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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - Is It True? How Can I Know?

Skip Heitzig - Is It True? How Can I Know?

Skip Heitzig - Is It True? How Can I Know?
Skip Heitzig - Is It True? How Can I Know?
TOPICS: Rock Solid, Truth

Second Peter, chapter 1. Do you ever walk by those tabloids in the grocery store? And do you ever think when you go by them, "I really need to get one of them so that I can determine the accurate truth of what's going on in my world"? You never think those thoughts, do you? And the reason is because of what they promise. Here's some headlines: "Alien Mummy Goes on Rampage." That's why you just sort of skip over that stuff, I trust. Or here's a headline: "Woman Gives Birth to Two-Year-Old Baby, Walks and Talks in Three Days." Another headlines from one of these magazines, this is my favorite: "Vegan Vampire Attacks Trees." And, finally: "Eve Was a Space Alien." But let me ask you how do you know those things are not true?

You would answer, "Well, they don't fit into human history. They don't fit into human experience. These things are not verifiable." So now we're dealing with what is true and what is not true. And according to a survey taken some time ago, a question was asked: "Is there such a thing as absolute truth?" I want you to just think about that question. "Is there such a thing as absolute truth?" Only 28 percent of the people in this survey, only 28 percent said, "Yes, there is such a thing as absolute truth." Now that doesn't bother me as much as what I'm about to tell you: Only 23 percent of Christians in this survey or those who claim to be believers, only 23 percent said there is such a thing as absolute truth.

What that means is that over 75 percent of Christ followers or those who purport to be Christ followers are saying, they're saying that nothing can be known for certain. "There is no absolute truth." So I would ask them or you, if you fall into the category: What do you do with the claims of Christ? Those are pretty absolute claims. But that is part of the prevailing culture today. You know, people are saying, "How can anyone lay claim to having a corner on the market when it comes to truth? After all, we all have our own values, we all have our own life experiences." And so there's a significant group of people who will say, "There is no such thing as absolute truth." But did you listen to my statement? It's self-contradictory.

How can you absolutely say, "There is no absolute truth," when you just made a statement that is an absolute statement? But that aside, we won't get into that. We're dealing with what is called "epistemology"; that is, a section of study that deals with truth: How do we know if something is true? What's the theory of knowledge? What constitutes justifiable belief? When are the methods of acquiring knowledge and how do we validate those facts that produce knowledge? You see, the Bible makes truth claims, and some of those claims are, well, pretty absolute. Here's one: Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." But how can you know it's really true? How can you know if the message we have received is really true?

Well, Peter addresses that thinking in Second Peter, chapter 1, beginning in the sixteenth verse he writes: "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. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."

Allow me to remind you the setting of this letter: persecution was at an all-time high, Christians were losing their jobs, they were being arrested, they were being killed. Some of them were being beheaded; others were being impaled on sticks by Caesar himself. And so Peter writes here toward the end of his life to a group of believers who are in that kind of a situation and he tells them that there are certain things they should know. "In this situation that you are living in, there are certain things you need to know." In fact, that word "know" or "knowledge" is one of the key words of Second Peter. It appears sixteen times in the letter. Look at just a sampling of what we have seen so far. Verse 2, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."

Verse 5, "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control." Down in verse 8, "For if these things are yours and abound, you will neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Now it's important for them to know certain things because there were, and you'll get it next time when we're in the next chapter, but Peter will address false prophets, false teachers that come into the church. And there were several different kinds, but one kind were called the Gnostics. Gnostics, you've heard the term, these were people in the know. They claimed to know what others didn't know.

They were initiated in special knowledge. And these Gnostics, among other things, denied the claims of Christ and denied the coming of Christ, and Peter speaks about that. They were bringing fables and denying the truth. So Peter counteracts those false teachings by saying three things: "I know this is true because of what I've seen, I know this is true because of what I've heard, and I know this is true because of what I've read." "Because of what I've seen, what I've heard, and what I've read." Those are the three lines of evidence that he gives. But we're going to boil them down into two categories, two categories only. How do we know something is true? Well, personal experience is one, matched with scriptural evidence; personal experience, scriptural evidence. Personal experience, that's subjective. That's what I experience.

Scriptural evidence, that's objective. That's outside my domain of experience. Both of these are addressed by Peter. Let's begin with the personal. Verse 16, "We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitness of his majesty." The word "fables" could be translated "myths." That's the word that is used in Greek, muthos. Muthos or myths was always used in the New Testament in a negative or derogatory sense. And it usually referred to pagan mythology, which if you've had any background in at all, if you've ever read, say, the Greek myths, you know that these are bizarre, ridiculous tales without any real historical significance.

