Well good morning everyone, it’s good to see you. “Good morning.” Don’t you just like it when pastors say that, good morning? Good morning. Well it is a privilege to be here. My name is Gary Wilmer and you know, as I thought about preparing for this message this morning, I was struck with a couple of things. First, how faithful this church has been over the years in Christ and the legacy that it has left. In fact, I think about Murray Smoot who started this church some years ago and also started the very first Young Life Club in Baltimore you know at Towson High School, which is fantastic. Thank you, those Towson students, the Towson Generals. But you know when I think about Murray starting Towson’s Young Life Club, I think about my own walk with Christ because I came to know Christ through a Young Life Club at Franklin High School years later and I think just about the ripple effect of one persons life and faithfulness over years and how God uses that. Think of that movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and you think of George Bailey, the guy who saw what the world would be like if he hadn’t of lived. I think about your life and I think about my life and I ask the question, what kind of legacy is Christ going to have through us as we leave this earth at some point? And so I am grateful to be here. It’s a privilege.
We are going to look at Mark, Chapter 9, so if you have your Bibles you can turn to Mark, Chapter 9 and we are going to look at a passage that has really been a theme passage I think in my life for the last year or so that God has used to really impact me. Mark, Chapter 9, Verses 2 through 13. It is a story of the transfiguration. It’s a story, which really is a watershed in the ministry of Christ as the halfway point. You know today we are going to go home for a lot of us, I know for at least me, and we are going to watch some football. You know there is going to be a half-time you know kind of deal there where you might get some snacks, maybe make a sandwich or a lot of sandwiches and you know. Now in this story we have Jesus who really you think about his baptism, that kind of kicked off his ministry. The mount of transfiguration is really right in the middle because as he comes down from this mountain ladies and gentlemen, he begins to head towards Jerusalem and he puts his faith towards the cross as it were and so this is kind of a half-time lockeroom time for him to kind of regather himself and get focused on the mission that was before him namely, the cross. Let me read. I will be reading out of the New International Version in Verse 2 of Chapter 9 of Mark.
“After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before him Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
You know you kind of like, you know John Mark how in parenthesis it says, (He says he did not know what tosay, they were so frightened.) In other words, Peter was really a knucklehead here and said stuff that he should not have said.
Verse 7. “And then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” And then Jesus says, “To be sure, Elijah does come first and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I will tell you Elijah has come and they have done to him everything they had wished, just as it is written about him.”
Let’s pray together shall we. Well Lord we come before you this morning and we are grateful for this time and we are grateful for this privilege to worship you this morning. We know that all around the world we are joined by worshipers who are focusing on you and your word and we come together as one church, one body. God we trust you this morning, we trust that you have called us together that you have brought us together as a body and as individuals and that you are going to meet us even now. Lord transform us as a church and as individuals and to your glory we pray God that these next few moments would be your time to change our lives in Christ. Amen.
