– by Dennis Loots
“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. 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 honour 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 that 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.” – 2 Peter 1:12-21
I want to share a message that relates to the fundamentals, and the things in Scripture that anchor us. This passage is a tremendously important passage of Scripture. I don’t need to remind you that you can have as strong a faith, and as sincere a faith as you like, but if that faith is in the wrong thing, it inevitably ends up disastrous. This applies to every area of life.
History is littered with the consequences of misplaced faith. We hear of people that say they have strong faith, as if some kind of vague belief that things will turn out well ends in a good result. Strong faith means nothing if it is in the wrong thing.
We hear and read about leaders and cults who have mislead people and taken captive many sincere and genuine people, people who have committed their lives, and often sold all of their possessions, given all they have, and dedicated all their time, only for it to be the wrong thing, and it ends up as a disaster. All of these people believe strongly and have a committed passion to what is being taught. Some of these people may even be more genuine and sincere in their beliefs than some Christians, yet the end is going to be tragic, filled with disillusionment.
Scriptures teach that it is not only the amount of faith, or the sincerity of your faith that is of crucial importance, but rather the object of faith. It is who and what we put our faith in that really matters and counts at the end of the day. Faith can be as strong as you like, but if it is directed towards untruth and error, it is hopeless and leads nowhere.
In this passage, Peter is about to die. He writes in verse 14 that he will soon put his body aside. He talks in verse 15 about his departure, and he states that knowing his death is not far off, he wants to make sure one last time that the faith of these people is in the right object, and that they are rooted and firmly established in the truth.
As always, teachers had come in amongst them, and had begun to spread doctrines that seemed so appealing, and promised so much. Though he commends these believers, he emphasises the need for them to be firmly established in the truth, and he says he is going to have one last shot at this, and tell them one more time so that they will always be able to remember these things.
What he essentially reminds them of, is the foundation of their faith, what they put their hope in, what has changed their lives, what the Christian faith is all about, and how we can have an element of certainty in our heart that these things are true.
It is his last shot – and when it is somebody’s last shot, you take note of what they say.
Amongst the persecution, with all kinds of teaching and uncertainties, and the pressures mounting in their lives, he says brothers and sisters; this is what you hold on to, this is what anchors your faith, this is what is foundational.
The first thing that he reminds them is that their faith is anchored in actual, factual, historical events.
Peter expresses that our faith in Jesus is perfectly reasonable. Regardless of what the world, philosophers, and naysayers may say, it is perfectly reasonable to be believers. He says:
“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.”
I find it deeply significant that when Peter has one last shot, he draws their attention to the reasonableness of their faith. And as followers of the Lord Jesus, we are grateful for the assurance that God puts in our hearts by His spirit. We are grateful for the joys, the mountaintop experiences, the peace that God, by his spirit, puts in our hearts. We are thankful that we can confess that we know that we belong to God, because His spirit witnesses with our spirit. This is all precious and wonderful. But at the end of the day, when the pressure mounts, and none of these things are happening, we are still able to say that ours is a perfectly reasonable faith. This is what Peter is on about.
Someone once said to me “sure you have this faith, but I don’t.” But people have this faith in different ways. ‘What you believe is not important, as long as you believe.’ – I hope that you understand that this is absolute nonsense. The Christian faith is not just about nice feelings. It is not just about philosophies and ideas. It is not a search for some ultimate truth and purpose. Its not one of many options that helps you to cope with life, or leads you to being wealthy and successful. The Christian faith is a historical faith. It is founded and made certain by real events that took place in time and history. It is about keeping our eyes on Jesus, who really lived, who really died, and who really rose again. We are not calling to people to faith, but to faith in Jesus! And there is a big, vital difference…
Peter reminds them in the midst of their persecution and hardship, amongst all kinds of false teachings, that they need to be anchored and held firm by that which is truth. The apostle Paul writes a similar thing when he writes to Timothy. “I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” – 2 Timothy 1:12
Our faith is the fulfilment of countless prophesies. It was not thought out by some guru on a mountaintop, it is ‘earthy’. It has to do with real people. That’s why when you read through the Bible you will encounter real people with warts and all, who are living out their faith in real situations. You will read about their struggles and failures, as well as their victories. It is not some strange system and strange belief. And while we know that God works in ways that are beyond us, that are miraculous, and mysterious, we stand on the truth that Jesus really lived.
In his first letter, Peter writes and says “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:15
There is a reason for the hope that we have. I go through my ups and downs, I have good seasons and I have bad seasons. We all love the mountaintops experiences, but we have all had the valley experiences too. There are things that happen that I struggle to understand. But it doesn’t affect what I believe for one moment. It is not my experience of faith on any given day that matters, but rather the One who I have faith in.
What does Peter call them to put their faith in, even as they are persecuted and wronged? Not in some funny story that is strung together by gurus and showmen, but the truth of God, as revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second thing that he reminds them is that their faith is based on the personal testimony of the apostles.
“For we were eyewitnesses of His Majesty.”
These believers had been taught by Paul and by Peter, they had heard amazing accounts of Jesus’ life, His teachings, and His miracles. They had been taught about His death and His resurrection. And Peter says that when he taught us this, it wasn’t some second hand story that he picked up, but that he was an eyewitness of it. The Gospels are all eyewitness accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a court of law, an eyewitness is invaluable. Peter could have listed many miracles that he had witnessed Jesus doing. He could have told of Jesus walking on water, turning water into wine, feeding thousands of people, but in this passage, Peter goes back to a life-changing encounter that he had. Peter heard the voice of God saying, “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased.” The events of the life of Jesus appeared in public, and for someone to deny that, is for them to deny facts of history.
The third thing that he reminds them is that theirs is a faith that has been promised and authenticated by God.
It is true in history, all of these things had been spoken about in prophetic Scriptures. On top of all these other things that we stand on, the truth, the Word, the miracles, the eyewitnesses, we stand on the fact that Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies. The Old Testament was written over a period of 1000 years. There are hundreds of prophecies that relate to the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled them all. Jesus himself said in Matthew 5:17, ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” All throughout Scripture, we see prophecies fulfilled. The prophetic word made true.
It is simply, mathematically impossible for Jesus to fulfil all of these prophecies by chance, or by deception. The Scriptures point to Him. And when people raise doubts about who He is, remember these things: history attests, we have eyewitness accounts, and the prophets of old speak over and over that Jesus is Lord.
Apply this to your life. We all have challenges, life gets tough, despite some of the theologies that do their rounds, we are not exempt from life’s challenges. Maybe our futures even hold persecution for us. Holding on to Christian beliefs is going to get increasingly tough. But in the midst of all of this – what anchors and holds us? What is our strength? Where does our hope come from?
Ours is a historical faith, based on the eyewitness accounts of reliable witnesses, and confirmed with the fulfilment of prophetic Scriptures.
As Christians, we must stand strong.