A Fresh Experience With God
Matthew 17:1-21 is one of the most thrilling and tragic passages in all the New Testament.
Jesus and His disciples had been on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus having a conversation with Moses and Elijah.
They had witnessed the shekinah glory.
They had heard the voice of God Himself saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am. well pleased.
Hear ye Him."
Peter had gotten so excited, he said, "Lord, let us stay here and build three tabernacles;
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
The disciples had become afraid over what they had seen, and had fallen on their faces, trembling.
But Jesus had touched them and said, "Be not afraid."
"And when they had lifted up their eyes they saw no man save Jesus only."
What a thrilling and remarkable experience that was.
Every Christian needs a fresh experience with God.
All of us have had those times when more than anything else, we need to go to the mountain
to experience God afresh and anew.
From time to time, every individual Christian needs to experience God afresh and anew.
We need to have the experience that Isaiah had in Isaiah 6:5.
Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me, for I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips,
and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
It is so easy for those of us who speak of God often to have spiritual dryness set in
so that while we continue to go through the motions of our religious life,
there is no feeling of power and freshness no feeling.
The world in which Christ has called us to live and minister and witness is one that drains us
of spiritual energy, and leaves us feeling empty.
It is then that we become discouraged, confused and compromised.
Most of us here will readily admit that we desperately need to go to the mountain.
How long has it been since you have had a mountaintop experience?
If you have never had a mountaintop experience, that is tragic.
Jonathan Edwards was known as a cold intellectual preacher, but once he wrote
that the manifestations of the Spirit on a certain occasion were so powerful that for several hours
he was In a flood of tears just weeping aloud.
He said, "While God, in the communications of His Holy Spirit appeared as an infinite fountain
of divine glory and sweetness, being full and sufficient enough to satisfy the soul,
pouring itself forth in the sweet communication like the sun in its glory, sweetly diffusing light and life."
Our churches need a fresh experience with God.
Congregations need to go to the mountain.
It's so easy for a congregation to become preoccupied with self.
We allow cultural, social and racial walls to separate us from the lost people for whom Christ died.
We bog down in the organizations which we created to be used of God to reach people.
It is so easy to turn aside from the study the Bible and from prayer.
Too many Christians never touch the Bible throughout an entire week.
Divisions appear among us.
People struggle for power.
We lose our love for the people.
Our churches desperately need to go to the mountain.
All of us can fall victim to the hardening of our spiritual arteries, loss of creative vitality
and detachment from the dynamic Spirit of God.
Even a church with a great history of reaching people can become stale and divided.
We can mistake the forms for the Spirit which gave those forms, life.
When this happens, we have culturally conditioned expressions of faith rather than of the living God
Who breeze into these expressions, life and power.
There is a danger that we might substitute an intellectual system for a living, dynamic faith.
There is also the danger that we will hang onto the dead forms of worship and evangelism
rather than seeking for new and powerful instruments of communicating the faith.
God's Spirit is among us in a fresh and encouraging way.
We do not deserve it, but I believe there is a stirring among the people of God.
God wants His people to come to the mountain to see Him, and to experience Him afresh and anew
and to receive hope, faith, power and perspective.
How do we respond when God begins to walk upon the mountain in our presence?
The disciples wanted to stay and worship.
It is a wonderful emotion to so enjoy the presence of God that your first temptation is to want to remain there.
When God came to Isaiah as recorded in that six chapter, he confessed his sins,
and experienced a cleansing and found a new commission from God.
When Jesus Christ came afresh to Thomas, he repented of his doubts and reaffirmed his faith in Jesus Christ
When Pascal received afresh empowering of God, he wrote down the experience with these words,
"Fire! Fire! Fire!"
The disciples who had walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus said,
"Didn't our hearts burn as He walked beside us."
Every single one of us needs to find a fresh, warm, vital relationship with God.
I pray to God that the days ahead of us will not be just business as usual.
I pray that we will have a mountaintop experience, and have a fresh new breath of revival
igniting the fires within us and experience the blowing of God's mighty wind upon our souls.
We must become more sensitive to the problems of man in the valley of life.
In our Scripture passage, there is a tragic contrast between the excitement on the mountain of the disciples
and the frustration of the disciples of Jesus Christ in the valley.
On the mountain, they wanted to build tabernacles and stay there worshiping God forever.
In the valley they found that the problems of one man and his son was more than they could cope with.
We have a terrible problem today trying to translate the glory of heaven into the reality of earth.
Why is it that so often we can enjoy the glory, and yet cannot translate it to the despairing?
Why is it that we can be exhilarated by the mountaintop, but somehow we can't get it in the valley?
But we cannot stay on the mountain.
We must go down to the valley.
What will we see in the valley?
The disciples saw a distraught father.
They also saw a demon-possessed son.
They saw disciples that were impotent.
These disciples were thrilled about deity, but they were completely beaten by humanity.
It is one thing to have fellowship with the living God, but it is another thing to be able to get your living God
over to the humanity that is in desperate need of Him.
This boy was having continual, fits.
The situation was desperate.
The entire family was in turmoil.
They came to the church for help, but the church couldn't do a thing to help them.
First, we see this as a picture of modern man.
Modern man's technological skills have accomplished some of the most amazing feats ever conceived.
But this same man has shown himself to be completely bankrupt in terms of moral and spiritual values.
He does not know how to get along with himself.
He cannot get along with his neighbors.
Man's problems are not just educational.
Man's problems are not just circumstantial.
When we look at modern man, we must look at his very nature for the flaw that sin has put there,
or we will not understand the depth nor the dimensions of his problems.
The we see a church that is impotent and without power to deal with man's sinfulness.
Our generation is preoccupied with power.
We talk about student power, woman power, green power, black power, political power, and financial power.
And yet, God has supplied us with all kinds of resources to combat these kinds of power,
and yet, we still are unable to deal with man -- that is with his real problems.
How can the church become adequate?
First, it must see modern man's problems as essentially, spiritual.
Our Lord was moved with compassion by man's physical needs, and He healed the sick and fed the hungry,
but He always saw man's root problem which was sin, and his basic problem which was spiritual.
And the church will remain impotent until it sees that our enemy is the devil.
Some people would have said of the boy who was sick that he has a medical problem, and he needs a doctor.
Others would have said that he had an emotional problem, and that he needed a psychiatrist.
Jesus attributed the condition of the young man to the supernatural activity of a satanic spirit.
I believe that we need to come to the point where we believe that there is actually a devil,
and that there are demons.
We need to understand that there are strong satanic forces that operate in the minds, in the hearts,
in the lives and in the consciences of people that are beyond our understanding.
A former president of Princeton University once said,
"We must get at the problem beneath our problems."
Our great problem is not a psychological problem.
Our great problem is not a health problem.
Our great problem is not a sociological problem.
It is not a military problem.
It is not a political problem.
Our problem today in our country and in the world is a spiritual problem.
The devil himself is operating in our country and with a supernatural power
beyond our human ability to cope with it.
That is why so many of our problems seem incapable of a solution.
We are contacting spiritual forces with carnal weapons, and we are being beaten.
This boy in Matthew 17 was trying to destroy himself.
Every minute in the United States someone attempts suicide.
We must accept the fact that the devil is at work.
He is the prince of the power of the air.
We are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.
The government cannot meet the threat of the devil.
Our educational system cannot meet the threat of the devil.
Psychiatrists and physicians cannot meet the threat of the devil.
This is the place for the church which needs the supernatural power of God.
It is at this point it's church is so miserably failing today.
People are coming to the church and saying, "Can you cast it out?
Can't you do something about the situation?"
And too many times, we must just shake our heads and say, "No, we're sorry. We cannot do a thing about it."
In other words, there is a lack of power in the church today.
We must move out to the world in the power of faith.
When Jesus Christ called the demon out of the boy, he was cured instantly.
The disciples came to Jesus privately, and asked Him, "Why could we not cast it out?"
Jesus said to them, "Because of your little faith."
The disciples learned a valuable lesson that day from Jesus.
They learned that the God whose presence could be felt on the mountain had "power in the valley"
to deal with the problems of man."
The solution to our problems is not to flee to the mountains.
The solution to our problems is not to change valleys because the problems
in any other valley would also overwhelm us.
Hope lies in being able to move out into a valley of man's despair with the power of faith in a powerful God.
In this passage, Jesus had just given them a glimpse of glory.
He had just shown them the amazing possibilities.
He had just promised them that they would see the power of God.
So, we know that they have a vision on the Mount of Transfiguration of the sheer power of the King of kings.
Earlier, Jesus had given these disciples authority over these supernatural, demons.
These disciples had been invested with the authority to deal with that kind of situation.
These powerless disciples were people who knew where the power was,
and they were people who had been given the authority.
The church of Jesus Christ has already been given the authority to deal with the spiritual problems
that face us every day.
We know where the power is, and we have the authority.
Therefore, we must examine our church and our ministries and our lives, and ask,
"What has gone wrong in my own spiritual experience?"
When Jesus came on the scene, He dealt authoritatively with the situation "Bring him to Me."
And as soon as this happens, strange things take place in the boy.
"They brought him unto Jesus, and when He saw him, straightway the spirit tare him;
and he fell on the ground, wallowing and foaming." (Mark 9:20)
In other words, there was a new intensive, satanic activity in the boy.
