Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Communion Table: Look Around

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 22, 2012

Matthew 18:11-20, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.  “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.  “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.  “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

I have a math problem for you to help me figure out as we being this morning.  It’s one of those ‘word problems’ with two blanks to fill in with the answers to the problem.  Here is the problem, listen closely as I read it: as sin _________, it also __________.  Let me state it one more time.  As sin _________, it also _________.  I’ll let you mull that one over for a moment or two, as I rehearse where we have been in our Scripture study recently.  For the last three or four weeks, we have been studying the subject: The Five Sides of the Communion Table.  Or, we might put it like this, five view points, five vantage points from the Lord’s Table. 

Quickly, let’s review, what are the five views from the Lord’s Table?  Well, first of all, there is the look back.  Here we learned about the HISTORY of this Sacred Meal, this precious time of communion with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and how that this Supper, and what is stands for, what it commemorates, goes back not only to the world-changing events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, but all the way back to before the foundation of the world, for, in God’s mind – His infinite, eternal mind – His Son, Jesus Christ, was slain, crucified on Calvary’s Cross BEFORE the creation of the world!  (Revelation 13:8)  That’s the Look Back, the Historical Side of the communion table. 

Then, there’s the Look Up, the Heavenly Perspective, the heavenward vantage point or view of communion.  When you realize what God had done for you in His Son, Jesus Christ, placing on Him, on His only-begotten and beloved Son, on the Sinless One your sins, your guilt, your condemnation, AND your punishment, for you, what else can you do, but look up, in praise, in humble adoration and thanksgiving to the Source, the Seal and the Sacrifice of your Salvation!  The Upward Look. 

Then there’s view number three from this Table, and this is the one I call the Inward Look, the Heart-ward Perspective.  Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 11, that a man is obligated, required, to examine himself, BEFORE he partakes of this Supper, to come clean with God, to look within and confess the faults and sins of the past week, what He already know about you and me, to humbly acknowledge those things, repent of those things, and then, to eat of the Supper.  Otherwise, what do we risk doing?  We risk the possibility of eating and drinking, consuming and being consumed by God’s judgment upon our lives.  We risk being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  (See 1 Corinthians 11:27-32) 

The Backward Look, that’s view #1, the Upward Look, that’s view #2, the Inward Look, that’s view #3, then, view #4, what did we call it?  We called it the Forward Look, the hope-filled look.  1 Corinthians 11:26.  Remember the Apostle Paul’s words there?  He says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show forth the Lord’s death until He comes!”  “Till He comes!”  What precious words of hope those words are for those who truly know Jesus Christ as Savior and King!  This meal, it’s not just a memorial, a look back, to the past, to what Jesus did for us on Good Friday.  No!  Because of what God did for us when He raised His Son on Resurrection Day, we can look ahead, with the greatest, most joyful anticipation!  Our Bridegroom is coming!  Wedding day, with Him, is just ahead!  Praise God! 

Well, we have reviewed the 4 sides of the this 5-sided table, now, we move to the fifth and final side.  The side, the view I call the Outward Look, the Look Around.  What are we talking about here?

We’re talking about the simple fact, what I trust for you and me is the obvious fact that we always keep in mind when we come to this Table, and that is that this meal is not meant to be enjoyed ALONE!  No!  As someone has rightly observed, God meant this meal to be a FAMILY meal, a coming together of all who belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.  His family, at His Son’s Table!  Which takes me back to my little math quiz at the beginning.  Have you got it figured out yet? 

Here’s the question one more time: As sin _________, it also _________.  What are the words I’m looking for to fill in the blanks?  Let me give them to you:  As sin multiplies, it also divides.  As sin multiplies, it also divides! 

If you know this Book, if you’re acquainted with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then you know that that statement, my little ‘math problem’ is true!  As sin multiplies, it also divides!  Our sin, and sins, our sinfulness, sinful nature and our sinful actions, separate us from God.  Our sin and sins estrange us from Him, cause us to become, in effect, His enemies!  Cut off from Him, DIVIDED from rather than in precious fellowship with our Creator!  Yet, at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what makes Good Friday good, is that ultimately, the Gospel of Christ is a message of forgiveness of sin, sins and sinners!  Christ’s blood, His atoning death, for us, canceled, removed, sent away, our sin debt!  As a result God, in Christ, has reconciled us to Himself, He has made peace with us through the saving death of His dear Son!  In words, the heart of the Gospel, this message of forgiveness of sin and sinners, has powerful vertical implications!  Our relationship with our Creator is radically altered!  Hallelujah!  

