Lean back, if you will, and just try and imagine: It’s late and you’re fighting hard; it’s a long trip. And you’ve been in the car six or seven hours and you’ve gotta get there and you’ve already had the coffee or the coke to keep you awake. You’ve rolled down the windows and you just can’t keep awake. And so you start punching the buttons on the radio and you want to find anything.
You don’t care what it is but you want to find something that will get your interest and keep you and we’ve all been there.
And you punch a button here and that’s no good, and you punch a button here, and then someone is talking here, and then you punch a button and a song comes on. And it’s an oldie for you. For some that means it’s twenty years old and for others it was three years ago.
But it’s an oldie. And when you hear that song something happens, you kind of stop and you lean back in the seat and take a deep breath and you’re awake because the song doesn’t just remind you of words or a melody but all of a sudden like a video recorder going off in your mind – pictures, and faces, and people, and events of a number of years ago, begin to play out.
And as you see them you’re going down memory lane. And it’s not just that you remember them but you actually can see yourself in places, and talking to people, and it’s literally like reliving them. That old song.
Something happened it was like somehow it hit a nerve and a neuron hits your brain and a recorder went on and it wasn’t just that you see it but it was almost like you were there and all of the emotions, and all of the feelings, and what it was really like when you were there in that situation, begin to flood back to you.
And we’ve all had this experience. For some it’s a song that you remember when you were just a kid. And it brings back memories of what it was like where you grew up and brothers and sisters and family.
And for others it’s a song that reminds you of special, special moments of first looks, first dates, first love. And you remember where exactly you were and what she had on or what he had on and your mind begins to spin down another world.
For others it reminds you of a day when you walked down an aisle and that song that you all played and what it meant, and all the nerves, and all the doubts, and then you look at all the things that have occurred.
And for others, I’ve had this one, where you hear a song and that song causes you to go back and relive some very painful moments of lost love and unreconciled relationships. And even at times, a song that was popular at a window of time in your life when you weren’t living in a way that you knew honored God or did anything but hurt yourself and other people.
And it’s dark as night and you’re traveling on the back roads and no one is around and that song starts you on a journey and you think about people that you haven’t thought, for some of you, for a decade or two.
And it’s not just a matter of hearing the song. You actually are back there reliving the moment. Sometimes you laugh out loud, as you hear those songs late at night, and sometimes you start to cry or feel remorse.
And for reasons that we’re going to explore a little bit later, God has made our minds with the ability to bring back, not merely the recollection of events, but God has made your mind, and my mind, with the ability to play full motion pictures with all the emotions, with all the feelings, with all the struggles, with the “You are there right now.”
And sometimes it happens with a song. About ten days ago I was walking by, my wife has a picture album near where you come in the door. And I don’t know why it’s been there. And sometimes it’s a song but I remember stopping and I don’t know where people were but I just started looking through a picture album.
It had wedding pictures of our kids, where we were a summer ago, two summers ago. And then it got back to about three years ago and I’m sitting there in the middle of my house, with no one around and I can feel the tears starting to well up, because I wasn’t looking at pictures. I was starting to relive the actual places and moments.
And I have a theory. I’ve got a theory that God has intentionally made your mind and my mind with this ability, not just to remember but to actually relive, with all the thought process and emotions that go with it.
And my theory is that God has made our lives like that because we have a very destructive habit of the human kind. And the destructive habit is the problem of a wandering heart. Left to myself, my heart wanders from friends, left to myself my heart wanders from my mate, left to myself my heart wanders from God.
And God has made our minds, and our memories, so that certain things at certain times can spark us in such a way that it can bring us all the way back to where we were five, or ten, or fifteen, or even twenty-five years before and you just don’t remember it you actually relive it, with the full sense of the emotions, and the struggles, and the sorrow, and the pain, and at some times the joy and the excitement.
Because it is a struggle to sustain the intensity and the intimacy required for relationships to grow.
I mean what it really takes for friendships to grow, for marriages to grow, to stay in touch with your kids for some of us as they move around the country. It takes a lot of energy and here’s the deal: Left to ourselves, relationships drift apart. Left to ourselves, marriages, friendships drift apart.
