“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The LordGod will give Him the throne of His father David…” (Lk. 1:31-32).
Mary was given a wonderful promise from God. At first, it seemed to be fulfilled fairly quickly. She conceived and birthed a son before she and Joseph consummated their marriage.
We love it when that happens, don’t we? God speaks and then, Boom!,here’s the proof.
But that wasn’t the whole promise. Mary was told her son would be the long-awaited Messiah. Yet what she held in her arms was an infant.
The promise didn’t look like she expected.
So what’s the next step? She had a promise. She had an angelic visitation. She had confirmation from shepherds, the anointed man Simeon, and the prophetess Anna.
But she was still holding a baby.
What do you do when the word you’ve been given doesn’t play out like you think it will? It was 30 years before Mary saw her Son step into the destiny spoken to her. She had to have more than the initial euphoria of the spiritual experience to carry her through those decades.
“All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often” (Lk. 2:18-19).
The Greek word used for “kept” means Mary preserved these things to keep them from perishing; keeping them in mind lest they be forgotten. And the word used for “thought about them” means she was conversing with herself about them, bringing them together in her mind.
And 12 years later, when she had to go back to bring her Son home from the Temple, she still “treasured all these things in her heart” (v.52).
Mary kept the promise alive inside of her. She deliberately, purposefully rehearsed and remembered what had been said.
As the years passed, rather than let go, she chose to hold tightly to what she’d been told.
Do you have unfulfilled promises in your life? Learn from Mary. Take time, as you head towards a new year, to dust off those promises. Remember them, think about them. Refuse to be discouraged or distracted. Remind yourself of the faithfulness of the One who gave them, and let this be the refrain of your heart this year:
“Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!”(Lk. 1:45).
The American Heritage Dictionary says relief is “a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.” Relief is what Simeon felt when he first saw the eight-day-old baby Jesus. What was the “anxiety or distress” Simeon felt? It was the stress of waiting and watching for God’s Messiah to appear (Luke 2:25). Simeon was apparently an aged man. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before seeing the Messiah (Luke 2:26), and now he said to the Lord: “You are letting Your servant depart in peace.”
Simeon was like Abraham. God had promised Abraham a son through whom a great nation would grow, but Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety (Genesis 17:17-18) — they waited and God answered. God had promised Simeon he would see the Messiah but … and then it happened! He didn’t need to wait to see the Messiah’s kingdom — he only needed to know that the Messiah had come. He could depart this world “in peace.”
For the same reason, we can celebrate Christmas in peace. The Messiah has come. God has fulfilled His Word. All will soon be right with the world when the Messiah establishes His kingdom on earth.
Simeon was righteous and devout. What distinguished him from other people who were righteous and devout was that the Holy Spirit was with him. This seemingly ordinary man was living a supernatural life simply because the Holy Spirit was on Him:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him”(Luke 2:25).
Gilian made the point that the Bible makes no reference to the word supernatural. He said that the supernatural was simply a byproduct of the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. It is the same Holy Spirit that supernaturally impregnated a normal teenager named Mary. It was also the Holy Spirit who visited the ordinary and normal men and women on that fateful day of Pentecost.
“It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah” (v. 26).
Making the supernatural normal is not about being weird and mystical but about having a relationship with aperson—the Holy Spirit. It’s meant to be a relationship that is intimate enough that you can hear Him and get day to day seemingly ordinary revelations from Him.
“Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required” (v. 27).
Walking in the supernatural is not about acting and behaving in extra natural ways but is about being so relationally intertwined with the Holy Spirit, a relationship so intertwined that He is able to move us in the right direction.
The supernatural walk is not always predicated by the mysterious and bizzarre but is about meeting ordinary people like two parents and child and know that something supernatural is going on. Walking in the supernatural is to be able to see through the lenses of Holy Spirit and see that in the midst of very ordinary circumstances God is able and ready to move in and through us supernaturally.
“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised you may now dismiss your servant in peace’” (vv. 28-29).
Ultimately, walking supernaturally is aligning our lives to God and declaring, “I choose to put my life under your sovereign will whatever that may be.”
Action Point: Cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit. He is not a force, power or a wind. He is a person. He desires that we remain sensitive to Him so naturally that we would walk everyday supernaturally.
Much of the will of God can be learned from His Word. But God wants His children to know His will in all things. He intends for us to have confidence when we pray and know that our prayers have power to produce results.
