Jesus’ Ascension Matters

Today is Ascension Sunday, the day the church remembers that 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus went up to the right hand of the Father.

We know something of the importance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If He didn’t rise, He didn’t conquer death, and we are still in our sins. But what is the point of His ascension? Wouldn’t it better for the church if He were still here working miracles and showing His healed hands and feet? It’s here that we generally stop understanding the story.

Paul says in Phil. 2:5-11: “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus descended to earth, became a baby, grew up, learned wisdom, fulfilled the law, condemned the unrighteous, suffered at the hands of sinful men, went into the grave and rose victorious on the third day. But His coronation was not yet complete because He hadn’t come into the throne room of God. As the humanity Jesus had to be received by Father in heaven, and He did so in order reign from heaven.

Jesus did justice and healed people and battled oppression in Israel when He was on earth, but His project is much bigger. In order to bring salvation to all the world, working through it like leaven through the dough, He had to go to Father, be crowned, and begin reigning.

This is why Paul sees the Ascension driving His mission: “9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”. Jesus told the disciples this would be for their good: “7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn. 16:7-9).

The Spirit descended from heaven on Pentecost, but Jesus had to ascend there in order to send Him. This was one of His first decisions as the reigning king. Man went to heaven so that heaven could come to man.

Augustine on Ascension Day:

“This festival confirms the grace of all the festivals together, without which the profitableness of every festival would have perished. For unless the Savior had ascended into heaven, his Nativity would have come to nothing … his Passion would have borne no fruit for us, and his most holy Resurrection would have been useless.”

Jesus ascended and His entire mission was completed and crowned with Him. This is why you are hearing about and seeing it extend across the world. He calls to confess our sins and continue with Him as it spreads.

 

Passing It Down

“When leadership team members avoid discomfort among themselves, they only transfer in far greater quantities to larger groups of people throughout the organization they’re supposed to be serving.”

–Patrick Lencioni

Hatred Via Low Expectations

“As we bring up our children, we should descend to their level in one sense (humility) in order to lead them to our level (maturity). This is not the same as descending to their level (immaturity) in order to lead them to our level (pride). We must be servants to our children; we must not cater to them. One of the central problems with bringing up children in our day is the constant temptation to underestimate their capacities. We teach them profane and irreverent little ditties, not psalms and hymns. We give them moralistic little stories, not biblical doctrine and ethics. We expect them to act as though they have no brains or souls until they have graduated from college. We aim at nothing, and hit it every time.”

–Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises

Thrice Justified

“Every man that is saved is justified three ways: First, meritoriously, by the death of Jesus Christ: “It is the blood of Jesus Christ alone that cleanses us from all sin.” Second, instrumentally, by faith; faith is the means or instrument whereby the merits of Jesus Christ are applied to the sinner’s heart: “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Third, we are justified declaratively; name, by good works.; good works declare and prove to the world that our faith is a true saving faith. “Was not Abraaham jusiefed by works And again, “Show me thy faith by thy works.”

–George Whitefield

Joy in Others

“But few are arrived to such a  degree of charity or love, as to rejoice with those that do rejoice, and to be as thankful for other mercies as their own. This part of Christian perfection, though begun on earth, will be consummated only in heaven, where our hearts will glow with such fervent love toward God and one another, that every fresh degree of glory communicated to our neighbor will also communicate to us a fresh topic of thankfulness and joy.”

–George Whitefield

The Power of the Tongue

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.  –Proverbs 18:21

Everyone carries a vital and a lethal weapon. Words change people. They encourage, inspire, correct, inform and compel. They also humiliate, tear down, hurt and destroy.

Some people are ignorant of the effects of their words. They speak death and then say, “Was it something I said?” The critical spirit is often critical of everything but itself. Part of growing in wisdom is understanding what words accomplish, and taking responsibility for what is said.

Solomon’s application is wonderful. Some might shrink back from the power of words and go mum. But those who love the Word and the way He made the world love this feature. Life is in the power of the tongue, which means we have the power to give life, and to put to death evil and accusatory words. Those who love it will eat it fruits. They will give life and taste that same life as they do so.

 

 

Christian Nurture by Horace Bushnell

20816513I read this on Kindle and enjoyed it so much I ordered one with poundage.

This book was so good because Bushnell takes the opposite tack to the vast majority of Christian parenting books. Rather than highlight all the hardships, heavy lifting, uncertainties, and qualifications that make parents feel like raising their kids to love God and walk with him is an exploding minefield, Bushnell takes the Bible’s promises, lobs them up off the glass, catches and slams them home. It’s fun to watch.

The book could be summarized as “I will be your God, and you will be my people” applied to the family. Like he did with Abraham, God calls men and women and their households into covenant with him. Bushnell is not sentimental about kids or about how hard parenting can be, so he avoids presumption. The only way kids follow the Lord is by faith, but faith works by love in raising them. He addresses baptism and church membership, the problem of denying children the Lord’s Supper, Christian education, holidays, hypocrisy, the Sabbath (“a day of humanity”), family prayer and all sort of possible objections.

In such a thorough and serious book, one of the best thing is the impression Bushnell gives of the light, joyful, and gracious environment of the Christian home. You wouldn’t know it by looking at picture to your upper left, but if he put into practice what he wrote, this is a happy man whose house you’d be glad to visit. Christians who are serious about discipleship often create a laborious and fussy atmosphere–let’s make the kids memorize the Catechism all day on Sunday! Bushnell reveals this for what it is: disobedient and counterproductive.

The only regret about this book is that it’s 300 pages long with 130-year-old 19th century prose. That will scare many off who would benefit enormously from it. Take up and read.

Christmas is Potent

This is a season of adoration for Jesus. We remember that though his parents were poor, shepherds heard and wise men traveled from the east. We sing and celebrate and give. We call out for peace on earth. People are nicer to each other during the holidays. It’s the season you can give something to your postman and he won’t wonder if you are a terrorist.

These are wonderful parts of the season, but they’re not the only ones. We remember that Jesus was born a king, a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and his birth brought rivalry and bloodshed. When the wise men kept Herod from finding Jesus, Herod had every male child under two years old in Bethlehem murdered. Rachel wept for her children and refused to be comforted, because they were no more.

Jesus was born a child and yet a king, and as a king he immediately had enemies, the kind that kill for power. Christmas, and celebrating it, is inescapably political. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal—they’re not bullets and ballots—but spiritual and mighty for pulling down strongholds. This includes our prayers, our songs, our joy and celebrations. It includes the preaching of the Gospel.

Jesus came to bear our sins, and to bring justice for the meek. Isaiah 11:4-5: “With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”

Remember that Christmas is potent, and your job is to keep it that way. So be kind, be generous and merciful, and be bold with the gospel. The King of kings, salvation brings. Let loving hearts enthrone him.

Wisdom from Proverbs

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. 

–Proverbs 18:1

People who isolate themselves often do so because of some rejection or offense, or perceived rejection or offense, they have experienced. Think of those estranged from family members, from friends, or from the church. Feeling hurt and sad makes us want to go it alone, to forsake the cost of connection because connection to anyone or anything risks the potential of pain and loss. You can’t even buy a goldfish without the possibility it will die unexpectedly.

When we are hurt and turn inwards to isolation, it feels safe and protected. What can hurt us when we’re alone? Who can question our wisdom when there are no contradicting opinions? It seems wise and conservative. But Solomon points out it’s nothing of the kind. It’s actually a bold rebellion against sound judgment. When you make decisions with no one’s input but your own, chances are your selfish desires are driving. No man is an island, and the one who thinks he is will be more convinced of his own wisdom even as he sets himself against the very thing.

As he says elsewhere, in a multitude of counsellors there is safety.