Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we live in a world in which sinful humans constantly try to blur the distinction between good and evil. People try to downplay sin by calling it an illness or a disease. All such silliness leads to more evil, more sin, and the destruction of souls. It leads to a renunciation of Your work in saving us and robs You of Your glory. Lord, keep us free from such stupidity. Inscribe on our hearts that Your truth really is eternal truth which never changes. And the most important truth of all is that You came to save sinners like us with Your precious blood. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR FROM SIN AND DEATH!
TEXT: 2 Peter 1: 16-21
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Last Wednesday I worked on this sermon. I decided on the text, studied it, jotted down some issues from it that I felt should be discussed, and then went home to mull it around until Friday morning when I would write my sermon. Then came Thursday morning. I opened my “Wall Street Journal” on there on the opinion page was this article by Michael Novak entitled: “The Return of ‘Good and Evil.'” Since it dovetailed rather nicely with my thoughts, I decided to borrow a little from it to help make my point. So, let me quote from the article.
“Not so long ago, a friend of mine was debating on talk radio someone described as a “former nun lesbian abortion rights activist” (I kid you not), when the question came up of belief in moral standards. The former nun was having none of it-no talk of “medieval absolutes and all that baggage.” The host asked my friend if he believed in absolutes, but before he could answer, the former nun burst in: “Name one.” My friend didn’t have time to think but by a gift of grace shot back immediately: “Thou shalt not rape.” On the air hung three delicious seconds of silence.”
Today we are not just in a war against political terrorists, we’re in a war against moral terrorists, too. I suppose it stems from the 1960’s dictum: “If it feels good, do it” coupled with the idea that “evil” and “sin” don’t really exist, they are just in the eye of the guilt-ridden, religious zealot beholder. As I write this on Friday morning, the “Boston Globe” had a letter to the editor from a retired Catholic priest in which he partially defended Father Geoghan and Cardinal Law because we fail to understand the depths of the illness and sickness of pedophilia! That shows the depths to which many have sunk. Everything is an illness, or a sickness, rather than moral sewage, filth, and sin. Why is it that few wish to label aberrant behavior as “evil”? The answer is clear for us. If they refuse to accept the Bible as God’s Word, thus Divine truth, then any idea, concept, or behavior is just as valid as any other. That is, it is all in the eye of the beholder. Yes, when God got relegated to the back of the bus and the Bible was tossed out the window, the devil was given free reign. And it is obvious that he has been very, very, busy.
Against this backdrop, we have a wonderful bit of God’s Word to consider. It lays out for us exactly what truth really is, how goodness comes to us, and how we can be uplifted in this fight between good and evil. So, today I want to ask and then answer this question:
WHAT MAKES THE BIBLE SO SPECIAL?
Is the Bible just another book, like Shakespeare’s collected works, or Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn?” That is, is it merely a product of human thoughts and human writers, thus subject to their moral weaknesses and frailties? No. It is divine truth! It is God’s truth, unchanged, unchanging! Note well what St. Peter says: “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Then Peter goes on to recount what he saw and heard when present with Christ on that holy mountain during the transfiguration.
“For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, (that bright cloud that Matthew refers to in today’s gospel), saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”
Then to give the certainty of God-given truth and moral certitude to his readers, Peter goes on to tell us how God caused the Bible to be written. “And we have the word of the prophets (the old testament) made more certain, 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. (That’s a reference to the inner transformation that the Holy Ghost works in us via faith.) Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Yes, God used human beings to write the Bible. But He gave them the very words and thoughts to write down. Thus, the Bible is God’s Word, not Peter’s word, or Paul’s word, but God’s Word. Also, it is not tainted by human presuppositions or human weakness. It is morally pure and true. It is the standard by which we must judge anything and everything. For to do otherwise tries to make God Almighty into a liar.
If the Bible is just another book subject to any and all human interpretations (the modern view) than there is no right or wrong, no good or evil. As I say, this is the modern view. A lot of people use such a view to discount or disregard the commandments. “O abortion isn’t murder, because it isn’t a human life.” But press such people on when life does begin, and they’ll conclude: “I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.” So, abortion is based on their idea “it doesn’t matter.” So much for ridiculousness. The Bible states that drunkenness is a sin. That’s a moral judgement, isn’t it? However, the modern view says: “It’s an illness that must be treated with compassion and counseling, with blaming genes or one’s parents for the problem.” All of the alcoholics I’ve talked to flatly admit that drunkenness is a sin, not an illness. They’re to blame from drinking, not their parents. And if they stop, the problem stops.
As Christians we all know that God doesn’t pussy-foot around such issues. His Word states that if you repent of your sin, take personal responsibility for it, and then trust that Jesus Christ died for that sin in order to wipe your slate clean with God, if you do that your soul will be saved, your life will turn around, and you’ll also know the difference between good and evil. If you want to know and recognize goodness than obviously you must admit there is evil. That means moral judgements. And the Bible is the only book ever written which fully and completely outlines Godly morality. Yes, Ms. Former Nun, Lesbian, abortion rights activist “Thou shalt not rape” is a moral absolute along with the rest of the commandments.
What Makes the Bible Special? Certainly its clear black vs. white truth and also the unique way God gave it to us. But most of all what makes it special is its truth as to how God deals with our moral failings. In other words, Jesus Christ. Every other religion in the world from Hinduism to Islam to Buddhism to Shintoism to new-age mysticism teaches that you must do something to save yourself. They all teach that you must put yourself in touch with the powers beyond the grave. Not Christianity, however. No, we teach the Biblical truth that God sent His only Son into the world to live a perfect life in place of our sorry one, to die for our moral failings, and then to rise again from death to life in order to give us, GIVE US, peace with God.
Thus, the Bible provides us with true comfort. For if you must decide what is good and evil on your own, or if you must reform yourself based on your own insights or lack of them-how can you ever know your efforts or insights were good enough or right enough to save your own soul? You cannot. But if God is in charge of our salvation from beginning to end. If the perfect and holy God died to pay for your sins. If He then gives you His forgiveness through baptism, the Holy Supper, and His powerful Word to loving forgiveness. If He even works the faith in you to believe all this, well, God doesn’t make mistakes. And so true peace of soul will result. “For every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights” as James says.
My friends, don’t be ashamed or afraid to call moral filth: evil. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to admit that the Bible is your only source of true comfort amid an evil world. Don’t be ashamed to call Christ your Brother and your Savior. And then know that “He is not ashamed to call you His brothers, sisters, and family too.” The Bible tells us so. And that is what makes it o so special. Amen