Sustenance by Pastor Abidan Shah

SUSTENANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: One of my favorite commercials on TV is the Snickers ad. They show people acting like celebrities when they are hungry and the tagline is “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” That’s so true. We feel sluggish and cranky, anxious and nauseous, when we’re hungry. So also, you’re not you when you are spirituallyhungry. Just as we need physical food to give us physical sustenance, we also need spiritual food to give us spiritual sustenance. Spiritual food is feeding upon Christ and it is not optional but essential for the Christian life.We will be taking part in the Lord’s Table today and this message is to remind us of the importance of daily feeding on Christ.

John 6     53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

Question: How is your spiritual nutrition coming? Are you daily feeding upon Christ and his word? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Is he your king?

Context: Typically, when we observe the Lord’s Supper or the Communion (in some traditions known as the Eucharist or the Holy Sacrament or even the Mass), we turn to either the end of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:26-28Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:19-20) where the last hours of Jesus with his disciples are narrated or to I Corinthians 11:23-25 where Paul gives instructions on how to observe the Lord’s Table. In these passages we encounter Jesus having his final meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. During this meal, Jesus gave a very familiar tradition, the Passover Meal, a whole new meaning. Sometime back I preached a message on this subject from I Corinthians 11 in which I explained how the bread was the unleavened Passover Bread that Jesus relabeled as his own body that would be broken for them. Then, there were 4 cups at the Passover Meal and Jesus rebaled the third cup, the Cup of Blessing, as the Cup of the New Covenant in his blood. I’m not sure how much the disciples understood what Jesus meant at the time but they obediently ate the bread and drank from the cup that he passed to them. You can only imagine how difficult this must have been for the disciples! Imagine if I were to show up at your Thanksgiving Meal and pick up a turkey leg and say, “this is me!” Their old customs and biblical traditions were radically altered by their Master but by faith they obeyed him and received it. Only later on, they understood the true meaning of what Jesus meant.

Why did Jesus do this replacement of the Unleavened Bread with his body and the Cup of the Blessing with his blood at the Last Supper? Jesus was telling his disciples that by eating the bread and drinking the cup they were going to share with him in his substitutionary existence. In other words, they were now going to be connected with him in his suffering and death. This does not mean that they were physically going to suffer, bleed, and die along with him. They were going to be spiritually connected with him as he would suffer, bleed, and die for them. You may think – “Man, this spiritual connection stuff must have been too deep for them!” Not really. This was not a problem for the Jewish people. This is how they saw the Passover Meal through the ages. When a Jewish person participated in the Passover Meal, he/she had to view himself/herself as if he/she was personally leaving Egypt on the night when the final plague was struck. They had to visualize themselves as if they were there on that night, even if that was a hundred, thousand, or several thousand years later. They had to sense the fear and by faith receive the Meal. The difficult part was that Jesus told them that he was the bread and he was the Passover Lamb. He wanted the disciples to understand their spiritual connection with him as he suffered, bled, died, and was buried. This is the heart of the Christian life.Listen to what Paul says in Colossians 3:3“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

By the way, this spiritual connection was not just meant for the first disciples but for all disciples through the ages, including you and me.Listen to what Paul told the members of the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11     23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same mannerHealsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drinkit,in remembrance of Me.” By the way, this is also true about baptism. While Communion is our corporate connection with Jesus, baptism is our individual connection with Jesus. Listen to Romans 6      3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4Therefore 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.

Listen carefully: There is no other religion like Christianity where the founder is connected beyond time to every person who has received him and every person who has received him is connected to each other. This changes the way I treat saved and lost people. With both, I have to remember that Christ is in me.

I know some of ya’ll are thinking – “I don’t know about all this connection stuff.” Let’s go back to the passage we read at the opening of this message. John 6:53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Why did Jesus say that?Back up to verse 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”If that wasn’t clear enough, he said it again in verses54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last dayJesus will not leave any part of him behind. We’re not God and will never be but we are part of the family of God.55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” We’re connected! 57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. What’s their reaction to all this?60Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Whatthen if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, andtheyare life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.Judas may not have been the only one. 66From thattimemany of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

WOW! Which group do you belong to? Are you feeding daily on Jesus and his words? Are you saved? Are you connected with him and others who are in Christ? Are you seeking to bring others to be connected with Christ?

Like-Minded by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

LIKE-MINDED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Few years ago, we were at a family camp in Bryson City and one of the outdoor activities was canoeing. Nicole and I got into this two-person canoe. She had plenty of experience from her days as a camp counsellor in Texas. I had very little experience and I kept paddling in the wrong direction, which made us go in circles. I had to learn to “paddle in the same direction” and then we were all over the lake having a great time. So also, in life, we have to learn to “paddle in the same direction.” We say things like – get on the same page, sing from the same song sheet, be on the same wave-length, march to the same beat, get in synch, get in step with, see eye-to-eye, fall in, click. The Bible calls it being “like-minded.” It’s a big secret to success in the Christian life. Unfortunately, a lack of like-mindedness is the reason why many people are going in circles, especially churches. Today’s message will teach us how to be LIKE-MINDED.

