Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What it Means to Take the Table of the Lord in An Unworthy Manner

1 Cor. 11:23-24 says: (23) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: (24) And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. (25) After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

Jesus left His beloved disciples with the instructions to remember that moment often, and savor His fellowship. He was about to leave them, but wanted to institute a time of remembrance. Every time they broke the bread and drank from the cup they were to remember His teachings, His love, His great mercy and forgiveness. They would remember His miracles, and be encouraged in their faith. But most of all, they would remember His great humility to suffer along with them and for them, and to be their friend. Their friend was King of all heaven and earth. Taking communion was no light thing. It honored everything He had taught them; everything that He was to them. Partaking of the table of the Lord was to stand in agreement with love, justice, mercy, forgiveness and the brotherhood of His body. It was to remind them of the price He was willing to pay for them; His painful death upon the cross and the power of His resurrected victory. Every time they took communion, it was enjoying fellowship with Him. The very act was so sacred it literally drew His presence to them.

With this reminder also came the instruction to avoid taking a sacred act lightly and in the process dishonoring its significance. 1 Cor. 11:26 – 29 says: “For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death till he come.(27) Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (29) For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

How often people prefer the blessing but want to ignore the truth. We are far too desensitized to sin; so much so that we often completely disregard the warnings of the consequences of it. The body of Christ is weak, sick, powerless and some have gone on to an early death all because we fail to judge ourselves properly. We cannot judge ourselves according to our own opinions! Holiness is not something our flesh enjoys or finds easy to accommodate. We often create loopholes in order to disregard or excuse our sin rather than looking into God's word to find the spiritual laws that He is bound to enforce. If we would judge ourselves, we could avoid being judged and chastised. Yet, how frequently we fail to do so. The warning to each of us is to judge the condition of our own heart and life before taking the table of the Lord in an unworthy manner. Recently I had an opportunity to take communion with other brothers and sisters in a new church we visited. As the familiar elements of the bread and wine were passed to the congregants, the pastor spoke on this subject and reminded all the people on the significance of the act they were about to perform. Then I heard something I cannot remember hearing before – ever. And in that moment it occurred to me how serious it is to not heed the Lord’s counsel. I have heard other men of God advise people to confess their sins before taking communion, but what I had not heard was a warning to parents to deal with their children’s hearts before offering it to them. It wasn’t harsh or critical, just an advisement and a reminder that those that sit in the seat of the head of household had a responsibility to those under them. How often people pass the trays of bread and juice and make light of the very thing Jesus told us not to take lightly!

If a person ignores their responsibility towards sin, they keep a covenant with sin and death and that covenant of dishonesty and falsehood will, at some point, bring judgment on their own life. God’s justice demands it. How many people fear the responses of those around them instead of fearing the Lord? When is it appropriate to take the elements of communion and when should one allow it to pass them by?

In regards to bringing an offering to God, in Matthew 5:23 Jesus said, (23) “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you; (24) Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (25) Agree with your adversary quickly, whiles you are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison.” If God is willing to refuse a gift or an offering until broken relationships are reconciled and the instruction is to leave the gift and go deal with the brother or sister that is offended with us, then how much more is He concerned with the state of our heart before we partake of communion? Is it not an even more holy act of worship?

We are all sinners, all in need of God's grace, and He has given it freely. Communion is a powerful thing when it is done in humility and honoring towards the significance of this act. It is not just another religious ritual and shouldn't be treated as such. That is taking the table of the Lord in an unworthy manner. It's not correctly discerning the power made available to us through the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross. Jesus died in our place. He was punished on our behalf with great suffering. The price for our sin has been paid in full, yet, it does not give us a free pass to ignore other portions of scripture in regards to disobedience. Hebrews 10:29 says: “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” If we have broken relationships, they must be dealt with. If we are separated from others, then we should seek reconciliation. If we have hurt or offended others, we must lay down our pride.  If we have unforgiveness or bitterness in our heart, it must be renounced and sought for the Lord’s forgiveness. If we have dishonored authority or spoken in an unmannerly way towards others, we need to confess it and make amends with those affected. If we have committed wrongs, they need to be corrected and confessed. Should we attempt to deceive ourselves or others in regards to not dealing with our own sin issues and take communion as if our heart and life are in right standing, we willfully attempt to deceive God and others and stand in jeopardy of judgment. God is bound by His word to do what the word states. He does not accept excuses; He accepts repentance. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16, NASB)

Married couples have a responsibility to one another as well as to God. If something in their lives is out of order, they need to reconcile it with God. Their spouse is also a brother or sister in the Lord. There are times when marital issues can be quite serious. I think of the steep penalty Ananais and Saphira paid because they conspired together in an attempt to deceive others in the body of Christ. They attempted to lie to the Holy Spirit about things they had done and disguise their motive for doing it. Though that situation concerned finances, God was looking into their heart. They failed to judge themselves when they had an opportunity to tell the truth and judgment fell instantly. This was not Old Testament; this is New Testament (Read Acts 5),  under the covenant of grace. The fact that Jesus made grace available is not to be used as an excuse to deceive ourselves, others or try to avoid accountability.

Galatians 6:6-8 says, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teaches in all good things. (7) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. (8) For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” If we attempt to gloss over our own sin without true repentance, we become guilty of mocking God and dishonoring the person of Jesus Christ. Taking the table of communion was not about a religious exercise or ceremony. It was about considering our relationship with the Lord, who Jesus represents in our life, and our relationship with others that also have the Spirit of Christ living in them. It is all about the integrity of our fellowship with God and others.

We need not fear God for He is great in mercy and patience; yet this admonishment to humbly examine our own heart less we be judged gives thought to serious consideration. Let me close this with a more contemporary version from the Message Bible. 1 Cor. 11:23-26 “Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me.

What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.”

27-28 “Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.”

29-32 “If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later.”

The table of the Lord has the ability to bring us into close fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and partake of everything He has made available to us, providing we do so in honesty and integrity of heart. What an amazing blessing awaits us as we remember to first deal with the issues of our heart and life, and then partake of His power, life, healing and provision. Blessings await those that will honor His body, (brothers and sisters in the Lord) and remember His sacrifice with gratitude. Thank you, Lord Jesus. We bless You and what You have done for us and we welcome your communion. Amen.