Lord's Supper: Ashamed

I said this before we passed out the Lord’s Supper a couple of weeks ago.

Often when we come around this table, I am filled with shame. Being raised as an American with a belief in my own independence, freedom and rights I often feel rebellious toward God. “Why should I have to give up what I want to do? Why should I sacrifice for Him? Why should I submit to His will?” It is something I struggle with. Then we gather around this table and I’m reminded of what God sacrificed so I could be called His child. I’m reminded of how Jesus submitted His will to God’s and what He gave up for me, and I’m ashamed. I’m fussing about giving up a few hours of TV time to study His word so I can teach when Jesus sacrificed a few decades in Heaven so I could be saved from sin? And I’m reminded again, as this symbolic meal was meant to do, of why I should be overjoyed to submit to and sacrifice for Him.

But I’m ashamed of my rebelliousness. I see my rebelliousness in relation to His love and I feel no higher than a worm in the muck. Then I’m reminded of Psalm 113:

Vs. 5-9 “Who is like unto Jehovah our God, That hath his seat on high, That humbleth himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth? He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, And lifteth up the needy from the dunghill; That he may set him with princes, Even with the princes of his people. He maketh the barren woman to keep house, And to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye Jehovah.”

The whole point of God’s sacrifice was to raise us up out of the muck. To set us with the princes. He raises us up.

This table reminds us of the ridiculousness of our failures and sins, but it also reminds us that we serve a God who will reach down and pull His people up out of their sins and set them among the royalty of His people.

Count it all Joy

A little while back I had one of those days. The first guy I delivered to answered the door wearing only his boxer-briefs. Not exactly a pleasant sight. A little while later, I delivered to a hotel room, and the guy apparently thought we would take longer than we did, because I caught him in the shower. In fact, I was about to leave when he opened the door covered only in soap and one of those too small hotel towels. As I walked back to my car I thought, “So that’s how it’s going to go today, huh? Well, if I have to deliver to undressed people, why can’t they at least be attractive women instead of dudes?” Then, before I could even chide myself for that thought, I remembered the last thing I prayed for before I began my day. I prayed that God would protect me from temptation. He sure answered that one with a resounding YES! There was NO temptation involved in what I saw that day, let me tell you. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, nor was it what I had in mind, but God did protect me from temptation that day.

That got me to thinking that sometimes God does things for our own good that isn’t exactly pleasant at the time. An example would be James 1:2-4:

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into manifold temptations knowing that the proving of your faith works patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.”

The only way to get patience is to go through trials. You don’t get callouses on your hands without first getting blisters and you don’t get patience/steadfastness without going through trials. A Christian can’t be complete or perfect as God wants him without patience. This is why James says that trials should be met with rejoicing: they are the only path to being a complete Christian. But they are not pleasant at the time.

The best passage to explain what I am talking about is in Hebrews 12. The anonymous writer is explaining that God will chastise His children as necessary to make them better. He uses earthly fathers as an example, saying we still honor our dads even though they chastised us as they saw fit, so we should surely honor God during chastisement since He actually knows what He is doing and is doing it specifically for our good. He sums it up with this:

Heb. 12:11 “All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yields peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.”

God, in His perfect wisdom and perfect love, will send us trials and tribulations and chastisements to cause us to grow into perfection. The plan is for our good, but boy does it not feel good when we are going through it! Chastening is never pleasant when it happens. Grievous is a good description. It is for our ultimate good, though, and if we have faith that God truly loves us, we should count it all joy when those chastenings come. They prove that God is still not done with us. That He thinks we are worth the effort, present evidence to the contrary.