Philippians 2     1Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind. 3Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Question: Husbands, are you paddling in the same directions as your wives? Families, are you singing from the same song sheet? Church, are we in synch? In a few moments we will be taking part of the Communion. Are we in communion? Are you saved? Until you get saved, you will operate from a different mind than the mind of Christ? 

Context: Many of you who have been at Clearview for some time know that I typically preach through books of the Bible. Over a year ago, we began a series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and we completed the first chapter but then we took a rather extended break and focused heavily on discipleship and other series. Now, once again, we are back in our series through Philippians and I am truly looking forward to it. 

To give a quick background for the benefit of those who weren’t here last year and even for those who were here but may have forgotten– Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell in Rome. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7“…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” Again, verse 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” Don’t misunderstand: Paul is not in some dungeon. More than likely, he is in a house arrest situation since he is able to send letters and receive friends. Nonetheless, this is every bit as serious. Listen to Philippians 1:20“…as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” What Paul is saying here is that there is a strong possibility that he may not make it out of this prison alive but no matter what happens, he wants Christ to be magnified.

Question: How do you see the good times and bad times in your life? Are you always seeking to magnify Christ? If it’s a gain, Christ is the source of my blessing!  If it’s a loss, Christ is the source of my strength! On the one hand, we can say, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” On the other hand, we can say, “for when I am weak, then I am strong. His grace is sufficient for me.”

The Philippians were Paul’s pride and joy. If you remember, Paul had come to Philippi in response to the Macedonian Call. Acts 16 tells us of 3 transformations through the gospel – first, a business woman named Lydia by the Zygaktis or Krenides River; second, a slave girl who was demon possessed by the spirit of Python; and third was the Philippian jailer and his whole family. Unlike the Galatians who had turned their backs on Paul or the Corinthians who had bad mouthed him, the Philippians had brought great joy to Paul. Listen to Philippians 1:3“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…”

Question: How do people remember us? Do we bring tears to their eyes or do we bring smiles to their faces? That’s convicting, isn’t it?

What was Paul’s main purpose in writing this letter? When we read it carefully, we find some hints between the lines. The Philippians may have been going through some divisions within the body.That’s why he says the passage we just read. Listen again to Philippians 2:2“fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” Sometimes the stress and struggles of life can draw us closer to one another but sometimes they can tear us apart. The pressure that the Philippians were going through was tearing them apart. In fact, later on Paul identifies by name two women in the church who were not getting along. Philippians 4:2“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”By the way, they were not just any ordinary women.3“And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel.” They were Paul’s co-laborers on the mission field.It could be that their disagreements were tearing the whole church apart.

How does Paul appeal to them to get along?

1. He appeals to their spiritual life.

1Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,

Here’s a translation: If your experiences in Christ appeal to you, if love tugs on your heart, if the connection you have with each other in the Holy Spirit leads you, if you truly have love and mercy, then work on getting along. 

2. He appeals to their love for him.

2“fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind.”

Even though Paul prays for them with joy, lately there has been sorrow in his heart because of the contention among them. 

3. He appeals to their new nature.

3“Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

The key here is the word for humility which literally reads “humble-mindedness.”Meaning:It is much more than pretend niceness or temporary kindness. You have to actually take the time to reconfigure your mind as to what you think about others. Self-centeredness is the poison to unity.

Where did Paul get this idea? From Jesus.

John 13     3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipethemwith the towel with which He was girded. We know how Peter tried to oppose this but Jesus explained to him the importance. 12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?13You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, forsoI am. 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.16Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Invitation:That’s the spirit we need in our homes, marriages, communities, and churches. Are we saved? Are we being like-minded?

In Remembrance by Pastor Abidan Shah

IN REMEMBRANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

In RemembranceIntroduction: How many of you would agree that smells can trigger a memory from the past? You’re at a hotel swimming pool and the smell of chlorine reminds you of playing in the pool as a kid. You smell apple pie and it takes you back to grandma’s house. Every fall when Nicole smells leaves burning, it takes her back to when she would help her dad in the yard as a little girl. For me, it’s the smell of leather that takes me back to when I would polish my dad’s shoes as a little boy. For each of these flashbacks to work, you have to be there in the past. In today’s message, we’re going to have a flashback to a meal 2000 years ago. I’m talking about the final meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before going to the cross! You’re thinking, how can I remember a meal from 2000 years ago when I wasn’t there! If you have received Christ as your Savior and King, you were there. Let the word jog your memory. Let the scriptures override your senses.

1 Corinthians 11    23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same mannerHealsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drinkit,in remembrance of Me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Question: Do you remember what happened 2000 years ago? Can you see Jesus passing the bread and the cup to you? Has there been a time in your life when you asked him to be your Savior and your King? Are you saved?