End of story?  Not quite.  Not yet.  You see, there’s a second aspect to my little math problem that perhaps we know all too well.  As sin multiplies, it also divides – Genesis three, you remember the passage.  Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, choosing NOT to obey God, choosing to rebel against His command instead.  What did that do to their relationship with Him?  Well, as we have already said, it separated them from Him!  It caused a horribly wide chasm, their guilt and guiltiness, to divide them from Him.  But is that all it did?  One little sin, one act of disobedience and defiant rebellion.  One!  What else did that one deed do?  It divided them!  Adam and Eve, designed by God, Eve, made uniquely and especially for Adam, God intended for them to be one, joined, unified, one flesh!  But sin, one seemingly tiny act of sinful rebellion, it blew it all apart!  It tore them away from each other!  And we see that kind of thing, on this level    ßà, happening every day, don’t we, in marriages, in families, at work, between husbands and wives, and parents and children and brothers and sisters.  And, it happens in the Church, too!  Sin separates, our sinful actions affect other people, they divided us one from another, and turn this ‘family meal’ into a very sad, and lonely meal, eaten by strangers, even enemies, held at arm’s length!  But, all of that, you know what it is, don’t you?  It goes against the grain o fall that this Meal is meant by God to be! 

You see it, don’t you?  It’s all over the message of this chapter from which we read a moment ago – Matthew 18.  A message that has everything to do with another math equation I have for you this morning.  You know it, don’t you?  It goes like this: 1 Man, 1 Savior [Jesus Christ] + 3 nails = 4-given!  Forgiven! 

You see, the message of the Gospel, this incredible message of forgiveness, has not only vertical implications, God has turned His enemies into His friends!  But, it also has huge horizontal implications!

Matthew 18:155ff.  The very Savior who left the ninety and nine safely in the fold to go and rescue one little, lost lamb, the Good, Good Shepherd who exclaimed, “It is not the will of your Heavenly Father that [even] one of these little ones should perish!”  He says, sin, sinful deeds done against each other, on this <---> level, when we deal with them, truly repent of them, can open up the way for enemies to become friends!  And, that second math equation, 1 Savior + 3 nails = 4-given, means that since God has made me, His enemy, into His friend, I ought to, I must be willing to turn my enemies into my friends, I must extend the forgiveness He has bestowed on me, to them! 

Matthew 18 – This chapter is a powerful chapter, and we don’t have time to look at it in its entirety today.  But, you can, when you go home.  And, as you do, keep in mind those two ‘gospel math equations.’  As sin multiplies, it also divides.  Verse 6 – Whoever offends one of these little ones which believe in Me, whoever causes one of these little ones who belongs to Jesus to stumble into sin, woe unto him!  It would be better for him that a millstone be hung around his neck and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea, than for him to offend, to sin against one of Jesus’ little ones by causing him or her to stumble into sin.  As sin multiplies, it divides!  And that division, that separation is both vertical AND horizontal in orientation!  Look around, that fifth view from the Communion Table, I must look around, we must look around, and ask ourselves, “How have things I’ve said or didn’t say, how have things I’ve done, or didn’t do, how have attitudes of heart that I’ve displayed or that I didn’t display, affected those around me.  My spouse, my children, my parents, my siblings, my brothers and sisters in Christ.  And how have those things, my words, my actions, my attitude, caused this to be a Table of Division, rather than a joyful celebration of oneness in Jesus Christ? 

Yes, I must ask myself these questions, for sins on my part, against you, failures on my part affecting you, have divided us, have kept your time at this Table from being that sweet time of fellowship with Christ and with me that God means for it to be! 

