It’s good to see people starting to come back and participate in our worship services again — it’s been growing over the last 2-3 weeks, and hopefully that will continue. But many are suggesting that we won’t ever get back to “normal” after this COVID crisis; that it will never be “normal” like it used to be, again. That may be difficult in some ways — but I think we can also look at it in a more positive way: when we come back to worship, let’s come back in a new, and different, and even BETTER way than we ever have before. And our scripture for today gives us a good goal for HOW we could come back to worship in a better way:
Verse 27 says of Simeon that “he came in the Spirit into the temple …”.
This is a great description of him, and it’s also a good goal for each of us to have as we come back to worship, that we would not come back to “normal,” but that we would come back to worship “in the Spirit.”
Let me say a few things by way of background before we look into the heart of the message here:
First of all, it is notable that this is the THIRD TIME in THREE VERSES here in Luke Chapter 2 that the Holy Spirit is mentioned:
— :25 says that this man Simeon “was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the HOLY SPIRIT was upon Him.”
— :26 says “it had been revealed to him by the HOLY SPIRIT that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
— Then here in :27 it says “and he came in the SPIRIT into the temple …”.
So three times in three verses the Holy Spirit is mentioned here.
This shows us the importance that God puts on His Holy Spirit and His irreplaceable value in the work of the Kingdom of God.
Let us not take for granted that everyone knows Who The Holy Spirit is. First of all, The Holy Spirit is a Person, not an “it;” He is the 3rd Person of the Triune God. God has existed from all time as a Triune (“three-in-One”) God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Triune nature of God is one of THE most important characteristics about God. Each one of the three members of the Trinity plays an important, distinctive role in our salvation.
The Holy Spirit is the member of the Triune God who works personally in our lives, and convicts us of our sin, and who draws us to God. He is the One who, when we repent of our sin, and put our faith in Christ, He regenerates us and saves us. He is the One who actually comes into our lives when we are saved. Ephesians 1 says we are “sealed” in the Holy Spirit when we put our faith in Jesus. He is “God in us.” We often use the term, “asking Jesus in our heart,” but it actually the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, who comes in. The Three are One, so Jesus and the Spirit are the same God. His presence in our life is what makes us a Christian. Romans 8:9 says “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” So the Holy Spirit is IN every believer. You don’t get saved and then get the Holy Spirit later; He lives in every Christian.
(So if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is in YOU! He is the One convicting you of sin, teaching you, leading you. If you do NOT have the Holy Spirit in you, you need to ask the Lord to SAVE you today, forgive your sins, and send His Holy Spirit into your life.)
And The Holy Spirit is the indispensable power for the work of the Kingdom of God in and through us. Jesus said “Without Me, you can do nothing.” We must have the power of His Holy Spirit working in us, to accomplish anything worthwhile and lasting for the Kingdom of God.
Like many of you, we have been doing a lot of work in our yard these past weeks. We have a couple of hedge trimmers, and one of them is powered by an electric cord. But what if you saw someone out in their front yard, working with that electric “power trimmer” — without the cord plugged in? You know how much they would be getting done, right? NOTHNG! They might be working really hard, moving that thing back and forth — but they’d be getting nothing done, because it wasn’t hooked up to the power!
That is EXACTLY the problem with so many of God’s people and God’s churches today. There are so many people who are so busy; there are so many churches that are working feverishly — but they are not accomplishing anything of eternal value. And it is because they are just like that electric trimmer: THEY AREN’T PLUGGED INTO THE POWER SOURCE: the Holy Spirit!
Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you …”. We need to make sure 1) that we HAVE the Holy Spirit in us, because we have truly committed our life to Christ, and then 2) we need to make sure that we are FULL of the Holy Spirit, and walking with Him on a daily basis, and depending upon Him to be the power in what we do. We must have the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit.
Which brings us to our specific verse for today, which says that Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple.”
A COUPLE OF OTHER “LITTLE” THINGS:
— First of all, it says “he came” — what is it they say, that half the battle sometimes is just SHOWING UP? If you just show up, then you have a chance; then God can do something. But if you DON’T show up, there is no possibility. SHOW UP! Come and see what God might do!
