The Lord’s Supper, Part 2

The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 29

78. Question: Are then the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?

Answer: No. Just as the water of baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ and is not the washing away of sins itself but is simply God’s sign and pledge,[1] so also the bread in the Lord’s supper does not become the body of Christ itself,[2] although it is called Christ’s body[3] in keeping with the nature and usage of sacraments.[4]

[1] Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5. [2] Matt. 26:26-29. [3] I Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:26-28. [4] Gen. 17:10, 11; Ex. 12:11, 13; I Cor. 10:3, 4; I Pet. 3:21.

79. Question: Why then does Christ call the bread His body and the cup His blood, or the new covenant in His blood, and why does Paul speak of a participation in the body and blood of Christ?

Answer: Christ speaks in this way for a good reason: He wants to teach us by His supper that as bread and wine sustain us in this temporal life, so His crucified body and shed blood are true food and drink for our souls to eternal life.[1] But, even more important, He wants to assure us by this visible sign and pledge, first, that through the working of the Holy Spirit we share in His true body and blood as surely as we receive with our mouth these holy signs in remembrance of Him,[2] and, second, that all His suffering and obedience are as certainly ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.[3]

[1] John 6:51, 55. [2] I Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:26. [3] Rom. 6:5-11.

Prayer Journal: Week 29

Prayer is not the fruit of natural talents; it is the product of faith, of holiness, of deeply spiritual character. (E.M. Bounds)

This Week’s Scripture

·         Ezekiel 37:1-14
·         Psalm 130
·         Romans 8:6-11
·         John 11:1-45

Adoration

John 11:25-26a
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Jesus Shall Reign (verse 1)
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
does its successive journeys run.
his kingdom spread from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.

(Isaac Watts)

Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.

Confession

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)

Lord give me the repentance which is of the will, that, not only in desire but also in intention and effort I may embrace what is good, especially those virtues which once I neglected or refused, and so be endued with power to accept thy pardon; through Jesus Christ our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen. (Bishop Brent)

As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Thanksgiving

O Lord, you hear our cries when we call out to you. You hear our voices and are attentive to our pleas for mercy. We give you thanks. God of grace, you do not mark our iniquities, for if you did, who could stand? Instead, with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. We give you thanks. Because in you there is hope, we will wait upon you. We give you thanks. Lord, with you there is steadfast love and plentiful redemption. We praise you good and sovereign Lord that you will redeem us from all our iniquities. In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen. (based on Psalm 130)

Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.

Supplication (Petition – prayers for yourself)

·         Help me to mature in my faith and to increasingly please God by my thoughts, words, and deeds.
·         Particular struggles in various relationships
·         My activities for this day
·         Other needs

Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

·         My Family
·         My local church
·         My denomination
·         Para-church ministries, particularly Christian education and discipleship
·         Evangelistic ministries
·         Other needs

God is too kind to do anything cruel, too wise to make a mistake, too deep to explain himself.
(Charles Swindoll)

An Epiphany!

(Part 2 of a series. Click here to read Part 1)

Epiphany

One day, the young man and a friend were sitting in a garden, when suddenly, he cried out to his friend, “What is wrong with us?”

He then said,

“as I was saying this and weeping in the bitter agony of my heart, suddenly I heard a voice from the nearby house. The voice repeated over and over again, ‘pick up and read, pick up and read.’ At once my countenance changed, and I began to think intently whether there might be some sort of children’s game in which such a chant is used, But I could not remember having heard of one. I checked the flood of tears and stood up. I interpreted it solely as a divine command to me – to open the book and read the first chapter I might find. I picked up the book of the apostle, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eyes lit: It said, ‘Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’”

After he read these verses from Romans he testified,

“I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of the sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.”

After this experience, the young man searched for his mother to tell her all that happened. After sharing his joy with her, they moved back to Carthage together. Two days later his mother died. It was as though she didn’t need to live anymore, for her son was now a Christian – he had tasted the Bread of Life.

Taste and See

This man who had lived a sinful and idolatrous life, whose daily life was filled with sexual immorality and drunkenness, who bowed before the altars of false gods and philosophies; this very man who tried everything the world had to offer, finally found the one thing the world couldn’t offer. He found the bread of life – Jesus Christ.

You may know this man of whom I am speaking. And those of you who don’t have probably heard of the city and beach that bears his name. His name is St. Augustine, and he became one of the greatest saints in the 2000-year history of the Christian church. Protestants and Catholics alike claim Augustine as a patron saint. God used this man with such a wretched past, to bring honor and glory to Christ’s name.

Augustine found the very bread Jesus was speaking about in John 6. The crowds were following Jesus because of the miracles he did. They wanted him to provide more bread for them to eat. But Jesus told them not to put all their hope in bread that would spoil, but instead, to seek that bread which would give them eternal life. The crowd, however, didn’t understand Jesus’ words. They said to him, “then give us this bread that you are speaking of.”

Jesus responded to them in verse 35,

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Then in verse 40, Jesus described what God’s will for them was on this matter. He said,

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

A Treasure Found

This is the treasure St. Augustine found. This is the bread he tasted. This is the single most important truth he knew he would ever find in his life. Augustine responded to Jesus, the bread of life, the way Jesus told the disciples they should.

In Jesus’ parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, two men found treasures beyond their wildest dreams. Both men sold all they had to secure their discoveries. They recognized the value of what they had found, and they determined to have it. They sold all they had so they could buy it, and that’s exactly what they did.

Jesus told his disciples that this was the reasonable thing for them to do. It would have been foolish of them to find the great treasure and do nothing about it. Augustine saw the great treasure. His mother had been telling him about it for many years, and yet he did not have eyes to see it. And then suddenly, the veil was lifted and he saw it – and he sold all he had to purchase it. He sold the pleasures of all his sin. He sold the prestige he had as a famous teacher. He sold his friendships he had with those who would no longer be his friends. This was no light decision, free of consequence.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

One Thing Needed

Luke 10:41-42 – “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, [42] but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

My Prayer

One way to pray Scripture back to God is by turning a verse or two into a first-person statement. I’ve done that with today’s Scripture.

May I not be worried and troubled about many things; only one thing is needed. Like Mary, may I choose the good part, which will not be taken away from me.

I have no difficulty seeing the relevance of this truth in my life. It’s living out this truth that’s the hard part.

Get Busy Doing

Martha was busy… busy cooking, cleaning, organizing, preparing, just plain busy. Her work was important. She was entertaining guests and someone, after all, had to act responsibly. She was busy “doing.”

Mary didn’t seem quite so busy. What was she doing? Chatting, listening, and seemingly lounging about. What distinguished Martha’s activity from Mary’s apparent laziness was who Mary was with – the Lord Jesus Christ. She wasn’t necessarily busy “doing.” Instead, she was being, being in relationship. She was basking in the presence of the Lord Jesus. He was an invited guest who would not always be with them. What else should she have done? Mary chose the one thing needed and was told it would not be taken from her.

In our world, many people look down on Mary’s kind. “Why, nothing would ever get done if Mary and her ilk had their way,” we might hear. But that’s not exactly true. It’s not like Mary was a habitually lazy person who lay around the house in her pajamas until noon on a regular basis. This was different. Much different. She was enjoying fellowship with her invited Guest.

Our Invited Guest

We need to take a closer look at the text. Jesus does not admonish Mary for spending time with him; he admonished Martha. Like the poor, so too our jobs, chores, errands, and all the rest, will always be with us. But what of Christ? Well, he promised to always be with us, but in a practical sense he must be our invited Guest each day. He must be the One with whom we can just “be” each day. Jesus said that is the one thing needed and it will not be taken from us when we pursue it.

Not only that, but “being” must precede “doing” or else “doing” will turn into drudgery, bitterness, and even pointlessness. This is the point of Jesus’ words in John 15 about the branches needing to be connected to the vine. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Without time to “just be” with our Lord, we will run out of gas. We’ll burn out. It will hinder us in persevering until the end. Our “doing” may shine brightly for a season, but it won’t last for the long haul because it will not have the fuel of Christ’s Spirit to sustain it. And that fuel comes only through the one thing necessary – pursuing and enjoying our ongoing relationship with the living God through his Son. We must not forget that knowing him in this way is eternal life (John 17:3).

Are you pursuing the one thing in life truly needful? There are many competitors vying for your time, energy, and attention. Some of those things are even good. But don’t let the good become the enemy of the best. Choose the best. Choose consecrated (set apart) time each day to spend with your Lord. He promises you it is the one thing needed and it will not be taken away from you.

Walking Points

Read the following quote by James Houston.

This past century is possibly the first one in which action has been emphasized and valued more than contemplation. Today we think contemplation wastes time, produces nothing, and bumps awkwardly into our schedules. A devotional life is a questionable priority for most successful people today. But are we “successful” Christians if we are so busy organizing and propagating the Christian faith that we really do not know God personally and intimately?”

  • Have you ever felt lazy for spending time just “being” with the Lord instead of being busy “doing” something instead? Why do you think you felt that way?
  • Why do you think our society often errs on the side of activity rather than contemplation?
  • What are some ways we can follow Mary’s model of being with the Lord in our daily lives?
  • If you do not have this “set apart” time each day with the Lord, what are some ways you can build it into your schedule?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, ours is a busy world, filled with noise and distractions. There are many things, even good things, that compete with our loyalty to you each and every day. Help me to be like Mary and choose the one thing that will not be taken from me, time spent with you. Protect me from my own weaknesses. Left to myself, I would choose things that would not draw me closer to you, let alone help me become more like you. By your grace, please keep me on the straight and narrow path that leads to abundant and eternal life. In Christ I pray. Amen.

Looking for Love

(Part 1 of a series)

In All The Wrong Places

In North Africa, around 354 A.D., a baby boy was born to a Christian mother and a pagan father. As the boy grew into a young man he found trouble and mischief at every turn. When he turned 16 years old, he traveled to Carthage, which was a Roman territory. There he studied rhetoric and debate. While studying in Carthage, this young man sought fulfillment in his life. We might say he was looking for love in all the wrong places.

The young man met a young woman and moved in with her and they had a child together. His mother, who never ceased to pray for her son, was not happy about his new living arrangements and continued to intercede for him.

As he got older he became quite accomplished in the area of rhetoric and was a much sought-after teacher. Students from all over the Empire came to study under him. He enjoyed all the privileges and things the world had to offer. However, every time he went home to visit his family, his mother asked him when he was going to become a Christian.

A Restless Heart

And though he would never admit it to his mother, his soul was restless. He still desired meaning and purpose for his life; something deeper and more meaningful than he was experiencing. Everything he had sought after and trusted in, up to this point in his life, was fleeting. The things of the world just didn’t last. So, he began studying the different philosophies and religions of his day, everything except Christianity.

He had nothing but contempt for Christianity. He believed Christianity had nothing to offer, because becoming a Christian, he thought, meant having to stop thinking altogether. Not only that, he believed becoming a Christian meant he would have to change the way he lived. He didn’t want any part of that.

A Mother’s Love

However, his mother continued to pray for him. In fact she would occasionally pester the local priests, asking them to “save her son.” Well, because she loved her son, she decided to find him in Carthage and beg him to become a Christian. However, after several weeks of his mother’s “persistence,” he decided to sneak out of Carthage and head to Rome, without telling her. So he left, and wouldn’t you know it, his mother followed him there as well.

While in Rome, the young man began to have doubts about his beliefs. Nothing seemed to satisfy the restlessness of his soul. In an effort to ease his restless conscience, he visited a church and listened to a preacher there. He never went all the way in the church, but stood at the back, just to listen. And, as time went on, his perspectives about life began to change. He began to learn more about Christianity.

Intellectually, he was fighting becoming a Christian, but his heart (via the Holy Spirit) was convicting him about the way he was living his life. This led to a spiritual crisis for him.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Where Endless Joy Abides

But it happens that many, from frequent hearing of the Gospel, are conscious of little longing for it, because they have not the spirit of Christ. But he who wishes fully and with relish to know the words of Christ, must be zealous to bring his whole life into conformity with him.

It is vanity to hope for long life and to take little thought for a good life. It is vanity to attend only to the present life, and not look forward to things to come. It is vanity to love that which passes with all speed away, and not to be hastening thither where endless joy abides
.

Thomas a’ Kempis

Some General Helps to a Heavenly Life, Part 1

“Know heaven to be the only treasure and labor to know also what a treasure it is. Be convinced once that you have no other happiness, and then be convinced what happiness is there. If you do not soundly believe it to be the chiefest good, you will never set your heart upon it; and this conviction must sink into your affections; for if it be only a notion, it will have little power. As long as your judgments undervalue it, your affections will be cold towards it. If your judgments once prefer the delights of the flesh before the delights in the presence of God, it will be impossible for your heart to be in heaven. As it is the ignorance of the emptiness of things below that makes men so over value them, so it is ignorance of the high delights above, which cause men to so little care about them. If you see a purse of gold, and believe it to be nothing but stones, it will not entice your affections to it. It is not a thing’s excellency in itself, but it is excellency known that provokes desire. If an ignorant man sees a book containing the secrets of arts or sciences, yet he values it no more than something common, it is because he knows not what is in it: but he that knows it, highly values it; his very mind is set up on it.”

Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest