Make It Look Good

In Titus 2:9-10, Paul instructs slaves about being submissive to their masters in everything. He ends his counsel to them as follows: slaves should be “showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

Adorn is clearly the key word. To adorn means to put something in order, to decorate it, make it look good. In this case, slaves don’t make the doctrine good; the doctrine is good. But they can and should live in such a way as to make it look good. If slaves live by faith, they show the beauty of the truth about God our Savior.

What does adorning the doctrine do? It makes it look good. But why does that matter? Because we want other people to want it. Showing that something is attractive should attract. An appealing life draws others in.

By way of application, our worship of God the Savior should be attractive as well. The way we sing should make others pay attention. The way we feast from a good meal of God’s Word should make them hungry. The way we fellowship around the Lord’s Table should make them want in. This is a built-in feature when we worship well.

Getting up from the Table

A lot of things happened when the sun went down Thursday evening of Passion Week. Too much, in fact, for the disciples to process until after the resurrection. They were caught in the whirlwind. Yet Jesus planted an unmistakable reference point when He wrapped a towel around Himself in John 13.

We don’t believe that foot-washing is an ordinance such as baptism or communion. Jesus commanded His disciples to follow His example to serve one another and washing the Twelve’s feet was an illustration, not the institution of a formal ceremony. Yet we rarely consider that the context of the Lord’s Table is when the Lord got up from the table to do the servant’s work.

When we eat and drink, part of us should object, just as Peter initially objected to the Lord washing his feet. It’s not right for the Lord to die for us. That’s not His place. He’s too good for that. We’re right in one way, and yet we’re called to live and die and serve and love others just as He did.

While He lived, the Lord served those He loved. When He died, the Lord loved those He served. He condescended to our weakness. He overcame our pride by His humility. He spent His mortality to purchase our eternal life. Though He is the only-begotten Son of God, He wasn’t grabby about His position, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, in order to bring many sons to glory.

We’re part of His family now, so we must use all that He has given us to serve others. Sharing the Lord’s Supper together reminds us how to do it.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18, ESV)

The Lard from a Nickel

My dad’s dad and mom lived during the depression. My granddad (who I never met) used to say about my dad’s mom that she was so tight with money that she’d “skin a nickel to get the lard out of it.” In a similar way we ought to squeeze thankfulness out of any and every situation, even when the situation seems anything but fat for gratitude.

In what circumstances did the Lord institute His supper of communion? The night before He was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23). Yet when Jesus took the bread and the cup, what did He do? He gave thanks.

I’ve mentioned before that the Lord’s Supper is sometimes called the Eucharist. In our day, usually only the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox refer to this ordinance by that name. That’s too bad we have so much vocabulary baggage to carry around with us. The word eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharisteo which means, “I give thanks,” the word found in Matthew 26:26-27, Mark 14:23, Luke 22:19-20, and the passage from 1 Corinthians mentioned above. The noun form, eucharistia, means “thanksgiving.” Eucharist is a great word; communion is a thanks-meal.

I’m thankful that God has grown our congregation into giving thanks at communion rather than giving up, that we eat and drink with more gratitude than guilt. In fact, guilt makes the focus wrong. Gratitude is the only way to have Christ as the centerpiece. We come to this table not so that we can be more fastidious in finding sin but rather so that we can be more faithful in giving thanks to our Savior.

The Omniscient Forgiver

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.

One Makes the Other

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.

Finishing What He Finished

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.

We Can Die It

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.

The Food We Serve

We serve others by the food we serve. This is only said with the intention to raise the standard the right way. A modest meal prepared with lavish honor on the guests is good. A rich meal prepared to steal attention honors no one. But with full hearts and the usual resources we can bless those who sit down with us by what we offer them.

From the sitter-downers perspective, gratitude is always on order. When we’re invited to enjoy the preparations of another, that isn’t the time to grumble. Even if the meal is small but the hands giving it are large, our thanksgiving should be commensurate.

The things mentioned so far should be common-denominator. These are truths that I take as more self-evident than mysterious. If that’s the case, then why do we treat this the Lord’s Table so differently?

Do we honor the host who, at great cost to Himself, has provided food that endures to eternal life? Do we lift Him up by our sad little nibbles? Do we exalt His gift by fasting before the full spread? Do we make much of this loaf and cup of blessing when we grumble at the other guests?

Let us receive what He has given. Let us rejoice that He has paid it all. Let us lift up His deep love for us. Let us receive the treasure on the table before us.

Honoring the Son of Man

Jesus asked the man born blind if he believed in the Son of Man (John 9:35). Previously in John’s Gospel, Jesus told Nicodemus that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14). This is a reference to His death on the cross (John 12:32-33) and the outcome was “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). The Son of Man gives life.

The Son of Man also gives sight. This is the work of God in John 9. More than opening eyes to color and light, Jesus opened the man’s eyes to see Himself as the Messiah, the Savior. He could see his need and the forgiveness offered by the Son of Man.

The Son of Man also gives food that never perishes. Jesus told the crowd on the other side of the sea, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27). Jesus satisfies the soul in a way that no bread can.

He gives life. He gives sight. He satisfies the soul. But only for those who believe in Him. Only to those who identify with His sacrifice for their sin. “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).

As we come to the communion table set with His body and blood, we come because there is no other Savior (Acts 4:12). We come because we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9). We come because we were blind but now can see (John 9:25). We come to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). In all of this the Son of Man will be lifted up in honor because He was lifted up on the cross.

Say Who He Is

Every Lord’s day we are called to say who we think Jesus is. We are given opportunity to confess our need for Him or to distance ourselves from Him. We are being watched and our story is being written.

Has Jesus opened your eyes as He did the man in John 9? Then what do you say about Him? How you answer will make a difference in what other people say about you, now and for generations. If you side with the One who saved you, if you identify with His bodily death, then you are admitting that you were blind and deserved death. This will get you called a fool and it will get you eternal fellowship with God. If you drink His cup, then you are saying that you could not save yourself. This will get you called weak and it will keep you from being put to shame. If you eat this meal out here in public, then you are proclaiming that life comes from death, a statement of stumbling to some and of foolishness to others, but the power of God to salvation for you who believe.

You will be called names but you will have the name of Christ. You will be rejected by men, but so was your Master. You will be questioned, and it will not be your undoing, it will be your opening to testify. Jesus promises that those who lose their lives for His sake and for the gospel save their lives.