Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Hi, this is Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and before we get started on today’s edition of Revive Our Hearts, I want to remind you of the matching challenge that we have going on this whole month.

Some dear friends of the ministry have agreed to match, dollar for dollar, every gift that is made to Revive Our Hearts between now and December 31, up to a maximum of $450,000.

We’re asking the Lord not only to supply that amount, but even above and beyond, so that we can continue calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ throughout 2008.

If you’ve already given to Revive Our Hearts this month, I want you to know how very grateful I am for your support. Only eternity will reveal all the hearts and lives that will be touched as a result of your generosity.

If you haven’t given a gift yet, would you ask the Lord if He would want you to participate in this special challenge? We’ll let you know on the end of today’s program how you can get in touch with us to send your gift.

Thanks so much for partnering with us in this way.

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: It’s not because you believe in religion that you’ll be persecuted. Generally, in our world, it’s because you believe in the name of Jesus Christ.

When you lift high the cross of Christ in our world and in our culture, you will become a sign opposed. So what do we do? Peter said, “Expect it!”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, December 20.

There are riches to be discovered in the Christmas story, even for listeners who have heard it over and over. Nancy’s series called The King’s Dedication has been a rich study of some characters often overlooked in our traditional telling of the story.

One of those is Simeon, and Nancy’s here to pick up his story.

Nancy: We’ve come to a difficult part in the study of Simeon that we’re doing from the Gospel of Luke, chapter two. Difficult because Simeon has already expressed a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for what He has done in sending this child, Jesus, into the temple.

From the arms of Mary and Joseph, Simeon has taken up this child and blessed the Lord and said, “God, I can die in peace now because You have sent Your salvation. This Jesus is a light for the world, a light for the Gentiles, a glory for Israel.”

But then the tone changes as he turns to the mother, and he speaks this prophecy right on the heels of this blessing and praise. He says, “But there’s going to be pain associated in His life and in yours with this whole matter of the gospel. It’s not going to be easy.”

So we pick up in verse 34 of Luke 2: “Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and said to His mother, ‘Behold, this child [this child that you’ve just given birth to] is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

He’s saying, “There’s a journey ahead for you—for you and for Christ”; and, by implication and application, for us as well, as followers of Christ. We said that Simeon uses three word pictures or three images in his prophecy.

First, we looked in the last session at the image of stone. “This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel.” For some He would be a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense. They would reject Jesus and trip over Him on their way to judgment.

For others, He would become the cornerstone, the precious foundation stone. They would believe in Him, and He would be the occasion for their rising.

So we looked at that image of Christ as the stone. Then he uses two other images we want to look at today—Christ as a sign, and then the sword that would pierce through Mary’s heart.

Let’s look first at the sign. “This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed.” Some of your translations may say “a sign that will be spoken against.”

Spoken against. The word opposed translated there means “to be contradicted, to be spoken against.” It’s the picture of a mark to shoot at, a target.

It’s actually a metaphor that’s taken from archery. It’s a target, a mark, and you’re aiming at that mark. One commentator said, “Jesus was to be a mark, a target for all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

He was a sign to be opposed. The one who is the consolation of Israel (as we looked at earlier in this series) will be opposed.

He came to bring comfort. He came to brings blessing. He came to bring salvation. Yet that very Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, will be opposed.

He was opposed and spoken against by the religious leaders, the Pharisees, who took every occasion to show Him up, to expose Him, to make Him look bad, to trip Him up in His words. They were always trying to speak against Him.

He was spoken against at one point by His own brothers and sisters, family members who did not understand who He was or what He had come to do.

Isaiah 53 tells us “He was despised and rejected by men” (verse 3). A sign to be opposed. John 1 tells us “He came to His own [the Jewish people], and His own people did not receive Him" (verse 11). He was a sign to be opposed.

Hebrews 12 says, “Consider him [Christ Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself” (verse 3). Here were sinners speaking against the sinless, blameless Son of God.

