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. 

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