— Secondly, it says he came “into the temple.” The Temple was the gathering place of the people of God. It is important for us be in the gathering place of God’s people. Hebrews 10:25 commands us not to forsake our assembling together. Now, I am not saying this to make anyone feel guilty, and to get you to come back to services during this crisis before you are ready. Especially if you are a senior adult, and/or have health concerns, I want you to carefully pray, and return as God leads you. I DO NOT want to pressure you to come back before you are ready, and exactly when you return is a personal decision. But at SOME POINT it does need to happen for all of us. I’m grateful for our Live Stream, and as one of our people said, “It’s the NEXT BEST THING to being there.” But it is not being there. Like Simeon we need to be “in” God’s house of worship, our local church, with the people of God, in the presence of God.
SO … with all that background, the Bible says of Simeon, that “he (Simeon) came IN THE SPIRIT into the Temple.”
This is an important thing. God did some amazing things this day, when Simeon came to the temple “in the Spirit.” This would be a good goal for every one of us, that when we come back to God’s house of worship, that we come “in the Spirit.” But how do we do that? There are several scriptural ingredients that will make it possible for us to come to worship “in the Spirit”:
I. You Come “In The Spirit” when you come PREPARED to worship.
Somebody may say, “What do you mean ‘prepared’ to worship? Don’t we just ‘show up’ and worship?” See, that is the problem. To come “in the Spirit” to worship, means you really come to be PREPARED to worship.
— You don’t “just show up” for a big business presentation; you PREPARE for it, right?
— You don’t “just show up” to play at a football game; you have practiced intensely and PREPARED for it.
— You don’t “just show up” at an important band concert; you’ve rehearsed and PREPARED for it.
And in the same way, we shouldn’t “just show up” at church either; we should practice and prepare for it, and come “in the Spirit,” ready to worship.
How do you do that? One of the most important ways to come to God’s house of worship “in the Spirit” is to make sure you have already worshiped at home! Because if you’ve already worshiped, then you are already “warmed up”, as it were. You don’t need to get “warmed up” and “into it;” you already ARE!
Picture our church body as a big “orchestra” — a band or an orchestra is a pretty good picture of the church: just like in a band, there are many members, but we all work together. And just as there are many different instruments in a band, so the members of the church all have different gifts and talents, but God, the great “Conductor” leads us as one body in His work.
But here’s the thing: when we come together on Sunday; this is not the “rehearsal;” this is the performance. Now we need to understand what the nature of that performance IS: it is NOT — like a lot of people think — that Kyle and I and the choir and others are performing for YOU — NO; that is not it at all; Kyle & I and the choir and ALL OF YOU as God’s people are performing for GOD! HE is the audience. This isn’t the rehearsal; this is the performance. The “rehearsal” is at home; where we each sing to God, and pray to Him, and read His word, and learn to worship, and then when we come here, we are then doing TOGETHER, in a bigger, better way, what we were all doing individually in “practice” all week long! So the quality of our service Sunday corporately (together), will be directly related to the quality of our walk during the week with God, individually.
So in a very real way, we don’t come to here to church to get “full of the Spirit;” that can and should happen; but ideally like Simeon we come already “in the Spirit” because we have been worshiping at home every day during the week. To be the most effective in worship on Sunday morning, we need to all be worshiping God EVERY morning. We are (in a sense) “practicing” every day what we are going to do on Sunday.
And honestly, there is a sense in which if you are not worshiping God every morning on your own, it is hypocritical to come to this service and do for everyone else, what you are not willing to with just you and God alone!
You only pray when other people are around? You only sing when other people are listening? You only read God’s word when other people are present? That sounds like a pretty good definition of a hypocrite to me!
NO: if God is REAL to you, then you will be doing these things EVERY DAY because He is your God every day of the week.
