Climbing the Mountain

A noted pastor once told a story about two men who were terribly overweight. They had built a life of consuming all which brought them pleasure, and had come to realize that due to their over consumption  they were in terrible danger of losing their lives. So the two men decided to take extreme action. They decided that they would hire an expert mountain climber to lead them on an expedition to the top of the snowy French Alps. This journey would take them men weeks, possibly even months with the dangerous weather that they would have to face on their climb. They not only saw this as a means to get in better shape, but also to do something worth while with their lives.

One of the first things that their guide had told them about this journey was that they could only take with them the bare necessities. Because the more they were holding onto during their climb, the harder it would be and the less likely it was that they would make it to the top. The climb was very slow. In fact, two weeks into their assent, they had barely made any progress. Both of the overweight men were still holding onto unneeded things. They both wanted to do this to get in better shape, but the things they were holding onto were the very things that had consumed their lives to begin with.

Both overweight men woke up every morning and exited their tent carrying his basic supplies on his back, along with a huge quilt, numerous blocks of cheese, bottles of wine, and lots of chocolate bars. Their expert guide told both men again, that unless they discarded these comforts, they would never reach the top. The men went as far as they could and again decided to camp for the night. The next morning, the guide awoke to a startling surprise. He found neither of the overweight men and their tents were gone. Instead, he found two tracks of footprints in the snow. The first set of footprints was leading back the way they had come, going down the mountain. Obviously, one of the overweight men had justified to himself that this climb was too difficult and was unwilling to do what it took to get to the top. He had simply turned around, because he couldn’t give up his cravings for junk.

However, there was another set of footprints leading straight up the mountain. The guide packed his things and began following the upward trail of foot prints. As he continued to walk, he saw something in the distance on the ground. As he got closer, he came upon the huge blocks of cheese the overweight man had been carrying, just lying in the snow. The guide continued going forward and then came upon the chocolate bars and wine, and farther up found the huge quilt. This overweight man was determined to make it to the top. He was disgusting all of his vices that were weighing him down, and pressing forward.

Weeks went by as the guide tried to catch up with this man, but to no avail. Finally when the guide reached the top of the mountain, he saw a tent at the apex. A man came out of the tent. At first the guide didn’t recognize this man, for he was in far better shape than that overweight man. But as he got closer, he realized that it was indeed him. Not only was he successful in ridding himself of his old ways, but he completed his mission, reached the top of the mountain, and was transformed radically as a result along the way.

“to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” Ephesians 4:20.

If you are truly following after Jesus, then you should be able to look behind you and see a trail of former things you have discarded as you move upward towards to goal of Christ likeness.  These things you have discarded will be things that you once loved. Maybe a relationship, or an addiction, be it sexual or chemical in nature. Just as the two men climbing the mountain, we will never reach the pinnacle of our goal of being like Christ as long of we continue to cling to our sins. Unless we flee from them altogether, eventually our climb towards Jesus will stop and we will descend down the mountain, into our former ways of life, forsaking the offer of eternal life in exchange for temporal, worldly, pleasure of the flesh.

We in America are a part of the most prosperous and wealthy nation in the world.  In spite of our recent economic problems, our country is still head and shoulders above others as far as opportunity. Yet in my personal opinion, we are the most spiritually crippled nation on the face of the earth. We have churches in every city and Bibles on every corner shoppe. But we as a people are indifferent to the gospel message as a whole and ignorant to what Jesus meant when he said whomever follows him must lose their life.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:35.

It is hard to live for Jesus in our country because we have so many other idols fighting for our attention. And half the time, we don’t even realize that we have idols, until we are faced with losing them. We have too many loves to love Jesus as we are called to love him. We love money, materialism, houses, cars, technology, comfort….in a word, we love self. In my own Christian walk, I am just beginning to realize the radical level of self sacrificing love that Christ calls his followers to. Jesus is to be of first importance as 1 Corinthians 5:13 states. Pastor Paul Washer has said many times, “Either Jesus is everything in you life or he is nothing!!” One of my favorite quotes is the foundational cornerstone for John Piper’s Desiring God.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” -John Piper

Piper coined the term “Christian Hedonist” in his classic book ‘Desiring God’, which is a person who views Christ as the source of his ultimate Joy.This short statement holds so much hard truth. The first Westminster Catechism makes this statement……

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Reading this catechism, at first glance seems as if it is asking two different thing of man. For him to glorify God, and then to enjoy him forever. However, when we examine the scriptures, we see that this is actually only one command. Take for instance this Psalm.

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”Psalm 63:5-7.

This Psalm seems to imply that the Psalmist is satisfied in the Lord as if he had just had a rich meal, and he is full of praise. CS Lewis said he once thought it unnatural that God demand us to praise him. That is until he realized that praise is a basic part of every human being. We all praise things. We praise relationships, hobbies, sports teams, and so many other things that we love to talk about. That which we find the most happiness is what we praise.

