Sunday, January 06, 2008

Now What: The Song of Action (Simeon's Song)

On the last Sunday in 2007, I had the opportunity to bring the message at our two churches. The following is the text of that sermon.

If you’ve attended the Wednesday night Chapel services or any Bible study when I’ve taught then you’ve heard me say that I like to teach using the inductive study method of “What, So What, and Now What.”

“What” is “what is the scripture saying?” “So What” is “how is the scripture interpreted?” And “Now What” is how can I apply it to my daily life…?

Our last “song” if you will, in the First Christmas Carols is “Now What: The Song of Action.”

Scripture: (Read: Luke 2:22-40)

Prayer: Father, thank you for Dr. Luke and his attention to the details of our Saviour’s life. May we see in the events surrounding His birth what our response to His coming into our lives should be as well. In His Holy Name we pray - Amen.

A woman pulled up to a traffic light that had just turned red. There was one car in front of her, and as she waited, the light turned green, but the car in front didn’t move. She began waving her arms and shouting, “It doesn’t get any greener” among other, um, “choice” words and phrases…

The light turned red again, and the lady was furious by now. In her anger she didn’t notice there was a police car behind her. Suddenly she heard a peck on her window and there stood the officer… She rolled down her window, “What do you want?” she shouted. “It’s not against the law to shout in my own car!”

He asked her to step out of her car, and she continued raving… “You can’t arrest me for being angry… Didn’t you see that that car wasn’t moving… You don’t know where I’ve got to be…” on and on she ranted. He cuffed her and put her in the back seat of his car.

After about 30 minutes of waiting (and growing angrier by the minute) the officer finally let her out and took the handcuffs off. She lashed out at him, “You haven’t heard the last of this! I knew there was no law against shouting in my own car…”

To which the officer sheepishly replied, “Well, I didn’t detain you for shouting or being angry. As I sat behind you I thought, ‘Look at that lady! What a jerk, but it’s not against the law to be obnoxious,’ but then I noticed the cross hanging from your rearview mirror, and the “Got Jesus?” bumper sticker on your bumper. Then I saw the “choose life” license plate and the fish emblem on your trunk and, well, I just concluded that you’d stolen the car!”

Professing one thing and doing another…

Have you ever been lied to by someone professing to be a Christian? Have you ever been swindled, or taken advantage of by someone professing to be a Christian?

We once knew a man who often said, “Forget Christians, just give me a good ole honest heathen to do business with!”

Professing one thing and doing another…

My SS class and my family has heard this story… As I was going up to Gatlinburg to make a delivery one day, a huge pickup truck came up on my bumper going up Hwy 66. I mean he was right on my bumper. Finally he passed me and whipped back in front of me causing me to slam on my breaks to avoid hitting him. Well, that made me angry, but what really hit me was the sticker in his back window which showed a picture of Christ and the words, “Forgiven…”

I followed him all the way to Gatlinburg, hoping that he’d pull into some parking lot so I could pull in behind him and tell him that he’d destroyed his witness by acting like such a jerk!”

Professing one thing and doing another…

But now I have to ask… Do you, Christian, lie? Do you, Christian, treat people badly? Do you, profess one thing and do another?

During this Advent season, in both Jimmy’s sermon series and in our adult SS lessons, we’ve looked at the individuals involved in Luke’s account of the Christmas story. In the SS lessons, we’ve looked at what they’ve been called to do - called to believe, called to be a vessel, to proclaim, to rejoice, and then in today’s lesson, called to witness. In the sermons we heard the songs they sang as the first Christmas carols. We heard the Song of Faith, the Song of the Reversal of Fortunes, the Song of Restoration and the Song of Peace… And so we continue as we read about Simeon and Anna this week, with the Song of Action.

There are several things that all these main characters in the story have in common. First of all, there was their character - their “righteousness…” Thayer’s Dictionary of Greek Definitions describes righteousness as: “the state of him who is such, as he ought to be”.
Luke 1:6 tells us that Zechariah and Elizabeth were “both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”

Luke 1:30 tells us that Mary “found favor with God” which indicates her righteousness. And even Joseph, whom we haven’t studied, we find in Matthew 1:19 was “a righteous man.”

Simeon continues that character trait. We read in verse 25 that he was “righteous and devout.” And Anna embodies her righteousness in her “worshiping day and night with fastings and prayers.”

And all of these (except for Joseph) were said to either be “filled with the Holy Spirit” or that the “Spirit came upon them…” or in the case of Anna, we are told that she was a prophetess which indicated her possession of the Holy Spirit.

Now it’s important to remember, that before Christ was born and walked among us; before His death and resurrection; before His Holy Spirit was sent at Pentecost, not everyone had access to the Spirit of God. Today, after Pentecost, anyone who has submitted their life to Christ, is indwelt with God’s Holy Spirit. If you have made that profession of faith, then you are filled with the Spirit.

So for our remaining time today I want to look at just what it means to be “righteous”, to be “such as we ought to be” and what it means to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

In fact, not just for today, but as a theme for this coming year, when I have an opportunity to bring the message (unless the Lord directs otherwise) I hope to continue looking at just what “being a Christian” really means.

As we saw, there is a difference between “professing” and “doing”. We may profess in our Affirmation of Faith on Sunday morning that we “believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord…” but do we “do” this belief in our daily lives?

As we’ve looked at the other characters surrounding the event, we’ve seen how they lived their daily lives, while serving God. They lived out, what they professed to believe…

So, how do we do that? I believe we can see, in Simeon’s life, 4 things we can do in order to live out what we profess to believe.

~~ First of all, Simeon was said to be “righteous and devout.” Not only was he “such as he ought to be” in his daily life, but he was “devout” as well. Luke is the only writer in the scriptures who uses this word. It’s like “righteous” magnified! If righteousness is doing what you ought toward others, devout is doing what you ought toward God.

