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Salvation’s Song

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 25, 2021 3:00 am

Salvation’s Song

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 25, 2021 3:00 am

When Simeon met the baby Jesus, he sang a song of praise to God. His words express the theme of the entire Bible, the song of salvation. Join us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg celebrates the good news: a Savior is born!



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Music playing Music playing It has wide application that expresses essentially the idea of rescue. But salvation is used in a specific sense as we find it here in the Bible, and this is what it is referencing. It is an expression of the good news—the good news of what God did for us in the incarnate Christ in order to save us from sin, the devil, and death. And that is the significance of the amazing statement that we find being made by Simeon here in chapter 2 of Luke, and verse 30 in particular. He says, My eyes have seen your salvation.

What could he possibly mean by that? Of all the things that are said when you take a newborn baby into your arms—and you will have said all kinds of things, I'm sure, as I have done, often out of embarrassment, we don't know what to say, and so we just say, My, he has his mother's nose, or look at his cheeks, or can you believe how much dark hair he has or whatever else it is? But for Simeon, he had no doubt what he was going to say. Now, you need to remind yourself of what we're told about Simeon in verse 25. He was a man, he lived in Jerusalem, his name was Simeon, he was raucous, and he was devout, and he was actually waiting. If people had said, What are you waiting for, Simeon? he would have said, I'm waiting for the consolation of Israel.

What did he mean by that? I'm waiting for the promises that God has made to his people to be fulfilled. There is a king who is coming. There is a prophet who is coming. There is a priest who is coming.

And somehow or another, the kingship and the prophetic role and the role of priest is going to be amalgamated, is going to be unified in one person. And that's what I'm waiting for. If people had said, Where do you get all that stuff from? He said, From reading my Bible. I've just been reading my Bible. And it's all there, and that's why I'm here.

I'm waiting. And furthermore, the Holy Spirit has told me that I won't die until I see this promised salvation. This is a promised salvation. It is a prepared salvation. And so when the father and mother come in, and he takes the baby Jesus in his arms, he says, My eyes have seen your salvation. And it is salvation, which is the theme of each of the songs we've been considering.

But actually, we could say better than that, because salvation is not simply the theme of these songs, it is the theme of the entire Bible. Because when you read the Old Testament, you discover that there are these amazing pictures that are provided of nothing other than salvation. So what is the story of Noah and the ark? It is the fact that God has come to people who have rebelled against him, and he has said, I have provided for you a place of safety and salvation.

If you will listen to my servant Noah and get in the ark. What is the story of the exodus from Egypt, when God's people are set free from the charging hordes of Pharaoh and his armies, and they pass through the Red Sea in safety? Is the story of salvation.

What is the story of Gideon and his depleted little army of three hundred, being victorious over the hordes that were against them? It is the story of salvation. Salvation is not the story of men and women saving ourselves, doing our best, and asking God to give us a hand.

The story of salvation is the story of God doing for us what we are patently unable to do for ourselves—to be saved from sin and to be saved from the consequences of sin. So as I said a moment or two ago, salvation is our theme—the theme of these songs, the theme of the Bible, and what better theme could there be? For some of you, this will be a primer.

You have never actually thought along these lines. For others of you, it will be a reminder. And here are your navigational aids. Four prepositions. For, from, by, and through. You don't need to remember them. I will go through them one at a time.

First of all, then, for. Who is this salvation for? Well, if your Bible is open, you can see that Simeon points out that this was not an exclusive privilege for Israel, but it was for the Gentiles too. Indeed, it's interesting how the Gentiles come first, that God reverses things. It's one of the great themes of Luke's Gospel, incidentally, how he reverses things. People think he's gonna go for the religious folks, and he doesn't. He goes for the irreligious folks. People think he's gonna go for the people who are doing their best, and he doesn't.

He goes for the people who are apparently doing their worst. And here he says, it is a light for the Gentiles, and it is for the glory of the people of Israel. Well, this is in keeping with the angels' song, isn't it?

