Wednesday, May 26, 2010

False Teachers – 2 Peter 2:1-3

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (NKJV)

When did false teaches and prophets start leading God’s people astray? They have always been with us. Their leader and instructor is Satan himself. Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (NIV) The basis for all false teaching is that it questions the Word of God and in doing so questions God’s character. The ultimate goal of a false teacher is to discredit God. Many are not aware of this, because they don’t realize they are following Satan’s lead.

An example of this is demonstrated in the wealth and prosperity teaching. The leaders proclaim that God want you to be healthy and wealthy. If you are not, then there is something wrong with your faith. However we have Peter’s clear teaching in 1 Peter 1:6-7 that tells us that we will face trials in our lives to strengthen our faith. These trails are light and momentary because they only occur in this life. They are not eternal as Paul says in 2 Cor 4:16-18. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV) Jesus says in Matt 6:19-21 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (RSV) Who is right? Peter, Paul and Jesus or those that say we should all be rich and prosperous? If the false teachers are right then the words of Jesus are doubtful as well as Peter and Paul’s. We have affirmed that scripture is from God and therefore God must be wrong if the false teachers are right. The false teachers won’t say it clearly but by their teaching they are declaring God evil whenever bad things happen to people who have faith. Of course, they won’t say that so instead they blame the person’s faith. The faith of many people has been destroyed because they have been taught incorrectly.

What is so destructive about this or any other heresy? It does several things. For those who are Christians, it leads them down the wrong path so that their lives are consumed not with glorifying God, but their own desires or their faith is destroyed as mentioned above. Satan loves this because they are so busy going the wrong direction that they don’t lead others to Jesus. If their faith is destroyed then unbelievers can point to them as examples of those who now deny God. Peter says that because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Just take a look at some of the stuff that TV evangelist are saying and doing and you will see why non-Christians are bad-mouthing Christianity. It is evident that many are only out to make money and not tell the truth about man’s sinfulness and the need for Jesus. Yes, sometimes they work that in, but many are blatantly out to make money from their “gospel.” A good example is those who will send you a prayer cloth for a donation. The prayer cloth is supposed to have the same ability to heal people and answer their prayers as was found in Acts 19:11-12 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (NIV) There is nothing in the Bible that says a cloth that a TV preacher has touched will bring about a miracle by God in the same way.

In fact, these people should read what God’s attitude is toward them. Acts 8:18-21 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. (NIV) I think it is clear that when false teachers are motivated by money, God is not pleased and they have no part in His ministry.

There is another interesting thing about false prophets. God does use them, but not in the way they think and seldom do we consider this. Deut 13:1-3 "If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (RSV) I have to admit that many of the false teachers on TV and other places perform miracles. The most common is that people are healed. But look carefully at these verses. God warned the Israelites that these false teachers would give signs and wonders but that their teaching was wrong. If a preacher tells us to go after other gods, wealth, power, or anything else, then we should not listen no matter how many miracles they do. God is testing us with these false teacher to see if we will read His Word and find out from Him what He wants us to do and how to act. When we listen to those false teachers and put things other than God first, we will reap the consequences of our actions – ruined lives and lose of rewards in heaven. See 1 Cor 3 10-15.

If we follow false teachers and lose our rewards, what will happen to the false teachers? I guess it depends on whether or not they really know Jesus or not. If they do, then they too will lose their rewards. If we are His children then this verse may apply to those who lead us astray. Matt 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (NIV) That sounds quite severe to me. Peter also confirms that they will not go without punishment. As a teacher, I don’t ever want to lead anyone astray.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Biblical Accuracy – 2 Peter 1:19-21

And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (NASB)

How can we determine if the Bible is reliable? Peter says in this passage that the prophecies are true. He wasn’t speaking of things that are still to come in the future, but things that were predicted and had already happened. One of the biggest keys to the reliability of the Bible is the fact that prophesies were recorded and history can document that they occurred as predicted. In Isa 42:9 God makes a clear declaration, “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." (NIV) God is never afraid to make a prediction because He is all-knowing and all-powerful. He knows what will happen and He has the power to ensure that it will take place as He foretold. Isa 46:10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (NIV)

God challenges anyone to be as accurate in their predictions as He is – 100% accurate. Isa 44:7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come — yes, let him foretell what will come. (NIV) It is easy for someone to say, “I told you so” when there is no documentation that he predicted it. However, it’s another matter to write down predictions and then let everyone scrutinize the results. The Bible does just that. God has made hundreds of prophesies and many have already come true and some are for the future.

