A Table of Reckoning

When Jesus told His disciples to eat and drink in “remembrance of Me,” He wanted them to think especially of Him in body to death. His flesh and blood were the means by which God’s wrath was absorbed against our sin. The cross was a reckoning, a settling of accounts so that God could be both just and the justifier of those who believe in Christ. That makes the communion table a table of reckoning, a sign of Christ’s atoning substitute for all who would ever believe.

When we eat the bread and drink the cup we reckon that it’s true; Jesus died and rose again. When we come to this table we also reckon that it’s true for us. We died with Christ and have been raised in Him.

We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin….Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again. (Romans 6:6, 8-9)

We believe the truth of the gospel account, and then we believe the truth that we died and rose again in Him.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

The translation “consider” could be “count” (NIV) or “reckon” (KJV). This is a table of reckoning. As you hold the bread and wine, hold to the reality by faith. We partake of the signs of God reckoning with sin on Christ, and as we partake we reckon that our union with Christ matters for everything.

Sex Is for Fruit

“Blessed the man that fears Jehovah and that walketh in His ways.” Yes, and amen to the one-hundred and twenty-eighth Psalm. And what form does the blessing referred to in verse 1 take? In addition to eating the fruit of the field (verse 2), God’s blessing includes enjoying the fruit of the womb (verse 3).

Sex is a blessing, for enjoyment and pleasure and closeness in marriage. Sex is for fun, and sex is for fruit. This fruit is a blessing, says God. The man blessed by the Lord will have children “like olive shoots around his table.” By the Lord’s blessing he may even see his “children’s children,” his grandchildren (verse 6).

Recognizing this blessing does not require that every married couple needs to have as many kids as they possibly could. It does mean that every newly married couple should not reject this blessing on principle. Recognizing this blessing also means finding days-old, dried-up pieces of pasta stuck to the floor underneath the kitchen table, or the fine powder of fist-crushed pretzels in the crevices underneath the car seat in the back of the van. It means inconveniently timed disobediences to deal with, or inconveniently timed emotional breakdowns to work through, or math homework that needs to be rewritten for the fifth time, while you watch.

But these are part of the olive shoots. These are part of the blessing. And too many of our kids don’t get that we get that they are blessings. They have father hunger rather than hunger to father. So they think that growing up and getting married is about the ceremonial wedding-dress pageant, or for the honeymoon-night undressing, or they run the other way and think that God thinks less of all those things and only wants us to be “spiritual.”

God bless us with kids, and God bless our kids with a vision of generational fruitfulness rather than merely moments of satisfying their physical pleasures.

Has Beens

There is only one kind of sinner who isn’t welcome at the Lord’s Table. Sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, effeminacy, homosexuality, thievery, greed, drunkenness, scoffing, and cheating are not prohibitive as long as they are past tense. These are representative sins, they are some of the “biggies,” and so long as “such were some of you,” so good.

The only kind of sinner who isn’t welcome at the Lord’s Table is the unrepentant. Have you repented? Have you called your sin, sin, according to God’s Word? Have you trusted in God’s Son who died on the cross in order to satisfy God’s wrath against unrighteousness? Have you received God’s Spirit, who dwells in every believer as a guarantee of eternal inheritance? Then, according to the good news, you have been cleansed, you have been consecrated, you have been confirmed by the Judge of Righteousness as one accepted by Him.

So we are all a bunch of “has beens.” You has been greedy, I has been angry, we has been ungrateful, but all of that was nailed to the cross. He has been a hater of his brother, she has been a gossip about her sister, but no more, because Jesus is raised from the dead.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And week by week as we commune around the Lord’s Table we make no compromises with the unrighteousness around us. We declare to the unrighteous that they can be has beens, too, but only through Christ. “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The glory of the cross makes us the most thankful has beens ever.

Two Blesseds

When Jesus talks about those who are blessed He really messes up our categories. His sermon starts out that way, with the poor in spirit as heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

Inheriting the kingdom of heaven is the only promise mentioned twice, and the second time it belongs with the only characteristic that is mentioned as doubly-blessed.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-11)

Not the peacemakers or the pure in heart or the poor in spirit are given two blesseds, but the persecuted. And note that persecuted isn’t narrowly defined as being beaten or killed, though it certainly includes that. This persecution includes being talked bad about, being talked to about your insensitivity, or your bigotry, or your arrogance, or just that you’re so dumb for believing in Jesus.

I have been thinking about this “blessing” more and more recently, and how we want to be a people who are not only able to absorb the criticism, but who really are able to “rejoice and be glad” when it comes. Such treatment puts us in a long line of godly men and women, and it means our reward is great in heaven, for which we really ought to be investing.

Are we living in such a way as to provoke the right kind of persecution, and then are we ready to receive persecution in such a cheerful way as to make others wish they could have that blessing?

A Gaping Void

On the subject of social media, except not really, because it was published in 1835:

“If an American were to be reduced to minding only his own business, he would be deprived of half his existence; he would experience it as a gaping void in his life and would become unbelievably unhappy.”

—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Take Him to Dinner

A couple weeks ago I referred to the discipline not just of not being allowed to come to the communion table, but to the discipline of coming week by week. There are benefits for disciples, remembering the truths of the gospel about the love of God and the peace-making work of Christ on our behalf.

The discipline of communing is not only for individuals, but also for the entire church. There is discipline for my heart to make sure I’m ready to eat and drink with God, there is also discipline for my heart to make sure I’m ready to eat and drink with the sons and daughters of God. God has high standards, so His eating in His presence requires preparation, but He is perfect, so He’s never irritating or annoying. He lowers Himself to meet me at the communion Table. But if I start looking around the wrong way, I could think, “Whoa. What is wrong with all these people?”

