Mountains

January 15th, 2017

David Sorn



How do you handle a blessing from God? Is there really a way to screw up a blessing?? And do we ever get stuck seeking the blessings instead of God?



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TRANSCRIPT


INTRODUCTION

Morning. My name is David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. 

Let me tell you about one of the happiest days of my life. 

On January 16th, 2009, I had just finished a 3-day, grueling interview at the church planter’s assessment center. 

I had felt called to start a church in Blaine, but our denomination requires that you first pass an assessment center…where they watch you preach, give your vision, share your faith, eat your meals and it pretty much feels like they bug your hotel room. 

On the night before the last day, I had convinced myself that they were going to say no…or at least not yet. 

I was 26 years old at the time. About to turn 27. 

I thought they’d say, “You’re too young” 

But that next morning, on the 16th, as my wife and I sat nervously across from them, and they opened up a folder and it said, “Fully Recommended to Plant a Church” 

I remember just feeling elated. 

Elated about what God was going to do. 

I was so excited about God. 

Now we just had to figure out how do you grow from a church of 2 people.  

It was a real mountaintop experience in my faith.   

And this morning, as we continue in our series, ATV: All Terrain Venture, we’re going to talk about the terrain of the mountain.

Now, I realize that the word “mountain” can have lots of connotations (some positive & some negative), so for the purpose of clarity, today, when I say “mountain,” I’m talking about the mountaintop. 

...where God leads you to a place where you have an amazing experience with Him or He does something powerful in your life.  

The idea of the “mountain” being a place where we often meet God is something we get right from the Bible

(Psalm 24:3) – NIV

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?

In the Bible, a number of the great moves of God happened on mountains. 

Let me list some of them for you: 

God provided a ram for Abraham when he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah

Interestingly enough, the temple (where sacrifices were offered) was built on that same Mountain

God talked to Moses through the Burning Bush…on a mountain

God gave Moses the 10 commandments…on Mt Sinai

Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal…on a mountain

Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount…ain.

It was from the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended back into heaven…

And there are plenty other examples as well.  

In fact, I want to read one of them with you this morning. 

(page 841) 

(Renovation App) 

It’s the story of Jesus taking 3 of his disciples up on a mountain

(Luke 9:28-36) – NIV

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, 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 he was saying.) 

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

So, 3 of the disciples experience this amazing thing. 

God brings Moses & Elijah down from heaven. 

They saw Jesus transfigured…bright as lightning

They heard the audible voice of God

It was a true Mountaintop experience! 

But in the moment, and in the days and months after, they made a few mistakes in regards to their mountaintop experience. 

Mistakes that we mostly replicate ourselves after we’re on the mountain

And so, we want to learn from that today. 

How do we avoid doing the same thing and best navigate this particular terrain of the mountain?  



THE DANGER OF PRIDE

Let’s take a look at the first mistake. 

Write this down if you’re taking notes

Mountaintop Mistakes  

#1: Becoming prideful

I think a lot of us would like to think that if we were hanging out with Jesus all day…

(or even in modern day)…if we prayed to God all the time, that we would just naturally become humble. 

And yet, that’s not always the case. 

The disciples often really struggled with pride. 

In fact, look at what happens shortly after this event.  

If you have Luke 9 in front of you still, you’ll see that right after they come down from the mountain, Jesus delivers a demon-possessed boy. 

And then, verse 43 says this: 

(Luke 9:43) – NIV

43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

But as is usually the case, it doesn’t take long for humans to become amazed…with themselves. 

Literally, later that day (the same day they came down from the mountain)…this happens: 

(Luke 9:46) – NIV

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.

This is crazy!

They just saw God do great things…and before you know it, they’re talking about how great they are going to be. 

Or the deeper truth, “how great other people are going to think they are”

I’m telling you…watch out for this. 

When God moves in your life (you get a job…an answer to prayer…or you just really feeling Him moving)…

There’s something about the high altitude of the mountain that makes us susceptible to revisionist history. 

Of changing the story to a version where we get the credit

“Let me tell you how awesome I was in the interview…and this is why they hired me” 

Or, “My child is doing so much better now…because of this amazing parenting technique that I employed” 

God does something amazing, but we are natural “glory stealers,” and we steal the credit

(1 Corinthians 4:7) – NIV

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

The Bible warns us to be prepared for our sinful hearts to do this when God moves. 

When the Israelites were in the wilderness, and were getting ready to enter the promised land, Moses gave them some important advice about “how to handle God’s blessings.” 

This is actually from the same spiritually rich chapter of Deuteronomy 8 that Stanton read from just 2 weeks ago, but different verses: 

(Deuteronomy 8:10-14) – NIV

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Moses goes on to warn them later that “When you become proud, you’ll say to yourself, ‘It was by my power and the strength of my hands…that this has happened to me”   

When we were in Rwanda this past summer, we went to this stadium event called Shima Imana…which means “Thank you God” 

In Rwanda, they feel like they are on the mountaintop right now. 

