First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ May 17, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
This coming Thursday, May 21st, is the fortieth day after Easter which means it is Ascension Day. I don’t know how liturgical you are, but the Feast of Ascension commemorates the Ascension, the lifting up, of Christ into heaven. As you know, after Jesus rose from the dead, He spent forty days on earth before returning to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father in power and glory.
Generally speaking, in the Reformed theology, greater emphasize has been placed on “the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” thus leaving the Ascension with lesser importance within our minds today. Nevertheless, it is actually the Ascension that completes the plan of salvation; and therefore, for the Church, it is of equal importance.
The Doctrine of Ascension has always been so central to Biblical Christianity. No wonder that the Ascension is mentioned serval times in the New Testament Books, and it is emphasized in the Apostles’ Creed as it clearly states, “He ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”
The Ascension had a profound impact on the disciples. Up to the moment that Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples seemed to be puzzled, trying to figure it all out. But after the ascension, Luke tells us, they worshiped Him. They traveled back to Jerusalem with great joy. They maintained a regular presence in the temple—worshiping God.
Needless to say, the Ascension of Christ was an affirmation that the work of salvation is now complete. Hebrews 10:11-12 remind us that there were no seats, no chairs, in the Holy or the Holy of Holiness, in the Temple, because the priests were not allowed to sit down. They stood to perform their work because their work was never done. Hebrews 10 states, “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Thank God, Jesus is seated in heaven. The work of salvation is done.
While we can look at the Ascension from many different angels, and draw many implications for our lives today, this morning I would like to highlight two ways the Doctrine of Ascension is important to us today. What does the Ascension of Christ mean to us today?
First: We Have a Friend in Heaven
Hebrews 4:14-16 calls Christ a great high priest who has gone into heaven. Because Jesus walked on this earth with us, He knows what we are going through and is able to sympathize with us in our struggles. And because Christ is now in heaven, He can help in all our troubles. When we go to the throne of grace, we don’t have to worry about being turned away because Christ Himself is there to meet us. He has grace to help in the time of need.
We’ve got a Friend in High Places—the Highest Place in the universe. We’ve got a man on the inside who can help us out with all our problems. Think of it this way. When you’re in trouble, you need two things: 1) Someone who cares about your problems, and 2) Someone who can help you out. If your friend cares but isn’t in a position to help you, you’ll get sympathy but no concrete help. If your friend could help you but doesn’t care about your problem, well, that’s like not having a friend at all. What you need is someone who cares and is in a position to make things happen for you. That’s what Jesus is—a Friend in High Places who loves to come to the aid of His people.
Christ, our Friend in heaven, also prays for us. Romans 8:34 tells us that Christ is now at the right hand of God interceding for us. 1 John 2:2 adds another encouraging truth that Christ is our attorney in heaven. He is our advocate who speaks to the Father in our defense. When the devil comes and makes a claim against us, Jesus speaks up on our behalf and pleads His own blood in our defense. The Father looks at the Son, sees His pierced hands, and says, “Case dismissed.” Let me tell you the best part of this truth: Jesus has never lost a case. Even the best lawyers lose now and then. But because Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God the Father, He has never lost a case. This is a very comforting and glorious truth!
Second: The Tug of HeavenBut there is another uplifting implication of Christ’s Ascension that I want to bring to your attention. The Ascension of Christ shows us how we should spend our life—looking up. Paul writes to the Colossians in chapter 3:1-2 saying, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” When we set our hearts and minds on things above, we confess our faith in Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
The story is told of a little boy who went outside on a windy spring day to fly his new kite. As the wind blew, the kite flew higher and higher until it finally disappeared from view in the clouds far above. After a few minutes a bystander asked, “How do you know the kite is still attached to the string?” “I can feel it tugging on the string,” the boy replied. The same is true for us today. Christ is pulling us toward heaven. He is pulling us away from the earth toward our eternal home. We may not see Him with our eyes, but we feel His tug in our hearts. We know where He is and we know that where He is, we will someday be.
Friends, every day Jesus tugs on our hearts, pulling us up toward heaven so that when we finally get there, we won’t feel like strangers. One day soon the Lord will give us one final tug, one final pull, and we’ll end up in heaven forever. Until then, let’s set our hearts and minds on things above.
Friends, the pace and pattern of our life today can be dizzying as the demands of our secular culture pull us in many different directions. When we find ourselves being pulled away from God, one stabilizing resource is found in the Ascension of Christ. Yes, the Doctrine of the Ascension is important. It reminds us that we have a friend in heaven, an advocate who speaks in our defense. It also invites us to set our hearts and minds on things above. Amen.
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