The Ascension doctrine helps us to keep a balance between seeing God in Christ as “one of us” and Christ as “from the heart of God.” Too great an emphasis on the Incarnation can distort this balance, so that worship is centered exclusively on the human aspects of worship—our concerns, our needs, our agenda, and our material world. Worship, unless corrected by the dimension of heaven, can become earthbound. The Ascension doctrine reminds us that there is another dimension to worship. We join Christ—rather than Christ coming down to join us—in the eternal nature of heaven, and there our worship is caught up with that of the angels and archangels and the apostles of every generation.
—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now, 83-84
The doctrine of the Ascension reassures us that Christ is our access to the Godhead and that all our worship is “in” and “through” Christ. Because Christ has ascended into heaven, the locus of our worship is also “in heaven.”
—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now, 83
We worship the Father not in our own name, nor in the significance of our own prayer and worship, but solely in Christ’s name who has so identified Himself with us as to make His prayer and worship ours, so really ours that we appear before God with Christ Himself as our one true prayer and our only worship.
—T. F. Torrance, Space Time and Resurrection, 117
The purpose of the Ascension is that Christ should take up the position of responsibility and authority that is the proper place for the Son to be. As Christians repeat the words of the Creed in the Liturgies, they are able both to acknowledge that Christ is in His proper place and also that it is the same Christ, who has shared our human condition and who has suffered with us and for us, that is now responsible for the governance of the created order and for our destiny. Jesus, who understands us and our human condition, holds responsibility for our welfare and has the authority to carry out the divine will and purpose.
—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now, 73-74
Jewish tradition[:] …in the story of the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22), Abraham finds that the horns of the ram God provided for the sacrifice were left behind. Tradition has it that Abraham rescued these horns and made them into the shofar, which became the Jewish people’s central ritual instrument.
—Roberta R. King, Global Arts and Christian Witness: Exegeting Culture, Translating the Message, and Communicating Christ, 82
Jesus not only leads the way; He is the destination.
He not only teaches; He is the subject.
He not only shows us how to live; He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Jesus not only proclaims God’s promises; He is the one in whom they are all fulfilled (2 Cor. 1:20).
He not only brings Gods Word; He is God’s Word incarnate (John 1:1,14).
—Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples, 184
The arts are not the pretty but irrelevant bits around the border of reality. They are highways into the center of a reality which cannot be glimpsed, let alone grasped, any other way. The present world is good, but broken and in any case incomplete; art of all kinds enables us to understand that paradox and its many dimensions. But the present world is also designed for something which has not yet happened. It is like a violin waiting to be played: beautiful to look at, graceful to hold–and yet if you’d never heard one in the hands of a musician, you wouldn’t believe the new dimensions of beauty to be revealed. Perhaps art can show something of that, can glimpse the future possibilities pregnant within the present time. It is like a chalice: again, beautiful to look at, pleasing to hold, but waiting to be filled with the wine which, itself full of sacramental possibilities, gives the chalice its fullest meaning. Perhaps art can help us to look beyond the immediate beauty with all its puzzles, and to glimpse that new creation which makes sense not only of beauty but of the world as a whole, and ourselves within it. Perhaps.
—N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, 235-36
Christian holiness is not (as people often imagine) a matter of denying something good. It is about growing up and grasping something even better.
—N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, 236-37
2 Who defeats my fiercest foes?
Who consoles my saddest woes?
Who revives my waiting heart,
healing all its hidden smart?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.
3 Who is life in life to me?
Who the death of death will be?
Who will place me on His right
with the countless hosts of light?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.
4 This is that great thing I know;
this delights and stirs me so:
Faith in Him who died to save,
Him who triumphed o’er the grave,
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.
—Johann C. Schwedler (1741); translated Benjamin Hall Kennedy (1863)
(usually sung to the same tune as “Take My Life and Let It Be”)
Just are Thy ways, and true Thy word,
Great Rock of my secure abode:
Who is a God beside the Lord?
Or where’s a refuge like our God?
‘Tis He that girds me with His might,
Gives me His holy sword to wield,
And while with sin and hell I fight,
Spreads His salvation for my shield.
He lives, and blessed be my Rock!