We had a sharp young man, a great Sunday School teacher in our church one time who told me after hearing a sermon like this one, that he’d never really thought about having his quiet time on Sundays. He said, “I just always thought, well, we already read the Bible and pray at church; I don’t need to do that at home before I come.” But he said he realized he needed to have his quiet time on Sundays too, so that he could come full of God’s Spirit to teach his class, and share in worship, and minister to the people of God.
It makes a HUGE difference if we are prepared when we come to church on Sunday morning:
— That we have worshiped God in His word & prayer each morning on our own.
— Also that we are prepared by being RESTED when we come. Too many Christians come “dragging in” to church on Sunday morning, because they stayed up too late on Saturday night. The old Puritans used to talk about how important Saturday night was, in preparing one’s self for worship on Sunday morning. Saturday night has a HUGE impact on our ability to worship well on Sunday morning, doesn’t it? If you want to be full of the Spirit on Sunday, you need to be careful with what you do on your Saturday – especially Saturday night.
I like to use the term “mortgage” to describe what many of us do with our Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. To “mortgage” means to borrow. And that is what too many of us do with our Sunday: we want to stay up late on Saturday nights, doing various things, so we “mortgage” Sunday morning: we “borrow” against those sleep hours and energy by staying up late Saturday night, and we end up “wiped out” Sunday morning. We have “mortgaged” our Sunday.
Now, we don’t want to be “legalistic,” but for God’s people, THE single most important meeting we have during the week is Sunday morning when we worship God with His people.
— You wouldn’t think about staying up late the night before a big scholarship test.
— You wouldn’t think about staying up too late the night before you had a big game.
— You wouldn’t think of staying up late if you had an important flight or business meeting the next day.
— And we shouldn’t think about staying up too late on Saturday night, either. We have something important going on Sunday morning: our most important meeting of the week. Don’t “mortgage” your Sunday morning by staying up too late on Saturday night. Be rested, refreshed, and walk with God every morning, so you can come “in the Spirit” when you come into the house of the worship of God. It will make a huge difference!
II. You Come “In The Spirit” when you come CLEANSED for worship.
As we have talked about many times, our sin separates us from fellowship with God. We can’t just sin and do whatever we want to do, and think that we are going to be “full of the Spirit” and pleasing to God in our worship.
No, the Bible makes it clear, God HATES hypocritical worship, by people who are consistently walking in sin, but who “put on” their religious worship for the Lord’s Day, as if God’s going to be happy with that!
In Isaiah 1 God speaks of how Israel was a hypocritical people like that:
“Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah.
What are you multiplied sacrifices to Me? Says the Lord.
I have had enough burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
Bring your worthless offerings no longer … I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly …
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; … I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil; learn to do good.”
God says I don’t want all the “religious deeds” of your sacrifices and incense and prayers, when your lives are marked with iniquity and sin and moral compromise. He says, WASH yourselves. It is in the context of those verses that God gives us His famous appeal in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”
God says, cleanse yourselves; wash yourselves; turn away from your evil deeds; find forgiveness and cleansing. THEN you can come and worship Him with a worship that will please Him. THEN you can come “in the Spirit” to worship. But you can’t come “in the Spirit” to worship, if you are not repenting and being washed from your sins on a regular basis.
This is another reason why we need that morning prayer times, even on Sunday morning. We need to confess the sins of the previous day. We need to repent of our sins, so we can be come “in the Spirit”, washed and cleansed and ready to worship.
Now, most of us these days don’t “dress up” for church the way we used to. Some do, but it’s less common. It used to be that the men would wear their best suit and tie; the ladies would wear their best dresses — I can remember when I was growing up that my sisters would often have those little plastic curlers in their hair! Because it used to be, you wouldn’t THINK about coming to church without being all clean and dressed up.
But here’s the thing: some of us who would never think about coming to a worship service without being clean physically, need to realize that the most important thing is for us to come clean SPIRITUALLY!
II Timothy 2:21 says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” God says if we want to be useful for His work, we have to “cleanse ourselves.” THE most important work of all, is the work of worshiping God. It is the most important thing there is. But we have to be “cleansed’ from our sins, to be ready for that work.