So how are you to know the nuances of God’s will along with those aspects of His will that are clearly written in Scripture?
Something Paul wrote to the Ephesians gives us a clue: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:18-19, NIV, emphasis added).
The Greek word translated “know” in this passage literally means to see and understand. It suggests fullness of knowledge, not progressing or growing in knowledge. God’s plan is that you will fully understand the hope of your calling, the riches available to you and His incomparably great power for you.
His method for fulfilling this plan is by the power of His Spirit, who resides in us after we are born again. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again'” (John 3:3). To state it another way, if a person is born again, he can see the kingdom of God.
The person whom the Spirit of God indwells has the spiritual ability to see. And seeing spirit-truth changes one’s perception of material facts.
Jesus suggested to Nicodemus that the Spirit is like the wind. You don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. You know wind only because of its effects.
Suppose, then, that a person decides he does not believe in the wind. This person will reach some strange conclusions about what is true. For example, he will conclude that trees lean over all by themselves sometimes; or that leaves lying quietly on the ground sometimes jump up and twirl through the air.
The person will ascribe power where there is no power. He will not understand that the trees and the leaves are responding to the power of the wind that is acting on them.
If a person who does not believe in the wind and a person who believes in and understands the wind look at the same scene, they will see two startlingly different truths. The first will see trees bending over, the second will acknowledge the wind.
Likewise, the person who learns to observe with spirit-eyes will look at earth and see as God sees, not as the world sees.
WHAT ARE YOU SEEING? To see as God sees requires spiritual vision. Spiritual vision occurs when God creates a picture in your mind of spiritual realities. In physical vision, the impetus for sight is light bouncing off physical objects. In spiritual vision, the impetus for sight is light reflected off spiritual realities. The light source for spiritual vision is Jesus.
His light illuminates kingdom realities. They register on our understanding and become part of what we know (see Eph. 1:17).
When you were born into the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God was born into you. Kingdom realities are within you, and Jesus is causing you to see them.
How will you know the hope to which He has called you? How will you know His riches which He has invested in you? How will you know His incomparably great power that is working for you and in you?
He will give you light. He will enlighten the eyes of your heart. Then you will know–see and fully perceive.
Through the steady discipline of prayer, spiritual vision is sharpened. The more we live in His presence, the more opportunity He has to enhance our ability to see and bring into sharper focus what we already see.
The person with clear spiritual vision will recognize dimensions of reality that are invisible to the physical senses. In the second chapter of Luke we are introduced to two such people–Simeon and Anna (see vv. 25-26,36-38).
Simeon had no distinctive title or position of leadership. He is described merely as a man in Jerusalem. We know that the Holy Spirit was upon him, and that he was especially attuned to the movings of the Spirit.
We know that God had placed into Simeon’s life a clear mental picture–vision–of a future event. The Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.
Simeon, moving in the flow of the Spirit, went to the temple, where he saw Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus “to do for him what the custom of the Law required” (see v. 27).
Mary and Joseph were doing something that every Jewish family did. Yet when Simeon looked at this ordinary scene, he saw what no one else saw; he saw the Messiah. Others saw a mother, a father and a baby–the appearance. Simeon saw the truth (see vv. 29-32).
Anna, a prophetess, was especially gifted by God to discern His activity in the world. She had spent most of her life worshiping, fasting, and praying and had developed an extreme sensitivity to the moving of the Spirit. Like Simeon, when she looked at the family from Nazareth she recognized the Messiah, the promise of God (see vv. 36-38).
Nothing in the material realm identified Jesus as God’s Promised One. Only those who had spiritual vision recognized Him.
Those who knew the Scriptures and the law best, the religious leaders of the day, did not recognize the Truth when He stood in front of them. Their spiritual eyes were darkened, and their understanding was limited to things they could perceive with their physical senses.
HOW SPIRITUAL VISION WORKS In Simeon, we can clearly see spiritual vision working in two ways:
1. God gave Simeon a specific promise upon which to base his prayers. God showed Simeon by His Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died. The Word implies that the promise did not come in a sudden, one-time encounter with God but as he lived in the anointing of the Spirit, the idea grew and took on substance until he knew it with certainty. He saw it. It became part of what he knew.
2. Simeon had the ability to see the Spirit in an ordinary event. When he looked at earth, he saw spirit-truth; in other words–referring back to our former analogy–he saw the wind. Spiritual vision gives the ability to discern between appearance and truth.
Over and over again we see in the Scriptures that God works by implanting and nurturing vision, then causing it to become a reality on the earth. The lives of Abraham, Noah, Moses, Gideon, Paul, Jesus and others attest to this fact.
Only God can put truth in you and make it vision. Like a baby grows inside a woman’s body until the time comes for it to be born, vision grows in the spirit of a believer until the time comes for it to be made reality on the earth.
Vision does not come into your life full-grown. God initiates the vision, but you will need to provide the proper conditions for maturing. Here are some of them:
The vision needs a spirit-womb. Your innermost being is the place where the vision grows. Your Spirit-filled life is the environment in which it develops.
The vision needs nourishment. As you fill your life with God’s Word, the vision God has entrusted to you will mature. It will take on clearer focus and become more substantive.
The vision has developmental stages. Be patient. The vision will progressively unfold as you walk in obedience.
Consider the life of Abraham (see Gen. 12:1-9). First God implanted the vision. Abraham was told to go to a land that God would show him. He had no clear picture of the mature plan, just an embryonic vision. But he obeyed God and left his homeland.
As Abraham gave the vision time and nourishment, God gave him progressive revelation and clarity. Each step of obedience opened up new dimensions, new understandings (see Gen. 13:14-17).
Step by step, Abraham followed God’s voice until finally, the only thing left was for spiritual truth to be manifested in the material realm. The vision was full-term and ready to be born on the earth.
The vision has a due date–an appointed time. God implanted it in your life at exactly the right time, and He will bring it about at exactly the right time.
My tendency is to try to induce labor as soon as the vision enters my life. God is teaching me to wait for the due date. When the vision has reached the right developmental stage, nothing can hold it back. Until that time, nothing can bring it forth.
The vision is God’s, not yours. He has placed His vision into your imagination, creativity, understanding and desires. That, and only that, is what He will bring about.
THE PURPOSE OF SPIRITUAL VISION Why do we need spiritual vision? So that, when we look at situations on earth, we can see them as they will be when brought into contact with God’s power. Earth-perspective gives only a vague outline. But when we are using our spiritual vision, God will show us the finished work. It is already finished in His mind, and He causes our spirit-eyes to see it before our natural eyes do.
Sometimes I learn a lot from conversations I was never intended to hear. This happened the other day as I was stopping by my local community bookstore. It’s a small store, and a quiet store so it was impossible not to eavesdrop as I heard a young man tell his friend how much he hated Christmas. And, you know what, the more he talked, the more I understood his point.
This man wasn’t talking about the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or about the stresses of family meals or all the things people tend to complain about. What he hated was the music.
This guy started by lampooning Sting’s Christmas album, and I found myself smiling as I browsed because he is so right; it’s awful. But then he went on to say that he hated Christmas music across the board. That’s when I started to feel as though I might be in the presence of the Grinch. You know, when every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing; they’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Who’s would start singing. The sour old green villain didn’t like that.
But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.
“Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,” he said. “It’s like reading a book with no conflict.”
Now he had my attention.
I’m sure this man had thought this for a long time, but maybe he felt freer to say it because we were only hours out from hearing the horrifying news of a massacre of innocent children in Connecticut. For him, the tranquil lyrics of our Christmas songs couldn’t encompass such terror. Maybe we should think about that.
Of course, some of the blame is on our sentimentalized Christmas of the American civil religion. Simeon the prophet never wished anyone a “holly-jolly Christmas” or envisioned anything about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But there’s our songs too, the songs of the church. We ought to make sure that what we sing measures up with the, as this fellow would put it, “narrative tension” of the Christmas story.
The first Christmas carol, after all, was a war hymn. Mary of Nazareth sings of God’s defeat of his enemies, about how in Christ he had demonstrated his power and “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Lk. 1:52). There are some villains in mind there.
Simeon’s song, likewise, speaks of the “fall and rising of many in Israel” and of a sword that would pierce the heart of Mary herself. Even the “light of the Gentiles” he speaks about is in the context of warfare. After all, the light, the Bible tells us, overcomes the darkness (Jn. 1:5), and frees us from the grip of the devil (2 Cor. 4).
In a time of obvious tragedy, the unbearable lightness of Christmas seems absurd to the watching world. But, even in the best of times, we all know that we live in a groaning universe, a world of divorce courts and cancer cells and concentration camps. Just as we sing with joy about the coming of the Promised One, we ought also to sing with groaning that he is not back yet (Rom. 8:23), sometimes with groanings too deep for lyrics.