As I think about this passage, I think about a few years ago, I had the opportunity in college to work at a camp. It was a Young Life Camp and it was in Upper State New York on Saranac Lake. And as a college guy, I was part of a team that was up there for a month and we were working on different projects and on one occasion I was working on this roof and I was painting this metal roof with a bunch of guys. We had lunch. After lunch I decided to go back on this metal roof and try to finish the job myself. There was just a small section to be done so I thought I am kind of macho, I am 20 and I can do anything I want and I am going to go do it. So I go up there and we had been hooking ourselves then with rope at the time because it was so steep, but I figured it was just one small section, I am not going to use a rope and I will be done and I would be a hero. And so I get up on the roof and I started to paint this one section and there is a beautiful view of Saranac Lake behind me and I was just thinking gosh this is great. What a great view. What a great day. I am going to finish this up and then I began to discover there is really nothing to grab on to on this roof. I was about 15 foot up away from the ladder and I begin to slide a little bit and there is nothing to get my fingernails on. It was metal and it was steep and I began to slide and I pick up more speed and I am thinking… you know, have you ever been in an accident type situation and things slow down and it seems like time just gets real slow? At that point I thought about a number of things. One, I am in a lot of trouble right now. I am probably going to die. So I am starting to slide down this roof, I am gaining speed, there is no gutters on the house because we had taken them off, so I am thinking that I had nothing to grab on to. And then I also thought, that’s a great view. And so as I am sliding, I get to the edge of the roof and literally I fall off this roof and the first thought that went through my mind, if I could slow it down and I remember thinking this in that split second, there was this really nice ski boat parked under me and I am thinking, I hope I don’t hit that. That’s really an expensive boat. Okay. And then as I was falling and I realized this more so later, as I was falling there was this big picture window, like a bay window type thing that was right in front of me as I was falling. Well I come to find out as I hit the ground, that inside this building where I was painting that they were having a meeting. Okay? Now the guy who was speaking had his back to window speaking to an audience. Now, imagine you are in a Bible study and you are reading and you look up and all of a sudden you just see a man drop right behind you. Like whoa, look at that. What is that? So anyway, people started coming out of the building. Fortunately it was like this mulch pile or this really soft and I didn’t get hurt real bad. I twisted my ankle. My adrenaline got me up, as well as my ego. I am like; I am not going to be caught here on the ground. So these people started coming out and I am kind of like, they said, “Are you all right? Are you all right?” And I am like, “Yeah, I am just down here to get more tools, and then I got to get back up here on the roof.” You know. It’s funny, but it’s true. It did happen. I think about that occasion and I think about the view. You might say that I saw and then I thought it was kind of a funny story, so I would share it anyway.
But our passage today really is a life-changing encounter that Peter, James and John had with Jesus. Here is the first thing that I kind of want to bring out as we look at this. It says in verse 2, “After six days, Jesus took Peter, James and John with him on this mountain.” You know when you think about it; Jesus had his one didn’t he? He had Peter, his close buddy. And then he had Peter, James and John, the three. Then the twelve. The 72. But these three, Peter, James and John, when you read the scriptures, they always seem like they are always ready to be front and center. Like whenever Jesus wanted to do something, they were there. They were excited. You know I don’t want to take liberty with the text, but you almost and we will have to ask the Lord someday, was everybody invited. But these three were the ones who went with Jesus on this mountain, which ultimately changed their lives. In fact, as you look at the scriptures later in Peter second epistle, he says this. “He reminisces about the Mount of Transfiguration.” Later in life. It marked him. It changed his life. He says this, “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.” And he goes on to say this, “For 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.” Verse 18. “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”
Peter reminisces about this tremendous day in his life. You see, I think this particular day his theology was changed forever. He beheld Jesus in a way. Just like he did when he was out on the winds and waves and he was the only one out of the twelve who experienced that. You see, as our theology grows it impacts our reality, doesn’t it? Our theology impacts our reality. When the rubber hits the road, how we see Jesus, how we see the Lord ultimately dictates how we live day to day. You know, when I read this passage, the first point that I would like to bring out is this. The discipline it was to climb the mountain. It was probably a four and half-hour climb scholars tell us. Perhaps Mount Hermon or perhaps Mount Tabor which both of them are big mountains. This is not a hill. But in the process, these three climb and they are with Christ. Discipleship is hard work, isn’t it? God calls us to be in a relationship with himself. He bids us to come as he bids Peter to come out on the winds and the waves. It’s hard work. Its discipline to climb. But you know with anything though, that’s worth anything, it takes hard work, doesn’t it? To accomplish things that are good in life. Jesus invites us to be in a relationship and he calls us to climb the mountain. And then these three beheld Christ in a completely different way.
You know, when I think about people who you just know, they are somebody who walks with Christ. You can just tell when you are around them; the aroma of Christ is on their life. If their life was like a house, I guarantee you, you could pull the roof off of that house and you could begin to examine them on a daily basis, you are going to find one thing that I believe will be true. That they practice the disciplines of being with Christ daily. They are people who are in his word. They are people who are in prayer. They are people who are in fellowship. It’s not rocket science, you have got to show up. Most of the Christian life is showing up. And what does God promise? He says, if you will seek me, what? You will find me. If you knock, the door will be open. And I think our thought this morning is really this. How are you climbing the mountain today? He has called us into a relationship, but it does not stop there. You see the chief end of God; his main desire for you and for me today is that we are transformed into his image. Did you know that? And life is a classroom that Jesus will use to draw you into his image and he bids you to come, but you have got to step out and it is hard work. It’s just hard. And you have to be faithful all of the time.