Context: If there’s one subject that Christians disagree over more than any other, it’s probably the Communion. It’s right up there with Baptism. Just think of the many names we have for it, just in English: Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, The Lord’s Table, The Eucharist, The Mass, The Sacrament of the Altar, The Blessed Sacrament, The Breaking of the Bread, The Bread and the Wine, and so on and on. One major reason for these disagreements is that through the centuries people have taken Paul’s words in I Corinthians 11out of its Jewish setting.This was not just any ordinary meal. It was a Passover Meal. Even though John tells us in his gospel that the Passover was the next day, I believe that Jesus knew that he was going to die on that Friday as God’s Passover Lamb and so he chose to celebrate Passover on Thursday evening with his disciples. We mistakenly think that all the lambs had to be butchered at the temple. By the time of Jesus, there were so many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover that it was impossible to do that. So, people slaughtered their own Paschal lambs.

When we examine this meal carefully, it has all the markings of the Passover Meal.In verse 25 it says,“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper. . .” What is the cup after supper? There were 4 cups at the Passover Meal: 1. The first cup was poured as the Father recited his blessing over the wine and over the day. 2. The second cup was poured and the son asked questions about the special food of the meal. 3. The third cup was poured after the supper as the Father recited grace after the meal. 4 The fourth cup was poured and the Father recited the Hallel and the blessing over the song. Guess which cup is being referred to in I Corinthians 11:25? The third cup. This was the Cup of Blessing, which Jesus recast as the Cup of the New Covenant in his blood. Can you imagine how this must have puzzled the disciples?

By the way, let me say very quickly – Jesus did not drink the final fourth cup with them. Listen toMatthew 26    29“ ‘But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’ 30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Why did he not drink the 4thcup?Two reasons: First, he still had to shed his blood as the Passover Lamb; Second, he wanted all of us to join him around the table in his Father’s Kingdom.

Application:Are you looking forward to that banquet table? Many of us grew up in homes and families where people did not get along. You wish you could have one of those Norman Rockwell family get togethers with everyone around the dinner table. People in your family are at odds with each other over things that happened 30 years ago or 3 days ago. There is coming a day when all disagreements will be put aside and it will be the banquet of eternity! Will you be there? Only if you know Christ as your Savior.

There’s something more. Go back to verse 23“. . . the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you. . .” This bread was the unleavened Passover Bread. It commemorated the night of the Passover in Egypt when God told them not to waste any time to let the dough rise. Deuteronomy 16:3refers to it as “the bread of affliction.”Jesus did not give the typically explanation of the meaning of the bread but he changed its representation to himself and told them to eat it saying in verse 24 “. . . do this in remembrance of Me.” Why did he do this? Jesus was pointing back to Exodus 12:14 “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” The memorial was not just for the first generation but for all generations. The Mishnah (Oral Torah) tells us how they understood the word “memorial” – “In each and every generation a person must view himself as though he personally left Egypt. . .” By the way, the name of the Rabbi who said that was Gamaliel, the mentor of Paul.

When Jesus told them to eat the bread and the bread was him and drink the cup and it was his blood, he was telling his disciples that they were sharing with him in his substitutionary existence. This does not mean that they were going to suffer and physically die along with him for their sins. They were only spiritually connected with him as he was dying for them. But, in the process, they were also dying. Same thing with the cup. By drinking, they were also sharing with him in his substitutionary existence. This does not mean that their physical blood was going to be shed for their sins. They were only spiritual connected with him as he was dying for them. But, in the process, they were also dying and being buried.

How does this apply to us? When Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me,” he wasn’t talking to just the first disciples. He was also speaking to us in every generation. Just like the Jewish Passover, where every person was to view himself/herself as if he/she personally left Egypt, when we partake of the Communion, we are to see ourselves sitting in the room 2000 years ago on the night before Jesus went to the cross. Listen to I Corinthians 10    16“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17For we, thoughmany, are one breadandone body; for we all partake of that one bread.”All this is to be done by faith.

Closing: There is no other religion like Christianity where the founder is connected beyond time to every person who has received him and every person who has received him is connected to each other. Baptism also does the same thing but it’s our individual identification with Christ and Communion is our corporate identification with Christ. Do you know Christ as your Savior and King? Are you connected with him right now?

Heart Search by Pastor Abidan Shah

HEART SEARCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Heart SearchIntroduction: Couple of years ago we visited “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it or probably been there with your family. It is considered to be hallowed ground because interred below are soldiers from the various wars that were never identified. On the Western Panel of the tomb are the words, “Here Rests in Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But to God.” The Honor Guard keeps watch over the Tomb 24/7 even through bad weather. The soldiers who “walk the mat” are held to the highest standard of behavior. If they do anything that is considered disrespectful to the Tomb, their badge can be taken away if they’re no longer serving at the Tomb. Thousands upon thousands of people come each year to watch the changing of the guards. But if they get loud or sit during the ceremony, the guard will immediately step off the met and call them out – “It is requested that all visitors maintain an atmosphere of silence and respect at all times.” Why such respect? The Tomb is a reminder of the price that was paid for our freedom. It is a time for self-reflection to see if we are living up to the sacrifice that was made for us. We need a similar understanding and self-reflection when we come to the Communion. Our message is called “HEART SEARCH.” It’ll make more sense as we go further.