The God of my salvation lives:
The dark designs of hell are broke;
Sweet is the peace my Father gives.
Before the scoffers of the age
I will exalt my Father’s name,
Nor tremble at their mighty rage,
But meet reproach, and bear the shame.
To David and his royal seed
Thy grace forever shall extend;
Thy love to saints in Christ their Head
Knows not a limit, nor an end.
—Isaac Watts, paraphrase of Psalm 18
A concert audience does not come to watch the conductor but to listen to the music; a church congregation should not come to watch or hear the preacher [or worship leader], but to listen to God’s Word. The function of the conductor is to draw the music out of the choir or orchestra, in order that the audience may enjoy the music; the function of the preacher is to draw the Word of God out of the Bible, in order that the congregation may receive with joy. The conductor must not come between the music and the audience; the preacher [or worship leader] must not come between the Lord and His people. We need the humility to get out of the way. Then the Lord will speak, and the people will hear Him; the Lord will manifest himself, and the people will see Him; and, hearing His voice and seeing His glory, the people will fall down and worship Him.
—John Stott, Between Two Worlds, 328
Doxology turns out to be much more than a moment in a worship service. Christians glorify God in all that they do not simply as living letters (2 Cor 3:3), but as living hymns.
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Pictures at a Theological Exhibition: Scenes of the Church’s Worship, Witness and Wisdom, 140
Christians have a responsibility to live lives of solemn joy, acknowledging both present pain and future hope.
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Pictures at a Theological Exhibition: Scenes of the Church’s Worship, Witness and Wisdom, 142
He is the Founder of our Song,
so it’s to Him we come!
His Son is the Foundation of our Song,
so it’s Him we praise!
His Spirit is the Fountain of our Song,
so we drink of Him!
Eternal life thus consists in sharing in the gracious overflow of the Father’s eternal love for the Son in the Spirit. We share in this gracious overflow as “children” (John 1:12) who have been grafted into God’s beloved Son as branches into the true vine (15:1-11; 17:26).
—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 187
If you want to hear God speak to you audibly, read your Bible out loud.
The church’s mission not only flows from and through the love of the triune God; it also flows to the love of the triune God. The Father, after all, seeks worshippers (John 4:23). The Father sent the Son to make His great and holy name known to His people (1:18; 17:6). The church’s mission therefore ultimately consists in reaping a worldwide harvest of worshippers (4:35-38) gathered by the Son, through the Spirit, to serve and adore the ‘Holy Father’ (17:11; cf. Isa. 6:3; 66:19-21; Rev. 22:3-4). One day the church’s mission will be consummated in trinitarian worship (Rev. 22:1-5). This means that, even now, as the church engages in the worship of the Holy Trinity, she engages not simply in the means of her mission, but in the very end of her mission: the gloria Dei.
—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 163-64
God’s message to the world during times like this always is, “You’re not really in charge. You may think you are going to get ready for the next one, but you never will. The world isn’t under your control; it’s under My control. You need to turn to Me. You are not sufficient to run your own life. You need My wisdom and you need My help.”
It’s not, I think, unwarranted to ponder the fellowship of the Trinity, and the Father and the Son conceiving (no coercion whatsoever) a plan whereby the Father consults with the Son of His willingness, and the Son consults with the Father of His intention, and a most magnificent agreement is reached: that the Son will, after the universe is created and has fallen, and after God has shown everything He wants to show about His holy self through 2000 years of Jewish history, then the Son would enter and die. That was the plan.
Again, Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:9: “God called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” So, before the ages of time began, the plan was for the revelation of the glory of the grace of God specifically through Christ Jesus.
SEPTEMBER 22, 2012
—John Piper, “Why Did God Create the World? John Piper” (sermon: September 22, 2012) https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/why-did-god-create-the-world
In many respects I would find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes Him dangerous. Because of Easter I have to listen to His extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from His sayings. Moreover, Easter means He must be loose out there somewhere. Like the disciples, I never know where Jesus might turn up, how He might speak to me, what He might ask of me. As Frederick Buechner says, Easter means “we can never nail Him down, not even if the nails we use are real and the thing we nail Him to is a cross.”
—Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, pp. 225