THE LORD'S SUPPER: FINDING STRENGTH IN DIFFICULT TIMES
Written by Kevin L. Howard
[Central Idea: This meal reminds us, through the family of faith and Jesus' death, that God hasn't forgotten us]
INTRO: Have you ever felt that you were alone in a difficult situation? Sickness, unemployment, loneliness? My previous state of singleness.
Maybe you feel alone or wounded today at something God has done or not done. One of the things the Lord's Supper (LS) can help with is assuring that God hasn't forgotten us.
1. What is the Lord's Supper? [Communion, Eucharist, Lord's Table]
Explain Ex 12:
God has inflicted the plagues on Egypt and is preparing to lead Moses and children of Israel out of Egypt.
One final plague: death angel to kill first born of all Egyptians and Israelites if they didn't obey him.
God tells them to prep a Passover meal and place blood of lamb or goat on door posts--he would pass over.
Eat the meat with haste because it represented that God would bring swift judgment on his enemies and a quick escape.
The cup that we partake of in the LS is most likely associated with the 3rd of four cups in a festival called the Passover. [I'm not sure if it is a Passover meal or just associated with it.]
Read Mk 14:12-21: It is the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples before he died.
Read 1 Cor 11:23-26
2. Why bread and wine (juice)?
Basics of a meal in first century.
Color of wine like blood.
Something living had to die in order to give life.
Because in these elements, there was once life: grape and wheat. In order for them to be eatable, they had to die. What was living died so that it could provide life. That reminds us of Christ. He died to give us life. We also die to ourselves as we live for God.
3. Why the image of a meal?
We involve all of our senses when we eat.
We consume a meal totally.
We eat daily: Being a follower of Christ is not just a one-day-a-week thing, but it is a daily relationship, a communion, a thanksgiving feast, in which Christ is the essence of our lives, just as a meal is necessary, enjoyable, and internal.
We covenant with God and other believers: In the first century and earlier, to eat someone's food, meant you'd be loyal to them. Are you at peace with God and your brothers and sisters in Christ? [Salt: ; Lev 2:13; 22:4-6; Num 18:19; 2 Chron 13:5]
Covenant: "...an arrangement made by one party with plenary [full] power, which the other party may accept or reject but cannot alter" (Archer, Evang. Dic. of Theo., 278).
We renew our vows as Christians to follow Christ and to love each other.
[Ignorance is no excuse: Jacob's first wife, Leah (Gen 29:25)]
We are in effect saying,
"Lord we remember that you died to forgive our sin so that we could have a relationship with you.
"Lord, we as a community of faith acknowledge your authority over our lives.
"And we recognize that we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as you loved us."
It also reminds us of the heavenly feast.
4. Who partakes?
Only Christians--those who have put their faith in Christ's death as the only payment for sin.
For believers only because this meal is fellowship with God and with his people.
This meal itself does not give you a relationship with God. Rather it is an expression of your relationship with God.
5. Who is worthy to partake?
Those living a consistent Christian life--because this meal that blesses also curses.
Read 1 Cor 11:27-34
Corinthians were eating festive meals which included LS.
Some believers (possibly rich) gathered early and ate all the food, and got drunk.
Poorer believers possibly had to work longer and would come later to find all the food was gone and folks were drunk.
The upper class excluded those who couldn't get there early and poorer people.
Paul condemned their greed and flippancy when approaching others and the LS.
Am I worthy to partake of this meal?
We partake, not because we are worthy, but because Christ has invited us to share a meal with him and his people.
Who is invited to the table?
Those living a consistent Christian life.
If you have sin in your life that you're not willing to forsake, then don't partake.
-If you're not willing to give of your riches and help the poor, don't partake. (Do we love our money more than people?) Such an attitude says you're probably not a Christian. Please don't partake.
-Problem with another Christian? Attitude to reconcile.
The meal is a promise that we are in good fellowship with each other and God.
The LS trains us to:
-see other believers as equals and
-help those in need.
If you are a believer and struggling with a particular sin, repent and partake.
LS is serious (cross) but it's also a celebration (daily joy and heaven).
LS is an expression of grace. It doesn't make you a Christian.
But approach LS same way we approach God for salvation--Needy.
We partake because God invites us not because we deserve to come.
6. How do we gain strength from the LS?
It reminds us that God hasn't forgotten us.
LS comes out of Jesus' giving hope amid the most difficult situation, the crucifixion.
Look around us and see. He's given us a community of faith to live with.
-Tie back into singleness and loneliness
The Mysterious Meal--shortened version (Spiritual Reflections, KLH)
"When I approach the LS, I'm tempted to explain away its mystery and make it something I fully understand. I don't like doing things that aren't backed with logic and good sense. But the LS is full of divine foolishness. What good does a tiny bit of bread and juice do for Christians who have adult-sized appetites and God-sized problems? What does death and resurrection have to do with a meal anyway? Yet, it is here where the clarity comes: This meal is not for me to take by my own choosing. I must receive it with no pre-condition of superior knowledge. I can't barter with God or earn his favor. I can't receive until he offers. I must release my tight grip of control, letting go of the desire to abolish all mystery. I must approach the LS as I approached the Lord for salvation: with empty hands and open mouth.
