Thursday, 21 May, is Ascension Day
Why are so many things going Wrong?
A Christian leader asked: "Why is there so much corruption, crime and violence in our society? Why is there so much immorality, even in the church? Why are we seeing so many moral failures and scandals amongst leaders in business, in every level of government and even in the church?"
Everything has Consequences
My answer is that these are the inevitable consequences of the spirit of our age:
Antinomianism, the rejection of God's moral Law, inevitably leads to lawlessness, where every man does what is right in his own eyes.
Egalitarianism, the rejection of authority and lack of respect for elders, produces a self-centred and selfish society.
Evolutionism and its denial of the Creator, and therefore of accountability to Almighty God on Judgement Day, erodes the very foundations of Christian civilisation.
Ideas Have Consequences
Foundational truths have been ignored and vital pillars of Christian civilisation have been eroded. What we are seeing today are the inevitable out-workings of false doctrines being introduced, tolerated, accepted, and in many cases, even celebrated.
One of the great problems of our age is the separating of Salvation from the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is the Lord Jesus Christ alone who can save us. We cannot accept Jesus as Saviour without submitting to Him as Lord. Those who preach a cheap grace and an easy believism, betray an inadequate understanding of the problem of sin, the nature of God, Christ's Mission on earth and our purpose and calling as Christians.
Freedom from Bondage
It would not have been sufficient for Moses to have proclaimed to the Hebrews, who were slaves, that they should accept that in Yahweh they had perfect freedom, whilst leaving them in bondage and under the whip of slavery in Egypt! Anything less than deliverance from Egypt and freedom from the bondage of slavery, would have been inadequate. God's eternal purposes required the people of Israel to survive the Passover, leave Egypt, cross through the Red Sea and be established as a free people in the Promised Land.
Sin is Serious
Sin is serious. We are all far too tolerant of sin. Yet, sin is more defiling than dirt, more dangerous than an unexploded bomb. Even more life threatening than a deadly disease and more insidious than a virus. "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways', says the Lord. 'For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts'." Isaiah 55:6-9
Catastrophic Consequences of Compromise and Cowardice
Compromise and cowardice have catastrophic consequences. We can recognise the out-workings of the classic tactics of "corrupt and conquer" and "confuse, divide and conquer." All too many have been deceived, distracted, divided and disarmed. There are those who are openly advocating the destruction of Christian civilisation. Yet, in the face of these disastrous developments, the response of all too many Christian leaders has been compromise and cowardice!
The Ascension Deal with Authority
Ascension Day points us to the solution to all these problems. The Ascension deals with Authority. "Christ has gone into Heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him." 1 Peter 3:22
The Nature of God
The trouble is that today, most Christians just want to stop with Christmas. Christmas celebrates the greatest Gift of all - the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Incarnation of Christ, when God took on human form and was born in Bethlehem, is very important, but many would prefer to think of Christ as the Babe in a manger, rather than as the Risen, Ascended, Sovereign Lord reigning on High. Yet the classic Christmas verse declares: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the Government will be upon His shoulder. "And His Name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His Government and peace there will be no end." Isaiah 9:6-7
Trying to Evade Reality
Many like the idea of "a Child is born", but they would like to stop there and edit out "the Government will be upon His shoulder… Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His Government and peace there will be no end. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." That is too intimidating. Too threatening. Too intrusive. It has implications for every area of life. We like a God of love and mercy who answers our prayers, and provides all our needs. However, we are not too comfortable with a Holy God who sees everything, even the thoughts of our hearts, and who is the Eternal Judge we must give an account to.
We live in a society where God's Government is de-capitalised and man's civil government is capitalised! Many people who will put a small "g" for Gospel, will put a capital "G" for their civil government. When we refer to "the Government." we should only be referring to God, who is the One who determines whether we live, and when we die. He is the One who governs the universe and determines the seasons. God alone is all-knowing, everywhere present and all powerful.
Delegated and Limited
All human authority is limited, it is delegated by God and is answerable to Almighty God. We will all have to bow before Christ and give an account of our lives, and of every word ever spoken, on that last, dreadful Day of Judgement. Each one of us have an appointment. "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the Judgement." Hebrews 9:27
Christ Has Died
The second most important holiday in the Christian calendar is Good Friday - when we solemnly remember the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, His great sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary. He suffered, bled and died for our sins. He endured the punishment we deserve - so that we could enjoy the reward that only He deserves. This should inspire us afresh to repentance, thanksgiving, and consecration. In view of God's mercies, we should "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…" Romans 12:1
Who Do You Worship?
However, many Christians stop there. They worship Jesus as the suffering Saviour. Roman Catholics have crucifixes depicting Christ suffering on the Cross. Protestants have tended to reject crucifixes. To us Christ is no longer suffering on the Cross. We have a simple, plain, rugged Cross, because Christ is no longer on the Cross. He is the Risen, Ascended, victorious, King of kings and Lord of lords, reigning on High.
Christ Is Risen!