It was good news of great joy, which will be for all the people. And once again, we need to see in this, and that you're helped in verse 31 by the little word prepared there, my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared. This hasn't just come, as it were, out of the blue, but this has been part of God's preparatory work. And so when you read the prophets, you come upon statements like Isaiah 49.6, where God says, I will make you as a light for the nations to be my salvation unto the end of the earth. To be my salvation for the nations to the ends of the earth. And that's why eventually, when God wraps everything up, it will be as we began our service with a great company that no one can number from every nation and tribe and people and language.

That the message of the gospel, the good news, is universal. It's for everyone. It excludes nobody. Nobody's left out. There's no people group you go to and say, Oh, this good news isn't for you.

There's no one you can ever meet and have a coffee with and say, Well, I don't need to tell you about this, because either you don't need it or you won't want it. No, it's good news for everyone. It is for everyone. The good news of salvation transcends racial, social, and cultural barriers.

That's who it's for. Secondly, salvation for whom? Salvation from what? You've saved me from economic collapse. I understand it was economic collapse from which I needed to be saved. You saved me from driving round and round and round at the airport. I had realized what you saved me from. But when the Bible talks about salvation, what is it talking about?

Well, it's very, very clear. And we need us to go back to chapter 1. It's one page over if you have the Bible open. Back to Zachariah's song, because he gives it to us perfectly there in verse 77. Notice once again about the preparatory work of God, this time in the work of John the Baptist. And this child, John the Baptist, is going to prepare the way for him.

And what is he going to do? He's going to give his people the knowledge of salvation—and here's the key phrase—through the forgiveness of their sins. Now, you see, if you think about this, it makes sense that this salvation is for everyone, because everyone is in need of a Savior. At least everyone I have ever met is in need of a Savior. You may have met somebody who is not in need of a Savior, but I doubt it. Because the Bible tells us, that there is no one who is not in need of a Savior.

And if we're honest, we recognize that. We don't love God with all of our hearts. We don't serve him as our Creator and our King. Whatever my heart clings to, and to which I entrust myself, that is really my God. An idol is anything other than God that we regard as essential to our peace, our self-image, our contentment, or our acceptability.

If I'm going to be acceptable, this is how it's going to be. If I'm going to know peace, this is where I must worship, and so on. And these are heart-level substitutes for God. And when you worship a heart-level substitute for God, you end up with a heart-level substitute salvation.

It cannot satisfy. That's the reason for the salvation provided in Jesus. What the Bible says is that the true and living God, the Creator of the universe, who stands outside of time, who created time itself, who created every person, every creature on the planet—that this God, this Creator, he knows how life works. He knows how society may be ordered in justice and in righteousness. And all of that transformation of life and family and future, all of that infusion and discovery of hope in a world that is increasingly hopeless, is to be found in the accomplishment provided in the transforming power of Jesus the servant. And that is, again, what you find when you go back into the prophets.

I'm going to leave that to you for your homework, otherwise we'll be here much longer than any of us want to be. But if you go back and you read, for example, Isaiah chapter 42, and you read there of the servant of God—and let me tell you what the servant does. This is what it says. He opens our eyes from blindness, he frees us from prison, and he releases us from the dungeon.

And someone says, Well, I have no interest in that. I can see clearly. I'm not trapped by anything or anyone. I'm not living in a dungeon.

Really? You never find yourself saying, If I could only turn back time, if I could only be set free from this, I feel as though I'm trapped. I feel as though there's no possibility of me getting out.

There's no hope for the future, and when I look behind me, I'm just ten steps behind everyone and everything. Well, that's what Jesus came to do. That's why when Simeon takes the baby in his arms, he doesn't just say, Oh, what a lovely little baby.

He says, My eyes have seen your salvation. You see, because the people in the day of Simeon thought they knew what they needed to be saved from, the way people today do. The Jewish people thought that what they needed was salvation from the oppression of Rome. If only the political structures of their lives could be sorted out and these Roman people could be vanquished, then they could live in peace and in tranquility.

