Have you ever wondered why Jesus said it was better for us that he go away (John 16:7)? While Christmas and Easter are integral to the Christian faith, the Ascension of Christ (celebrated this year on May 10th) has incredible implications for you, your vocation, and the Church as a whole, and should not be ignored.
Previously, I wrote about the significance of where Jesus was going when he ascended—to the right hand of the Father to be crowned the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That means that Christ is Lord over every area of life, including every professional area. You are free to pursue your vocation with vigor and freedom knowing Christ is Lord over that area.
There also two more important truths related to Christ’s Ascension that should impact our work: who he was going to send in his place and what he was going to do when he got there.
Christ Sends the Holy Spirit Who Empowers Our Work
One reason for the joy of the disciples at the Ascension was who Christ was going to send in his place—namely, the Holy Spirit.
At Pentecost, the Spirit was sent to be the Advocate (Paracletos) to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-15). Particularly, the Spirit was sent to do the following:
- Convict “the world” concerning the sin of unbelief (vs. 9)
- Provide a conviction of the winsome attractiveness of Christ when he was no longer present as a visual example of it (vs. 10), and
- Show that the problem of evil will have a culmination in the “ruler of this world” (Satan) being judged (vs. 11)
Note that the conviction being discussed applies not just to individual people but to “the world” (vs. 8). In other words, there is a public dimension to the Holy Spirit’s work, as well as a private and personal one.
When we confront the public issues of the day (from a biblical perspective) it is good to know that we don’t have to rely on our own intelligence and power alone, but can appeal to the Spirit to be our prosecuting or defending advocate. The work of the Spirit applies not only to evangelism and missions, but to other areas of culture. Christ empowers our gifts to be used both in the church and in the world.
All too often, the evangelical church has focused on personal salvation, or at best, personal discipleship, but not on detailed, specific help for people as they do their work in the world through various professions. When was the last time you saw people commissioned, ordained, and prayed for by laying on of hands that they be Spirit-anointed for their task in business, politics, education, science, journalism, medicine, or the arts? Christian author William E. Diehl says in Christianity and the Real Life:
I am now a manager for a major steel company. In the almost thirty years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on the job ministry to others. My church has never once offered to improve those skills which could make me a better lay minister, nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been an inquiry in the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate my faith to my co-workers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of public affirmation of a ministry in my career. In short, I must conclude that my church doesn’t really have the least interest in whether or how I minister in my daily work.
In this man’s life, it’s as if the Ascension didn’t happen. It’s as if Christ was not Lord of all of life or the Spirit meant to empower us not merely in personal, but in public life, empowering gifts not just for evangelism, but for our work. We know this is not true, and it should not be so in our churches.
Jesus Now Intercedes for Us in All Things
Another question, what does Christ as the ascended Lord continue to do? Among other things—pray for us. As the great High Priest, he “always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25).
Christ died for us, rose for us, reigns in power for us, and prays for us (Rom. 8:34). When Simon Peter fell into denying Christ, the assurance of his return to faith was, “I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:31-32). If Christ is praying for us, should we not be encouraged as we encounter difficulties in this world—in our jobs, families, and relationships?
What Christ has done in the past needs to be applied in the present, particularly in the marketplace and with the difficult and sometimes messy arenas of life we are called to engage. When we understand the where, who, and what of the Ascension, we are equipped for transforming the spheres of our personal and public lives.
Here are some questions to ask yourself regarding the Ascension and your work:
- He is the ascended Lord of all areas of thought and life. Are you making him Lord of all areas of your life?
- The Spirit has been sent to empower us in the church as well as in the world. Do you draw on his power in all areas of your life?
- Jesus promises that the Father will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). Do you ask him for power in every task?
- Do you realize that the ascended Lord prays for us?
- If you embraced these truths, what might be the impact on our work life?
Editor’s note: How does your everyday work align with God’s plan for redemption and restoration of all creation? Learn more in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel.