Simeon woke up early and while it was still dark. He made his way to his favorite place of prayer and knelt before the King of Glory to give thanks for a new day. Simeon prayed for the peace of YHWH to surround Jerusalem and for the LORD to send His Messiah to His people. After Simeon poured his heart out before the LORD of Glory his thanks graduated into silence as he listened for YHWH’s still, small voice.
Simeon had begun his day with prayer and fellowship with the LORD since the time he was a small boy. His father would get him out of bed early to pray with him and listen to the Scriptures. Now Simeon was an old man. He was all alone and yet he knew in his heart that he was never alone. YHWH God was his light and his salvation, an ever-present help every time he was in need. The LORD had given Simeon a burning desire to pray for the coming Messiah. Every time Simeon would go to the Temple to pray and hear the Torah read, he would feel a strange confidence that his eyes would behold God’s promised Messiah one day. Simeon became as giddy as a school girl just thinking about what it would be like to actually see God’s Anointed One, His Messiah, the Deliverer from Heaven. Simeon never gave up hope that one day his dream would become a reality even though he was getting older and his clock was running down. Simeon saw everything that happened in the Temple as a sign pointing to the coming of the LORD’S Anointed One.
Then one day Simeon was on his way to the Temple when his eyes became fixed on a mother and small baby walking towards him. Simeon was stopped dead in his tracks. His heart began to race. His eyes began to water as a lump came up in his throat. Nobody said a word to Simeon, but he knew, oh how he knew! This was the child. This was the promise. This was the Messiah. Nobody would believe Him, but he knew in his heart and nobody could convince him otherwise. Simeon watched the mother, baby, and Mary’s husband, Joseph, like they were celebrities, but his heart was fixed on the baby.
After Joseph and Mary had made their offering and began to walk away, the old man came up to them and then,
28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:28-32 NIV)
Simeon’s prayers had been answered. All that he had ever learned in the Temple now made sense. Simeon’s heart was set free! His eyes had seen the salvation that his heart had longed for and Simeon was a happy man. Joseph and Mary were shocked when the old man took their little boy in his arms and spoke such bold words, words that confirmed what they already knew in their hearts, but they didn’t know that anyone else knew. Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary 33 …marveled at what was said about him. (Luke 2:33 NIV)
We can learn from reading Luke’s Gospel that Simeon was a righteous man, he was devout. Simeon was a man who loved God. The Lord had revealed to him that one day he would see the Messiah. Don’t you know he had to have had dreams of what that experience would be like when it happened? What would the Messiah look like? Would he be tall, dark, and handsome? Would he look like Russell Crowe in Gladiator? Was Simeon’s image of the Messiah what reality would prove to be?
I wonder what Simeon thought when the Holy Spirit revealed to him that the baby tucked in the arms of the young mother was the long awaited Messiah? The rabbi had always said that Messiah would be like King David – He would be a conqueror. What Simeon saw was no conqueror, but a baby nestled in his mother’s arms.
There is a great lesson for us in the life of the old man Simeon. Simeon rejoiced in God’s wondrous gift. He was a devout man who loved God and went to the Temple, but when the Lord opened a door for him to behold what no Jew could have ever imagine – Simeon let go of what he might have thought Messiah would be like and he marveled at God’s Messiah.
Have you ever stopped to think about how difficult it must be for a Jewish person to believe that God’s Messiah came to us wrapped in his mother’s arms, crying in the middle of the night, and needing a diaper change? Have you ever stopped to think about how hard it must be for those who were taught that God’s Anointed One would come to conquer Israel’s oppressors to accept One who hung lifeless on a cross?
Yet, at the same time it is not difficult for me to see that everything that happened prior to His coming was a preparation for His arrival. Every aspect of worship in the Temple pointed to a higher reality. It should have been a natural progression for those who saw the sacrificial lambs slain on Passover to see Jesus’ shed blood as the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb. For those who had been told the stories of God’s provision of manna to those crossing the desert, surely they could see Jesus as the Bread of Life?
Evidently for the Jews of the first century this was not such a smooth transition. I have a feeling that this transition is not so smooth for many of us either. We are accustomed to follow the pattern that has been laid down before us by those who have gone before us. We are use to doing things our own way. We are familiar with what we have grown up with and anything that challenges that, anything that nudges us from our comfortable posture, anything that is different challenges us, makes us antsy.
As we take a look at our lesson for this morning we can see that the writer of Hebrews is challenging his readers to grow on, to move beyond what they have been accustomed to, and to seek the full revelation of God that had come to them in Jesus. Take a look at our Scripture found in Hebrews 6:1-3.
1Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so. (Hebrews 6:1-3 NIV)
The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” When you take a look at the things listed here in Hebrews 6:1-2, you can see that there are six specific items listed:
* Repentance from acts that lead to death.
* Faith in God.
* Instruction about baptisms.
* Laying on of hands.
* The resurrection of the dead.
* Eternal judgment.
