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Jack Graham - Mountaintops and Valleys


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    Jack Graham - Mountaintops and Valleys
TOPICS: Why Believe?, Hard times

The message, the story that I have before us today in Luke's Gospel, chapter 9 is a study of the highs and lows, the contrasts that we experience in life. It's the story, the powerful story of one of the most important events in the life of Jesus. Really a turning point in the life of Jesus wherein He turns now from the cradle and everything of his incarnation and teaching and ministry, and thrusts His face towards Jerusalem and the cross. From the transfiguration onward, Jesus is moving towards His final mission on earth, and that is to die on the cross for our sins, to rise again. And this experience in the life of Jesus is the tipping point.

It begins in verse 28: "Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they were fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah', not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!' And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone". Matthew records it as "they saw Jesus only". And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

"And on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, 'Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.' Jesus answered, 'O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.' And while he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father".

Don't you love that? Gave him back! This dad got his boy back whole again, from Jesus. "And all were astonished at the majesty of God". Whether on the mountaintop with Jesus or there in the misery of this valley, His majesty, His glory, His greatness is shining through! Here's the contrast: glory and despair, heaven and hell, but Jesus only in the midst. Two points in this message that I want to make in this study of contrast... the highs and lows, the mountains and the valleys of your life and mine. You know there are eight individuals represented here on this mountaintop experience. Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, the Sons of Thunder... That's six. God the Father who speaks. And you say, "Okay, who is the eighth"? The eighth is you, because you can share this same glory and be transformed in the presence of the living God! His glory!

I want you to share His glory because what you see happening here can transform and transfigure your own life, and help you to become more like Jesus! On this mountaintop you first see the greatness and the glory of Jesus; this is the glory we share. The word transfigured means metamorphoses, and what happened literally, physically on that mountaintop... everything that Jesus was eternally, internally... everything that He was on the inside is now seen on the outside. His face is altered, His countenance is changed, His clothing is shining. He's now glistening like the sun. Jesus who is the Light of the world is brilliant and beautiful as the sun, the bright and Morningstar, appears on this mountain in all of His glory. It's been said that the greater miracle is that this is first time His greater glory was then seen; the fact that His glory had been veiled to this moment.

Paul tells us in Philippians that He emptied Himself, never of His deity but of His dignity and of His glory and at this moment He is now envisioned as the Exalted One, the Glorious One, our Glorious King! Peter, who views this, had just confessed earlier in chapter 9, verse 16 of this Gospel, that Jesus is the Christ. "You are the Christ of God"! The Messiah, the Master! And now Peter, along with the Sons of Thunder James and John, are seeing the glory of God, the manifest presence of God! What was invisible in the humanity of Jesus is now visible in the deity of Jesus! Neither John nor Peter, no doubt, James would ever forget. John would write in his Gospel chapter 1, verse 14: "We beheld His glory"! We saw it with our own eyes! Later he would say in his book called 1 John 1:1 that: "We handled the Word of Truth". We touched this, we experienced the glory of God, full of grace, full of truth!

Peter would write of this some years later near his own death, as a moment to remember, a time he would never forget, in 1 Peter, chapter 1, verses 16 and following: "since it is written, 'You shall be holy for I am holy'. And if you call upon Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourself with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus". He would also speak of being unveiled in the presence of Jesus, seeing the glory of Jesus that he would never ever forget... Never forgetting it. Jesus is the Light of the world. Everything that He was and all that He is was made real that day.

Now to add to this dramatic and dynamic moment, two spiritual celebrities show up. Two biblical heroes are present because the Scripture says standing there conversing with Jesus in His glory is Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah! They are renowned men, well known, of course. Moses, the writer of the first five books of the Old Testament... of the Bible, and Elijah, the great prophet of God. All three men were known for mountains. Moses, who on the mountain of God, Mount Sinai received the tablets of stone, the Ten Commandments. Elijah who was known for calling down fire on Mount Caramel and the prophets of Baal were destroyed and the idols were torn down, and the people of God were revived. And, of course, Jesus who was known for Mount Calvary, the place of the skull where He died for the sins of the world. These men are renowned men.

Moses and Elijah are representative men: Moses representing the Law; he is the law-giver, and Elijah representing the prophets. Elijah was a prophet around whom miracles took place. So they represent the Old Testament. They represent the Law, the Prophet. And now here is Jesus in the midst of these two men they're conversing. And what we have here... what we see here is a preview, a prophecy, or if you like better, a portrait of the coming kingdom of Christ in all of His glory! You say, where do you get that? Look in verse 27 and verse of chapter 9 of Luke's Gospel. Jesus is speaking about the demands of discipleship said, "But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God"! He's speaking to His disciples.