They have the 12th fastest growing economy in the world. 

And yet, just 23 years ago, 1 million people were murdered in their genocide

But now, in the mist of their growing prosperity, they put on this huge event, every year, and every year they center it around those exact verses in Deuteronomy. 

And they pray, “Lord, now that we’re on the mountain, may we not forget that it was you that brought us here…not our own hands” 

“Because if we forget, and we take the credit, surely, that means we will fall right back down the mountain”

And so in your own life, when God really moves, keep reminding yourself that it was Him that moved

Not you. 



WANTING TO STAY WHEN GOD CALLS YOU ELSEWHERE

Here’s the second mistake the disciples make…and this one happens right during the mountaintop event. 

Mountaintop Mistakes  

#1: Becoming prideful  

#2: Refusing to leave

When Peter and his friends realize that the mountaintop experience might be ending (we’re told Elijah and Moses are getting ready to leave), Peter tries to come up with an alternative plan to make it all last longer

(Luke 9:33) – NIV  

33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, 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 he was saying.) 

Peter says, “Let’s just stay here a while!”

He does his best to try and offer Jesus an alternative plan (which is always a dangerous thing )

Peter doesn’t want the mountaintop experience to end.  

And often, we don’t either. 

We just want to sit in God’s presence. 

But it wasn’t God’s plan for Jesus and the disciples just to have some holy experience on the mountain and never get off it. 

They were there for a time…and a purpose. 

They were there to be strengthened for what would lie ahead. 

So the disciples would get a powerful glimpse of Jesus as the Son of God

So that when life for Peter, James and John entered the valley…and got really, really hard, they could call back on this mountain. 

This is one of the reasons God takes us to the mountain. 

To show his glory…his power…and his love. 

And to do so in such a dynamic way that when he takes us into the valley (or our own sin takes us there), that we would not forget Him. 

And we would not lose hope or strength. 

In my life, I remember they day when many of you walked up to the front (right here), in November of 2014, and you dropped your pledges in a basket, of what you could give to help us, together as Renovation Church, purchase land. 

And we were praying to see $500,000 in pledges, and we saw over $600,000 come in. 

For me, that was a mountaintop moment. 

And although in present day, we are closer than we’ve ever been on this land thing (about as close as you can get), there have been some valleys…some deserts. 

But in the valleys, I can draw on the strength God gave me on the mountain of my first church planter’s assessment center experience…or the mountain of that Sunday, when our counters told me, “David, it wasn’t over $500,000…it was over $600,000!”

And I know, that if God was in it then, He’s in it now. 

And the same is true in your life.   

If he was real then…he’s real now. 

If he loved you then, he loves you now!

Our mountaintop experiences help us, not because we’re still running on the fumes of past happiness…but because we can remember God’s faithfulness.   

But we can’t refuse to leave the mountain…

Yes, his will is sometimes to speak majestically to you from the mountain…of his greatness/His love.

But other times, he will lead you through the valley of the shadow of death…and speak to you that way…to show you that you absolutely Need him!

Which, is why you need to come back next week when we talk about how to navigate the terrain of the valley (it’s all ALL terrain venture!). 

We can’t refuse to leave the mountain…

We can’t, like Peter, think we have a better plan in mind for our lives than Jesus

Too many of us try and put the anchor down on the mountain…only wanting that type of experience w/ God

The shelter Peter wants to build is him trying to put down an anchor on that moment…on that type of experience w/ God

But listen, Peter isn’t going to forget what he saw there. 

God used it for a purpose, and now, He’s going to work in Peter’s life…in a different way. 

In the valley. 

And that’s okay!!

As American Christians…we are too quick to discredit God simply because right now he doesn’t have us on a mountaintop. 

As if, he must not be real if he doesn’t keep us on the mountaintop

As if, the mountaintop is the only way he can speak to us. 

And often, God brings you down off the mountain, simply because there’s work to do! 

Many of us have this idea in our consumeristic version of American Christianity that God encourages us and strengthens us on the mountaintop…for US! 

And while that’s true…it’s only partly true.  

Jesus didn’t bring Peter, John, and James up there just for themselves. 

He strengthened them, so they could strengthen others. 

We experience God on the mountain, so we can help people in the valley. 

We are changed…so we can change the world, amen? 

He doesn’t just do it for you. 

In fact, if you think He’s doing it just for you, you’ll miss the mountain next time. 

Because if you want to get to the mountain, you can’t seek the mountain, just seek God…and He’ll take you to the mountain!

That’s all your called to do…just seek God. 

God isn’t a genie who’s only purpose is to encourage you and strengthen you when you feel low. 

He’s not your assistant, you’re His assistant

Seek God, and he’ll bring you to the mountain…and of course some other terrains as well. 



