Last week we learned of new ways that our government has been collecting data on us. Through web visits and wireless communication they gather and sift our locations, our contacts, our interests. They’ve stuck their collective nose where they shouldn’t, though we’ve given them tacit permission by voting for officials who would make us “safe.” Many Americans are surprised, outraged, and probably nervous about being exposed.
Remember, though, that our God knows not only the words we type and text, but the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. We can’t get off His grid. Wherever we go, He is there, attentive and writing it all down. He misses nothing from no one, Americans included.
What does He do with all that? He judges us. He holds us to account. We cannot vote Him out of office nor can we change His policies.
But, for those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation. Have you gossiped, lusted, lied, been lazy, clicked into bad areas of the Internet? God knows. God sent His Son to die for that. We are naked and exposed in heart before His word but we are also clothed and covered in Jesus.
No one will find out anything about you that Jesus didn’t already know when He went to the cross. He’s your defense now, more informed than any Big Brother. He is God, the Omniscient Forgiver. As a prism separates white light into a spectrum of colors, so the cross refracts our punishment onto Christ.
Theologians (a.k.a. debaters) love to go around on the nature of Christ’s work on the cross. Two common views are that 1) His sacrifice was substitutionary or 2) His sacrifice was exemplary. Which is it?
Without a substitution we could not have salvation. We needed someone to pay our penalty, to do what we couldn’t, so that we could be freed from the punishment due our unrighteousness. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18). “God put forward [His Son] as a propitiation by His blood to be received by faith so that we could be forgiven” (Romans 3:25).
Of course, that doesn’t mean that His death is not also an example. It isn’t only an example, as some liberals say, but it is an example. In fact, the willing sacrifice of Christ on behalf of others is the example. The love and patience and endurance of His suffering is glorious because it wasn’t for Himself, it was for others. His sacrifice provides both a propitiation and a pattern.
The Lord’s Table is a moving indicative, a message we receive by faith and a model we emulate by faith. By faith we give glory for Christ’s sacrifice for us. By faith we live glory as we give our lives for others.
What happened when Jesus was lifted up on the cross? We don’t have enough courses in the communion meal to give us the time to drink in all the fullness. We’ll have to keep coming back Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day and talk some more. We can say, in light of John 12:31-32, that we know that His death fixed the judgment of the world, the defeat of the evil one, and the salvation of every son of light. We also know that God the Father and God the Son were glorified. We know that Christ made a substitutionary and exemplary sacrifice.
The list of accomplishments is long and yet the accomplishments are only seen by faith. We do not see the final fulfillment of all things but that doesn’t mean a man is right who can’t see around the corner. We believe Jesus. We believe His Word. We believe what He told us. He will finish (in the cosmos) what He’s finished (on the cross).
What happens when believers eat and drink at the Lord’s Table? Again, more things than we have time to chew. But we believe that God does things here, things He tells us He is and will do whether or not we see effects immediately or obviously. So we eat and He strengthens our souls. We eat and He knit us together. We eat and proclaim Christ’s death until He returns. We are being changed, we are making war against the dragon, we are breaking down division among us.
Dying to serve others is difficult. It may be so difficult that, when faced with the implacable long hand on the clock, you say to yourself, “I can’t do this!” You could rephrase it, “I can’t make this many sacrifices. I don’t have the time or the strength or the energy or the patience to die as many times as I know I’ll need to.” You may say this quietly inside your head or loudly out your mouth. Either way, God hears it and He disagrees.
When we say that we can’t die, God reminds us that we already have. This isn’t to say that the mom has already changed the diaper, but rather that the believing mother has already been freed from the self-pity that tempts her to leave a stinking bottom. The teacher hasn’t already answered the same stupid question for the seventh time, but he has died to the impatient spirit that wants to blow up at the entire class.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)
Each day we live out the death we have already died in Christ. He gave Himself for us and that includes all we need to give ourselves for others.
At the communion table we enjoy the fruits of Christ’s death for us. By faith we acknowledge that we’ve died with Him. When we eat the bread and drink the cup we enjoy fellowship with God, we experience fellowship with each other, and we are being fed to go and die likewise for others. After eating the Lord’s Supper, we can die it.