We often cite Romans 8:28 (“we know that to them that love God all things work together for good”) but do we understand it? It doesn’t mean we will always be happy here on Earth. It means that God is making sure things work out best for us, i.e. that we get to Heaven to be with Him. Combine Rom. 8:28 with Heb. 12:11 and we understand that, while the present chastening may not be fun, the end result will “work together for good”. This destroys the idea that some have that “God wants me to be happy.” You know, when you show them in the scriptures that they aren’t living their lives right, that according to God’s word, not my judgments, they are sinning and they say, “I know, but God would want me to be happy.” As if their happiness outweighs the eternal word of God. I think, based on James 1:2-4, Hebrews 12:4-11, and Romans 8:28 among other passages, that God doesn’t care a whit whether we are happy on this planet or not. Look at the list of the heroes of faith at the end of Hebrews 11 and tell me how many of them seemed happy. God wants us to be joyous in eternity. God wants us to be glorified with Him in eternity. God wants to commune with us in eternity. If it takes unhappiness, if it takes trials, tribulations, chastenings, and sacrifices (and delivering pizza to nearly naked men) to accomplish that, then so be it.

I hope God grants me the strength of faith to be able to count it joy when trials come, because I’d much rather be unhappy for 70 years or so and joyous in eternity than ecstatic in this life and in Hell for eternity.

One Another: Forgive

Perhaps second only to loving one another in the hierarchy of instructions we have been given about getting along is the command to forgive one another. Christians can’t get along and churches can’t function if we don’t forgive each other.

The first passage I want to go to is Eph. 4:1-3:

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

No, this passage doesn’t mention forgiveness, but it does say that we should forbear one another, or bear with one another as the ESV puts it. Forbearing each other is simply putting up with each other. Remember the first phrase in Paul’s definition of love in 1 Cor. 13? “Love suffers long”. This is the idea. We bear the burdens of each other and put up with them. Have you ever heard someone described as coming with a lot of baggage? Well, as Christians, we should help them carry that baggage.

The real command in this passage though, is in verse 1 “Walk worthily of the calling wherewith you were called.” All the rest are subpoints, or descriptions of how to walk worthily. But what is my calling? 1 Thess. 2;12 says we have been called into God’s kingdom, and Romans 9:25 calls us God’s people. We have been called to be subjects in God’s kingdom, to be His people. Being identified with a group carries some responsibilities. The military will still kick people out, or even send them to jail, for conduct unbecoming a military person. They acted in a way that did not live up to the calling of being in the military. If that is true of the earthly military, don’t you think it would also be true of being one of God’s people? We are to walk worthily of the calling. Of course, Romans 8:30 and Hebrews 2:11 up the ante a bit when they say we have been called to be the Lord’s brethren. Now we really have need to walk worthily of the calling.

How? In lowliness, or humility. In meekness, or putting God first in everything. With longsuffering. And forbearing one another IN LOVE. Notice that the motivation for forbearance is love. Have you ever noticed someone with a special needs child or sibling and seen all the trouble they go to for that person, and all the annoyance they overlook from that person and think “I could never do that”? But if you talk to them, they barely even noticed that there was any annoyance involved. They just put up with it without even thinking about it, because they loved that special needs child. That is how Christians should be with each other. We just automatically overlook most “burdens” put on us by our brethren because we love them. We hardly notice that brother so-and-so is sometimes hard to get along with because we love him. Essentially, forbearance is automatic forgiveness of minor issues.

Sometimes, however, bigger things arise. I put up a post a few weeks ago about when brothers don’t get along. We went down the instructions the Lord gave in Matthew 18 for how to handle that. The major takeaway, though, was to forgive. “If he listens, you have regained your brother”. At that point, we need to forgive them and move on. After all, the point here is not to work through all three steps, but to regain that brother. Paul offers some instruction on this point as well.

Eph. 4:32 “and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.”

and

Col. 3:13 “forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye.”

Notice that in Colossians Paul links forbearance and forgiveness, so I wasn’t nuts. Also, in Ephesians kindness and forgiveness go hand in hand. Part of being kind is forgiving and a motivation for forgiveness is kindness. But the big idea here, mentioned in both passages, is that we are to forgive “As the Lord forgave you”. Uh oh. How do I forgive as Christ forgave? First, let’s look at OT prophesies of how things were to be in the Kingdom:

Isa. 43:25 “I, even I, am he that blots out thy transgressions for mine own sake; and I will not remember thy sins.”
Jer. 31:34 “. . . for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.”

