We’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In particular we’ve been looking at how Christ was exalted by his visible ascension. Last week we started to look at the purposes behind Christ’s ascension, which then exalt Christ even further. Namely we saw that one of the reasons Christ ascended was to give gifts to humans. This week I want to show you that Jesus also ascended to raise our thoughts toward heaven.
If someone is able to focus your attention onto what is good and true, you usually will praise them for it. This principle may be seen by the way children praise school teachers who were able to help them greatly in understanding the world. Or how people will exalt artists who have heightened their joy about beauty.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he went with the purpose of raising our thoughts toward heaven. The apostle Paul says: ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived’ (Colossians 3:1-7).
Thinking about Christ should make us think about things above because that is where Christ is. It is kind of like if someone you love goes away on holidays. You will think of them from time to time and you will inevitably think about where they currently are. And so if we think about Christ, we will think about heaven – an excellent place for our minds to get lost in meditation. Paul then goes on to say that such thinking will also lead to putting to death the behaviours of the sinful nature as your mind will be focused on good things, not evil things. For example, if you’re thinking about Christ and heaven you won’t be thinking about sexual immorality and greed.
Paul says something similar in his letter to the church in Philippi: ‘For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body’ (Philippians 3:18-21).
So how is Christ exalted in his ascension? Well, one way is by focusing our attention on where it should be, his reign in heaven.
So do you praise Christ for his ascension? Do you exalt him because he encourages your thoughts to rise heavenward?