Some of the hardest words for me to say, for you to say, you know what they are, don’t you?  “I’m sorry!  I was wrong!  I realize now that what I said or did, my attitude, what I didn’t say or do, hurt you deeply!  Would you please forgive me?”  Those are hard words for us to say, aren’t they?  So are these three words, “I forgive you…” 

Matthew 18:21-35 – The parable of the un-forgiving servant, a story that very well may describe our situation, the story of a servant whose master forgave his huge mountain of debt, more than he could even repay in a million lifetimes, that servant, when faced with the opportunity to forgive his fellow servant, couldn’t, didn’t say those three powerful words, “I forgive you!”  And, was judged with a tormenting judgment because of it.  Listen, Matthew 18:18-20, these hard to do things, admitting our sin, coming to grips with the division it has caused not only THIS way (vertical), but this way <---->.   And, then, humbly confessing that to each other, seeking

forgiveness and restoration, those HARD-to-do things.  And, these HARD-to-speak words, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.  I’ve hurt you and sinned against you.  Would you please forgive me?”  And “I forgive you.”

Matthew 18:18-20 – These HARD-to-do and hard-to-say things, listen, Jesus is there, He is right there!  Why?  To help us!  To help us DO and SAY what we can’t do and say without His help!  Yes, when we do those things BEFORE we come to this Table, Jesus is there, sort of ‘UMPIRING’ the repenting, confessing, forgiving, reconciling process.  And then what?  He’s here, at HIS table, to make it what He always wants it to be, a Table of fellowship, a Table of sweet, joyful, unified fellowship, with Him and with each other!

The Look Around, the fifth and final view from the Communion Table.  What is it?  It is a penetrating reminder of two powerful and painful gospel equations.  One more time, what are they?

As sin multiplies, it also divides.  AND  1 Savior + 3 nails = 4-given! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Communion Table: Looking Ahead

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 15, 2012

1 Corinthians 11:23-26, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

Several years ago I received a card on my birthday from a friend of mine.  The man who wrote the card was old enough to be my dad, and had himself been in the ministry for many years, so he knew at least a little about what I’m up to and the things I struggle with.  Inside the card, he and his wife not only signed their names, but, at the bottom, he wrote me this interesting and thought-provoking note: it went something like this: “Remember, David, the best is yet to come…” 

The best is yet to come.  Today we come to the fourth in our five-part study of the Lord’s Table and the Lord’s Supper, and this time our focus is not so much on looking back or looing up or looking within, but looking ahead.  I don’t know if  you noticed it or not, but the very last line in the passage we just read indicates that “as often as we eat this bread, and drink this cup, we are proclaiming – showing forth – the Lord’s death till He comes…” 

The BEST is yet to come.  Today our study focus moves from the historical perspective, the look back, and the heavenward perspective, the look up, and the heart-ward perspective, the look within, to the hopeful perspective, the look ahead.  Now, let me ask you to contemplate something with me, to try to figure something out with me.  How is it that something so deeply rooted in the past, an undeniable historical event, the death of Jesus, what we celebrated just a week or so ago on Good Friday, how is it that that past event, which took place two thousand years ago, has anything to do with our future? 

I mentioned it in very quick fashion last Lord’s Day, but perhaps you didn’t catch it, so let me state it one more time.  Why did we gather so early, left our homes while it was still dark, began to pray and sing and worship before sunrise last Sunday?  Was it because on that day, once a year, we meet extra early to acknowledge the anniversary of Someone’s death – sort of an annual funeral replay?  No!  The reason for the joy, even though it was so early, the reason for the season, and the special service has everything to do with the Resurrection, doesn’t it?  Jesus’ death was not the end!  Our time at this Table is not just a weekly memorial of what our Savior did for us at Calvary, a weekly ‘funeral meal’ so to speak.  No, listen, remember Jesus’ words?  John 14:19 – He said, “Because I live, you also shall live.”  This weekly gathering, around a Table inscribed with the words, “Do this is remembrance of Me…” this weekly communion service, with Jesus Christ at the very heart of it, also has everything to do with our HOPE!  Because He lives, here’s the reason for our joy, because He lives, my friend is right, the best IS yet to come!

Two passage of Scripture to bring to your attention just now, two additional texts to have you examine with me for a moment, as we study out this subject.  First of all, Acts 3 & 4, zeroing in on 4:1ff.  Take a look with me at the passage, would you, please?

The context, chronologically speaking, is not many days or weeks after the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, the day upon which our crucified and resurrected Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, having laid down His life for our sins, having conquered death, having ascended to His Father’s right hand into heavenly glory, on Pentecost, what does Jesus do?  He pours out His Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God upon His apostles, Peter and all the rest, to empower them with wisdom and boldness to testify, to proclaim, to show forth Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and ascension, they, having been eyewitnesses of all those things.  And testified they did, and 3,000 souls responded to the message, repented of their unbelief and rejection of Jesus, were baptized into Him for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that day were added to the Church.  The church was ‘born’.  That’s Acts chapter two in a nutshell.  Next comes Acts 3 and 4, right? 