SEEKING THE MOUNTAIN INSTEAD OF GOD  

And that brings us to the third mistake the disciples eventually make…and one we make often

We do exactly what we just said, we seek the mountain instead of God

Mountaintop Mistakes  

#1: Becoming prideful  

#2: Refusing to leave

#3: Seeking the mountain instead of God

I see a lot of Christians get stuck in this one. 

They have an amazing mountaintop experience. 

Maybe it was in a moment of worship. 

Maybe it was when you went to Haiti…or Rwanda. 

Or if you’re a middle or high school student…maybe for you that was at camp. 

And we spend our lives trying to find another experience just like that. 

And your faith doesn’t seem right…God doesn’t seem very real, unless you’re experiencing…the mountain. 

But you have to ask the question: What then, are you really seeking? 

God…or the mountain?  

In fact, I think most Americans nowadays would have just preferred a message today on, “4 steps to always stay on the mountain!” 

But sorry, you’re not going to get that one here. 

Because if you’re trying to find the 4 steps to stay on the mountain, what you’re seeking is a feeling…not God. 

And that…is idolatry. The worship of something that isn’t God. 

If you want to get to the mountain, don’t seek the mountain, seek God. 

And God, along your journey will take you there, and also the valley, and the desert, and the ocean, and all sorts of awesomely terrible amazing places. 

But He will indeed make you joyful…you don’t have to worry about that

(Psalm 16:11) – NIV

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

But you’re not going to find those pleasures if you’re seeking pleasure. 

If you’re constantly praying, “God give me joy”  

“God, make me happy again”  

Because then you’re seeking happiness…not God. 

We can pray for “joy in the Lord”  

Look at the verse again! 

(Psalm 16:11) – NIV

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

It says…you fill me with joy…IN YOUR PRESENCE

We’re joyful…because of, and through Him

Do you see the difference here? 

The Bible says that God can make you incredibly happy. 

But as a byproduct of seeking Him.  

If you seek Him, he’ll take you to the mountain along your journey

Think even about what’s happening in Luke 9. 

Peter didn’t say, “God…I’m feeling down…could you do something to make me happy? Something exciting? Something to show me you’re real??”

It just says in verse 28, they went up the mountain…to pray. 

Pastor James MacDonald says it this way

“Mountaintop experiences often emerge from the regular spiritual disciplines of our lives. Don’t expect God to show up in your life in dramatic ways if you don’t show up before Him in faithful, consistent ways.” – James MacDonald

So many Christians just seek experiences and happy feelings…but ironically (and frustratingly to them)…they never seem to find them. 

But the Christian who’s just seeking God seems to find them in large doses. 

If you want to get to the mountain, don’t seek the mountain, just seek God.  

Wherever he may lead. 

Because ultimately, we are in a loving relationship with our Savior…whom we also call our Lord. 

He is our authority…our God. 

And we will go, where He leads

Not just where we want to go, right??

When they were all on the mountain, look what Moses and Elijah (who, as we said earlier, were both themselves familiar with the mountaintop) spoke to Jesus about

(Luke 9:30-31) – NIV

30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.

They spoke about his departure…which the Greek word for departure is: Exodus (in fact, other translations like NLT just say Exodus) 

This is fascinating. 

Because it was Moses whom God called to leave the mountaintop experience of the burning bush…

And to bravely walk down the mountain…and into Pharaoh’s court to take Pharaoh’s verbal abuse…

to live through the plagues…

to be chased by the Egyptians into the sea…

And to lead God’s people through a glorious exodus out of Egypt

By the way, coming in February, we are going to begin studying our next book of the Bible, which will be Exodus. 

But through it all, Moses, through obedience, comes down from the mountain, to walk through a very scary and faith-demanding experience in Egypt, but then…gets to see the glory of God! 

And now, Elijah and Moses are talking to Jesus about his Exodus

Because remember, Jesus didn’t stay on the mountain either

God’s next plan for him was to walk down the mountain…to Jerusalem…to be crucified on the outskirts of the city.  

Why? 

So his death would bring about the new exodus…where God would once again deliver His people from darkness & the bondage of sin

And so let me ask you: Where are you missing out on seeing God’s glory in your life because you’re only seeking the mountain and not God? 

If Jesus just stayed on the mountain, or came down only to go seeking for another mountain, what would have happened? 

The disciples are like us…when the valley came and the Jewish authorities were getting ready to kill Jesus…the disciples either denied Christ (like Peter) or they fled Jerusalem all together (all except John that is) 

They were more concerned about seeking the mountain, than just seeking God…no matter where He might bring them

Don’t seek the mountain, just seek God.  

Obey God…everywhere. 

Follow Him…everywhere. 

If you do, He’ll bring you to some scary, faith-building places. 

And the mountain too. 

But only if you seek Him first. 

Let me pray. 


Copyright: David Sorn

Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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