Since basketball season is upon us, my man carted a couple of our grandchildren to the gym Saturday afternoon to review some fundamentals. I stayed home; but if I know him, there were two words that most likely rang out loudly and often, “Finish strong!” I’ve heard these words pour out of his mouth with our own kids at least a thousand times: “Push through your opponent! Take your shot! Finish strong!”
Do you sometimes wonder if you’ll be able to finish this life strong? Have all of your accumulated mistakes, hurts, worries, stresses, and illnesses hijacked your confidence, leaving behind a weak testimony? I believe that’s exactly why the Holy Spirit painted the Transfiguration scene so vividly. He knew the toll that time would take on our minds, bodies, and souls, and that we would need to be reminded of the glorious simplicity of Christ alone.
In Matthew 17, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the mountain and allowed them see Moses and Elijah. They also witnessed Jesus shining like the sun in all His radiant glory. Peter immediately wanted to note the occasion by setting up three structures to honor Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. That prompted God to speak, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him!” (v.5) Naturally, they were terrified, so Jesus reached out and touched them saying, “Get up; don’t be afraid.”(v.7) I love how verse 8 in The Message completes the scene, “When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.”
We all can finish strong when we learn to trust in only Jesus. However, what if “only Moses” had been left on the mountainside? Moses represented the Law that proved mankind’s inability to keep every rule, as well as their need for a Savior. None of us can keep all the rules we’ve established for ourselves or allowed others to establish for us any better than the Israelites could keep every jot and tittle of the Old Law. But, I sure have tried, haven’t you? In the past, I’ve tried doing things to make up for my mistakes. I’ve studied to prove myself right, rather than approved by God. I’ve exchanged a warm friendship with Jesus for cold traditions of men. I’ve held onto shame rather than allowing Jesus to pull me close. I refused to admit my shortcomings causing me to suffer long. (Just so you know, I still struggle with taking all my thoughts captive.) Thank God it was only our merciful and gracious Jesus who remained alone on the mountain rather than Moses!
On the other hand, what if “only Elijah” had remained? Elijah represented the all the Old Testament prophets. Charles Spurgeon, in his Jesus Only sermon, noted the sternness of the prophets, particularly Elijah’s willingness to call down fire on the false prophets of Baal. Spurgeon speculates:
“I know that if John had said, ‘Command fire from heaven,’ Elijah would have consumed his foes; the Pharisees, like the priests of Baal, would have found a speedy end; Herod’s blood, like Ahab’s, would have been licked up by dogs; and Herodias, like another Jezebel, would have been devoured of the same. But all this power for vengeance would have been a poor exchange for the gracious omnipotence of the Friend of Sinners.”
Some today, still picture God as an angry dictator who stands ready to condemn. They become anxious about their spiritual state and even go so far as admitting their sin, but never truly accept the mercy of God, the grace of Jesus, and the friendship of the Holy Spirit. They believe their sin is bigger than God’s love – the love that sent His Son to erase their sins. They are sorry for their sins, but never make it to the throne of forgiveness. As Spurgeon goes on to say, “Your repentance, unless you also believe in Jesus, is a repentance that needs to be repented of.”
God identified Jesus plainly on the mountain as His Son and said in no uncertain terms, “Listen to Him!” Moses and Elijah brought mankind to Jesus, and sat us at the feet of the One who fulfilled the Law and the prophecies. He is the only one who paid our sin bill. He alone makes good on His promises of faithful love, perfect peace, and sweet rest from trying to blaze our own trail. His love and generosity inspire ours. His Spirit continues to lay out a perfect path for each of us. He places our hills and valleys at perfect intervals. The struggle in the valleys reveal the contents of our hearts, while the hills offer sweet relief and gratitude. The Spirit continually whispers, “This is the way; walk in it.”Are you listening to Him? I’m finally listening, and He thrills my soul!
I especially love knowing Jesus touched the disciples when He told them not to be afraid of God. Are you afraid He will ask you to do something difficult if you allow Him to get that close? He just might, you know. He might ask you to clean out all of your messy past, stop your useless striving, and repent of your unbelief in His plan and power. Only then, can you focus solely on Him. If that is what He asks of you, take courage, and step up to the line because I can testify to the freedom that comes with the follow through!
Be certain that Satan will target you when you turn your eyes upon Jesus. He will try to block your shot to victory every time. However, you can:
push through your opponent’s taunts and lies,
take your best shot, and
No matter how old you are!