By Carter Conlon
"Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah'" (Matthew 17:1–4).
Here we see humanity and divinity meeting together on a mountain where God was about to do something phenomenal. In our humanity, we will always gravitate to present or past experiences for our sense of comfort and well-being. Peter was a man who did just that, saying, "It does not get any better than this. We have the Son of God here. We have Moses and Elijah. We are on a mountaintop and do not have to deal with the people all around us. This is a great place to camp. Let's stay here forever!"
However, that was not what God was speaking. "While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!' And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid" (17:5–6). Now, this was not said for the benefit of Moses, Elijah or Jesus. God was telling Peter, James and John, "Stop speaking, and start listening to the Son of God! He is going to lead you somewhere." In other words, your opinions do not lead into the supernatural; they do not bring deliverance to people who are hurting.
All you can build is something that will ultimately become irrelevant if you are not willing to hear the Son of God. That is why many churches that once knew great moves of God are now irrelevant. We must move with the voice of God, not with what somebody spoke hundreds of years ago. We must remember that Jesus is calling us to follow Him rather than spending all our time seeking personal revelation, comfort, and spiritual experience.
There is a whole segment of the Church today running from place to place just seeking some new experience. Their whole pursuit is a "Mount of Transfiguration," and they want to camp there. However, the revelation of who Jesus Christ is ought to lead us to what He does. In Luke's account of this event, he tells us that Moses and Elijah were discussing with Jesus what He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem—that everything that was prefigured through the law and the prophets was about to be fulfilled at the cross. A Church was going to be born to go into all the world to preach this wonderful message of salvation through Christ.
Jesus was leading these disciples somewhere, but they were so engrossed in their own ideas of what spiritual experience leads to that they could not hear Him. It was as if God had to override the whole thing, stop Peter in the middle of speaking, and declare, "This is My Son. Hear Him!"
FULL OF OUR OWN STRENGTH
When the Lord speaks to each of the churches in the Book of Revelation, notice that He says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." I want a hearing ear; I want God to lead my life. Sure, I have had a wonderful past; in fact, it has been a miraculous journey. But I have learned that God is not interested in my ideas. If He is not leading, there is no power in it, and we are merely on our own with our little tabernacles on the top of the mountain, talking about our past spiritual experiences.
We often cannot hear the Lord because, just as with Peter and the others, we are still leaning on our own strength and understanding. It is similar to the time when Jesus told Peter, "Where I am going, you cannot follow Me." What was Peter's response? "Oh, yes, I will follow You. And if You go to Jerusalem to die, I will go and die with You. These others here may not have the courage to go, but I will not turn back!" (see Matthew 26:33, 35). He was full of himself—full of his own ideas and his own strength.
Yet Jesus was trying to speak to him, saying, "Peter, before the rooster crows, you are going to deny Me three times" (see Matthew 26:34). But Peter could not hear it because he was still relying on his own strength and ideas. He did not understand that where Christ leads, we cannot follow without His strength. So, God had to bring Peter to the end of himself.
He had to bring him to a place where he had nothing left to say. After he denied Jesus three times, all he could do was weep bitterly. All his boasting came to an end, and when it did, he could finally start to hear the voice of the Son of God.
Perhaps your testimony today is that you have come to the end of yourself. Your ideas have come to nothing and you have run into the brick wall that all humanity runs into when we try to follow God in our own strength. Well, the good news is that the end of you is the beginning of God. Now you are ready to hear and to follow where God is leading you.
UNWILLING TO EMBRACE THE NEW
There is another reason why many find it difficult to hear the Son of God: they are unwilling to put away old things and embrace what is new. The Bible tells us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; old things have passed away and all things are new (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). God is not just taking us out of where we used to be, He is bringing us into where He would have us to go. The Spirit of God begins to show us things to come. He starts speaking to us about what He has for us, not what we have for Him—and there is a huge difference. In our humanity, we will make promises to God that we cannot fulfill.
