February 28, 2021
This morning is Part 2 in our series, “The Life and death of Jesus.” Today I want to take you and with Jesus, and Peter, James and John, to the mount of transfiguration – where the disciples had an experience with God that was a huge part of their spiritual formation.
I want to use this story to talk about how experiencing God needs to be part of our spiritual formation as well. I know that, depending on the faith background you grew up in, this might not be familiar to you.
I have known a lot of Christians who, by the way they talk, have a relationship with the Bible, but not the God of the Bible. That is problematic because if you are a Jesus follower, the point of our faith
is to have an interactive relationship with God.
You may have heard me say this before but you are transformed by the Holy Spirit into what you were created to be when four different by related things are happening in your life. The first one is the stories you tell yourself about yourself become more in line with the stories that Jesus tells about who you are made to be. The second one is the practices of spiritual exercises – or some call them spiritual disciplines. By the way – this is why I am encouraging people to get involved in the Rule of Life – that starts tomorrow. You can sign up on our Website at Asbury.ca That is about practicing spiritual exercises over a 90 day period.
The third thing needs to be happening in your life in order to be transformed is that you need to be involved with a community of believers. Our faith was never meant to be grown and developed in a vacuum, and it is not meant to be lived out in a vacuum.
Usually, people are good with the above three – Yes I get that I need to align my life with the truth that Jesus taught. Yes, I get that I need to engage in meaningful spiritual exercises. Yes, I get that I need community (although for some that is a stretch) But this fourth one is challenging for a lot of people. The fourth one is that you need to regularly be experiencing God.
But the reality of this is really hard to escape if you take the New Testament seriously. Let me just walk you through a few familiar verses that talk about this.
Romans 8:14 (NIV)
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
That is an experience!
Romans 8:16 (NIV)
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
That is an experience!
2 Corinthians 1:3–4 (NIV)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
Experiencing the comfort of God is an experience!
John 14:27 (NIV)
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Experiencing the Peace of God is an experience!
Ephesians 2:4–5 (NIV)
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Being made alive again isn’t a theory – It is an experience. You come alive to the things of the Spirit.
The list could go on and on. Answered prayer. Using your spiritual gifts and seeing them bear fruit, hearing God speak to you, experiencing the love of God in your heart, having God convict you of sin, seeing the activity of God in and around your life, seeing the change that God is making in your heart are all experiences of God.
I know that some people have tried to make the Christian faith all about experience – and that is a ditch that we can fall into – because there are sometimes when we are required to walk by faith. But many people have reacted to those who are trying to live out of only their experience by falling into the ditch on the other side of the road. They have discounted, or been suspicious of, or run from experiences with God.
Now Asbury, let me ask you a question. If we as a church are going to fall into either of these ditches, which one are we most likely to fall into. I think it is fairly clear that we would be most likely to fall into the ditch of running from experience. But people, there is a middle way.
We can actually walk on the road between the ditches. The road where our spiritual formation is not all about experiences, but include experience. We can walk on the road where we are being formed by the stories, the truth of Jesus, by practicing spiritual exercise, by being part of community and by experiencing God.
How about you, how fresh is your experience with God. Have you experienced him over the last week, or the last month? If spiritual experience is part of the transformation process and you are not experiencing God – then my guess is that this is an area where God would like you to grow in.
So, with that as a very long introduction, let me take you to the Mount of transfiguration.
Luke 9:28–29 (NIV)
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
I want you to notice a few things here. First, Jesus led them up on the mountain. You don’t create your own spiritual experience – it is God who provides the experience. You need to allow yourself to be led to the places where you can experience God – and often out of your comfort zone. It takes some effort to climb a mountain – But you go with God leads you. You will notice they went up on the mountain to pray. Most, not all, but most spiritual experience will come out the context of prayer and worship or spiritual community.
So, it you need to experience God, then put yourself in those contexts. It may be about getting up a little early to pray. It may be about attending a small group where you would sooner stay at home. It maybe about going to a quiet place, or it may be about serving in a noise place. You follow Jesus and that sometimes takes effort, but your responsibility is to follow, and God’s responsibility is to provide the experience. – Don’t try to create your own experience.
The next thing that I want you to notice is that Jesus takes Peter, James, and John. There were 12 disciples, but he only took three of them. I take this to mean that God is not going to provide the same spiritual experience for all of his disciples.
We know the other disciples experienced God. They cast out demons in Jesus name. They performed miracles in Jesus name. But it did not seem important to Jesus for his disciples to experience God in the exact same way.
God will give you the spiritual experience that you need which may be different than others experience of God. Peter’s brother Andrew was a disciple – but Peter doesn’t go to Andrew and say – let’s climb this mountain again because you need to experience what I have experienced. That would be foolish – but I have seen a lot of Christians engage in this kind of foolish behaviour.
Now the fact that Jesus doesn’t cause us all to experience the same thing can lead to two things – pride and jealousy. Andrew could have been jealous of Peter, and Peter could have in effect said, – “Na, na, na, na, na I experienced this and you didn’t” to his brother Andrew. In case you missed the Coles’ notes of our faith, neither pride nor jealously is pretty on the heart of a Jesus follower.
One of the things that I believe that it is important for a believer to be able to do is to hear the voice of God in their spirit. Not just through the bible or a sermon, but actually in their hearts. But here is the thing, God has a way of speaking to each one a little differently. Don’t get either proud or jealous because God speaks to you one way and somebody else another.