Not many days or weeks following the miraculous events of Acts 2, the day of Pentecost, Peter and John are on their way to the Temple to pray.  It’s about three o’clock in the afternoon, the time for the evening prayer at the Temple.  And there, at the Temple gate called Beautiful, and then, 3 o’clock p.m., these Apostles meet up with a  beggar, a man who as lame from his mother’s womb.  Have you thought about it my friends?  For this beggar man, crippled from birth, unable to walk, to run, to work, what a different a Resurrection makes!  If all we do, if all we CAN do, at this Table each week, is remember a DEAD MAN, eat a little meal in remembrance of a dead man, then listen, this crippled man’s still a beggar!  This crippled would have DIED a beggar!  But, think of it!  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, this man was told to get up and walk.  And, walk and jump and run and leap he did!  What a difference a Resurrection makes!  Because Jesus lives, this man’s crippled legs were able to live! Rejoicing, shouting, praising the Prince of Life, the Living One, Jesus Christ, who wouldn’t want to join in that celebration?  Acts 4:1-2 – The Sadducees, that’s who!  The text tells us there that the Sadducees were grieved, deeply disturbed, that Peter and John, having been used of God to heal this crippled beggar, were now making the most of the opportunity to speak to the crowd that had gathered, and were telling the people that the reason for the miracle was not their own power or holiness – no!  What disturbed the Sadducees, what angered these influential leaders, was that Peter and John gave the credit for the miracle to a dead Man, who m God had raised from the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ! 

Peter and John’s sermon was a proclamation not only of Jesus’ death, but of His resurrection victory, a fact that the Sadducees flatly denied!  And, yet, look, this beggar man, healed as he was, who could deny that?!  Do you see it, my loved ones?  The Lord’s Supper, our time at this Table each week, it’s not just a memorial meal, a funeral anniversary.  No!  It is an exceedingly GLAD, not SAD testimony, that the BEST is yet to come!  A proclamation, yes, even to the skeptics and critics of our day, that “because Jesus lives, we shall live also!”

Crippled beggars, lame from their mothers’ womb, this supper is a joyful proclamation to them, isn’t it?  But, do you know who else needs to hear and know this news?  Anybody that’s ever made a trip to the cemetery!  You and I need to know, to cling to the fact that the best is yet to come!  Why?  Because just three days ago, we went to the cemetery with our dear sister Peggy, to weep with her as she said goodbye to her beloved husband, Glynn.  The BEST is yet to come?!  How can that be?! 

Second passage of Scripture that springs forth from what we do, right here, at this Table, each and every Lord’s Day, 1 Corinthians 15.  The Apostle Paul’s divinely-inspired answer to the question, “How can it be that the BEST is yet to come?” his Holy Spirit-led insight and response to those who have been to the cemetery.  1 Corinthians 15, pick up the reading with me beginning at verse twelve. 

1 Corinthians 15:12-19, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

Stop with me there at verse 19 and ask the question that, in effect, Paul asks: “Is the BEST yet to come?  If Christ is not raised from the dead, is the best yet to come?”  We know, by now, the answer to that question, don’t we?  There is NO hope, if Jesus is not raised!  There is nothing for us but pity, and sadness and shame, if Jesus is still dead!  But, listen, the text doesn’t stop at verse 19, does it?  The apostle, who had himself seen Jesus alive, raised, exalted to God’s right hand, remember Paul’s encounter with Him on the Damascus Road?  This apostle’s message to folks like us, folks who’ve been to the cemetery is what? 

1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The best IS yet to come, because Jesus lives, we will live also!  Every time we gather at this Table, whether we realize it or not, we are proclaiming this fact!  Jesus is the first-fruits!  What does that mean?  It simply means that His life, His victory after AND over death, is a promise and signal that more ‘fruit’ are on the way! 

1 Corinthians 15:21-23, “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

The best is yet to come, because Jesus lives, we, who are in Him, will live also!  Do you see it, my friends?  Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we not only look back to the Cross, to the Empty Tomb, to our Crucified and Resurrected Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, no!  Each Lord’s Day, as we gather around to eat the unleavened bread and to drink of the fruit of the vine, we show forth, we proclaim the glorious news, Jesus is coming again!  The best is yet to come! 

