Enjoy the Ride!

Matt. 17:1-9

 rollercoaster 2    There’s a story about a seven‑year‑old girl who was thrilled when her parents took her to Disney World. She rode the Space Mountain roller coaster twice and loved every minute of it. The next year they returned to Space Mountain. As they stood in line, though, she started reading the signs with the rules that warn about the ride’s speed. As her father waited in line with her, she said, “I don’t think I want to go.” He asked, “Why would you be nervous when you enjoyed the ride so much last year?” She said, “This year, I can read.”[1]

     Early in their conversion, many Christians feel the joy of following Jesus. And then they start to read. They begin to think the Bible is “God’s personally dictated book of behavior.” Like Miss Manners on steroids. If you ask me, the Old Testament is a dissertation on how we are not supposed to behave.

     Bible teachers have a tendency to focus on the rules (Moses) and the dangers you will face if you turn away from the rules (Prophets). For some reason, people think that the prophets were enforcing rules when many of them were doing the opposite. Many said “God doesn’t want your empty words and rituals – compassion and personal sacrifice for the good of the poor” was their message, a message Jesus repeated. That’s why prophets had shorter lifespans than most.

     When you place your focus on Moses and adherence to law, the joy and thrill of living a truly Christian life begin to fade.

     People want to enjoy the roller coaster ride of life, but when they focus on all the dangers and things that could happen if they have too much fun – who wants to risk upsetting God? It doesn’t even require reading Moses and the prophets. Just put yourself at the mercy of the person standing behind a pulpit who has done more reading about the dangers of God’s wrath than is healthy. Some people can make God look ominous and dangerous by quoting Moses or some of the prophets. No wonder some people shy away from religion when they begin hearing that God can and will hurt them if they don’t follow the rules. That’s not good news.

     If you are truly getting a thrill out of the Christian ride, what will you do? You’ll tell someone else about the joy and goodness of God— how you’ve witnessed it personally and nobody will have to twist your arm to do it. If your religion is about the rules and punishment, that’s probably how you are going to explain it. Which message do you think will win more people to follow Christ?

     Some people get on roller coasters and make double sure the safety bar is locked in. They grip it with white knuckles the whole time. They close their eyes purposefully so they can’t see. They are so concerned about their safety.

     The rules of Christianity are their safety bar. Obviously everybody needs to use them forroller-coaster-24 protection – but some grip the rules tightly because they are so stressed about what could happen to them if God gets mad at them. Others trust in Jesus, and raise their hands in the seats ahead of them. They are protected by the rules, but they can enjoy the ride.

     The rules are important but rules don’t have the power to comfort you, or strengthen you, or encourage you. You can go through the ups and downs of life in full confidence of the goodness and mercy of God and take in as much of life as you can as it flies by. The rules are important but they aren’t true religion. James tells us that true religion is caring for those who cannot care for themselves.

     What is not easy to understand about Christianity is how caring for those who cannot care for themselves is thrilling, joyful, and more satisfying than making lots of money and trying to fool yourself that you control everything in your life. That’s where faith comes in. If you haven’t tried caring for the personal needs of anyone else, just buckle yourself in and close your eyes the first time. It will be easier the next time. The Word promises this will bring you true life. Have a little faith. Step into the action and see for yourself. 

     Look at the face of Jesus.  Let Him purify your image of what God is like.  “God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:3).  And remember: God is good all the time, not just some of the time. 

     Pay attention to Jesus. Yes, Moses and Elijah were part of the plan; but now, Jesus reveals the glory of God. When the disciples got up from their fear, all they could see was Jesus. Jesus needs no help in showing the infinite Goodness and Wisdom of God. Get in and enjoy the ride!

[1] Brett Blair and staff, eSermons.co.

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