveals himself to us slowly over the course of our life; just as He revealed himself to Israel over 3000 years. Scripture that is unclear to us one year becomes incredibly clear to us in later years. Jesus says that if we seek Him, we shall find Him. What that means to me is to implicitly trust that the bible is true even if I cannot fathom its full meaning.
If we accept the entire bible as complete true, what does the bible say about the bible? Besides being useful for teaching and rebuking, the word is relevant. Does anybody remember the scripture that is at the bottom of each class newsletter? Hebrews 4:12-13 says, â€œFor the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.â€ The bible is not dead literature, it is living and active. Itâ€™s sharp and it cuts and exposes us to God. It convicts us and shows us our sin and how we fall short of His glory and how much we need our savior Jesus Christ.
There are many ways to ask the Lord for this sort of surgery, surgery that cuts the sin out of our lives. Try asking the Lord to reveal Himself to you. Read His word and apply it to your life. The problem, I think youâ€™ll find, is not one of understanding so much as it is a problem of obedience. Mark Twain once said, â€œItâ€™s not the parts of the Bible I donâ€™t understand that trouble me; itâ€™s the parts of the Bible that I do understand.â€ Many passages are easy to understand. The Ten Commandments, for instance, are very easy to understand. â€œHonor thy father and mother, especially on Motherâ€™s Day.â€ If you want God to work within you, try committing a favorite passage to memory. Try reading your bible eagerly and accept it as Godâ€™s holy word and then submit yourself to what it says.
Letâ€™s look at John 8:31-31 â€“ To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
To the non-believer, Jesus has but one command: â€œbelieve in me.â€ But if we are to grow in our faith, Jesus wants more from us. Jesus tells us to â€œhold to His teaching.â€ Where do we find His teaching? The very word of God, the bible. His teachings are here. Hold to His teaching, and we become His disciples, followers of Jesus. Hold to His teaching, then we will know the truth. Hold to His teaching, and we are set free from the bondage of sin.
An intellectual belief in God is not sufficient. The wisdom of man pales next to the foolishness of God. Heartfelt emotions are not sufficient â€“ emotions can mislead us. Sincerity is not sufficient â€“ the most sincere person can be most sincerely wrong. Sincerity does not equal truth, and sometimes religious leaders can be wrong. In Acts 17:11, it says, â€œNow the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.â€ While the Bereans were excited that Paul was in their midst and preaching to them, they examined scripture for themselves to see if Paul was preaching the truth. Thatâ€™s how we know that Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda is not Jesus the Christ. What he preaches conflicts with the Word of God. Itâ€™s misleading. Itâ€™s false.
Iâ€™d like to close with the words of another eyewitness to the life and words of Jesus Christ. From the book of John, chapter 1, verse 1,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Letâ€™s give a word of thanks to our Lord who has given us His holy Word.