So, what are we to do about it?  So, go and find someone, whose life is broken and bruised, and tell them about the Living One who can help and heal them!  Go, and find the sad skeptics, and tell them how the Risen One has made you glad!

Yes, you go to the Peggys you know and love and tenderly remind them that because Jesus lives, their loved ones will live also! 

The forward look, the hope-filled look, our regular, weekly observance of this Supper, declares what?  Proclaims what?  The Lord’s death, till He comes, the BEST is yet to come!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Inward Side of the Communion Table

Preached at Northwest Christian Church                                                                             David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 1, 2012

1 Corinthians 11:17-24, “Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.  For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.  Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.”

Someone has said that the examined life is the only life worth living.  Now, I’m not exactly sure where the person who came up with that statement is coming from, but as a Christian, as someone who claims to wear the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, as someone who would dare to take part in a weekly celebration of His sinless life, His bruised and battered body, the broken, unleavened bread, and of His shed blood, the full and final atoning sacrifice for my sins, the fruit of the vine, as a Christian, someone who claims to wear that name and who dares to partake of this weekly supper, I must – no ifs, ands, or buts here – I must live an examined, a fully examined life.  For two weeks now we have been getting ready to rejoice in the events we look forward to commemorating this weekend on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And the way in which we are preparing ourselves this year revolves around our look at what we do - what and how and why we celebrate every Lord’s Day at this Table.

So far, with this Table as our reference point, in light of what this Table means, considering whose Table and Supper this is, we have looked first of all at this sacred celebration through the lens of history.  We have looked back at how from eternity past, God, in His infinite mind, God, by way of His mouth and mouth pieces, the prophets of old, and God, through the moving of His hands, has prepared for us, spread for us, a Table wherein we can praise Him for what He’s done for us in Jesus Christ.  Yes, we’ve looked back at this Table and what we are to do at this Table through the lens of HISTORY.  Then, last week, we took our divinely-inspired ‘lens’, the Word of God, and aimed it HEAVENWARD.  And, in looking that direction, we learned or re-learned that at this Table - we recognize - must recognize that the Source of our salvation is not ourselves, who we are, what we’ve done, what bench we sit on in this sanctuary, but who He is!  At this Table, looking at it through the lens of Heaven, we see the Source of our Salvation, God the Father, and the seal of our salvation, God, the Holy Spirit, God’s ‘engagement ring’ placed around our hearts so as to say, ‘Wedding Day’s coming!’  I’m going to come for My Bride!  And then, perhaps best of all, through the lens, the perspective of heaven, we see the Sacrifice of our salvation, the One who laid down His life to make His own, Jesus Christ our Lord!  That’s the second side of the Communion Table.  The upward look, the perspective of HEAVEN.

Now, however, we come to what is likely the most sobering side of the Table, the least enjoyable vantage point we are called to take when we step to this Table and our time with Jesus there each Lord’s Day.  I’m talking about the inward look, the heart-ward perspective, the lens of self-examination.  Consider again my opening statement:  The examined life is the only life worth living!  Now, look again at what Paul had to say about this.  Set in the center of what he teaches us regarding this sacred meal is this astonishingly sober passage:

1 Corinthians 11:27, Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

What does Paul mean by what he’s saying to us here?  What’s his point?  Well, before we answer that, allow me to run just two or three other passages of Scripture by you that have very much the same message for us.  

Psalm 14, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?  Or, who shall stand in His holy place?”  Answer: “He that has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to any idol nor sworn deceitfully.  He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”  

1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles that temple God will destroy him.  For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”  

1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Flee sexual immorality.  All other sins that a man commits are outside his body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins again his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s!”

So what are we suggesting?  That the examined life is the only life worth living.  Now hear James chapter one:

James 1:21-25, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Back to 1 Corinthians 11 and to this third view from the Lord’s Table - the inward look - the examination of our hearts.  Why would Paul say these things?  What’s his point that we need to know and act upon?