For example, the story of Prometheus who gave fire as a gift to mankind. Zeus found out about it, was so jealous he had Prometheus chained to a rock in the Adriatic Sea and had vultures peck out his liver. Or the story of Pandora who opened up her little vile, her vessel, and all the evils in the world jumped out. Or the story of Medusa who originally had golden hair and fell in love with Poseidon, and so Athena cursed her and in where the hair once grew that was golden, snakes came out, all these crazy, nonhistorical fables or myths. Stories in the Bible, however, are based on historical places, actual people, and certain dates and dates are often given. In other words, they are events that are verifiable events. Peter appeals to personal experience.

First of all, what he saw. He says, "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty." "I saw this with my own eyes," he said. And what is-what is he referring to here? The transfiguration of Jesus Christ on that mountain, "the holy mount," as he calls it. It was one of the highlights in Peter's life. Jesus was transformed before his very eyes. In that experience Peter saw the face of Jesus glowing like the sun and his garments in dazzling white, and then two men from the past showed up, Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus. And Peter was overwhelmed by what he saw. And whenever Peter got overwhelmed, it wasn't good, because Peter would start talking. And Peter said this; now listen to how profound this is. He says, miraculous thing happens and he goes, "It's good that we are here."

You wonder why Jesus didn't say, "Duh." And then Peter said, "Let's build three, I don't know, condos: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." And as those words were still hanging in his mouth, God the Father interrupted him, saying, "This is my beloved Son, listen to him." It was quite-quite a wonderful experience? But Peter was an eyewitness, and in a court of law eyewitnesses are crucial. And they're asked this question: "What did you see?" And they're cross-examined: "How do you know that's exactly what you saw?" Peter said, "I was there. I saw this. And what I saw was a preview of coming attractions. I saw the trailer to the coming movie." In other words, what Peter saw was a preview of the second coming.

I want you to notice what he says: "We didn't follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and the", what?, "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitness of his majesty." That word "coming" is important. It's the Greek word parousia. It is almost always used to refer to second coming of Christ. It means literally the arrival or the actual presence. Now, do you remember that the Lord Jesus made his disciples a promise? He said to them, "There are some of you who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the coming kingdom in glory." And all the disciples heard that and must have said something like this: "Huh? What? What are you talking about?"

They didn't know what he was talking about until a few days later when Jesus took a few of them up on top of a mountain and this transfiguration happened. And Peter saw Jesus in resurrected glory, a preview of that, and in second-coming power and glory. By the way, when Jesus does come back again, Revelation 19, as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and after that a new city, the heavenly Jerusalem comes out of heaven towards the earth, do you remember how it's described? It said, "The city had no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminated it." And then it says why: "For the Lamb", that's Christ, "the Lamb is its light." Peter said, "I was there and I saw this preview of those coming attractions. I saw that on the holy mountain. I know it's true because of what I saw personally."

Sometimes I'll meet somebody who has an encounter, supernatural encounter, or they claim to have a supernatural encounter: "I saw Jesus." Of course, not all of them I can believe all of. People say, "I picked up an angel hitchhiking on the freeway." I've had several of those stories. And, "I saw Jesus in a tortilla." There's several things that you've heard of. But I do believe, that aside, I do believe that God can and does speak to people supernaturally by those kinds of things, especially in a restricted country. I have heard and read hundreds and hundreds of testimonies of Muslims in restrictive Islamic countries who've had Jesus appear to them in a dream and they were converted because of it. One who was an Iranian radical Muslim became disillusioned with Islam.

And as he was disillusioned, in the peak of that disillusionment, Jesus appeared to him in a dream and eventually he gave his life to Christ. Another by the name of Achmed, instead of having a beautiful vision of Jesus, kept having recurrent nightmares of judgment. This so shook him that he found an Arabic Bible and read it in secret. Why in secret? Because they would kill him had they found it. And so he read about Jesus and what he said and the miracles that he performed, and he was so impressed and drawn to Jesus that he gave his life to Christ. So Peter said, "I was an eyewitness. I saw this miraculous transfiguration happen before my eyes." Personal experience: "That's what I saw." But notice he also says, "This is what I heard."

Verse 17, "For he [Jesus] received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to him from the heavenly glory: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'" Now you know God the Father said that twice in Jesus' ministry, right? Once at the baptism and once here at the transfiguration. "And we heard", notice this, "we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain." So now we understand that the vision that he saw was accompanied by a sound track. He heard a voice. God spoke. Now, this is written in the emphatic and it could better be translated: "We ourselves heard this voice and others did not." Now somebody will read or hear this and go, "Oh, hearing voices, are we, Peter? First of all, you saw some crazy things, now you're hearing some crazy things."