And I meet people all the time, and that's what they think. If we could just get a few things sorted out here, if I could change my boss, if I could get rid of a couple of people from the sales team, if we could get the political things sorted out, a few economic things, I think it'd just be absolutely super. I'd just be sitting there saying, Yes, let me have another slice of cheesecake and two large pieces of ice cream with it as well. I'm all set. But if you've ever driven in your car and been honest with yourself, if you've ever put your head on your pillow at night and thought about stuff, then you may have concluded, as I and others have concluded, and certainly as C. S. Lewis quite marvelously concluded, that the real dungeon in which we find ourselves, the real liberation we need is a liberation from the corruption and from the squalor of our own hearts. Now, the real problem we have is not an economic problem, it's not an intellectual problem, it's not an educational problem—it is actually a problem of idolatry. Salvation from what? Salvation from sin. Sin? Yes. The human declaration of independence from God, and the suppression of the truth of God.

Thirdly, and quickly, by. If that is the human predicament and humanity is unable to extricate itself, what possible hope is there? That's the good news! You see, the good news is good news, which we've understood the bad news. And it is because the bad news is so seldom conveyed to people that they reject the good news, because it all sounds so trivial. And it is not the responsibility of the teacher or the preacher to convince people of how bad they are. That is the responsibility of God, who shines into our lives as light and goes into the nooks and crannies of our conscience, and brings us to the point, like C. S. Lewis, where we say, You know, I decided to examine myself, and I found out that really, my heart is corrupted. That my heart is selfish.

And then there's good news. Listen to how Paul put it in one verse in Ephesians chapter 2. It's verse 8. It is by grace, he said, that you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves.

It is the gift of God. Salvation by grace. We need salvation.

We're unable to make amends for ourselves. And here's the great news. And here is how the Christmas part and the Easter part fit together. Just when it seems hopeless, we discover that the one against whom we have offended, by filling our lives with substitute gods, that one has provided in Jesus the atonement that our sin has made necessary.

And the story of Easter is the story of God bringing together, reconciling two parties that are at war with each other. God, in his righteous anger against sin—and you ought not to think of that as some capricious, fiery outburst. You should think of God's righteous anger in the way that a very good surgical oncologist here will attack the cancer if he discovers it in your body.

He will attack it fiercely, because he wants it to be removed because of his love for you and his interest in you. That is God's reaction to sin. He is opposed to it. We are opposed to God, worshipping ourselves or our stuff or our success or whatever it might be, even good things. And there is a great standoff.

Unless somebody takes the initiative in this standoff, these parties will be polarized forever. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Here's the good news. Not by works of righteousness, not by turning over a new leaf, not by losing myself in some great cosmic awe, not by finding in myself the answers, but rather by looking away. Grace means that God mercifully provides for us instruction and redemption. Finally—final preposition—salvation for whom?

All the nations, all the people. From what? From our sinful rebellion against God. By what? By God's grace.

Through what? Through faith. People talk about faith all the time. They talk about, Well, I just have to get my faith going. What does that mean?

Sounds like starting your car in the morning. Or, I just have a tremendous amount of faith. Faith in what? Well, I just have faith. Yes, but faith is nothing. Faith is simply a conduit. Faith is not an entity. You could have as much—we've got a little pond in our neighborhood.

We were walking past it yesterday, some of us, and someone said, Maybe I'll go skate on that pond. I don't think so. Now the person said, But I have a tremendous amount of faith. I say, I don't care how much faith you've got.

You weigh a hundred and seventy pounds, and the pond is only frozen to three eighths of an inch. Faith will not save you. That faith will drown you.

Go ahead. But if we walk down the street and the pond was frozen to a depth of three feet, then any one of us, or all of us, could have gone skating on the pond. It is not the amount of faith. It is the foundation or the basis of faith. And when Paul says that you are saved—salvation—by grace, God's intervention, through faith, and that not of yourselves, he says that even the whole experience of turning from myself to God is actually wrapped up in his gracious favor. Although the offer of salvation is universal, it is clearly not received by everyone indiscriminately or automatically.

It is offered universally, but it is not received automatically. Some people say that. And you may have heard that is the Christmas story. And you walk out, and you just feel there's a missing link, and you're right there is.

