What’s on your bucket list?
A bucket list is a list of things that you want to have done before you “kick the bucket.” Normal bucket list items include: travelling to Europe, sky diving, or snorkeling in the Bahamas.
My bucket list? In no particular order – here are a few things I’d like to do before I die: Visit the Holy Land of Jerusalem, go to the Super Bowl, defeat every Legend of Zelda video game, and play Michael Jordan in a game of HORSE.
Ah yes – and create my own flavor of Doritos.
What’s on your bucket list? Any ideas? What would it take to make sure that your life is fulfilled?
Today we’re going to hear about a man named Simeon – he had only had one item on his bucket list. ONE ITEM. There was only one thing he wanted to do before he died.
I. Simeon's Fulfillment
Take a look at Luke 2:25:
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. It had been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
Immediately you get the sense that Simeon was very old. He had been waiting and he was near death. I bet a bucket list was something he thought about all the time.
Being a Jew at the time of the 1st century, there could have been a lot of things Simeon might want to do before he had died. Enter the Holy of Holies. See an angel. Slap a Roman soldier in the face. Enter the Holy of Holies.
But Simeon wanted none of those. Instead Simeon simply was waiting for the consolation of Israel.
Just like in a tournament, the consolation bracket exists to encourage the losers of the first round, so the consolation of Israel would encourage Simeon. Only the consolation of Israel wasn’t some tournament for a tiny 6 inch trophy.
It was a person. The Messiah. The One who would save people from their sins.
What do you think about that list? Is that all you’d want to do before you die?
Regardless we easily see what God thought about such a list in verse 25. God’s Word calls Simeon righteous and devout. This is a commentary on Simeon’s list. It’s God approved. God loved where Simeon’s heart was at. More than that, God sent his Holy Spirit and had promised to Simeon that it would happen. It’s like the Divine Make-a-Wish Foundation. Simeon’s list was God Approved! God makes it happen.
Check out what happens next.
27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Mary and Jospeph enter the temple. Jesus is only a couple of months old. He’s a baby still. He’s not some gigantic conqueror with a sword slung at his side like The Rock, Dwayne Johnson in the new Hercules movie.
He’s just a little baby.
Yet look at how Simeon reacts in the first part of verse 28. He runs over to the parents and took him in his arms.
Do you guys ever just run over and grab newborns from their parents? Maybe if they are relatives – but strangers? No. That’s strange. But Simeon doesn’t care. Throw any sort of societal rules out the windows. Simeon is excited to see and meet the Savior!
Then in the second part of verse 28 – he praises God! He gives thanks to the LORD for making this dream come true. For bringing fulfillment to his life.
Finally, in verse 29 – what does he say? “In peace LORD, you let your servant now depart according to your Word.” Simeon wasn’t just saying, “Now I can leave the temple and grab some lunch at the local Bojangles.” Nor was he thinking, “I can finally retire from my job.” Remember: He had been promised that he would see the Messiah before he died. “Depart in peace,” therefore, meant: “Die in peace.”
Simeon was so thrilled after having met Jesus that he was ready to die in peace. He didn’t need to do anything else. He didn’t need to say good bye to his family. He didn’t need to make some more money. He didn’t need to run a half marathon.
He saw Jesus and his life was fulfilled.
II. American 21st Century Fulfillment.
Imagine for a second that Simeon was on TV. They were interviewing him. “Have you lived a fulfilled life?” What if Simeon’s answer was – “Yes. I got to see my Savior Jesus Chrsit – who would live perfectly for me, die innocently and rise triumphantly for me.”
How do you think they’d react? Maybe it’d be like Ben Watson the NFL player who wrote a wonderful Christian response to the happening in Ferguson and was asked to talk about it on live television. The second he mentioned Jesus as the reason for his hope --- this television station magically lost him over the air waves. All day long no problem. As soon as he mentions – Jesus – “our broadcast equipment broke.” Coincidence?
Jesus doe not fit into the fullness of an American life. What does? You could answer that in a lot of ways. But here are just a few ideas that are out there that might be negatively affecting your idea of a full life.
· Money. As in a full life has lots of money. You won’t feel fulfilled until you have enough money for retirement, for a second beach house, for spoiling your grandchildren at Christmas. If you don’t have enough money, your life isn’t fulfilled.