The man in the bookstore knew that reality is complicated. There’s grit, and there’s tension. Without it, Christmas didn’t seem real to life. It’s hard to get more tense than being born under a king’s death sentence (Matt. 2:16), and with an ancient dragon crouching at the birth canal to devour you (Rev. 12:4). But this man didn’t hear any of that in Christmas. I’m glad I overheard him.
We have a rich and complicated and often appropriately dark Christmas hymnody. We can sing of blessings flowing “far as the curse is found,” of the one who came to “free us all from Satan’s power.”
Let’s sing that, every now and then, where we can be overheard.
Two hundred years ago, Cambridge students were required to attend church and, periodically, receive the Lord’s Supper. Charles Simeon, a 1779 Cambridge freshman, was not a Christian but somehow understood the importance of communion.
To prepare himself, he purchased the only religious book he’d ever heard of: Whole Duty of Man. And, before long, he fell to his knees crying out for God’s mercy. It was a true conversion from which Simeon would never recover.
Upon graduation, Simeon, with an assist from his influential father, was ordained and appointed Pastor of Holy Trinity Church at Cambridge.
It was Simeon’s dream job… but not for long.
It’s hard to imagine the isolation for an evangelical pastor in the halls of Cambridge during the late 1700’s, just three years after his conversion.
Alone with his newfound faith, he wrote: “I longed to know some spiritual person who had the same views and feelings. I even considered putting an ad into the papers that would read, ‘I’m a young clergyman who feels himself an undone sinner. I’ve looked to Jesus alone for salvation and I desire to live only to make the Savior known. I’m hopeful there is someone out there whose beliefs agree with mine. But after three years I’ve found none.'”
To make matters worse:
* The congregation of Holy Trinity didn’t want him as their pastor. * Church members boycotted his services and pew-holders locked their pews. * To provide seating, Simeon placed benches in the aisles but the wardens threw them out. * At times the church leaders locked the doors, preventing him from the services. * Rowdy university students protested Simeon’s preaching with obscenities and riots, and Simeon was pelted with rotten eggs as he left church. * The faculty treated him with contempt. They slandered and ostracized him.
Why all this abuse? Because Simeon faithfully and consistently taught the truth of man’s sinfulness and the bountiful forgiveness available in Christ.
But how much can one man take? Even godly pastors have a breaking point!
One day Simeon took a long walk into the woods to offer God his resignation: “I can’t take it any more, Lord! I just can’t!” Finding a stump to sit on, he randomly opened his Bible, hoping for divine confirmation. Instead, his Bible fell open to one, lone verse: “They found a man of Cyrene, Simeon by name, and forced him to carry Christ’s cross.”
Charles Simeon, an exhausted and defeated pastor, finally saw his situation through different eyes. “Lord, lay it on me; lay it on me! I will gladly carry the cross for Your sake.”
Gradually the tide turned. Growing numbers of students, impressed by his courage, came to hear him speak. Pew-holders, amazed at his determination, reopened their pews. Fellow professors, curious about his tenacity and intellect, came to learn and admire.
For 54 years he remained pastor of Holy Trinity Church.
Finally, at age 77, Simeon was called into God’s presence. He had become so loved that when he died all shops in Cambridge closed, university lectures were suspended, and mourners lined 4-deep all around the college, waiting to pay their final tribute to their faithful pastor.
Some pastorates are more difficult than others. Yours may be one of them. But, like Simeon, be willing to carry the cross for Christ’s sake.
Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. —Luke 2:28-31
Simeon, a minister in the temple, was promised he would see the Messiah before he died.
As was the custom, after eight days Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple to consecrate Him to the Lord. (Luke 2:21-23).
Scripture tells us three times in these verses the Holy Spirit revealed the Christ to Simeon (vv. 25-27).
When he saw the child, he declared the eternal significance of Christ’s birth: His salvation is for “all peoples,” both Jews and Gentiles.
Christ fulfilled Simeon’s prophecy when He later ordered His apostles to preach the gospel to all nations—making Himself a light of revelation to the Gentiles.
When He added, “beginning at Jerusalem,” He made Himself the “glory of his people Israel.”
Are you ready for the Messiah?.
Have you lived your life in expectancy for His appearing?.
How is Jesus using your life to burn brightly in the world with His good works?
Jesus, make me a light to others.
Light of the word, kindle in me a flame of zeal and faith that will lead others to You. Amen.