Ascension Sunday: Have You Sourced Your Empowerment?
One way to describe the collective mood of our planet might be “powerlessness.” Powerlessness against a pandemic, economic challenge, unemployment, mental well-being and so on. Where might we look for a source of empowerment that is sourced from outside the broken, shaking global systems?
I write this on Ascension Day and this coming Sunday is celebrated as Ascension Sunday among a small minority of churches. Among all recognized holy days of the church calendar this is certainly the forgotten cousin of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Any neglect of the orthodox truths represented in Ascension Day is done so to our own peril in mission. Any lack of experienced empowerment in your life and mine is not Jesus’s intended normal for his followers.
Jesus, in what we refer to as “The Great Commission,” described how he possesses all authority and that his about-to-be-birthed church was to enjoy this same authority. Where does this authority come from? In John 14:12 Jesus promises that “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (NIV).” What happened when Jesus ascended to the Father and how does that impact our ability to engage in his mission? To answer that, we need to understand how the specific accomplishments of Christ impact our identity and empowerment.
The incarnation of Jesus (Christmas), among other things, addressed the helplessness of humanity; our inability to rectify the brokenness of the entire created realm. We needed someone from “outside the system” yet who also could identify with and represent our world to bring about re-creation. Light came into the darkness.
The crucifixion of Jesus (Good Friday), among other things, addressed the legal standing of a broken and sinful humanity before a holy God. Jesus took on our penalty and paved the way for forgiveness through a relationship with him. Light defeats darkness.
The resurrection of Jesus (Easter), among other things, altered the eternal trajectory for those who would receive new spiritual birth in Christ. Followers of Jesus now enjoy a new spiritual life that will not die with the mortality of our bodies. Life conquers death.
The ascension of Jesus (Ascension Day), approximates this new spiritual life in the very throne room of God. Ephesians 1:20-21 brilliantly illustrates the dynamic of Christ’s ascension, “…he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” There is nothing that is not under the feet of Jesus; no pandemic, no economic system, no world-view, no magnitude of personal or societal brokenness. From where Jesus sits, all of this is in the process of being renewed and recreated. This is especially true today when so many systems of the world are being deeply shaken.
So, where do you and come in? Follow along a few verses further to Ephesians 2:6-10,
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Simply put, Jesus’s ascension is your ascension. Your ultimately reality is that your immortal life in Christ is currently seated with him in his ascended place. This is God’s eternal definition of normal for you. Divine empowerment through the otherwise powerless.
To live in the empowerment of Jesus is to recognize that we have been ascended with him. We now have a choice: to live from below or to live from above. Living from below is predictably characterized by fear, scarcity, hopelessness and a low level of divine expectancy. Living from above recognizes our eternal place of residence: the very presence of God. Living from above is predictably characterized by hope, peace, abundance, generosity and divine empowerment.
From where I sit, our shaking world is desperate for what the church already has in abundance, should she choose to live from this ascended place.
“The only shot the church has in her mission to make disciples of all nations is secured through the implications of Jesus’ ascended state and being raised with him.”**
**For more on the topic of our empowerment via the ascended Christ check out Chapter 4, “Pivot to an Ascended God” in Doug’s book, The Empowerment Pivot: How God is Redefining Our View of Normal.
Image source: "Stairs!" by Richard Leeming -- Under Creative Commons License.