You know when I think about the Apostle Paul, he said, “I run the race to win.” I go into strict training. My question for us and for me too, as I prepared this and it is very convicting, I wonder what adjective you would use and I would use to describe our walk with Christ. Would you use the word strict? I am going after it. I am walking hard. I might be failing, but I get up and I keep moving. What’s the adjective you would use? Probably for a lot of us, maybe it’s flippant. Or maybe it’s lazy. Or maybe it’s cavalier. We just assume that somehow we are going to grow in our relationship with Christ by osmosis. I think Peter discovered, as well as John and James, something about Jesus this day that if theology was expanded because they climbed the mountain. That’s a simple challenge for us this morning, but nevertheless it’s true. And then when I begin to think about this passage some more, I am struck with really this encounter that Jesus had with Moses and Elijah. He is there with Elijah who really represents all of the prophets and Moses who represents the law and Jesus fulfills the law and the prophets, doesn’t he? What a picture. These three. No wonder Peter was blown away. You know, Luke gives us a different picture, just a little bit of a tweaking here in his rendition as he talked to eyewitnesses of this particular account. Here is what Doctor Luke says in his rendition in Chapter 9. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. But here is the difference; they spoke about his departure, which was about to be brought to fulfillment in Jerusalem. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall and kind of know what they were talking about? I wonder what they were saying because here, on one side you have got Jesus who is 100% God, but yet he is also 100% man and he needs to be encouraged just like you and me. I wonder and we will have to ask him at some point, I wonder if they were saying, “Jesus keep going. Go for it. Go to the cross. Don’t turn back. We are all depending on you.” He needed that encouragement probably like you and I did.
You know I think about resurrection words. Life giving words. I think about critical moments in my life. And this is a critical moment in the life of our Savior Jesus and during this critical moment, both Moses and Elijah and we know for certain from the Father, he is given life words that encourages his soul. I think about the people in my life who at critical moments in my life said something to me that ultimately breathed life to me. Can you think of something like that? Can you think of a memory in your life of somebody who said something to you that spurred you to grow in Christ? Or was a compliment that encouraged you that you had self worth or something that was said that you could remember like it was yesterday? I know you can, that changed your life. And conversely, we can also remember words of death, can’t we? Words of people who have said things in our lives that really doesn’t build us as much as it scars us. Jesus wants us to engage in a relationship with him where on a daily basis we climb a mountain, so that we hear his words in our lives. His precious promises, which calls us as Peter said to participate in the divine nature. That’s the job; that’s our role as believers to encounter Christ that he might refresh us daily in his word. And then I think of the words of the Father, you know we don’t hear all the words from the Father a lot in the gospels as he talks to Jesus the Son, in Mark, Chapter 1, it’s interesting.
He uses pretty much the same words as he does on the Mount of Transfiguration. In Mark, Chapter 1, Verse 11, and now in this particular situation it said, “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to him.” You know what is interesting, is that in one statement the Father really meets the three basic needs that we have as people and as Jesus had as a human that day. Our first need is that we have a sense that we got to feel like we belong to something. This is my Son, we belong to God. We are his sons or daughters. He has paid a tremendous price for you and me. To the blood of Christ. We belong. Secondly, he said to Jesus, whom I love. We just have a built in need within our hard drive you might say, to feel like we have worth, that we are loved and he acknowledges his love to Jesus on this mountain. You and I are loved tremendously today. And then lastly, he says with him I am well pleased. Or listen to him. We have a built in need to know that we have not only worth and belonging, but that we can accomplish things, that we have gifts, that we have a certain piece of the pie you might say in God’s economy that he has uniquely carved you out for and this particular situation the Father addresses that as well. Listen to him. Jesus has something to say, guys. And you better listen.
