A Worship Service – Celebrating the Ascension of our Lord

PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP
Today is Ascension Day, and that means that it is a day of great joy for all who believe that Christ rules the world and our lives. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Christ’s ascension means that in heaven there is one who, knowing firsthand the experience of suffering and temptation, prays for us and perfects our prayers. The ascension is a witness and guarantee of our own bodily resurrection, as well as an invitation for us to set our hearts and minds “on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” …

The Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have begun thinking less of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Let me say with tears that as far as material possessions, time, energy and talents are concerned, all too many Bible-believing Christians live as though their entire existence is limited to this side of the grave.
— Francis Schaeffer, No Little People, “Ash Heap Lives”

CALL TO WORSHIP Hebrews 4:14-16
Leader: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
People: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Leader: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
People: So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

HYMNS OF PRAISE

COME, CHRISTIANS, JOIN TO SING – Trinity Hymnal (TH) #302

Come, Christians, join to sing–Alleluia! Amen!
Loud praise to Christ our King–Alleluia! Amen!
Let all, with heart and voice, before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice–Alleluia! Amen!

Come, lift your hearts on high–Alleluia! Amen!
Let praises fill the sky–Alleluia! Amen!
He is our Guide and Friend; to us He’ll condescend;
His love shall never end–Alleluia! Amen!

Praise yet our Christ again–Alleluia! Amen!
Life shall not end the strain–Alleluia! Amen!
On heaven’s blissful shore His goodness we’ll adore,
Singing forevermore, “Alleluia! Amen!”

COME YE SINNERS, POOR AND NEEDY—HYMN #472
Come, ye sinners poor and needy, bruised and broken by the Fall
Jesus ready stands to save you full of pardoning love for all
He is able, He is able, He is willing, doubt no more
He is able, He is able, He is willing, doubt no more

Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream
All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of Him
He will save you, He will save you ‘tis the gospel’s constant theme
He will save you, He will save you ‘tis the gospel’s constant theme

Come ye weary, heavy laden, lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry ‘till you’re better, you will never come at all
He is waiting, He is waiting to embrace you in His arms
He is waiting, He is waiting to embrace you in His arms

Lo! th’incarnate God ascended pleads the merit of His blood
Venture on Him, venture wholly let no other trust intrude
None but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good
None but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good

[Repeat All]

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Heidelberg Catechism (Qs 46 & 49, 1563 AD)
What do we mean by saying, “He ascended into heaven?”
That Christ, while his disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth to heaven and will be there for our good until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven – a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make a goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
CORPORATE CONFESSION OF SIN
Almighty Father, You raised Jesus from death to life and crowned him Lord of all. We confess that we have not bowed before him or acknowledged his rule in our lives. We have embraced and been led by the false values, priorities, and commitments of this present world that is hostile to you. We have failed to set our minds on heaven and give our ascended King the honor and homage that He deserves. Forgive us and free us from the bondage of sin so that we may live as your faithful people, obeying the commands of our King who rules the world and is head of the church, his body. Amen.

PERSONAL CONFESSION OF SIN

ASSURANCE OF PARDON 1 John 2:1-2
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

SONGS OF ASSURANCE

Before the Throne of God Above (Charitie Lees Bancroft and Vikki Cook)

1.  Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love, Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart—
I know that while in heaven He stands, [no tongue can bid me thence depart.]

2.  When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died my sinful soul is counted free—
For God the just, is satisfied, [to look on Him and pardon me.]

3.  Behold Him there!  The Risen Lamb, my perfect, spotless Righteousness!
The great unchangeable I AM, the King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself I cannot die, my soul is purchased with His blood—
My life is hid with Christ on high, [with Christ my Savior and my God.]

GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS

GIVING OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
OFFERTORY
SCRIPTURE READING Philippians 2:9-11; 3:17-21

2:9 – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is
above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in
heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
3:17 – Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk
according to the example you have in us. 18For many, of whom I have often told
you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame,
with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it
we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to
be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things
to himself.

THE SERMON Longing for Heaven: Our Heart’s True Home
#1 in the series – Jesus Ascended into Heaven

I. The ascension of Jesus galvanizes us to resist accommodation to our culture (3:17-19).

II. The ascension of Jesus prompts a change in our citizenship. This prompts us to long for heaven  (3:30-21).

III. The ascension of Jesus guarantees our own bodily resurrection. This enables us to affirm the goodness of this world
and of our bodies (3:21).

PRAYER OF COMMITMENT

SENDING HYMN

WHO SHALL ASCEND THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD – TH #292
Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord,
To search the mystery in heaven stored,
The knowledge of the Holy One adored? Alleluia! Alleluia!

One King alone, whose hands and heart are pure,
One servant of the Lord with purpose sure,
Can enter in that glory to endure. Alleluia! Alleluia!

He only can ascend to God’s right hand
Who first came down as His high mercy planned,
True God and man has earth and heaven spanned. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Before the clouds receive the King on high,
A cross lifts up His form against the sky;
The Framer of the worlds has come to die. Alleluia! Alleluia!

He shall ascend the mountain of the Lord,
The King of glory, whose own blood outpoured
Paid that dear price that mercy did afford. Alleluia! Alleluia!
BENEDICTION Ephesians 1:18-19

May you know the hope to which God has called you, experience the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and trust his incomparably great power for us who believe. Amen.

Reflections on “Those Who Mourn”

“Blessed are those who mourn” is, paradoxically, a more necessary message than
“Rejoice in the Lord always,” because there can be no true rejoicing until we
have stopped running away from mourning.
– Simon Tugwell, The Beatitudes
The disciples bear the suffering laid on them only by the power of Him who
bears all suffering on the Cross. As bearers of suffering, they stand in
communion with the crucified. They stand as strangers in the power of Him
who was so alien to the world that it crucified Him. This is their comfort, or
rather He is their comfort, their comforter…This alien community is comforted
by the cross.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship
Every suffering can be blessed because it hollows out a place in us for God and
His comfort, which is infinite Joy.
– Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue

What does Jesus Christ want of you today?

 

Revival begins when all eyes are on Jesus, revival ends when all attention is cast on the gifts, blessings, and manifestations of revival. When we ask, “What does Jesus Christ want of me today?” Revival begins in our hearts for that moment, for that hour, for that day. “What does Jesus want of me today?” is the only really important question we need to ask of ourselves each day. The sincere asking of the question,”What does Jesus want of me today?” is the beginning of heart-felt, on-going, personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Revival of church life always brings in its train a richer understanding of the Scriptures. Behind all the slogans and catchwords of ecclesiastical controversy, necessary though they are, there arises a more determined quest for him who is the sole object of it all, for Jesus Christ himself.

What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us to-day? How can he help us be good Christians in the modern world? In the last resort, what we want to know is not, what would this or that man, or this or that Church, have of us, but what Jesus Christ himself wants of us.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 35.

 

Gleanings from Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer poured out his own life at the hands of the Nazis because he refused to allow the church to be a tool of oppression. His Christian classic, Life Together, outlines the essential principles of Christian fellowship, gleaned in the backdrop of the German underground.

Here are a few insights and quotes from the book have impacted me personally.

The community will continue to exist only as it learns to distinguish spiritual love from human.

The church is the church only when it exists for others.”

A man for others avails himself of the physical presence of other Christians as a source of incomparable joy and strength.

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.

Disillusionment, says Bonhoeffer, is the first step toward real spiritual community. He writes: Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God speedily shatters such dreams.

Real spiritual community, he says, is similar to God’s mysterious work in our individual lives: we rarely understand it even as it takes place. For this reason Bonhoeffer advises the Christian not to be constantly “feeling his spiritual pulse,” nor “the daily temperature of his community.” Instead, the Christian ought to begin each day in simple thankfulness to God for life together.

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” We may see, he says, “in the companionship of our fellow Christians a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. It is grace,” he says, “nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian [brothers and sisters].”

Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother. Looking at the Cross of Jesus, he knows the human heart. He knows how utterly lost it is in sin and weakness, how it goes astray in the ways of sin, and he also knows that it is accepted in grace and mercy. Only the brother under the Cross can hear a confession.