Sunday, December 2, 2018

Lord's Day 29

Thoughts on Devotions – LD29

Q. 78 Do the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ? Q. 79 Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood, and Paul use the words, a sharing in Christ's body and blood?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “A Real Presence?” He says that not only is the Lord's Supper a memorial with which we remember Christ's sacrifice and proclaim his death, but it is a “communion.” He quotes 1 Corinthians 10:16 which calls it a “participation” (or koinonia) in the blood and body of Christ. He says that in communion we have fellowship with the body and blood of Christ and that we are joined to Christ in a spiritual koinonia. He goes on to say that even this does not exhaust the meaning of the Lord's Supper – we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes, participate in the benefits of Christ's death and gain spiritual nourishment. It also gives us unity as believers as we gather around the “family table” where “we enjoy fellowship with each other and partake of the rich feast of blessings purchased for us at the cross of Christ.”

Monday: In the Lord's Supper the bread and wine (or juice) represent Jesus' body and blood – they do not actually become flesh and blood. Jesus was using a metaphor when speaking of the elements of communion.
Matthew 26:26-29 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Fatherʼs kingdom.”

Tuesday: Again, a sacrament's physical properties symbolize a spiritual reality. Putting our faith in Jesus is as necessary for spiritual life as eating is for physical life. Without the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ that we remember in the Lord's Supper we would not have the promise of his benefits.
John 6:47-51 I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Wednesday: When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are assured that we become one with Christ, just as the elements become one with us. Jesus was God and man – he was able to fulfill the law and was able also, as a human, to suffer the wrath of God against our sin.
Hebrews 5:7-9 During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
1 Peter 3:18 Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit.

Thursday: We feel sorrow and fear when we think of our own sin – and we doubt that God will really accept us as we are. God's promise is that we can come to him clothed in Jesus' righteousness and that we can never come in our own righteousness – it is a comfort that we can rest in this promise. We are assured that we can not come to God on the basis of anything we “earn” and we have assurance that in Christ we have been adopted and are so united with Christ that it is as though we had never sinned.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised.

Friday: We remember Jesus' suffering and death at the Lord's Supper – it makes us sad and should make us hate our sin. We proclaim what Christ's death means for us and what it has accomplished. We also proclaim the Lord's return – Jesus said to eat and drink at the Lord's table until he returns. He is coming again and will judge those who do not trust him.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lordʼs death until he comes.

Saturday: In the Lord's Supper we participate in the body of Christ. What he accomplished in his body is ours. Where he now is, we one day will be. We are members of others who are part of his body (the church). The prophet Zechariah promised a fountain that would cleanse us from sin – the Lord's Supper assures us that the fountain, Christ's blood, cleanses us completely from sin.
1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
Zechariah 13:1 “In that day there will be a fountain opened up for the dynasty of David and the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Reading between the lines...

Christians need to recognize their weakness and lack of faith. All Christians struggle with a combination of confidence and uncertainty. To claim that we do not have doubt/unbelief is to claim that we are sinless, and claim a self-reliance. Relying on our own faithfulness is the opposite of belief. The father's prayer needs to be our prayer. Keller paraphrases Luther: “Under every sin is the act of idolatry, and under every act of idolatry is a disbelief in the Gospel.” Luther in his commentary on Galatians says “the article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our hearts. We constantly need the Gospel because we are imperfect believers – doubting, trying to add to and staying from the promise of God. Faith is not relying on some inner quality of belief; faith is confessing my weakness and relying on Jesus. We can't drum up faith within ourselves. Instead it is pulled out of us by the Gospel promises of Jesus. Faith does not originate in us, it is “in Jesus' hands” - he generates faith within us revealing more of his trustworthiness in the Gospel. We come to him in weakness and he reveals himself to be trustworthy. We need to pray “Lord I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
Mark 9:22b-24 But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Then Jesus said to him, “ʻIf you are able?ʼ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Romans 14:23 But the man who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not do so from faith, and whatever is not from faith is sin.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law have set up a situation in order to trap Jesus – will he side with Moses at the risk of getting in trouble with the Romans, or will he dismiss the teaching of Moses? It is clear that they are not particularly interested in the woman and also not particularly interested in the details of the law (they do not hold the man to account). Jesus avoids their trap and does what the law was meant to do, holding up a mirror to our own guilt and not as weapon to harm others. Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the accusers, but they do not repent, instead they retreat further into the darkness. The woman is left with Jesus – he is the only one who really could cast a stone; he does not condemn her, but tells her to go and sin no more. The accusers are shamed and she is justified. The judge has become her savior; she has been saved from sin. When we read the story we must put ourselves in the role of the woman – He is accused so that I can be acquitted. The one without did not cast the first stone, but spoke salvation. Today he speaks to every guilty sinner who casts themselves on his mercy, “I do not condemn you, you are free, go and sin no more.”
John 8:6-7 (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him, so that they could bring charges against him.) Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, “Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The darkness we confront is 1) ignorance of God; 2) where we hide from God, our rebellion; 3) death. Jesus is the light of the world. He says that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life. We cannot illuminate our own lives, but Jesus is the brightness of the Father's glory. The Father has a radiance and glory; Jesus is the radiance of God's glory. We are dark by nature and helpless, but when we hear the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, then light shines into our darkness and gives us knowledge of God and his salvation. When we feel the darkness of our circumstances around us we need to look to Jesus, the light of the world. Whoever follows him will come out of darkness and have the light of life.
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.

