May 21, 2009

Ascension Day Sermon Bites - May 21, 2009

Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

"Ascension Means His Authority Given"

Never before had He set aside His glory, power and authority. God the Son humbled Himself when He became like you and me, so as a human being He could save the human race.

After Jesus had lived His sinless life and died a His willing death in the sinner’s place, God the Father restored Him to life. And when He did so, God also restored His glory, power and authority.

Before Jesus ascended, He told His disciples “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. And then Jesus gave that authority to them.

Jesus’ disciples went out to preach, backed God’s credentials. His authority. They were not making disciples for themselves, but for Jesus. They were not Baptizing people into the faith of Peter or John, but into the faith of the Triune God. They did not go out to teach their own ideas about God, but the truths they had been taught by God’s Son.

All authority has been restored to God’s Son, and His followers wield that supreme authority when they make disciples, baptize and teach according to what Jesus said.

If we too are followers of Jesus this assignment and authority is ours as well. Jesus commands us also, to make disciples. To Baptize. To teach His commands, using both our words and our lives to do so.

Jesus told His disciples then, “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. Jesus tells His disciples now, “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

Christianity is not YOUR faith, it is HIS faith. Don’t associate your own insecurities and limitations with it. Christianity is Christ’s. And as such it carries HIS glory, HIS power and HIS authority wherever it is proclaimed by HIS people.

Mark 16:19-20 (NIV)

19After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

"Ascension Means His Power is at Work"

There are some Christians who believe that since Jesus is “seated at the right hand of God”, that mean He is trapped there until the Last Day. Therefore, they claim, His body and blood cannot actually be present in the Lord’s Supper.

When the Bible says that Jesus “sat at the right hand of God” it’s not pointing us to how we aught to picture His physical location, but to how we aught to estimate the honor due to Him. In other words; Jesus sits on the same level as God the Father.

Far from being trapped at the Father’s side, when Jesus ascended to the right hand of God it was like He was entering the control room of the universe to coordinate and direct the growth of God’s Church.

As the disciples went out into the world to preach the Good News of sins forgiven because of Him, the Bible says, that the Lord “worked WITH THEM”.

Yes, the same Son of God who at the beginning created all things at the side of His Father, now continues His creating at the side of His Father. But now He is not crafting stars and animals and people. Now He is crafting faith in the hearts of sinners as they hear the message of His life.

In our own hearts God’s Son has created faith where there was none before, by the miracle of His Message preached, heard and believed. As we continue to trust in Jesus, we can expect miracles to flow into our lives.

I can’t speak in tongues, but I’ve seen hope amid poverty. I can’t part the Red Sea, but I’ve seen joy amid great pain. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I know what the Last Day will be like. I’ve never found a Cheetoh that looks like Jesus, but last Sunday God’s Son came to me in bread and wine, and assured me that my sins are forgiven.

Jesus’ power is at work my friends, and we are connected to that power. Let us expect great things as we continue communicating with our heavenly coordinator.

Luke 24:50-53 (NASB)

50And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53and were continually in the temple praising God.

"Drawn Together In Christian Unity"

Jesus was not the first man who claimed to be God’s Messiah, nor was He the last. Many came, claiming to be Israel’s savior and gathered people as their disciples. At first their following would grow. But when Rome rooted out the leader and killed him, their following would disperse.

Jesus was different. He didn’t leave His followers through death. He certainly died on the cross, but three days later He rose from the dead. When He finally departed from His followers, He did it in obvious, living glory by miraculously rising up into the sky. Instead of dispersing His disciples, this served to focused His followers on Him.

And as if they were actually tied to Christ, when He went up, they were drawn closer to each other, in true unity.

Now most Christian churches recognize that Jesus wants His people unified. But many settle for false unity. As if gathering under a banner could make you part of the same high school class, or wearing the same T-shirt could make you a team.

True Christian unity is unity of mind, mouth and judgment. True Christian unity is found where Christians teach Christ’s teachings, as HE taught them.

The first Christians found that their unity in Christ was like being in a bouquet of flowers. They could see the beauty and smell the opening life when they were among fellow believers. Together they found great joy in Christ and were continually drawn to God’s house to praise Him.

We later Christians can have the same joy. Though the Church of Christ has been divided by false teaching, we still find unity among our fellowship. True unity that clings to Christ’s Word for the answers to all disputes, not to our own thoughts and logic.

Among our fellowship we find gentle correction to help align our own lives with Christ’s will. The Holy Spirit moves among us, helping us to resolve our differences on the basis of God’s Word instead of sticking our heads in the sand, and ignoring our problems. Through His Word Christ encourages us to compromise where we can, and to continually apply Christ’s forgiveness to one another.

In all these things, we come to understand that Christ never really left His people, He only left their sight.

Acts 1:1-11 (NKJV)

1The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3to 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.
4And 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; 5for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8But 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.”
9Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11who 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.”

"A Preview of His Return"

The angels said, “This same Jesus” would be returning someday. So much is wrapped up in those three words, “This same Jesus”.

This same Jesus that we learned about in our childhood Bible storybooks, we will see with our own eyes.

This same Jesus. Risen and living. The forgiver of sinners. The tender shepherd of His people. The Perfect teacher of foolish followers. The loving brother. The powerful King. The Sinless lamb. The Son of God.

This same Jesus who was laid to rest in that cattle trough. Who taught in the temple as a boy. Who sat in Peter’s fishing boat preaching as a man. Who overturned the money changers tables. Who converted prostitutes and thieving tax collectors from sin to faith. Who wept and then raised Lazarus from the dead.

This same Jesus who wore the thorns. Who took the nails. Who cried, “It is finished”. Who was laid in a cold tomb.

This same Jesus who greeted Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, alive. Who opened the eyes of the Emmaus disciples to see His life in the Old Testament. Who startled the doubtful disciples in the upper room.

This same Jesus who we have read about 2000 years later.

This same Jesus who promises “…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

THIS SAME JESUS will descend through the earth’s atmosphere, through the clouds like they are His chariots, down from the blue accompanied not a mere two angels but with ALL OF THEM, to a much larger receiving crowd than the one that saw Him go.

We pray to, trust in, and long for THIS SAME JESUS.

If you were to read past our text, it says that after Jesus ascended His disciples went back to Jerusalem. They continued in prayer and worship. If you read a little further into Acts you’ll find an actual record of how many of them gathered together there. 120 (Acts 1:15). That’s about the same size as our church. 120 souls.

We have the same number of people that the first Christian church had.

We depend on the same Jesus they depended on.

And we have the same blessing from Him that they had. For to us also He says,

“Go my forgiven children. Live. Love. Spread my Good News. Teach. Rebuke. Exhort. Correct. Be my disciples indeed. I’ll be with You, and I’ll be back soon.”

When we think if Christ’s ascension, let’s think about how He has given us His authority, so that we might do His work. And His power is working with us to accomplish the saving of souls. As we join our voices and lives together let us continue to look to Christ by faith, and to His Word for growth in Him.

And when we think of Christ’s ascension, let’s remember it is also a preview of His return. And so we pray... …Come to us Lord Jesus. Come soon. Amen.

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