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Sermon - 18th February 2007
I pray that I may speak, and that you may hear, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Amazing things happen when people draw close to God. When Moses drew close to God, at Mount Sinai, to receive the Ten Commandments, his face shone brightly for some time afterwards. So much so, that the people of Israel needed Moses to wear a veil over his face, so that they would not be frightened. Moses removed his face veil when in God's presence. God was not frightened of Moses' shining face! For Moses shining face was a reflection of the divine glory of God, even though Moses was initially unaware of it, until others told him.
When Jesus got close to God at his transfiguration, even his clothes became dazzling white. And the supernatural appearance of Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus, caused Peter to babble on about constructing temporary shelters for the three of them.
Moses brought, to the people of Israel, God's Old Testament covenant with them - the Law, along with its rules and regulations. But Jesus brought for the people of all nations a New Testament covenant based on God's grace - an offer of acceptance, that Jesus, the Son of God, by his sacrificial death on the cross has paid, once for all, the price of all mankind's sins - past, present and future. The Old Testament animal sacrifices were no longer required. Instead, repentance and a changed life is what God now wants, in response to his full pardon and reconciliation with us.
On the Transfiguration mountain the terrified apostles Peter, James and John heard a voice from the cloud say: 'This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him!' (Luke 9:35). The effect of Jesus' words and actions, on his apostles and other close disciples, was that their lives were transformed.
Now, two thousand years later, we to can listen to much of what Jesus had to say by reading and listening to his words in the Bible - in particular to the four gospels.
But how brave are we today? Are we afraid of drawing too close to God? Jesus often told his hearers: 'Do not be afraid - fear not'. Fear is from the devil. Faith is from God. We do not worship a God who is out to get us, as soon as we put a foot wrong. On the contrary, we worship a God of love and grace. 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life' (John 3:16).
We are not required through obedience to rules and regulations to earn our salvation, but to accept salvation as a free gift and then to grow in active faith to receive God's blessings in our lives. The apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Rome by these words: 'there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus' (Romans 8:1).
Jesus said that 'the thief (the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full' (John 10:10).
So God has called all people to listen to Jesus - to receive salvation to eternal life, and to prevent the devil messing up our earthly lives in the meantime. Ignorance of God's word exposes us to many unwanted problems. The Old Testament prophet Hosea (4:6) wrote 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge' (King James Version). The people of Israel got into big trouble for neglecting God's word, delivered through Moses. May we not get into big trouble by neglecting God's word, spoken by Jesus.
So we are instructed to listen to Jesus - awake, hearing aids on full volume, and with concentration, not entertaining wandering thoughts. And when we listen but don't understand, we need to turn to others that can help us. But when it comes to belief - this is a personal decision. No one else can make it for us.
If we choose to listen to Jesus, and if we understand what he is saying, and if we believe what he said is true, then we need to speak and live out Jesus' teaching in the power of the Holy Spirit. Whatever ministry we are called into - great or small - we remember that it is still God's ministry, not our own private venture. Allowing Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to guide us throughout our lives is vital. Jesus said to his followers: 'I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing' (John 15:5).
Proverbs 23:7 says this: 'For as he (a man) thinks in his heart, so is he' (King James Version). In order to grow and become more like Jesus, we all need to think like him - to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). His words need to be in our hearts and minds in order that they may flow out of our mouths. alternatively, if we allow our minds to be filled with junk, that is what will come out of our mouths. As they say in the IT world 'garbage in, garbage out! That is why Jesus gave the warning: 'Consider carefully what you hear' (Mark 4:24).
After his resurrection Jesus told his eleven remaining disciples, 'All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me' (Matthew 28:18). He then delegated to his followers that authority, in his name, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring about the Kingdom of God - i.e. God's ways - on earth.
The apostle Paul in writing to the Church in Corinth (Greece) said this: We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us' (2 Cor. 5:20). We might not feel like Christ's authorised ambassadors, but let us not allow our feelings to override God's word. We have been given authority, in Jesus' name, to do what he has called us to do.
The apostle John wrote: 'we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is' (1 John 3:2). As children of God, we are spiritually like Jesus. although in our own Christian journey to become more like Jesus, we all recognise that we have not yet arrived at our ultimate destination. We are not yet where we want to be. But let us thank God that neither are we where we used to be.