Sunday, November 6, 2011

Unholy People Taking Holy Communion

One of my favorite Jewel songs is "Life Uncommon." There's a great line in it that says, "Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from." But it's clear that in our sin, we are incapable of just doing this. It's easy to say it, but in reality, we need the power of Christ in our lives to accomplish it; but how is that power given to us? The Scripture indicates that it is given to us through our fellowship/abiding/communion with Christ. We enter this fellowship through the gospel, and one of the most profound moments of proclamation of that gospel is through the sacrament of communion. Yet, there are numerous people who are not taking communion today because they have come to believe that it is only for people who have been living their lives right. Imagine that. The communion is a weekly/biweekly/monthly opportunity to restore fellowship with Christ, a fellowship we need to unshackle us from our oppressor, and Christians are not partaking of it because they think they need to be unshackled first.

Grace Covenant had our first service today, and along with it, our first communion service. Mark preached and I conducted the communion. I tried my best to spit out an important clarification concerning the taking of communion the best I could, but likely fell short of what I was trying to say. So let me say it again here.

I've been to numerous communion services now, and every once and awhile I'll hear a pastor talk about how one ought to be living his life right if he is going to partake of the communion--thus supporting the false belief of many Christians who abstain from communion I spoke about above. He'll often cite First Corinthians 11:27-32 as a support of this idea:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the 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, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Upon this text, he will argue that only those who have been living rightly ought to partake; but this is not what this passage is saying. If we look at the context, the passage is speaking against taking communion in "an unworthy manner." When we look at vv. 18-19, it's clear that the church was dividing up into separate groups that would eat before others. Other groups would be partaking of the wine to get drunk. In other words, some of them were just taking communion because they were primarily hungry or "thirsty," but it wasn't for the purpose of observing the meaning of the sacrament (vv. 20-22). But communion is about proclaiming the death of Christ until His coming (v. 26). Hence, each person is to judge him or herself in regard to the reason why he or she is taking communion. If it is for the wrong reasons, refrain from partaking. Hence, Paul says in v. 34, "If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you may not come together for judgment." Hence, Paul is talking about judging the body in terms of why one is doing this, not whether one is a sinner when he eats it. If we were to wait until we weren't sinners in order to eat it, we would never eat it!

The truth of the matter is that the communion is the symbolic proclamation of the gospel of Christ that seeks to restore fellowship with His children who may have sinned during the week. It is Christ's hand extended to His people through the reminder of His death. In other words, it is for sinners, not perfect people. But it is for repentant sinners, those who seek to confess, and be forgiven of, their sins. Hence, the right attitude to have in it is to be seeking fellowship with Christ in reconfirming the truth of the gospel and our complete and utter submission to it in order to have fellowship with God. There is no need to refrain because you have sinned during the week. That's the whole reason Christ's sacrifice for your sins is proclaimed through it every time we come together to do it! We don't already have the key to the shackles. We get it through the gospel and the initial union and subsequent communion with Christ that it brings to us.

So if you have no desire to restore fellowship with Christ after you have sinned, or have no desire to do so by confessing your sins to Him and seeking forgiveness from Him, then don't partake of the communion, because you are doing so for the wrong reasons, and will suffer God's judgment for it; but if you are beaten down and overloaded with the guilt of your sin, come and eat this bread of life and have your burdens taken away. Come be forgiven, cleansed, and empowered to live a life that "no longer lends your strength to that which you wish to be freed from." This bread and this wine is for you, because the precious death that it proclaims was made for you. Don't you dare hesitate, because of your sin, to take it ever again if you seek His face through it, for He earnestly seeks yours through it as well.

'Behold, I stand at the  door  and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev 3:20)

i've heard your anguish
oh! i've heard your hearts cry out
we're tired, oh! we are weary
oh! we aren't worn out
set down your chains
'til only faith remains
set down your chains
and lend your voices
only to sounds of freedom
oh, no longer lend your strength to that
which you wish to be free from
fill your lives with love and brav'ry
and we shall lead a life uncommon
there are plenty of people
who pray for peace
but if praying were enough
oh! it would have come to be
don't ever let your words enslave no one
and the heavens will hush themselves
to hear our voices ring out clear
with sounds of freedom
sounds of freedom
come on you unbelievers
oh! move out of the way
there is a new army coming
oh! and we are armed with faith
oh! live, oh! we must give
oh! live
and lend our voices only to
sounds of freedom
no longer lend your strength
to that which you wish to be free from
fill your lives with love and brav'ry
and we shall lead
a life uncommon
fill your lives with love and brav'ry
oh! and we shall lead
a life uncommon

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