1 Corinthians 11   23 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.”

Context: Usually we tack on the Communion at the end of every Easter service. We fail to understand the true meaning and serious consequence of sin in our lives towards each other. The true understanding of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ changes the way we treat people.

Question: How are you treating each other in your life? Do you see others through the lens of the cross? When did you last search your heart? Are you saved?

In today’s message, we will see why and how we need to do a heart search:

1 Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

Background: When we went through our series on love from I Corinthians 13, we learned how Corinth was a Roman colony and it’s population was made up of former slaves, army veterans, business people, and laborers. Yes, there were people there who were original Greeks but most were Roman citizens. We have documentary and archaeological evidence that the Corinthians of the time were known for their pride, arrogance, and self-importance. Unfortunately, this attitude was also creeping into the church. Now they were treating each other with condescension and selfishness. They were divided into groups of haves and have-nots and spirituals and super-spirituals. They were even mistreating each other during the Communion service. Paul wrote the letter to rebuke, to correct them, to instruct, and to bring them to a proper understanding of how believers in Christ should treat each other.

Application: Is there a difference between how you lived before Christ and how you live now in Christ? Has there been a change in attitude and behavior in you treated others before you got saved and how you treat people now?

20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

Background: The early church used to have a love feast (fellowship dinner) every week along with the Lord’s Supper. They used to have a “better room” known as the triclinium (lit. three couches), which was a formal dining room in Roman buildings. Some of the Christians would get there early to beat the rush and get the better seat in the dining room while the latecomers had to crowd into the Atrium. “…and one is hungry and another is drunk.” While people were in the Atrium waiting to get in, many of them were taking their time eating and drinking and actually getting drunk! In essence, they had lost the true meaning and purpose of the Communion.

It’s very interesting how Paul deals with this kind of a behavior. He does not just tell them to grow up or be unselfish or be kind to one another. Instead, he takes them back to the fateful night when Jesus gave the institution of the Communion. 23 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…”

Before we go any further, here’s an important principle: Nothing is more life changing and behavior altering than the cross. There’s something about the cross that has the power to bring us to our knees. It has the ability and potential to bring things into perspective. If I may add, if the cross doesn’t do it for you, either your heart is too hard or you’re lost.

Now Paul wants these Corinthians to really understand the meaning of this meal. Keep in mind that most of them did not have a Jewish background. All many of them were used to was going through their temples and taking part in the sacred food offered to the idols. Paul is giving them a crash course in what the Lord’s Supper really means. Listen again: 23 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;

Background: People have argued over whether or not this was a Passover Meal because John talks about Passover being the next day. I believe that Jesus chose to make the meal of Thursday evening into a New Passover meal. This is important because when the Hebrews or the people of Israel or the Jewish people celebrated the Passover, they were told to include themselves in the events that took place on the night when God led the Hebrews out of Egypt. The Passover Haggadah says, “In every generation a man must so regard himself as if he came forth himself out of Egypt…‘What the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.’” The lesson here for the Corinthians was – “Don’t just do the Lord’s Supper. Picture yourself there in the upper room, watching, and listening to Jesus speaking.”

Application: What goes through your mind when you take part in the Lord’s Supper? Do you picture yourself in the upper room, sitting across from Jesus? Can you see the stress on his face, knowing that in just a few hours he would be brutally nailed to the cross for the sins of the whole world?

What’s next? 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you.” Jesus gave a whole new radical meaning to the Passover Meal where He became the bread. Then he said – “do this in remembrance of Me.” What does that mean? It has several levels of meanings: remember in gratitude; identify with the crucified Christ; return to where it all began for you; and look forward to what God has in store for you. There’s one more – remember how guilty you are in the sight of God and how much you need his forgiveness and grace in your life. The Corinthians were so focused on status and pride, this was the farthest thing on their minds.

Application: What will help a husband and a wife to forgive and love is Christ on the cross. What will help loved ones get along is Christ on the cross. What will help a divided church find healing is Christ on the cross. Have you turned to him yet?

25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.

Background: Going back to our Passover imagery, this Cup of Blessing came at the end of the meal and Jesus also recast it and called it the New Covenant. What Paul was telling the Corinthians is that under the New Covenant even God set aside his rights and was willing to pour his blood for sinful human beings. If they claim Christ, they were part of a whole new community where personal rights and free choice to treat people any way they want to is also over. Under the New Covenant, they were obligated to act the way Jesus did. And again – “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Application: Do you believe that you are part of this New Covenant in Christ? Do you actions match the actions of Christ?

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. Meaning: Don’t use my name if you don’t live by my example.

For e.g. Parents reminding their children, “Don’t forget. You carry our name.”

