Today our Scripture text draws our attention to the good confession of the Ascended Christ Jesus. Today we celebrate the Ascension of Christ. The Ascension is an important part of our theology as Methodists. Because Jesus ascended in bodily form, he has been given all the rights and privileges to reign over our lives. In Jesus’ death we acknowledge the forgiveness of our sins – Jesus became the Pascal Lamb. In the Resurrection we acknowledge our victory over sin and death. In the Ascension we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord over everything seen and unseen. We understand that Jesus has been exalted to reign as king over the Heavenlies. All the rights and privileges of the Kingdom of God belong to Jesus now. He has taken back the created order and is winning the victory over his enemies. When Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, he was given all power and authority thus he sent us a helper. Pentecost observes the sending of the helper – the Holy Spirit.
Declaring Jesus is Lord comes with a price for those who surrender and those who accept new converts into the community of faith. Bowing low in humility requires an act of the will to surrender to what seems out of the ordinary. When we look across the expanse of Jesus’ ministry we can see the disciples learning what it means to be humble – to bow low before a move of God. When people come to Jesus, it is not always the religious and proper way. When we hear the good confession of others, we must bow low before God and welcome those who have not yet come into the Kingdom of God.
Let me say it again: declaring Jesus is Lord comes with a price for those who surrender and those who accept new converts into the community of faith. When we look at the stories of people coming to Jesus with a good confession, it’s about parents & their kids, the blind man, and the broken woman. It’s about the children and babies being brought to Jesus for a blessing, yet the disciples scolded them. It’s about the blind man on the roadside who called to Jesus, yet his disciples scolded him. It’s about the broken woman breaking a jar of expensive perfume anointing Jesus with extravagant gratitude, yet the disciples scolded her. What we learn from these illustrations is that people come to Jesus, and we as disciples who have been in the inner circle with Jesus need not hinder their walk.
The good confession is a tender time in the believer when the Holy Spirit is moving profoundly upon the heart. Aged believers do well to guide and encourage those who have been kindled in the move of the Holy Spirit. Hear God’s word for us today.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans. 10.9-13
The good confession is required before a convert can be brought into the community of faith. It is also the everyday confession of those who have been converted to Christianity. When we call on the name of the Lord for the first time, we continue to call for all eternity. It is a one-time event, and it is an on-going experience. We acknowledge that God raised Jesus from the dead – Jesus did not raise Jesus from the dead. Jesus remained in total submission to the Father’s will. Submission is the agent by which Christ Jesus was exalted as the Messiah who could save his people. Utterly surrendering to the Father’s will is the way to salvation.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like–minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Phil. 2.1-11
The good confession is a heart-felt commitment. First, knowing that Jesus is the Christ is a matter of the heart. It begins with an internal conviction that builds up by faith on the inside of a person. This inward belief we call faith leads us to an outward response. This response to God’s grace that Jesus died for our sins is not a pretentious act of hypocrisy. When someone boldly declares that Jesus is Lord you can bet that God’s Spirit is moving within that person to bring about dynamic change in their lives.
The good confession leads each one of us to a verbal expression of faith. What begins in the heart makes its way past all our fears and doubts to become expressed upon our lips. Faith always expresses itself in declaration in a community.
The good confession guides us to the fulfillment of making disciples and baptizing others in light of the Great Commission. The Christian faith was never designed to be lived in isolation within our own hearts. It was never designed to be lived among our own people – family and friends. It was designed to reach out to the world around us. When Jesus left his disciples and ascended to Heaven, he gave them the Great Commission which remains the guiding mission for every believer.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28.18-20
The good confession happens when the eyes of our hearts are enlightened and we experience the hope of eternal life and the power of transformation that lies within the Christ Himself. Christ possesses all power and authority in heaven and earth. Christ is the ruler of all things in above and below. And, when we confession him as our Lord we are now seated with him in heavenly places. Christ bestows upon us the gift of his presence – the Holy Spirit.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. – Ephesians 1.18-23
The good confession brings us into the perfect alignment under God’s authority. We are no longer living our lives unto ourselves and according to our own wants, but according to the Father’s will. We surrender in obedience to the one who made us in his image.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. – Hebrews 1.1-3
Those who make the good confession are guaranteed that they will not be put to shame. We are given the promises of God in the Old and New Testament. Within our good confession come all the rights and privileges of being a Christian. The good confession also requires all the responsibilities of the Scriptures to be fulfilled in us through the surrender of our lives to the will of the Father.
