Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, who is teaching his congregation the meaning and relevance of the Apostles' Creed through a series of sermons, explained how the phrase, "He ascended to Heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father," in the faith statement affects Christians' lives on Earth.
Jesus predicted His ascension, Chandler told the congregation, referring to John 14:12, which reads: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and even greater works than these will He do, because I am going to the Father."
As the pastor explained in his previous sermons in the series, one way reading of the creed helps Believers is that it causes them to reject popular narratives of culture.
The phrase, "He ascended to Heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father," rejects agnosticism, which says that only things that can be touched, heard or seen actually exist, and that man is simply a product of some cosmic happening."
Chandler then read Acts 1:1-11, which records the ascension of Jesus to Heaven.
"After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into Heaven," read verses 9 through 11.
"In the ascension of Jesus Christ, Jesus, in a physical form — in a physically resurrected body — is ascending into Heaven," the megachurch pastor explained. "And in His ascent into Heaven, He is assuming His right throne and He is leaving the space-time continuum in which He had been existing in a physical form."
Jesus now rules in a cosmic way, no longer locked into a given space or time, he went on to say, and added that there is no place on Earth where Jesus' power flows more than through the hearts of those who are Christian.
Referring to Acts 1:4, Chandler said when Jesus went to His Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to man. "On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.'"
Remember, Jesus said that man would be able to do greater things "because I am going to the Father," the pastor added, referring to John 14:12. "The Holy Spirit is now the presence of Christ everywhere, available to all at any given moment …"
But after the descent of the Holy Spirit, why is man not perfect? Why does he continue to experience inner conflict?
For answers to such questions, Chandler says it is important to understand what the Holy Spirit does.
As a Christian, the Holy Spirit has opened up one's heart to the Gospel, Chandler said. Jesus died for sins, and through the Holy Spirit's dwelling in man, the vertical relationship with God is fixed. He added that, horizontally, things are now starting to work themselves out progressively.
The pastor read Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
The word "fruit" in the passage is singular, the pastor pointed out. A Christian grows in all the fruits degree by degree, he added.
"It is in your internal and external difficulties that darkness is pushed back, that fruit is fully formed," Chandler said, explaining that Christians cannot, therefore, expect Jesus to take away all of their difficulties.
He then explained that Jesus' ascension is "an image of where we are going." It reveals the gap between where Christians are and where they will be, he explained. "I see in the ascension my future."
Believers are in various stages of fruitfulness, and since they are still not there, there is bound to be inner conflict, he said. And this fact should make Christians more gracious to one another, he stressed.
If Believers are meditating on other Christians' weaknesses, they are sinning against God, Chandler stated. "It is an evil thing for you to be an expert in the weaknesses of your brothers and sisters." God has instead called Believers to be experts in the strengths of their brothers and sisters, he added.
Chandler said that since he knows he's not there yet, he will not give in to "the paralysis of guilt and shame," and will not be surprised by his shortcomings. "It's been paid for on the cross."
The pastor concluded: "The invitation into the life of ascension is not just to a life of blessing, but to a life of burden. … Sealed with the Holy Spirit, walking in relationship with others, made right with our Creator, we will begin to feel [the] sadness and brokenness of the world that Jesus feels."
Let's be the people of the blessing and the burden of ascension, he told the congregation.