16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 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.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, 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. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21)
It’s dark out there. A couple weeks ago, the National Prayer Breakfast was held in Washington D.C. A pastor began the breakfast by encouraging everyone to listen to Jesus’ call to love our enemies. Sound good? President Trump spoke next. Do you know the first thing he said? “I don’t know if I agree with you”—that is, with Jesus! Then he launched a tirade mocking everyone who has opposed him. There is a darkness, a terrible darkness, that surrounds the leadership in our country. The sad thing is we’re used to it. Bernie Sanders was recently asked if someone who is pro-life could be a Democrat. He said, “Being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat.” In other words, “If you’re in favor of life for babies, don’t come on our side!” It’s dark out there! No matter who serves as president, it will be a person against God’s Word.
I know that darkness feels kind of new. Like it’s never been this bad before! That’s not true. Just ask Peter—Jesus’ disciple. Peter wrote a whole book of the Bible to warn against false teachers. It’s called 2 Peter. He said, “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” Peter predicted those false teachers would despise authority, carouse in broad daylight, mouth empty, boastful words, appeal to the lustful desires of the sinful nature… Sound familiar? You bet! So much darkness. How did Peter stay true? How did Peter stay faithful to Jesus? It’s dark out there!
Here’s how: Peter had a light. Our lesson starts, “We did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” In other words, Peter said, “We didn’t make this up! We have seen the light!” When? What was this light that got Peter through the darkness? As one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter saw a lot. He watched Jesus ascend into heaven, but that wasn’t what was on his mind. He saw Jesus rise from the dead on Easter! But that wasn’t the light on his mind either. The light that shone in the darkness was today—Transfiguration Day. Peter was an eyewitness of Jesus’ majesty.
It sounds like we need to know this story! Not long before he died on the cross, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain. There, he was “transfigured.” That’s a funny word. It means that he was changed. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). Jesus suddenly looked like the God he is! What’s more, “just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (Matthew 17:3). Remember those guys? Moses and Elijah? Two of the great prophets of the Old Testament—back again! Wow.
But none of that was actually what stuck in Peter’s mind. Listen to how he remembered Transfiguration Day: Jesus “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.’” What stuck in Peter’s mind? God’s voice. Peter didn’t have to make up clever stories about Jesus. He had the words of God the Father ringing in his ears. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). Imagine hearing God’s voice!
Peter never forgot that voice. He was going to watch Jesus suffer terrible things, but he could remember God’s voice. He was going to watch Jesus look like the weakest person on earth as he died on the cross, but he could remember God’s voice. Peter was going to face bitter persecution until he died on his own cross, but he could remember God’s voice. He would be confronted with all the boasts and lies of false teachers, but he could remember God’s voice. Peter clung to God’s voice in the darkness of this world. That’s how he had hope. That’s how he had confidence. There was no doubt. Jesus was his Savior. God’s voice was his light in the darkness.
So how many of you were there to hear it too? How many of you heard God’s voice proclaim on that mountain: “This is my Son… Listen to him!” No one? I don’t want to assume. Some of us are pretty old. Nobody was there? Huh. If God’s voice is the light in the darkness, I guess we’re out of luck. Wouldn’t it have been nice to be an eyewitness of Jesus’ Transfiguration like Peter was?
Actually, according to Peter, you have something just as good. Listen: “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, 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.” You’ve heard God’s voice too. Did you know that? According to Peter, when you read the Bible, you hear God’s voice just as clearly as he did on Transfiguration Day. It’s “completely reliable.” The Bible is our light shining in a dark place. Pay attention to it, like you focus on the light as you walk down a dark hallway. God’s voice in the Bible is our light in the darkness.
That phrase—light in the darkness—makes me think of my trip to Puerto Rico. While we were there, the power went out on the whole island. That night in the dark, I went outside and saw something amazing. Can you guess what it was? Stars. Stars brighter than I had ever seen them. I tried to take a picture with my phone. That didn’t work! Of course, the stars are always shining in exactly the same way, but the darker it is, the more they stand out as lights in the darkness.
That’s what God’s Word is—a light in the darkness! The darker it is, the more God’s voice stands out. It’s dark out there, isn’t it? We’re surrounded by cleverly invented stories—actually lies. “Might makes right.” If you have the power, you are free to do whatever you want. What a cleverly invented excuse to cover sin. “It’s my body / my choice.” What a cleverly invented excuse to justify ending someone else’s life. “If it feels good do it.” What a cleverly invented excuse for you to get your way. “That’s just your interpretation. What’s true for you isn’t true for me.” I’m free to find my own truth. What a cleverly invented excuse to ignore that God says.
It’s dark out there. Actually, it’s dark in here. Do you know why those cleverly invented stories are so popular? They appeal so well to our sinful human natures. We invent clever stories to tell ourselves what we want to hear. To excuse our sins. To make us feel good about ourselves. Isn’t it amazing what we’re willing to believe as long as it doesn’t come from the Bible? It’s dark out there! But like those stars in Puerto Rico, God’s Word is the light “shining in a dark place.”
Because every time you hear the Bible you hear the voice of God. This is so important. Peter writes, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” No part of the Bible is just some man’s interpretation. Not a single word of the Bible is just somebody’s opinion. The men who wrote it were carried along by the Holy Spirit. They were told exactly what to write by God himself. Like Peter on that mountain, you have heard the voice of God.
Really? Lots of people claim to be right. How can we know the Bible’s really true? Think about this: God used about 40 different people over 1500 years to write the Bible. Imagine that you were to take 40 men, have them sit down in different rooms, and tell them each to write down their thoughts about God. What would be the chances that all 40 would write the same message? I’ll tell you—0%! There’s no way! Somehow, in the Bible, dozens of people who lived in very different places at very different times all put together a perfectly united message that proclaims the same truth about Jesus from beginning to end. That’s amazing! That’s the Word of God.
Or think about this: You can know if someone is telling the truth by whether their words come true. Isaiah was a prophet who lived 700 years before Jesus. He prophesied that Jesus would be born of a virgin. He prophesied that Jesus would make the blind see and the deaf hear and the lame walk. He prophesied that Jesus was be led like a lamb to the slaughter. He prophesied that Jesus would rise from the dead. What are the chances that those prophecies would come true? Well, how well could people 700 years ago—in 1300—predict what life is like today. Not well! Except every word Isaiah wrote came true. God’s Word is amazing! It’s the Word of God.
Here’s one more proof of God’s Word: You. This message written down so many years ago pulls at your heart and changes your life in ways that only God can do. There’s no other message like it in the world. When we sinned, God decided to die for us. You can’t make that up! God’s love doesn’t depend on how good we are, it depends on his grace. You won’t hear that anywhere else in the world. We’re not saved by what we do, but by what Jesus did for us on the cross. No one has ever come up with a story like that. It’s changed you! It’s saved you! It’s the Word of God.
Peter never forgot the Father’s words at Jesus’ transfiguration: “This is my Son…” I hope you have memorized verses from the Bible to be light for you in dark times. When you feel all alone, Jesus says: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). There’s light! When you face death, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (Psalm 23:4). There’s light! When you feel rejected, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10). There’s light! When you feel like you can’t go on, Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There’s light! As long as you have God’s Word in your heart and in your mind, it doesn’t matter how dark life gets. It doesn’t matter who the next president is or what other people are saying, you have a light in the darkness.
That night looking up at the stars in Puerto Rico reminded me of when I got to visit Israel. We spent a night on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The pastor who was guiding our group had some strange instructions. “Come back down to the lake tonight at 10:00 p.m.” So we showed up in the dark. The pastor pointed around the lake. Do you know what we saw? Lights. All around the lake were lights shining in the darkness. During the day, we didn’t notice them. But in the dark, they stood out. The pastor quietly recited Jesus’ words: “You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” The darker it gets, the clearer we get to shine with God’s voice—light in the darkness.