When we first read these six items most people are caught off guard and find it hard to understand how the writer could be critical of these basic teachings. What we need to know is that the folks he was writing to were not all confessing Christians. Some were followers of Jesus, others were clinging to the teaching of the Temple, but fascinated with Jesus, and others were Jewish to the bone. We read these six practices or beliefs and think of them as solely Christian, but every one of the items listed have their roots in Judaism. The Jews were holding on to the past of what they had grown up with and refusing to cling to Jesus and grow on with Him. John MacArthur has written in his wonderful commentary on Hebrews,
The point of Hebrews 6:1-2 is simply that the unbelieving Jews should let go completely of the immature, elementary shadows and symbols of the Old Covenant and take hold of the mature and perfect reality of the New. The Holy Spirit is calling for them to leave the ABC’s of repentance from dead works for the New Testament teaching of repentance toward God and new life in Christ. Leave the ABC’s of faith toward God for faith in the person of Jesus Christ. Leave the ABC’s of ceremonial washings for the cleansing of the soul by the Word. Leave the ABC’s of laying hands on the sacrifice for laying hold of the Lamb of God by faith. Leave the ABC’s of the resurrection of the dead for the full and glorious resurrection unto life. Leave the ABC’s of eternal judgment for the full truth of judgment and rewards as revealed in the New Covenant. (John MacArthur, Hebrews, Pg. 141)
The six items that are listed here in Hebrews 6:1-2 were the basic tenets of Judaism as Hebrews was being written. These six practices and beliefs are a smooth transition into the basic teachings of Christianity, but with an altogether different meaning. Let me give you an example, one that probably jumped out at you as we were reading the Scripture.
The writer of Hebrews says that one of the foundational teachings that we need not lay again is “faith in God.” Some of us immediately ask, “How can we grow beyond faith in God? Isn’t it our faith in God that links all of us together?” That’s a good question. As a matter of fact, I have heard for years how we all worship the same God. I have met people who have told me that Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Moslems, and Christians all worship the same God and that we are all trying to get to the same place. Anytime I hear that kind of belief being communicated I immediately know that the person has never studied the Bhagavad-Gita, Koran, Torah, or any of the other holy books of other faiths side-by-side. That person has never spoken to a Buddhist or Hindu who is not trying to get to Heaven, but to Nirvana, a state of nothingness, of being totally detached from the material world.
The writer of Hebrews is saying move on. You believe in God, great! Now embrace the One who is the full expression, the embodiment of the Godhead – Come to Jesus!
It is not enough to believe in God. Believing in God is not going to get you into heaven. Believing in God is not going to make you a better person. Believing in God is not going to bring you peace. If James, the brother of Jesus, were here this morning he would stand up in the middle of church and testify. James says, 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. (James 2:19 NIV)
You believe in God, good. That’s a good place to start, now believe in Jesus, God’s only Son. Jesus is the fullness of God come to earth. He is the only way to God. Jesus is the One who came so that we could know God. Jesus spoke for Himself when He was here on the earth and said,
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. >From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6 NIV)
9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:9 NIV)
This is just one example of how the writer of Hebrews is urging his readers to grow on beyond what they have been accustomed to, what they were familiar with, and what they had been taught. He tells them to grow on to maturity.
I was wondering what it is that you and I have been given that we need to let go of this morning? What plan or pattern has been given to you that you need to discard so that you can grow into the fullness the Lord intends for you?
A friend of mine named Mandy grew up in a home where her mom and dad were atheists. Their home wasn’t lukewarm towards God, it was opposed to the things of God. God was refuted, Christians were mocked, and on one occasion when Mandy went to church without her parent’s knowledge, she was beaten when she got home.
Her mom and dad tried to ingrain within her heart and soul that there was no such thing as God. There is no superior being, no design in the Universe, no purpose in life other than whatever purpose we can find for ourselves.
The day came when Mandy’s mind began to wonder if what her parents had taught her was true. She had heard about Jesus, read about Jesus, and been told about Jesus, but her parents had told her that Jesus was just a figment of folks imagination. One day a friend encouraged Mandy to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior and Mandy was confronted with a decision – would she let go of what her parents had taught her or would she cling to the One who was calling her name?
Trey grew up in a home where drugs were as prevalent as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Drugs were used every day by his mom and her friends. She didn’t allow her kids to use drugs, but since there was always drugs and alcohol around the house the kids were participating from a young age. The lifestyle his mother lived was the only lifestyle he ever knew. His mother’s friends were nice to him. They were always drinking, smoking dope, and talking about doing drug deals so Trey just thought that his family was normal.
One day Trey’s friend invited him to an FCA meeting at his junior high. Trey was an outstanding basketball player, but he had never been into “churchy” kind of stuff. When Trey found out that there was going to be free pizza at the meeting he decided to go. At the meeting Trey heard things he had never heard before. Trey heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and at the end of the meeting the man speaking gave the kids an opportunity to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. For the first time in his life Trey began to think about his own family and what he thought was normal. The speaker was talking about living for Jesus not living for yourself. He said that drugs and alcohol will enslave you, but Jesus will set you free. He said the devil wants to kill you, but Jesus wants to save you. Trey didn’t make a commitment to Jesus that night, but he left there thinking about his house and what he had always called, “normal.”
