Parents say it to children. Teachers say it to students. And the Bible says it to us. “Please pay attention.” Inattention will get you into trouble.

Inattention will get you into trouble. If you are inattentive you will inevitably disobey your parents, you will not be prepared for your test, and you may miss wonderful opportunities for Christian service.

In II Peter 1:16-21, Peter asked his readers to pay careful attention to his remarks. Peter was possibly responding to critics of the new faith called Christianity. But he was also responding to those who embarrassed the cause of Christ by bringing pagan traditions and secular methodologies into the faith community.

In verse 16, Peter contended that the early disciples “came to you with integrity.” In fact, they were eyewitnesses to the accounts in gospels. He specifically said, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths.” They did not manipulate the story.

Two thousand years later, religion is not free of manipulation and myth. From televangelists who adopt unethical and dishonest methods to raise funds and draw a crowd, to those who use e-mail to send fictional accounts of personal tragedy and trauma in order to capitalize upon our naiveté, deceit abounds in the name of religion.

Maybe everything of value has counterfeits. Occasionally you may have a store clerk examine your currency for authenticity because counterfeits abound. Alcohol and drugs are counterfeits of happiness. Pornography and promiscuity are counterfeits of sexual intimacy.

In this passage, we learn that religion also has counterfeits.

To further defend this new faith, Peter described faith as light arising within darkness. He emphasized that good news appears as light in the darkness, that Christ arises like a light within the darkness of the soul. He described the faith journey as being like the morning star “arising in your heart.”

For some believers, this light shines quickly and brightly. For others, the light of faith gradually emerges through prolonged season of inquiry and investigation.

Peter firmly reminded the church and its critics that scripture was not to be interpreted to fit an agenda. Notice, he did not imply that scripture was not to be interpreted. Without interpretation, we would have almost no understanding of scripture.

He did not suggest that there are not variances in interpretation. He did insist that people not twist scripture to fit circumstances, to endorse prejudices, or to implicate those with whom we disagree.

Finally, Peter rested his case by affirming that scripture was inspired by God. He was also quick to point out that God inspired human beings to record these important words we call scripture. These inspired words from God came to us through the vehicle of human personality.

What does it mean that God spoke through individuals as they were moved by the Holy Spirit? Historically, God has used both men and women to speak a word of prophecy, to preach a word of gospel, to bear witness to the authenticity of faith. Perhaps most of those being inspired did not realize they were writing life-changing words that would inspire, instruct and convict multitudes for generations to come.

This passage pushes us to an ongoing journey of faith development. We are summoned to provide the critics of our faith credible evidence of its validity, to show them our faith by our words and our deeds.

We should understand that God’s message is so important to God and so crucial to us that, for many generations, God has used men and women to record, interpret, preach and teach the message of love and grace. God recognizes the darkness within each of us but desires that the light of grace dispel the darkness.

The message is so vitally important that all of us should “pay attention.”

Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.

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