How God prepares us
On their way down the mountain Jesus reminds them that “the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands” (v. 12). It won’t be long now to the cross. As soon as they return to the valley below they meet a boy possessed by a demon and representing the spiritual battle which awaits them. What they saw on the mountain with the glorified Christ would prepare them for all the valleys and enemies to come. Now we have studied this event so it might do the same for us.
Here we learn that Jesus is God. He is not merely a great teacher or religious leader—he was and is the God of the universe.
The Bible says that he made all that has been made (John 1:3), and that he now holds the entire universe together (Colossians 1:17). His miracles demonstrate his divinity. His transfiguration demonstrates his divinity. Most of all, his resurrection demonstrates his divinity.
The birth of the Church demonstrates his divinity, springing to life in the face of furious opposition from the mightiest Empire the world has ever seen. The growth of the Church across 20 centuries demonstrates his divinity. No other religious movement has ever prospered despite systematic and rigorous persecution as has Christianity. More Christians have died for their faith than martyrs in all other world religions combined. More died in the 20th century than the previous 19 combined.
And yet the Church is on the march and on the move around the world today; historians are calling this the Fifth Great Awakening in China, and sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin and South America, and South Korea, and places across the Pacific Rim. What Jesus proved on Mt. Hermon he continues to prove daily—he is God.
Here we learn that Jesus is the only God. It is blasphemy for a Muslim to claim that Muhammad is God; their central affirmation is, “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Buddha denied the existence of a personal God. Hindus believe in thousands of individual gods but no all-powerful personal Lord. Jews would reject any rabbi or priest who claimed to be God.
But no other religious leader has ever been transfigured. None has ever been raised from the dead. None has ever sparked a movement like Christianity. Jesus is the only God.
And so this God was worth their lives, their worship, their service and their sacrifice. Peter would be crucified upside down; James would be stoned to death; John would be exiled on Patmos and suffer great persecution—all for claiming that Jesus is the only God.
This God is worth our lives, our worship, our service and our sacrifice. There is no greater privilege than following Jesus. There is no greater purpose than helping other people follow Jesus. Whatever it costs to be fully his is worth its price and more.
The good news is that the God who prepared his first disciples to love and serve him has prepared you to love and serve him. He has given you spiritual gifts which will glorify him and extend his Kingdom. He has put you in places of enormous influence in this community and culture. He has given you a mission field in your school and work and neighborhood and home. He has prepared you for all he now wants to do with you. The tragedy is that we limit God’s future by our past.
Many of us think that we cannot make a real difference for God, not beyond coming to church services and giving money and volunteering time and doing religious charity. Many of us don’t think we can really win our neighbors and colleagues and friends to Jesus. Many of us know our past failures and mistakes and question whether God can really use us to do something significant and eternal.
But that’s a lie from Satan himself.
If our church will be courageous enough to ask God to use us this fall, more than he has ever used us before, he will rejoice to hear and answer our prayer. He will rejoice to lead and empower and bless us as we assault the gates of hell and build the Kingdom of God in Dallas and around the world.
If you will be audacious enough to ask God to use your life this fall, more than he has ever used you before, he will rejoice to hear and answer your prayer. He will use you where you are as you stand for him and share his word and love and grace. He will guide you into future significance you cannot imagine today. What you have been is no measure of what you will be in the hands of the transfiguring God of the universe.
In these days we’re thinking about four national, now-famous leaders and choosing those whose past best prepares them for the future. I found myself thinking this week about four other national, now-famous leaders, four of the greatest presidents in our history.
If you’ve been to Mt. Rushmore, you’ve stood in awe before the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. There was a time when none of them would have been expected to be elected president, much less be engraved on one of our national landmarks.
George Washington lost the first battle of the War for Independence, and so many thereafter that an effort was made in 1777 to oust him from his command. He lost a quarter of his army at Valley Forge that winter; many thought the war effort doomed before he was able to rally his forces and eventually win our freedom.
When Thomas Jefferson retired as Governor of Virginia in 1781, the legislature published a report highly critical of his performance. His wife died the next year and he retired from public life. He was persuaded to run for president in 1796 but lost to John Adams. No one then knew that he would become one of our greatest presidents.