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! 

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