He was opposed in His day. He was opposed and spoken against. That’s how He ultimately went to the cross. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” A sign to be opposed.

He is still a sign that is opposed. In this world today, He is still a sign that is spoken against. Isn’t is amazing how tolerant our world has become of all religions, except for the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the only Savior of the world?

You talk about Jesus today, and you’re in a heap of trouble, because He’s a sign opposed. We can celebrate Kwanzaa; we can celebrate all kinds of religious holidays in our schools and in our government; but you talk about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only Savior of the world, and you will be spoken against.

He is a sign who is opposed. He is a sign that is spoken against, and if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can expect also, with Him, to be a sign that is opposed.

Jesus told us that would be the case. He said to His disciples in John 15, “If the world hates you, know that is has hated me before it hated you. If you are of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (verses 18-19).

It’s not because you believe in religion that you’ll be persecuted. Generally, in our world, it’s because you believe in the name of Jesus Christ.

When you lift high the cross of Christ in our world and in our culture, you will become a sign opposed. So what do we do?

Peter said, “Expect it!” And rejoice when it happens. Don’t cower in fear. Don’t hide under a rock. Don’t put your candle under a bushel. Lift high the cross. Lift up the name of Jesus Christ.

Peter says, “Rejoice, in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings.” He was a sign opposed. You are a sign opposed. Rejoice. You are sharing in His sufferings.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed. Think about that. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed. You are blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely in my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (5:10-12).

Now, in verse 35 we have a parenthesis. I want to skip that for just a moment. I’ll come back to it in a second, but look at the last phrase of verse 35: “so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

He’s a sign opposed so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. That word thoughts has to do with reasonings—what people are thinking, what’s going on in their minds—that they may be revealed. That word is “uncovered, unveiled.”

What we do with Jesus, what we believe about Him, how we respond to Him exposes our secret thoughts and our true heart. The way people respond to the name of Jesus, the way people respond to the truth of the gospel exposes what is really in their hearts.

And let me say, there is no middle ground. People are either for Jesus, or they’re against Jesus. They either fall on Him, or they rise on Him. They believe in Him, or they reject Him.

The people who receive Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord of this world reveal that they have a humble heart. That reveals their heart. The people who reject Jesus reveal that they have a haughty heart, and that is true even for people who outwardly may seem like “good, religious people.”

There are good religious people today—people who do good deeds, people who give away money, people who are nice neighbors—but they reject Jesus, and it reveals that they have a haughty, arrogant, proud heart.

Those who do not receive Christ as the Savior and Lord of their life are, in fact, rejecting Jesus. The thoughts of their hearts—the real thoughts of their hearts—are being exposed by what they do with Christ.

Now, let’s go back to that parenthesis in verse 35. Simeon looks at Mary. He’s told her that her Son will be an occasion for the fall and rising of many. He will be a sign that will be opposed.

Then he says in parentheses here, “And a sword will pierce through your own soul, Mary, as well.”

“A sword will pierce through your own soul, also.” That word pierce is in a verb tense that means to continually keep on piercing. This will not be just one time. This will be an ongoing thing in your life: A sword will pierce through your own soul.

The term for sword here speaks of a very large sword, such as the one Goliath used—a very large, broad, double-edged sword. He is saying that as Jesus’ mother, Mary will experience extreme emotional pain. “Being the mother of this child will bring a deep pain and sword to your heart.”

Now, Mary had already suffered to some extent. She’d already suffered misunderstanding and reproach from family and friends when it was found that she with child. People had a hard time believing it was the Holy Spirit who did this, that she had not been intimate with a man.

She was very soon to experience the flight to Egypt to escape Herod. She was to experience the grief over the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod, and she knew that her child, in a sense, had been the occasion for this.

Herod sent his wrath out and destroyed and killed all those little children two years old and under. That was a sword in Mary’s heart, you can be sure. As a mother, when her Son suffered, she would suffer.

