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Mountain top experiences and foot in mouth disease

I hear people say "if only they could experience Jesus, then they would get it." Hmm, is that true? Imagine you are on a mountaintop and had the kind of experience that is surely the height of spiritual enlightenment. Jesus is there and appears in all his glory, then two of the most important men in the history of the bible turn up (Moses and Elijah) and speak to Jesus. Wow, you would think "that is it, can it get any better, now I understand everything!"


What did Peter do. He suffers from foot in mouth disease. According to Mark 9:5,6 he said "it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)"


Peter saw Jesus in all his glory, he heard Moses and Elijah speak to him. It gets better, God speaks in the cloud saying "“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Could it be any more obvious? Probably not, yet the disciples were dumbfounded and frightened.


Then as they descend from the mountain Jesus tells them "not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant."(Mark 9:9,10)


They saw the glorified Christ, encountered two heavenly saints, heard the voice of God and yet still made a stupid comment about three shelters and just did not understand the significance of Jesus rising from the dead. And Jesus tells them to keep it quiet.


I believe in "presence evangelism." I have seen people encounter God at worship events but lets not be naive or put too much emphasis on a mountain top experience or even the right words from the right people. God is sovereign and the heart of man is slow to understand. It takes revelation and relationship to bring someone to know and submit to Christ. For me, events are good and worthwhile but lets follow Jesus example. He allowed people to have dumb and resistant moments even on the mountaintop. He did get frustrated. In Luke 24:25 he said "“You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures."


What do we learn from this mountain top experience? Take people with you, even if they don't get it. Let them experience encounters with God on the journey but do not put too much weight on those one off events. Jesus said the human heart is like soil and needs nurture to receive the word of God. Our best evangelistic strategy in a post christian culture might be to work hard at preparing the soil and that includes one off events but our investment needs to be long term and consistent.


I remember meeting an American tourist who told me they "had done Scotland" which consisted of flying into Edinburgh, spend a day, drive to Skye, spend a day, then go to London. I don't believe they really understood or experienced Scotland and God is bigger than Scotland. We need to give people time and opportunity and the only way that can happen is if we offer a lifestyle that shares God's love over the long haul and doesn't expect a magic formula or special event to be the answer. If Jesus could allow 12 men access to his life and spend three years with them preparing them for the journey it is going to take time and effort to make disciples rather than converts.

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