|Create Date||May 14, 2018|
|Last Updated||May 14, 2018|
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Redhill. 13 May 2018. Presented by Gordon Green
Ascension day is the most overlooked day in the church calendar. Today is Ascension Sunday which celebrates the ascension of Jesus. It’s a forgotten doctrine but a vital part of the gospel. It is perhaps the most astonishing event we find in the bible. It should be right up there with the “big ones” – Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
What is Ascension Day? Why is it so important and what does it have to do with us today?
It is not about Jesus leaving. How could he leave us? He said “Behold I am with you always” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” One way of describing the ascension of Jesus is to say it is about the promotion of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God. He now has all authority in heaven and earth - over all things (Phil 2:9; Eph 4:10). Acts begins with the story of the ascension. Most churches today give the ascension little attention. Perhaps it’s an attempt to avoid what we think is a goodbye story. But the ascension is not a goodbye story. When Jesus ascended to the Father he wasn’t leaving us on earth as orphans but instead something amazing happened.
Acts 1:1-12. Heaven is not a distant place but a different space – God’s space. It’s another dimension all around us. These verses make two basic points: that Jesus ascended into heaven and he will return. But we can say that’s wonderful but what does it have to do with me now? How does the ascension affect my life today? In Ephesians 2:4-6 Paul adds a perspective not to be missed:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps this is the greatest statement in the Bible about what has actually happened to us! It is all about what God has done. It’s not because we earned it. It is his initiative. We were so dead and helpless to save ourselves. We deserved nothing. It’s not our achievement, nor our reward. “Heavenly realms” is better translated as “heavenlies.” Our physical position is on earth but our spiritual position is in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.
The ascension is a forgotten doctrine – but a pivotal part of the Gospel – perhaps the most astonishing, mystical and supernatural happening we find in the bible. We hear a lot (and rightly so) about the fact that we have died and been resurrected with Christ - but the story doesn’t end there. Everything that has happened to Christ has happened to us spiritually. We also have ascended with Christ and we do now sit in the heavenly realms. That is where our Triune God is! We share in His life.
Eph 2:6 is in the past tense. It is not a future prophecy nor is it something we have to work for or hope for – it is true right now. It is a fact. All these statements are in the past tense. Deeply soak in what we are being told here because these verses should excite our amazement. Paul is not writing about Christ. He is writing about us. You and me! He is not saying that the Father made Christ alive (quickened him), raised him from the dead and seated Christ next to him. No. But God has quickened us, raised us up and seated us with Christ. This is about the union we have with Christ. “In Christ Jesus” means just that – we are in him, united to him - connected to him like a branch in the vine. The Gospel is not an invitation but a declaration of the truth. We have been given a new relationship with the Father in Jesus Christ See also Col 3:1-4.
We are in the world but we don’t belong here. We are no longer bound by it. Our outlook is not determined by it. The world worships the “unholy trinity” – lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life - pleasure, possessions and prestige.
WE ACTUALLY LIVE IN TWO WORLDS.
We live in two realms—the physical world of everyday reality and the “unseen world” of spiritual reality. We live in the heavenly realm (Eph 2:6) - present tense. We also live in the physical world. We live in two worlds at the same time. We belong to the Kingdom of God. I like the analogy of the water spider. Its home is at the bottom of a pond made of many bubbles of air that is captured between its legs and carried and lodged at the base of reeds in the pond. It lives there in the water while breathing the air of the world above. Although it lives in the water, it is not a creature of the water. We are in the world but not of the world. Paul wrote that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20).
So Jesus ascended back to his Father and he carried with him our humanity. We are seated with him. I don’t understand all of that but be aware of this great mystery. He has done that. We, in a mysterious way, are seated with him in the heavenlies. The ascension of Jesus is even more shocking than the fact that God entered our world as a baby and walked this earth, lived like us for just over 30 years. Perhaps in our wildest dreams we could almost understand God becoming a human for a short while to work out our salvation. But who can understand the ascension of Jesus? The bodily ascension of Jesus. And don’t miss it - this is an ongoing reality. He continues his relationship with us because we are included in the life of the Trinity.
What can we do about this? One thing we can do is cultivate gratitude. Let thankfulness rise up in your heart. Here is a way you can do this by praying:
Christ above me – He has been given authority over all.
Christ below me – He is fully human and fully God. He has a connection with the soil we walk on, the earth, animals, seas just as we all are – all of creation is a gift from God which we are to care for. Be very aware of the blueness of the sky etc – “Thank you God.” Say it over and over.
Christ before me – If something is before you you can see it. There have been times in your life when you could see Jesus working in your life – even though you didn’t always understand it you said only God could do that. You know he’s been working in your life. There have been answered prayers, healings etc.
Christ behind me - If something is behind you you can’t see it. The workings of Christ in our lives is also often unseen. You have to believe he is with you and you hold on in faith. He promised “I am with you always even to end of the age.” You cannot sense, feel him. He is unseen but he is there!
Christ on my right hand - He is in my strength. We all have gifts from God to bless and help others. There are things you are naturally good at. Use them to help others.
Christ at my left - He is also there in your weaknesses. There are things I am not good at. There are many things I have no skills for. Ever tried writing with your left hand? It looks like a child’s writing. That’s when he is there at your left hand. Paul said “When I am weak then I am strong” (2Cor 12:10). This forces us to rely on Jesus. You can say “Lord I am good at this but help me to be Christlike in it but in the many things I am inadequate I must depend on you.”
Christ all around me filling all in all – He fills all things with himself. Everything is saturated with Christ. Ephesians 1:23 “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Christ within me - God’s great goal for us – our destiny – it that Jesus Christ be formed with in us. It’s a process. A lifetime and perhaps beyond. God is at work by his Holy Spirit to achieve this. Paul said “I am in labour till Christ is formed in you.”
If you can walk do so and slowly pray this prayer. Meditate. Say it quietly. “Christ above me….’
Do you see?
God did not just forgive our sins and then leave us on our own to try to be righteous. The good news is we are not left staring into heaven wondering how we are going to make it – how am I going to live? How am I going to have victory over evil? The gospel is that Jesus Christ has done it.
God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. He then raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms. We are no longer who we are alone, but who we are in union with Christ, sharing in all he has accomplished for us, in our place and on our behalf.
In the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus we were taken down and cleansed of all sin. We were refashioned, recreated, born again and we were lifted up in the circle of life shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and there and then included in their life.
Ascension Sunday is a good time to remind ourselves of this life-changing good news!
This is one of the most important days that we can celebrate. It is a very important date in the Christian calendar.