In I Corinthians 11, Paul speaks of how important it is to be prepared for the Lord’s Supper. And that IS important; we don’t want to participate in the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner. But in the same way, we don’t want to partake in ANY of God’s services in an unworthy manner! We need to be “confessed up;” we need to be cleansed and ready for worship, if we want to “come in the Spirit” to God’s house of worship.
III. You Come “In The Spirit” when You come EXPECTANTLY to worship.
What are you expecting when you come to worship? That is an important question. We should come with a spirit of expectation. “Expectation” is really just another word for FAITH. God says in Hebrews 11, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.” So when we come to worship the Lord, we need come in faith, believing, expecting. Don’t merely come to a meeting that want to “get it over with.” Don’t come just looking past it to La Casona for lunch or looking forward to an afternoon of leisure and rest. Come to the service EXPECTING: expecting to give something TO God, and expecting to receiving something FROM God.
— Come expecting to connect with God in worship. Come expecting to SING to Him; to feel the joy of His presence as you worship with others.
— come expecting to HEAR something from God in His word. This is why I believe that taking notes is an important factor in our worship. WHY do we have those sermon notes on the back of the bulletin, or on those note pages at the front? It’s not just to give you something to do to keep you from falling asleep! It’s so you can be ready to write something down when God speaks to you through His word. I have a couple of blanks there for you to fill in as we go through, but the most important space is the BLANK space in between: that is where YOU should write down what God is saying to YOU as you listen to His word. We should come expecting for God to say something to us.
And by taking notes, you are saying, in at least a subconscious way: “I believe God is going to say something to me that is worth writing down.”
When you have that pencil or pen in your hand (or your fingers at the keyboard; however you take notes) that is an act of FAITH. You are saying “I believe that God is about to say something worthwhile to me; something so important that I am going to be ready to write it down.” See, that is an act of faith in what God is about to show you.
But if, on the other hand you do NOT have a pen or pencil in your hand, or you are NOT taking notes on your phone or iPad; and you are just sitting there — what is THAT saying? Whether you actually SAY it or not, what you are actually communicating is, “I don’t think God is about to say anything to me.” Because if you did, you would be ready to write it down!
SO taking notes is actually a big step of faith. It is saying to yourself, to God, and to the world: I believe God is about to speak to me, and I am going to be ready to write it down when He does! It is EXPECTING something; it is a step of FAITH. And that sense of expectation is one way we can come “full of the Spirit” into the house of God. Come with a sense of expectation: for worship, for the word, for what God is going to do — and you will be coming “in the Spirit” to the house of God.
Think about it: what are you EXPECTING when you come to worship God? Are you expecting Him to do something?
Are you expecting to have a worship time that thrills and fulfills your soul, and connects you with God?
Are you expecting to hear something from God that will change your life and give you some new direction from His word?
Are you expecting for people to be saved and for lives to be changed?
Are you expecting for prayers to be answered?
WHAT IF WE GOT FROM GOD, JUST WHAT WE “EXPECTED” TO GET FROM HIM, IN OUR WORSHIP? What would you get? Remember, “expectation,” is just another word for FAITH. Hebrews says without faith, it is impossible to please God. Are you pleasing God with the faith you have for what you are going to receive when you come to worship — or are you just “going through the motions”? Let’s don’t “just come back to worship as usual.” Let’s come back expecting; believing for God to do something great, for us and for others. It will make all the difference.
So we have seen there are past, present, and future elements to coming “in the Spirit” to worship:
— It means you HAVE been worshiping with God at home on your own.
— it means you ARE right now “confessed up” and cleansed from sin.
— it means you are LOOKING FORWARD to what God is about to do for you and for others.
So with a past committed to walk with God every day in worship; a present that is clean from known sin; and a faith that is looking forward to what God is going to do in the future, let’s determine that when we come back to God’s house of worship, we are not coming back to worship “as usual” — but that we are going to come back like Simeon did: coming “in the Spirit” to worship in the house of the Lord.