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Ascension Day
Ephesians 1:16-23

To Him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by his own blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father, to Him, be glory and power forever and ever, Amen!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,

A little while back I learned something about the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA that I didn’t know.  It was built in the 1930s.  Now if you know anything about work safety in the 1930s – it wasn’t anything like what we see today.  At this time it was estimated that you should figure 1 fatality for every 1 million dollars spent.  The project was estimated at costing around 30 million dollars.  Well, the project got underway and it was going slow and there were more and more delays.  Then the engineer, designer, project manager, had a novel idea: he spent 130,000 dollars to make a safety net underneath the workers on the bridge.  After that, apparently the bridge was completed 25% faster than before and ended below budget with only a few fatalities.  The workers could work more freely, more confidently, more daringly knowing that they weren’t on their own to die if they fell, there was a net below them to catch them.

Well, what about us?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a security net for our lives?  So many things in life can fill us with fear, with intimidation, with hesitancy as we think about the future or as we consider going forward in life.

In our text, God, through the inspired apostle Paul tells us about our “security net” for our lives.  Now think about the situation: Paul wrote to Christians who lived around the city of Ephesus in modern day Turkey.  Think about what was going on at this time.  Paul is in house arrest in Rome for faithfully spreading the Gospel, the Roman empire was not in much favor of the Christian Church, the Roman emperor Nero was in charge and would be the one to begin nationwide persecutions of Christians, the church in Ephesus is where Paul spent 3 years of his ministry and now the congregation is at risk from the pagan mystery religions all around them and also false teachers right in their midst.  Wow!

Now, given all that, notice what Paul says in our text.  He prays for the Ephesians and essentially prays for 4 things: 1. That they may know God better.  2. That they might know the hope to which God has called them, 3. That they might know the glorious inheritance that is theirs as members of God’s kingdom and as his treasured possessions, and 4. that they might understand and experience God’s incomparably great power for those who believe.

After this Paul expands on this power, this mighty strength of God that works on behalf of those who believe in Jesus.  The clearest demonstration of God’s power worked in his mighty strength was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Although Jesus remained God – even when he took on human flesh- he humbled himself and became obedient to God, obedient even to death on the cross.  When Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross on Good Friday there was no life in that corpse.  Then God used His incomparably great power to raise Jesus’ body back to life.  Then 40 days later, on Ascension Day, Jesus demonstrated His power by ascending visibly before the disciples, showing them and us that He was going to ascend to His throne at the “right hand of God.”  Not a specific location, but a ruling position that is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.”  He is above every title that can be given, not only now, but in the future.  And God has placed all things under His feet and He rules all things in the best interest of His Church, His people.

Wow!  Those are some amazing and profound truths!  But do we always grasp them?  Do our lives reflect them?  Or do we live our lives as if we are one of those workers on the Golden Gate Bridge doing a balancing act, afraid of falling off the edge, afraid of plunging into disaster?  Afraid that the world is going to come unglued and everything fall apart or afraid that our lives are going to fall all apart.  And it makes sense to have such a fear, right?  I mean, all we have to do is look at the big picture of our world: disasters of every kind, a world seemingly more and more opposed to God, governments promoting immoral behavior, people abducting and kidnapping women for 10 years, etc, etc.  We look at the little picture, our lives: we face our own problems, health trouble, financial trouble, bracing ourselves for what’s going to come around the corner at us next.  And forget about sharing our faith!  Or standing up for what is right!  Afraid to talk freely with anyone about our faith in God, afraid to start a spiritual conversation with someone.  We so often live our lives like we are on the defensive, like we are the under-dogs in life.

But why?  Why do we do such things?  Because we doubt what God tells us, we forget who’s really in control, we have a lack of trust in what God tells us about who our Savior is and what He’s doing for us!

So what does God do?  He draws our attention back to Him.  Back to His Words- I’m not making this stuff up!  First, He shows us his incomparably great power that raised Jesus back from the dead- why was he dead?  Because of our sins.  Because of our lack of trust in him.  Why did God raise Jesus from the dead?  For our justification- to prove to us that our sins are forgiven – even those of doubting and failing to trust him.

Then, God directs our attention to Jesus’ incomparably great power for us, active in our lives!  We need to understand this absolutely vital reality: Jesus rules far above all things and He does so for the good of His Church.  Jesus didn’t ascend powerfully into heaven in order to sit down in an easy chair, he ascended to be very active ruling all things.  Jesus stands far above all ruler, authority, power, and dominion.  Someone may be a president, a CEO, a King, but Jesus has a title higher than them all.  Jesus rules not only now in the present time, but also in the future, and will continue to rule till the end of time no matter what.  And Jesus rules all things not just for the sake of ruling all things, but for the good of His Church.  All things are under his feet and he is the head of the church.  He guides and rules all things for the good of His people, His body.  He only does things that are good for His body.  For you!  And Jesus’ purpose?  He rules all things in order to bring His people to heaven.  You already know the outcome of your life- heaven!

Are we always going to see it?  Are we always going to know exactly how Jesus is working things for us?  No.  Sometimes He gives us glimpses: like when something bad happens that turns out for the good, or when our faith is challenged it causes us to dig into God’s Word more.  Many times we may not see HOW Jesus is guiding this for the good of His Church, we just have to trust that He is.  But one day, it will all make sense, one day we will see just how Jesus was ruling all things for the good of His Church, when he takes us to heaven, we’ll see the power of our risen and ascended Lord.

So no matter what, no matter if you live or die, if you’re sick or healthy, if your life seems to go forward or seems to go backward, no matter what atrocious or awesome thing you hear in the news, trust that your Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus remains in control of all things, guiding, directing, ruling, and reigning for the good of His people, for you, to bring you into His eternal kingdom.

Look at Jesus’ incomparably great power for you, look at Him, your safety net that rests securely under your life, and live confidently knowing that!  Amen.