family worship helps
Read - Psalm 68
Message - Scott Woodburn
As a child one of the highlights of my year was the trip into Belfast with a pocket full of birthday money. The first stop would have been Elliott's to buy some fancy dress or magic tricks or plastic pranks before heading down to SS Moore. If I went with my mum we'd get the number 17 bus into the city centre. If it was my dad he would tell us we were getting the bus but inevitably he would walk us all the way into town. I remember trying to keep up with him as he marched us down the Beersbridge Road and over the Albert Bridge. I would have much preferred the bus, but I put up with the march because I knew what was coming at the end.
We spoke on Monday of Christ's ascension, His going up into heaven and we see it predicted in Psalm 68. The Psalm begins by calling the people of God to worship. When God arises His enemies are scattered (v1), therefore we are to sing praises to His name (v4). This is another Psalm of David and it is thought that is written when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). It was a time of victory and a time for a triumphant procession into the city. God had acted on behalf of His people in the past. He had led them through the wilderness (v7) and He had scattered Kings before them (v14). He was the God who on a daily basis would bear up His people, He was the God of salvation (v19). And so you can imagine this victory march as it made its way into the city. David writes of the singers and the musicians in the procession of God towards the sanctuary (v24-25). It is a scene full of singing, noise, colour, joy and victory.
Later in Ephesians Paul takes verse 18 and applies it directly to Christ. Jesus is the greater David whose victory march sees Him ascend to heaven. At the transfiguration Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah of His coming departure (Luke 9v31). His procession leads Him to Golgotha and the grave and while to many it seems that this is a march that ends in defeat, Christ instead wins the great victory. He stands again on the third day and finally ascends to glory in full sight of His disciples.
Jesus is the fulfilment of verse 18. He is the victorious King who leads a host of captives to freedom (v18b). Christ doesn't bring us freedom with a military campaign, instead He has bound Satan and plundered his house (Mark 3v27). Christ has set the captives free from sin and will lead them home. He today receives what He is due, the praise of His people who know that Christ is their greatest treasure (v18c). We sing "Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!" (v35). Even the rebellious cannot stand (v18d). Jesus has triumphed over them, disarming the rulers and authroities and making a public display of them (Colossians 2v15).
As Moses led the people from Egypt to the wilderness to the promised land, so Jesus leads us out of exile. He has broken our chains and remains constant as we aliens and sojourners travel this barren land. The road may be long and fraught with danger and trouble but our destination is not in doubt. Christ leads our procession "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah 35v10)
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q38 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? At the resurrection, believers, being raised up to glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.
Read — Psalm 103:1-3a
Message Alan Burke
There are days that we need to motivate ourselves, exhorting ourselves to action, can be hard, that job that we have been putting off that needs done, that phone call that we really should make, that apology that we need to give that would have been better done before now. Sure those things can all wait, just put them on the long finger, they can be added to the to do list for next week, maybe the week after. I know, I’ll just sit here five minutes more, I deserve a break after all and those things aren’t really that important. The problem is, we can then be guilty of forgetting, months down the line we bump into that person we had said we were going to call with, that wee job that we had intended to do or get done is no longer a wee job but a big one, that apology that we had intended to make and never is now to late.
Here the Psalmist motivating himself, exhorting himself to praise the Lord with all that is within him (1a). He is motivating himself, exhorting himself to praise the Lord with everything that he is, not only with his lips but also with his life. For in Hebrew thought, the inmost being means in our entirety. So the psalmist is saying with my entire life, I will give praise the Lord my God, in what I say, in how I live, all of it will be lived to his glory. I don’t know about you, but there are times that with the business of this temporal life, the stuff that we end up trying to juggle, work, family, hobbies, that things just get the in the way of living in this way, with our inmost being praising the Lord. It’s very easy to say thanks, isn’t it, but its another thing all together to show that you are thankful in how you respond, in how you live. But the psalmist is exhorting himself, urging himself, encouraging himself to in every way live to the praise of God, living for his glory, that will overflow into the rest of his life. For we like the psalmist come before the God who is known to us, who has revealed himself in creation (Ps 19:1-6, Rom 1:18-21) and to us through his word (2 Tim 3:16, Heb 1:1-14). That’s the significance of LORD in capital letters, this is the personal name of God, that teaches us that God is a personal God, who is over all, ever present, accessible, near to those who call on him and who are directing their praise to him, and this personal name of God is used eleven times in this psalm. So the praise of the psalmist as well as his people today in in response for what God had done, we to be in awe at all that he has done though creation, thought-out history, for all the benefits of God that come to the individual that overflow to the whole community.
