A bus driver and a minister were standing in line to get into heaven. The bus driver approached the gate and St. Peter said, "Welcome, I understand you were a bus driver. Since I’m in charge of housing, I believe I have found the perfect place for you. See that mansion over the hilltop? It’s yours. The minister heard all this and began to stand a little taller. He said to himself, "If a bus driver got a place like that, just think what I’ll get." The minister approached the gate and St. Peter said, "Welcome, I understand you were a minister. See that shack in the valley?" St. Peter had hardly gotten the words out of his mouth when the irate minister said, "I was a minister, I preached the gospel, I helped teach people about God. Why does that bus driver get a mansion, and I get a shack?" Sadly St. Peter responded, "Well, it seems when you preached, people slept. When the bus driver drove, people prayed." SOURCE: James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited. (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 146.
It is my hope and prayer that you stay awake. In all seriousness, I find the exercise of preaching to be really discouraging at times. When you know what the Bible says and you say it in the most creative and clear way possible yet people persist in their sin and lukewarmness it often feels like an exercise in futility. Having said that I guess I will keep on preaching.
For the next six weeks we are going to try to acquaint ourselves with the story of Jesus. Certainly this will not be exhaustive we have tried to pick six events from Christ’s life that may give us a more in-depth glimpse at who He really is and why answering the call to follow Him is critical in our lives.
Many of us struggle on a daily basis with the effects of sin in our lives. It affects our relationships, our families, our work ethic and even our personal self-esteem. Sin will run your life if you let it. The sad truth is that too many people in the church have experienced the church or a pastor’s preaching and teaching but have not experienced Christ. It may be that you are learning and my prayer is that you will commit yourself to accelerating that process.
Following Christ is not a stagnant process. It is a journey. It is daily. It is invasive and it is rigorous. It is also the only way to live and experience true joy and peace on this earth.
Recently I read the cards that people from this church wrote expressing their greatest hopes for their lives. Overwhelmingly, people longed for peace. Peace in their homes, peace in their families, peace in their community and in the world.
Today we begin this introduction to Jesus Christ by retelling the story of an incident that happened shortly after His birth.
We find this account in Luke 2:25:
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “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. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2:25-35 NLT
What a beautiful story from the early life of Jesus. But let’s look closer at this elderly man and three reasons why he was so exuberant in his praise.
1. A Messiah to be Anticipated
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
The context of the birth of Jesus is important to understand. It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of the word Messiah to the faithful Jews living when Jesus was born. Israel was living under the heavy hand of Roman rule. Roman aggression had conquered the known world and the Jews were living as captives in their own land. It is always hard for us to understand this context.
Know that these were people who had experienced God in their history. It was God who led them out of Egyptian bondage in the Old Testament and it was God who had given them an earthy king when they desired one. It was God who gave them prophets to speak on His behalf. This gave them an inside track to understanding the call and desire of God for their lives. For four hundred years there had been no word from God. They had the sacred writings of the Torah and the stories of their history with a God who fed them and led them. Now those were only ancient stories and yet their were some who had remained faithful to the ancient teachings and they were aware that all through the Old Testament there were prophecies and signs that a Messiah or Savior would come someday to bring them salvation.
Eight million Jews live in the Roman Empire at the time of Christ birth and over a quarter of them in Palestine itself. Many times they stretched the Roman government to the breaking point. Romans branded the Jews as Atheists because they refused to worship Greek and Roman gods. They were social misfits because of their many religious customs and rituals. Because of this most Jews who knew a Messiah was to come were looking for a military genius or leader that would rise up to lead them in overthrowing the Roman army and give them their freedom.
They lived in a strange world and they longed for someone to come and deliver them. Some were more tuned into this more than others. Simeon was one of the tuned in ones. He was anticipating the coming of a Messiah.
Jesus not only should have been anticipated in His day but He should be anticipated now.
Sometimes I think we forget that He is coming again to this earth. Their were angels at the ascension of Christ who comforted His disciples with these words:
“Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same manner you saw Him go.” Acts 1:11
In this last Presidential election, I saw something that I have been told about my whole life happen right before my eyes. Growing up there were many people who preached and taught about the end of the world as we know it. Setting the stage for Christ return, the bible clearly teaches that we will be one world. It will be a global society. The world will be in such bad shape that many people will clamor for a global leader who can join the world together and bring peace.
What I saw in our election season has nothing to do with the candidate but there was a genuine world wide longing expressed for someone to rise up. Our United States election truly became a global spectacle. Just this week France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel called for new rules to govern world finance in the wake of the global economic collapse. Merkel came with an idea of her own -- a powerful new economic council at the United Nations to oversee the financial markets of the world.
There is a universal cry that would only get louder as the misery index rises around the world. Sadly this sets the stage for one the Bible says is anti-Christ. In other words, there will be a false Christ arise who will even have powers beyond anything ever seen and will deceive many.
Let me give you a portion of what Jesus taught in Luke 17:
“22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see the day when the Son of Man returns,[f] but you won’t see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘Look, there is the Son of Man,’ or ‘Here he is,’ but don’t go out and follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so it will be on the day when the Son of Man comes. 25 But first the Son of Man must suffer terribly[g] and be rejected by this generation.
26 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 27 In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 “And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building—29 until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day a person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return home. 32 Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! 33 If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. 34 That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be.” Luke 17:22-32
His words are even more poignant in Matthew 24 but I will let you read them for yourself. Jesus came the first time to deliver us from sin and He will return the second time to destroy sin forever.
Here’s the deal. Jesus is returning but you need to have more than a superficial relationship with Him now to be able to recognize Him when He comes to this earth the second time. Are you anticipating Christ’s return?
Simeon found Jesus to be not just anticipated but also adored.
2. A Messiah to be Adored
“Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people.” Luke 2:28-31 NLT
As long as I draw breath I will keep pushing on people to live a holy life. I don’t know of anything that discourages and frankly disgusts me more than people who use and abuse the name of Christ.
How do they do this? By calling themselves Christians and Christfollowers and then picking and choosing what parts of the Bible they will or won’t follow. If it cramps their lifestyle than they choose to ignore that part.
Do you realize that you are headed no where when you do that? Do you realize that authentic Christ following will change your life and everyday you will become more and more like Jesus not more and more like this world?
Do you even understand that the call of the Bible and the call of God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament has always been the same? It is a call to personal holiness and a lifestyle that is above reproach.
How do we learn to live this way? It is simple really. We fall in love with Jesus and His message and we pattern our life after Him. We adore Him. We adore this Messiah who not only has brought us salvation but we adore the life that He asked us to live.
Listen the Bible is not a gray book, it is black and white on a lot of issues but you have to be in love with Jesus to the point that you care about what He cares about to live it.
Do you adore Jesus? Do you adore Him enough to make Him your best friend? Do you long to open His word on a daily basis and have you learned the secret of the strength you find there day after day?
When you adore Jesus as Messiah and Savior you learn that He has a lot to say on how you live your life. What you do matters. What you don’t do matters.
Can you just imagine for a moment or two today what it would mean in your life if you lived it in adoration of Jesus Christ? What would it look like if you surrendered your life to Him?
Here are some things it will change when you learn to adore Christ:
-It will change how you view and treat others.
-It will change how you view and handle your money and resources.
-It will change how you view sexual sins like adultery, lust, and fornication.
-It will change how you view marriage and divorce and the sacred covenant.
-It will change how you view your enemies and taking revenge into your own hands.
-It will change how you view prayer and fasting.
-It will change how you view your ability to judge others.
-It will change how you view your relationship with Christ, the church and the community around you.
What I have just done is taken you through a short trip of Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew.
A Wise Mother And Christ’s Picture A mother visited her boy at college. Upon entering his room, her eye swept across the walls, which were covered with more than a dozen suggestive pictures. Her heart was grieved, but she said nothing. Several days later, the mailman delivered a package to the young man. It was a gift from his mother—a beautifully framed picture of the head of Christ. Proudly the boy hung the picture on the wall above his desk. That night, before he went to bed, he removed the pin-up picture which hung closest to the face of Christ. The next day another picture was consigned to the wastebasket. Day after day the pictures began to disappear from the walls until only one remained—the picture of the Saviour. That’s a tremendous example of the incredible work that God wants to do in your life. Will you let that transformation begin this morning?
3. A Messiah to be Acknowledged
“Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “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. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2:34-35 NLT
Philip Yancey, in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, talks about the 16th century Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci. When he went to China, he brought along samples of religious art to illustrate the Christian story for people who had never heard it.
The Chinese loved the portraits of the Virgin Mary holding her child, but when he produced paintings of the crucifixion and tried to explain that the God-child had grown up only to be executed, the audience reacted with revulsion and horror. They much preferred the Virgin and insisted on worshiping her rather than the crucified God.
Then Yancey makes this observation. “As I thumb…through my stack of Christmas cards, I realize that we in Christian countries do much the same thing. We observe a mellow, domesticated holiday purged of any hint of scandal. Above all, we purge from it any reminder of how the story that began in Bethlehem turned out at Calvary. (Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervan, 2002, p. 25)
I call you today to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah.
Be very careful with this. I am not talking about giving Him lip service but not allowing Him to change your life. How repulsive is that?
Do you know what Jesus had to say about this? In Matthew 7 He spoke these words,
“13-14"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
15-20"Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.
21-23"Knowing the correct password—saying 'Master, Master,' for instance— isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'
24-25"These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
26-27"But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards." Matthew 7:13-27
This is probably my favorite passage from The Message bible.
Oswald Chambers wrote: “To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else. The first thing we must surrender is all of our pretense or deceit. What our Lord wants us to present to Him is not our goodness, honesty, or our efforts to do better, but real solid sin. Actually, that is all He can take from us. And what He gives us in exchange for our sin is real solid righteousness. But we must surrender all pretense that we are anything, and give up all our claims of even being worthy of God's consideration.
Once we have done that, the Spirit of God will show us what we need to surrender next. Along each step of this process, we will have to give up our claims to our rights to ourselves. Are we willing to surrender our grasp on all that we possess, our desires, and everything else in our lives? Are we ready to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ?”
Have you found Christ to be a Messiah you anticipate?
Have you found Him to be a Messiah you adore?
Are you acknowledging Him as Lord of your life?