What made him that way?

Luke tells us that he “was looking for the consolation of Israel.” Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” says that he was “a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel.”

Do you live in “prayerful expectancy”? In other words, do you pray, expecting God to answer your prayer; expecting God to help?

We see this same word in Paul’s letter to Titus when he says about Jesus: (Titus 2:11-14 NLT)
“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.
And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,
(see the words “righteousness and devout” there)
while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.
He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.”

So we live what we profess when we are expectant in our prayers, while living with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God.

~~Next we see in verse 26 that “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

In other words, he knew he would see the Messiah before he died…

Many people take it for granted that Simeon was an old man from what he said in verse 29 about dying in peace, but we don’t really know that for sure. There are many instances in the Bible where people are said very old, or to be near death, but then they live a long time after that. For instance, in Genesis 27, Isaac is said to be near death, but he lived another 60 years.

It has more to do with seeking a fulfillment in life than with age.

It’s like, in the movie “Sister Act”, one of the nuns upon learning that the Pope is coming to visit says, “Oh I’m dying, I’m dying…” Now of course, she wasn’t really dying, she is indicating that her life-long ambition has been realized, and everything else now would be (as we say in the South) “gravy.” Everything after this is just “extra good”…

Luke tells us that “it was revealed to him” that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. This indicates that in his expectant prayer, he received assurance. In other words, he believed it would happen. And so he was anticipating it.

Hebrews chapter 11, that great chapter of faith gives us a huge list of men and women who believed that the Messiah would come, but who died without seeing Him. Verse 13 of chapter 11 says “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.”

So #2: We live out what we profess when we believe and have faith that God will do what He says He will do. (If you’re following on your insert - “He looked for answers to his prayers.”)

~~Simeon was told that he would see the Messiah before he died. And now, Simeon’s greatest goal was fulfilled. And what did he do next? He began worshiping God!

In continuing the Christmas Carol theme, Simeon sings a song of worship and salvation, as he praises God for keeping His promise of sending a Messiah, and allowing him to see Him.

Verse28 says (from The NLT) Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let Your servant die in peace, as You have promised.
I have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of Your people Israel!”

Like Mary and Zechariah, Simeon sings a song that is filled with OT associations. And with that last line, “He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of Your people Israel!” Simeon is quoting a series of prophecies from Isaiah indicating that the Messiah would be, as the angels told the shepherds, good news of great joy which would be, not just for the Jews, but for all people!

So thirdly, we live out what we profess when we recognize answers to prayer and praise God for his faithfulness.

But there was another “verse” you might say, to Simeon’s song.

Simeon also prophesied that the Messiah would bring division. Paul would later characterize Christ as being a “stumbling block to the Jews, and to the Gentiles, foolishness.”

There are times when following Christ - when living out what we profess to believe - will bring division. Simeon said that, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him.”

Warren Wiersbe writes: “Jesus Christ is God’s miracle; and yet, instead of admiring Him, the people attacked Him and spoke against Him. His birth was a miracle, yet they slandered it (Joh_8:41). They said His miracles were done in the power of Satan (Mat_12:22-24) and that His character was questionable (Joh_8:48, Joh_8:52; Joh_9:16, Joh_9:24). They slandered His death (Psa_22:6-8; Mat_27:39-44) and lied about His resurrection (Mat_27:62-66). Today, people are even speaking against His coming again (2 Peter 3).
But the way people speak about Jesus Christ is evidence of what is in their hearts.”

After Simeon, came the prophetess Anna. We don’t know what she said about the Christ Child, but we can see in her actions that she too:
Was expectant; she fasted and prayed.
She believed; she had practically lived at the Temple for 84 years.
She praised God and told everyone she came in contact with about the Child.
And as her very life attested, that it hadn’t been easy.

If we propose to live out, in this coming year, what we profess to believe, we must realize that it may not always be easy. As I said earlier, in this coming year we will be focusing a lot of our study on what it really means to be a Christian. Much of our text will come from Paul’s letters and Romans 12 in particular. In verse 2 of Romans 12 it says “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

And there’s only one way to do that - and that is by living it.

Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography about his efforts to convince the city of Philadelphia to light the streets at night. His words didn’t work, so he bought an attractive lantern, polished the glass and placed it on a long bracket that extended from the front of his house.

Each evening as darkness descended, he lit the wick. His neighbors soon noticed the warm glow in front of his house; and passersby found the light helped them avoid tripping over the rough pavement.

Soon others placed lanterns in front of their homes as well, and eventually the city recognized the need for having well-lit streets…

John Wesley said, “Give me a hundred people who love God with all their hearts, and fear nothing but sin, and I will move the world!”

Professing belief in Christ will not change the world, but living for Him will…

Prayer: Father, as we have looked at the lives of these Saints that transition us from the Old Testament to the New, may we see, by their examples, ways in which we can stand strong and live out what we profess to believe.

In Jesus’ Name - Amen

As we come to this last Sunday of 2007 I want you to think about your New Year’s Resolutions. For many of us they’re a joke. We know that any we make will be broken by January 2nd. But on the handout in the bulletin, I’ve listed a place for you to write down your New Year’s Resolutions, based on Psalms 37:4 which says: “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Now, this doesn’t mean “delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you everything your little heart desires…” what it means is that when you delight yourself in the LORD, He will place in your heart, the desires that He wants to be there.

If you truly want to live out what you profess to believe (and believe me, that’s the only way for your witness to be effective) then your heart must be filled with the desires that God longs to put there… And the only way to do that is as our closing song indicates is to say, “I Surrender All…”

If you’ve never bowed your knee before the Lord - now is the time.



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