"When I take this meal, somehow I see the invisible, I smell the heavenly bread, I taste the world to come, and I digest more than food. I hear the inaudible voice of my Creator, I touch the intangible, and I find rest where there is only weariness. Once again, the cross and empty tomb have provoked me to worship Christ."
Intro: Dad got Benny a job by putting in a good word for him. Douglas gave Dad a job.
Big Idea: Jesus' position at the right hand of God the Father gives us insight into Jesus himself and his role in our lives.
Why listen? Jesus can help you in your times of need.
An overview not an exhaustive study.
1. Jesus reigns and is preparing to judge all the world
1 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." 2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. (See Acts 2:33-34: mentions exalted to right hand of God and quotes Ps 110:1.)
13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
1 Cor 15:24-26
24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
[Wait till your father gets home]
1 Pet 3:22
22who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Eph 1:19-20; (See Col 3:1)
19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
He is sovereign and will hold us accountable
2. Jesus is also eager to save those in need
31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
[Rescue worker/police can be friend or enemy]
28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
He loves to rescue the humble
3. Jesus is a helper and intercessor
1The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
[Mrs. B/Granddad stepping in to prevent a whipping]
1 Jn 2:1-2 (legal representative)
1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Jesus was standing in Acts 7:56 as a witness for defense; a judge sits and witness stands (See vol 2 DNTT, 148). (Standing in Acts 7:56: refers to his work of intercession, Guthrie, Hebrews, Tyndale, 69, and "He is standing as an advocate to plead Stephen's cause...," Marshall, Acts, Tyndale, 149.)
He takes care of us and makes sure we are represented well
4. Jesus has finished his work
11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Heb 1:13 quotes Ps 1.)
He finished, so can we. Persevere!
Have you recognized him as the ruler? Have you prayed to the Father lately, with the confidence that Jesus is by his side speaking well of you?
YOUR KEY TO UNDERSTANDING LIFE
Written by Kevin L. Howard
Intro: Have you ever taken the time to write out your goals in life, your passions, your dreams?
It's a valuable exercise, something I did many years ago and continue to update. But all of that planning would be in vain, if I did it without God's wisdom.
Big Idea: Jesus is our key to understanding everything and living an excellent life.
Why listen? Wasting your life if you don't live it the way God intended.
1. If you want to know your purpose in life, look first to God's Word.
Since you didn't create yourself, you can't understand your purpose on your own. You need your Creator's help.
"In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:2-3). [Witnessing opp: haircut lady; pluralism; that's truth to you; Jan 2007]
Did you get that? Christ is the key to understanding life. If you are a mechanic, your first lesson is that Christ is the key to figuring out how mechanical things function. If you're a scientist, Christ is the key to thinking about the substance under the microscope. If you're an oilfield worker, Christ is the key to understanding how those useful elements ever got in the earth.
2. Do you want fulfillment? Doing life God's way is your only shot at contentment.
Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!"
Hebrews 13:5 says, "Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, 'I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.'"
a. But God's way isn't the most popular way.
"If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life" (Matthew 16:25).
b. The common approach means arriving first to the front of the line.
God says the path to greatness lies in servant hood:
"But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant" (Mark 10:43).
c. God has a purpose for you, a purpose he laid out before time began,
"...Because of Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us from the beginning, and all things happen just as he decided long ago" (Ephesians 1:11).
John 10:10 says, "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."
Take time now to write a specific goal for your life, if you haven't already.
Intro: Thai taxi driver taking me the long way to bookstore. If I'd known where the store was, my time that day would have been better spent. But there's no way I could have known. There are some things we don't know about...like fasting, which can make life better.
Who cares? Wouldn't you want to know how to improve your spiritual life?
Encourage them to take notes.
Title of sermon.
Fasting means abstaining from something, typically food, for a certain time to place special attention on God concerning any number of issues.
Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me."
History illustrations: Tacitus reporting on Nero
"Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." -Tertullian (AD 196)
2. God wants Christians to expect persecution
When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don't. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? "A servant is not greater than the master." Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you!
But this precious treasure - this light and power that now shine within us - is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you are willing to suffer for Christ, you have decided to stop sinning.
We have worked wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.
Are we godly if not persecuted?
What accounts for our comfort? Is it ok to go through seasons of calm?
Does the Bible ever anticipate a time before Christ returns when the church will rest from persecution?
1 Tim 2:1-2 "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God's mercy upon them, and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity."
What does our faith cost us?
"...For if the disciple of Jesus never experiences any persecution at all, it may fairly be asked where righteousness is being displayed in his life." p28
(The Sermon on the Mount, D.A. Carson)
6. God defeats his enemy through his persecuted ones
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, "It has happened at last - the salvation and power and kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ! For the Accuser has been thrown down to earth - the one who accused our brothers and sisters before our God day and night. And they have defeated him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of their testimony. And they were not afraid to die."
"The fact that Jesus holds all authority and that he will never leave his followers enables us to fulfill his command to go and teach all nations (Mt 28:18-20). The truth of God's power in our lives sets us free to take chances and risks for the sake of God's glory that would otherwise be foolish" (Me, Growing, unpublished).