May 29 2022 The Importance of the Ascension and What should be the Christian Response to Evil?
29th May 2022
Lord, You gave Your life for us. We pray for those families of those who lost their lives in Uvalde, Texas this week. Give grace at this time. Our nation must mourn through this. I pray that we would respond as witnesses to this world, as You, Jesus, would want us to respond.
Acts 1: 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.
Thursday was Ascension Day. It is not something that is emphasized in most churches like ours. I think that is because we don’t fully realize the significance of the ascension. The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus are linked together “as one continuous movement” – and the ascension is core to the gospel. In order for Jesus to reign as Lord of all, He had to ascend to heaven.
With weeks like this – sometimes it doesn’t seem like He is reigning – it is hard to see.
11 They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."
Jesus needed to ascend in order to return! It is critical for the history of salvation for Jesus to ascend to the throne. The Ascension goes back even into the Old Testament. Understanding the importance of the ascension is crucial for our faith and discipleship. It is a must.
We first read about it in Daniel chapter 7
Daniel is having visions – these beasts coming out of the sea and wreaking havoc upon the earth – and in the midst of this vision –
Daniel 7:13 "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion.
These beasts are the kingdoms of the world and the spiritual forces behind those kingdoms – and in the midst of this, this Son of Man (a term Jesus used to describe Himself ALMOST ALL OF THE TIME!)
He is talking about this – referring back to Daniel.
When He stood before the high priest – “Are You the Christ – the Messiah” – You said it! But from now on you will see the Son of Man rising on a crowd to the throne. They knew exactly what He was saying! Blasphemy! And they worked to get Him killed.
Paul talks about the ascension in Eph 1:19 – He is praying that the Christians in Ephesus would understand their blessings and the power of God working inside of them:
Ephesians 1: These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
Without the ascension, we are not transformed people.
Here, Paul and Daniel agree (or Paul is simply stealing from Daniel 😊)
21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
14 "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion (Dan. 7:14)
He is talking about the beasts in Daniel 7 – the kingdoms and authorities – and this spiritual battle.
Christ is reigning over the authorities of evil. But it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.
In Genesis 1-11, God worked through all of humanity – that was God’s focus.
In Gen. 6, he destroys all of humanity except 1 family. Then He works with all those people through Genesis 11 – and the Tower of Babel – and God is done – He scatters them and gives them their own languages and turns them over to the forces of this world.
Deuteronomy 32: When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
according to the number of the sons of Israel.[b]
9 For the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.
He separated them and left them to their selves.
Then in Gen. 12 – God chooses His nation – Abraham and Sarah – Israel – which was supposed to be a blessing to the world.
And then we get into Acts – And John Ference will talk about this next week – and we see a reversal – God moves through the church from Jerusalem and all Judea and even the uttermost part of the earth.
God chose to give them over.
That is what the ascension is all about. Jesus taking His rightful place.
How does all of this work in the real world.
We look at the last couple months – it seems like evil is in control – The War in Ukraine, the racist mass murder in Buffalo, reports of sexual abuse in churches, and the school in Texas. How does this keep happening?
Jesus reigns. But the Bible indicates that that reign is not fully realized yet. SO, what do we do?
Last week, we talked about how Jesus talked about the things concerning the things of God. Spiritual battle, to be His witnesses – and when situations like this come up, we need to be His witnesses in these situations. That does not mean that we go into these situations and witness. What does it look like in the real world to be His witnesses?
13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You – the Christians – the Church – are the salt of the earth.
Because the Church is made up of individuals, it relates to us – but we have to ask, Has the church lost its saltiness? I would say it is a mixed bag. Not in every scenario – there are all kinds of Christians and churches making a real difference in our world. Most are doing it quietly. Watching the news – you can see groups of people praying together. And you will hear of churches and Christians really engaging and making a difference.
ON the other hand – there are people who have somehow become the spokesmen for the church – probably self-appointed – as spokesmen for the biblical position on everything. And those are not so salty. Those have lost their saltiness.
I used to think – well this is the Biblical position on that – I was the spokesman of Biblical position. And looking back – I would say I was wrong on that biblical understanding. And I changed on that position too – and some would say I’ve changed because I’ve given up. I see what the Word says more clearly and I won’t stick with the position I had before.
Maybe it is saying something different from what I thought – maybe it means something different – and we need to be willing to let it mean something different if it does.
The unwillingness to at least challenge it holds significant problems.
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
You (plural) – and the church – is the light of the world. There are two ways we hide it – first – when we are afraid to tell others about Christ – that is a minor way. The major way – by our words, rhetoric, behavior, and activity – that is the BOWL when we are not doing the works of Jesus – we put a bowl on top of the light and it just puts it out.
Salt and Light – the context of the Sermon on the Mount. How do you be Salt and Light? Doing the acts of the Sermon on the Mount.
In the context of these horrific acts – our response should be the same for all of us – no matter what your personal position is on the issue. We can all have different opinions on issues, but the biblical response should be the same.
Race relations – we can disagree on the political decisions that will be resolve racial issues in this country – but still have the exact same biblical response to them – and that biblical response is to live out the characteristics of God’s Kingdom on Earth.
Looking at the Beatitudes – these are the characteristics – blessed are those who mourn. We must grieve. We must grieve what is taking place in this world. Our first priority is to grieve, not to state our position on things. We need to refrain – silence – and grieve with those who are grieving. There is no answer we can give.
There is a woman whose child died at Sandy Hook – this could take a long time – we don’t have anything to say to resolve anything – but we can grieve.
Grieving recognizes the evil – and repents on our part of anything that needs to be repented of. We could say – I have nothing to repent of – but we live in a society where violence is glorified – be it movies or video games – and we need to ask ourselves – are we a part of that? Are we part of the glorification of violence? Christians need to denounce the glorification of violence in our society just as much as they denounce sexual sin in our society. We just don’t hear it. I don’t know that we should be loud – we should be peacemakers, but when compelled to denounce, we must.
The problem – Israel – you don’t know the things that make for peace, Jerusalem.
The next beatitude – blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. We have turned that large word into a small one. A righteous person does what is right – but what is right? Driving the speed limit is right – how are you doing on that? But it is much larger than that. It is about right relationships – doing what is right in order to have right relationships.
Righteousness is connected with Justice – 50 times. The righteous person DOES justice. This is throughout the Bible – Justice is a controversial word in Christian spheres and it makes no sense!
Retributive justice – punish for crime – and restorative justice – Tim Mackey says – 9 out of ten times – it speaks of restorative justice.
Tim Keller wrote a good book on restorative justice – protection of the weak, vulnerable, and poor throughout the Bible.
That is the primary focus of the word justice.
Micah 6:He has shown you, O man, what is good – and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly – do justice –
That is what the Lord requires of us
To love mercy
To walk humbly with your God.
Justice and mercy are tied together.
Jesus does this – the Pharisees believe they are righteous – 50 times it puts righteous and justice together – a righteous person does justice – and to the Pharisees – you tithe mint, dill, and cumin – but you have neglected justice and mercy! Have we neglected justice and mercy?
What is the next beatitude? Blessed are the merciful! That is not a coincidence or accident – He wants us to understand the importance of these 2 characteristics
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit. It is not the person who thinks they are a lousy person. The focus on the meaning is humility and dependence and need of God.
Jesus puts all of Micah 6:8 right in the beatitudes. When you live in the kingdom – that is what it looks like. I don’t have any practical solutions – but as Christians, we can think this way and then act this way.