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Ascension Day

Acts 1:1-11 – A Picture of True Power

A question people often ask of themselves, of their lives is, “What am I doing with my life?  Is my life important?  Is it meaningful?”  Perhaps it’s at the time of a graduation or job change or a move.  Well, the disciples had a similar thought.  Here we are 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  The disciples had seen Jesus die, had seen Jesus rise from the dead, had seen all the work that Jesus did to rescue sinful humans like you and me.  But they still didn’t quite get it.  Notice what they asked Jesus, “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  They were looking for a political, earthly kingdom.  And if Jesus set up an earthly kingdom, you know what that would mean for them?  That’d mean that they’d be His right hand men!  Talk about power, talk about meaning in life, talk about importance!  Right?

Wrong.  And Jesus dismisses their thoughts right away, “It is not for you to know the times and dates the Father has set by his own authority.” In other words, Jesus was telling them to forget about all this earthly power stuff!  That’s not what’s important!  That’s not what life’s all about.

You and I are often a lot like those disciples, aren’t we?  We can so easily get this picture stuck in our minds that having a meaningful, important life has to do with earthly successes, earthly power, earthly importance.  We picture making lots of money or having a lot of cool stuff or having some sort of influence or power over other people or things is what makes life meaningful, important.  But that idea is just as sinful as the disciples idea here.  And the reason is because all those things will go away.  When we die, it’s not going to make any difference how successful we were on earth or if we had power or if we had the latest cool stuff.

What does make life meaningful, important, powerful?  Jesus told his disciples, ‘It is not for you to know the time and dates…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  The disciples were going to be powerful, their lives were going to make huge differences, because they were going to do eternal things.  They were going to be influencing people in the greatest way possible by telling people about their Savior, by connecting people to Jesus, and through their work God would lead people to faith and people were going to end up in heaven.  That’s power!  That’s meaning!

And that’s your power too.  The most powerful thing in all the earth is the gospel.  It is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.  The gospel, the message about Jesus- what He’s done to save people with His death and resurrection – takes people from death to life, from unbelief to faith.  Having the gospel, knowing God’s Word, reading it, sharing it, being reminded of your peace with God, your forgiveness of sins, the fact that the all-powerful God is with you to help you, guide, you through whatever – that’s powerful!  True power!

When you picture Jesus’ ascension, picture true power.  The power of the gospel that God has entrusted to you and to me that makes an eternal difference in our lives and in the lives of those God places into our lives.  Amen.

Colossians 3:1-4 – A Picture Hidden in You

A huge problem plaguing our world in this digital age and age of information is identity theft.  In fact, yesterday I received an email from Thrivent encouraging me to enroll in identity theft protection.  Identity theft protection agencies thrive on these horror stories of people who have lost their credit rating, lost their savings, lost their retirement due to identity theft.  So now many places are asking for a picture ID to make sure you really are who you say you are.

Well, as Christians we have lost our original identity.  Having been born in this world we had an identity and it wasn’t a good one.  God says that a sinful parent plus a sinful parent equals a sinful child.  You and I were born into this world in sin, dead in our trespasses and sin, hostile to God, God’s enemies, worthless in God’s sight.  By nature we had a horrid identity completely corrupted by sin.

But God did something.  He sent Jesus who became human like us, identified with us in every way except He had a perfect identity.  He sent Jesus who identified with our sin by taking it upon Himself and dying for our sin on the cross. Then Jesus left that sin in the grave and gloriously rose from the dead.  Then gloriously ascended to the right hand of God, the place of all power and glory.

Then God did something wonderful for you.  He didn’t just steal your identity, He gave you a totally new identity.  How so?  He killed you.  You died.  You see, when God worked faith in your heart He connected you to everything Christ did for you.  Jesus’ death became your death to sin.  Jesus’ resurrection became your resurrection to new life.  Jesus’ ascension into heaven became your ascension into heaven.  When God worked faith in your heart He clothed you with Jesus so that you are now hidden with Christ in God.

We sometimes see pictures of ourselves and cringe or say that was a terrible picture!  So in life, if try to find our identity in ourselves, we’ll always cringe because we see our failures, our sins, our struggles.  But when you look away from yourself and look to Christ you see your new identity, you see your identity as God sees it, you are perfect for Jesus was perfect for you, you have a place in glory for Jesus ascended for you!  You see, your life, your peace in life, your contentment in life, your joy in life, has nothing to do with how you look, it has everything to do with where you look.

So what do you picture with Jesus’ Ascension?  Picture your new identity.  In God’s sight you’re no longer a sinner, you’re a saint who since Jesus ascended into glory you too will appear with Christ in the glory of heaven.  Picture that.

Luke 24:44-53 – A Picture to Remember

Pictures can be good reminders.  We save pictures to give us reminders of special times in the past.  We take them with our phone, save them in photo albums, make slideshows with them.  Well, on Ascension Day Jesus gave His disciples and us an awesome picture to remember.  After Jesus reminded the disciples of how He fulfilled all the Scriptures and how they are going to be witnesses of everything that He did and said.  He took them out to the vicinity of Bethany, the Mt. of Olives Acts tells us.

That’s an important little detail because over in the vicinity of Bethany you can actually get a good panaromic picture of the city of Jerusalem.  The disciples would have been able to see just about all the major spots of Holy Week: the garden of Gethsemane, the court where Jesus stood on trial, the place where Jesus died, the empty tomb.  Seeing those could have easily reminded them of everything Jesus had done to save them and us.

And then Jesus lifted up His hands to bless them.  And, of course, what would they have seen on His hands?  The nail marks!  The proof that He went to the cross to save them, forgive them.  Then He powerfully ascended into the sky, showing that He has all power as the risen and ascended Lord of all.

What a picture to remember!  Think about how that would have helped the disciples!  Think about how that picture helps you in your life!

Feeling weak or alone?  Picture Jesus powerfully ascend up into the sky!  Feeling horrible about some sin that you committed, conscience troubling you?  See the nail marks in Jesus hands, see the place where he suffered and died and rose and be assured that your sins are forgiven in full and completely!  Feeling frustrated about how things are happening in your life or turning out?  See Jesus’ hands still up in blessing today, remember that Jesus still rules all things for your benefit!  That’s a picture to  remember!