Cooked and Consumed

I don’t remember where I read it recently1, but someone described the scene at the temple in a way I hadn’t considered before. There was an almost constant killing of sacrificial animals. More than any other color, red must have stained the mental image for any onlooker. There was blood dripping from tables, blood sprinkled on the altar, blood spotting the priests’ garments and fingers and knives.

That’s what the scene looked like, but how did it smell? There must have been some corners where it smelled like decaying flesh, but mostly it smelled like a barbecue. The sacrifices of oxen or sheep or birds were prepared, put on the altar and burned. The burnt offering, of course, was consumed by fire. But in the peace offering, often the climactic sacrifice of worship, the meat was cooked and consumed by worshippers.

It was a meal of participation, a meal where God communicated by sharing the sacrifice with His people. It was called the peace offering because peace existed between the parties.

Jesus Christ is our peace offering and God invites us to share Him. His sacrifice was bloody, but also a sweet aroma to God and for us. The communion meal mixes peace and participation, sadness and sweetness, death and life. God blesses us as we share He has provided, accepted, and enabled us to enjoy. Now the joy of our love for Him and for each other should rise like pleasing smoke in His nostrils.


  1. If you remember reading something that sounds like this, please leave a comment. I’d love to credit the creditable.

A Confession Blessing

Who gets the most benefit/blessing when we confess our sins? In other words, who do we confess our sins for?

We do confess our sins for our good. Because of the gospel, when we confess our sins, God takes away the burden of our guilt; think of the progress Pilgrim made after his burden was removed. God also gives peace to disturbed consciences. And He restores fellowship to us who broke away. We get the benefits of forgiveness and reconciliation. We sinned, we get salvation, so we confess our sins for us, right?

Yes. We do not confess for sake of our neighbor’s vindication. We’re not concerned about satisfying his desire to hear us admit that we were wrong. But the one who gets the most benefit and blessing when we confess our sins is God.

He receives glory as the law-giver. How do we know what to confess? He defines disobedience and our acknowledgement of His standard is also an acknowledgment of His authority. As the earth glorifies the sun by orbiting around the sun, we glorify God by orienting ourselves around His Word.

He receives glory as the redeemer. Where else could we go to be delivered? Who else promises to deal with our sins? He defined the bad news and gives the good news. As a doctor gets credit for curing those who come to him, God gets glory for healing those who come to Him.

So our confession of sins is part of our worship not only a preparation for worship. It does deal with the hindrance between us and Him but, as we obey and focus and trust Him, He receives honor. Be glad to know that we confess our sins for God, and He is pleased to hear us.

As If It Is Real

We live by faith and “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). But because many of the things we believe are unseen by us does not mean that the same things were never seen by anyone. Our believing rests on the solid ground of those who heard, saw, and touched with their hands the word of life (1 John 1:1).

Paul told the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you what I also received,” followed by three successive components. First, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” Second, “that he was buried.” And third, “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” There is no hidden message in this text, no deeper meaning.

Christ died, His body and soul were separated. He was buried, His body laid in the tomb. And He was raised again on Sunday. This does not mean that His Spirit rose in the heart of His disciples. It doesn’t mean that His fame rose throughout the nation. It means that His body and soul were reunited. It happened on the third day, the sort of detail that puts the resurrexit in space and time.

We believe the gospel and we live because He lives. As John wrote, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Our communion with Him is as real as His living, as real as the bread and the cup that remind us of the gospel. Let us eat, drink, and be merry as if it is real, because it is.

Not About Heaven’s Books

We are continuing to learn about the seriousness of our sin and the need to confess and forsake it. We are growing to hide it less and to deal with it more often, more quickly, and more thoroughly because we are tasting the glad fruit of fellowship.

We are not more prone to sin because grace abounds. We are not more indifferent to sin because we get frequent reminders of God’s forgiveness in the gospel. As we grow closer to God, as our love for Him warms, we are both less likely to sin and less interested in running away from the conviction when we do sin. Both steps of sanctification run on the path of fellowship. The union we have with Him draws us closer to Him and causes us to miss Him when we disobey.

A husband who blows up at his wife ought to feel like a heel and seek to make it right. A husband who blows up at his wife and doesn’t care about the relational rift is in great danger. It isn’t merely his anger that is the problem, though he should confess that sin. It’s what his anger does: it breaks fellowship. The disconnect between persons is worse than the rise in his blood pressure. If he is happy being isolated from his wife then he doesn’t know what a husband is for.

As Christians we don’t confess because we want heaven’s books to be accurate. We confess because that’s what God told us to do in order to get back what we walked away from.

It Can’t Be Privatized

Paul blessed the Corinthians at the end of his second letter when he wrote, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). Believers enjoy effectual favor from the Second Person of the Trinity, eternal affection from the First Person, and koinonia–fellowship–from the Third Person. God gave Himself for us, shares Himself with us, and brings us to Himself.

At the risk of oversimplification, all of these require relationship. Favor is given from the one to another, love lands on someone else, fellowship is shared between persons. We have communion by grace from love for fellowship, and it can’t be privatized.

The gospel drives us to do more than know about fellowship, it drives us into fellowship. Our liturgy each Sunday morning drives the same point. The call to worship is a call to delight in God’s presence. Our confession of sin deals with the hindrance to fellowship: sin. Christ was separated so that we could be reconciled. Our consecration includes asking Him for help because we know Him. We attend His Word because it helps us know Him better and makes us more like Him. Now we come to communion at the Lord’s Table where we have koinonia in the body of Christ and koinonia in the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16). “We who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).

As He invites us together to share His life, so we learn to invite one another to share life. He doesn’t do it because He is morally obligated. He does it because He loves us. We don’t share our lives because it is ethically necessary. We do it because He increases our love and it results in our unity.

Broken Pencils

Some failures cannot be fixed by getting a new sheet of paper and starting over. If the pencil is broken, rewriting the assignment won’t make the work neater.

As Christians, God’s Word provides the master image in front of the class that we’re supposed to copy. Scripture reveals what our portrait is supposed to look like. When we see an error on our paper, we try to correct it. But sometimes we assume, wrongly, that our motivation is right, it was just poor execution. We really should be more quick to take a look at the pencil.

Solomon used a different illustration: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:26). If the spring is polluted, the shape of bottle you use to contain it can’t purify the water. If the source is contaminated, giving it a pristine name won’t make it clean. If the fountain is messed up, everything downstream will be too, no matter how many EPA officials declare it suitable for drinking.

God’s Word tests our hearts. It sets the standard for our work. His law points out the problems in our behavior in order to bring to light the problems in our hearts. We confess too little when we confess disobedience if we do not also confess that the disobedience came out of us (Mark 7:20-23). We need a new pencil, a new spring, better love, not just better behavior.

A Successful Catastrophe

This was a helpful rundown from the military perspective, Can America win a war in Syria? From what I understand, the Assad regime has chemical weaponry and President Obama is considering a “limited” strike, perhaps shooting missiles but sending no men on the ground.

The article above argued the high probability that such an attack would be a success; we could indeed target and destroy the weapons. Such a success, however, would also be a catastrophe. There is no way to explode explosive chemicals without an explosion of those chemicals. Or, we could destroy the storage facilities without destroying the weapons, but without troops to contain them, the weapons could be seized by other enemies, resulting in a different kind of catastrophe. To destroy the weapons without releasing the gas or the weapons themselves, we would need to occupy Syria for some time. That could give countries such as Russia and China a reason to ally against us, a conflict we don’t have the money for. Any of these three paths to “success” would be catastrophic.

The death of Christ, on the other hand, was a successful catastrophe. As the Nicene Creed affirms, the “Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.” That Lord was crucified by men He created. The perfectly righteous One was condemned. The God of life laid down His life. It was a universal shock. The rocks cry out at the injustice. No other event in history was such a disaster.

But His catastrophic death was a success, accomplishing every objective against the serpent and sin. Christ fully propitiated God’s wrath against sinful men. He paid the price in full. He shut the mouth of the accuser. In Christ, we are declared righteous. In Christ, we are reconciled to God. In Christ, the dead are resurrected to eternal life. As we eat and drink at His Table, we remember the catastrophe and rejoice in the victory.

Centuries Long Confusion

Our blessings are almost an embarrassment. If we were thankful, it would be okay. Instead, we disgrace ourselves with skimpy gratitude and boldness. We have considerable freedom and security for gathering to worship; it costs us very little. We have our own copies of God’s Word, let alone working eyes and the education to read it. We also have a two-thousand year long hindsight over generations of Christians who settled a foundation of clear and coherent truth for us to stand on.

What amazes and encourages me is that God controls both the course and the pace of our history. That means that He must enjoy, at least in some way, the dramatic suspense of centuries long confusion.

For a few hundred years after Christ came, the early church struggled to explain Christ’s nature. How could He be both fully God and fully man, glorious in humility and even death? Jesus’ own disciples were confused and, though they recorded truth accurately with the help of the Spirit, their disciples still struggled. From our vantage point, we live in the clarity they labored to find.

Again, I’m amazed and encouraged that this was all according to God’s plan. Does He not desire great, global honor for His Son? Does He not want all men to know His Son’s excellent glory? Does He not expect us to see and praise the grace, truth, love, and humility of the eternal Logos? Yes! A thousand times, Yes! And yet the Father was, and is, okay taking His time for the truth to spread.

We benefit from observing this process in at least two ways. First, we can be thankful for God’s gracious placement of us at this bend in the river of history. Second, we can be confident that God will continue to fix the confusion about and overcome the rebellion against His Son as we labor by His strength today. The world knows Jesus more than it did and, according to His Word, it will know more than it does now.

Glossing the Skids

I taught John 14:6 a couple Sundays ago and thought that a great communion meditation that day would be to focus on the exclusivity of Jesus as the one way, one truth, one life. Or, put in Reformation sola sort of terms, Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life. I know enough Latin to look up words in a dictionary, so I thought about attaching the “way,” “truth” and “life” to sola, or una (the Latin word for “one”). As I made progress I found a pattern: way is via, truth is veritas, and life is vita. There you go: una via, una veritas, una vita. The whole thing took me quite a long time, and then I decided to look up John 14:6 in Latin.

“Ego sum via, et veritas, et vita.”

Maybe I should have started there.

Even though Jerome already glossed the skids centuries ago, every week when we come to the Lord’s Table we affirm and celebrate that Jesus is all three: the way, the truth, and the life. We affirm that He is the way, the only route to the Father, our one access to God. In particular, His death was the way, represented by the bread and the cup. It took a perfect sacrifice to satisfy God’s judgment against unrighteousness and there is only one that works: the sacrifice of His Son. Una via.

We affirm that He is the truth. Generations of unbelievers have sought multiple roads and told many lies to nurture their idolatries. Men wouldn’t and couldn’t come up with the gospel by themselves. Jesus embodies the only truth, the truth about judgment and deliverance of wrath and love and hope. Jesus reveals our true condition and the one true solution. Una veritas.

We affirm that He is the life. When the first Adam sinned, he died. His death meant separation. Adam lost life, he lost fellowship with God (and with his wife). If death means separation, then life is relationship, life is fellowship, life is communion. So Jesus, the Second Adam, described Himself as the life then immediately descries how He reveals the Father to disciples and brings them to Him. Jesus fixed what Adam broke. Una vita.

We have communion with God through Jesus. We have fellowship with each other through Jesus. We enjoy the freedom of one, the freedom in Christ alone that comes by grace alone through faith alone.

A Lot of Trouble

At least four sorts of trouble surface in the Bible. First there is trouble that results from our sin (think 1 Peter 4:14). We will reap suffering if we sow disobedience. Second is trouble that comes from living in a world of sinners; “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job, 5:7; think also about Paul’s comments regarding marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:28). Thistles and cancer and gossip and orthodontist payments grow after Genesis 3. The third is the trouble of spirit that Jesus displayed when He saw pain (John 11:33; 12:27; 13:21). And fourth, there is the trouble Jesus prohibits when He told His disciples not to let their hearts be troubled (John 14:1, 27).

Some trouble is inescapable. Other trouble is disobedient. Note that this is not trouble as a result of being disobedient, but being troubled is being disobedient. A surprising number of times, at least to us natural non-trusters, God directs us not to be troubled, not to be anxious (Philippians 4:6), to put all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:6-7), even when we’re suffering for righteousness’ sake (1 Peter 3:14).

Why does God require us to believe to the extent of not being upset? He knows how the knotty the wood here can get. He knows that there is a plot twist on the last page, and that He’s only giving us the story one chapter at a time. He knows the pain of searing loss over a loved one. So why does He tell us not to be troubled? Why would He count it sin when we are?

God requires us to trust Him in trouble because He is infinitely trustworthy. He always tells the truth. He always is faithful to do what He said. We can trust in His character and in His promises. When we don’t, we say (in effect) that we know better, that He cannot be depended on. When our hearts are troubled it isn’t that circumstances are so bad that we had to. It’s that we think the circumstances are more unwieldy than God can control. Not only is it wrong, it is a blight on God’s perfect record.