A worship service for Sunday May 17, 2020
Sunday before the Ascension Day which is on Thursday May 21
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
Thank You Lord, Don Moen
I come before You today And there’s just one thing that I want to say
Thank You Lord Thank You Lord
For all You’ve given to me For all the blessings I cannot see
Thank You Lord Thank You Lord
With a grateful heart With a song of praise With an outstretched arm
I will bless Your name Thank You Lord
For all You’ve done in my life You took my darkness and gave me Your light
Thank You Lord Thank You Lord
You took my sin and my shame You took my sickness and healed all my pain
Thank You Lord Thank You Lord
As we journey through the year, we come to seasons and days in the church year where we remember events in the life of Jesus. And by remembering and commemorating or celebrating these events each year we are shaped by the story – we are shaped by the lessons and the truth that is expressed in the observing of these sacred dates. Just as ancient Israel was shaped by remembering and celebrating the festivals of the year …. And just as family relationships are built and strengthened by gathering for thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries, so a local body of Christ is molded and shaped into the people of God.
We are now in the 50 days season of Easter and this week is the commemoration of The Ascension. After God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus met with the disciples over a period of 40 days. This was a transition period before he ascended to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand and who even now is praying, interceding, for his people.
Luke wrote the book of Acts where he picks up the story that he began in the book that bears his name. The book of Acts is understood as the actions of the Holy Spirit. Luke is reporting not on the actions of the disciples but the actions of the Holy Spirit who lives in normal human beings. Acts 1 reports an important transition period – the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the passing on of the ministry to the disciples.
Jesus Taken Up into Heaven
1 In my former book [of Luke], Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:6 Are you going to restore Israel? In essence they were asking if he was going to get rid of the brutal Roman occupation.
Back to Normal? No!!!!
Why go back to normal? God is doing a new thing.
Humans want to get back to their comfort zone. Back to normal.
Are we done with this pain, this sickness, this virus, this economic downturn, this period in history?
The ancient Israelite travelers thought going back to Egyptian normal would be better than the wilderness.
Songwriter Keith Green many years ago sang about their desire to go back: So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt.
So you wanna go back to Egypt
Where it’s warm and secure
Are sorry you bought the one way ticket
When you thought you were sure
You wanted to live in the land of promise
But now it’s getting so hard
Are you sorry you’re out here in the desert
Instead of your own back yard
Well there’s nothing do but travel
And we sure travel a lot
‘Cause it’s hard to keep your feet from moving
When the sand gets so hot
And in the morning it’s manna hotcakes
We snack on manna all day
And we sure had a winner last night for dinner
Flaming manna souffle
Just as God did not lead Israel back to their old normal, he is preparing the believer for what is coming. We are not to base our security on false comforts of this world. Author John Stonestreet writes, “Despite what so many emails in our Inbox claim, whether from the bank or our favorite bakery, these are not really “unprecedented times.” Disruptive? Of course. Difficult? Indeed, especially for some. Unprecedented? For followers of Christ? No. While the world has indeed been turned upside down by COVID-19, a look back on human history reminds us that times of trouble in this fallen world are not the exception; they’re the norm. In every era, followers of Jesus Christ have embodied hope during other storms. How will we join this long witness today? The [Church] remains committed to carrying on the work of equipping Christians in this cultural moment, global pandemic or not…we’re not only positioned to survive this storm, but to thrive in the midst of it … Because now is the time for believers to think and live from a distinctly Christian worldview. ”
A distinctly Christian worldview of perseverance is articulated in the song: Higher Ground
1. I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand, By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
2. My heart has no desire to stay Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound, My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
3. I want to live above the world, Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound, The song of saints on higher ground.
4. I want to scale the utmost height And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heaven I’ve found, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Jesus’ last act on earth is only reported in Acts 1 where He ascends to heaven. On the surface it seems that Jesus that Christ leaves the earth and the disciples will have less access to him than before. But we miss a powerful truth if we think that is the case. His ascension does not mean we will have less of Jesus but rather – we will have more of Jesus.
When Mary saw Jesus on the first day of his resurrection, she threw her arms around the feet of Jesus – not wanting to let him go. She had lost him once and she did not want to lose him again. He told her, do not hold on to me I have not yet returned to the Father. Some think that the statement meant he was not to be touched but later he invited Thomas to touch him. So in effect he was telling Mary – if you let me go and ascend to the Father you will have an even stronger relationship with me – I will be with you forever.
Jesus told them that when he ascends, his presence will come to them through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a force but the third person of God. When Jesus ascends, he will send the Comforter, Counselor. The disciples did not and could not truly and fully know Jesus until he went away bodily and returned to them through the Spirit. Through the Spirit he manifests himself fully to them.
We might think that if we had only lived and walked with Jesus on earth, we would know him better than we do now. But we would be wrong. Before Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit had not yet been fully released on the earth – had not been revealed. We can only truly know Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit we can know Jesus better than the disciples did on the night of the last supper. The job of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to us – that we might know him fully. And we can now know him through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit we begin to grasp and to know how long and wide and high and deep is the love of God for us. Paul explains, Eph 3:16-21
out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. That you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. NIV
Are you living like this is true? – – like Jesus is more accessible now to you than when he walked bodily on the earth? He left heaven and all of its glory for you to live a physical life on earth. He experienced incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension in order to make possible the sending of the best gift – the incredible inexhaustible gift of the Holy Spirit – God himself living in us.