I could document many of these predictions but other authors have done much better jobs. So I will only point out one of my favorites. Dan 9:25-26a "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.” (NIV) You can do the math assuming that a “seven” is seven years and that each year uses the Jewish calendar of 360 days. The total number of “sevens” from the time that King Artaxerxes gave permission for Nehemiah to start rebuilding Jerusalem (see Neh 2:4-8) until Jesus, the Anointed One, would appear is 69 or 483 Jewish years. That would be 476.3836 of our years. Artaxerxes made the proclamation in 444 B.C. So that means that in 32.3836 A.D. the Messiah (which means Anointed One) should appear and make Himself known. That just happens to be the Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Think about that. How could Daniel make such a precise prediction if God had not revealed it to Him? Of course, Jesus fulfilled many other prophesies made by many different people who wrote the Old Testament. I mentioned that Jesus rode on a donkey and that prophesy is found in Zech 9:9. Someone might argue that Jesus staged the whole thing because He knew the prophecies. However, how could he have staged the time and place of His birth? Micah 5:2 said the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. Since Jesus’ mother was living in Nazareth when she was pregnant, it took the decree of a Roman emperor to make sure she was in Bethlehem on the right day to have Jesus born there. Augustus didn’t know anything about the prophecies and certainly didn’t know that Mary was pregnant and about to give birth, yet God moved him to declare a census that required Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem at just the right time. See Luke 2:1-7.

What about the prophecies of His death? Surely no one would want to stage His own death just to fulfill a prophecy. Ps 22:7-8 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him." (NIV) This described the attitude of those who crucified Jesus. See Mark 15:31. He couldn’t stage that. Ps 22:16-18 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (NIV) What is remarkable is that Jesus knew that this was exactly what would be done to Him and yet He didn’t attempt to stop it. He knew that all the prophecies had to be fulfilled otherwise someone could go back and say God was a liar when He spoke through these prophets.

When a person embraces the fact that the Bible is accurate, it doesn’t take long before they find out who Jesus is and they need to surrender to Him. When that happens it is just like a lamp starts to shine in a dark place. That person is then born again and the Morning Star (Jesus) is in his heart. I know that for a fact. It happened to me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bible Myths – 2 Peter 1:16-18

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (NKJV)

At one time I believed that the Bible was nothing more than myths, legends, or folk tales that had been handed down from generation to generation. I took a class in college that studied folk tales. It showed how the stories developed over time. They may have started with a real incident but as they were told and retold they changed. I knew next to nothing about the Bible but believed that it was no better than these folk tales.

I had heard parts of the Bible read but had never actually read it for myself. I heard about Jonah and the whale and didn’t know that it really is Jonah and the fish, not a whale. I heard about Jesus walking on water, His death, and resurrection. I heard about His ascension and also about His mother’s ascension, which is not in the Bible. Traditions and stories have been passed down that are not in the Bible and they have changed over time. When these are mixed with the words of the Bible great confusion can result, especially if you aren’t familiar with the Bible.

Peter was writing down some of his thoughts because there were already myths and stories being spread. One of these is recorded in Matt 28:12-15 to discredit Jesus’ resurrection. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (NIV) To a historian, it is obvious that the guards were bribed and that the governor was in on it. They were Roman guards, not the temple guards. If a Roman guard fell asleep on duty and lost his charge, he was executed. Obviously, the story that they fell asleep had to be false.

There are multiple testimonies of the Apostles and other that they saw Jesus after His death. Many witnessed His ascension into Heaven.

The myth that He wasn’t resurrected is busted.

Another fable is that Jesus didn’t die but fainted and was revived in the cool of the tomb and then escaped. It can be discounted by simply reading the accounts of His crucifixion. John 19:38-40 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. (NIV)

The first thing to note is that the body was given to these two men by Pilate. In Mark 15:43-45, we find that Joseph had to wait for Pilate to make sure that Jesus was dead. The centurion who was responsible to insure Jesus’ death verified it. This centurion’s job was to execute people. He knew when a person was dead. We also have the testimony about His death in John 19:33-34 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. (NIV) Medical facts testify that when a person dies blood cells separate from the serum in the blood which then will look more like water. The flow of blood and water from Jesus’ side is proof that He was dead.