Today as we come before the God who is known, though Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of God. That is how we are able to enter the joy of this psalm, in the praise of God, through Jesus Christ. He is our Saviour though him, God has shown more of His goodness and Kindness to us, we know far more than the original hearers and singers of this psalm knew and understood, and we look forward now to the great and glorious day that he returns or that we go to be with him for eternity. The knowledge of this, knowing who he is and all that he has done for us, should lead us to responding with praise, praise to him with our entire being, in all of our lives. Remember his benefits, the blessings that he has shown to us each day and by his grace through Jesus Christ. We can find it hard to motivate ourselves, to exhort ourselves to the praise of God, because we are forgetful people, we forget the goodness of God to us, but remember the forgiveness of sins (3a) that we have received though Jesus Christ that means we have eternal security, not in what he have done but he has done for us, this alone is reason to Praise him with our soul, our inmost being, praising his holy name.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, (Heb. 12:23) and do immediately pass into glory; (2 Cor. 5:1,6,8, Phil. 1:23, Luke 23:43) and their bodies, being still united to Christ, (1 Thess. 4:14) do rest in their graves, (Isa. 57:2) till the resurrection. (Job 19:26–27)
Read - Acts 1v6-11
Message - Scott Woodburn
When it comes to our understanding of the Gospel we rightly proclaim Christ and Him crucified. This good news is followed by even more as we boldly declare that Christ is risen. Yet that is often where we stop. There's another important bit that comes after the resurrection called the ascension. Ah yes! The ascension! The going up of Jesus to heaven. It immediately rings a bell but perhaps the purpose of it has escaped our attention. This week we will consider the ascension of Christ.
Amazingly it was predicted in the Psalms (68v18) but we find a full description of it in Acts 1 thanks to the pen of Luke. Jesus commissions His disciples and sends them out to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth (v8b). He also promises that the Holy Spirit will come upon them empowering them for the mission ahead (v8a). Just as He had told them this, right before their eyes, Christ was lifted up from the earth, before disappearing in the clouds (v9). So far, so wonderful, but what are we to make of this remarkable event?
The power of the ascension isn't so much the miraculous nature of it, after all people don't just lift off from the ground and ascend into the heavens everyday. The disciples were amazed by what they had witnessed but angels come with a gentle rebuke and ask "why do you stand looking into heaven?" (v11). They have work to do and need to get on with it because Jesus will return in the clouds (v11b). So although we didn't get to witness this awesome event we are not hard done by.
The catechism reminds us that that the ascension was part of Christ's exaltation. His humiliation is over and now He is exalted to the highest place. Paul puts it this way "God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." (Ephesians 1v20-21) In these verses we find our encouragement and the importance of the ascension.
Where is Christ today? At the right hand of the Father. What is He doing? Reigning. There isn't a power on earth that can topple Christ. There isn't a kingdom that will defeat the Kingdom of God. There isn't an authority with the ability to silence the Gospel. Jesus is our great high priest and while no further sacrifice is necessary, we shouldn't believe that Christ is inactive. As American Presbyterian Kevin DeYoung puts it "Christ is reigning, so we can rest."
These are fearful days. Days of riots and rage. Days of pandemic and potential second waves. Days were good is called evil and evil called good. We struggle to make sense of these days. We struggle to make sense of the events that rock us personally. Where is our comfort and hope?
At God's right hand.
We trust a crucified, risen and ascended Saviour. He intercedes on your behalf. He gathers His church. He defends His bride. He defeats and restrains His enemies. Nothing hides from His vision. Nothing escapes His notice.
May our focus today become a little bit less tethered to the troubles of this world. May our fears shrink as we gaze upon the sovereignty of Christ. May we remember that "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3v20)
Jesus is the ascended Christ and even as we read, Christ reigns.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.