What needs to happen? 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For the Corinthians it meant, remember that you are standing on hallowed ground. Don’t forget that someone died for your freedom. Meaning: Do a heart check and see if you are truly in Christ. Have you truly died with Christ, buried with him, and risen to walk in the newness of life in him?

What if you don’t? 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

People ask me – “Does God take the lives of people if they take the communion with sin in their hearts?” I remind them of Ananias and Sapphira in the Bible. God struck them dead after they lied about how much they had given. If that were happening today, we would need funeral directors at every service in every church across the world! They were set as an example for us to know that God takes lying and stealing very seriously. So also with how we treat each other in the Body of Christ. God takes it seriously.

Are you saved? Have you done a heart check? Are you somber and treating others in light of the cross?

Unity in the Body

UNITY IN THE BODY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Closeup image of hands of businesspeople on top of each other as symbol of their partnership

This morning we will be observing Communion. Turn to I Corinthians 11 for our message titled, UNITY IN THE BODY.

1 Corinthians 11   23 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.

Upper Room 1

Upper Room 1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Upper Room 2

Upper Room 2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Upper Room 3

Upper Room 3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: About 10 months ago, Nicole and I stood in the very place where these words were spoken. It’s known as the Cenacle, the upper room, where Jesus celebrated the last supper with His disciples. How do we know that? Because, during the early centuries of Christianity, the church on this site was the center of Christianity in Jerusalem. Tradition claims that it was also the site where Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection and where the Holy Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost. Even though the rib vaulted bay (ceiling), columns, pillars, and walls have been rebuilt many times, parts of the floor are claimed to be original. I cannot describe the feeling I had when we stood on the very ground that Jesus and the disciples possibly stood or sat on for the Last Supper.

Picture with me that night when Jesus was with His disciples in this upper room. Earlier in the evening Luke tells us in Luke 22:24 “there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” Jesus knew that and so in John 13 after the regular meal had ended Jesus began to wash the feet of His disciples. Why? To teach them what it meant to be humble. It was a demonstration of how they should be towards each other. They got it because when He revealed to them that one of them would betray Him, instead of being defensive or pointing fingers, Matthew 26:22 says, “they were exceedingly sorrowful…” and Mark 14:19 says, “they began…to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?”…“Is it I?” Meaning: They were not judging each other but themselves. Now, Jesus explained to them about the bread and the cup.

What’s the point? Before the disciples could understand the meaning of the bread and the cup, there had to be a change in attitude from pride and self-righteousness to humility, sorrow, and self-examination. A change in attitude had to come before a change in understanding. Unfortunately, by the time Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church, they were anything but that. They were pushing and shoving each other at the Lord’s Table. They were divided.

Question: How is your attitude this morning? Is there pride in your heart? Is there sorrow in your heart? Have you taken the time to think about what Jesus went through for you 2000 years ago? Have you examined yourself and asked – “Is it I?” or are you too busy judging others? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this passage that will prepare us for Communion today and also bring unity in the body.

1. THE SOURCE OF DISUNITY 

To understand the context in which Paul wrote the words, we should begin in verse 17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, (Paul is telling them the reason for these instructions. It is to correct them.) since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.

Background: What is Paul talking about? The Corinthian church was divided. Why? They had a lot of problems. You have to read the previous 10 chapters to understand that. They were filled with envy, strife, sexual immorality, idolatry, stealing, cursing, and the list goes on and one. They were living in the flesh. You cannot be united as a body of Christ and have this behavior on the side. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. In other words, it was no longer about the Lord’s Supper but their own supper. In other words, how the Corinthian Christians were acting at home is now how they were acting at church. Their personal sins were infecting the church body. What they were doing behind closed doors was now being done inside the church. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. Instead of the Communion being a time of humility, sorrow, and self-examination, they were having food fights! Who brought more food? Who brought less food? Who got in line first? As a result, some people were walking away hungry and some were walking away drunk. It was embarrassing! By the way, not much has changed, most church fights happen over food!

Here’s the point: Show me a church with a lot of problems and I will show you people living in sin. How you live Monday through Saturday will sooner or later show up Sunday mornings. “You can cover up only so long. Sooner or later it’ll come out in public.”

Application: How is Sunday worship for you? If Sunday worship is a sign of Monday living, how is Monday living? Is there trash in your life that you haven’t dealt with? Are you bringing your trash into the church body?

II. THE MEMORY OF THAT NIGHT 

Background: What is interesting to me is that Paul does not just reprimand them about their behavior at the table or give them a long lecture on the dangers of discord in church. Instead, he takes them down memory lane to that night when Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples. Listen to verse 23 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.”

That phrase – “in remembrance of Me” is very important. What Paul is saying here is that the reason you all are acting this way is because you have forgotten that night when Christ washed the feet of His disciples and when their hearts were humbled, He explained to them about the bread and the cup. You have lost sight of Christ and not just any Christ but the Christ who gave His body to be broken for us.

Again, verse 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.”

Once again, there is that phrase – “in remembrance of Me.” You have forgotten your Master and God Jesus who allowed His blood to flow out for you.

