Posted by: lepages | June 13, 2011

Jesus taken up to heaven!

A while since I’ve blogged notes from a preach. Have felt really blessed recently in my preaching with the Lord ministering to folk in different ways at different times. Please Lord be a blessing to others as they read these notes and turn to your word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jesus taken up to heaven
Luke 24:45-53 & Acts 1:1-11

Introduction
One of the most amazing truths we come to in the period after Easter is that Jesus is restored to his rightful place in heaven. Much of the New Testament echoes to Jesus as the Lord of heaven and earth, exalted to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Revelation echoes with the scenes of worship, as people from every tribe and people and language and nation join together in worship around his throne. We see him there manifested in all his glory, and John when he saw him in that glory fell at his feet as though dead. When Jesus reveals his glory, it’s not uncommon for people to fall to the floor in his presence.

Our readings though for today, don’t tell us a lot about his Ascension! They tell us he was taken up into heaven – the Holy Spirit deems it important that we know where he went – that he didn’t just disappear – so that there might be no accusation that all this talk of resurrection was just a figment of their imagination – and the readings tell us that two men dressed in white spoke to the disciples – the same two who addressed the women at the tomb??

And they speak truth and assurance too – Acts 1:11 (you might like to have a finger in both passages, or a What’s On!! so you can turn to them easily)
“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Jesus has not just gone to heaven, never to be seen again, but he is going to come back!
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to that day, when we get to see him in the flesh!
We know his presence now by his Holy Spirit, but just as the physical action of doing something brings more meaning in many things, so physically being with someone has more meaning – you can talk with someone on the phone, you can do video conferencing via Skype or MSN or video mobiles, but it’s still not the same as being with a person, in person. We know Jesus’ presence by his Spirit, but what a day it will be when we see him in the flesh.

So, God wants you to know that Jesus has returned to his side in glory, he wants you to know that he is going to come back again. But there’s a lot more that surrounds these two truths that the Holy Spirit has seen fit to include in his Word as he inspired Luke to write his Gospel and then his account of what happened in the period after Jesus returned to heaven, that we call ‘Acts’.

Well, at the minute in my preparation for preaching, 2 word alliteration seems to be a recurring feature, so this morning I want us to reflect on these 2 short passages with 2 alliterative couplets:-

Preparation
&
Power

Witness
&
Worship

Preparation

The stunning thing for me, is as we look at all Jesus went through, that we’ve reflected on, that we’ve rejoiced in, that we’ve celebrated over the Easter period, his first concern was for those around him, for his friends, who had given up so much to follow him. So, prior to his death, he told them repeatedly that he was going to Jerusalem, where he would be arrested, put to death and then rise again. They’d argued with him about it, said it wouldn’t happen, said they’d fight for him – and when it did, they didn’t believe at first that he’d risen from the dead…. they’d seen him die.

Jesus had sought to prepare them for what was about to happen.
After his resurrection he sought to prepare them for his ascension (in fact he started doing that prior to his arrest and crucifixion) but here, in the passages we’ve had read this morning, we see Jesus preparing people for what lay ahead.

The beginning of Acts seems to indicate that there were many more encounters with the risen Jesus than we have recorded in Scripture.

READ Acts 1:3,4a
“After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them…..”

Jesus prepared his people for what lay ahead – for what they were to do – it’s summed up briefly at the end of Luke’s Gospel, and expanded on in part at the beginning of Acts.

Jesus rooted all he taught his disciples about the Kingdom in the Scripture – Luke 24:45,46
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written…..’

This is why Scripture is so important! If Jesus rooted what he taught his disciples about himself and about the Kingdom in the Scriptures, then so should we!! If you want to know Jesus better, understand him better, walk more closely with him, then read the Scriptures and ask him to open your mind so you can understand them as you read.

And from that root in Scripture he spoke of how it was written that the Christ would suffer, be put to death and then rise from the dead on the third day. And he went on to show how as a consequence of this the message of the Gospel – a message calling for repentance from people – a call to turn your life around to God and go his way rather than your own – a message of forgiveness – God’s forgiveness when we confess our failings, our sin, to him is complete.

In our cell on Thursday the Holy Spirit gave a picture to one of the group members in which they saw us as transparent – nothing to separate us from God, as he sees us now, no taint of sin on our lives because we have been completely cleansed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, pure and holy in his sight.

Jesus prepared his people by showing them from Scripture the things that had happened in his life, death and resurrection. He prepared them by telling them about the Kingdom of God and what they would be engaged in. And then he prepared them by telling them that they would not be going about this on their own, they would be doing so in the Power of the Holy Spirit.

In Luke 24:49 he says
‘I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.
In Acts 1:4,5 its recorded
On one occasion (How many times did he tell them about the promised Holy Spirit??!!) …. he gave them this command, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about…. in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”’

In v8 he repeats it again, possibly on another occasion given the comment in v6 ‘So when they met together…’ (same occasion or another occasion??? Certainly the implication from this passage is that Jesus met with the disciples many more times than we have recorded in Scripture and that he spoke about the gift of the Holy Spirit on a number of occasions.

V8
‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; ad you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ And in Bedford…. and wherever you go!!

Jesus doesn’t leave us to get on with living our Christian lives on our own! He gives us his Holy Spirit – a spirit of power. Power to speak when we might otherwise fail to do so. Power to do, that which we could not easily do in and of ourselves.