Throughout different points of His life, He experienced rejection, misunderstanding, abuse, and ultimately death by crucifixion for crimes of which He was totally innocent. Those of you who are mothers, you know that this was a huge sword in the heart of this mother.

When those nails pierced through His hands and feet at Calvary, a sword pierced through her own soul, as well. This was her Son that she was giving up for the salvation of the world.

Now, this whole issue of the sword of motherhood—not just for Mary, but for mothers in general—goes back to the Fall of man back in Genesis 3. Let me just read a few verses from that passage, and see if they don’t connect in your mind with this concept of a sword piercing through a mother’s soul.

Remember, after the woman chose to eat the fruit, she gave it to her husband. He ate, and then God came to visit the couple in the Garden, along with the serpent. He called a meeting and explained there were going to be consequences for this choice to be independent of God.

“And the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring’” (verse 15).

God is speaking to the serpent, who represents Satan. It’s Satan embodied, actually. He says to the serpent, to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and your followers, those who are unbelievers, and the woman’s offspring.”

Who is the woman’s offspring? Christ, who was a descendent of Eve, and those who are in Christ. He’s saying there will always be this warfare between Satan and unbelievers, and the woman and her seed, which includes Christ and those of us who follow Him.

He, speaking of the woman’s seed—that is Christ, the woman’s offspring—will bruise your head, Satan, and you will bruise His heel. Satan, you will cause Him to suffer. The seed of the woman will experience suffering, but He will deal the fatal wound to your head.

Then He turns to the woman, having described this warfare, this adversarial relationship between the woman’s offspring and Satan and his offspring. He says to the woman, right in the same context, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing. In pain you shall bring forth children” (verse 16).

You see, the Fall brings with it this whole sense of conflict, of warfare, of a sword, of division. He says to the woman, “There will be pain involved.”

Now, He’s talking about literal childbearing here. Anyone who has ever had a child knows this verse is true. But moms, am I right that the pain doesn’t end after you go through childbirth—that there’s pain associated with motherhood all through life?

Sometimes it’s sweet pain. Sometimes it’s more difficult pain. It depends on what causes it, but in the raising of children, there is pain involved. There’s no pain like what a mother goes through when she sees her child suffer, whether even when the suffering is just the consequences of living in a fallen world.

You get that three-year-old with a 103 degree temperature that has a raging fever, and you’re saying, “It’s a pain for a mother’s heart.”

You see your child have to go through physical suffering that’s caused ultimately by sin in this world. That’s a pain, a suffering, a sword in a mother’s heart.

Sometimes it’s the consequences of their own sinful choices, and that creates a sword, a broad, hard, big sword that cuts through a mother’s heart.

I referenced earlier in this series a friend whose adult child is making some very wrong choices. My friend called me last week, and at one point she was sobbing so hard she could hardly talk.

This mother’s heart is broken by what is going on in her young adult child’s life right now. We were talking about this passage, about mothers experiencing a sword going through their own soul, and she said to me, “Sometimes I feel in this circumstance as if a physical sword were going through my heart.”

There isn’t a physical sword going through her heart, but there is a sword, a pain, going through her heart as a mother. The pain that sin brings to your children is indescribably deep, whether it’s their sin or the sin of others or the sin of this fallen world in general that just makes it a corrupt and fallen world.

And there are times when there’s nothing a mother can do. You can’t stop the pain in your child’s life. You can’t prevent it. You can’t help, and you don’t want to see your child go through that pain.

Now, while every mother experiences that kind of pain to greater or lesser extents, in Mary’s case it was not her Son’s sin that would bring her pain. It was the sin of others. In fact, as Mary stood at that cross about 33 years after this event with Simeon—after he had told her, “A sword will pierce through your own soul,” and then she stood at that cross on Calvary—a sword pierced her soul again.