The second thing to note is that Jesus was badly beaten. He probably had most of the skin on His back ripped off by the flogging He endured. Add to this trauma, 75 pounds of spices and wrap Him up in cloth. There is no way a man could survive that. Not only that, but if either of these two men would have detected any sign of breathing or heartbeat, they would have stopped. This was all observed by the women who had stayed with Him during the whole crucifixion. (Luke 23:55) There was no sign of life. If He had revived in the tomb, how could He possibly unwrap Himself?

The myth that Jesus didn’t really die is busted.

These myths have been busted simply by looking at a few verses in the Bible. I haven’t answered the question about the reliability of the Bible but will address that with 2 Peter 1:19-21.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reminders – 2 Peter 1:12-15

For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. (NKJV)

What is it about us that we need reminders even when we already know? Peter certainly knew that after he died people would need some reminders of what he and the other apostles had taught. Peter was moved by the Holy Spirit as he wrote this and it emphasizes what God has done throughout the Bible.

Ex 13:9-10 This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. (NIV) One of the most notable reminders in the Old Testament is the Passover feast. The whole ceremony recounts how God was faithful to bring the Israelite out of Egypt. It recounts the bitterness of their slavery and the process God used to wear down the Egyptians. The culmination of the feast reminds the Israelite that the blood of an innocent lamb was required to protect them from the same fate the Egyptians received – death of the firstborn in each household.

That reminder also foreshadows God’s liberating all mankind from slavery to sin. Just as Israel was in bondage to Egypt, ever person on the earth is in bondage to sin. Sin results in a bitter life. One that never satisfies but always requires more and more to get the same thrills. Eph 4:19 They don't care anymore about right and wrong and have given themselves over to impure ways. They stop at nothing, being driven by their evil minds and reckless lusts. (TLB) Of course, the end result is spiritual and physical death.

The lesson of the Passover is that God is at work in all sorts of ways to get our attention and bring us to a point where we will listen to Him. Israel had to endure many of the plagues that God brought upon Egypt. In addition, Israel was treated harshly and many times blamed Moses for increasing their bitter bondage. In the same way, many people blame the messenger who carries the Gospel for their problems. They don’t like to hear that their own sinful behavior has caused most of the difficulties in their lives.

The climax of the Passover is when the lamb must be sacrificed. Its blood is spread on the lintel (top beam over the door) and doorpost of the house. The lamb is cooked and eaten, but they have to be careful not to break any of its bones. This prophesies the death of the Lamb of God, Jesus. Jesus shed His blood on a cross – a beam and supporting post. None of His bones were broken. When the destroying angel saw the blood of the lamb on the doors of Israel, he passed over them. When God judges the world and sees the blood of Jesus applied to the lives of His people, He will pass over our sins and we will not have to pay the penalty for them. God will see that Jesus has already done that.

Jesus proclaimed at the Last Supper that this memorial would be carried on in a new way. Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (NIV) Jesus indentified His body and His blood with the body and blood of the Passover lamb. Israel was given the Passover to remember once a year, but we have communion as a memorial that we can use to remember Jesus’ sacrifice very day. In a spiritual sense, we are eating the Lamb of God when we eat the bread of communion. I am remembering and declaring that His body was broken for me. His blood was shed for my sins. This is up close and personal or it is only a ritual and meaningless.

God knows that we need reminders. Ps 103:14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (NIV) Even as Christians, we can let become so accustomed to rituals or reading or praying that they become meaningless. But God wants us to be reminded, reminded that we were once on the path of destruction and that He saved us. He wants us to recall His great worth and our need for Him every day. Ps 145:1-2 I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. (NIV) If we were able to do as David, by praising God every day, we would be exercising our reminders. We need to take a few minutes of every day to tell God how great He is and thank Him for saving us, not only to worship Him, but also to remind ourselves.

There is another reason that Peter was reminding us. It is because it is the only way to ensure that Christianity lives on. Oh, yes, Jesus and the Holy Spirit would make sure it does, but they work through us to accomplish that. Even in the Old Testament, this was the way it had to be. Ps 78:2-4 I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old — what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. (NIV) We continually need to remind ourselves of what God has done for us so that we can tell the next generation. This is the message that Peter is echoing. It has come down from God through the ages. Remind each other how great God is. Remind each other that Jesus has died for us. Remind each other where we would be if it were not for Jesus.