We eat to know that we’re not alone.
I adapted that statement from a line in the movie “Shadowlands.” In it, C. S. Lewis is talking to a troubled student whose father had a saying, “We read to know we’re not alone.” Certain books do speak for us, we realize that the author thinks as we do and scratched it onto paper. We recognize kindred spirits in characters or at least in the mind of their creator.
Better than books and reading, when the Body assembles and eats together we know that we are not alone. Paul told Timothy to flee youthful passions “along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart” (1 Timothy 2:22). He wasn’t the only one facing the temptation, nor the only one facing the temptation to moan like nobody understood his problems. Timothy was to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace like and among his fellow worshippers.
In a “great house” there is more than one vessel (1 Timothy 2:20) and when we come to the Lord’s Table in His house we are not alone. Look around and see fellow saints who are fighting sin and following Christ. You might not see them doing it during the week. Some may not be doing it as well as others. But struggling is not sitting it out. You are not on the field by yourself.
Jesus is saving individuals into a body, a people for His own possession. He is not waiting to do that in heaven. He is doing that as we worship Him together. Eat and know that you are not alone.
Living means writing your every word and action and thought and drool spot down in forever. It means writing your story within the Story. It means being terrible at it. It means failing and knowing that, somehow, all of our messes will still contribute, that the creative God has merely given Himself a greater challenge–drawing glory from our clumsy botching of the past. We are like factory workers in a slapstick comedy, standing at our positions beside the too-fast conveyor belt that flings the future and all of our possible actions at us. Corn syrup and food coloring everywhere (along with cheese and ceramic figurines).
—N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, 166
Fight or flight are two typical reactions for a person who encounters a stressful or threatening situation. Let’s say you are walking down a dark alley late at night when three large men in masks step out from behind a dumpster. Or let’s say that your mother-in-law chooses her granddaughter’s birthday party to make a point about the lost etiquette of thank you notes and how she never gets them from this generation. You want to cry and run out of the room, or you want to slap her head in front of all the guests, verbally, of course. Escape or battle.
In the Christian’s war on sin there are times when the appropriate tactic is to run. Standing strong is good in its place, but sprinting away is sometimes the better course. It is similar to the difference between abstaining and avoiding. I can abstain from smoking in a room full of lit cigarettes, no problem. I will avoid a pit of rattle snakes.
God commands believers to flee a number of times in His Word. We must flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). We must flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). We must flee the love of money (1 Timothy 6:11). And we must flee youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22) which may have some overlap with sexual immorality. We aren’t to keep watching the movie to prove how pure our thoughts are.
Joseph provides an example of running par expeditious. When Potiphar’s wife kept enticing him, he initially resisted with principles. When she cleared the house and made her last advance, Joseph didn’t sit her down and exhort her about the dangers of her sin. He fled her presence. Fast. He still got in trouble because she lied. But he didn’t get in trouble with God.
We ought to be awake in the war on sin. The devil prowls like a lion seeking prey to devour. Hanging around to tell him why another target is more tasty is not a shrewd move. As Kenny Rogers once put it, you’ve got to know when to get out of there.
Drink your wine. Laugh from your gut. Burden your moments with thankfulness. Be as empty as you can be when that clock winds down. Spend your life. And if time is a river, may you leave a wake.
—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 117
Some people spend their days in pain with bodies that keep the yearning front and center, that keep loss always in the mind’s eye. Widows. Orphans. The sick. The damaged (by birth or by man). Know this: God has special promises for you, and He loves bringing triumphant resolutions to those who have tasted the deepest sorrows.
—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 109-110
Our futile struggle in time is courtesy of God’s excessive giving. Sunset after sunset make it hard to remember and hold just one. Smell after smell. Laugh after laugh. A mind still thinking, a heart still beating. Imagine sticking your fingers on your pulse and thanking God every time He gave you another blood-driving, brain-powering thump. We should. And we shouldn’t, because if we did, we would never do anything else with our living; we wouldn’t have the time to look at or savor any of the other of our impossibillions of gifts.
—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 107-108
One way that communion has been spoiled is by an incorrect understanding of worthiness. In the middle of his instructions about the Lord’s Supper, Paul warned against participating “in an unworthy manner” and said, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). We ought to judge ourselves truly, then “we would not be judged” (11:31).
The Lord is serious about who He eats with. Who is welcome at His table on His “holy hill”? Those are welcome who trust in Christ and His righteousness for salvation, those who do not presume on His grace to make their ongoing sin okay.
If you have purposed in your heart to keep on sinning, or think that a blameless life is for someone else, or that truth is optional or bendable, or that how you talk about your neighbors is your business, or that money issues have no bearing on this meal, or that vows are made to be broken (see Psalm 15 for the poetic version of the above list), then you should to examine why you even want to eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord.
However, worthiness does not require that you be sinless, though the ones who are worthy will have a desire to sin less. More than that, communion is for those who take their sin so seriously that they know that they need a Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His body and blood to purify a people for His own possession. Examine to see if You trust the Savior, not if you have arrived at a sinless state where you don’t need one anymore. Do you depend on the Lord? Then you should eat His body and drink His blood in an act of dependence.
You cannot throw a diva fit backstage in this production and force the understudy to take your place. You are in every scene. You are on the field for every play. And you go into the next one and the next one and the next one carrying the baggage and the wounds and the weariness of the last one and the last one and the last one.
—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 106
What is the purpose, could we even say benefit, of planning a time in our worship service every Lord’s Day to confess our sins? Is our focus on sin a way of worshipping sin? It’s certainly not meant to be. Is worship with a focus on our sin a guilt-producing event? “You probably haven’t felt as bad as you should have this past week, sinner. Don’t you realize what a worm you are?” Did God created us and then reveal all the ways we’ve failed so that He could rub our faces in it? “You will never be Me. You will never be as good as Me.”
God’s law does reveal that all of us have sinned and fall short of His glory. We have broken His Word and failed to reflect Him properly as image-bearers. His Word cuts and convicts. His Spirit grants mourning over and repentance from sin. But all of this is a blessed burden because it brings us to know Him better. That is the purpose and the benefit of confession: that we learn more about who God is.
Worship is an expression of love for God. Confession of sin, and the process to get to that confession, reminds us of the holy and righteous character of God. His holiness is part of His excellence, a reason for highest praise. His holiness is part of His beauty, a reason for deepest admiration. Our sin not only blinds us from seeing Him, sin also makes us think something other about Him. If we ask Him to open the eyes of our hearts so that we can see Him, confession is cleaning the gunk off of our glasses.
The exhortation to confession–no matter the specific subject or if that particular week’s address pierces your conscience–is an act of theology reminding us that God is holy. He calls everyone to worship Him, but in order for us to worship Him rightly, we must worship Him as holy.
How do you tell a scribe from a prophet…? The prophets love the people they chastise….
—Marilynne Robinson, Gilead: A Novel, 162