And Peter would say, "Oh, no. Not just me, but me and James and John, all three of us together saw the same thing and heard the same thing at the same time. And, by the way, Jesus was there. Oh, and also, let's count Moses and Elijah." There's a whole group. And the more you have who see and hear the same thing, the chances of fabrication are greatly diminished. And why is this important? Because people who are unknowing will accuse New Testament writers of hallucinations: "Oh, they heard voices," or "They were so predisposed to this, they thought they saw a resurrection or they thought they saw a vision." But that defies everything we know today about hallucinations. Experts in the field will say that individuals can get a hallucination, groups cannot.

If a group sees the same thing and hears the same thing, that's no longer classified as a hallucination. There's something happening that needs to be accounted for. And, by the way, they will say typically there are certain profiles of individuals, high-strung individuals, imaginative individuals, those are the kind of people that hallucinate. That does not fit the profile of Peter, James, and John. So Peter is saying, "I, along with two of my other buddies, we were eyewitness to this glorious apparition. It was a trailer to the real event; and that is, the second coming. And it's something we saw and it's something we heard." Have you ever paused to think what it would have been like to be an apostle, to just be hanging around Jesus, living with him for three, three and a half years?

And just watching him and hearing him, it's now starting to dawn of you who this guy is you're following around. At first he was just this rabbi who said some really cool stuff. But now he's walking on water, now he's raising dead people, now he's doing this miracle and that miracle, and you're astonished at who you're following. John wrote about that in First John, chapter 1. This is what he said: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands they have touched, this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; and we have seen it and we testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us."

"We are eyewitness. We saw his works. We heard his words. We saw withered limbs healed, dead people get up. We heard Sermon on the Mount. We heard the sermon in the upper room. We heard parables. We heard his words. We saw his works. We had the personal experience with him." The only problem with personal experiences is that they are personal experiences. They're subjective. They're your own. And somebody could well say, "Well, that's your experience with truth. My personal experience with truth is far different than yours. You say you've seen and you say you've heard, you know, people see and hear things all the time. Experience itself is not valid." And that would be true.

Let's say somebody stood before you and said this: "Ladies and gentlemen, I have a message for you. I have smeared rotten bananas all over my head, and my life has changed. I now have peace. I have joy. I have love in my heart. I now talk like a monkey. I've been changed." The first question you ought to ask, I know what the first thought would be that would go through your mind. You'd think, "Guy's absolutely nuts!" But the first question you ought to ask is: "Are there any others throughout history who have also smeared rotten bananas on their head and their lives were changed and they had peace and love and joy and talked like a monkey?"

Because if we can find throughout history this constant stream of individuals who've had the like experience of that person who gave the testimony, we may be on to something and we might want to invest in bananas in the next few years. But perhaps not, maybe this is an isolated case. So we look at the apostles of Jesus, and beyond the apostles, those throughout church history who've had the similar experience of inviting Christ into their lives, and their lives being radically changed and experiencing peace and joy and love. All of the disciples were radically changed. And one of the strongest evidences for the gospel is that every one of those apostles, except for Judas, went to a martyr's death because of what they testified that they saw and heard.

"This is what we saw. This is what we heard. This is what we know. Our lives were changed." But Peter doesn't end with that, and it would be inappropriate to end with that. If we were just to say, "We know it's true because I've experienced it, I've seen it, I've heard it." It wouldn't be enough, and Peter knows that, and so he writes about second line of evidence, which is scriptural evidence. Verse 19, notice, "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." You see what he's doing? They haven't seen what we has seen. They haven't heard when he has heard. But they have the Scripture.

And he says, "You do well to take heed to that; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." "I know it's true because of what I've seen, I know it's true because of what I've heard, but now I know it's true because of what I've read," spiritual evidence. The Bible is confirming. "We have the prophetic word confirmed," he said. I love the King James, the old King James: "We have a more sure word of prophecy." "I know it's true because of what I've seen and heard, but I really know it's true and more certain than my own personal experience is what the Bible says. The Bible predicts the second coming of Christ. So if you don't believe me, read your Bible."

