Luis Palau Association
Impact of Christ's Ascension

20 May 2014

Impact of Christ's Ascension

Posted in Articles, Spiritual Growth

Imagine a scene on a Bethany hillside nearly two thousand years ago. Five hundred followers of Jesus Christ are gathered with Him there, intent on His every word. Why? Because the Son of God is about to return to His Father. The work He came to do—the work of the cross—is finished. As He gazes into the faces of those on earth who love Him, what is uppermost in His mind? What will His last words be?

Let's examine that historic event as a reminder of the Church's responsibility to those "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).

A Mandate that Motivates

You and I look back from our twenty-first century vantage point and know that uppermost on Christ's mind was the preaching of repentance and forgiveness to all nations. Frankly, the Lord wanted to give His people a final push before He left for home. They needed a vision of the whole globe, not just Palestine or the Middle East. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you," He told them, "and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He gave His disciples a mandate designed to motivate them for the task ahead. He Himself was leaving the earth in bodily form, but not without promising to send the Holy Spirit in His place (Luke 24:49).

Christ's last spoken words on earth are as relevant today and for the future as they were on that hillside. His message of repentance and forgiveness to all nations hasn't changed.

On this Ascension Day I've been thinking about the future. In a world without Christ, the Gospel is still and always our great hope not only for knowing God personally, but also for seeing our families, societies and nations blessed.

Sometimes in this generation we forget what the unleashing of the Gospel in past centuries has already accomplished for us. Stop and think about it: We enjoy freedom of speech, justice under the law, respect for individual rights and the lack of fear of secret police.

The Gospel generates transforming power. Christ's death on the cross, His resurrection and His ascension assure us of that. He loved us enough to die for us, but then He goes a step further by transforming us. When we become salt and light, society around us begins to change gradually.

But often changing society takes more time than we'd like. We're geared to instant change, forgetting that human nature doesn't change overnight. Christ can invade a life in a moment, as John Calvin testified: "God by a sudden conversion tamed and made teachable my mind."

Total transformation of a life may have a sudden beginning, but its outworking is a long-term process. The authority of God, the power of Jesus Christ and the freedom He gives to believers are manifest in changed lives.

Take Rosario Rivera, for instance. Born in a slum of Lima, Peru, she had little opportunity for education. Enraged by the poverty around her, she joined the Communist party, certain it was the only way to bring about social change in her country. She trained as a guerilla fighter and became a personal assistant to Che Guevara.

In 1971 she heard me preaching on the radio and came to hear me at a nearby theatre where I was speaking that night. She would have preferred to kill me on the spot, but stood in the back and reluctantly heard the Gospel instead. Till 5 a.m. she wrestled with whether to commit her life to the Lord Jesus.

Rosario finally surrendered to Christ, and returned to her childhood slum determined to change it with the Gospel she had embraced. Numerous churches, children's ministries and social services flourish there today because of the power of the risen and ascended Christ in one woman's life.

We change society by being changed by Jesus Christ. Before He returned to heaven, Jesus instructed His disciples to wait until they were "clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). As His disciples in this age, we have that same power today. That's motivation for ministry!

An Expectation that Energizes

Through His ascension, Christ shouts a message of hope. As Jesus disappeared from sight into the clouds, angels reassured the disciples: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? 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" (Acts 1:11).

This expectation should energize all believers in every generation to action. Desperate people around the world need Christ's message of hope, and only we can deliver it to them. Nothing in life is as crucial as being certain of eternal destiny. When the issue of eternity is settled, the rest of life's problems seem minor by comparison.

My father was only thirty-four when he contracted a serious disease. Without penicillin, he was soon near death. As a ten-year-old at boarding school, I was called home immediately, but Father died before I arrived.

My mother told me about Dad's last moments on earth. The family was at his bedside. Suddenly he sat up, clapped his hands and sang an old hymn about the bright crowns of victory in heaven. He sang it three times, fell back onto his pillow, pointed heavenward and said, "I'm going to be with Jesus, which is far better."

That's how I want to die. Only when you have assurance concerning death will you experience life to the fullest. Only then is your conscience peaceful and your fear of eternity gone. When your eternal future is settled, you're free to serve others here on earth. That's the essence of the ascension.

No greater blessing and no more effective social action for the good of nations exists than to proclaim the Lord Jesus - the Jesus who died on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. That's not just a Christian cliché. It's reality. It's truth. And that truth will set you free.

Are you enjoying that reality? That truth? Do you experience intimate fellowship with Christ daily? Only He can give life meaning and purpose. No wonder people without Christ lack hope!

So Jesus reminds His disciples in all ages of their global task. By ascending to His Father, He imparts hope for His return. It's an expectation that energizes us to reach the whole world for Him.

A Position that Penetrates

Christ's pre-ascension words placed the responsibility of world evangelization on all believers throughout all ages. His actual ascension and promised return implant an expectation in believers which, through the Holy Spirit, energizes us for global outreach.

Let's look at a final consideration. Hebrews 8:1 says that Christ "sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven." Christ's sitting at God's right hand signifies that He has completed our redemption. Because He penetrated the heavens, we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Has that reality penetrated your heart and life? Have you communicated it to others?

A Christian couple met a general at a peace conference. Knowing he was an unbeliever, they invited him to their home. "General," the wife addressed him after lunch, "you must be a child of God."

"Absolutely not," he replied. "I'm an atheist."

"But General, do you know what Jesus said? He said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.' Aren't you involved in the peace conference?"

"Of course I am," he replied.

"Then you must be a child of God."

That's terribly weak theology, but suddenly tears came to the general's eyes. "Why are you weeping?" the woman asked.

He said, "When I was a little boy, my mother always used to quote that verse."

"General, do you know God?"

"No, but I want to know Him." Moments later, the woman led the general to the Lord.

The exalted Christ is impacting lives all over the world, often in unexpected ways. Because Christ is with the Father, you can and should be making an impact on those around you. Are you?

Of Christ, Ephesians 4:8 says, "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." The picture is of a general returning from a big victory. All the spoils would be distributed among the people of the city. Likewise, when Jesus obtained victory on the cross, He gave gifts to His body, the Church. Every one of us who belongs to Him has received spiritual gifts to use for the glory of God.

Finally, because Jesus is at the right hand of God, He lives forever to make intercession for us. We are constantly in a spiritual warfare, but our High Priest Jesus identifies with us in our weaknesses, our heartaches and our struggles. He never leaves us or forsakes us.

On Ascension Day, consider taking some time to contemplate all that the risen, ascended Christ has accomplished for you. Then, consider what He wants to accomplish through you. Be still long enough to see the world through His eyes. Allow the living Christ to make an impact on you, and you can't help but make an impact on those around you.

Allow the message of Christ's Ascension to motivate you, energize you, and penetrate you for service today. He lives!
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