Now did Jesus miss it by several thousand years when He said, "You'll not see death until you see the kingdom of God"? No, in fact, it is at this transfiguration... this moment on the mountain... this miracle on the mountain that these men... Peter and James and John previewed the coming kingdom of Christ! These men are real! They are resurrected... Moses and Elijah. It reminds me that the most real things around us are the things that are often most... or least visible. In our Invisible series last year, we said there's more to life than what you see, and we talked to you and shared together those passages and those truths regarding the invisible life. And we see it here. The fact is heaven is a lot closer than you think and the people who live there are much nearer than you possibly could realize. These are not ghosts; these are real men. And the veil is pulled back now, and Jesus is there in His glory with... with these two men.

Interesting, isn't it? They're recognizable! No one needed an introduction. Sometimes we're asked, "Will we know one another in heaven"? Of course we will without introduction! They knew Moses. Here is Elijah by first name! They are recognizable. They are real and they are representative! And here's another way in which these men capture the kingdom of God. You know, Moses died and was buried on another mountain... Mount Nebo, and Elijah... he was carried to heaven on a chariot of fire. The Bible teaches us that he's one of two men in the Old Testament who never passed through death. The other was the great prophet of God who walked with God... Enoch who "walked with God and he was not"; he did not die because God took him. And Elijah was translated into glory according to the Scriptures.

So here you have two men; one who died and went to heaven, another who was taken to heaven, translated to heaven, if you will, raptured into heaven. Do you know what the Bible tells us about the return of Christ? The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, beginning at verse 13 that: 1 "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you do not sorrow as those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, will he come for those who sleep in Jesus, as well as those who are alive". Here's the way the Scripture puts it. He says: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ", like Moses, "the dead in Christ shall rise first. And then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord", like Elijah, "will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so will we ever be with the Lord. So comfort and encourage one another with these words".

So here's what's going to happen! One day the clouds are going to break wide open and Jesus will come again in all His glory, in all of His splendor! King Jesus will arrive! And when He does, the dead in Christ will rise. All the Moses people are going to get out of their grave! Now their spirits have been with the Lord, (2 Corinthians 5:8) "for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". Moses here wasn't sleeping in a grave. He was in the presence of Christ in heaven. But now those who are alive will be caught up, raptured up, translated up, transfigured up into the presence of the Lord. The Scripture tells us that Jesus and these two men were having a conversation and it was all about His departure.

Do you see it there in verse 31? That was the subject... the departure, which is a word (interestingly enough) that Moses would have recognized because it means exodus. So we're talking about the exodus of Jesus, the departure. In other words, they were talking about the final mission of Christ-His death on the cross, His departure from this life through the tomb and out of the grave, His resurrection, His ascension and the promise of His return. Watching all of this... seeing all of this, Peter, James and John. They were taken aside by Christ and invited from the rest. They were separated from even the other disciples and went up to the mountain and were privileged to see all of this.

So question: Is Jesus playing favorites here? Why Peter, James and John? Why not the others? How would you feel, you know, if Jesus picked three of us to go to the mountain and see this glory, and you get left behind? But Jesus was not playing favorites because God has no favorites. But let me tell you something: Jesus does have insiders. He does have intimates. The Scripture says James 4:8, "Draw near to God and He will what? Draw near to you". I don't know how much of Jesus you know or have, but you have all you want. And those who seek God know the secrets of God. Those who desire intimacy with God know a greater sense of His presence and embrace a greater devotion to follow Him, to know Him.

And so Jesus, knowing the hearts of these men, pulled them aside and they experienced it! They saw the day of His glory! And therefore, we like these men, should live in anticipation of that day when we see and share His glory! Now Peter is so fired up! Now there's a little bit of question here as to what's happening to these three men. Luke tells us that they sort of at a dream state at some degree; they're wiping their eyes. But now they're fully awake, fully alert when they see all of this. And Peter is so pumped up... he's so fired up... You know, Peter is always the guy who's willing to say something even if it's wrong!