· Travel. We have full cable television stations devoted to this. It’s no wonder The Amazing Race is in its 23rd season. This isn’t a bad thing. From a Christian perspective, it’s nice to see God’s creation. From a secular perspective, it’s awesome to show off all of your souvenirs and say to people – “Look at how well traveled I am. My life is fulfilled because I’ve been there!”
· Experience. Similar to travel, but you can have the experiences in your own backyard. Our America is fixated on experiences. Some good – helping in a homeless shelter – spending a day reading at a children’s cancer Ward. Some neutral – trying the Fire wings at Buffalo Wild Wings – riding a pogo stick. Some sinful – having sex without someone you aren’t married to – having sex with someone of the same sex – trying a drug – drinking 21 shots on your birthday!
· Relationships. For some, it’s the quality of relationships that leaves your life fulfilled. “Am I truly living out the Notebook in my marriage?” “Is my friend really as good as all of those Friends on TV?” For others, it’s simply the quantity of friends. As in – “Did I get to 1000 friends on Facebook yet? Until I’m there I don’t think my life will have really been fulfilled.”
· Longevity. Sometimes people just find fulfillment in the length of their life. It’s why we spend thousands on gym memberships, organic food, and pills guaranteed to extend your life each day. This perspective acts as if each day is a grain of sand that you add into a jar. The more you have – the fuller your life is.
III. Your Fulfillment
What do you think about these options? Are they good things to pursue in having a full life? Are these things that you pursue in your life? Are these things that you place at a higher importance level than pursuing Jesus? The truth is some of these thing are harmful. Some of these things are good. Some of these things are neutral.
But if you ever make any of these things more important than finding your fulfillment in Jesus your Savior – you will never be fulfilled.
If eternity isn’t taken care of, then even the now isn’t fulfilled. If eternity is taken care, then even the now will be fulfilled!
So– be like Simeon. Find your fulfillment in Jesus your Savior. Look at Simeon’s song again and hear how it is Jesus will fulfill you:
1) Peace with God.
Don’t think that if you save up enough money you can bribe God into being your friend. Don’t be under the impression that if you travel up to the highest mountain suddenly you and God will get each other. Don’t think that if you Facebook message God and say– “Hey God, I’ve got lots of friends. If you want to be cool, you better be my friend too,” will not convince the Almighty to suddenly friend you and be “cool with your sins.”
The only One who can make us at peace with God is the little One that Simeon held in his hands. It’s Jesus.
Listen to what Scripture says. Jesus would be “Pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5-6) So that in Jeremiah 33:6 God says, “I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me.” In Romans 5:1 “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is clear throughout Scripture Jesus himself is the ONLY ONE who brings us peace with God. He is the ONLY one who brings you the message; “You are forgiven.”
2) God’s Salvation.
Look at what Simeon proclaimed was his reason for peace. “In peace, Lord, you let your servant depart, according to your Word…for my eyes have seen your salvation!”
Simeon was a human. He too had his sins. He too had his failures. He too had guilt. The only One who could save him from the eternal consequences for his sins is the very God who was at peace with him!
The problem with all those human ideals for fulfillment is that they are human ideas on how to save your life from being linked into these categories of failure, pathetic, or normal. But when someone else surpasses us…where is your salvation? When someone else makes more money, where is the salvation? When someone else has more friends, where is your salvation? When you die, how many people in how many generations truly remember you!?!
The only one who understands true salvation is the very one who invented salvation. And in Jesus, Simeon held the salvation of God himself.
God’s salvation was that little baby. The little child who would grew up without any sin. He would give up his life innocently on a cross. He would rise triumphantly from the dead. He would defeat sin – he would defeat death – he would defeat the devil. He would save you from failure to live perfectly and failure to get to heaven. He would save you from those voices that accuse you. He would save you so you can have eternal life!
Jesus is the Only one who does the Only thing that takes you the Only way to the next life!
3) Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel.
Simeon uses that phrase in his song: “The light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.” A light to the Gentiles – people who weren’t Jews – because now they were no longer in the dark. They knew that Jesus loved them. The glory of the people Israel because now they knew God had meant it. He did love them enough to send them a Savior from sin.