You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free” - assumes that we do not know the truth and that we are not free. Jesus assessment of humanity is that we are liars and we are slaves – that is why we need that truth that will set up free. Why do we sin? Because we are enslaved to it. We don't just make bad decisions, and we think that we are in charge of our behavior, wishes and thoughts – but actually our sin is in charge of us. We need redemption and deliverance if we hope to leave slavery. If we want true change we need to cry out to our redeemer – but we are reluctant to do that and we don't like to think of ourselves as helpless. In thinking ourselves free, we flee from the truth. Dr. Ashley Null: “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” We choose what we desire and then use our intellect to justify ourselves. We desperately need the truth to set us free. Jesus is the Truth that sets us free – we must go to him in honest repentance and he will set us free.
John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin.
John 8:35 The slave does not remain in the family forever, but the son remains forever.

Jesus is the good shepherd – the OT uses the symbol of the good shepherd in several places as the one who cares for God's people. Jesus promises to be the shepherd and in that claims to be the Messiah. How does Jesus prove his claims of being King? By dying for his people – the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He proves his deity by dying. Calvary is the heights of divinity and the depths of godhood. On the cross we see the true God who would be torn apart to rescue the flock.
John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Ezekial 34:1-2 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them - to the shepherds: ʻThis is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock?
Ezekial 34:11-12 “ʻFor this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy, dark day.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

We think of a “millstone around our neck” as a burden, but the millstone that Jesus spoke of was a death by drowning that was preferable to the punishment that one would receive for “causing one of these little ones to stumble.” It demonstrates his protective for his children. He calls us to follow him as a little child, and likewise to welcome other children into the kingdom. In this discourse Jesus is talking with his disciples who have been discussing which of them is the greatest and have been preventing children to come to him. The warning is especially to leaders, teachers and those who seek to have status in the kingdom. If we raise ourselves up, we will be cast down – instead, to become a great one we must become a little one.
Matthew 18:6 “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.

Do not mess with this” might be a contemporary translation regarding the marriage union. The verse assumes that something has already happened – God has united the couple. The union is not primarily in the couple's hands; it is in God's hands. The human union is enjoyment of the fact of what God has already done. Bonhoeffer, in a wedding sermon wrote, “it is not your love that sustains the marriage, but the marriage sustains your love.” Even the marriage partners may not always be totally focused on maintaining their union, but God has established it. Focusing on the oneness can further promote the oneness. The picture of the marriage union also teaches us of our union to Christ – it is God's work. We just need to recognize it; we enjoy it as we recognize the fact of it. We need to have a conviction regarding the strength of the union – God has joined us to Christ. The union does not depend on our faithfulness or feelings. It is as strong as God's faithfulness. Our love does not sustain our covenant union with Jesus, it is our covenant union with Jesus that must sustain our love.
Mark 10:6-9 But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”