And so Peter... he goes, "Lord, this is awesome! It's good to be here"! And I'm thinking, "Peter, is that all you've got"? That's the greatest understatement of all time, right? He had just seen the glory of Jesus Christ. He's just watched Moses and Elijah in high definition! They have seen this thing and now all he can say is "Lord, it's really good to be here"! And then he says one of the dumbest things a man's ever said. One of the most moronic things a man could ever say. He says, "Lord, let's build three tents. Let's put up some booths here. Let's put one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah. And let's just stay here on this mountain! Forget those every guys... those other disciples. It's just you and me, Jesus! We're here! Moses, Elijah"...

Well you get the picture. They just wanted to stay there. And about that time God shut that whole deal down because the Shekinah presences of His glory, the cloud... Remember the cloud that followed the children of Israel through the wilderness wanderings and the cloud of His Shekinah presences and glory that overcastted the tabernacle and ultimately the temple and the Holy of holies? That same cloud of the glory of God is overshadowing Jesus! And then Moses and Elijah, they exit, and it was only Jesus, just Jesus standing there. Just Jesus. No need for Moses, no need for Elijah, no need for a tabernacle for one or the other. Just Jesus! In salvation just Jesus!

You're not saved by a church or a creed or a cause but Christ! You're not saved by religion or ritual but a relationship with Jesus! Just Jesus! You're not saved by following some plan of salvation. It's not about a plan of salvation; it's the Man of salvation! Just Jesus! Just Jesus! Acts 4:12 "For there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved but the name of Jesus"! I hope you believe that! Just Jesus! Just Jesus! Just Jesus!

Dear folks, it's all about Him. All about Him. Everything points to Him. It's not about your purpose or your plans but His plans and His purpose for you. That's the glory... that's the promise that we share. But then, the pain we bear. The contrast. They go down in the valley and here's this desperate dad a day later. Here's a demonized boy. Defeated disciples... they could do nothing about it. Can you imagine the pain of this father's life... this boy who's just shattered by Satan? Sometimes we're like Peter and the others, no doubt. We want to stay on the high. we want to hang out with spiritual giants. We want to catch the rays of His glory... bask in it. Forget about the world. Forget about broken, hurting people.

Let's just... you know, let's just order our rapture suits and get ready. Let's get in the church and... We even create in the church today sometimes Christian subcultures which isolate us from the world. But Jesus said we're not to be of the world, but in the world. We want to sometimes withdraw from the crowds and the pressures of life and just sort of focus on ourselves and our needs and what we want and our experiences and our worship. But they come down off the mountain and they come down to the lows, and that's the way life is. Jesus calls us to a cross. Jesus calls us to suffering people and to hurting people and to broken lives. And this boy was impressed by the devil. He was filled with satanic rage and so is this world. Satan is on a rampage. He's roaring like a lion.

Spiritual warfare... that's another invisible thing! It's all around us! I mean, I love it here on these great days at the church when we're baptizing people in God's presence and we're singing and we're worshiping and we're preaching and we're saying Amen! We love that. But then... I mean, even for the preacher life sets in. Sometimes I feel like I pastor a bad reality show! All the stuff going on in peoples' lives! I've never seen anything like it! Satan is attacking! And Satan is especially like in this case attacking our children! Our families! I don't know how the devil got in this boy; we're not told, but the devil was in him.

You've tried everything with your kids. You've tried prescription medication, you've tried counseling, you've tried therapy, you've tried church, camp, Christian schools. Why don't you try Jesus? You've tried all your rules and your rules aren't working. Lead your kids to Jesus! Your most powerful spiritual weapon is prayer! Alright this message is done. I'm going to shut it down, but Jesus said, "Your problem is you crooked and perverse generation". Now Jesus is really good and annoyed at this point at the failure of the disciples. Does it surprise you that Jesus is annoyed? These disciples said, "We couldn't do anything. We tried and failed". He said, "Your problem is you don't have the faith and you didn't even pray and seek My name and seek My power to do this deed, and to deliver this boy"!

You've tried everything. Have you tried praying for your kids? That doesn't happen overnight. Even when this boy started coming to Jesus he convulsed again. But Jesus picked him up and healed him and made him whole and gave him back to his daddy. What a story of contrast! You can't always live on the mountain. We ought to "look up, our redemption is drawing near". Look up! But let me tell you something, down on the plains of this earth, down in the valleys below this vision of eternity, we need to wake up; we need to gear up and put on the full armor of God and we need to pray up so that we can win people to Jesus because God has called us not to mountains but to valleys to proclaim the wonderful name of Jesus!
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