Sermon Series: What Do We Do Now? Part III ~ Simeon Says

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly preaches to a crowd in Jerusalem and 3,000 people join the church, What did he say? Honesty, they say, is the best policy. Peter did not sugar coat his message. That’s for sure. Neither should we.

Sermon Series: What Do We Do Now? Part III ~ Simeon Says ~ May 19, 2019 ~ Acts 2:36-41

We’re in the third week of my sermon series “What Do We Do Now?” and the premise is oftentimes, when we’re all excited about coming to the Lord in faith and confessing our sins to Him, and inviting Him into our heart; and then we become Christians; after that’s all over, we kind of wonder to ourselves, “What’s next? What do I do now?”

Well, the first week of the sermon series I suggested one of the first things we should do is evangelize, tell other people about this wonderful opportunity you have to come to faith in Jesus Christ, and what it can do for your life. Second week I said be prepared, be ready, and say yes when God calls you to do something for Him, whatever it may be, wherever it may be: in church, at work, in school, at home, wherever. When God calls, say yes!

This morning we begin in Acts 2:36. The believers are waiting in the upper room in Jerusalem as they were instructed to do, when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and all of a sudden, they begin speaking other languages. People in Jerusalem who were there at the time all of a sudden heard their native tongue from people who didn’t know how to speak their native tongue. It would be like if all of a sudden, I started speaking Lithuanian. I don’t know a lick of Lithuanian! (Oh, wait a minute, I do know “Į sveikatą!” which means God bless you, it’s on my coffee cup. That’s it.) But if all of a sudden, I became fluent in Lithuanian or Italian or Polish, something happened. So, they hear these languages that they’re familiar with spoken by people who didn’t know them previously. Peter then steps before the crowd, goes outside, and he says this… would you please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God. Let us pray.

Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, Peter stands up and he says:

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away – all who have ever been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day – about 3,000 in all.
(Acts 2:36-41)

Now, Peter all of a sudden starts preaching boldly. This is not insignificant; we should not just blow by this too quickly. The apostles were hiding in the upper room. They had just witnessed the man they believed to be the Messiah as He was beaten, as He was whipped, as He was scourged, as He was led away to Calvary, nailed to a cross, crucified, and died; and they knew they could be next. So, they’re in that upper room scared out of their minds, and then all of a sudden, being fearful of being a follower of Jesus, Peter steps out and starts preaching boldly about the gospel, and about Jesus! So, this is a point where a lot of us as believers could make an argument to non-believers. It’s called “apologetics,” it’s called explaining the faith to people who have doubt. If someone was wondering if this whole Jesus thing was real, or if the whole Bible story is real, you might hit them with this story and say, “You know what? Peter and the apostles were hiding, afraid for their lives in the upper room, and then all of a sudden Peter’s out on the deck preaching boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ. What happened? Someone who’s afraid to be captured to someone who’s preaching the gospel boldly in front of people, not caring.” We think it’s the Holy Spirit. But we cannot deny, something happened. From one point to another, it was 180 degrees. Well, he steps out there and he says, “Let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah.”

Ouch. This is not “believe in Jesus and you will have peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness!” No. He says, “you crucified Him!” That’s harsh. But there’s an important point here in what he says. I’ll explain it this way: I do not know Mel Gibson personally. I’ve seen a lot of his films; I think he’s a great actor and director. But I also know, years ago, in a state of intense inebriation, he said a few things that were unkind. But I don’t know Mel Gibson’s heart, because I don’t know Mel Gibson personally. I do know that he made an absolutely amazing film in 2004, called “Passion of the Christ” and if you have not seen that film, I really encourage every believer to watch that movie at least once. I know there’s a couple of places in there where it’s difficult to watch the screen, but it’s worth it, at least once. To see visually, on screen what Christ went through on our behalf is life-changing in my opinion.

Well, one of the scenes in the film is the pounding of a nail into Jesus’ hand as He’s about to be put on the cross. Now, the interesting thing about this scene: The Roman soldier’s hand in that piece of film is Mel Gibson’s hand. That’s the only appearance that Mel makes in his movie – his hand pounding a nail into Jesus’ hand – and he did that intentionally to make the point that he was as responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion as everyone else! Some people like to point fingers and lay blame at the foot of the Jews. That’s where a lot of anti-Semitism comes from – “You killed Jesus!” – or the Romans, or Pontius Pilate, or whomever. As hard as it is to hear, that’s true. The Jews are responsible for Jesus’ death. And the Romans. And the Gentiles. And Mel Gibson. And you. And me. Jesus died for sinners. If there were no sinners, there would have been no need for the cross. Sinners nailed Jesus to the cross.

So, Peter is correct when he says, “Jesus, whom we crucified, was both Lord and Messiah.”

Now, you can see how “believe in Jesus and you will have peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness, and I’ll give you a lollipop!” is a little different than “Jesus, whom you crucified… (no soup for you!).” A little harsher, huh? But isn’t it said, have you ever heard it said, or perhaps you have said, “Honesty is the best policy!” Right? Peter could have said, “If you believe in Jesus, you get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car!” But he didn’t! Instead, he told the truth.