As you read the Bible, you find case after case after case of fulfilled prophecy. Now I'm not going to give you a study on prophecy this morning. We've done that in the past. But when you have a book where you find a prediction that God's people would be in slavery in Egypt for 400 years, and then it happened; and in the same book it's predicted that these people will eventually be in a seventy-year captivity in Babylon, and it happened; and you have prophecy after prophecy of what the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would do, and he fulfills them; you may want to think twice about that book and not just relegate it to another holy book. Example: in Isaiah 45 it is predicted that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed a hundred years before the actual event.

In the same chapter, Isaiah 45, it is predicted that Cyrus the king would rebuild the temple before Cyrus was ever born. He wasn't even a twinkle in his daddy's eye. He wouldn't come on the scene for another 160 years, but his name was written by the prophet Isaiah. And yet today in America four out of ten Americans believe that the Bible was written, its entirety, decades after the death and resurrection of Christ, which is not true, and it could be shown to be true. But they actually believe it was all written decades after his death and resurrection. What those four out of ten Americans need is a good study in fulfilled Bible prophecy. And I have had wonderful, lengthy conversations with people about this, and I have yet to meet someone who honestly considers the evidence for this and rejects the Scripture.

Because somebody will say, "Oh, but there's many books that purport to be the Word of God." You're right. There's about twenty-five books right now in the world that claim to be God's very word. Of those twenty-five books, you know what they're all lacking? Fulfilled prophecy. And the Bible has that in spades. A few years ago National Inquirer put out an interesting article, speaking of tabloid magazines. But the article was interesting. It was called "Modern-Day Prophets." And they asked movie stars, sports figures, and politicians to make predictions of what would happen, not in six or sixty years, but in the next six months. That's pretty safe. "Give us a prediction of what will happen in six months." They made sixty-one predictions in total.

Venture a guess, what would you say, they were half right? Maybe a third of what they predicted was right? Not a single thing they predicted happen. They flunked completely, zero on the test. Now, Peter will admit that experience is not valid by itself, but when you combine it with Scripture, now it's objective and verifiable. "I know what I saw, I know what I heard, but I also know what I read, and that what I saw and what I heard was predicted by the prophets." So the Bible is confirming. He also wants you to know the Bible is enlightening, for notice what he calls it. Verse 19, "We have prophetic word confirmed [or a more sure word of prophecy], which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place."

I don't know how you're reacting of the news of the last few weeks and months. I wonder if it's getting to you. It is to a lot of Americans. Attack after attack, almost daily, guys with hatchets in New York attacking police officers in the name of their religion. It's happening in Canada. And it's almost like you can't keep up with that news. Diseases like Ebola that are happening, and people are being shaken. Well, you need to know that some of these events, likewise, were taking place in that time. And Peter writes to his audience and says, "You have in such a dark world, you have a light. You have like a flashlight. Yes, you're shaken, but you're not shaken like people who don't understand this stuff. We know what the Bible predicts is coming. We have a dependable light in a dark world, and it's Scripture."

Psalm 119:105, David says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and it's a light to my path." When Jesus began his ministry, the prophet Isaiah was quoted by Matthew: "The people who sat in darkness, they have seen a great light." "You do well," says Peter, "to take heed to Scripture, because it's like a lamp, a lantern that lightens the darkened room." You'll notice that he says, "Until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." What is he speaking of "until the day dawns"? He must be speaking about what he has been speaking about, the second coming of Christ. One day Jesus will come, and when he comes all spiritual darkness, social darkness, political darkness, moral darkness will give way to a bright day. What's interesting is he says, "Until the, and the morning star rises in your hearts."

"The morning star," the Greek word is phósphoros, phosphorous. It was a technical term for the planet Venus, which was that bright light just before the dawn. You can tell the dawn, the day was about to begin when you would see that planet, when you'd see that star. "And the morning star rises in your hearts." Look at the last two verses and we'll close here. The Bible is unerring, besides confirming and enlightening, it's unerring. Peter writes, "knowing", he loves that word, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." This is one of the two most important New Testament verses on divine inspiration, the other is Second Timothy 3:16.

You know it. "All Scripture is given by. . . ", I thought you knew it." All scripture is given by. . . inspiration of God and is profitable." You need to be reading a little more. "All scripture is given by inspiration," theopneustos. It's God-breathed. It's God-breathed. But this one says, "They were moved by the Holy Spirit." Now, there's a word I want you to notice in the text. That's why I hope you bring a Bible. Look at verse 21. Look at the word "interpretation." "No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation." That's an unfortunate translation, because when you read it, or you hear it, it makes you think of understanding the Bible. Right? I'm reading what is written and I have an interpretation, I have an understanding of what is written.