The sword was knowing that it was not just the Roman soldiers and the Jewish religious leaders who were responsible for the crucifixion of her Son. Surely, they were culpable. But don’t you think there was another sword that pierced her soul as she realized it was her sin that put Him there? Not just the sin of others, but her sin.

Doesn’t a sword pierce through our soul as we stand before the cross and we realize, “Lord Jesus, You did that for me; it was my sin that put You on that cross”?

So this sword is not just experienced by mothers in relation to their children, not just by Mary in relation to her Son. It’s also a pain that anyone who identifies with Jesus will experience as the world rejects Jesus and His message.

The apostle Paul, thinking about his fellow Jews who refused to believe in Christ, says in Romans 9, “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (verses 1-2). It’s a sword piercing his soul.

He was a lover of Christ. He says in Philippians 3, “For many, of whom I’ve told you often and now tell you even with tears, many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (verse 18).

Paul says, “It breaks my heart. It’s a sword that goes through my soul. I love Christ. I love His cross, and I see people who are enemies of the cross of Christ; even though some of them profess to be friends of Christ, they are actually His enemies. It breaks my heart.”

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2, “I spoke to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love I have for you” (verse 4).

Paul cared for these believers, yet they were in the middle of living in this carnal, backslidden world. Christians, or professing Christians, they were tolerating sin in the body, and Paul was heartbroken.

You cannot be a follower of Christ who loves and cares for His children—whether they are your natural children or those you care for in His body— you can’t be a follower of Christ and love others without experiencing at times pain and heartbreak, a sword that goes through your own soul.

But here’s the word of hope in all of this: Christ let that sword go through His soul so we could have grace for the sword to go through our soul. When the sword goes through our soul, whether as a mother or just as a follower of Christ, we are sharing in the suffering of Christ.

  • Christ suffered on the cross to make payment for your child’s sin.
  • He suffered to make payment for those who are rejecting Christ and His cross.
  • He suffered to make provision of the grace that you need to endure that sword when it pierces through your own soul.

As great as your suffering may be at moments for your own children or when you see people rejecting the gospel and the name of Jesus Christ, as great as your suffering may be at those moments, remember that His suffering on the cross was greater than your suffering.

Jesus has paid it all. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him so that you could have not only forgiveness for your sin, but grace to endure the consequences that sin brings into the lives of others.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving you a lot of reasons to endure. If this Christmas season finds you grieving or struggling through a difficult issue, I hope you’ll pray with her when she prays in just a minute.

Today’s message can be an honest, encouraging part of your Christmas tradition when you order it as part of a series called The King’s Dedication. Why not order the CD or MP3 CD, keep it with your Christmas music, and review it every year?

Or maybe you know someone struggling this Christmas, and today’s message would encourage them. Order this series on CD by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com or calling 800-569-5959.

We live in a culture that doesn’t esteem old age, but the Bible gives a picture of what it means to live a full life as a mature, godly woman. We’ll get a picture of a beautiful saint of God tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Now let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: Lord, this day, we thank You that You were willing to be a sign spoken against. You were willing to endure without retaliating, without defending Yourself, but quietly, without a word. As a lamb that is led to the slaughter is silent, so You opened not Your mouth.

You were willing to let a sword pierce your soul so that when we become a sign opposed, when we become the recipient of that sword, when it pierces our own soul, O Lord, there is grace as we lift our eyes up to the cross and we say, “You have suffered. You have endured, and yet You have been raised in newness of life, and You will raise us to newness of life as well.”

Thank You, Lord, that there is grace for the suffering and that there is a joy and a glory and a resurrected life beyond the cross that is indescribable and that far surpasses whatever pain we may experience, whether it’s mothers or disciples of Christ, as we see others reject You.

O Lord, give us Your perspective on all of this, and help us to endure. We give You thanks for all that lies beyond the cross and the grace to endure the sword as it pierces our own soul. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.