So, when the people asked, “What should we do? Now that we’re believers, what do we do now?” Peter is honest once again, and he says in verse 38: “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God.” That’s the same message that John the Baptist preached. “Repent! Repent! Repent of your sins, and turn to God, the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” Those were the first words out of Jesus’ mouth when He came back from being tempted by Satan in the desert for forty days. Matthew 4:17:

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
(Matthew 4:17)

When asked, “What do we do now?” Peter doesn’t say, “Go to church!” Peter doesn’t say, “Put some money in the offering plate!” Peter doesn’t say, “Help a little old lady across the street!” Peter says, “Repent of your sins and turn to God.”

What does that mean? What does it mean to repent? Well, really there basically are two steps in repentance. The first step is acknowledging that your hand belongs where Mel Gibson’s is; that Jesus died for your sins too. You’d be surprised how many people can’t get past this first step! “But I’m not a bad person! Compared to a lot of people, I’m a saint!” That may be true, but we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to other people. The standard for salvation, the standard for heaven is Jesus, not other people. And Jesus says in Matthew 5:48:

“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
(Matthew 5:48)

Perfect? I don’t stand a chance. And that’s the point. He wants us to realize we cannot do it on our own. We need help. We need a Savior. We need Jesus Christ to forgive our sins and welcome us into heaven and save us.

I have been a pastor for twenty-two years now, and over that time, I’ve ministered to a number of folks struggling with a number of issues, a lot of them struggling with drug and alcohol issues; and all of the experts that I had to work with all say the same thing (I’ll bet Michael can affirm this): The first step to recovery, the first step to healing, is admitting you have a problem in the first place, am I right Michael? That’s the first step. (Michael is a recovery counselor, if you don’t already know.) The first step to redemption is the same. You have to admit, “I’m not perfect. I’ve got a problem!” Your sins need to be redeemed. So, the first step to repentance is confession. “I’m sorry, Lord, I need your forgiveness.” The second step (and certainly the harder of the two) is transformation. God said something through the apostle Paul that on one hand seems really obvious, but at the same time I think deeply profound. In Ephesians 4:21, God says:

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former was of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.
So stop telling lies.

If you do that, stop!

Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”

Are you an angry person? Stop!

Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Anger will make you say things you do not want to say, and you cannot get back. Anger will make you do things you don’t want to do that you can’t undo.

More practical advice from the Lord:

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

Verse 29, “If you have a potty mouth…”

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

I can’t tell you how deeply words can cut. I said, I’ve been doing this for twenty-two years, and I have counseled people who have been through physical abuse; I have counseled people who have been through sexual abuse; and I’ve counseled people who have been through verbal abuse. And you know which wounds are deepest and last the longest? Verbal. The other two you can seemingly heal from. There are scars, but these sometimes last forever. So, we aren’t supposed to use foul or abusive language, not believers.

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:21-32)

So, the second step of repentance is transformation, changing one’s behavior. Now, we come up with all kinds of excuses. “But I can’t stop myself from eating a whole bag of potato chips! It’s like a law, right? It says, you can’t eat just one!” Not true! It’s not true, watch! You can eat just one. You choose not to!

I love the practical advise from the Lord in Ephesians. “If you’re a thief, stop stealing. If you’re a liar, stop lying (especially to yourself). If you’re having trouble with alcohol or drugs, stop using!” I’m not saying it’s easy. It is not. I am saying there is a whole church full of friends willing and ready to help you, not judge you. To help you. But you need to take the first step and begin changing your behavior. Are you going to fall? Absolutely. (I’m going to eat those chips later.) Are you going to? Of course, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. We all mess up. But we’re here to pick each other up. We’re here to dust each other off. We’re here to help each other get back on track, whatever it is. That’s what brothers and sisters in Christ do – speak words of encouragement and help.

“Each one of you must repent of your sins and turn to God.” That is not a popular message. But it’s the truth. And notice Peter does not try to sugar coat it – neither should we. Jesus has ascended to heaven, and because we have placed our faith in Him, we have been forgiven of our sins. What do we do now? We tell the truth. Jesus is the truth – the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. Repent of your sins and turn to God. However you choose to do that, however you choose to explain it, God bless you, use whatever works in a gentle and respectful way, but tell the truth. We have to tell the truth. Someone who is not telling the truth is doing what? Lying. There’s no way around it. There’s either truth or lie. We have to tell the truth, even if it’s hard. Even if it’s tough.

There’s a pretty tough story in Luke 2:25 where Joseph and Mary are bringing Jesus to be dedicated at the Temple, and we read:

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 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 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, Simeon was there. He 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!”
Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall…”

Because they will reject Him…

“…and many others to rise.”

Because they will believe Him.

“He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.”