What is the point? The antidote to disunity is a return to the night when Jesus revealed to His humble disciples the suffering that He was going to face. The reason churches are filled with pride and self-righteousness is because they have forgotten that night when Jesus was the focus and His sacrifice was the subject. Humility, great sorrow and self-examination was the only response. If there’s pride and hate in your life, bring the cross back into your memory.

Application: When was the last time you reflected on what Christ did on the cross for you? When was the last time you reflected on His death for your sins? When was the last time you told Him – “I’m not worthy of anything. It’s only by your grace that I stand.”

III. THE TIME FOR SELF-EXAMINATION

1 Corinthians 11   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. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

The consequence of their personal sins was weakness, sickness, and even death. Could it be that the church in America is weak, sick, and dead is because we have lost sight of the sacrifice and death of Jesus for us.

Now, this is the crux of the matter – What do we do now? Listen to verse 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. The place to begin is to deal with sin in my own heart. What is the promise? If I do it, God won’t have to.

Application: Have you examined your life lately? This does not mean that you need to do introspection on yourself—go looking for sin. Let God expose your sin. Let God decide what is sin in your life. Then deal with it harshly.

What’s the result? It will bring unity in the body.

Are you part of the body of Christ?

TRUE VS FALSE DISCIPLES – CELEBRATING THE COMMUNION

TRUE VS FALSE DISCIPLES – CELEBRATING THE COMMUNION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

True vs False DiscipleMatt. 26:17-22   17 Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ’ ” 19   So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. 20   When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.  21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22   And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

Overall Background:  The passage we just read is one of the most somber, sorrowful, and grim chapters in the entire Bible. The time had come for Jesus to go to the cross. This was not unexpected; this was not spur of the moment; this was prophesied; this was written centuries beforehand; this was the very reason that the second person of the Godhead came into this world as the Son of Man. His disciples knew that something was up but they were infantile in their faith and understanding. Make no mistake that they were saved – except one – but their eyes were not yet fully open. Jesus had tried to explain what was about to come several times but they still didn’t get it.

About this time, there were two major holidays of the people of Israel – the feast of the Passover and the feast of the Unleavened Bread. Every nation has its holidays. In America we have the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and so on. These are man-made holidays and we enjoy them but there is only nation for whom God established their holidays – Nation of Israel. He gave them 7 holidays to be a prophetic reminder of the coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “feasts” is “to keep an appointment.” God made these appointments with His people to meet with them at certain times.

Jesus took this opportunity to reveal to His disciples that He was the fulfillment of the feast of the Unleavened Bread and the Feast of the Passover. Not only that, He also used this opportunity to reveal to them who was a true disciple and who was a false disciple.

Application: This morning as we hear this message, let us not only see who Christ is but also who you are – are you a true disciple or are you a false disciple? Are you truly following Christ or are you playing Christianity? And if you are a false disciple, let the Holy Spirit turn you around to the truth.

We will divide up this account into 3 parts: what took place before, during, and after the meal.

I. WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE MEAL?

Background: We have to start reading at Matt. 26:6-9  6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,  7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. (Now who was this woman? When you place all 4 gospels side by side, like Paul Harvey, they tell us the rest of the story. This woman is none other than Mary the sister of Lazarus—whom Jesus raised from the dead. She had a terrible past until she met Jesus. She was so grateful that she sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha her sister complained about her. She loved Jesus. Somehow she understood that his death was significant.

What happened when she anointed Jesus’ head and feet with the costly oil? 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” (Now Matthew does not identify the disciple. Once again, you have to turn to John’s gospel to get the rest of the story.) John 12:4-6  4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said,  5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

What a contrast between Mary and Judas! Mary was grateful for what Jesus had done for her. Judas was a thief. He was a disciple in name only but his life was never touched by the truth. All he could see was profit and loss. All he could see was opportunity. Unlike Mary, he never saw who Jesus was. Judas was a natural man, described in I Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

What did Jesus do? He commended Mary and rebuked the disciples, especially Judas, for troubling her. He said in Luke 7:47 “But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

How did Judas react? 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.  16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.

How tragic! So close to the truth and yet so far away!

II. WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE MEAL?

Matt. 26:20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.Application: Has the Holy Spirit of God opened your eyes? Are you a Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, willing to break a costly perfume at the Master’s feet, grateful for what He has done for you? Or, are you a Judas cynical, critical, negative, stealing from God, blinded by the lures of the world?

Background: What Jesus was about to celebrate with His disciples was something the Jewish people had done for 2000 years at the time. It was in accordance with God’s commandment to the people of Israel. God had commanded them through Moses that when they came into the land of promise, they were to observe this feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread – the Seder. And if their children were to ask, “why?” They had to explain it to them. By the way, to this day, when the Jewish people celebrate Passover, the youngest child repeats the ritual question in the – Ma Nishtana? “Why is this night different from all the other nights?” Then the family reads from the Haggadah.

You can imagine the disciples sitting down to go over these rituals and customs. Everything is ready – the approved lamb had been taken to the temple and slain. Then, it had been brought back and roasted and placed on the table. Also on the table was unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and now wine has been added to the meal. The disciples have no idea what is about to come.

Jesus begins the meal with these words—21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

What a dramatic scene? They were exceedingly sorrowful. One of them was a traitor. Jesus answered them in verse 23  He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25   Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.”

How tragic? Having dipped his hand with Christ in the dish, he continued on the course to betray him. His mind was made up.

Application: Are you coming to church, taking part in the activities, serving in ministry, and even partaking of the Communion, and yet your life is unchanged.

Once again you have to turn to John 13 to get the rest of the story – 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” And Judas left.

When a person repeatedly rejects the invitation of grace to receive Jesus as Savior, he/she is opening himself/herself to Satan.

Application: Have you repeatedly rejected God’s call of salvation in your life? Are you leaving the door open way for the enemy to come in?

What did Jesus do at this point? Now the real feast begins. Matt. 26:26   And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed (This is the prayer that is made to this day – Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth – Again – Jesus is talking about His own death and resurrection to come) and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

A Jewish custom originated about 3 centuries ago that puts three breads side by side. Then they reach down and pick up the middle bread and broke it. Isn’t it amazing that the middle Matzah is picked up out of the three pieces and that’s the one that is broken. Remember: the Father did not die on the cross, neither the Holy Spirit; only the Son. What is even more amazing is that they take one broken piece of the Matzah and wrap it and hide it for the children to find it – just like the Easter Eggs. Then, they bring out that hidden piece of bread – the Afikoman – that which is coming – at the end of the meal and eat it. It is a substitute for the lamb. For the past 1900 years the Jewish people have been celebrating the Pesach with no Lamb – where will you sacrifice it. No temple, no altar. The Afikoman represents Jesus who died and was wrapped according to the custom and buried Him in a grave but on the third day He came alive.

Now the most powerful statement: Matt. 26:27   Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Jesus not only celebrated the Passover but He also explained its true fulfillment. The next day was the National Passover, when the priests would sacrifice the lambs for the whole nation. At 3 pm, as the Levitical priests were slitting the throats of the lambs, Jesus was hanging on the cross, shedding His blood for our sins. Then He said – “It is finished.”

Judas did not get this – He was a false disciple.

So far we have seen – what happened before the meal and during the meal, now…

III. WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE MEAL?

Jesus gave them a solid assurance that they will meet again one day.29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Keep in mind that it was not over – Peter was still going to betray Him. The rest of the disciples were still going to desert Him. Nonetheless, the promise to the true disciples was – together we will “drink it new in My Father’s Kingdom.”

Meaning: True disciples may fail, falter, and stumble but they are not lost eternally from the Father’s hand.

Application: Are you a true disciple or false one?

………………..

Then they sang a hymn and 30 “…they went out to the Mount of Olives.” It is a custom to end the Seder by singing the Hallel (Psalms 113 through 118).

IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME

IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST IN BAPTISM AND COMMUNION by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

IDENTIFYING WITH CHRISTThe Church has been instructed by Jesus Himself to keep two ordinances: Baptism and Communion. Earlier in the service we celebrated Baptism and later in the service we will be observing the Communion. This morning we will look briefly at both from the Bible. Why is it that we observe these two acts? Is it just ritual? Is it just tradition? I submit to you that when you truly understand what they mean, you will gain a special love for both of them. Two passages we will read – Matthew 28 and Luke 22—

Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Luke 22:17-20  17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves…19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

Overall Background: The two aspects of church that have lost their significance are Baptism and Communion. These two acts were meant to help us identify with Christ. Baptism was to help us individually identify with Christ. Communion was to help us collectively identify with Christ.

This morning we will briefly look at both of them so you can appreciate them in a whole new way.

BAPTISM – IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST INDIVIDUALLY

Background: Throughout the centuries Christians have disagreed over the meaning and mode of baptism. Some groups baptize primarily to wash away original sin. They think that there is something that miraculous in the water that has sacramental powers to make someone a Christian. Other groups baptize infants primarily as an initiation into the church. There are even some Protestant groups that do not claim that baptism washes away original sin but they claim that baptism includes children into the covenant God made with His people, kind of like circumcision in the Old Testament.

Who is right and who is wrong? This morning we will not call names but simply see what the Bible has to say about baptism.

1. Jesus was baptized by immersion. John the Baptizer was baptizing in the Jordan River. This was not a baptism to salvation, just repentance to prepare the way of the Lord. We know that it was a baptism by immersion because John 3:23 tells us that John “was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.”

Jesus Himself came from Galilee to be baptized. What was John’s response? Matthew 3:14 “John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Meaning: He identified with the people of Israel. He was obedient to the Father. He approved of John’s work. Later he even approved His disciples baptizing the people.

If Jesus was baptized (being perfect), you should be baptized.