The moment we begin evangelism and missions.
The moment the church takes the offensive there will be an increase in satanic activity.
Where is Satan going to hit?
Will it be from the right or left within the church?
Will it be some mistake that we make?
Will it be some family problem that will occupy thoughts?
Will it be some organizational problem?
When we talk about witnessing, we're talking about spiritual warfare.
When we began to evangelize, we can anticipate nothing less than overwhelming satanic attacks,
and overwhelming floods of evil in the lives of people who are suddenly confronted
with the opportunity of coming to Jesus Christ.
The church must discover again that the work of evangelism is spiritual work,
and that it requires spiritual people and spiritual churches and spiritual power.
After the boy had been healed, the disciples took Jesus to one side, and asked Him privately,
"Why couldn't we cast him out?"
Jesus gave them a startling answer.
"This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting."
What does "this kind" refer to?
In other words, Jesus said, "You are going to come up against some tough situations.
And you must realize that there has to be a quality of faith in people like you
that will operate to exterminate these kinds of opposition forces;
and that the kind of faith that is necessary is the faith that is demonstrated by prayer and fasting.
This kind of faith we need is a praying faith.
The praying faith is that which brings the problem to God, and lays hold of the power of God,
and says, "Without God, we are nothing."
It is also kind of faith that know how to fast.
There are those who would say that fasting has nothing to do with us today.
I am sure that fasting has been abused.
It was abused in the days of Jesus, and Jesus pointed out that abuse:
when He said, "When you fast, don't do like the hypocrites do."
Notice, He didn't say, "If you fast."
He said, "When you fast."
What is fasting?
I believe that fasting is the denying of the satisfaction of legitimate appetites.
It may be that there are certain legitimate appetites that you have,
and that you are going to deny yourself the legitimate satisfaction of those appetites for the simple reason
of giving yourself completely God so that God can work through you.
There are those legitimate appetites for a man to spend time with his family,
but there are times when God wants us to be separated for a short time so we can give ourselves to prayer.
It is legitimate to be beautiful, or to dress ourselves in such a way to be noticed.
You fulfill a legitimate need to be married.
But God has called some like Paul not to be married for one simple reason:
if we fast in this area and deny ourselves the legitimate sacrifice of legitimate appetites,
God will work in unprecedented ways in our lives.
The kind of faith we need is a sharing faith.
We must share the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to the deepest and most profound needs of modern man.
Such as the need of love and acceptance.
Such as the need for forgiveness of sin.
Such as the need for meaning and purpose in life.
Such as the need for hope in death.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only word that speaks to these needs.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a powerful word.
The Holy Spirit has been promised to empower the Gospel of Christ when we share it.
"The Holy Spirit goes before us and brings power into the situation."
There is power in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform lives.
Everywhere Christians go to witness as Christians go to witness were lots of people are,
and as they share the gospel in love, and in the power of the Holy Spirit lost people will be converted.
So, Christian men and women who will fast and pray and share can translate
the presence of God on the mountain to the power of God in the valley.
This is a wonderful day in which God has allowed us to live.
Evil is strong but God is stronger.
Man is on a self-destructive binge, but God is still in the business of turning men's lives around,
and giving them everlasting life.
We have been called to be instruments of Jesus Christ in the valley.
We have been given the gifts we need.
There's not a single person without gifts.
And our effectiveness is to be found in the accepting of these gifts, and in the commitment of these gifts to God.
We have been placed in a specific place.
Sometimes, we do not see the wisdom of God in this.
Sometimes, we desire to be in another place.
But we can live with the assurance that God knows what He is doing,
and He will use us in that particular place.
And He has joined us together as a body of believers with a common calling and with a common commission.
Let us seek a fresh experience with God and the power of God in the valley.
In England in the 16th century, two martyrs were being burned at the stake.
They were both completely dedicated to God.
As they were being tied to the stake, one of them said to the other,
"Be of good cheer and play the man.
We shall this day live such a candle by God's grace that England shall never be able to put it out."
Their bodies became a candle that has not been put out to this day.
We must not spend our time cursing the darkness.
We should not be spending our time trying to root the tares lest we hurt the wheat.
But, by God's grace, let us light a candle.
Let's light a candle that will banish moral and spiritual blight all over our world.
Let's light a candle that will guide men and women into God's tomorrow.
Let's light a candle of a renewed faith in the Scriptures.
Let's light a candle of a new dedication to missions and evangelism that will cause the devil to tremble.
Let's light a candle that by God's grace will never be put out.
Let's light a candle so that people around us will see the Light of the world in us.
Let's light a candle and may that a candle become a great burning fire
which will burn brightly for the cause of Jesus Christ.
This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White