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Downtown Sunday Morning Service (9:30 am)
May 13, 2018 @ 9:30 am - 11:30 am
Announcements & Meditation
– Call to Worship –
Minister: The Lord is risen!
Congregation: He is risen, indeed!
Minister: Lift up your hearts!
Congregation: We lift them up to the Lord!
All Peoples, Clap Your Hands for Joy, p. 87
– Confession –
To Thee, O Lord Who Dwellest in the Height, p. 161
CONFESSION OF SIN
Congregation is invited to kneel if able
+ ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Minister: Your sins are forgiven through Christ.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!
Minister: Christian, what do you believe?
Congregation: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Minister: The heavens declare the glory of God;
Congregation: And the firmament shows his handiwork.
Minister: Day unto day utters speech,
Congregation: And night unto night shows knowledge.
Minister: The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
Congregation: The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
Minister: More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold:
Congregation: Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Minister: Cleanse me from secret faults.
Congregation: Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Psalm 24, bulletin pp. 8-9
– Consecration –
+ SCRIPTURE READING
Genesis 1:26-30; Mark 16:15-20
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!
CCD: Morgan and Ashleigh Barendregt and family
CC: Geneva Howell
CCD: Estelle Barendregt
Congregational Charge: “Little child, for you Jesus Christ came to this earth, struggled and suffered; for your sake He crossed Gethsemane and went through the darkness of Calvary; for your sake He cried: ‘It is finished’; for your sake He died and for your sake He overcame death; indeed for your sake, little child, and you – still – know nothing of it. And thus the word of the Apostle is confirmed: ‘We love God, for He loved us first.'” (Taken from an old French Reformed Baptism rite)
God the Lord is King, p. 138
Opening: Deuteronomy 10:22
Thanksgiving: Deuteronomy 11:13-14
Petitions: Matthew 7:7
Jehovah to My Lord Has Said, p. 150
CC: Led Captivity Captive (Douglas Wilson)Sermon
Today we are commemorating the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, the time when He received universal dominion, absolute and unfettered, from the hand of His Father. But we must never forget that His Ascension is built on the bedrock of His Descent. We are told that He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. One of those gifts is the privilege of imitating Him in this pattern—true glorification is always set on the granite foundation of sacrificial suffering.
“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers…” (Eph. 4:7–11).
Summary of the Text
Notice what the bottom line in this passage is. We are talking about the Ascension of Christ, but this is the basis for the gift of Christ. Having ascended, He has given to each one of us grace according to the measure of His gift (v. 7). The Old Testament testifies to this (Ps. 68:18), saying that the Lord ascended on high, leading captivity captive, and gave gifts to men (v. 8). Paul reasons that if He ascended, He must first have descended (v. 9). But where? He says to the “lower parts of the earth,” which some take to mean His descent in the Incarnation. But Paul actually says “lower parts of the earth,” not “earth, the lower part of the cosmos.” Paul is arguing that the extent of the Lord’s glorification is commensurate with the depth of His humiliation, and refers to His descent into Hades, where He liberated all the Old Testament saints in His resurrection (leading captivity captive). So the one who descended is the one who ascended, in order that He might fill all things (v. 10). And when He gave gifts, what gifts did He give? He gave us men—apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers (v. 11). He gave us men who would follow the pattern set by Jesus.
Prerogatives of Power
The Lord who made Heaven and earth alone has the power to make the pathway between them. When Jacob dreamed of a great ladder to Heaven, he saw angels ascending and descending on it (Gen. 28:12). But when Jesus spoke to Nathanael, a man with less guile than Jacob apparently, He said that the angels would be ascending and descending upon the Son of man. He was the ladder, in other words (Jn. 1:51). He is the means of ascending and descending.
“Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Prov. 30:4).
We worship a God who reveals Himself. When He comes down, when He descends, He then speaks. The Lord descends and the smoke ascends.
“And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (Ex. 19:18).
This is what happened at Sinai, when God brought the law. But this was not raw condemnation. We need to hear everything God says about His descending and ascending.
Christ is Always the Point
God came down on Mt. Sinai and delivered His law. But in that delivery, although we sometimes miss the point, God never misses the point. What is the point of the whole law? Christ is the point, purpose, or end of the law for everyone who believes.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:4–10).
Christ can descend all by Himself. No one needs to go fetch Him, and no one could fetch Him. Christ was raised from the dead by the power of His Father and His Spirit, but He was not passive. He took His life up again (John 10:17). No one needed to go help.
Gut or Grace
Gut it out and fail, or grace it out and walk right in. The righteousness that is of the law talks this way. The man who does these things, this man is a doer of righteousness. Unfortunately, this man does not exist.
The righteousness that is of faith says that you shouldn’t and can’t go up to Heaven to get Christ. The righteousness that is of faith says that you shouldn’t and can’t go down into Hades to make Him rise from the dead. The reason is for this is that all of this has already happened. Why go do what has been done? Why go off to do what you couldn’t do anyway? The word of faith which we preach is the declaration that all of this has been done. What Christ said from the cross can also be said over every step of this glorious ladder between Heaven and earth. It is finished. That’s done. And now that. And now that. The last that is you in glory.
Christ has descended, first to earth, where He ascended the cross. Having ascended the cross, He descended to Hades. Having descended to Hades, He rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, where He now sits on the right hand of God the Father. This is your hope, this is your joy, this is your crown, this is your salvation. Walk in it.