In Jesus, you know God’s love too. You have been enlightened to see just how much God loves you. You get to glory in the fact that God loves you with an unquenchable, awesome love – willing to die to take away your sin.
If you have God’s love, who else’s love do you really need? His love is the only LOVE that lasts forever. It’s the ONLY love that is UNSTOPPABLE. It is the only love that loves you completely and fully even when you don’t deserve it!
So how do you respond?
Stop running to earthly things for fullness in life. Stop looking to earth ideas – even sinful ideas to feel full. In fact, if you are feeling unfull – it’s not Jesus’ fault. He’s the fullness of all things. It’s a problem with you. You’re too focused on earthly pursuits and earthly ideas of fullness.
Instead, run. Run to God’s idea of fullness. Run to Jesus. Like Simon pick him up in your arms. Sing his praises. Give glory to Him. Hold on to him every chance you get. Stop thinking that you can find fulfillment in something else and find your fulfillment in God alone.
The New Year is very soon. As you make out your life change lists, put “see Jesus” as number one on your list. Sign up for that Bible study. Become a member at that church. Get involved in children’s ministry. Do whatever you can at whatever point you are at in your spiritual journey to get closer to Jesus.
Then…your life will be filled. You’ll have everything that this life is all about – peace with God, salvation from death, and the knowledge of God’s love! Whatever else you get in this life? Those are just awesome and added bonuses. Because come what may you’ve got Jesus. Your life is full.
God is fully behind such a notion. Amen.
What do you hope for your kids?
Maybe your hope is that they'll be academically successful. If this is you, then school has become life! Year round school. Summer school. After school school. Weekend school. If this is you, then you even have the unique ability to make fun into school! This is why parents get upset if their three year old isn't reading sentences half way through Preschool. They have already started to look into the best university for your 4th grader. You may have gotten your kids a French tutor at the age of six! I tr
Another common hope for parents is that their kids will be financially stable. That means a lot in this unstable economy. So you work long hard hours. You forget to eat. You forget to drink. All to make sure that you can save up so your kid doesn't have any ridiculous students loans from college. You may even let them stay at home to save on rent.
Maybe, you hope is that they'll take care of finances on their own., Maybe, you hope that your kid will be athletically successful! This is where things get crazy right? Parents say, “My kid needs to have chosen the one sport that he will excel at by the end of 2nd grade. Then, I can sign him up for every sports camp that comes my way! I'll buy him all the latest Nike gear, because then he'll be able to jump higher and move quicker. I'll even get him a personal trainer so that he from a professional. I know costs a lot of money and it's 1 in every 10 million kids that actually make it to the NBA, but my kid's different. He'll be the one to make it."
Jesus' hope for your kids.
They are much different. Jesus had entirely different hopes. In his high priestly prayer, a prayer that he prayer to his Father, a prayer that he prayed out loud for all his disciples to hear, Jesus explained his hope for all people. For us. For your children. In John 17:2-3 he said, “Father the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people,” Why? “That he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”
Think about how incredible this is! Jesus was about to die. That very night he'd be arrested. The next day he'd be on the cross. And he knew all of this would happen. Yet, the main thing he hopes for in his prayer is not that the pain would be over quickly or that it wouldn't be so intense orthat it wouldn't happen at all.
It was that all people... you...your child might have eternal life.
So...Which hope is better?
Did you know that, according to a recent Deloitte Center for Finances study, only .54 percent of the world's population will become millionaires? And that includes people who save and strive for that until the end of their life!
Did you know that this past year only 7.2% of the 30,000 that applied to Harvard were accepted into the prestigious university!?! That's only those people who applied.
Did you know that out of every 10 million high school, varsity basketball players only 40 will make it to the NBA? Again. Those are only the kids who make the varsity basketball team!
What are the chances of going to heaven? With faith in Jesus, it is 1 in 1. 100% certain. There is no doubt!
This is the first key difference between earthly hopes and heavenly hopes. Hope of eternity in Jesus is certain! Victory is certain. Success over sin is certain. Even a home of heavenly riches is completely and absolutely certain!