2. Jesus commanded new believers to be baptized. After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples many times. At His final appearance, in the presence of 500+ people, He gave them the charge to go into the entire world and preach the good news about Him. Listen to what he said in Matthew 28:18-20 18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, Meaning: Not only get them saved from their sins but make them disciples. How do you make them disciples? The very next line says, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Isn’t that strange that Jesus did not tell them make disciples – going to church, praying everyday, giving their tithes but baptism.

Why Baptism? Because it is the first act of discipleship that a responsible person takes after they are saved.

3. What does it mean? Paul explains its true meaning in Romans 6. Some people think that Paul gave baptism a new meaning other than Christ. To the contrary, as more and more Gentiles were getting saved, Paul wanted to make sure that they understood the true meaning of baptism. Listen to Romans 6:3-5   3 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,

Why does discipleship begin with baptism? Because baptism tells the world that I am united with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection. I don’t have to do anything but simply reckon that it was applied to me the moment I was saved. All I have to do is now remember that I am one with Him. It is a sign that I am now cut off to the old world and have entered into the new.

For e.g. Just like Marriage—as the Bible says is ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; (Mark 10)  What if I had told Nicole right after the wedding – “Okay – now you can go home and I will call you when I need you.” It is a marriage already headed for disaster.

Baptism is a reminder that now we are one with Christ.

The early church diligently baptized new believers. Samaritans in Acts 8; the Ethiopian ruler; the Apostle Paul; the family of Cornelius; and so on. By the way since the earliest church history, the church always baptized by immersion – Ephesus, Emmaus, Milan, Tunisia and on and on.

God wants your first step in the Christian life to be one of identification with Christ. He is not interested in making you a nice church member. He is not interested in making you a faithful church member. He wants your entire identity to be centered upon Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to show you the Way. He is the Way. He did not come to teach you the Truth. He is the Truth. He did not come to give you Life. He is the Life.

Application: Have you been baptized? That is your first step as a disciple. It sets the tone for the rest of your Christian life.

COMMUNION – IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST COLLECTIVELY

Background: Just like Baptism, throughout the centuries Christians have disagreed over the meaning and purpose of the Communion. Some groups think that the communion has sacramental powers where the bread and wine literally transform into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Even someone like Martin Luther, who led the Reformation, could not break away from the idea that there’s something special in the Communion. He claimed that Christ’s body is literally “in, with, and under” the bread and wine—whatever that means. Some groups think that the communion is God’s gift to the church by which he bestows grace and blessing.

There are still others who don’t think that the bread and wine become the body and blood but they are still torn over whether there is a spiritual something in the Communion or is it only a reminder?

Who is right and who is wrong? Just like baptism, lets see what the Bible has to say about communion.

1. Jesus commanded His disciples to keep the Communion. On the night before He was crucified, Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples. You can just picture it. They would have bought an approved lamb; taken it to the temple to be slain; then brought it back and roasted it; then set the table with the lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and now wine has been added to the meal. You can imagine the disciples sitting down to go over these rituals and customs but they had no idea what was about to come.

Luke 22: 17-20  17Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; Notice carefully: There is a collective approach to this act. He did not individually give it to each. There is a group dynamic in play here.

Now comes the strange part—19And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” You can just imagine the shock in the face of the disciples 20Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. No Jewish person would have ever dreamed of saying that.

2. What did Jesus mean by that? The disciples did not understand it that night but they did later and Paul explained it to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 10:16-18  16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Meaning: When you take part of the bread and the cup, you are connecting with the sacrifice and the death of Jesus Christ. You are reminding yourself that your life is depending upon the life of Christ. He is your life. He is your sustenance. He is your spiritual nourishment.

3. What makes this different from baptism? While baptism is our individual identifying with Christ, communion is our collective identifying with Christ. Paul explains again in I Corinthians 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. There is a communal aspect to this act. It is a family meal, where the main spiritual course is Jesus. Sadly, the Corinthians had forgotten this and were pushing and shoving at the feast. There was envy and strife and bitterness in the hearts of the people; there was sexual immorality in the church; there were marital problems; and the list goes on and on with idolatry and stealing and cursing and every evil imaginable. What they were doing in private life was simply bleeding over in their public life. Paul reminded them of the meaning of the feast and gave them a stern warning in I Corinthians 11: 29-30, 29For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

Now some people have taken this to mean that there was something sacred in the Communion that killed off the people. Not true. It was no different than what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. When they lied to the Holy Spirit, they dropped dead. In the early church God allowed such radical responses to sin to send us the message that it matters when we sin in the body, the church.

The Communion is important not because there is something miraculous in it but because it reminds us that we are connected to Jesus along with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus takes it very serious when we try to attack the unity of His body.

What is the solution? Listen to I Cor. 11: 33-34  33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.

Communion binds us together in Christ. Is there anything in your heart that is evil against another brother or sister? Confess it to the Lord and make it right.

……………..

Matthew 26:30 “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Again, it is a custom to end the Seder by singing the Hallel (Psalms 113 through 118).

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