LaKesha grew up going to church every Sunday. It was part of her family’s routine. It was like the evening meal, opening presents on Christmas morning, or watching Survivor on Thursday evenings. Going to church was just something that the family did every week. LaKesha would listen to the preacher talk about growing with Christ, becoming a 24/7 Christian, and reaching out to others with the message of Jesus. She liked the messages, but she began to notice that after her family would leave church on Sunday they wouldn’t talk about the Lord, read the Bible, or pray until the next Sunday. LaKesha felt that God wanted her to step up her commitment, but what was she supposed to do? Her mother and father seemed quite comfortable with going to church on Sunday and leaving it at that.
LaKesha decided that the Lord wanted her to read her Bible every day, begin to pray outside of church on Sunday morning, and begin to invite her friends to go to youth group with her. LaKesha decided to grow on in her walk with the Lord regardless of what the others around her were going to do.
“Grow on.” That is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is encouraging us to do today. I don’t know what set of plans you have been handed throughout your life. You may have grown up in the home of an unbeliever, you may have grown up in the home of a lukewarm mom and dad, you may have grown up in the home of who-knows-what, but that is no excuse for us to stay with the plan. Today, we can put behind us the plans that do not include Christ and begin to grow on to maturity with Him.
This is not the only place in the New Testament where we are told to “grow on to maturity.” The New Testament is filled with encouragement and exhortation for us to press on in our walk with the Lord, never settle for a sedentary sanctification, don’t fuss over a flimsy faith, and don’t pride yourself in a tepid testimony. It’s time to press on, push on, grow on, and give it all so that we might grow on to maturity in Christ Jesus. Paul said,
10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14 NIV)
Paul says, “I want to know Christ.” I want to grow with Christ. I want to taste the joy of His glorious resurrection and enter in with Him in the suffering that He endured. Paul just can’t get enough of Jesus. He can’t know Him well enough. He can’t grow with Him fast enough. He can’t feel Him close enough. Paul wants Jesus and Jesus alone. His heart is not divided. His soul can be quenched with no other.
The opportunity for us to know Jesus is there, but for many of us there are too many options out there vying for our attention. How can you know Jesus when you’ve filled every moment of your day with activities that have nothing to do with growing in your walk with Him?
I’ve got school all day. Right after school then I’ve got to go to off-season, baseball, basketball, cheerleading, swimming, and study hall. After I finish with those things then it is off to soccer practice, private voice lessons, and piano. After that is finished then I’ve got homework to take care of before I go to bed. Now tell me, how can you grow in your walk with Jesus when you are running so fast you don’t even know yourself. You know what you do every day, but you don’t know who you are.
If we want to know Jesus then we must live this life in such a way that we can get to know Him. Paul said,
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)
We all love athletes. We love to watch them compete. We love to put their posters on our walls and say, “When I grow up I’m going to be like Josh Heupel, Vince Carter, or Alex Rodriguez.” Paul says that we are to train in our walk like an athlete trains for his sport. We must learn to say “No” to those things that do not help us grow in our walk with the Lord.
I was blessed this past week when I read a story of a young man who encourages my heart. Bryan Bains just had his 13th birthday. He has been eagerly awaiting his birthday, not because he has been looking forward to being a teenager, but so that he could preach his first sermon. Bryan’s pastor, Ralph Rogers, of the Bethany Baptist Church in Carol City, Florida had been pestered by the young man for some time until he promised him that when he turned 13 he would allow him to preach.
The night of Bryan’s first sermon was a big night for the whole church. The ABC-TV affiliate in Miami sent a reporter and cameraman to cover the event, and friends and family videotaped the service. More than 130 were present to hear Bryan speak. In the congregation were those who remembered Bryan as a 5-year-old and have seen dramatic changes in the young man since he began attending the Bethany Baptist some eight years ago.
The fact that this 13 year old was preaching a sermon was nothing short of a miracle. You see Bryan and his younger brother and sister, Antoine and Chelsey, were taken in by Alexander and Lola Bains after the siblings’ birth parents abandoned them eight years ago and were introduced to church members by their new parents. Pastor Rogers remembers that Bryan’s first experiences at church did not go smoothly: “One of his Sunday school teachers reported that he was ‘cussing out’ another teacher.” Bryan looks back on that time in his life and says, “I can be thankful that God saved me from that [previous life].” Instead of cussing teachers, Bryan now takes notes in church on Sunday mornings, he reads his Bible daily, and he wants to be a preacher when he grows up. Bryan’s pastor says, “Bryan memorizes Scripture easily and always speaks boldly,” Rogers said. “If there was a program for children, he almost always had the leading part. I was not surprised when he told me earlier this year that he wanted to preach.”
Many people would look at the life that was given to Bryan when he was born and project his future to be dark and without hope. Those people don’t know about the power of Almighty God. Bryan heard the voice of God and he let go of what was given to him so that he could pursue God’s best for him. Bryan Bains is a glaring example that we don’t have to stay where we are. We can grow up into maturity if we grow beyond where we are. I pray this morning that you will pour your heart to the Lord and ask Him into your heart as your Lord and Savior.