First off, let’s answer with this simple observation: the Lord’s Supper, those who claim to wear the name of Christ, those who dare to partake of the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, believe me, if we’re not careful, we can make this time of  the worship service into a lot of things, a time to listen to some quiet music, a time to look around and see what someone else is doing or wearing, a time to check our text messages, a time to let your mind wonder and your mouth water about what you’re going to eat when you get home.  We can make this sacred time into a lot of things, we can, and perhaps we do.  But, listen.  If we make it into anything other than what Jesus meant for it to be, a proclamation of Jesus’ death until He comes again, a celebration in remembrance of Him and His love for us, we are putting ourselves into real, serious spiritual jeopardy!  The Corinthians of Paul’s day were turning into a time of gluttony and drunkenness for the ‘haves’ and a time of depravation and rejection on the part of the ‘have nots’.  Instead of drawing fellow Christians closer to each other and to Jesus, the way the Corinthians celebrated this Supper actually was serving to split Christ’s church! 

As those who claim to be Christians and who dare to take part in this sacred Meal, what are we making of it?  And, is God pleased with what we are making of it?  “Let a man examine himself, and so, in this self-examined spiritually-prepared clean hands, pure heart, sort of way, let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup…” 

What’s Paul point?  Self-examination.  To look into this ‘mirror’ – God’s Word - and quickly forget what kind of person I am, before my utterly holy God - such a thing opens the door for me to reduce this Meal into nothing more than 5 minutes of silence in the service!  But, sincere, self-examination - what does it do?  But to look into this ‘mirror’ and continue therein, as a doer of what it says, opens wide the door for me to draw near into the Holy of holies, to the throne of grace, to the foot of the cross, to the empty tomb, to our Savior, Jesus Christ! 

Why does Paul soberly and rather sternly call us to self-examination before we participate in the Lord’s Supper?  Verses 29, 30 and 31 – My friends, do we realize what we’re dealing with here?  What we’re taking part in here?  What we may be opening ourselves up to here?  Anybody ever had a mother or dad exhort you, instruct you along these lines, “David, you’d better be careful, now, looks to me like you’re playing with fire!” 

Beloved, the reason for the very sober tone of this text is obvious, isn’t it?  Nadab and Abihu, priestly sons of Aaron, died playing with the holy fire of God’s altar (Leviticus 10:1-7).  Ananias and Sapphira conspired to lie to God, to cheat the church, thinking that would help them get ahead financially, over they fell – dead – struck down by God for daring to play around with Him (Acts 5:1-11).  Paul warns us to examine ourselves because to fail to do so, to fail to rightly discern what we are doing here, and, then to take part in an unworthy manner, is to eat and drink God’s judgment to oneself, to open the door, not for God’s blessing and righteousness from the God of salvation, but to swing it wide open for dreadful things like sickness, weakness, even death!  Wow! 

Let a man examine himself.  The examined life, searched out fully and sincerely by this heavenly Search Light - it is the only life worth living, it is!  How do I know that?  Anybody ever had a ‘guilty’ sentence hanging over his head?  I have.  Who robbed the cookie jar?  Who ran the stop sign?  Who broke his promise to be faithful till death?  Who claimed to know something or be something that he isn’t or doesn’t?  Who?  We might as well all raise our hands, right?  We’ve all been guilty, perhaps still are guilty of some crime, wrong doing or sin. 

Look one more time at our text, especially verse 27.  Imagine.  Is it hard to imagine being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ?  In a similar, very sober vein, the writer of the Book of Hebrews has this to say:

Hebrews 10:26-31, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Imagine.  I can hardly bear the thought, can you?  Imagine failing to properly and sincerely examine myself, and do whatever I need to do, to ascend to the hill of the Lord, to stand in His holy place, with clean hands and a pure heart.  Imagine failing to do that and then being guilty of trampling the Son of God under foot, guilty of counting the blood of the new covenant, His sacrifice of love, as if it were a common thing, guilty of insulting the Spirit of Grace!?  Can you imagine that?  Paul’s words of warning here are not to be taken lightly!  The cost is too high!  The consequences are way too painful!  We must examine ourselves!  We must!  But how?  How? 

To find out how to examine yourself properly, and therefore, to discover how to prepare properly for this Supper, I urge you to study two passages.  Psalm 26, a text that expresses a deep, abiding commitment to truth and sincerity before God.  And, Psalm 139, a prayer to guide you as you examine yourself before God. 

Psalm 26:1-7, “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.  For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth.  I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, nor will I go in with hypocrites.  I have hated the assembly of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked.  I will wash my hands in innocence; so I will go about Your altar, O Lord, that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of  all Your wondrous works.”

Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

The examined life (including the self-examined celebration of the Lord’s Supper) - indeed it is the only life worth living!  Let’s pray.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Heavenward Side of the Communion Table

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, March 25, 2012

Romans 8:28-39, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:  “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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In just two short weeks, the Lord-willing, we will again celebrate the most significant events yet to occur in the history of this world.  We refer to those events, those special, sacred days as Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  On those days, in our minds’ eye we will witness the tragic and cruel death of Jesus of Nazareth, His burial in a borrowed tomb, and His stunning appearance after His resurrection from the dead.  And, we’ve been this way before, haven’t we?  I know for my family and me, it will be the twenty-first Good Friday and Resurrection Day in a row that we will celebrate here at Northwest Christian Church.  Yes, we’ve been this way before.  And, we can almost recite the flow events by heart, can’t we?  The betrayal by Judas in Gethsemane.  The 3-fold denial by Peter. The trials before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate.  The statement Pilate placed above Jesus’ head, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  The seven sayings of Jesus from the cross, the scoffers, the soldiers, the sight-seers, the saddened friends and family, and, yes, of course, the Savior. 

Yes, we’ve been this way before, some of us every year, for a lot more years than twenty-one in a row, and the Lord-willing, for a lot more years to come. 

But, listen, as we look forward to those special, sacred days, to those universe-altering events, and to our joyous celebration on them and of them, listen, let’s remember one very, very important thing: as Christians, we don’t rejoice in, we don’t celebrate and commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus our Savior and King only once a year, and that’s all!  No!  At this Table, with the words of our Messiah and Lord engraved on the front for all to see, at this Table, we participate in, we reflect on, we thank God for every one of those events and all that they mean for us, each and every Lord’s Day!  Even if we didn’t do anything extra, anything special, like a Resurrection Day Sunrise Service, like a Resurrection Day breakfast, on that weekend, we’d still have this Table and this weekly time of communing with our Lord and Savior to take us back to Calvary. 

Someone has said that there are five ‘sides’ to the Communion Table, that when a Christian celebrates and participates in the Lord’s Supper with Jesus, he or she should look at the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday from at least five different vantage points.  First of all, there is the look BACK, the Historical perspective or vantage point we must keep in mind.  We examined this ‘side’ of the Communion Table last week, and we learned that as we look back, we have to return, we ought to go back in our mind’s eye, and through the avenue of Holy Scripture, not only to those sacred events which culminated Passion Week, but way back beyond that.  Remember? 

Where, when, did the Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday events, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ originate?  Remember what we learned?  In the mind of God, in the infinitely wise and powerful and gracious mind of almighty God, before the foundation of the world, before Genesis 1:1, God, in His mind planned for the events we will celebrate two weeks from today, and that we commemorate at this Table each Lord’s Day! 

And, then, there is the mouth of God, His words spoken to and through His holy prophets, people like Adam and Abraham, Moses and Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah, centuries, millennia BEFORE Calvary, before Easter morning, God spoke to these men and through these men and said, ‘This is what’s going to happen!  This is how I am going to carry out My plan to redeem sinful men and women and boys and girls.  Yes, the look back, the historical vantage point, this ‘side’ of the Communion Table, takes us back, way back to the Mind of God and to the mouth of God, but it also takes us back to the HANDS of God, His powerful, compassionate HANDS, step-by-step, carrying out His eternal plan of redemption, in the lives of, through His leading of men like Adam, and Abraham and Moses and David and Isaiah, God through His gracious and powerful HANDS orchestrated all the events and people of four thousand years of world history, to lead up to and culminate in the things we celebrate right here each week.   Wow! 

In a nutshell, that’s the Look Back, the Historical vantage point, the first ‘side’ of the Communion Table.  But, then, as we meet around this Table, as we commune with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, reflecting on all that has to do with these events and people of the past, that has to do with God’s mind and mouth and hands, what do we do?  What response does that look back elicit from us?  It prompts us to look UP, doesn’t it?  In humble gratitude, with joy-filled thanksgiving, a long and thorough look back, ought to cause us to joyfully and gratefully look UP. 