And it's an unfortunate translation because cultic groups will come along and say, "No. You really can't understand the Bible. We, the leadership, need to explain it all to you. And I know you think it means that, but it really means that." So the word "Interpretation" in the Greek language refers to the origin. That's why the New Living Translation puts it this way: "No prophecy ever came from the prophets themselves." It's speaking about the origin of the text. It not like, you know, David or Paul was sitting around one day going, "You know, I kind of want to write about that," or, "I have an idea . . . ." It's not like it originated from them, though God used them. Now This is very good text for Bible inspiration, because it says, "Holy men of God spoke as they were", what?, "moved by the Holy Spirit."

That's a nautical term. That's a sailing term of sails going up and the ship being carried along where the wind determines it will go. So the biblical authors hoisted their sails and the Spirit or the breath of God filled those sailed and carried them to the destination God wanted, using the individual style of the author, the personality of the author. That's why John writes different than Paul and you notice those differences. But the destination, what was written, was under the control of the Holy Spirit. This is important, because if you try to explain inspiration to a person, we say," Well, the Bible was inspired." What you don't mean is that it's a mechanical inspiration. It's not like Paul's in the corner and God's saying, "Now take this down as I dictate it to you."

That would be mechanical inspiration. I don't believe that. Nor do I believe in what's call "concept inspiration," that God gave them the general concepts, the general idea. Like Paul, "I'll give you the general idea, Paul, about love." And so Paul goes, "You know, I'm going to write myself, my own thoughts, First Corinthians 13." That's concept inspiration. Nor do we believe in "natural inspiration." You might go to a concert or you might see an artist and you say, "Oh, oh that artist, he's so inspired." Well, there is a level of natural inspiration that great artist or great musicians have. But that's not what we mean by this. We mean is yes these biblical authors had their own styles, their own personalities.

But when they hoisted their sails and the breath of God took over, they were carried along so that the destination or the text, the result in text is indeed the very Word of God. We believe that is God can create the heavens and the earth, certainly that's not a big task for him. Okay, when you add human experience to divine revelation, now you have a powerful combination. If you just have what I saw and what I heard apart from what the Bible says, you just have a subjective set of experiences. You can argue that with anybody else, but you won't get very far. If you just have the divine text, but you've never experienced it, so what? But you put them both together, you've truth set on fire.

So I conclude with this: H. P. Barker said, "I was looking out my window and I looked at the garden, I saw three things. First, I saw a butterfly that was beautiful and would alight upon a flower and then flutter to another and to another, only for a second or two and then move on. It would touch as many blossoms as it could, but derived absolutely no benefit from it. But, second, there came a botanist into the garden. The botanist had a big notebook under his arm and a big magnifying glass. And the botanist would lean over a certain flower and he would look for a long time and he would write notes in his notebook. And he was there for hours writing notes, and then he closed them, stuck them under his arm, tucked his magnifying glass in his pocket and walked away.

"The third thing I noticed was a bee, just a little bee. But the bee would alight upon a flower and would sink deep down into the flower and extract all the nectar and pollen that it could. It went in empty every time and it came out full." And the author says, "Which are you?" When it comes to Scripture, which are you? Are you like the butterfly, you flip from this Bible study to this Bible study, from this church to that church? I've asked people, "What church do you go to?" "Oh, I go to all of them." And it's like, "I get a little here and I get a little there. And especially I like the kind where there's just a big pep talk and I can smile a lot when I go and leave. The lighter the better."

Or are you like the botanist? Oh, no, no. You're into deep study and you want to take all these notes. And you get out the magnifying glass and you search and all the original stuff and you take more notes, and then you leave forgetting what you just wrote on the paper. Or are you like the bee? You go in empty and you come out full, and it's fuel for your life, it's pollen for your existence, it's nourishment to your soul, and they are truths that you live by. You decide which one you are.

Father, we thank you for the words of Peter, this fisherman whose life was changed. And he knew what it was to have eyewitness testimony. And his eyewitness testimony was the same as that of the others who saw the transfiguration, and like the other apostles who lived and heard and saw the life of the Lord Jesus. But he also realized that eyewitness testimony by itself is just personal experience, but when matched up with the objective truths of prophetic Scripture, it is a very powerful and compelling case that should convince any thinking person that there is more to this Jesus than him just being some guy who existed and good things were said about him and done by him. He's far more man that. Lord, I pray that we would have the hunger to dig deep, not just to dig deep, and not just to understand truth, but to understand and relate to the God of truth in a living relationship, a love relationship with you, the living God. It's in Jesus' name we ask, amen.

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