[On Sunday I was asked to introduce communion at the church I attend. This is the text of my brief talk].
When I was given a medical death sentence in 2019, I started to seek God for answers. In addition to studying scripture, I found healing testimonies on YouTube for encouragement.
One thing that stood out was a repeated reference to the taking of communion, how in the time leading up to their freedom from terminal illness – people had been led to take bread and wine daily, in remembrance of Jesus sacrifice.
Why was communion significant to them? I would like to briefly share the answer I found to that question.
(1 Cor 11:24-31) When He had given thanks, He broke the bread and said ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying ‘This is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (have died).
This is the only NT reference I can recall addressing a reason for God’s people being sick enough to die. So, what did Paul mean when he wrote about eating and drinking unworthily – not discerning the Lord’s body?
I’ve come across three possibilities, all of which I think have value. Two address how we relate to one another as the body of Christ, but today I’ll look at one that addresses how we relate to Jesus and His sacrifice.
When we eat the bread and drink the wine, what are we remembering?
I suspect that a lot of the time we are thinking of being saved from our sins, having them washed away by His shed blood. Hebrews tells us there is no remission of our sins without the shedding of blood. That is why we drink the wine – the blood it represents was shed to establish the new covenant, bringing about a permanent solution to the sin that keeps mankind separated from God. There is no more need for constant animal sacrifices or journeys to the Temple in Jerusalem to make those sacrifices, that were required under the old covenant.
But what about the bread representing His body, broken for us? The body that Paul says is not being ‘discerned’ correctly, thereby making room for sickness and death?
In Isaiah 53 we read: ‘He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains… He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes (the wounds from scourging) we are healed.’ (Isaiah 53: 4-5)
Here we see Jesus’ suffering and death was NOT only focused on dealing with our sin – it also included the bearing of our sickness and pain, and paying the price of our healing through the whipping that tore apart His flesh.
We have no difficulty remembering His sacrifice paid for our sin, and we have no problem believing that our sins are forgiven. We accept what scripture says to assure us of that. We willingly put our faith in God’s promise alone. That is all the evidence we have and need.
But what about healing? We have physical symptoms as a constant reminder. We allow them to be more real to us than the promises of God’s word and Jesus’ sacrifice for our healing. But shouldn’t we put more faith in God’s word than in what we feel – like we do for forgiveness? Would we so willing deny our salvation if at times we didn’t ‘feel ‘saved?
Andrew Murray wrote over 100 years ago, ‘We see in the accounts of the gospels, that it was more difficult for the Jews at that time to believe in the pardon of their sins than in divine healing. Now it is just the opposite. (Divine Healing, Andrew Murray p 10; – Murray died in 1917, )
Most of us have no trouble believing our sins have been dealt with by Jesus shedding His blood. But many have difficulty understanding that sickness was dealt with through the same sacrifice. Shed blood and broken body working together as a single, all sufficient sacrifice for both spiritual and physical healing.
Psalm 103 gives us an ongoing reminder:
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
Who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
As we eat and drink, let us be sure that we are not forgetting any of the benefits that the bread and wine remind us of. If you want to avoid the weakness, sickness and even death that Paul attributes to eating and drinking unworthily; make some time in your life to search the scriptures to reinforce what Jesus’ sacrifice was ALL about, so we don’t miss any of His benefits through ignorance of them.
I read this today and it seemed currently relevant.
What should the church be like, from a biblical foundation? Something resembling the common western experience?
Everyone has experienced change this year. The whole world and its systems have been disrupted by COVID-19 and the differing political responses to it. No one has been left unaffected. But as I wrote in an earlier post, I believe greater change is coming and the church and the majority of Christians aren’t ready for it.
In Matthew 24 Jesus gave a warning about something that potentially affects all of us. The danger is already here today, and many have fallen victim to it. But in a changing uncertain world it is certain to increase.
“Watch out that no one deceives you”.
The seriousness of this warning is highlighted by the number of times Jesus mentions it in various ways throughout Matthew 24. Yet in the current times those warnings are possibly overlooked (or even ignored) more than any other part of His prophetic teaching. He includes references to false Christs (anointed ones), false prophets, false claims that Jesus has already returned, and misleading “great” signs and wonders.
Despite the frequency of deception being mentioned as one of the primary signs, it seems to be the sign most ignored by end-time prophecy enthusiasts. Their eager hunger to recognise how close the Lord’s return must be seems to lead to a neglect of discernment and they keenly accept information from potentially questionable sources.
How often have claims been made about the likely identity of the Antichrist? I think most of the recent US Presidents have been named at one time or another. A few decades ago Henry Kissinger was a favoured contender. Recently Bill Gates’ name comes up.
Then there is the mark of the beast:
Barcodes tattooed on the skin.
Tiny computer chip implants.
These are just three of the many ideas which range from the possible to the bizarrely unlikely. Even the wearing of masks due to COVID has been linked to the mark “because there is only one letter difference between ‘mask’ and ‘mark’ (!?!).
And many of the recent COVID protocols have been claimed as conditioning us for the mark, from hand sanitising to non-contact temperature checks…
Do I need to mention vaccines being administered along with a surreptitiously implanted chip?
Or vaccines that alter our DNA?
Or vaccines that kill off the so-called ‘God gene’ that facilitates the ability to believe in God? …
(Anti-vaxxers must be having a field day).
It’s quite disturbing just listing these things, knowing that I’ve come across professing Christians who actually believe them. Let’s take a little time to cleanse the spiritual palate by looking at what scripture says. What does Jesus warn us about regarding one source of deception?
