Reassured, Refocused, Rejoicing

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Ascension Day Worship

Reassured by the Rule of Christ – Esther 6

The account about Esther is just an absolutely amazing account. It all happened when most of the Jews were still in exile after Nebuchadnezzar had taken them to Babylon. Well, the Persians defeated the Babylonians and were the ones in power. King Xerxes was the Persian king and at a large party that he was hosting asked his wife Queen Vashti to come so he could show her beauty off to all the people, but she refused to come. This made him quite upset and because they were afraid this was going to cause all the women to start disobeying their husbands, he banished Queen Vashti and went in search of a new wife. Well, it just so happened that after a sort of contest that a woman named Esther pleased him and won his favor so she became the Queen, although King Xerxes didn’t realize that she was a Jew.

Later, the king promoted this man named Haman who was full of himself to a high position in this government and he expected everyone to bow down to him. But a certain Jew named Mordecai refused to do so. Mordecai happened to be Esther’s cousin. Haman became so upset that he didn’t just want to have Mordecai killed but wanted the whole nation of the Jews to be exterminated. So, he requested that the king issue the order to have a certain people in their kingdom killed, not telling the king what people group it was. The king agreed. Haman was delighted and set out to erect the execution device.

In the meantime, one night the king couldn’t sleep, so he had his records read to him. In his records, he was reminded about a time when Mordecai a Jew had uncovered a plot and saved the king’s life. So, King Xerxes wanted to honor him. He found out that Haman just so happened to be outside his chambers and so he brought Haman in and asked him what should be done for the man the king delights to honor. Haman, thinking he meant him, suggested that he be paraded around and honored. The king says, “That’s a great idea, go and do this for Mordecai the Jew.” Haman was devastated, but went out and did it. In the meantime, Haman had been invited by Queen Esther to a banquet with her and the king. She held the banquet to request that the king not exterminate her people. Haman came to the banquet and the king asked her what she wanted, she revealed about how Haman planned to exterminate her people. The king became furious left the room, while he’s gone Haman stays to plead with Queen Esther for his life and he trips and falls on the couch she is lying on and just then the king happens to walk in, thinks he’s trying to molest her and immediately orders that Haman be put to death on the execution device he had made for Mordecai.

Wow! But here’s the lesson. We often go through life scratching our head, confused, and frustrated because life doesn’t seem to be working the way that we want or expect. We face difficulties, sickness, disappointments and problems. We wonder, “Lord, what are you doing?” Why this? Why now? What’s going on? And sinfully we forget who’s in charge.

But at Jesus’ ascension we’re reminded of an awesome truth: Jesus ascended to the right hand of God. That means Jesus, the one who became man, lived, died, and rose for you, is now sitting in the position of ALL authority and all power and is ruling ALL things for the good of His people, for the good of you and me. No, we won’t always know it or see it or understand it, but He is and He will continue guide all things to bring you to your eternal home. Jesus’ ascension reassures us of the rule of Christ. A lesson from Esther chapter 6: (read lesson)

Refocused by Being Raised with Christ – Colossians 3:1-4

Who are you? If you were asked that question, what would you respond? When you look in the mirror what do you see? What is your identity? Who are you? What would you say?

Well, as Christians we have lost our original identity.  Having been born in this world we had an identity and it wasn’t a good one.  God says that a sinful parent plus a sinful parent equals a sinful child.  You and I were born into this world in sin, dead in our trespasses and sin, hostile to God, God’s enemies, worthless in God’s sight.  By nature we had a horrid identity completely corrupted by sin.

But God did something.  He sent Jesus who became human like us, identified with us in every way except He had a perfect identity.  He sent Jesus who identified with our sin by taking it upon Himself and dying for our sin on the cross. Then Jesus left that sin in the grave and gloriously rose from the dead.  Then gloriously ascended to the right hand of God, the place of all power and glory.

Then God did something wonderful for you.  He gave you a totally new identity.  How so?  He killed you.  You died.  You see, when God worked faith in your heart He connected you to everything Christ did for you.  Jesus’ death became your death to sin.  Jesus’ resurrection became your resurrection to new life.  Jesus’ ascension into heaven became your ascension into heaven.  When God worked faith in your heart He clothed you with Jesus so that you are now hidden with Christ in God.

We sometimes see pictures of ourselves and cringe or say that was a terrible picture!  So, in life, if try to find our identity in ourselves, we’ll always cringe because we see our failures, our sins, our struggles.  But when you look away from yourself and look to Christ you see your new identity, you see your identity as God sees it, you are perfect for Jesus was perfect for you, you have a place in glory for Jesus ascended for you!  You see, your life, your peace in life, your contentment in life, your joy in life, has nothing to do with how you look, but it has everything to do with where you look.

So what do you picture with Jesus’ Ascension?  Picture your new identity.  In God’s sight you’re no longer a sinner, you’re a saint who since Jesus ascended into glory you too will appear with Christ in the glory of heaven.  Set your mind on that, refocus on the reality that you’ve been raised with Christ! A lesson from Colossians chapter 3: (read lesson)

Rejoicing because of Christ – Luke 24:44-53

There are just so many things in life that can tear us down. What other people say about us can tear us down, the comments people make can make us feel horrible, the sarcastic replies can ruminate in our heads. Not only that, but we can also be reminded of past sins and failures that burden us with guilt. Not only that but we can so easily be frustrated by things in life that don’t turn out the way we want or expect or hope for. There’s a lot in life that can tear us down.

But the disciples weren’t much different than us, were they? They too faced a life of ridicule because of their faith in Jesus. They, too, had done some pretty horrible things – they abandoned Jesus in the Garden, didn’t believe his promise to rise from the dead, were full of fear.

But here they are rejoicing. Here they are worshipping God, praising him, and with great joy. How come? First, He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures- they saw God’s incredible faithfulness in keeping every promise. Then he led them out to the vicinity of Bethany and lifted up his hands to bless them, showing them the nail scarred hands – the proof that he died on the cross for all their sins and was now alive blessing them. And finally, they saw Jesus powerfully rise up into the sky – reminding them that this Jesus is God with all the power as God.

Those are all reason for you and I to rejoice too. Rejoice! God has given you and me the record of his faithful love for us in the Bible- there we have all we need for all peace and joy. Rejoice! Jesus hands are still up blessing us and reminding us constantly of his hands that were nailed to the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins. Rejoice! That same Jesus who powerfully rose into the sky is the one who is still in control and will remain in control and guide all things with His power to bring us home to heaven. Those are more than enough reason to rejoice always. A lesson from the Gospel of Luke chapter 24: (read text)