And considering who the promises is from, this makes sense! After all, in his prayer Jesus calls God, “the only true God.” That means, this isn't a promise made by Zeus, the made up God of Greek myth. It isn't a promise made by scientists, in an attempt to explain future origins of the universe.
It's a promise made by God. The God as real as the blood stained cross he hung on. The God as real as the graveyard tomb he left behind.
Jesus' hope for our kids is way more certain than our own earthly hopes for our kids.
And think about something else:
JaMarcus Russel and Ryan Leaf were both drafted number one over all in their respective NFL drafts. They both made over $40,000,000.
Neither of them still play. One of them went to jail. The other is bankrupt.
But then again, it doesn't matter if it is money, athleticism, or even smarts. None of these things last forever!
Money can be spent. Athleticism goes away with age. Memory and the mind can be attacked by Alzheimer's and other diseases.
But the hope of eternal life?
That lasts forever.
Think of what it's called after all: eternal life. That means life without end. Life that is outside of time. Life that lasts forever.
And it comes from an eternal God! Another reason why this truth can be trusted. It's not like some out of work gentleman promising to pay you back $1000 that he doesn't have.
This is God. Promising to pay you eternity. Which he invented and controls!
Jesus' hope for our kids is longer lasting than our hopes for our kids.
So...Why do we Focus our Kids on temporary, uncertain Hopes?
Think back to our opening examples: “Yes, I spend all my money and time to make sure my child is academically successful. That way I can get one of those “my child is an honor student” bumper stickers and put it on the back of my vehicle! People will be impressed!"
“Yes, I am doing everything possible to make sure that My kid doesn't have the big money problems that I had growing up. In fact, my hope is that one day he'll make it big and then he can lend old dad some money to take care of himself.”
“Yes, I my life revolves around my child's fledgling sporting career, but I look at it as an investment! One day he'll be famous and I'll be on an ESPN special...interviewed on my commitment to athletics!”
Do you see why our hopes for our children are the way they are? Because our hopes are focused on temporal, uncertain things as well.
It's like a pair of binoculars. If you find a rare bird off in a tree, you keep your eyes on him as you bring your child over. You have to be focused in order to focus them in the right direction. If not, who knows where you are pointing him.
If our focus is on temporary, uncertain earthly hopes for our children, it's because that's where our hopes are focused as well.
And the sad thing is that if we focus our thoughts and hopes on earthly things then we will completely miss out on the only hope that lasts and is completely certain. Instead, we'll be completely uncertain of our eternal future.
But God is certain. He is certain that apart from him there is only eternal pain and misery in hell.
But if your hope is the same as that of Jesus, change your focus.
Jesus explains how eternal life comes about verse 3: “This is how people have eternal life...they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
It's what Jesus said in our Gospel for today from John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”
Do you see the urgency?
This is why teaching your kids about Jesus is of the utmost importance. Because by teaching them about their Savior, you will be giving them hope. Real hope. Certain hope.
The only Hope that lasts forever.
Take advantage of opportunities for your child to grow in their knowledge about Jesus. Let them experience Jesus as they learn about him in Sunday School. I know that's early. But get up. Bring them to Sunday School. And church! Teach them about the cross up front. Explain what the songs we sing mean. Tell them that Jesus loves them in your family devotions. At your bedtime prayers.
You will be giving them real hope. Hope that lasts forever.
There is no better gift!
When I was in my final year at the Seminary, I made hospital visits to a lady in a mental care facility. One day, as I rode up the secure elevator to the Alzheimer's wing, I heard shouting and screaming. I looked around and warily approached the front desk. I told them whom I was there to see.
“HA!” she replied. “Good luck. She's the one that's screaming. She's locked herself in that room and won't come out.”
I said a prayer.
Then approached anyways. I introduced myself as the intern pastor. I asked if I could read from the Gospel of John. She nodded. I began to read about the Good Shepherd. She quieted down. She listened. I said, “Remember: Jesus is the Good shepherd and you are his sheep. He loves you.”
“He loves me,” she repeated.
We sang “Jesus Loves Me” together.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus offers real hope! Hope that is certain. Hope that lasts. From a child when you first learn about his love all the way to death when you need his love more than ever!
May this certain hope of our certain Savior be with you always. Amen.