Here’s the kicker:

“As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
(Luke 2:25-35)

Wow. Joseph and Mary are celebrating the birth of their son, Yahshua (Jesus), it’s a time of celebration, and Simeon says, “A sword will pierce your very soul.” Really? Nice! What is he talking about?

Well, both Simeon and Anna (if you continue to read through verse 38), they both recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, but apparently Simeon knew what that meant. He was well aware that Isaiah was speaking about the Messiah, which means Isaiah was speaking about Jesus in Isaiah 53 when he says:

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
(Isaiah 53:5)

The tough scene in Passion of the Christ. Simeon knew this was a time of celebration, but he also knew the truth of what Mary was soon to face. Her heart would be broken. A sword would pierce her soul. It was the truth. Similarly, Paul says some tough things throughout his ministry. That’s why he writes in Galatians 1:10:

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.
(Galatians 1:10)

The truth is hard only when you are more concerned with how people will receive it. “Honey, does this dress make me look fat?” If you’re more concerned with how she will receive it, you lie! If you’re not, you tell the truth! (I always find it interesting when we use that example, because it never seems to be hard to go the other direction. I hear it all the time. “You’re going to wear that shirt with that tie?”)

However, when we are more concerned with the substance of the message, like being concerned with people’s lives, we are not hesitant to tell the truth. Not at all. Case and point: “The building’s on fire!” You don’t hesitate one minute. When the building’s on fire, we don’t sugar coat it. We tell the truth. Why don’t we do the same when it comes to biblical truth? Let’s be honest: because we’re more concerned with how people will receive it. We don’t want to upset anyone. We don’t want to offend anyone.

Look, I hate conflict more than anyone. No one hates conflict more than I do. People who know me know that. I don’t want to be ridiculed, I don’t want to be mocked, I don’t want to be excluded. I want everyone to like me as much as the next guy! But I’m not going to say, “You smell that smoke? Notice it’s getting a little warmer? There might be something going on. But you can make your own decision, make your own mind up, decide for yourself.” No! I’m going to say, “The building’s on fire! Let’s get out!” If I don’t say “the building’s on fire,” I’m lying.

Eternity is at stake.

For years I avoided controversial issues because they were uncomfortable. People get upset. People get offended. And I wanted people to like me! But we need to tell the truth. And that includes telling the truth to ourselves, which is oftentimes the hardest thing to do, to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Do I love people differently? Do I treat people differently because they’re old, or because they’re young? Because they’re gay or because they’re straight? Because they’re transgender? Or because they’re white, or black, or Latino, or rich, or poor? I shouldn’t. I’m not supposed to. But do I?” Tell yourself the truth. Sometimes the hardest truth is revealed when we honestly look at ourselves. But tell the truth.

Peter told the truth and so must we. The truth is powerful. Three thousand people joined the church that day because they heard the truth. The truth is also dangerous. The truth is what got Peter crucified himself, to be expected in a world that’s ruled by Satan, a fallen world. But he told the truth. The truth is not always well-received. We should be ready for that.

There was a member of this church who does not come here any longer (I’m not going to tell you his name, so don’t ask me). But years ago, a gentleman used to come here regularly, and he was on the place of “salvation is about deeds, it’s about what you do, it’s about acts, and as long as you did more good things in your life than bad things, at the end of your life your good deeds and your bad deeds would be put on a scale, and if there’s more good deeds than bad deeds, you’re going to heaven.” That is so not true. That is just not right. It’s inaccurate. It’s not the truth. There are others who believe in some version of universalism. “We’re all going to heaven! Doesn’t matter what you believe, doesn’t matter what religion you practice! God came to Christians as Jesus, and He came to Buddhists as Buddha, and He came to Hindus as one of their gods, and He came to Mormons as Joseph Smith…” That’s not true either. Jesus said:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6)

Just Jesus. That’s the truth.

Now, I know that’s hard because we ask ourselves, “What do I do about my Jewish friends, and my Muslim friends, and my Hindu friends, and my atheist friends and family members? What about them?” God loves them too. And He sent His Son to die for their sins as well. He loves them more than life, just like He loves you more than life. But the truth remains that just like you and me, everyone needs to repent of their sins and turn to God. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. It may be hard, but honesty is the best policy. Yes, even when you’re telling me that this tie doesn’t go with this shirt.

Don’t lie to those you love. Don’t remain silent when they’re telling you, “Oh, he’ll be okay. As long as he does more good things than bad things…” “Oh, it’s okay, we’re all going to heaven…” Tell them the truth. Gently, respectfully, don’t get into a shouting match. But tell them, “God loves you. He sent His Son to die for you. All we have to do is admit that and ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior.”

So, we have confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are born again. Yay! What are we supposed to do now? Number one: we evangelize. We share the gospel. We tell other people about this amazing opportunity. Number two: we say YES! when God calls and asks us to do whatever it is He asks us to do. Number three: Like Peter, we need to tell the truth. To others, but most especially to ourselves. After all:

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)

Would you stand and pray with me?