The difference between us and the disciples who heard Jesus speak these words is that we don’t have to wait! The Holy Spirit has already been poured out, as we’ll be reflecting on next Sunday. When we become Christians and surrender our lives to Jesus, he comes to live in our lives by his Holy Spirit – it’s the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives that brings about change in our lives and gradually transforms us, sometimes dramatically transforms us, to make us more like Christ.

We receive the Holy Spirit when we become Christians, but we are not necessarily full of the Holy Spirit. It’s interesting that in v5 Jesus talks about being ‘baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Baptism means immersion. We see it when we baptise someone in the pool of water in the middle of the floor here – and if you’re a believer in Jesus but haven’t been baptised as a believer then speak to me or one of the other elders after the service and we can explore arranging for you to be baptised.

Having the Holy Spirit present in our lives does not necessarily mean that we are immersed in him. I once read an account of some ancient warriors who became followers of Christ, but when they were baptised held their swords out of the water – they hadn’t surrendered everything to Christ – and it can be the same for us – we need to surrender all to Jesus and be immersed, baptised in the Holy Spirit. And we don’t have to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to be poured out – we can receive from him now, because he has already been poured out!!

We read in Acts further on of people, including the Apostle Paul, having hands laid on them and of the Holy Spirit coming and filling them. In Hebrews it describes ‘laying on of hands’ as an ‘elementary teaching’ – it’s a foundational part of Christian faith.

When you are baptised in the Holy Spirit it can be a dramatic thing. It may effect you physically. Some people may fall to the floor under the power of the Holy Spirit. Some may shake. Some may experience heat. Some may experience a tingling in their body. Some may physically experience nothing! Some may receive new spiritual gifts and speak in tongues or prophesy. Some may not. Some may just be very aware of the love of God in their lives which may move them to tears or laughter. And some may just have an awareness that something is going on, but not be able to say what it is and there may be no outward manifestation in any way.

What happens is not important, but the receiving of the power of the Holy Spirit is important for what it brings about in our lives, the two W’s which we will come to in a moment.

After I have finished speaking, I want to give opportunity for folk to receive prayer for baptism, immersion, drenching in the Holy Spirit, but before we come to that I want us to reflect briefly on the results of that baptism, summed up succinctly in these 2 words ‘Witness’ & ‘Worship’.

Firstly then, Witness

Witness is a fascinating thing. Sometimes we think as Christians that witness is something complicated. It is not! Sometimes we confuse it with the gift of evangelism. Being a witness does not mean that you are able to explain lots of theological niceties, it does not mean that you are able to answer everybody’s questions about the Christian faith.

In Luke 24:48 Jesus says, having described his death and resurrection,
‘You are witnesses of these things.’

A witness is someone who is able to describe what they have seen.
The women when they came back from the tomb were witnesses – this is what we have seen they said – they didn’t necessarily explain it all – they described what they had seen.

Some of us are likely to be called to be witnesses in an asylum appeal tribunal. To testify to how we have seen evidence of Christian faith in one young man’s life, because this may well determine whether he is free to remain in this country or not. We’re not called to explain everything about asylum law or rights, we are just called to be witnesses.

Jesus says when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power and ‘you will be my witnesses’.

When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, he is able to help you be a much more effective witness for the Lord Jesus. Your witness is not just in words, though often people find words come more easily, because they have had a living, powerful encounter with Mighty God, but because the Holy Spirit comes and changes us to make us more like the Lord Jesus, our lives become a witness to him. Many of us have been drawn to the Lord Jesus through observing something in the life of others who follow Jesus. And then as we have the words of testimony of what Jesus has done in another’s life it moves us to want to surrender our lives to Jesus too. (testimony/witness are rooted in the same meaning – a witness in court is called to testify to what they have seen).

Worship is a fitting response to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, to his resurrection and to the wonderful new life he offers to all who will receive it. Worship is a fitting response to our ascended, glorified Lord Jesus. And when Jesus ascended to heaven Luke 24:51, they worshipped him v52 and were filled with great joy. Giving yourself in worship to God is without doubt one of the most thrilling, joy giving things you can do in life – I just love the last line of that old hymn – ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’. To be in that place brings such joy into our hearts and lives. It’s better than any other drug!

When people are baptised, filled, immersed, drenched with the Holy Spirit, praise and worship is a natural outcome of their experience. When you are blessed by God, when you know his power and grace at work in your lives worship, praise and thanksgiving is the natural overflow.

Conclusion
So shall we ask the Holy Spirit to come and immerse us, to baptise us, to fill us, to drench us with his presence?
We’ll sing the great Chris Bowater song ‘Holy Spirit we welcome you’, in which we are able to express our desire to surrender our lives to God and let him have his way in us – and if you would like me to pray with you to be baptised in the Holy Spirit, please come down to the front as we sing.

Holy Spirit, we welcome You
Holy Spirit, we welcome You
Move among us with holy fire
As we lay aside all earthly desires
Hands reach out and our hearts aspire
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, we welcome You

Holy Spirit, we welcome You
Holy Spirit, we welcome You
Let the breeze of Your presence blow
That Your children here might truly know
How to move in the Spirit’s flow
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, we welcome You

Holy Spirit, we welcome You
Holy Spirit, we welcome You
Please accomplish in me today
Some new work of loving grace, I pray
Unreservedly have Your way
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, we welcome You

MINISTRY

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