Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Our sermon mini series at present is communion with our Triune God; what does it mean to enjoy fellowship with each person of the Trinity? And we are currently considering our communion with the second person of the Trinity and today we consider His ascension to heaven. And Q/A 49 points us to what His ascension means in terms of our communion with Him because it asks a question about the benefits of Christ’s ascension.
Now, we spend time, each year, thinking about the benefits of Christ’s birth. We call this? Christmas. And we have just spent time thinking about the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. We call this? Easter. But what about May 14 this year? Are you all eagerly looking forward to May 14? There will be no day off school or work; No giving of gifts or chocolate; No gathering of the family from all over the country for this special day. And that is because it is just Ascension Day. As Kevin deYoung says, “We remember that Jesus floated into heaven or some weird thing like that, but its not really the sort of thing we meditate on in the wee hours of the night or share with Grandma before heart surgery. Ascension Day is simply the way Jesus checked out of planet Earth – that’s all there is to it. Right?”
Well, no! There are some very tangible benefits that arise from the fact that our Lord and Saviour ascended into heaven. And Q/A 49 invites us to consider three of them. So we will do that as we turn to three passages of Scripture and explore these three benefits.
And to help us think about these three benefits, we will reverently use the metaphor or word picture of JESUS AS OUR HEAVENLY LAWYER. When we have important and official and legal matters that need to be dealt with, we engage the services of a lawyer; they act on our behalf to make sure things are done well and properly and successfully. Well, as our heavenly lawyer, Jesus ADVOCATES for us, He SECURES HEAVENLY REAL ESTATE for us, and He PROVIDES A FULL-TIME COUNSELLOR for us.
So first of all, Jesus advocates for us.
1. And to ADVOCATE is to argue for or plead for or to represent or defend. It is a word we often associate with the courtroom. The defendant has a lawyer who advocates for him or her. This person has been charged with a crime and the prosecution presents it evidence to the court, but the advocate argues against the evidence – he wasn’t where the prosecution says he was when the crime happened, those are not her fingerprints, he did not threaten to injure the victim, etc.
2. Well, the Scriptures present us with a picture of heaven as a courtroom. God is the judge and the devil and our sins are the prosecutor and Jesus is the believer’s advocate. Turn with me please to ROMANS 8:31.
a. In vv28-30, Paul has just described what we call the golden chain of salvation: “Those God foreknew He also predestined … And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.” Because salvation is God’s work, its end is as certain as its beginning.
b. And then in v31, we can imagine the Apostle shouting out these words: “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
i. And he makes this statement because of the reality of REMAINING SIN, which he has just discussed in ch.7. Our sins can cause us to doubt our salvation. The devil can bring them to mind and whisper in our ears, “How can you be so sure that you are Christ’s if you behave like that?” Do you know what I speak of? Have you experienced those agonizing moments of doubt?
c. Well, 1 JOHN 2:1 says, “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
i. And what that means is described in vv32-34, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
A. When the devil says to God, look at him or look at her – look at what he has said or done or thought!, Jesus intercedes or advocates on your behalf.
1) Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
2) So Jesus points to His blood and how it has been applied to you as one of God’s dearly loved, elect children and He says, “Father, do not listen to the evil one for you have given this one to me; this one has been washed in my blood; this one is ‘white as snow.’
3) And the Father looks with such love towards Jesus that He rejects any and every charge that the devil brings.
Believer, Jesus is your advocate in heaven. This is a benefit of His ascension. This is something that ought to enrich your communion with Him! Lord Jesus, thank you for pleading my case in heaven.
But not only is He your advocate, He also SECURES YOUR HEAVENLY REAL ESTATE.
1. If you own real estate or a house, you will have used a lawyer to deal with all of the legalities of the transaction and to make sure that you are the recognized and guaranteed owner of that house. Well, Jesus, as the Lord ascended into heaven, who has a human nature like ours, is the guarantee that there is a home in heaven, ready and prepared for us. Let’s see this as we turn to JOHN 14:1.
a. Jesus is speaking to His troubled disciples. He has told them that He will soon leave them and they are very upset. So to comfort them, He tells them that they will be with Him, where He is going, soon. He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
i. Now, while the NIV has translated the Greek word as ‘ROOM,’ other English versions use ‘dwelling place’ or ‘mansion.’ And mansion, boys and girls, is a big, luxury home. In
ii. Revelation 21, heaven is described as a city made out of pure gold. And Jesus wants us to know that in that golden city, He has prepared a mansion for you.
iii. When we arrive at church camp every year, we go from bunk room to bunk room until we find the one with our name on the door – that’s the bunk room reserved for us. Well, when we arrive in the golden city of heaven, we will find a mansion with our name over the door. Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry. I promise you that your place is ready and waiting!”