The third great Christian holiday event is Resurrection Sunday. This is a joyous celebration of the victory of Christ over death, hell and the grave. Christ Jesus is Risen from the dead! He is alive forevermore! Death is defeated. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Our Lord and Saviour has been "Declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead." Romans 1:4
All the founders of religions are dead. You can visit the graves of Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, Marx and Lenin. But in Jerusalem there is an empty tomb. "He is not here; He is Risen!"Luke 24:6. "…raised for our justification." Romans 4:25
The Missing Pillars of the Faith
It is absolutely vital that we include Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday also into our Christian calendar. This is what is all too often missing. 40 Days after Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate the Ascension of Christ into Heaven. He is alive forevermore and He is exalted and enthroned at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He is above every other name and authority in Heaven and on earth. Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We have an Advocate in Heaven. He hears our prayers. He will crush all His enemies. He will come again. Therefore we must go and make disciples of all nations.
Rejecting the Authority of Christ
It is most significant that some governments have seen fit to abolish the long-established Ascension Day as a public holiday. Ascension Day deals with authority. "All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…"Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus Christ is Lord
The Ascension proclaims the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life. Jesus has all authority. Jesus Christ is Lord over the world of business, sports, entertainment and government. Jesus Christ is Lord over the schools, shops, cinemas, factories, hospitals, law courts and parliament. There is no area of life that is outside of His authority. Every doctor, teacher, policeman, businessman, parliamentarian, factory worker, farmer, mother, father, magistrate and supreme court judge will have to individually stand before Almighty God on the Day of Judgment and give an account of our lives.
Vindication and Victory
The Ascension celebrates the vindication and victory of Christ. No doubt the high priest, Caiaphas, King Herod and the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, thought that they were very important and powerful people. Yet these religious and political leaders are only remembered today because they arrogantly dismissed, and unjustly condemned, Christ Jesus. They did not recognise that they were condemning to death the Creator, the Giver of life, the Eternal Judge, before Whom each one of them must stand. "You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive…" Psalm 68:18
The Eternal Judge
The emperor Augustus, who issued the decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world, requiring everyone to return to their town of birth, could not have realised at that time that the Baby born to third class subjects in faraway Judea would one day Judge him. "The Lord said to My Lord, 'Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool'." Psalm 110:1.
Is Jesus Your Salvation or Your Judge?
The Ascension proclaims the ultimate victory of Christ. Those that refused to bow to Christ as Saviour and Lord today, in the day of Grace, when forgiveness is freely available, will one day be forced to bow to Christ as the Eternal Judge - when the day of Grace will be ended, when they will be condemned to hell forever. "He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies. He shall execute the heads of many countries." Psalm 110:5-6
When Will You Bow to Christ?
The question is not: Will you bow to Christ? But When will you bow to Christ? Will you bow to Christ as Saviour and Lord today, or will you only bow to Christ as your Judge on the Day of Judgment?
Every Knee Will Bow
"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name which is above every name, that at that Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in Heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11
Every Tongue Will Confess
There is no authority above that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every knee will bow before Him. Compared to Christ the kings and presidents of this world are as nothing. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father. This includes king Herod, Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. This includes Caesar Augustus and Nero. This includes Muhammad, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
What Does Muhammad Believe?
On several occasions while witnessing to Muslims, I have heard a Muslim declare: "I believe as Muhammad believes!" At this I normally reply: "Then you must become a Christian."
"But Muhammad did not believe in Jesus." they will reply.
"No, he did not then. But he does believe now!" I reply.
We Have an Advocate
The Ascension is a great comfort to believers who suffer persecution. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the Throne of Grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16
We have an Advocate in Heaven. He hears our prayers. He ever lives to make intercession for us. He will come again. He will crush all His enemies. Therefore we should not fear governments, popes or councils. We must not bow before idols, nor may we compromise the essential principles of our Faith.
A Vision of Victory
Though Christ is physically absent from the earth, yet, through His Holy Spirit, He is spiritually present. He is all-knowing, everywhere-present and all-powerful. "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet."1 Corinthians 15:25
The Ascension is a wonderful reminder and assurance to us that: "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Habakkuk 2:14
The Ascension proclaims Christ's glorious triumph and His future return on the Day of Judgement. Therefore, we as Christians should return to observing Ascension Day as a Holy Day to our Faith and applying its implications into every area of life. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2
Ascension Day calls us to committed discipleship and consistent obedience. We need to take up our cross, forsake the world and follow Christ. Israel could not fulfill its calling by remaining in bondage in Egypt. Neither can we effectively serve God today, if we remain conformed to this world, in bondage to its sins and idolatries. Attempting to accept the benefits of Jesus as Saviour, while denying His authority as Lord over all areas of our lives, is futile. That is why we need to go beyond celebrating Christmas, worshipping the Babe in the manger. We need to go beyond accepting the Atonement for our sins and recognise that Jesus Christ is Risen, Ascended, reigning on High, King of kings and Lord of lords. He will come again to Judge the living and the dead.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Do you fear God?
Have you surrendered to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
Are you studying His Word and seeking to faithfully apply Biblical principles to all areas of life?
Let us go back to the Bible for Reformation and Revival.
Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father!
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
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