MANY FALSE PROPHETS will appear and deceive MANY people.
And why would He mention this in an exposition of end time signs intended to prepare His followers not to be deceived (vs 4), and to endure to the end (vs 13). Could false prophets compromise a believer’s ability to endure and to avoid deception?
Only if their false claims are accepted as truth.
And who might some of those false prophets be? How about those who have made, and are still making claims about the identity of Antichrist, or those identifying this or that as the mark of the beast? What about those who cause alarm by making these claims? Causing fear of mask wearing, of having temperatures taken, of administering certain medications…?
What were the actual commands Jesus gave within His revelation of the signs leading up to His return?
- Let no one deceive you. (vs 4)
- Don’t be alarmed. (vs 6)
A serious problem among believers is that we can be all too willing to put the Bible aside and look elsewhere, if we think someone else has more understanding than we’ve been able to glean for ourselves from scripture. With end time prophecy, there is an abundance of extra-biblical opinion, interpreting very simple scriptural statements into complex detailed timetables identifying this present day event with that statement in scripture.
Would it be possible to step aside for a moment and consider that some of the information that tickles our desire to be in-the-know, is at best wild speculation, or at worst, could actually be false prophecy – something Jesus specifically warned we should watch out for, and not be deceived by?
This is an area that ensures many believers will be unprepared for great change. We need to guard ourselves against the many deceptions that could potentially lead us away from the truth (reality) and into false doctrine, false prophetic expectations and even wild occultic conspiracy scenarios.
To avoid being misled we need to desire, seek and accept a love of the truth (2 Thess 2:10); and build our understanding on the firm foundation of God’s word. This is particularly necessary regarding end time prophetic events. Out there is an abundance of opinion and interpretation mixed with political ideology and even occultism all muddying the prophetic waters to lead the unwary (and often gullible) Christian astray.
Let no one deceive you.
“These are not ordinary days. God is doing a new thing, and we need to respond well. He will not wait for us at the platform while we deliberate whether or not we will get on the train. Life will not return to business as usual in 2021. Pastor, if you try to cling to your Sunday morning model, your ministry might collapse.”
Full article here, from an FAI interview with Iranian brother M.
In late March I woke with the following phrases in my head: “things are going to change” and “are not going to return to normal”. I shared this and related things with a few friends and the leadership at our local church. Later I posted details on this blog, here.
Earlier I checked the date when I first shared the original “things are going to change” warning with those friends. It was 20th March. I also found that the next day, the 21st was the day on which Australian social distancing rules were introduced, as well as the shutting down of non-essential services, such as bars, pubs, restaurants. Church services were stopped 23rd March onwards.
I am bringing this up again because a few days ago, while in prayer, I heard a warning that greater change is coming and that the church and the majority of Christians aren’t ready for it.
While thinking about this I received clear confirmation of the warning’s validity in a video I watched this morning.* I believe both the warning and the confirmation are valid reflections of what scripture reveals about the times ahead, leading up to the return of the Lord.
Those things are going to happen. The only thing that may be contended is the timing. How close are the predicted Matt 24 events? Even if our current generation is not quite at the Matthew 24 stage, surely it can only be of benefit to act as if the timing of those events were right at our door. In fact that mindset is what Jesus tried to, instill into His followers with several of His parables after His prophetic warnings. (see Matt 24: 36 – 25:13).
Starting to prepare now can only benefit the actual generation that WILL face them – even if it’s not our own. Preparation would be a good legacy to pass on.
One thing that’s been clear to me is that so many in the church are trying to carry on with business as usual. They don’t want to acknowledge the realities of changing times and a changed world. Many oppose and protest against government imposed health related restrictions, crying “persecution” – even though the restrictions have not targeted churches or religious gatherings alone.
Just the suggestion that the inconveniences are “persecution” shows how ill-prepared they would be for REAL hardships, REAL persecution, where at worst lives are at risk, or at best believers are living under the constant threat of imprisonment. And the complete reliance on church buildings and ‘ordained’ ministry makes them extremely vulnerable when attendance of visible church meetings makes them a target; or when those things they are so dependent upon are taken away.
How will they survive without them?
It’s time to start preparing ourselves – and maybe later generations.
* This video is what I saw as confirming the warning I received about coming change and our unpreparedness for it. While some aspects of this talk didn’t resonate with me, I found the majority did. It runs for about 53 minutes and for the most part presents timely instruction.
When Nehemiah was called by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he didn’t attempt to do it by himself, and he didn’t employ a ministry team to do it with him while the citizens of Jerusalem sat around watching them. The rebuilding was a community project where everyone got involved.
All worked together and each one’s contribution was vital. Some were able to build long sections while others could only deal with the part beside their home. But no matter how large or small the contribution, ALL was needed. Even the smallest gap left untended weakened the overall project.
I saw parallels with this story in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul wrote about ALL believers being part of the body of Christ. Each body part needs to be enabled to function and not neglected. Each part is needed to do its work if the body is going to achieve its complete purpose.
The body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Can we make this a reality? Or at least can we consider whether our current ways are reflecting the working together approach described above?
“As many as one in five churches could permanently close as a result of shutdowns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, according to David Kinnaman, president of the prominent Christian research organization Barna Group.”
( 1 in 5 churches facing permanent closure within 18 months WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2020)
So maybe back to the example of the first church members.
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 5:42)
(Note: the temple courts was a public meeting place, not the equivalent of a church building)