SHOUT FOR JOY!
THE LORD HAS ASCENDED
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
23 MAY 1993
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Did you hear what the sons of Korah wrote in Psalm 47?
1. O clap your hands, all peoples;
Shout to God with the voice of joy.
Now, so far this morning, I haven't heard anyone in here do this.
I wonder why?
Perhaps it's because we don't understand the reason for clapping and shouting for joy.
Let's look a little further:
2. For the Lord Most High is to be feared,
A great King over all the earth.
This is true, but I still don't hear anyone clapping or shouting.
Maybe there is still more to think about.
3. He subdues peoples under us,
And nations under our feet.
At the time it was written, this verse fit the situation in Israel, but it doesn't really apply to us in our situation.
However, God has most definitely allowed us to become a world leader and, for the most part, has allowed us to live in peace.
Surely this is something to be joyful about, but I still don't sense that spontaneous outburst of joy.
Maybe there is something else that triggers such a response.
4. He chooses our inheritance for us,
The glory of Jacob whom He loves.
Even with this we are still silent.
Is it because we don't realize the significance of having Jesus as our inheritance?
I believe that this is the real crux of the problem. We don't really understand the significance of having Jesus Christ, and we don't really understand the alternative.
We've lulled ourselves to sleep with the status quo.
Listen to what the sons of Korah understood about what would take place hundreds and hundreds of years in the future.
And yet, as we look back 2,000 years and see that it came to pass, we still don't act as though we fully understand.
5. God has ascended with a shout,
The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet.
Jesus Christ ascended into heaven to take His rightful seat and to be an advocate for each of us who truly believe.
Because of this, we should:
6. Sing praises to God, sing praises;
Sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7. For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with a skillful psalm.
8. God reigns over the nations,
God sits on His holy throne.
This is what we should be doing because of the truth we know, but we don't usually do it, unless it is part of the ordered service, or unless some tune is going around in our heads; but the latter – the tune going around in our heads – does come closer to what we are talking about.
We gather together just as the people did in the days when this psalm was written.
9. The princes of the people have assembled themselves as the people of the God of Abraham;
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is highly exalted.
God is highly exalted, but are we the ones who are doing the high exaltation?
For the most part, I don't believe we are, at least not with a wholly sincere heart.
We don't do this because we allow the cares of this world and our own problems to come before our eyes, so that we don't see the significance of Jesus Christ's Ascension.
We forget about one major factor that the psalmists tell us about, and that is: We forget that God has the shields to protect us from such distractions and to allow us to focus on the more important things.
That's why Luke wrote what he did to Theophilus, and to us, that we would refocus ourselves and have this near ultimate joy at all times, no matter what the circumstances are around us.
First, let's look at Luke 24:44-53.
44. Now He [Jesus] said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."
In other words, we must read and study the Bible, if we are going to be able to begin to understand and to separate the truths from the lies.
And then to fulfill our understanding, we must have something else, as Jesus reminds us:
45. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
46. and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day;
47. and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, our minds are opened to fully and truly understand the word of God; that is, if we allow Him to do so.
And once we have this power, and the assurance of what lies ahead, we should be able to see beyond any of our problems or frustrations, and to have real joy.
But there is a condition to our having this joy. It only comes upon us, and lasts, when we exercise our faith through prayer and through our self-cleansing or repentance, and through our expression of the truth to others.
This is why Jesus reminded them of their responsibility:
48. "You are witnesses of these things.
We are not islands unto ourselves; others see how we live.
49. "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you [the Holy Spirit], but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."
Until Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit hadn't come to remain upon all believers. The disciples had to wait until He came upon them, so that they wouldn't go off as bad witnesses.
But today we have the presence of the Holy Spirit here with us at all times, and He does remain upon and within each and every true believer.
But many still go off as bad witnesses, because they don't exercise their faith; or because they don't want to turn from their sins; or because they don't want to become sensitive to the Holy Spirit and all the love and compassion of God because they find His presence too convicting and they wish to continue to live in their sins.
This is why so few Christians have this true joy that continues through every situation and circumstance in our lives.
We must visualize the truth and see Jesus Christ's Ascension, just as His disciples did some 2,000 years ago; and we must be able to see Him sitting upon His throne, waiting for us to be with Him.
50. And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
51. And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them.
52. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
53. and were continually in the temple, praising God.
Just think of how many people you know who say that they believe and that they are Christians; and yet we never, or rarely, see them in church.
If all Christians did the things Jesus is talking about, everyone would want their joy, God's love would be the moving force in our society, and we truly would have peace.
But sometimes people don't hear the first time, and maybe that is why Luke wrote another letter to Theophilus.
Let's look at the opening 5 verses of Acts.
1. The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,
2. until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
3. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
4. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard from Me;
5. for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
I truly believe that the reason Luke wrote this second letter to Theophilus is because Theophilus hadn't yet opened himself to fully believe, and perhaps he was even saying he believed, but didn't really.
Since Luke loved him and saw his flaws that could be a bad witness, he encouraged him, as did Jesus with His disciples, to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit.
And he adds even more encouragement by adding, "…not many days from now."
But that day came nearly 2,000 years ago, and not many people seem to have truly received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
We still have tremendous violence in the world, and it is all too often even encouraged by the church.
True Holy Spirit filled Christians would not desire to take revenge on other, and would be against wars and capital punishment, and would limit their actions to stopping the violence.
True Holy Spirit filled Christians would not condone the horrible mistreatment of animals, and would not wear the clothes of the their suffering, nor fill their plates with their tormented body parts and bodily secretions.
True Holy Spirit filled Christians would respect all life and the world in which we all live, and would work to limit our over population without killing those who are unwanted.
So, this morning I say to each of you and, through you, to your families and friends: If you don't fully believe and/or don't have the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you through every aspect of your life, and you don't exhibit God's love and compassion and joy and peace at all times, then take stock of your life and your relationship with God.
Remember that you must truly believe, and want Jesus to be the controlling force in your life.
Secondly, you must want to change your life for the better and get rid of the sin in your life, which should lead you to true repentance.
And, you must proclaim that repentance, and receive God's forgiveness.
Thirdly, you must wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon you and fill you with power.
Power first to read and fully understand the Scriptures and, secondly, to go forth and proclaim and live the truth as loving compassionate peacemaking children of God, which is the fourth thing we are to do.
Then we all will truly have this ever-present joy.
Your Comments are welcome
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