We recite in The Apostles creed: He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, on the third day he rose again but that he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
The ascension reminds us that Christianity is not only an historical faith, but a faith of the present and future. Jesus is, right now, in glorified humanity on the throne of the universe, wielding as the God-man “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He is not just our suffering servant who came and died and rose triumphant, but our actively ruling, actively conquering king.
Pastorwrites, that Jesus in the True King of the World.
Despite the ignorance and negligence and animosity there is toward him in the world today, he already sits enthroned and is, in his perfect timing and sovereign sway, bringing all his enemies under his feet. When you went to bed last night Jesus was at work subduing his enemies. While you slept, he was continuing to rule over the world. He was still at it when you woke up this morning and even now as you read this. That is the outrageous claim of the ascension. It is outrageous because his rule is not recognized in his world. Open a newspaper and it is not full of how Jesus is reigning. Instead it is full of conflict and crime. Yet the story of the ascension is the story of the enthronement of Jesus as the king of the world.
It’s Jesus’s ascension into the presence of God that gets all that he accomplished “down here” to count for us “up there” with God. Without Jesus’s ascension, there would be no true access to God, no full measure of the Spirit, and no great salvation. The ascension is a link in the chain of salvation as essential as Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. And the ascension has something powerful to say about humanity and the human body: The ascension is the story of a body moving to heaven. It is not escape from the bodily realm, but the entry of humanity — in all our physical-ness — into heaven, the sphere of God. Far from diminishing the importance of the body, the ascension is the ultimate affirmation of bodily existence. The Son of God himself has a body — not as an historical convenience, but as a permanent presence in heaven.
Rom 8:34 tells us: “Christ Jesus …is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Hebrews 7:24-25 tells us: “because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
Jesus did not go to heaven after His earthly ministry and “take a break”. He is a living, exalted, and triumphant Redeemer, raised to life and interceding on our behalf before the throne. Jesus is still very active on our behalf in heaven.
After Jesus ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 1:9; Colossians 3:1), He returned to the glory He had before His incarnation (John 17:5) to carry on His role of King of kings and Lord of lords—His eternal role as the second Person of the triune God. While this old earth continues to be “won” for Christ, Jesus is the Advocate for Christians, meaning He is our great Defender. This is the intercessory role He currently fulfills for those who are His (1 John 2:1). Jesus is always pleading our case before the Father, like a defense lawyer on our behalf.
Jesus is interceding for us while Satan (whose name means “accuser”) is accusing us, pointing out our sins and frailties before God, just as he did with Job (Job 1:6-12). But the accusations fall upon deaf ears in heaven, because Jesus’ work on the cross paid our sin debt in full; therefore, God always sees in His children the perfect righteousness of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, His righteousness (perfect holiness) was imputed to us, while our sin was imputed to Him at His death. This is the great exchange Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:21. That took away forever our sinful state before God, so God can accept us as blameless before Him.
Also, it is important to understand that Jesus is the only human mediator between God and man. No one else—not Mary, not any previous Christian saints—has the power to intercede for us before the throne of the Almighty. No angel has that position. Christ alone is the God-man, and He mediates and intercedes between God and man. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
To sum up: Though often overlooked, the ascension completes Jesus’s earthly mission and signifies his enthronement as heavenly king. Jesus has completed his Father’s mission and he now rules with all authority and intercedes with all sympathy as our mediator and high priest.
- Jesus is presently reigning as king and remains active and engaged in our world and our lives.
- Sufferers, take heart that Jesus is not indifferent to your struggle. He has endured great suffering and is thus the most merciful and sympathetic counselor and mediator. Take your cares to your ascended Lord who hears your prayers and can respond with all heaven’s authority.
- Finally hope in a glorious future. The ascended Lord will return as judge and king. He will abolish injustice, end suffering, and destroy death and set up his kingdom of truth, righteousness and love. Best of all, we will be with our king forever.
On that Ascension Day, Jesus told the disciples that they would not be returning to the old normal. The old way of ordering life on earth had changed. The resurrection was a break from the old and the new had come. While some vestiges of the old remained – the Pharisees and Roman rule was still in place for a while – there had been a dramatic sift. Jesus now sits enthroned as king and is governing the world. Therefore:
- God sees you through the eyes of our intercessor – not through the lies of the accuser; not your faults or sin.
- So also, you can look at your fellow believer through the lens of Jesus – not the old lies of our sin and faults.
- Whatever happens on earth and in your life is in Gods allowable plan …. So you can live in hope. The hard times and the tragedies we encounter are passing away. God is even using them for our good.
So it is not back to normal. God was doing a new thing and he is still doing a new thing in our lives.
This has been a difficult week for me. I felt discouraged disheartened downcast. This message today enables me to lift my head again and to take heart. Christ Jesus is king.
King of My life
King of my life, I crown Thee now Thine shall the glory be
Lest I forget Thy thorn-crowned brow Lead me to Calvary
Lest I forget Gethsemane Lest I forget Thine agony
Lest I forget Thy love for me Lead me to Calvary
May I be willing, Lord, to bear Daily my cross for Thee
Even Thy cup of grief to share Thou hast borne all for me
Thank you, Lord, for this reminder that you are the king governing my life. Today I will once again place my trust in you and act in accordance with this truth that you are for me and since you are for me, I need not be in despair about the transitions and the challenges or attacks and disruptions to my normal. I need not fear the changes that come and the new challenges to my life. I once again open my heart and crown you as king.
Thank you, Carol, for these other songs about Jesus as king:
Crown Him with Many Crowns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imJ46zeluE8
Rejoice, The Lord is King https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgS8sCyhKnQ
The Lion and the Lamb https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xeLgkpcpM0