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.