Words of life. I wonder what your life is like today. Are you a conduit of life to people that you are around? Do you understand the power of words? Are you a well that is filled up because of Christ’s presence in you, that you are just overflowing and wherever you go you are saying words of life that will mark people more than you will ever realize? That encourage, that inspire? I remember when I graduated from seminary, my oldest brother Mike, I am the youngest of five and Mike called me up. Mike led me to the Lord. He is like a hero in my life and when Mike called me, it was great. And even as a 30-year-old guy, you know Mike called me up, that was 10 years ago, I am 40 now, but Mike called me and said, “Gary I am proud of you. Way to go.” And talked to me for half an hour about all the things that he appreciated in my life. And as a man, that meant the world to me. It was words of life. It reminded me and caused me to even want to suggest this morning that we are conduits of life as well. Conduits of life.
You know the other thing that I appreciate about this story, is Jesus. You know in Verse 8, of Mark, Chapter 9 it says something very profound and you can miss it. You can skip over it, you can read it and not even take notice of it. It says in Verse 8, Suddenly when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. You know it is kind of profound, isn’t it? Jesus went with them up the mountain and he went with them down the mountain. When the band stopped playing, when the cloud left, when Moses and Elijah weren’t there, it’s Jesus. Thank God that he is faithful to you and me. Jesus is always with us. When he comes into your life and to mine, he never leaves you or forsakes you and we can take that for granted, oh it’s Jesus. He is with us always and he is powerful. You know, in fact, in the Book of Revelation in Chapter 19, Jesus is given a title. As John tries to make sense of his vision that he sees, he was also at the Mount of Transfiguration and he tried to put words to it as well, but as he beholds the end times and as he sees this vision in Revelation, he says this, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful.” Jesus’ very title of many titles is that he is faithful. Isn’t that exciting? He is faithful in our lives. You know when we live in a society now, we are flashiness I think it really uplifted more that faithfulness, isn’t it? I mean we want to be flashy. We want to have the biggest cars, the most money, the biggest house. We want to be the funniest, the most athletic and in Gods economy faithfulness if the key. Being faithful to a few things and doing them well over a span of years. Faithfulness.
You know I had the privilege at one point to run a race. It was a marathon. I saw Greg Rittner back there and we were just joking a little bit and I think about Greg he was involved with this project as well. We tried to raise some money for a friend of mine and we did raise some money by the name of Dave Meeks. And Dave died of brain cancer some years ago. And this Boston Marathon taught me a lot about faithfulness because as you train for one of those things, you have got to follow a schedule. And you’ve got to show up. You’ve got to do things when nobody else sees you do it. You have got to get up early in the morning if you choose to run in the morning and run ten miles when it is just freezing or when it is snowing. It might be icy and you can’t opt out and say I am not going to do it today. You have got to do it because if you don’t, it will find you out when you do try to run 26.2 miles. If you miss all the short runs, you will find that you won’t make it on the big day. What we do in private as we climb the mountain and are with Christ, ultimately dictates how we live day to day, doesn’t it? The things that nobody else sees is faithfulness over flashiness. And then when we are faithful, God produces what? Fruit. We are faithful, he is fruitful. It’s not rocket science. I have said that earlier, but its just back to the basics that we have got to be faithful men and women, who pursue him in his scriptures, who pursue him in prayer, who climb the mountain and then we show up and we engage with people and we leave a legacy, like Murray Smoot. I hope when I am at that age that I can look back and think that my life has mattered like that. It’s powerful.
And then I think also about this. You know when you train for something, its funny like the first day of spring. Have you ever noticed this? It’s kind of a funny image. The first day of spring or the first real warm day, you will see a bunch of people exercising. Everybody has their brand new Reeboks, or whatever it is they wear and you know their new gym shorts and everybody is out in the neighborhood running and you wake up and you are like whoa, where did all of these people come from that are exercising? And then maybe like in two weeks later you notice that the crowd is thinning out a little bit, like there is not as many people running right now and maybe in three months you notice that same guy whose is running everyday, that you also see in the dead of winter and you might be driving with your wife and you say, “Look at that knucklehead out there running. That guy is crazy.” But the point is this, it’s not flashiness. It’s faithfulness over time. You know the word faithful in the scripture is a compliment that is only given to a couple of people. You know you can fake some of the fruits of the spirit, can’t you? You can fake being loving for a day. Maybe you can fake being kind. You can’t fake faithfulness, because you have got to be able to demonstrate over a period of time certain qualities in your life that only after that will they put that adjective next to your name. Paul did it for a couple of people. He said, Barnabas is a faithful servant. Or Timothy, he is faithful. You don’t see it anywhere else. What would you want the adjective to be used to describe your name in a letter or in a phone call? Or maybe when you die? What do you want to be known for? What do I want to be known for? It’s faithful. We are faithful to the Lord. We are front and center. Lord, we are ready to go. I want to be with you even if I have got to climb this mountain.
I love the Lord’s faithfulness and I think a picture that comes to my mind is this. You know when my friend and many of our friends, when Dave died of cancer, it was an interesting image. You know for a few years, Dave who was struggling with cancer, the whole community of Christ was around him. It was a powerful picture of the love of God through a community. People are always over to the house tending to every need that either he or his wife or his children would have. It was wonderful. It has changed my life to watch how God has loved this family and how he loves families that are similar as the body of Christ comes out. For a few years, it was a picture of the community. But then when Dave passed away and went with the Lord, there was a picture that kind of got etched in my mind as I was leaving the graveside, as I looked back, Dave had gone from community to a place where only he and Jesus could walk. You know silhouetted in that sky, silhouetted against the horizon is Dave’s coffin and I am thinking to myself, he is with Christ. He is at a place that ultimately every one of us is going to be at some point where only Jesus will be left. He will be the only one who will hold our hand and walk us into another chapter of life. He is faithful and he asks you and I to have the same character quality in our life, that we are faithful. Faithful with a few things. That we climb the mountain, we show up, we hear his life giving words and that we are conduits of that to other people, and that ultimately we keep running the race until whenever he calls us home. You know there are no guarantees in life. Jesus never guarantees life. He guarantees his life, that he will be the resurrection and the life. He guarantees his faithfulness. He guarantees that he will never leave us, but he will never guarantee that you will make it through life and live to be an old person. He never guarantees that you might have kids and that all of them will experience what you want them to experience. He will never guarantee that you will be married to your spouse for the rest of your life and you may not have to say goodbye to them in death. There are no guarantees. But what he does ask us to do, is to be faithful. We are faithful, he is fruitful.
Well as we conclude this morning, I would like to ask you to think about a few applications. The first is this. What will be the posture of your walk and my walk with Christ as we enter into a new year ? Will we seek him of all of our heart, will we work hard, and will he be the passion of our life? What adjective will mark you this year? Secondly, that you would examine the words that you use, whether you are in middle school, or high school or college or a young professional, wherever you are in life, God will use you wherever you are to be a conduit of life to the few that he has put around you. And hopefully those words that spur us on, that encourage, that inspire, that compliment, that build us up, that will come out of well spring of your life which is hidden in Christ. Then lastly, let’s thank God for his faithfulness today. That is kind of a broad term, but it is worth our worship as we go home and we contemplate the fact that he alone is with us. Let’s pray together, shall we?
Well Father we thank you for this morning, we thank you for the privilege of being together here in worship. God I thank you for this text and I pray Lord that you would help us this morning as a body and as an individuals to consider how we are running the race, are we going to be willing to climb the mountain to engage in a relationship with you? Lord I pray that if there is anyone here this morning who is not sure where they stand with Christ, that they would invite you into their hearts as King, as Lord, as Savior and for those of us Lord who have known you God, I pray that you would rekindle into a fire our passion that we would journey with you on that sacred mountain. Secondly Lord, we thank you that you are faithful and we ask God that you would build within us that character quality as well, the fruit of the spirit of faithfulness. And then lastly Lord, we thank you for words of life, that your words bring life and we pray that you would make us conduits of life to those that we are around. We thank you in Jesus name. Amen.