Sunday, April 2, 2017
A Journey of Faith
Children's stories can often bring insight to greater Spiritual Truths.
ILL: In the book “Winnie the Pooh Goes to the North Pole", Christopher Robin has organized a band of animal friends for a journey to the North Pole.
The preparation for this expedition is going quite well except for one minor problem no one is quite sure where the North Pole is located or what "It" even looks like; not even Christopher Robin who proposed this grand expedition to find " It" the great North Pole. (Pause)
It seems to me that this expedition is symbolic of our culture's quest for finding the meaning of life; for finding "It" - the spiritual - our culture's unknowing quest for God.
The world is in search of something, yet no one seems to know what it looks like or where it is located.
In our hungry, thirsty, and curious world we are flooded with men and women that are in search of the spiritual.
Fundamental to the Christian life is our call as followers of Christ to share with the world; with our culture, that we have the map for life’s journey that tells us not only where we are going but how to get there.
Today's text offers us helpful guidance in our search for an authentic and true answer.
Now early in His ministry Jesus selected the twelve from A larger group of disciples. These twelve have seen him feed the 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feed the 4000 with 7 loaves.
They were terrified when he calmed the storm and they stood in amazement as he walked on water. They listened attentively but often with confusion as he taught them powerful truths to be applied to their lives. They watched the religious become increasing agitated by his teaching.
They could feel the tension escalating. They were not certain what it all meant then Jesus asked Peter "The question" "Who do you say that I am?"
They all certainly remember Peter's response, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." ( Mark 8:29 ) They all should have been able to proclaim those words.
No one was able to say it with any degree of certainty until the impulsive
fisherman proclaimed boldly the truth.
Yet, immediately after issuing a response that demonstrates his theological brilliance, Peter shows his humanness his shortcomings by rebuking the one he called the Christ when He spoke of his future suffering and death.
Peter is truly a model of us all.
In one moment, he stands unfaltering in his faith and in the very next he cowers in doubt.
In one moment, he walks in courage, in the next, he runs in fear.
In one moment, he displays wisdom but in less than a breath unbelief.
Peter shared the same struggles that you and I wrestle with each and every day.
Now the Scriptures tell us that six days after his statement of faith, Peter joins James and John, on a short journey with Jesus up a mountain.
Why did Mark mention 6 days? We know nothing is in the Scriptures by accident.
The mention of the number six may serve a dual purpose for Mark. While it conveys a chronological record of time, six days also holds a symbolic value.
In Jewish thought, the number six represents incompleteness.
Mark also may have been making a theological statement where the life of a disciple, a follower of Christ, is also incomplete. It is never complete. It is an ongoing process.
Throughout our lives, we too display faith and commitment yet also foolishness and doubt. Like Peter, we are on a journey and we have not arrived yet.
We are truly a work in progress. God is not finished with us. Yet!
There are some truths to be found in our text today.
I. A Journey of Faith Begins with God
Vs. 2a “After six days Jesus took with Him”
It is initiated by God. He calls/invites. We respond.
Six days after Peter makes his proclamation of faith and his statement of rebuke, Jesus takes this impulsive disciple along with James and John up the mountain.
In our take charge make it happen world, we are uncomfortable with the suggestion that we are not in control.
Peter, James, and John were taken up the mountain by Jesus. They did not ask. They did not make an appointment. They just responded. They responded to the Lord's call in obedience.
So Our Spiritual Journey begins with God. It is initiated by God.
II. A Journey of Faith is Not to Be Taken Alone
Vs. 2b “Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John”
Our journey of faith requires us to recognize and understand that we do not walk the journey alone.
Mark 6:7 “And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two.”
Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Jesus took three disciples with him to the top of the mountain. He did not go alone. Yet, In contrast our culture tends to enjoy it's spiritual experiences. alone.
ILL: In his book entitled, We the Lonely People, author Ralph Keys states. "That above all else we Americans, value mobility, convenience and privacy. and of these three our most cherished value is privacy."
This demand for privacy and the value that we place on individual autonomy is relatively new in social thought.
Prior to the 1500's western culture placed a greater importance on community. A person's identity came from their membership in their family, community, associations, or church.
ILL: One historian noted: "It took the invention of print to tear us from our community and plant the dream of isolation in our brains."
To which the Pastor and author, Charles Swindoll comments, "I suppose (this) is another way of saying that most of us would rather curl up all alone with a book than with another person."
The writer of Ecclesiastes understood the danger of living in isolation and the advantages of community when he wrote:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls, and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
We need time alone with God but our experience in and with God is incomplete unless done in relationship with others.
The Christian faith is not just a set of doctrines, or a philosophy, nor is it a set of rules that one may follow on their own.
The essence of our faith is relationship - a relationship that we enjoy with our God through Jesus, that is discovered, strengthened, enhanced, and nourished in community.
Jesus did not tell Peter that his personal faith would become so strong that the gates of hell would not prevail .against him.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 "I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”
The gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church.
There is power within the Church - within the Community of Faith. Our strength is not found in an isolated faith but in relationship a relationship with God and with one another.
We may experience God at times alone on the mountaintop. Yet those isolated experiences become deepened .they become strengthened through relationship .through community.
Our Journey of Faith Begins with God. It is initiated by God.
Our Journey of faith is not to be taken alone.
III. A Journey of Faith Must Be Centered on Jesus
Vs. 7-8 “And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.’ And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”
The disciples just witnessed the Father’s divine endorsement of Jesus’ authority. The witnessed the authentication of Jesus as the eternal son.
ILL: Christopher Robin and his friends had a lovely journey that day. They wandered through the countryside and they encountered various difficulties along the way. Each animal in the community contributed at some point in helping to solve the various challenges.
At one point, little Roo falls into a stream .and the whole group rallies to his rescue. Pooh grabs a pole and fishes him out. Pooh is standing with the pole in his hand when Christopher exclaims, “Pooh . . . where did you find that pole?"
The bear looking puzzled says. "I just found it. I thought it to be useful so I just picked the pole up."
Then Christopher Robin joyfully announces to all, "Pooh, the expedition is over. You have found "It". You have found the North Pole." Together they stick the pole in the ground and Christopher Robin ties a message on it that reads, "North Pole Discovered By Pooh."
Our culture is much like that. Many are looking for the answer for a vaguely defined spirituality for their "North Pole".
Every once in a while, one of them picks up something or discovers something that they find insightful and boldly announce, "That's it! I have found the Answer." And many may agree for a time, that it looks like "It." And so often someone, usually a "would-be spiritual authority", a Christopher Robin, hangs a sign on "It". That declares: "This is it This is the Spiritual Answer." And then everyone goes home again, until the next expedition. to find "It". is proposed.
People are attracted to "The Spiritual". Fresh expeditions for the "North Pole" set out almost daily across this country and across the world. Many are searching. In fact, many we encounter are searching for their North Pole.
They are searching because there is an emptiness within them that they need to fill. So their search goes on for the spiritual answer to the meaning of existence.
We know the answer. And we know the Way. His name is Jesus And He did not hide the Truth. He shared the truth with the world:
John 14:6 "I am the way .and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father accept through me."
John 15:4-5 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
While standing on the mountain, Peter, James and John were amazed at the transfiguration of Jesus in all his glory. Amazed also at the appearance of Moses and Elijah.
But after God spoke and the cloud lifted, Mark records, they saw no one only Jesus.
Our journey of faith has an ultimate destination. It is not to a place; it is not a feeling. It is a person. And His name is Jesus. The name above all Names. And He alone is able to fill that yearning. That empty space that lies within each human heart.
Do you know him? Do you truly know Him?