And the story goes something like this. We're so glad that you came here for Christmas, and I know you've perhaps been reading the Old Testament. God was really ticked off in the Old Testament.

But we are now in the New Testament, and he's really feeling a lot better about everything and also about you. And I know you've made a complete hash of everything, but it doesn't matter. He doesn't care.

Just go out and enjoy yourself and have another eggnog. And you walk out the door and say, That don't make any sense to me at all. And you're dead right.

It doesn't. No, you see, the story is that I have offended against God, and that on account of his kindness, he has pursued me through my friends, through my family, through my books, through my songs, through my church, through my university education, through my disappointments, through my failures, through all the bits and pieces that make up the me that is me. I suddenly look, and I say, It almost appears as though he has been following me down right to this moment.

Yes, he has. And what does he offer to you? He offers to you a gift.

And that gift has to be received. If you go home and read this passage again, you will realize that there is no sense in which everybody is swept up in this. In fact, Simeon says in his song that this child will be responsible for the rising and the falling of many in Israel, and he will be a dividing line. On the one side of the line, we keep him at arm's length. On the other side of the line, we welcome him to our lives the way Simeon welcomed him to his arms. On the one side, we exalt ourselves and say we have no need of him.

On the other side, we debase ourselves and say we have every need of him. And the storyline of the Bible is the storyline of God calling us to himself by grace through faith. Well, it happened to me yesterday.

I hope you don't think this is a contrived sermon illustration. It did actually happen. I have witnesses to let you know that it did. But I was sitting adjacent to the Christmas tree, and I looked down, and this wee box was sitting under the tree just in my right hand. And I picked it up, and it has an envelope in it, and I pulled it to the side, and it says Ali on it.

Oh, I said, that's fantastic. I said, there's one that I haven't opened. I still haven't opened it. I know what's in it. I shook it.

And I can lose these very easily with a five-iron or a three-iron or any iron at all in my bag. So I don't need to open it to find out what it is. But I thought to myself, I wonder if there won't just be somebody there tomorrow morning at Parkside, and they suddenly… It dawns on you, Cole.

Oh, there's one I haven't opened. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ his Son. For whom? For whoever believes in him.

That includes you and me. From what? From our God-substitutes. From our suppression of the truth. By what? By his amazing grace and kindness. Now, by anything we have done.

And through what? Through reaching out the hand that simply says, I accept what you have offered, and I embrace you the way Simeon embraced you. And I look upon you, Lord Jesus Christ, and I say today, Hey, my eyes have seen your salvation. And in the life that is embraced by God in that way, things change. Prior to that, the Bible says that we are without hope and without God in the world. Oh, we may not feel that all day every day, but eventually, when we look out on our lives, we say, I don't really know if this is going anywhere.

I don't even know if this means anything. And that not because of our disappointments—that often on the basis of our successes. But when we are born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, then all of our lives are reoriented around the wonder of what God has done.

So that instead of being hopeless, we are hopeful. If this message of salvation is as has been outlined, then I should not, I dare not, stand at arm's length to such an amazing offer, to such wonderful good use. I daren't leave, as it were, under the tree an unopened gift, especially with my name on it. We hope and pray that no one listening today will leave God's gift of salvation unopened this Christmas. That's Alistair Begg with the concluding message from our series titled Songs for a Savior.

You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend. Now as you begin to think about the start of a new year, maybe you've started thinking about how you will spend more time with God in 2022, today we want to recommend a book that we believe will help you with that. It's a book titled Piercing Heaven, and it's a collection of Puritan prayers that will help jumpstart your prayer life. This is a great book to use for your own personal prayer time or as you meet for prayer with a partner or in your small group. You can find out more about the book Piercing Heaven when you visit us online at truthforlife.org. I'm Bob Lapine. On behalf of our entire team here at Truth for Life, we wish you a blessed and joyful Christmas weekend. Please join us next weekend as we start the year 2022 in Psalm 121 and discover where we look when we need help. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-05 03:09:04 / 2023-07-05 03:18:19 / 9

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