When Paul said, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones…compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against one another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:12-13) this was an antidote to lawsuits, and bickering and bitterness and backbiting and bad-attitudes. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).

Don’t take your brother to court, take him to dinner. Or, at least remember that we share the same meal of communion here together because of the work of Christ. We are at peace in Christ. Let it be so in real time.

Most Likely to Be an Arbiter

I don’t plan to make this an exhaustive series of exhortations covering all the blesseds in the Bible, but part of the method of staying on the subject for so many weeks is to make the point that God loves to bless His people and that there are lot of ways He does so.

For now let’s go back into the Beatitude orchard and note the seventh in line: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Like the first six in the list, “peacemakers” describes a kind of person. It is one word in Greek, made up of two parts, the verb for “make” and the noun “peace” (very nuanced in translation, as you can tell). A man who makes peace is a man who intervenes in disagreements and disputes, who reconciles divided parties, who works to calm conflicts and bring fighting friends back into fellowship.

Peace cannot always be made, and there are certain occasions when peace should not be pursued. Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). We are to fight against sin and fight for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. But even then we defend the faith for sake of justified peace. We kill our sin for sake of holy peace. We call for the unrepentant and heretical to repent for sake of eternal peace.

That said, most of us weren’t voted “Most Likely to Be an Arbiter” in our graduation class, and the world does not know that we are Christians by our peacemaking. We are much better at stirring things up, or being stirred up. But, as fun as it may be, Jesus did not say “blessed are the contrarians.”

Why are peacemakers blessed? It certainly doesn’t feel happy in the midst of most conflict, either between you and someone else or when trying to help two other people. But God makes it blessed because it is a share in God’s own work. God makes peace. God gets in the middle. He is a Mediator at heart, or at least He is in flesh, and that’s why Jesus says the peacemakers will be “called sons of God.” When we make peace we are acting like our Father.

Discipline of a Different Style

When a man refuses to repent from his sin the church disciplines him which includes no longer allowing him to participate in communion. When a man is repenting from his sin the church provides discipline of a different style which includes providing weekly opportunity to participate in communion. There is discipline in not communing, there is discipline in communing.

Discipline almost always has the idea of negative feedback, equated to punishment and involving pain of some kind. But discipline and disciple are related terms, and both are rooted in the Latin word discipulus which means “learner” at the most basic level. A disciplined person is a person who is learning, not just suffering something unpleasant.

There is discipline for disciples in coming to the Lord’s Table week by week. The way we approach it, it is not unpleasant, but it is not easy either. There is necessary work to get ready for it and to partake in it. What do disciples learn here at Supper?

We learn, or are regularly remembering what we’ve learned, that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. We learn that salvation is not by any of our works. We learn that atonement is substitutionary. We learn that God fulfills His promises. We learn that faith gets fed. We learn that God desires fellowship with us. We learn that we are not alone. We learn that we are always proclaiming something, and that we are privileged to proclaim in eating and drinking the good news of Jesus’ death. We learn that today is not the end, but we must eat and drink “until He comes.” We learn that thankfulness is the necessary tone, and the Table trains us get in tune.

Left Without Discipline

We are still in a series of exhortations to confession focused on being blessed. Recognizing our blessings from God and giving Him thanks for those blessings is a part of our evangelistic strategy. This is not a prosperity gospel, though prosperity can be a blessing. There are other blessings that are harder to recognize, so we want to see them and boast in the Lord about them.

The last couple blesseds have been from the Beattitudes, and there are more worth covering from that Sermon, but for now let’s consider that one of our heavenly Father’s great blessings to His children is discipline.

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD,
 And who you teach out of your law. (Psalm 94:12)

The version we sing at our church is, “blessed the man whom You chastise, Lord, whom You teach to know Your way” (“God of Vengeance, O Jehovah”). Discipline is training, often that corrects disobedience. Discipline can include rebuke or pain that turns us away from sin and back to holiness.

The author of Hebrews says a lot about discipline without using the word blessed, but it certainly applies. He even quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 which has some overlap with Psalm 94:12.

How is discipline a blessing?

Discipline means that we are not abandoned, but loved. God’s discipline is a father’s love for a son, not a judge’s punishment of a criminal. Worse than that, perhaps, is being allowed to have whatever we want, left to sit and stew in soul destroying sin. Discipline displays our Father’s wise affection applied to us. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). And, “if you are left without discipline…then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8).

Discipline also means that we are not finished, but still being shaped. The Father wants us to “share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). That would be preposterous if God Himself hadn’t said it. Discipline is “for our good,” it “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

So don’t be weary when He corrects you (Hebrews 12:5). Don’t treat His discipline like an unwanted intervention. Discipline is blessing, and we ought to receive discipline in such a way that makes others jealous to have it.

We Eat What We Are

Because of how the gospel connects indicatives to imperatives, we can not only say: you are what you eat, but also you eat what you are. When we eat and drink Christ's body we are being knit together and strengthened. Our faith is strengthened by His bread, our hearts are gladdened by His wine.

But we are also eating what we are. We are, in Christ, bread that strengthens the faith of others. We are, in Christ, wine that gladdens the hearts of others. We are a new lump, and what is it good for? It is good to be eaten. We are new wine, and what is it good for? It certainly can’t stay in old wine skins.

So Christ's body is bread and wine to us, and also we are bread and wine as Christ's body. We celebrate all that we have in Him because He is our Passover lamb who has been sacrificed. And that celebration is not limited to one day of the week or one week of the year. That celebration extends to our lives.

Feast here on Christ in communion, and remember that you eat what you are. How will you celebrate with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth? Put off the old self which is corrupt through deceitful desires and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24). Do honest work so that you have something to share (Ephesians 4:28), speak for the building up of others that gives grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up as a fragrant offering (Ephesians 5:2). You are that fragrant offering in communion with Him.