Finally, when we come to the end of that, suddenly God starts making promises to us. It is through these promises that we become everything He has called us to be. It starts with a willingness to put away old things—for example, old comforts and old experiences. Yes, we can remember them, but we cannot camp there with them. Sometimes old friends have to be put away. A lot of people want the kingdom of God, but they want their old friends at the same time. Some want to keep those old relationships alive, that old romance with someone who is not a believer in Christ. Remember when the children of Israel came out of slavery in Egypt and suddenly, in the wilderness, they started remembering the fish and the leeks and garlic in Egypt (see Numbers 11:5). They somehow forgot that they were crying out to God in their bitter bondage!
We are all prone to saying, "It was so good back there, wasn't it?" We forget the depression, the addiction, the brokenness. And so we are unwilling to make the break. A lot of people want that little sip of something to make them feel good, or that little peek on the internet at things they should not be looking at—and then they wonder why they cannot hear the voice of God.
Sometimes we are unwilling to make the break from our past achievements. We want to sit in our office and gaze at all our certificates on the wall. Yet consider how the apostle Paul said, "What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ" (Philippians 3:7). We must be willing to be led away from even good things. Remember, Peter had concluded, "Lord, it is good for us to be here" (Matthew 17:4). Yet what God has for us is even better than what we declare to be good.
WHERE HE LEADS
Last, just as happened with Jesus after the Mount of Transfiguration, we must be willing to be led from spiritual experience to spiritual need. Jesus could have stayed on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah, with His Father speaking from heaven. He had a small entourage—followers whom He could teach, and He could have stayed there forever. But He had a mission!
Yes, the mountaintop offered this wonderful spiritual experience. But at the bottom of the mountain was a father crying out for his demon-possessed child who was being destroyed by the powers that had hold of him. Consider what is happening to our children—the unbridled passion, the unmitigated confusion, the sense of hopelessness and anger that is consuming this present generation. You and I can live our Christian life just talking about old experiences, or we can follow Jesus down the mountain to where human need really is.
That is exactly what happened in Acts chapter two. The disciples were in the Upper Room having a marvelous experience. The Spirit of God filled every one of them, and they were given this explosive ability to communicate with people of other cultures and other languages. They could have just stayed there and spoken in tongues for the next five years.
However, they were led by the voice of God to spiritual need. Just outside, there were thousands of people coming from the temple, making great journeys to get there. Worshiping God in the best way they knew how, they remained deficient and short of redemption through the Son of God. The disciples heard the voice of God leading them out of their wonderful spiritual experience right into a morass of spiritual need. That is how the Church was born, and that is how she was led all the way through the Book of Acts.
The best thing that could ever happen to you and me, as well as to this present generation, is that we learn to hear the voice of God once again. If you are broken, if you feel like a failure, if you are wounded, if you feel destroyed—you are the perfect candidate to be used by God! Get up from where you are and start to walk with Him. Walk toward not just the healing that you need, but also walk toward the healing that somebody else needs.
You do not have to have it all together to tell somebody else that God is good, and that Jesus died for them. All you need is to be willing to go where Jesus is leading you. You have a choice now. You can camp on an old experience and die there—yes, you will get to heaven, but you will spiritually die in that old experience. Or you can just leave it and go where God is leading you.
If you are willing to hear Him, you will be amazed at what He will do. He will give you light in darkness, water in seasons of drought, strength when strength is failing all around you. And you will be a part of God's answer to the great mountain of spiritual need we see in this generation!
This newsletter is an edited version of "HEAR HIM!," a sermon given on July 7, 2020. Other sermons are available by visiting our website at tsc.nyc. You are welcome to make additional copies of this sermon for free distribution to friends. However, for all other forms of reproduction or electronic transmission existing copyright laws apply. This sermon cannot be posted on any website or webpage without permission from Times Square Church. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from other versions are noted.