This is where I insert an advertisement. Coming up – probably in the fall, we are going to run a hearing God seminar to teach people how to hear God. I am hoping that most of our church will go through this. Advertisement over – back to our text.
Luke 9:30–33 (NLT)
30 Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. 31 They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.
32 Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
I love Peter. He reminds me of so many people that I know. Sometimes he reminds me of me.
Here is the thing, sometimes an experience with God is as calm as a summer sunset. Sometimes, it is a mountain top experience and the glory of God shining, and it is full of bells and whistles.
When it is the latter, I have notice that there is a tendency in many of us to what to something stupid with the experience. Just blurts out what he was thinking. He wants to build a shrine. There are all kinds of reasons why that is problematic.
But what I want you to notice is that Jesus is very gracious with Peter. He doesn’t rebuke him. As we will see in a moment, God speaks, but he doesn’t rebuke Peter.
Sometimes when people have and an overwhelming experience with God, they say stupid things and even do stupid things. Be gracious with them – be like Jesus. Be gracious.
At Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled believers for the first time it was such a powerful spiritual experience that observers thought that some of were drunk. But Peter, Peter had matured since his time on the mountain – and he stood up and preached – and did that fisherman preach – 3000 people came to know Jesus that day. Give grace.
Back to our text
Luke 9:34–35 (NLT)
34 But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them.
35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.”
This voice wasn’t for Moses or Elijah. This voice wasn’t for Jesus. This voice was for Peter James and John. God is saying, here is what I want you to get out of this experience. You need to know who Jesus is. He is my son. He is my chosen one. Here is what I want you to do. Listen to him.
God always has a purpose in giving you an experience with himself. The power of God is not displayed for your entertainment. You are not given an experience with God just to make you feel good. You are not given an experience with God to be able to say, “look what I have experienced.” In fact, one of the best way to stop God from showing up in your life is to take ungodly pride in your past experiences.
God gives you experiences with himself for a purpose. Usually, it is given for one of three purposes. You are given an experience with God so you will have a clearer view of who God is or who you are. Or you are given an experience with God to help in your spiritual formation. Or, you are given an experience with God to equip you for the future.
For Peter it was all of the above
2 Peter 1:16 (NLT)
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.
This experience was formational on how he saw Jesus. It was formational in his relationship with Jesus. It also became part of his testimony to other people.
So, how about you. Is your experience with God fresh? Your experience doesn’t have to be as dramatic as the mount of transfiguration, but we need God to show up in our lives. We need to hear from him, we need to be led by him, we need to be changed by him, we need be seeing him at work.
If you find that your experience with God is not fresh then there is probably one of two things going on. The first thing that might be going on, is that God is at work around you and in you, but you just haven’t noticed. Or to put it another way, you are not seeing the spiritual realities around you. If that is you, then make that a prayer. God give me the eyes to see and the ears to hear what you are doing and saying around me. Put yourself in places where you are likely to experience God. Make this a matter of consistent prayer, and God will answer.
The second thing that may be going on is that you have experienced God in the past – but you have chosen to say stop. He spoke to you about which way to go and you refused. He was showing you his ways, and you refused to walk in them. Sometimes that happens because we fear, or sometimes we just want our own way. But you have noticed that your spiritual life has dried up.
If that is you, then as Jesus, what do I need to confess. What do I need to repent of? He will show you. God wants to lead you into a vibrant relationship with him. That is his will. So, if you go to him sincerely and humbly – he will lead you into a fresh experience of him.
Listen Asbury – Here is what I believe God wants for us over the coming years. We are to be a place where we experience God’s transformation – where the stories we tell ourselves about God and who we are – line up with the stories that Jesus tells about God and us. We are to be a people who are doing our spiritual exercises so that we are ready when God moves. We are to be a place of community where we live out lives of love towards one another. We are to be a place where we are having genuine experiences with God.
Can you imagine be part of a church where the majority of people are living that out well? Here is what would happen, – we would become a place where God transformed us and we would become agents of change for our town and our county. We would see God’s vision for our county come into being.
Will you join with me in seeing what God will do? Will you open yourself up to all that God wants?
Sermon Questions – The Life and Death of Jesus – Part 2
Experiencing God – Luke 9:28-36
February 28, 2021
1. What are you thankful for today?
2. When you think about having an experience with God, what do you think of?
3. There are four pillars of spiritual formation and transformation that the Holy Spirit uses.
- Aligning our stories with Jesus
- Spiritual Exercises(disciplines)
- Spiritual Experience
What is the most challenging of these to you and why?
4. Read Romans 8:14-16, and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, John 14:27 – What are the experiences with God described in these verses? What are other experiences with God that a believer can have.
5. The sermon talked about two ditches that we could fall into – making the Christian life all about experience or shunning and discounting experiences with God. What ditch would you be most likely to fall into?
6. Read Luke 9:28-29. Why do you think Jesus only took three disciples up on the mountain? Have you ever been proud or jealous of a spiritual experience?
7. Jesus took them to the mountain to pray – what are the contexts which you are most likely to experience God?
8. Read Luke 9:30-33. Peter reacts to this spiritual experience in an unwise way. What does this say about some spiritual experiences? What was Jesus’ response to Peter’s reaction? How should we respond to people who have spiritual experiences?
9. Read Luke 9:34-35. This voice was meant for Peter James and John. What does this tell us about what God wants from a spiritual experience?
10. Read 2 Peter 1:16 and John 1:14. These texts were written decades after the experience. What did this experience do for Peter and John?
11. Are you open to experiencing God? Have you limited God in how he can show himself to you?