So to glorify God is to praise his name to the world. But to be true praise, this must be an act that we do not do out of “Christian duty”, but something we do because Jesus is that which is of utmost importance to us in life. Praise is never something that was designed to be forced, but rather, praise is an over flow of a true internal work of the Holy Spirit in a persons life. Hence the quote by Piper…..

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!!” 

What do you praise right now in place of God? What is it that you are more passionate about than the gospel of Jesus? Those worldly things you cling to are only hindering you climb towards the goal of Christ. Eternal life should not be the motivating factor for praising Christ. The motivating factor in praising Jesus is that he has justified us in right standing before God and has opened our eyes to the fact that all of the worldly things we love are passing away, but he will never leave us. That is why the apostle Paul could say with the utmost confidence…….

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8.

Paul says that he lost all thing. Before Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a well respected religious leader and a man who persecuted Christians. He had status and a great reputation among the Pharisees. However, when he began to changed and followed Christ, Paul became the one who was persecuted, losing his reputation among the religious leaders. He traded in all his worldly pleasures. He lost them all. Yet in Christ, he now considered all the ungodly things he once loved garbage, and sees Jesus as the ultimate treasure worthy of all his praise.

We are to glorify God, but again not out of duty. God is most glorified when we find our satisfaction….our passion, in praising him!! God is meant to be the desire of the believers heart!

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4.

The verse implies that when we delight in the Lord, God will give us the desires of our hearts. However, a person who is clinging to sin in their lives cannot delight in the Lord. Because to delight in the Lord, you must first be impacted by the price he has paid for you at Calvary. As was said of the Israelite’s in Acts chapter two after hearing the gospel message proclaimed from Peter, to delight in God is to be “pierced to the heart” by the realization of our depravity and the reality of his unmerited grace towards us.

Once you see Jesus as savior, you are given a new heart and a new nature. The regenerated person casts off the old selfish nature and is radically transformed.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26.

With this new heart, you will desire new things. But how do you get this new heart? How do you let the gospel message penetrate your soul? For someone who is seeking Jesus, but just cannot seem to develop this love for him, what is the answer?

John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by truth. Your word is truth.”

Paul said this in regards to a husband and wife….

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” Ephesians 5:25.

How do you begin to love Jesus more? By sanctification.

How does sanctification begin? By the knowledge of his word in truth.

How do you get your spouse to love Jesus more?  By washing them with the word.

What is sanctification?  Simply put, to grow more in Christ likeness and your knowledge of God.Again, how do you do this? By the reading of his word. The more time you spend reading and seeking to know Christ in his word, the more you will begin to change.

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

So many will never realize the absolute truth in this catechism because Satan has so many proverbial pieces of fruit he uses to distract us from seeking fulfillment in Christ alone. When we lived on the mission field, it was so easy to follow Christ. Because there were none of the distractions to pull me away from seeking him. No materialism, no keeping up with the Jones, no television, no malls….just Christ.  The greatest,  most prosperous country in the world is also the most deceived. We are so easily mesmerized by little gadgets, toys and living like our favorite celebrities, that we have lost what it means to love Christ, and what it means to find our joy in him.

A few weeks ago I was driving our boys home from their baseball games. Normally we would stop and grab a bite to eat, but this night, I was tired and worn out from a long day. As we were driving, up ahead I spotted a Dairy Queen coming up on the right hand side of the road. I knew if the boys saw this, they were going to begin asking for ice cream, and I was ready to get home. So to get their minds off of seeing the upcoming Dairy Queen, I directed their attention to the opposite side of the road at a dog riding in the back of a truck. My deception worked, as they turned a blind eye to that which they would have loved to look at a dog just long enough for us to pass the DQ.

Funny little story, but not unlike how Satan operates today. He knows the joy that comes from knowing Jesus. He knows that Christ alone can fill the void in us. So he distracts us with meaningless things…..just long enough for our earthly lives to pass.

Think about what you are passionate about. Something that would be hard for you to give up. Maybe comfort, or hobbies. What you are passionate about is that which you praise. God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. And we are most satisfied in him when we find our joy in praising him. And this joy of praising the Lord is found through seeking him and being sanctified in his word. What is it you praise? It is our chief end to glorify God. Because he is our treasure, and worthy to be praised!

We are all on a journey. Those seeking Christ are climbing a mountain. To win the prize. To attain the goal, we press forward. We adhere   to the war cry, “onward Christian solider”.  And we all begin this journey carrying and clinging to baggage that will slow our progress. To reach the top, we must begin to let go. And soon, that which we clung to for so long, in retrospect will be viewed as the hindrance that it was. Nothing worth having is without sacrifice. Have you counted the costs of following Jesus. You will lose many of the loves of this world, but you will gain a joy that is eternal. Keep climbing.

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