I believe in the holy Christian church, the communion of saints

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our preaching series entitled “Living the Creed: Connecting Life and Faith in the Apostles’ Creed.” This series walks through the Apostles Creed as a basic summary of our faith but also as a way to live our faith out with God in the world. Each weekend of this series will explore the biblical and theological roots of the Apostles Creed, while also providing specific spiritual practices and approaches to living out what we know as we ‘proclaim and embody’ the Creed in our daily lives.

This weekend I continued preaching on the third article of the creed: “I believe in the holy Christian church, the communion of saints.” This automatically raises the important question for today: can I really still believe in the church?

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Do We Really Believe in the Church?

The challenge of the church

The challenge within us

Considering what it means to believe in the church

A Church Worth Believing In

The church is holy

  • Made holy in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Peter 2:9)
  • Becoming holy through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:3)

The church is universal/catholic/Christian

  • What “catholic” means and doesn’t mean
  • The universal mission of the church (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8)
  • The multi-everything nature of the church (Revelation 7:9-10; Galatians 3:26-29)

The church is a communion of saints

  • “Communion” as community unified by Christ for Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
  • What are “saints”? (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Living Out Our Belief in the Church

Seeing the church through the eyes of Jesus

Expanding our vision through the global church

Being the church through the power of the Holy Spirit


Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

Why Does Jesus’ Ascension Matter?: 3 reasons worth knowing

John Singleton Copley, Jesus Ascending to Heaven; oil on canvas; 1775.

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, Will Branch continued our series on the Apostles’ Creed by exploring one of the later segments of the second article of the creed: “He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” It was a wonderful message, and I strongly encourage you to listen to or watch it. I wanted to carry that theme over into this week on my blog a bit more by talking further about why Jesus’ ascension matters.

I believe the ascension is one of the most-neglected aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus.  Forty days after His resurrection, after appearing many times to the disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven with the Father (Luke 24:49-51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:3-10). The ascension of Jesus is significant for many reasons, but let me draw attention to three reasons why the ascension matters:

  1. after His ascension Jesus is enthroned with the Father
  2. after His ascension Jesus intercedes for us
  3. after His ascension Jesus will return

The Ascension Confirms the Enthronement of Jesus

When the Apostles’ Creed states that Jesus “ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,” we are being told that Jesus is enthroned as King in His ascension. When Jesus ascends from earth, the disciples witness of Jesus taken into the heavenly realm where God dwells: “he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). Stephen’s vision of the heavenly realm before his martyrdom expands this even further: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

With these two visions of Jesus’ ascension and the reality on the other side of it, we find in Jesus’ ascension the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus often referenced this passage in relation to Himself. With the ascension we see that Jesus not only enters heaven, the place where God lives and operates, but receives His appropriate enthronement at the right hand of God in an unshakable kingdom. This is echoed in further New Testament pictures of the heavenly scenes of worship:

  • “To the one who is 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” (Revelation 3:21).
  • “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

The ascension of Jesus reminds us not only that God’s kingdom been inaugurated with the incarnation of Jesus, but also confirms that Jesus’ throne is established at the Father’s right hand until He returns at the consummation of His kingdom in the new heaven and new earth. We know even now that Jesus reigns as King, no matter what happens around us.

The Ascension Affirms Jesus’ Eternal Intercession on Our Behalf Before the Father

Forty days after completion of His work in the Cross and the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven to rule as King at the Father’s right hand. His sacrifice was a once-for-all event (Hebrews 9:24-28) that secured His place as the unique mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5).

The writer to the Hebrews builds upon these truths to help us understand Jesus’ role in the presence of God not only as King but as eternal intercessor: “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Some may envision this as Jesus forever bowed in prayer for us, but the picture is richer than that. Jesus stands in the presence of the Living God simultaneously as our Advocate and High Priest and Sacrificial Lamb before the Father. His eternal sacrifice is eternally effective and eternally offered before God on our behalf (Hebrews 1:3; 7:25; 8:1). Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, there is no one and nothing that can condemn us before God (Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1).

Even more, since Jesus’ stands in the presence of God, His effective advocacy on our behalf transcends geography and time. Jesus is not limited by time and space as He was in the incarnation. Now, as He stands in the presence of God, He hears and answers our prayers no matter when or where we lift them. In fact, we can always “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16).

As fully God, Jesus the Son intercedes before the Father with authority as King, yet as fully man, Jesus the Son intercedes before the Father with empathy and understanding of our circumstances as the New Adam. We can be encouraged that the death and resurrection of Jesus’ are always effective on our behalf because Jesus has ascended as Eternal King and Mediator. And let us always know that the grace of God flows abundantly through Christ to us when we reach out to Him in prayer.

The Ascension Points to Jesus’ Eventual Return in Glory

After Jesus’ ascension, two heavenly beings, or angels, speak to the disciples: “Men of Galilee, 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” (Acts 1:11). Throughout the New Testament, many writers tell us that there will come a day when Jesus will return to establish His kingdom fully “here on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Five things we know about Jesus’ return from Scripture are:

  1. It will happen (Acts 1:8; John 14:3)
  2. It will happen in God’s time (Acts 1:6-7; Matthew 24:36)
  3. It will be recognizable to all (1 Thessalonians 4:15; Revelation 1:7-8)
  4. It will bring the fullness of Christ’s victorious kingdom over all (Revelation 19:11-16; 21:1-5)
  5. It will bring vindication for God’s people in the sight of all (1 Thessalonians 4:11-5; 1 John 3:2)

Jesus, the Ascended King, will return in glory, bringing the fullness of God’s kingdom and righteousness that will lead into the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth. Just as He ascended to the Father’s right hand after His resurrection from death, so Jesus will descend as King to usher in a new heaven and new earth. As His people, we will enjoy that new heaven and new earth, secure in God’s final judgment because Jesus intercedes for us as the once-for-all Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The ascension of Jesus becomes a source of hope and encouragement for us because it draws our attention to His eventual return and the consummation of all God’s purposes and plans. Let us persevere in light of the resurrection and ascension until the day of His coming or when we see Him face-to-face, whichever arrives first.

The Great Commission

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we concluded our series entitled “The Beginning of the End,” as well as our entire year and a half journey through the Gospel of Matthew. This series explores the resurrection of Jesus in tandem with some of Jesus’ teaching about the fall of Jerusalem and the end of all time. This weekend I preached from Matthew 28:16-20, the final portion of the Gospel and popularly know as the Great Commission.

This message is from the tenth and final part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, “‘Tis the Reason,” “Jesus Said What?!“, and “Scandalous Jesus.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“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 28:19-20)

A Return (28:16)

11 apostles (the 12 minus Judas) 

Leaving Jerusalem

A return to where everything started: “Galilee of the Gentiles” (4:15)

A Meeting (28:17)

Jesus meets with the disciples

The disciples worship Jesus

Some of the disciples hesitate or doubt

Jesus draws near to speak to them

A Commission (28:18-20)

The authority of Jesus (28:18)

Go and make disciples of all peoples (28:19)

Baptize them in the name of the Triune God (28:19)

Teaching them all Jesus’ taught (28:20)

The ongoing, abiding presence of Jesus (28:20)

An End and a New Beginning

The end of the Gospel of Matthew is a new beginning for the church

The end of our journey with this Gospel is a new beginning for us

Join the song:

  • Growing as disciples ourselves: word and baptism
  • Making disciples ourselves: declare Jesus’ authority and invite people to become Jesus’ disciples

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 28:18-20
  • Like the disciples in this scene, take time to worship Jesus as King with words or song. What hesitations or doubts do you have? Name those and bring them to Him in prayer.
  • As we finish our journey through the Gospel of Matthew, return to look over the entire book and write down a list of some of things God has been teaching you or ways God has been growing you through it. Share that with a friend this week.
  • For further insight into the Great Commission, consider reading:

Scatter the Word :: Vincent van Gogh, “The Sower”

Van Gogh - The Sower.jpg
Vincent van Gogh, The Sower; oil on canvas; 1888.

After Jesus’ resurrection, there are numerous accounts of Jesus meeting with His disciples. Several of those accounts depict Jesus’ commissioning His disciples to continue the work He began (see Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:19-23; Acts 1:6-8). He invites them to become witnesses of Jesus everywhere they go, making disciples as they proclaim the message about Jesus. Earlier in the Gospel accounts, in Matthew 13, Jesus tells two parables about God’s kingdom rooted in agricultural life. The first is a parable about a sower scattering seed on different types of soil with different results (Matthew 13:1-23), while the second is about a sower who scatters good seed in a good field but whose enemy sows weeds into the field during the night (13:24-30). When asked about this second parable, Jesus begins by saying, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man” (13:37). Jesus’ work is, in a sense, the work of a sower of seed, scattering good news into the field of the world. So, when the disciples go out, they, too, become sowers of the seed, scattering good news about Jesus. Vincent van Gogh’s beautifully rich painting, The Sower, is one of at least thirty paintings and drawings the artist made on this theme. Drawing upon his Christian roots and influenced by a similar work of Jean-François Millet, van Gogh saw his own artistic endeavors as a form of ministry within the world. Painting this while working alongside Paul Gauguin, van Gogh works out with passionate color his sense of how painting can bring beauty and peace from God into a disoriented and pain-filled world. The sun sinks low behind the sower almost like a halo, suggesting the holiness of a vocation lived out under God. Reflecting on Jesus’ self-description, van Gogh helps us see the holiness of the evangelistic calling of Jesus’ disciples—both then and now—who are sent out on mission, while also seeing the holiness within our vocational calling through which we can subversively join God’s mission in this world. It is both in proclamation and incarnation that Jesus’ disciples sow the seed of the message of Jesus.

The End is Beginning

This past weekend at Eastbrook, as we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection, I began a new series entitled “The Beginning of the End.” This series explores the resurrection of Jesus in tandem with some of Jesus’ teaching about the fall of Jerusalem and the end of all time.This weekend I preached out of Matthew 28:1-15 on Jesus’ resurrection setting us free from fear.

This message is from the tenth and final part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, “‘Tis the Reason,” “Jesus Said What?!“, and “Scandalous Jesus.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid.’” (Matthew 28:5)

Don’t Be Afraid: the night is dark, but a new day has dawned (28:1-4)

The dawn of the new sabbath 

The women walking

The earth quaking 

The angel appearing

Don’t Be Afraid: death is terrible, but Jesus is risen (28:5-7)

Jesus was crucified

Jesus was buried

Jesus is risen 

Don’t Be Afraid: we may experience fear, but Jesus is here (28:8-11)

The women afraid, yet joyful

Jesus appears

The message continues

Don’t Be Afraid: we will face opposition, but Jesus has triumphed (28:12-15)

The fear of the guards

The plan of the religious leaders

The critique even unto this day


Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 28:5-7.
  • Share with others, both believers and unbelievers, about what Jesus means to you. Pray about who God would have you share with this coming week or month. Don’t just think about this, but actually do it.
  • As the weather improves, take a prayer walk around where you live. Pray for those who live near you that God would open their hearts to Jesus in new ways.