Thursday, September 12, 2013

What's So Important About the Ascension?

Preached at Community Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, September 8, 2013

Acts 1:1-11, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Have you ever wished you could have been there?  I mean, we open up this Book, and we read through its pages about seas and rivers being dried up and split open so that God’s people could walk through on dry land.  About young boys bringing down 9-foot-tall giants with a sling and a stone…  About lepers being healed and multitudes being feed with just a few fish and some bread…  We read those things, we imagine what those people and places and events looked like, and we exclaim, “I wish I could have been there!  I wish I could have seen it, heard it, felt it…” 

The Ascension of Jesus, taking place right before the eyes of Jesus’ friends and apostles, accomplished without the use of hidden ropes or harnesses or cranes.  The Ascension of Jesus, that day when He was received up into the glory cloud of God’s heavenly dwelling place, don’t you wish you could have been there? 

You know as Christians, Bible-believing, gospel-preaching, new covenant believers, we make a lot of the death, the cross, the crucifixion of Jesus, don’t we?  And, we should.  And, we make a lot of the burial and especially the resurrection, and resurrection appearances of Jesus, don’t we?  And, we should!  But, then, at the end of the 40-day period of proving that He is alive, a period of teaching and establishing His followers for the work He intended for them to do, Jesus, all of the sudden, goes away.  And perhaps, if we had been there, we would have looked just as longingly, maybe even just as bewilderedly, as those who were there, asking, ‘Why?’  ‘Why did He have to go back?  Why did He have to leave?’ 

The importance of the Ascension of Jesus.  Have you ever thought about just how important this event really is?  Did you know that, upon His ascension, Jesus returned to glory.  He returned to take up and enjoy the majestic glory He received and experienced in heaven, from eternity past! 

Philippians 2:6 – God the Son, Jesus Christ, the One who, in eternity past, all the way up to the moment He became human flesh, was in the form of God, the One who was EQUAL with God.  Did you know that upon His ascension, Jesus Christ returned to that position of glory status reserved by His Father for Him and Him alone?  Jesus, literally only hours before His death, lifts His eyes to heaven, and prays this prayer:

John 17:1-5, “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

The ascension of Jesus, why is it such an important event?  Because it is at His ascension, upon His being received up into the clouds of heaven, that He is restored to His precious position of glory, at God the Father’s right hand.   The ascension of Jesus has everything to do with the glory or glorification of Jesus by all of heaven’s angels. 

But, then, building on that, or, maybe we should say, going even further with that theme of glory, you and I need to know that the Ascension of Jesus is important, it HAD to take place, because at His ascension – what is one of the titles this Book ascribes to Him? “King” – He is CROWNED as King.  In the words of Paul in Philippians 2:9-11, the ascension of Jesus is not only His exaltation, it is His coronation.  “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave to Him the name that is above EVERY name, that at the name of Jesus – what?  Every knee shall bow – where?  In heave, and on earth, and even under the earth (in that place to which Satan and his wicked minions will be condemned and confined), eternal hell.  In all places, everywhere, because Jesus died, was raised and lifted from earth into heaven, He reigns as King! 

Take a look sometime at the words, the powerful, prophetic words of Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 along these lines.  God the Father, has installed Jesus Christ, His Son - God, the Son – as King and has seated Him at His right hand!  And, as Hebrews 1:1-4 puts it, that’s where Jesus is, right now, today! 

What’s so important about the ascension of Jesus?  To begin with, two very important things have been accomplished, in the past and in heaven, because Jesus Christ has ascended to there.  But, what about the here, where we are, and the now?  The ascension of Jesus, yes, it is His exaltation, and yes, it is His coronation, there, up there, then, back then and continuing even to today.  But, listen, is it also clear to you that it is Jesus’ ascension that opens up the way for Jesus’ gift?  The ascension of Jesus unlocks the door for the giving of Jesus’ gift. 

Now what gift are we talking about here?  Acts 1:4-5, 8 – Jesus’ gift, is not one being given to Him, but it is one given BY Him, first to His apostles and then, one He gives or wants to give to you and me.  That gift is the gift of His Spirit.  That gift is the gift He imparts when a repentant believer in Jesus is immersed into Jesus for the remission of sins.  That gift is a salvation gift, an empowerment gift!  And, listen, without that gift, there would be no church birthed on Pentecost and alive and well, even to today, and without that gift there is and will be no evangelization of the world. 

The ascension of Jesus is important because at His ascension, Jesus, exalted and installed as King, does something no other king, president, or prime minister has done or ever will be able to do.  He gives of Himself, He gives of His Spirit, to all who believe and obey Him!  Are you beginning to see just how important it is that Jesus ascended? 

The glorification of Jesus, that’s why He had to ascend.  The coronation of Jesus, that’s why He had to ascend.  The gift, the outpouring of Jesus’ Spirit, first on His apostles, and then on us, as we hear, believe and obey the gospel, that’s why He had to ascend. 

And, then, one more.  It has so much, so very, very much to do with you and me, here and now.  Why did Jesus’ have to ascend?  What is it about His ascension that makes it such an important event?  Reason number 4: because upon His ascension, God the Son, Jesus Christ, began to minister to His people, to you and me, as our Great High Priest. 

Take note of the following passages of Scripture from the Book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 2:16-18, “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Hebrews 4:14-16, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 7:20-25, “And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek’”),
22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.
23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
The ascension of Jesus, don’t you wish you could have been there?  I know I do.  But, I wasn’t given that opportunity, and neither were you, so, thank God for what we do have, here in this Book, God’s clear and definitive explanation of the meaning of the ascension of Jesus.  Thank God for these passages that teach us what we need to know about the doctrine of Jesus’ ascension.  But, before you close your Bibles, let’s ask ourselves one more critical question: ‘What difference does knowing these things about Jesus’ ascension make in my life today, tomorrow, this week, the rest of my life? 

Let me give you four or five quick spiritual principles rooted in the fact of Jesus’ ascension, and then, we’ll go home.
1.    The ascension, the glorification of Jesus, when does it take place in reference to the cross?  Ever been asked that question?  When is it that Jesus is glorified, before or after His suffering and death?  You know the order of events, don’t you?  It’s the cross, then the crown!  It’s the groaning, then the glory!  It’s the suffering, then the shouting, ‘Hallelujah!’  Beloved, did you know that the same is true and will be true for us?  Romans 8 – I love that chapter, don’t you?
Romans 8:16-18, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

My loved ones, as it was for Christ, so it is for Christians, the order, the flow of events is always, ultimately, the groaning, the pain, the fellowship/sharing of Christ’s suffering, THEN the glory, the gain, the fellowship/sharing of Christ’s exaltation!  Does that discourage you?  Does that distress you?  Don’t be!  Why?  Because of Romans 8:28: God is working out ALL things, bringing all that takes place in our lives - yes, even the pain, the groaning, the suffering for Jesus’ name’s sake – together, working it all together for the GOOD of those who love Him, for those He has called according to His purpose.  No!  Don’t be discouraged, but rejoice!  Romans 8:29, In foreknowing you in Christ, through the gospel, God also predestined you to be conformed to the image of His Son. 

Spiritual principle:

2.    The ascension, the coronation of Jesus, what difference does knowing that fact make in our lives, today?  Listen closely, and rejoice with me.  Because Jesus has been coronated, what does that mean will become of the enemies of God and of the enemies of God’s people?  Philippains 2:9-11 – Remember the passage?  We looked at it earlier.  Rejoice, people of God, rejoice!  Because Jesus has been coronated, the enemies of God, all of them, AND the enemies of God’s people, all of them, everywhere, will ultimately bow the knee to Him, and to them, to us!  Psalm 110:1 – Right now, Jesus, David the psalmist’s Lord, is seated at God the Father’s right hand – why?  Because He awaits the day when God the Father will make all the enemies of Jesus, the Son, His footstool. 

The ascension of Jesus, what difference does it make that Jesus was taken into heaven, and poured out His gift, the gift of His Spirit upon His people?  Take note, my loved ones.  If we are to be the Church God wants us to be, we must remember this!  Spirit principle number three drawn from the meaning of Jesus’ ascension is this:

3.    God has given His people all the power they need to do the work He requires!  Let me say it one more time.  Through the outpouring of His gift, the gift of Jesus’ Spirit, God has given His people ALL the power they need to do His work!  Confidence in the armor of King Saul, leaning on arms like these arms, loved ones, we will fail!  But leaning on the everlasting arms, strengthened by the gift of God, the gift of Christ, we can do ALL things! 

The ascension of Jesus, what difference does it make for you and me, here, today, that Jesus is ascended?  Our Great High Priest, why is He there, at God’s right hand?  Is He there, just to SIT there, twiddling His thumbs, yawning, taking a snooze?  No! 

Spiritual principle number four:

4.    Hebrews 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10, and 1 John 2 – Because Jesus, our great High Priest, IS where He is, guess what?  We, the people of God, have an Advocate, we the people of God, have an Anchor for our souls.  We, the people of God, have Someone, Someone who has been tempted and tested, just like we are, yet without sin.  We have Someone who can come to our AID to help us when WE are tempted and test.  And, so, then what do we have in Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest?  We have assurance!  Full assurance, like no other! 

So, where does that leave us?  Bottom line – Because Jesus Christ has ascended to glory, been exalted to the name above all names position, has poured out His Spirit so that His gospel might be preached and so that lost sinners might be saved – what?  All that has come to pass and is coming to pass – why?  So that we can know Jesus Christ, and so that through Him, we – otherwise, helpless, guilty sinners that we are – can know the God of the universe, not just as Creator, but as Father!   As Abba Father!  And, so that through Jesus Christ, the ascended One, the exalted One, we can see Him and be made like Him! 

The ascension of Jesus, oh, the Joy, the comfort, the help and the hope that is yours and mine, because Jesus is where He is!

No comments: