Sunday, July 29, 2018

Three Aspects of Authentic Discipleship - Mark 11:22-25

Three Aspects of Authentic Discipleship
Mark 11:22-25
Introduction: This week I thought of the story of the rambunctious boy who was sitting near the front of the church, but seemingly unable to stay still. Finally, his dad had enough and he picked him up, put him over his shoulder, and headed down the center aisle toward the foyer. Seeing that he had an audience, and much of the church was looking his way, the boy said, “Y’all pray for me now!”
       Our subject today is prayer, and our attitude in prayer- our attitude toward God, and toward one another. After several weeks away from Mark we’re returning to our study of the second Gospel. As we have walked through Mark we’ve been looking at his story of Jesus from at least two perspectives. On the one hand, the historical account of Jesus revealing himself through His works and words, and calling people to  recognize who He is and to follow Him. On the other hand, we know that the Gospel writer was writing 20-30 years after the resurrection, to a group of believers under the oppression of Rome. Even though our circumstances in life are quite different, we are essentially in the same moment of redemptive history as they were, between the Resurrection and the Parousia. Mark’s intention was to deepen their faith and strengthen their hope in the midst of their trials. I believe that is God’s intention for us as well. As Mark writes this gospel he is fleshing out his answer to three life-giving, faith-deepening, hope-strengthening questions: 1) Who is Jesus? 2) Why did He come? and 3) What does it mean to follow Him? The disciples are growing in their understanding of the answers to those questions, but they are still not where they will be after the resurrection and Pentecost. Here Jesus teaches about prayer, one of the primary means that God uses to deepen our faith and to strengthen our walk with Him. E.M. Bounds, in one of his many books on prayer, said,
The central significance of prayer is not in the things that happen as results, but in the deepening intimacy and unhurried communion with God at His central throne of control in order to discover a "sense of God's need in order to call on God's help to meet that need…"
In other words, it is not only that God acts in the world through our prayers, but in the very process of praying He is working in us, growing our faith, deepening our relationship with Him.
Context: This scene comes after the Triumphal Entry, the cleansing of the Temple, and the cursing of the fig tree as Jesus came to Jerusalem this final week. His rejection by the leaders was coming to a climax and would soon lead to the Cross, just as He had prophesied on the way. Still, He is teaching the disciples, preparing them for the life and the mission that He was about to entrust to them.
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.  21 And Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." 
Jesus uses that observation by Peter as a foil to continue his training, this time, shifting the focus to prayer, and our attitude toward God and men as we pray.
The Maine* Idea: Forgiven and forgiving we come to Him in prayer, knowing that we can trust Him, even as He patiently grows our faith.
I. Faith: “Have faith in God - Trusting God, taking Him at His Word (22).
       Ray Stedman commented on what Jesus meant by the phrase, “Have faith in God…” He said the Lord meant “…to trust that the living God knows what he is doing, to believe what he says, to obey what he commands, and to open our life to him so that he may enrich us, and flow through us, and make us a fruitful person, or a fruitful nation, as the case may be…”  It means acknowledging who God is, trusting that He acts in the way that is best, always, consistent with His character. Essentially the means entrusting ourselves to Him.   C.H. Spurgeon had this to say…
I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much. 
     Have faith in God…” In contrast to empty religious traditions (remember the symbolism of the fig tree, and the implicit rebuke of the unbelieving leaders!). This begins with recognizing who God is. Our faith is only as good as the object of our faith. I’ve done quite a bit of walking around town this summer, but I still don’t put too much faith in drivers yielding to pedestrians… Once or twice they got pretty close!  We can trust God “up to the hilt”! He is the same God referred to in the opening words of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” He is our Maker, our Master, omniscient and omnipotent, omnipresent and eternal, just and holy, but also merciful and gracious. He is Good, all the time.
       But not everything that one might call “faith” is the faith that saves. Mere intellectual assent is not enough. Remember James 2:19,You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!Most people will say they believe in God – by which they mean that there is a higher power of some kind out there. Many people construct in their own minds their idea of what God must be like, essentially a God they design according to their liking. That is idolatry, not faith! The God who is, has spoken. He has revealed Himself in His Word. And the Word was made flesh and lived for awhile among us (Jn 1:14; Heb 1:1). Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.
       Trust the God who “is” – trust Him as the Way of Life!  But even believing that the true God, the God of the Bible, the God who came incarnate, Jesus, is real, and that He involves Himself in history, is not yet saving faith. Saving faith means recognizing who He is, and also trusting in what He has done for us as our only hope of salvation. Sin left humans in a terrible predicament, alienated from God and destined for judgment. God is holy and His justice demands that sin be punished. But the righteous justice of God was satisfied when Jesus, the sinless, perfect Son, took our sins in His body on the Cross. Isaiah prophesied that act when he said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…” That is grace, and it is applied in our lives through faith.  And so, forgiven and forgiving we can come to Him in prayer, knowing that we can trust Him, even as He patiently grows our faith.
II. Prayer: Expressing our desires to God we submit to His will (23-24).
23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.  24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 
       This verse is typically used as a “proof-text” for those who hold to a “health and prosperity” theology. The idea they take from the passage is that if your faith is strong enough, you can ask whatever you want from God and He will do it. Rather than seeking and submitting to God’s will, that is essentially putting His will in submission to ours! We can’t take a verse and isolate it from the broader context of Scripture. Jesus is not saying that we can force the hand of God. No, we cannot manipulate Him! To have faith in God means we recognize who He is, and if we do, we’ll submit to His lordship, acknowledging Him in all our ways (Prov 3:6).
      What it means to pray “in faith” – It means trusting that all things are possible with God! That is exactly the point of what Jesus is saying. Nothing is impossible for the Creator, the One true God, the God who is, the God we worship. Remember how Sarah laughed when the angel brought a message to her and Abraham that they would have a son in their old age? The angel’s question, “Why did you laugh… Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen 18:12-15). Mary too received angelic revelation about an even more fantastic idea, that she, a virgin, would bear a son. She asked, reasonably, “How can this be since I have not known a man?” The angel’s answer, “Nothing is impossible for God…” (Luke 1:34-37). Move a mountain? Just like the language of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, Jesus uses hyperbole to make His point emphatic. He is not talking about literally casting a mountain into the sea!  Whatever the mountain might be that we face, whatever the seemingly impossible obstacle that is before us, we can trust that the God who made the mountains is bigger than anything we face. Nothing is impossible with God!
       As Jesus prayed in the Garden, so we also submit our will to the Father. That is what it means to believe, to have faith in God: Recognizing who He is and to responding rightly to Him. If He is Lord, He is our Master. If He created the universe, that means it all belongs to Him. We can trust that He is good (all the time!) and that He does good, as He has revealed throughout history. And so, we pray as we look at the mountains in front of us, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” We pray with Jesus in the Garden, “Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.”  That was stated in the prayer that Jesus gave as a model to His disciples: “…Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...” (Matt 6:9-10). Someone said, “Keep praying, and be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!” He always knows what is best!  William Barkley said, that when we pray, we should remember: 1. The love of God that wants the best for us. 2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us. 3. The power of God that can accomplish it. And so, forgiven and forgiving we come to Him in prayer, knowing that we can trust Him, even as He patiently grows our faith.
III. Forgiveness: As forgiven people, we extend grace to others (25-[26]).
25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." [26 "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."]
      Yes, the Lord’s prayer is one of the most commonly memorized passages of Scripture, and it includes a reference to this same teaching, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…” As people who have seen their desperate need and called on God for mercy and grace, we should be humbled into being gracious and forgiving to our fellow humans. Jesus told a parable on the subject in Matthew 18. In that context Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive his brother, even up to seven times? Peter most likely thought he was being overly generous with that idea. Jesus’ answer probably shocked him…
22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.  23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.'  27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.'  29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.'  30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'  34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:22-35).
        As forgiven people, we are compelled to be forgiving people. If we could grasp the debt we owed, the price that was paid to reconcile us to God. We are the servant who owed an impossible, unpayable debt! How can we not then forgive one another? Loving God is one thing, loving my neighbor is quite another! Paul said this to the Ephesians,
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you… (Eph 4:30-32).
       The context is prayer. “When you stand praying…” The posture of prayer [standing] is not the key thing here, but the fact that we are coming before God and lifting our voice to Him, speaking to Him. Someone expressed this in a humorous little poem that reads as follows:
   "The proper way for man to pray," said Deacon Lemuel Keyes; "The only proper attitude is down upon his knees."
   "Nay, I should say the way to pray," said Reverend Doctor Wise, "Is standing straight with outstretched arms with rapt and upturned eyes." 
   "Oh, no, no, no," said Elder Snow, "such posture is too proud." A man should pray with eyes fast-closed and head contritely bowed." 
   "It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front. With both thumbs pointing to the ground," said Reverend Doctor Blunt." 
   "Last year I fell in Hodgkin's well headfirst," said Cyril Brown. "With both my heels a-stickin' up, my head a-pointing' down; And I done prayed right then and there; best prayer I ever said, The prayin'est prayer I ever prayed, a-standin' on my head."

      When you stand praying forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your heavenly Father may forgive your trespasses…” This is not questioning our salvation if we harbor an unforgiving heart. Our sins are covered forensically by the blood of Christ when we are justified by faith. But an unforgiving heart is sin, and sin will impede our walk with God. As Justin taught us last week, God will deal with us, because He loves us, chastening us as necessary, to lead us to repentance. In that context of disrupted fellowship, we are much less likely to be praying in submission to the will of God. James describes the expectations of a “double-minded man” in prayer…
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways… (James 1:5-8).
It is the same idea, praying in faith means single-mindedly believing God, recognizing who He really is, trusting in Him, submitting to Him. And so…
What is God saying to me in this passage? Forgiven and forgiving we come to Him in prayer, knowing that we can trust Him, even as He patiently grows our faith.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?  Let’s start with the  question of forgiveness. Sometime, somewhere, you have been hurt by someone, it is pretty much guaranteed, as we live in a fallen world.  It can happen in families, it can even happen between believers. We can harbor a grudge and let bitterness take root in our hearts. Or, we can let it go. That is the root meaning of the word “forgive” in this context, release, let go. Let it go! If we remember how much we have been forgiven, can’t we release that hurt to God, and ask Him for the grace to forgive?
       Do you believe that God works through the prayers of His people? We’ve encouraged you, over the last couple of years especially, to make a list of people in your sphere of influence, friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and to commit yourself to praying for them. Some of them don’t attend a Bible teaching church, some don’t know the Lord. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. As you pray, ask that God would open their hearts, and by His kindness lead them to repentance and faith.  As you pray God will work, in your heart as well as theirs.
      Let’s pray for our church, our community, our nation: Father, your kingdom come, or in the words of the psalm, may Your Name be praised in all the earth!  AMEN!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Gospel and the Ordinances (or, The Ordinances: Seeing and Believing)

The Gospel and the Ordinances 
(or, The Ordinances: Seeing and Believing)
(Various Bible texts as noted below)

Introduction: Today I’ve decided to devote our Sunday Service to the ordinances, as we’ll have a baptism and also celebrate the Lord’s Table together. We will wait until July 29th to return to our series in Mark. The next two weeks we’ll have messages from our missionary Paul B. and from our deacon, Justin Fowley, who is pursuing licensing for the Gospel Ministry. I want to focus the sermon time today on explaining the two ordinances we observe: what we are doing and why. We call them “ordinances” and not “sacraments,” because it is our understanding that they don’t impart grace, nor are they necessary for salvation. However, there is a spiritual element, in that as an act of obedience we are expressing our submission to Christ, and as we participate in the ordinances the symbolism can deepen our faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. What we must have verbally in the Gospel message can be reinforced visually in these ordinances when they are explained according to Scripture. It is strange that these ordinances, given by the Lord Himself to the church, which should symbolize the unity of the body and our common faith, have become a great point of division between believers. For this message, I only have time to emphasize what we believe the Bible teaches about these ordinances.
       Baptism proclaims publicly that we are a part of the Covenant Community, the Church, and illustrates our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Communion is a visual reminder of the substitutionary death of Jesus. We affirm the Reformation doctrine, Sola Fide, “faith alone” saves. Ordinances don’t save us. They don’t complete our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. But the ordinances can “stir up” our faith as they visually invite us to consider the Gospel message. J.I. Packer said, “As the preaching of the Word makes the Gospel audible, the sacraments [we would say the ordinances] make it visible… Seeing is believing…” We see the ordinances of believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Table referred to from the beginning of the New Testament church. There are at least five purposes…
    Obedience: These are actions through which we obey Christ. In the Great Commission, the call by Jesus to the church is to “make disciples,” which includes a call to baptize those who believe. With respect to the Lord’s Table, Jesus said “Do this…” We’ve seen that faith and obedience go hand in hand in Scripture. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life. He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him…” (John 3:35,36). What is faith? Believing God, taking Him at His Word God. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.
     Remembrance: It is a commemoration, an act in which we remember Christ. That is certainly true of the Lord’s Supper (N.B. the connection with Passover). Baptism also invites us to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. Part of the reason for the ordinances seems to be to keep the Gospel in front of our eyes, as symbolically it is worked out before us. The Bible makes the Gospel audible, the ordinances make the Gospel visible. They help us remember. That ties in with…
    Instruction: The ordinances are an opportunity to preach Christ. The alternative title for the message today is “The Gospel and the Ordinances.” We start with the Gospel. The ordinances, as we’ll see, help us to visualize the message. We are arguing that as New Testament believers we have two ordinances. Israel, on the other hand, had many rituals that they were commanded to carry out. The purpose of those rites was similar in some respects. We read in Deuteronomy 6:20-24,   
20 "When your son asks you… 'What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?'  21 then you shall say to your son, 'We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand...  24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day…
In other words, when your child asks, “Daddy, why do we sacrifice these lambs?” or,Why do we build these booths? you have an opportunity to teach, to show them the significance behind the act, to remind them of the deliverance that God has wrought and the promises He has made. As we baptize believers as a public profession of their faith in Christ, it is not just an ancient ritual. It is a testimony. As we take part in the breaking of the bread, and drinking of the cup, it is not only a ceremony that we have traditionally done. Both ordinances visually accompany the preaching of the Word and illustrate the Gospel. They are divinely ordained “object lessons” that can move our hearts and deepen our faith.
     Worship: It is a participation in which we identify with Christ, we celebrate His act of love on our behalf, in which we symbolically feed on Christ (Jn 6:32-35, ff.). We don’t believe there is some mystical or literal presence of Christ in the Bread and the wine, but our hearts are drawn to Calvary, to the demonstration of the Love in His death and the assurance of victory in His resurrection. We rejoice with those who are baptized, as we recall our own experience of faith.
   Anticipation: In the Lord’s Table, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. In baptism we remember His death and resurrection, and because of Him we look forward to our own resurrection when He returns. It stirs our faith and our hope!
The Maine* Idea: The Lord has given the church two ordinances, as a visual representation of His saving work on our behalf.

       Before we can understand the “Good News,” we have to understand the bad news. Since the rebellion of Adam and Eve, since the Fall, humans, apart from Christ, have been separated from God. Paul said in Romans 5:12,
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”
There is none righteous, no, not one (Rom 3:10). We were all born sinners (3:23), separated from God, by nature children of wrath, without God and without hope (cf. Eph 2:1-3). How then could anyone be saved? We needed to be rescued!
       But God, who is holy and just, is rich in mercy. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. The Apostle John put it this way in 1 John 4:9-10…
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
       How could a just God justify sinners? He sent His Son, so that we might live through Him!  He so loved us that He came to give himself on the cross for our sins. God gave a priceless gift, He gave His only Son. He “sent” His Son to be the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice, to reconcile us to God. John 3:16 says He “…gave His only begotten Son…” The One who was without sin, took our sins in His body on the Cross. And so, we urge men to be reconciled to God, and by God’s grace, all who turn to Him in faith are forgiven.  Think: Salvation is free to us, received as a gift, but it came at a tremendous cost!  Jesus paid it all. The Lord has given the church two ordinances, as a visual representation of His saving work on our behalf. The Communion Table reminds us of what Christ has done for us. Baptism symbolizes our unity with Christ who died for us and rose again. Let’s start with…
       The command to baptize was given by Jesus in the context of the Great Commission. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20…
“…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
So, Jesus commanded us to baptize as we carry out His mission in the world. We see that practice implemented from the beginning in the Book of Acts. This was the practice of the church from the start. Referring to the response to Peter’s Pentecost sermon we read in Acts 2:37-42…
…they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"  38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."  40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."  41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.  42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Paul spoke to the symbolism baptism when he said in Romans 6:3-5,
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection…”
Baptism as an ordinance is unique in that it happens once for each believer, at the beginning of the Christian life. It publicly affirms our faith in Jesus, our identification with Him in His death and resurrection. The public repetition of the ordinance blesses the church. It was/is the expected and normal response to believing in Jesus. In the Great Commission Jesus commanded it, on the day of Pentecost, “As many as believed were baptized…” That was the normal response of saving faith. Please understand that baptism is symbolic, not salvific. Like the Eunuch in the desert in Acts 8:37f., we believe and are saved by the grace through faith, then confess Him and are baptized as a public affirmation that we are followers of Jesus, identified with Him in his death and resurrection (Gal 2:20). Consider that symbolism as we end the service with today with baptism… It symbolizes new life!
       Jesus came to satisfy the righteousness of God. To give himself as our sinless substitute. He took our sin, we receive His righteousness. By faith. The Lord has given the church two ordinances, as a visual representation of His saving work on our behalf. Baptism indicates our unity with Him in His atoning death and victorious resurrection…

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is [broken] for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup…”
      The Bread reminds us of His body: John said, the Word was made flesh… The NLT says, “…this is my body which is given for you…” That is the sense of what Jesus was saying. The incarnation was purposeful, intentional. He came to be the substitute, the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God’s wrath had to be satisfied. He will be no means leave the guilty unpunished. He came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.   M. Luther said “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.” Paul refers to this in Philippians 2:6-8 when he says:
“…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form,  8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross..”
God became a man, to save humans. He came to give himself so that fallen, sinful people like us, could be reconciled to our holy God.
       The cup reminds us of His blood, shed for sinful humans: Paul speaks to the this when he said in Romans 5:8-9,
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
In 8:32-33 of Romans he says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” God Himself provided the Lamb. His blood was shed for us. So, as we partake, we remember. We look back to Calvary, to the love that was shown, the grace that was revealed. And we look ahead, because we will continue the ordinance until Jesus returns. It also is an invitation to pause, “…let a man examine himself…” We look back, look ahead, and look within.
What is God saying to me in these passages? Jesus came to make possible the justification of sinful humans by a holy God. He gave the church two ordinances as a visual representation of His saving work on our behalf. Baptism symbolizes our unity with Christ in His death and resurrection. The Lord’s table reminds us of His coming in the flesh and His dying for our sins; and invites us to look ahead to His return and the culmination of God’s eternal plan.
What would He have me to do in response to these texts?  Have you recognized your need and turned in faith to Jesus? If not, why not now? Do you feel a prompting in your heart? Could it be that He is calling you to faith? Call on His Name! Christian, do you remember when you first believed?  Do you recall the step you took, by His grace, when He opened your heart and you put your trust in Him? Have you publicly affirmed your faith in baptism? If not, why not? Talk to me or one of the elders, we can schedule another baptism in a few weeks!  He calls us to believe and be baptized!  And as we celebrate the Lord’s Table, let’s remember what it symbolizes. And as we look back on His first coming, we look ahead, anticipating His return!   Amen.