The LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:3)
Ascension Day is the forgotten day in the Christian church.
Just look around you. Look within you.
You and I profess belief in Christ the King. We talk about God being a “great King above all gods.”
But then you and I don’t put words into practice. You turn your service of the King of Kings into government work. You get by day to day. You muddle through the day. You lack inspiration, and you live a defeated life.
Does your service to God have purpose? Does it have vigor?
It would, if you would consider the Ascension of our Lord.
The Ascension of Christ was a fitting ending to his earthly ministry, leading into his heavenly ministry. In the Ascension the Lord Jesus Christ was lifted up in the glory cloud for his disciples – and for you and me – to adore. After living a perfect life, offering his life as the perfect satisfaction for sin and being raised mightily from the dead, it was fitting for the King of Kings to be lifted up in the glory cloud. Nothing less would do.
Jesus’ glorious ascent to the right hand of God the Father – the place of honor and authority – makes all the difference in the world for you and for me. It’s the difference between viewing life as a government worker, trying to “make it” by running on spiritual fumes, and life as service to the King who empowers you.
The Ascension of Christ means first that your life has real purpose. Second, the Ascension means that your life has real power.
Look up and see Christ, the King you serve. With purpose and power, you will be invigorated to serve the true King.
The Christian life is a life of purposeful service. It’s there in our second lesson, from Acts 1. You and I have the most-important mission of all – making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ – and so we don’t have time to gaze into the heavens.
But few Christians live with purpose anymore. Most of us live just to “get by.” You and I lack goals, lack foresight, and therefore lack vigor.
Several years back a college professor offered this quaint, but untrue, turn of phrase: “You’ve heard it said that some folks live to work, but you really ought to work to live.”
What a clear display of a life without purpose!
Yet this professor merely echoed how you and I often feel. We work a job, any job, just to make ends meet. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seem pointless interruptions in our “real” lives.
And when it comes to our walk with Christ, you and I are equally as empty. You come to church an hour or two a week, hoping to please God, and then slog through the rest of your week running on spiritual fumes.
Jesus, though, doesn’t view life that way. He sees ALL of your life, including your vocation (which you pursue from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday), as spiritual service to him in his world.
You’re not a government worker “getting by” for a spiritual paycheck; you are a beloved child and servant of the King of Glory!
Jesus’ disciples stood staring with wonder at the heavens. Their Lord had just been taken up to heaven in the glory cloud – certainly a mysterious, but powerful, event. And then two heavenly beings speak firmly to them, “Why are you staring into the sky? This same Jesus is coming back.”
In other words, as Christ himself said in the Great Commission, Get to it! You are to teach those around you about me and to teach them that I am the King of Kings. Do your work and raise your families and enjoy your hobbies in a way that speaks of my glory and truth. Live for me!
Christ indeed shall return in glory to judge the living and the dead. Until then, you and I have been commissioned to tell this world about its King.
That’s an important calling, one that involves all of your life. As a servant of the King, you’ve got purpose in life. Get to it!
The Ascension also means that you and I have power to serve the King.
Every moment of every day, you battle discouragement in so many ways. Runners face disincentives and discouragement every time we step out of the door. It’s too hot. I’m tired. My feet hurt. I’m too busy.
How much easier it is to become disheartened in your service to the King.
Negative thoughts, planted by the enemy, beset you al the time: “I’m too big of a sinner.” … “Has the Lord truly forgiven me of my past mistakes?” … “I’ll never overcome my nagging temptations.”
You know them.
Now, consider the Ascension. The Lord Jesus Christ is in his glory, and his very presence proclaims your victory.
The language of the Ascension is the language of victory. The psalmist says of the Lord Jesus Christ in Psalm 110, “The Lord said to (Jesus), sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
In other words, Christ has won the victory over sin and earned the place of honor in heaven. He has suffered once for all for sin, so that – as St. John says – he is greater than your accusing conscience and speaks his words of peace. When you face the specter of death, the triumphant Christ, who has removed the sting of death, leads you into his victory.
Isaiah speaks of Christ as “the mighty God.” In a sense, Isaiah foresaw the Ascension, because he knew that the Christ would come in power and minister in power.
You need the mighty God on your side as you battle those discouraging thoughts! The Lord Jesus Christ meets your accusing conscience head-on and declares, “It is finished.” When temptation drags you down, the King of Kings sends His Holy Spirit into your heart to strengthen you.
The Ascension empowers you and me as servants of the King, because he – in victory – has been given all power in heaven and on earth. Sin doesn’t have the final word. Neither does the temptation to immorality, to greed or to disgruntlement.
The mighty God, the King, is on your side. Indeed, he is within you.
Government service is a noble calling. Any vocation, though, becomes merely a “job” when you and I approach it sluggishly and without purpose.
Your walk with Christ isn’t a job; it’s a calling. And it’s the most-important calling you have.
Sometimes you’re going to be tempted to slog through your walk with the Lord, wandering without a goal. Look to the ascended Lord Jesus, and remember that you’re serving the King of Kings in everything you do. There is purpose in your life, no matter where the Lord has called you to serve Him.
Sometimes you’re going to be tempted to give up. You’re saddened over old sin, and you’re saddled with new temptations every day.
When you feel the weakest, and when you feel the lowest, look upwards to your King. That is the beauty and wonder of the Ascension: you and I ARE weak – but the King of Glory is strong.