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. – Colossians 3.1-4
The good confession is in the name of Jesus. When we make the good confession, we declare Jesus as Lord. There is no other name by which we are saved. In a society that celebrates pluralism where everyone can pray to their own view of God we need to know that our good confession of Christ Jesus is unique. There is no other God. And, there is no such thing as lip service. The Scriptures make no distinction between believing in Jesus and obeying the words of Jesus. When you and I declare that Jesus is Lord, we are also declaring that we will obey God’s word to the fullest. We no longer have a choice as to what we do or do not do. We have already chosen to obey God to the fullest.
The good confession happens in the context of the Christian community where disciples are sent to make disciples through the proclamation of what Christ has done for each one of us. Each one of us is sent forth on Sunday morning to proclaim our witness of God’s great love in the world. You do not have to school to proclaim Christ, it comes from your own testimony and witness as to what Christ has done in your life. When we look at Paul, we see a man of great talent in the Christian community. His whole Christian walk is founded on an encounter with Christ Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul preached because he discovered Christ Jesus was the real deal and he spent his life declaring that to others.
The good confession happens when we hear the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People cannot come to a living experience of Jesus Christ unless someone proclaims the message of God’s great love to them. Each one of us is bound by the Great Commission to make disciples, but it is in the witnessing to others that people can come to an understanding of their choices. The most profound impact you can make on others is to tell of the redemption that you yourself have experienced in Jesus. How has Christ Jesus made you into the person you are today? Have you been touched by his power and healed in your heart?
The good confession leads people to belief in the heart and a verbal calling on the name of Jesus. When the witnessing and the proclamation of Christ has been offered, each one of us comes to a living faith. It is not a dead faith that was yesterdays news. It is new every morning. The good confession leads us to an on-going relationship with Jesus Christ that is vibrant and life giving.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me. To those who are victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. – Rev. 3.20-22
The good confession leads us to accept Jesus as our high priest who takes away the sins of the world. When we imagine Jesus as our high priest, we can see him in his priestly garments of purple clothing befitting of his station as the one who hears our confession and takes away our sins.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. – Hebrews 10.11-14
The good confession reaches the expanse of the Scriptures enveloping all the promises of God to his people. When Moses was called to lead his people, he requested a partner in ministry. And, that partner would be God himself. God would send his presence to go with Moses and to give him rest on the journey. That same presence is ours today.
Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33.12-14
The good confession leads us to the place of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit comes and rests upon God’s people. To be sure God provides the blessed assurance of the Holy Spirit to affirm our good confession. God does not leave us alone in our confession but provides fully and completely for us to have the sustaining power to choose to follow all the days of our lives. It is up to us how we will follow – in humble submission and with fits and spurts.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. …Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” – Acts 2.1-4, 12-13
The good confession always leads us to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. He is our Savior. And he sits at God’s right hand until he comes in his full glory to reclaim the earth as his own. The most referenced verse of the Old Testament quoted in the New Testament is Psalm 110.1. When we read this verse we understand the importance of the Ascension of Christ for our Christian walk today. To be sure the good confession always leads us to understand that Jesus is fully extolled in Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will return for his people and his creation. The final victory of the enemies of God will certainly happen.
The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” – Psalm 110.1
When I think about the good confession, I am reminded of Joshua, the servant of Moses, the servant of God. I love his passionate challenge to God’s people to remain faithful.
“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.” Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.” Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.” – Joshua 24.14-24
Have you made your good confession? Have you studied what that good confession requires of you? Are you making every effort to live in the covenant that God has provided for you in Jesus Christ? The invitation is ours today! Join me in making the good confession.