November 28, 2009

How can you be so sure?

One amazing thing about being a Christian is the assurance. I know that what God reveals is true. Sometimes my understanding of His revelation needs help, but whatever He says is sure and certain.

I’ve been asked, “How can you be so sure?” This I do not understand. I just am, but not only that, I know the difference between the self-deception that comes with disobedience and with wanting something to be true (to the point that I don’t listen). I also know the deception offered by false teachers. Yet when God speaks through His Word, He gives that amazing sense of knowing it is true. Sometimes He even affirms it in other ways as He did for the early Christians.

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. (2 Peter 1:18–19)
Every teaching or prediction made by the Old Testament prophets was for Peter and for his readers already a “sure” thing; the OT was their Bible. Yet these verses suggest that the prophecies in those writings were made even “more certain” or “confirmed” by the Transfiguration when God’s voice spoke from heaven as they were with Jesus on the mountain.

If there were any doubts concerning those prophetic teachings of God’s plans for world history, this eyewitness account would rule them out. The OT prophets wrote about both the first and second coming of God’s Messiah, as did the New Testament writers.

For me, the point of this is the second part of the verses from 2 Peter that say it is good for me to pay attention to this light that God shines into the darkness in this world. Some time in the future, the day will dawn, a reference to the return of Christ, but that has not yet happened. In the meantime, I need to walk by the light that He gives me.

The idea of “a light shining in a dark place” is a common metaphor in Jewish literature. I’m thinking of Psalm 119:105 that says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Without the Word of God, I do not know where I am going or even where I have been. Sin makes the heart dark. The Word gives it light.

Peter extends this metaphor with the idea that prophetic light is vital “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Again, in its context that “day” refers to the return of Christ who is the “morning star” spoken of in Numbers 24:17 and Revelation 22:16.

The idea of this star rising in my heart fuels my anticipation for the return of Jesus. I’m not alone. From the days of the early church until now, Christians eagerly anticipate the joy of that day. Paul wrote . . . 

For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Neither Peter nor Paul gives much attention to death when talking of Jesus’ return. While their words have created a sense that the Lord could return during the lifetime readers throughout the past two thousand years, these words also say something about my priorities.

Instead of thinking about how long I will live, when I will die, and being preoccupied with the shortness of life, I will do well to heed the Word of God and anticipate the joy of seeing Jesus. He may or may not return in my lifetime, but either way, He challenges me to spend the days I have knowing that I will spend eternity with Him, and that is His sure Word to me.

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