Niagara3Beyond the Clouds (SERMON Manuscript)

Acts 1:9 (ESV) And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Today is Ascension Sunday. Today we remember when Jesus Christ our Lord, after being physically raised from the dead, and living with his disciples for 40 days he took them out to the Mount of Olives.
And after giving them the commission to go and preach the Gospel to the whole world, he slowly levitated to the sky, until the clouds got in the way of their ability to see him.

Superman had nothing on Jesus! What an amazing sight that must have been… Imagine being there, observing our Master- showing off his great power over creation, as an exalted human being.

What every human being dreamed of doing by his own volition and strength, and yet could not… Jesus Christ THE MAN conquered this weak flesh, and ascended to the throne of God- by his own might and right.

If the view from this side of the clouds was an indescribably glorious sight, imagine what that sight must’ve been from the other side of those clouds. Well if we want to look at how that looked like- we don’t have to look too far. As a matter of fact, Daniel the Prophet who lived 600 years before the birth of Christ, was given a glimpse of that future Beatific Vision, in a dream.

Lets look in our Bibles for the book of Daniel, chapter 7, verses 13-14. In this chapter, Prophet Daniel describes the vision of what was happening on the other side of the clouds that had blocked the sight of the disciples 600 years later.
Please follow along as I read Daniel chapter 7:13-14

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a SON OF MAN, and he came to the Ancient of Days, and he was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

So if the sight from the perspective of the disciples was great, the sight from heaven…seeing the Son of Man, Jesus Christ- coming in the clouds of heaven and Approaching the Ancient of Days… and being presented to God the Father by the Angels- was even more glorious. But even more glorious than that… is the fact that Jesus did not ascend to heaven as a Christian version of an Olympian god like Apollos- or a demigod, being half man and half divine…

The mystery of Jesus Christ, is that although he is the full divine expression of the invisible God- that he emptied himself of his divine qualities- in order to take the form of one of us. Most people think about Jesus’ miracles sucNiagara1h as walking on water and healing the blind, as the acts of a god. But the reality is- that everything that Jesus did- including conquering the Cross and raising himself from the dead- he did as the Son of Man. (And this is the point that Daniel’s Vision makes)

And it was as the Son of Man… meaning, the Son of Humanity, our Son… the Son of our flesh and blood- that he Ascended to Heaven in glory, and was presented by angels to the Ancient of Days- and was seated upon the very throne of God. But not as God: the Ancient of Days- but as the Son of Man- As our brother in our humanity.

His triumph, is our triumph. His glory is our glory. His power is our power. His authority is our authority. His life is our life… and it is in that Majesty and Power that you and I are participants through faith in Christ Jesus and the Word of God that testifies to the Truth- that in Him- and because he loves us, we are more than conquerors.

Some of you might be thinking… “Well, that sounds pretty nice and such, but I don’t really feel like a conqueror.” In fact, I would not be lying if I said that most Christians actually feel as if life and its concerns are trampling and conquering them.
And the reason why we oftentimes feel that way, is because we allow the menial things and cares of this passing world order rule over our minds, our attitudes and our lives.

That’s why Proverbs 23:7 KJV says: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

It does us no good to talk about Jesus ascending to heaven like a demigod, if we do not realize that the very purpose of the Ascension is to visibly show us the power and authority and even the place of privilege that we share with the Son of Man that is seated upon the very throne of God.

Jesus Christ the Son of Man conquered this Old World Order with all its sin, depravity and pain- so that in Him we might not only gain his victory— but also share in the privilege of actively participating in the conquest itself.

That’s the problem with most people who call themselves Christians. We are all guilty of wanting an easy rule without participating in the privilege of conquering.

St. Paul says in Romans chapter 8 that we are more than conquerors. The English word “conqueror” is a noun that describes a Verb. Conquerors are called conquerors because they become conquerors through their conquering acts. In Christ, there is no such thing as a complacent, inactive conqueror. In the Kingdom of God there is no such thing as an “inevitable” conquest without action.

Galatians 6:7 says: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

As a matter of fact if we don’t till and sow the ground, we will not yield a harvest- because the rule of life in all matters, whether earthly or heavenly, is that we get back what we put in, whether good or evil.

There’s no such thing as an inevitable growth…the only things that grow inevitably are thorns, thistles and weeds. There’s no such thing as an inevitable conquest, without a conquering attitude and conquering action.

There’s a great cloud that clouds the minds of Christians, and that do not allow for them to see Christ as he truly is.
Jesus is seated at the right hand of the power of God- and from there, he has guaranteed our place with him… but the way of experiencing that grace in our lives, is NOT by expecting for spiritual victories to easily fall into our laps… No Pain No Gain, baby…

You see, Christ has sMe and Honeyhared with us his power (his ability) so that through that power, we might conquer all things, as he has done himself- not as God- but as the Son of Man. Our attitude should be, that if Christ was able to do it- so can we. Usually our default attitude is that if Christ was able to do something awesome, that we can’t do it because he’s God and we’re not…

But you see, that mindset makes Him to be LIAR- because Christ himself promises that those who believe in him will be able to do even greater things than him… AND if we’ve been baptized INTO his body, that means that we are part of the body of Christ, and that we’re one WITH Christ. And so therefore, nothing should be impossible for us, just as nothing is impossible for Christ.
Which is why St. Paul said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

You see- Although Christ is the Son of God, he did not ascend into the heavens as the Son of God- NO! The Prophet Daniel tells us that he ascended into the heavens as THE SON OF MAN. And it is that power and victory, that Christ has guaranteed for us when we take the step of Faith and pierce through the clouds that oftentimes get in the way of what Christ has achieved for us.
The Bible says in Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

You see the reason why the Apostle tells us to fix our eyes upon Jesus, is not so that we can idly contemplate Jesus as a reminder of what we cannot achieve. ON THE CONTRARY- We are called to fix our eyes upon Jesus- rather than on the perceived limitations that oftentimes clouds our minds. We fix our eyes on Jesus, the ascended Son of Man- so that we might be reminded on a constant basis, that if Jesus- the Son of Man did it- so can we, through Him who empowered us.

Now let me give you a practical testimony- because philosophy without an active application is just a bunch of empty words.
I’m going to share this testimony, not so that you feel bad for us, but rather, so you can rejoice with us in our boasting in Christ.
Many of you are familiar with some of the recent happenings in our church. From a worldly perspective, the things that happened seem to be like those clouds that prevented the Apostles from SEEING Jesus… but the reality is- that the things that happened, are actually opportunities for conquest through the power of Christ.

For instance- you know that Liz and I are broke. Literally… Because of recent circumstances I do not have a salary. From a worldy perspective, I should feel depressed and defeated… But the contrary is true. In fact, the best thing that could’ve happened to this church and to Liz and myself was the things that led to me not having a salary.

I am literally as poor, or worse than most people sitting in these pews, and who listen to us through the internet. But I am probably the most joyful and hopeful person because I am looking at things from God’s perspective… Niagara4
not from the earth looking upward, where the clouds get in the way- You can call me crazy if you want to… But I am seeing things from where Jesus is seated- and I’m telling you, there’s only joy in that throne.

You see, the reality is, not what people say or think, but what the Bible says… and because my mind and heart is filled with the Bible, I know and believe and experience the TRUE REALITY that I am seated with Christ, at the right hand of the Father…
And BECAUSE of this, I know that my God is so Faithful, my Father is so Faithful, that He will meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Just a few weeks ago, Liz and I decided to go on a road trip to see our sons and visit Niagara Falls with them. We had no money for the trip… But you know what- Liz and I decided to “Let the Sunshine In…” to not let the clouds of anxiety and worry distract us from keeping our eyes on Jesus. After we planned the trip… I then attended the National Day of Prayer service in front of the Syracuse Courthouse. When the event was over… A Pastor that I had never met before- approached me and said: “Brother Pastor- the Holy Spirit has told me to give you this.” And from his wallet he pulled out a ONE HUNDRED dollar bill and gave it to me.

It was with that money, that Liz, the boys, their girlfriends and me, were able to get on the boat and see Niagara Falls up close, and PERSONAL. And from the very center of that boat- I raised my hands up in the air, Praising God without shame- boasting in Christ’s Name- because I was there by the permission and provision of the Holy Spirit- who loves me- and loves what Liz and I do for the glory of His Name.

You see- God is Faithful… While most people’s lives hinge upon how much money they have in the bank, or what they have or what they can buy… or what people think about them… Liz and I hinge completely upon Jesus Christ. We could care less what people think about us- or unjuIMG_0154stly say about us- because our entire life is Jesus, and Jesus only.

In fact, we have no interest in anything outside of Jesus… And even if we appear to be interested in something of this world, even those things would be done for the GLORY OF GOD and for the sake and honor of God’s Kingdom. And that’s why we’re relentlessly Faithful. We’re relentlessly Faithful to the Master, because the Master is relentlessly Faithful to us.

So don’t let the clouds of worldly concern distract you anymore. Let us keep our eyes beyond the clouds- taking action in accordance to the reality of the visible ascension of Christ. Because it is there where your true life, RESIDES.

As it says in Colossians 3- “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

AND THAT IS THE MYSTERY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE VICTORIOUS CHRIST, WHO NOT ONLY SHARES WITH US HIS VICTORY, BUT ALSO HIS ABILITY TO CONQUER, FOR THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT… AMEN.