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The Supper of the Lord and Our Shame

April 13th, 2017

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28 NIV)

I mentioned in my sermon this past Sunday that the Lord has given us two rituals to observe in the church family. One ministers mainly to our guilt and the other mainly to our shame. The first is believer’s baptism and the second is the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism is a picture of our sins being washed away. It is brief and done only once - biblically, baptisms were always done, and only done, after someone believed in Christ, and they were done by immersion. Baptism is a picture of a new life beginning, the old life dying with Christ and a new life beginning in Christ.

In this sense baptism for the believer is a picture of our guilt being taken away. We are saved through faith and not through baptism, but as a picture to the believers and to the world, it reminds us that we are instantaneous forgiven for all our sin - past, present, and future - the moment we trust in Christ. Guilt produces fear of punishment, and in the gospel we learn that Christ took the punishment that was due us upon Himself, and paid for our redemption.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV)

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Rom. 3:25 NLT)

This is saving faith - genuine repentant faith in Jesus Christ, believing that He died for our sins and rose from the grave. As such guilt can be resolved rather simply, through faith in Christ.

The Lord’s Supper, however, ministers to our shame and it is done repeatedly. Shame is more complicated and is an emotion that makes us feel excluded, embarrassed, inferior, dirty. The Lord’s Supper shows inclusion in the body of Christ, acceptance by God to sit at His table, and the church family.

The Lord’s Supper involves the biological mystery of the digestion of food, of turning grain and wine into body mass and strength. A bath can wash away dirt quickly, but it takes time to digest food. The Lord’s Supper enables us to sit and contemplate the grace of God, to confess our sins, to be assured of our forgiveness.

One of the most primal human fears is this fear of rejection. “If these people really knew who I was,” we reason in our insecurity, “they would not accept me.” We feel often as though we do not belong in some situations, and especially our sense of shame and spiritual weakness makes us wonder what we are doing at the table of God, eating the body and blood of His Son.

The Lord’s Supper tells us that we are accepted by grace, and grace means inclusion, not only forgiveness. So we come together to sit together, to eat and drink together, to acknowledge the inclusion, and the acceptance, of every believer in Christ. There is no seat at the Lord’s table that is elevated higher than the others. Each is there by grace, and none by works. Each considers not only himself but the entire family of faith as being invited by Christ.

It is one thing for God to forgive a guilty sinner. It is another thing for God to convince that sinner that he is forgiven, that his shame is removed. This is the work of the Spirit in our lives, and we as the body of Christ should seek to do that for each soul that confesses Christ as well.

Daily Devotions, Forgiveness , , ,

The Mixture of Good and Evil

March 23rd, 2017

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10 NKJV)

As it is with ourselves so it is with other believers - we are a mixture of good and evil.

The evil in us is the sinful nature - the misshaped human heart, originally made in the image of God, but now perverted and depraved.

The good in us is from God, either as a remnant of His holy image originally stamped upon us in our creation, or by the new birth freshly placed in us as our new nature, created to be like God.

But it is frustrating to deal with others and to even deal with ourselves. We so easily vacillate between encouragement and discouragement - whether we are dealing with ourselves or with someone else - that we may despair of all that is human. I have a few items in my house and in my office that were either given as appreciation for something that I have done, or that were given and reminds me of the goodness of others. Yet neither the thing that I was rewarded for doing was not done perfectly - there were many flaws in my performance of my ministerial duties.  Nor was the person who is memorialized to me by his own gift a perfect Christian. Some wound us almost as much as they encourage us.

We are left with these ambivalent feelings toward one another. One particular thing I keep in my house just as a reminder to me of the human reality - a man gave a very nice gift to me, and then offended me after he gave it. But I keep it there not just because it is an attractive thing, but because it reminds me of this dual reality of human life. It makes me ask myself, “Am I any different?” And that question encourages me to try and be a better person - to not be like a stream that pours forth both sweet and bitter water.

Out of the same mouth, and from the same life, proceed blessing and cursing. Sometimes we may feel so discouraged by the words and actions of others that we may wish to hide away in solitude. I know many who have cut off relations with others out of hurt, and have done so myself on a very few occasions. Though we have this right, and sometimes we are wise to do so out of self-protection, or to protect the vulnerable, we should exercise it very cautiously. If we decided to withdraw from all that is human that has offended us, where would we go? What fellowship, what family, what friend, what church would we run to? If we decided to cut ourselves off from all that is human that fails or wounds or disappoints, we would cut ourselves off from every human - even ourselves.

I am reminded of an old Chinese tale of a wise man who was traveling from city to city, walking as was the custom of that day. He ran into a traveler going to the city from whence he came. The stranger asked the wise man, “I am going to the place you have just left. Could you please tell me what type of people live there, whether they are good or evil?”

The wise man replied, “I would be glad to but could you first tell me about the people of the place you have just come from?”

The man said, “Oh, they were terrible, treacherous, distrustful, mean-spirited, unreliable. They were unfaithful friends. I am leaving and looking for a new home because I have such hurt in my heart.”

The wise man then replied, “Well, I am sorry to inform you that you will find the same sort of people in the town that I just came from.” And with that news the stranger slumped his shoulders and traveled on to his destiny.

But then, shortly later, the wise man ran into another stranger on the same road, who also asked him the same question.

The wise man replied again, “Could you first tell me about the people of the place you have just come from?”

“Oh,” said the stranger, “They were wonderful friends, kind, trustworthy, faithful. I wept when I left them because we loved each other so much.”

The wise man then replied, “Well, I am happy to inform you that you will find the same sort of people in the town that I just came from.”

There are certainly unreliable and untrustworthy people in the world, even treacherous and evil people, sometimes there are people we need to get away from, but, even so, for the most part, our relations are what we make of them. The scripture says, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2 ESV).

Happiness, peace, joy, and contentment has much more to do with the attitude in our hearts than with our circumstances. More often than not, when we try to run away from our problems, we find the same problems in the place we run to.

And, as it concerns us, we ought not to be both blessers and cursers - “these things ought not to be so.” Grace, blessing, righteousness, peace, encouragement, kindness, gentleness, patience, and love should be the main things we communicate with each other. And it should be the primary filter through which we see one another.

Let us make up our minds not to be discouraged with one another, not even ourselves. Determine not to let failure be the final word about any Christian brother, not even yourself. The transformation of God will be completed in each believer’s life eventually (Phil. 1:6), and that is the final thing, the thing that really matters. Stand firmly in this hope for every believer, and become an excellent forgiver of others. You will be a blessing to others, and a blessing to yourself, for it is our unwillingness to forgive that prevents us from enjoying one another as much as we should.

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