CCD: Finding Yourself (Toby Sumpter)Sermon
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Mt. 16:21-28)
Today is celebrated as Ascension Sunday throughout the Christian Church, marking the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father as Lord and King of all. In an important sense, this celebration marks the day on which all that Jesus did in this world was fulfilled. He was born as Lord, lived as Lord, died as Lord, rose as Lord, but the ascension marks His enthronement as Lord. In this sense, we can speak of Jesus arriving where His entire life was aiming toward. Or using the language of our sermon text, in the ascension, Jesus found His life.
Summary of the Text
We pick up right after Peter’s famous confession of faith, and from that point Jesus began regularly saying that He was going to Jerusalem to die and rise again (Mt. 16:21). At some point, Peter, having so recently been praised for his correct answer about Jesus, begins rebuking Jesus for talking this way (Mt. 16:22). But Jesus says that this rebuke is a satanic temptation to prefer the things of man over the things of God (Mt. 16:23). Jesus says that His mission is to gain the glory of His Father, and He invites all men to follow Him in preferring these things over his own things, his own life, or even the whole world (Mt. 16:24-26). This path will be vindicated when Jesus comes in the glory of His Father and rewards men according to their works (Mt. 16:27-28).
In our world, we are bombarded with messages and advertisements for finding yourself, for finding happiness, success, fulfillment. And in many ways, what we are talking about is glory. Glory is how the Bible describes someone really shining, doing and being what they were created to be (Ps. 8:5). And this glory really is something unique, something without comparison, something different (Prov. 30:18-19). But in a random world, success and glory are necessarily random. Finding yourself is like winning the lottery. Therefore, in a random world, the mantra: be different! really is the best advice. While the odds may not technically be in your favor, if you know that the people with glory are different and unique, then you might as well start trying now. The funny thing is that the images and suggestions given are self-contradictory: be yourself and be different and buy this Coke, wear these clothes, have this phone plan, go organic (like everyone else). Jesus is interested in answering the same question, but He is refreshingly honest and straightforward. He knows that people can never find themselves all by themselves. Finding yourself, finding what you were made for is always found through following others. The only question is who are you following? Who are you trusting?
A Bad Bargain
Jesus says that we are naturally inclined to make deals with the devil, settling for more now in exchange for less later: more life now for less life later, more profit now for less profit later, more glory now for no glory later (Mt. 16:23-26). But this is to assume that there is no ultimate justice in the universe. It is fundamentally atheistic. Notice also that the Satanic offer isn’t the offer of sin on a platter full of worms. Satan comes in this episode in the voice of a close friend, a faithful disciple, and an apostle. As Paul says elsewhere, Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). False apostles, deceitful workers transform themselves into apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13). Satanic ministers transform themselves into “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:15). In other words, what Satan offers is typically some good thing. The bad deal is what that other good thing is taking you away from, what you are losing in the process. Satan is the thief who comes over to give you a welcome basket only to rob you. But Jesus says that the way to true life, profit, and glory is through following Him with a cross, losing your life for His sake, and being willing to forfeit the whole world (Mt. 16:24-26). One of the ways Christians get this wrong is by assuming that the way of Jesus must be whichever way looks worse. But that isn’t what Jesus says. He says to follow Him, to lose our lives for His sake. This means fundamentally that the way to find your life is through obedience. And what this means is leaning in. The pagan instinct is to pull away, to try to be different, but the way of Jesus is to follow.
A Few Different Applications
For young people, one of the temptations is to find yourself primarily in comparison with your parents. The temptation is to carve out your own space, to try to be different from your mom or your dad. But the fifth commandment is straight forward: honor your father and mother. Lean in, follow their example. Some of you come from broken families, and of course, you must not follow sinful examples. All of us have sinful fathers and mothers, but God knew about sin when He gave us the fifth commandment. Find what there is to honor, and honor it. Let your heart be free to embrace the gifts of your family. Lean in and find yourself.
One of the ways you know Jesus and Peter were friends is by this sharp confrontation and correction. “Faithful are the wounds of a friends, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6). “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you” (Prov. 9:8). “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Not wanting to offend or not wanting to let friends down can be some of the most powerful forces in the world, and in the name of friendship and kindness great evil can creep in. Are you trying to find yourself in your friendships? Or are you committed to following Christ in obedience no matter what?
Similar temptations can creep into young families or other new ventures, like a new second service. The temptation can be to zero in on the differences. In our family, what makes us who we are is that we don’t… (fill in the blank) like our parents. In this new service, what makes us different is … But this is to buy into the world’s way of finding glory. You don’t find your identity by highlighting your differences. You don’t find yourself by strict conformity. You find yourself by following Jesus and following those who have followed Him well (1 Cor. 4:16-17). The point is that we are following Christ, obeying Christ together, trusting that this is the best investment in the world.
How did Jesus find Himself? He obeyed His Father. He knew His duty, and He could not be distracted by the offers of the devil. How did He do this? “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). He considered the joy of the glory of the Father, the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at His right hand (Ps. 16:11).
Ending with The Lord’s Prayer
+ Psalm 121, bulletin p. 10
– Communion –
The Angels Asked, bulletin p. 12
See, the Conquerer Mounts in Triumph, pp. 274-275
– Commissioning –
+ CLOSING DOXOLOGY
The congregation may raise hands
Doxology (Lasst Uns Erfreut), pp. 288-289
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
O praise Him, O praise Him, Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.
CHARGE & BENEDICTION
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21