God says that when He forgives, He “will not remember your sins”. When He forgives iniquity “their sin will I remember no more.” So, if this is how the Lord forgives and I’m supposed to forgive like Him, then I can’t hold grudges now can I? I can’t say that I forgive something and then bring it up later in an argument. I’m to treat my brother as if the offending action had never happened. Christian forget about forgiven sins. For the next idea, let’s look at some of the instruction of the Lord Himself.

Luke 17:3-4 “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in the day, and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”

Forgive your brother if he repents, ok, but forgive seven times in the same day? The same thing? That’s ridiculous! Yet, that’s what the Lord teaches about forgiveness, and if I’m to forgive like Him. . . let’s also remember, with shame, the times in our lives that we had to go to the Lord multiple times in one day for forgiveness for the same thing. Aren’t we glad He is willing to forgive over and over and over? I need to forgive my brother again and again, even in the same day. Something similar is said in Matt. 18:21-22:

“Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.”

This isn’t in one day, but over time. Your brother is still annoying you in the same way two years later, but still repenting of it? You still forgive him. Also, when the Lord said “70 x 7” He didn’t literally mean 490 times. “That’s it! That’s the 491st time Julia has done that to me! I don’t have to forgive her anymore!” Of course, that is ridiculous. Jesus was using 70 x 7 as a figure meaning a really big amount. A never to be reached limit. [Also, if you are counting the times a brother or sister is sinning against you, then you have failed the first point, not remembering forgiven sins.] As long as your brother keeps trying, as long as he keeps coming and repenting to you for his fault, you keep forgiving him. After all, aren’t we glad the Lord keeps forgiving us?

Finally, look at Matt. 18:23ff

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 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. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 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.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 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. Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Not only do we need to make sure we forgive after the same manner that the Lord has forgiven us if we want to ensure He keeps forgiving us, but we need to recognize that there is no way we can possibly forgive to the same amount that the Lord has forgiven us. Any forgiveness we do of our brethren is trivial compared to the forgiveness God has granted us. In the parable, the amount the servant owed the king would translate roughly to hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars in modern currency. That is the amount the king forgave when the servant pleaded. The amount the second servant owed the first might translate to a couple thousand dollars. While a couple thousand dollars is not insignificant to everyday people, it’s not even a blip compared to hundreds of millions of dollars. And while forgiving my brother his insult to me might not be insignificant to every day people, compared to the forgiveness God has offered me, and the price He had to pay to be able to offer it, it is not even noticeable.

We need to forgive and forbear our brethren in love.

One Another: Acceptance

There is no passage in the Bible that says “accept one another” and yet that is exactly the idea expressed in Rom. 15: 1-7. There are two other one another passages in this text, which combine to give us this lesson: we are to accept one another.

A little context: the church in Rome had a problem. There was a strong racial tension. You see, the Hebrews had long known that they were God’s Chosen People. Even though the Kingdom of God had changed from a physical nation to a spiritual kingdom with the advent of Christianity, the Jewish Christians still carried that arrogance. Old ways die hard. The non-Christian Jews were even worse. The hatred of Gentiles could be vicious. One rabbi writing at about this time taught that Jews should not help an ailing pregnant Gentile woman. If help was given, it would just result in more Gentiles. Far better, he thought, to let her miscarry and die in the process. One less current Gentile and no new ones either. It is no wonder that the Gentiles generally hated the Jews.

In Rome, it was even worse. Here the “Chosen People” butted heads with the rulers of creation. The Romans were an understandably proud people for having conquered most of the known world. They considered themselves the greatest people and now they have to put up with a rag-tag band from a backwards province claiming to be God’s only chosen people? Tension rose. Even in the church there was discord. Then, in circa A.D. 49, Claudius Caesar expelled all the Jews from Rome. (This was why Aquila and Priscilla were in Corinth when Paul got there, Acts 18:2.) On Claudius’ death, the edict was rescinded, and the Jews returned. The Jewish Christians rejoined the church and expected to regain their prominence as those who best knew the OT. The Roman Christians were loath to bow to the Jews, as they had just had years of getting along fine without them. Dissension ruled.

Paul’s letter to the Roman church was largely aimed at ending this strife. For instance, in chapters 1-3 he emphasized to the Jews that they would be just as lost as the Gentiles without Christ, and so had no reason to be holier-than-thou. In Chapter 11 he tells the Gentiles that they have been grafted into the tree the Jews were naturally part of, and so could not afford to be anti-Semitic. These are two of numerous examples of Paul quelling the fight. Chapter 15 is the summation of this instruction.

Rom. 15:1-2 “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

Paul is almost teasing them here. He knows full well that neither side is going to admit to being the weaker side, and so he puts the onus on each of them to bear with the failings of the other. He almost admits to as much when he says “let each of us” in verse two. He knows that they will each strive to prove themselves strong, and thereby forget pleasing self in order to please the neighbor. Which is what he (and the Holy Spirit) wanted. The strength that each has is not to help themselves, but to be used to help, and build up (edify), those who are weaker. The strength can also be used to bear with the failings of the other. Contrary to all the fun revenge movies out there the strong one isn’t the person who wreaks vengeance, but the one who accepts the failings of his brothers and helps them to be better. Unsurprisingly, the Lord is a perfect example of this.

Rom. 15:3 “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

The Lord didn’t use His considerable strength for His own pleasure, but instead used it to help the weak. Who can forget His prayers in Gethsemane? “Let this cup pass from me.” He wasn’t having fun when He was nailed to the cross. Instead, He was willingly taking our burden, bearing with our failings, building us up, as He took the reproach due us upon Himself. The quote is from Ps. 69.

Rom. 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Paul quotes the scriptures both to solidify his point and to show that the Jews were useful, as they knew these scriptures better than the Gentile converts. These scriptures are for our instruction. It is not just the scriptures, however, that leads to hope, but endurance also. We have to keep going. We have to keep bearing with the weak. We have to keep pleasing others rather than self. It is the scriptures plus endurance that leads to hope. Notice that in the next verse he calls God the God of endurance.

Rom. 15:5-6 “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The double emphasis on endurance is interesting. Perhaps Paul is admitting to both sides that he understands that bearing with the other won’t always be easy. He prays that God will help them to live in harmony with one another. They are to get along. He describes the harmony that they should experience as being “in accord with Christ”. Clearly a reference to verse 3, Paul is saying they should be willing to bear reproach for each other, as Christ did for them. Their own pleasure is less important than harmony, as Christ’s pleasure was less important than their salvation. The end goal is that they be able to come together to together glorify God. A summation is offered in verse 7:

Rom. 15:7 “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

Welcome, greet, accept. We are to welcome each other. Notice how this verse essentially sums up the previous six. Vs. 1-2 are about bearing with each other and pleasing the other rather than self. That is welcoming each other. “As Christ has welcomed you” is a reference to verse 3, that Christ pleased others by bearing their reproach. “For the glory of God”, shows the end result mentioned in verse 6.

God is glorified when His people forget their differences and come together to worship Him.

In the next 5-6 verses, Paul reminds the Gentiles that Christ came to fulfill the promises given to the Jews and reminds the Jews (by quoting their own Scriptures to them) that He also came to give mercy to the Gentiles. Again and again, there should be no dissension.

One reason that there was discord was that the Jews and Gentiles worshipped a bit differently. This is covered somewhat in chapter 14. The Jews kept certain holidays and celebrated new moons, etc. all as a holdover from the old law. The Gentiles had no cultural reason, and no teaching from any authority, that they should do such things. One side thought the other weird and the other thought the first lax. Paul told them to get along, despite this. This is something we can learn from today:

Predominantly black churches of Christ tend to worship a bit differently from predominantly white churches of Christ. Their song services are maybe a bit more. . . soulful. Their preachers are a bit more animated. (In general. I’ve been to predominantly black churches in which, if I closed my eyes, I’d have guessed they were predominantly white.) There is nothing unscriptural about any of this. It might make me feel a bit uncomfortable for cultural reasons, but it shouldn’t for Christian reasons. If our church gets a large group of black Christians as visitors and we notice that the building is swaying a bit more than usual during the song service and the sermon generates more “Amen!”s than usual, should we get upset and ask our brethren to quiet down? Of course not! We are to “welcome one another”.

Despite racial differences, cultural differences, and even differences in the worship (as long as the basic scriptural pattern in being followed) we are to live in harmony with one another. We are to welcome one another as brethren in Christ. We are to accept one another.

God is glorified when His people forget their differences and come together to worship Him.

One Another: Be Kind

Another instruction we are given about how to get along with one another is to be kind to one another.

Eph. 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Paul starts by describing the way things SHOULDN’T be. Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice don’t belong in God’s church. Church should not be a place where everyone is fighting all the time. Unfortunately, most churches are made up of humans rather than angels. Most of us have seen the tension that sometimes exists whenever two ‘brothers’ are in the same room. Many of us have experienced or at least heard of the viciousness that often occurs in business meetings or even in elder’s meetings. What can we do about this? The first answer is that if everyone is dedicating themselves to serving their brethren and being in subjection to them (the subject of the last post) then fighting will rarely occur. The second answer is even more simple: be kind to each other.

Kindness needs no great definition. It just means doing good. Paul joins kindness with being tenderhearted. This carries with it the twin ideas of being compassionate and merciful. So, if you see your brother in need, you should want to help him out and if your brother has been offensive, your first inclination should be to overlook his fault, rather than pounding on him. That pairs quite well with the next thing mentioned, forgiving one another. Christians don’t hold grudges. Especially not against other Christians. To sum up, Paul says to do good for your brothers, look to help them out, show mercy and forgive when they are wrong.

There is more on this general topic in 1 Thess. 5:15 “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Again, there is no place for vengeance or grudges in the Church. We are to forgive and love and be kind/do good. The point of interest to me in this passage is it doesn’t just say to do good, but to SEEK to do good. We aren’t to just take advantage of opportunities that might pop up, we are to actively look for chances to do good for our brethren. Much like Heb. 10:24-25 says we are to consider one another to figure out how to stir each other up to love and good works, exhorting one another, Paul tells the Thessalonians to seek ways to do good. I should always ask myself, “What does my brother need from me?”

Christianity is far more than showing up for church services and Bible study a few times a week.

How can I show kindness to my brothers and sisters? Peter tells us one way. 1 Pet. 4:9 “using hospitality one to another without murmuring”. Hospitality is not just having people over for dinner. In the days before hotels at every interstate exit, travelers were taken in and cared for by the people of the town. Often without any prior introduction. Hospitality was considered an honor and one of the highest virtues. Remember how Abraham hustled to prepare a meal for the traveling ‘men’ he saw walking in his direction and begged them for the honor of providing for them (Gen. 18)? Rarely do we get the chance to show this type of hospitality anymore. Travelers have reservations waiting for them. We can, however, be welcoming to any visitors that join us to worship. We can greet them, introduce them to our towns, answer any questions they may have, and generally make them feel like they’ve discovered a home away from home. Almost everybody has a story of an unfriendly church they encountered while traveling. We don’t want that story to be of us. And if we ever encounter people who have been stranded, we should be among the first to offer them assistance.

Another bit of kindness I can show is found in Romans 12:10 “In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another.” We are to prefer one another. The word for “in honor” is also translated precious or price. We are to esteem our brethren as precious and put them first in our lives. Their needs come before the needs of worldly acquaintances. My free time is spent with them, instead of in the world. I send business their way. In every way socially, in business, in help given, in all ways, my brothers come first. In subjecting myself to them (last post) I put them before even myself.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
  • figpicker
    finally remembered my password and signed on so I could say that this series has b een very well done
    by figpicker at 07/18/17 2:51PM
  • iamyourfather
    Thanks. Got a few more to go. I hope.
    by iamyourfather at 07/20/17 11:11PM