A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinNovember 12, 1995
I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
P> Many times, as we try to live a life of charity by obeying the Lord’s teachings , it seems as if we are fighting against a powerful current. The life we are trying to lead constantly appears to be at odds with the popular trends and attitudes that are accepted by the majority in the world. At other times, it is difficult to withhold ourselves from pleasures that we know are wrong but many enjoy so freely. It is hard to go up against popular beliefs and practices, even when we know they are wrong.
However, at other times, there are the precious moments when we have a vivid sense of the Lord’s presence within us. The Lord is especially close to us when we do what He teaches. Our lives are productive and fulfilling when we obey the Lord’s Word with sincerity and humility. Then, we are eager to learn more of what the Lord would have us do. We fulfill in our lives what the Psalmist wrote with the words from our first lesson: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.” (PS 25:3&4)
We will also have a vivid appreciation that the Lord’s ways can produce the most gratifying joy that we can possibly have. We may have a deep and profound awareness of the Lord’s presence and guidance within us when we find delight and satisfaction in our marriages. It may come as we enjoy our children, and feel a sense of elation in the uses of being a parent. It comes when we find contentment with what we have and do not grieve over the things that we do not have. It also comes when we find delight in the church and recognize its value, and rejoice in what we can do for it. During these precious moments, the Lord’s Divinity is clearly seen whereby we can comprehend the Lord as a God of love. Such a vision of the Lord is pictured by His transfiguration before Peter, James, and John.
When the Lord took these disciples up the mountain, His face suddenly shone like the sun. When we have a sense of the Lord’s love, His face is shinning within us. We have an awareness of His never-ending mercy and of His infinite love towards us. It is a common belief in many faiths today that the Lord is to be a complete mystery, and that we can never understand His ways or His being. True, we as finite beings will never grasp the Lord’s infinite love and wisdom in its entirety. But we are created to understand that the Lord is pure love and has infinite wisdom. The Lord once said, “Come learn of Me, that I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest in Your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (REF) We do not need to worship a wrathful God, ready to judge us, incapable of looking favorable upon us. Instead, we can have the complete assurance that the Lord is a God of unending mercy, forgiving us even before we ask for forgiveness. When we have a personal sensation of the Lord’s Divine love, we are seeing His face shinning like the sun.
Also, His garments were white as the light. When we recognize the sense or the value of the Lord’s teachings, we are seeing the Divine good in the truth that He reveals to us. We have the complete confidence that the Lord knows how to make our lives the most productive and satisfying. Regardless of the trouble we may be in, the Lord knows how to deliver us, because of His infinite wisdom. When we have a sincere awareness that there is no problem that the Lord can not solve, and that His commandments lead to the most wonderful life we can live, His garments becomes as white as the light before us.
Moses and Elijah were then seen speaking with the Lord. Moses and Elijah refer to the Word, which the Lord has revealed to us. In order for us to truly see the Lord as a God of infinite love and wisdom, we must regard the Word as the final authority of what is good and true. It is virtually impossible to recognize the Lord as He truly is, if there is not the complete acknowledgment that the Word is the Lord’s revelation of truth to mankind, and a complete devotion to follow Its precepts. When we are willing to hear the Lord speak to us in His Word, the Lord will make His ways known to us. And this is done when we have as the highest priority in our lives the compliance to the Word.
Peter then said, that it was good to build three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for the Lord. In Luke’s account of this incident, it said that Peter did not know what he was saying. Peter’s concept was that the Lord was equal to Moses and Elijah. The trouble with what Peter suggested was that he wanted three tabernacles, he should have only wanted one. For us to have a personal perception of the Lord’s presence, we must not have anything or anybody equal with Him. When we regard other things as of equal importance as applying the Lord’s Word to our lives, we are prevented from seeing the Lord’s true nature.
We see this in the story of the young lawyer who asked the Lord what he must do to be saved. He was a religious man who devoted His life to obey the law of Moses. When the Lord eventually told Him to sell his riches and follow Him, the young lawyer could not do it. As a result, he could not experience the realizations that the Lord is God and His love can create life.
After Peter made his suggestion, a voice came and a bright cloud overshadowed the three disciples. The voice said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” The cloud represents what we read from the Word. When we read the Word with a heartfelt acknowledgment that the Lord is God and with a devotion to apply His teachings to our lives, a voice will be speaking to us, telling us and confirming to us that the Lord is the one true God of heaven and earth.
The disciples were afraid when they heard the voice and were surrounded by the cloud. When we have a sense of the Lord’s Divinity presented in His Word, we may very well be in a state of fear. As we see the Lord’s Divinity shinning before us, it will expose our shortcomings and impurities that are within us. Just as Peter, James, and John were afraid of the surrounding events, we are afraid of the Lord’s surrounding presence. We may feel a strong sense of unworthiness to be in the presence of the Lord, that we can not abide in His company.
However, thankfully, we are told that the Lord came to His disciples and touched them. When the Lord touches us, we are assured that the Lord sees us differently than we see ourselves. We sense His forgiveness. We have a recognition that He always regards us for the good that we can potentially accomplish, not for what we may have done in the past, nor even what we may be like in the present. We too can look at ourselves for what we can accomplish, and see the good and the value we can make when the disorders in our lives are laid to rest.
The Lord then gave His disciples a rather surprising command. He told them not to tell the vision to anyone. If we think about it, if the disciples would have told others what they saw immediately after they came down from the mountain, there would have been a great deal of pride in their report. The motivation for what they saw would have been regarding themselves as special for being selected in seeing this wondrous event. They were to take the time to ensure that when they did reveal what they experienced, it was for the sake of others, not their own reputation. We are to take the extra step not to reveal the deeper insights that we may come to know for our own self honor and glory. We must make sure that when we relate our deeper understanding of the Lord and the life we are to live, that we do so for the benefit it can provide for others, not merely to put ourselves on a higher pedestal.
Also, the disciples were not to tell the vision because the people were not ready to hear about it. They were not able to grasp that the Lord could be Jehovah God Himself. It was not until after the Lord’s resurrection that they were able to hear this message. Likewise, we must strive to tell others deeper perspectives of truth only when they are ready for it. We must make the attempt to provide others with the instruction that they are equipped to handle. At times, we may have an enlightened understanding of truth that could very much excite us. However, we must seek to tell it only when it will help our neighbor, not strictly for our own benefit.
As we put forth the effort to allow the Lord to direct our lives, we will experience times of elevation when we are upon a high mountain. We feel as if we are above the problems and the disorders that exist around us. It is during these times of elevation that we can have a deeper awareness of the Lord’s true nature: as a loving God Who can do great things in us when we receive Him. It is during these times that we may wish not to come down the mountain. However, as our text points out, we are not to be separated from the world. We are to be a part of the world as we strive to live a life that is based upon the principles in the Lord’s Word. We are to live a heavenly life while we are in the world. These moments of enlightenment can inspire and encourage us to remain in this effort. As we put away the disorders from our lives, we will have greater visions of the Lord as a merciful God Who loves us with His entire Being. And it is then, we have a deep confidence in these words from the Psalms: “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.”