iv. In my preparations for the morning sermon about the spiritual worth of children, one commentator told the story of a YOUNG GIRL who has this very clear memory from her early childhood. A woman in the neighbourhood had promised the children that if they memorized four Bible verses, she would give them a special book that told a story even though it contained no words. So this little girl had been practicing these Bible verses the whole week. So she and the other children visited the lady again and they saw the books that the lady had made – brown leather covers that neatly snapped shut, and inside, four heavy pieces of felt – black, red, white, and gold. And when it was her turn, she recited the verses –
A. Black, Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
B. Red, – Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”
C. White, Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
D. And Gold, John 14:1-2, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
E. And so she was given her little book and taught to sing its story with these words:
Once my heart was black with sin, until my Saviour, He came in.
His precious blood I know has washed me whiter than the snow.
And in His word I’m plainly told that I shall walk the streets of gold.
O Wonderful, wonderful day! Jesus has washed my sins away!
Believer, the moment after you breathe your last breath on earth, your soul will be shown to the place in heaven that Jesus has prepared for you. This is a benefit of His ascension. This is something that ought to enrich your communion with Him! Lord Jesus, thank you for preparing a place for me.
But Jesus is not only our advocate and the one who secures our heavenly real estate, He is also the one who provides a full-time COUNSELOR for us.
1. And we see this as we turn a few pages over to JOHN 16:7. Again, Jesus is still taking to His disciples who are deeply distressed that Jesus has told them that He will soon leave them. But look what He says, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
a. And with these words Jesus is not knocking His own earthly ministry as though it was somehow lacking. He is the complete and perfect sacrifice for sin. But His personal presence with the disciples was only ever a temporary presence; it was about to end. But the Holy the Spirit’s presence with all who are Jesus’ disciples is permanent. John 14:16 says, The Father “will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”
i. So there is another truth to enrich our communion with the Lord; Dear Lord, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to live with me forever!
b. But remember also that Jesus had a human nature, just like you and me. And so, He could only be in one place at one time.
i. You will remember from our Mark sermons that at one point Jesus sent the disciples out two by two. Well, the moment they left Him, they were no longer with Him in a close and personal way; He could not guide them and remind them of all He had taught them and they could not ask Him for His wisdom and strength. They were, as it were, on their own.
ii. But contrast that with the Holy Spirit who lives within us:
A. Back in 14:26, Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
B. And look down at 16:13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.
iii. Believer, you have the Spirit of all truth and wisdom and strength living within you, always. It is He that makes Jesus satisfying for you; it is He that drives you to open the Bible and read the word of the Lord; it is He that reminds you of what the Bible says when temptation comes knocking; it is He that gives you the wisdom to make godly decisions; it is He that leads you to prayer and who prays on your behalf when you don’t even know what to pray for.
c. And finally, because Jesus is ascended to heaven, and because it is His Spirit that He has sent to live in you, YOUR THOUGHTS TURN MORE AND MORE TOWARDS HEAVEN. Have you noticed that of yourself?
i. We have a number of people among us who migrated to New Zealand. Well, I am sure that they spent a lot of time thinking about life in NZ once they had decided to make their home here.
ii. So it stands to reason that we often think about our heavenly home.
A. In the bulletin today I have told you about a conference in the US that is being live-streamed from Tuesday morning onwards. It is a conference about heaven called The new heavens and the new earth. And I suspect it might be difficult to connect to the live-stream due to the overwhelming numbers of believers keen to watch!
iii. You see, salvation is described in this way in Ephesians 2:6, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Because Christ is in heaven and because God unites us with Him at conversion, we are citizens of heaven.
A. If you were at the Fellowship group meetings on Wednesday, you will know that we talked about the tyranny of time. We are ruled by the clock and the calendar. One pagan poet said, “The gods confound the man who first found out how to distinguish hours! Confound him who has cut and hacked my days so wretchedly into small pieces.”
B. But do you recall why, as believers, the tyranny of time is so oppressive? Because, as ECCLESIASTES 3:11 says, God “has … set eternity in the hearts of men.”
1) You were created for eternity; not for hours and minutes and seconds.
2) And the older you get and the faster the minutes disappear, the more you long for eternal life and heaven.
C. Well, Jesus, who once was subject to the advancing shadow of the sundial, has entered heaven’s eternity. And His Spirit is the guarantee that one day, you also will enter heaven’s eternity.
And indeed, this is part of what we have experienced and proclaimed at the Supper table. And as we read in the form this morning, “We are assured by this holy supper that our Lord Jesus will come again to receive us to Himself and that we shall sit down with Him and drink the fruit of the vine with Him in the newness of our Father’s kingdom.”
The Ascension of Jesus is not just the way “He checked out of planet earth.” It is an essential part of your salvation. Amen.