Yes, my Brothers and Sisters, look up, and, may I guide your eyes?  May I suggest to you, that, as you look up, as you examine the Lord’s Table and our time with the Lord from this HEAVEN-WARD perspective, may I suggest to you that you, first of all, focus your eyes, your attention, on the Source of our salvation.  Who is the Source of your salvation?  Many religions teach and believe – and the enemy of our souls, the Devil – would have us incorporate into our being, the thought that if there is such a thing as salvation, forgiveness of sins, a place called heaven and so forth, it won’t be God getting me there, but it will be ME getting me there!  That’s what many false religions, and many mistaken people you and I know and love, believe and teach.  But, what does this Book say?  Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”  ‘Look!  Look!  I saved myself!’  Who IS the Source of your salvation? 

The Apostle Paul put it like this:
Romans 8:28-33, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”
My Loved Ones, if reading, studying, contemplating that passage doesn’t make it abundantly clear, then, allow me to clarify it for you with this simple statement: when you come to this Table, don’t look at yourself, at how consistent you’ve been in attending worship services, at how much you’ve placed in the offering plate, at how many lessons or sermons you’ve spoken or shared in, at whose son or daughter you are!  Don’t look at any of that.  Why?  Because none of that will save you!  No!  Don’t look at yourself, look up!  To the Source of your salvation, God the Father!  And, remember: if He isn’t for you, if He isn’t your salvation Source, my friend, you don’t have any salvation!  

Secondly, look up, when you come to this Table, and this special, sacred time of communing with Jesus, look up to SEAL of your salvation, fix your eyes on the Seal of your salvation.  Who is the SEAL of our salvation?  This is one aspect to the HEAVENLY vantage point of the Lord’s Table that you may not have considered before.  We didn’t read it earlier, but take a look at what the Apostle Paul tells us about the seal of our salvation:
Romans 8:9-17, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
Do you understand what it means to be SEALED, to have received the gift of God’s Spirit as a seal of your salvation?  The world seal, found in places like Ephesians 1:13-14, testifies to this one very powerful and incredibly meaningful fact: the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, when God gives Him to a genuinely repentant believer in Jesus Christ, when he or she is baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins, when God gives His Spirit to you, He seals you with this promise: ‘The inheritance I intend to give you, I will give you and My Spirit is my down-payment, my earnest money, my engagement ring for your finger, to say that one day very soon I’m going to complete the transaction, on day, I’m going to come for My Bride!’

My Loved Ones, this Table, and what we are all about at this Table, oh listen, it ought to cause us to look UP, to look up to the Source of our salvation, God the Father, and to the Seal of our salvation, God the Holy Spirit.  But then, last of all, look up, make full use of this heavenly vantage point, to gaze upon the SACRIFICE through Whom we have received salvation.  For centuries people have been enamored with Jesus, with His saying, His miracles, His compassion, His humility, His great moral example.  But, then they run up on His cross, and what His death there means, and what does Jesus’ death on Calvary’s cross mean?  It means that you and I have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  It means that the wages of sin is death, physical death and eternal death, it means that before an utterly holy God you and I are shut up under sin, under its guilt, under its condemnation and under its punishment.  And that there is no way out, no deliverance from this body of death!  None!  Not in the sayings of Jesus, not in the miracles of Jesus, not in the compassion of Jesus for the sick, the blind, the lame, none even in the humility of Jesus, serving the outcasts, ministering to the tax collectors and prostitutes, washing His disciples’ feet, in all of those things about Jesus with which people are enamored, so in love, there is no help, no hope, when it comes to dealing with our biggest problem, the problem of sin!  But listen, listen to these words: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are being justified freely by God’s grace THROUGH the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an atoning sacrifice.”  By His blood there is hope, help, at the cross.  Or, how about this: “for the wages of sin is death,” no hope or help there, right?  Oh, but keep looking, keep looking up, for the rest of the verse says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  There is hope and help at the cross.

One more Romans 7:24ff: “O Wretched man that I am!  O miserable man that I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  Look up!  My friends, look up, to the Sacrifice provided for your salvation, “who will rescue me from this body of death?”  Here’s the answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The five ‘sides’ to the Communion Table.  Looking back we see the mind of God, the mouth of God and, yes, even the HANDS of God, leading up to this point, the point that ought to cause all of us to look UP like Jesus did when HE blessed the Bread and distributed the Fruit of the Vine.  Yes, at this Table look up, to the Source who originated your salvation, the Seal who secures your salvation, and the Sacrifice, the precious sacrifice of His own dear Son, whom God did not spare, but gave Him up, so that you and I might experience salvation.