Now think of this, if it’s that easy to drift apart from people that you can see, and you can touch, and you can put your cell phone on an automatic number and get them anytime you want them, do you see how easy it is for you, and how easy it is for me, to drift away from a God who loves us but we can’t see Him?
And just like an oldies song, or a picture album, or eating at a certain restaurant can spark something that takes you to another place where you relive it in vivid memory, so our Lord just before He left the planet, on the very last night, put into place for His people, He took something that was historic, about a deliverance of Israel, and about blood over a doorpost of a Deliverer, of the Death Angel, and what God did for His people and He turned that into what we now call the Lord’s Supper, where He brought His disciples around Him and He would remind them that as you meet, as you come together, “This is My body given for you. This is My blood shed for you.”
Because this is what He knew: For their life, and for mine, and for yours, it is very easy to lose your first love. You can be religious, you can be moral, you can work hard, you can persevere, you can be involved in church ministry. But you can let your heart drift away from God.
You’ll notice on the top of your teaching handout is Revelation 2:4. It says, “Yet I hold this against you, you have forsaken,” or forgotten, “your first love.” And if you wonder who the author of that is it’s Jesus.
And Jesus writes to the messenger in Ephesus in Revelation 2 and He says, “These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven lampstands.”
Listen how positive His recommendation is of this group of believers.
“I know your deeds, your hard work, your perseverance, that you can’t tolerate wicked men, that you’ve tested those who claim to be apostles that are not and you’ve found them false. You’ve persevered, you’ve endured hardships for My name, and you’ve not grown weary.”
That sounds like a pretty good report for a Christian, doesn’t it? You’re getting up, you’re reading the Bible, you give the first portion of your time, you give the first portion of your money, you love God, you share your faith, you’re involved in ministry, you help out with kids. You are a person who is working hard, you persevere, and you’re sick and tired of the evil that you see in the world and you are busting it and trying to be the man or the woman or the student that God wants you to be.
And from all outward signs all the rest of us want to be like you. But Jesus knocks and He says, “I have this one thing against you. You’ve forsaken your first love. What about Me from the heart? What about us?”
Just like a muscle that isn’t used begins to get small and weak, God says, in all of our lives our heart can grow cold. And so God has a plan. He has a solution for wandering hearts.
And God’s solution is what’s called focused remembrance. This series is about ancient paths. Things have been done for hundreds and hundreds of years, this one for over two thousand years.
The ancient path of breaking bread together restores our spiritual passion by forcing us to do certain things. In fact, this is so historic, Acts 2:42 says, “And they,” speaking of the early church, “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship,” and notice, “to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
And the apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 11, gives the fullest and clearest explanation of what God wants us to remember. First of all we’re to remember who Jesus is and what He’s done for us.
When you hold a piece of this bread and this cup in your hands the first thing God wants you to do is stop.
And just like hearing an oldies song that comes on the radio, or a flash that comes to your mind as you’re eating at a familiar restaurant, He wants you to hold this piece of bread and He wants you to remember who He really is and He wants you to hold this cup and He wants you to remember, or bring into vivid recollection, what He’s actually done for you and what He’s done for me.
Notice what He says here in I Corinthians 11 beginning in verse 23, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread and when He’d given thanks He broke it and He said, ‘This is My body which is for you, do this in remembrance of Me.’”
If you have a pen will you circle the word “remembrance?” It’s very important. “In the same way He took the cup after supper saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.’” What word are you going to circle again? Remembrance. Verse 26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
Put a box around the word “proclaim.” Two controlling concerns are associated with the Lord’s Supper, according to the apostle Paul here. The first one is the idea of remembrance or memorial.
The word literally means, “to bring to mind,” to come into agreement with what God has done. This same word is translated into Greek but when this word is used in the Old Testament in Numbers 23, it’s used of them coming and blowing trumpets, and they would blow trumpets before a sacrifice, to remind God that this offering is coming to You, that You deserve it, and we honor You. It’s the sacrifice that we bring to You.
This word “memorial” also has the idea, “bringing into vivid recollection or consciousness.” This is not about holding a piece of bread and having a cup and saying, “Oh yeah. Jesus died for me, He was there somewhere, sometime, somehow. Goody, goody, thank you, Lord. Eat, drink, I’m done.”
That’s called partaking in an unworthy manner. This word for “remember” means, “to bring to vivid recollection.” To come and renew your first love. It has the idea of you going back in your mind and saying, “Where was I sitting when I heard the gospel? What has happened in my life since my sins have been forgiven, when I trusted Christ as my Savior? Who is this Jesus? He’s fully man, fully God.”
It’s contemplating, as the ancients did, on His work on the cross. It’s imagining in your mind, maybe even without the help of a famous movie, of the Passion, and beginning to grasp at the emotive level, and bringing into vivid recollection, that if I was the only person on the face of the earth He would have gone down that trail and He would have been beaten, and He would have carried the cross.
And His hands would be pierced with nails, and then He would lift it up and they would lock it in and He would hang on a cross between heaven and earth and God Almighty, because He was holy, would turn His back for this one, brief moment on the Son because He would become the sin-bearer, the sin-offering.
And all your sin, and all my sin, and the sins of all people, would be poured on Him and the wrath of God and His death would cover your sin so that you would be forgiven and free.
See it’s holding that bread, His body broken, that’s the price tag. It’s vividly recollecting in your mind what it would have been like for His blood to be spilled and then bringing that into your own experience, and beginning to sit quietly and ponder and meditate in thanksgiving and say, “This is what it was like, in my case, before 1972, and this what it’s been like after 1972. This is where I was before I heard the gospel.”
I remember sitting in seats like this and a man sharing the gospel, and coming to that moment of truth, and realizing I desperately needed a Savior. That I was a phony, that I treated all kind of people in ways that were not only unhealthy and sinful but I didn’t like me. I wanted to be accepted and forgiven, and I needed God.
Memorial. When we take the Lord’s Supper it’s not a little something we tack onto the service. The first concept is one of memorial. It’s the idea that He is our sin-offering, that He’s sinless, that He paid the price, that He suffered for you.
And here’s the core reason, why? Because He loves you. You know the number one area that we don’t believe in the Christian life? Down deep, we do not believe God loves us. That’s why we keep trying to earn His favor. That’s why we keep playing all these games.
More than anything else God wants you to grasp and understand, totally apart from your works, totally unconditional He loves you. Not because there’s something good in you but because there’s something good in Him.
He has chosen you to be the object of His affection because beyond what any of us know, His love is infinite. And He cares about you and He wants a relationship with you.
But because He is holy and we are sinful the only means of relationship with a holy God was Christ, the fully man, fully God stretching out His arms and dying in your place and in my place.
And when we do that, not only do we bring it to remembrance but look at the last line. It says, “And we proclaim His death.” The word “proclaim” there is used elsewhere in the New Testament for, literally, preaching the gospel.
It means, it means telling the rest of the world, “I have been forgiven. Jesus is my Savior, I have a new life, there is a difference.” And when we come together it’s not just to remember but as we do it, we testify to the living fact that there is good news. We proclaim there is life, there is forgiveness for everyone, whosoever would come.
And so by way of summary in this first section, the ancient path of breaking bread together restores our spiritual passion.
How does your passion get restored? By remembering who Jesus is, your Savior, God, your sin-substitute and remembering what He’s done. He has died upon the cross for you.
The apostle Paul makes it clear that it’s not only enough to remember who Jesus is and what He did, but we need to remember who we are and our present need of repentance.
The Lord’s Supper is a time to look upward and outward, and with praise and adoration, but it’s also a time to look inward, to take a spiritual x-ray, to take a spiritual MRI, to let the Spirit of God open His eyes into your heart, into your life, and to your motives and mine, and say, “Lord, if there’s anything that’s not right.” You see the reason we drift, is what? It’s a little, subtle sin today, a little subtle sin tomorrow, a little attitude tomorrow. Another little motive next week. And little by little by little we don’t understand, then we’ve drifted.
And what the Lord’s Supper is about is to recalibrate your soul. And the way you recalibrate your soul is you get first clear on who He is, and what He’s done. And then you take that and look in the mirror and you say, “Lord, where am I really from your perspective?”
Notice, the apostle Paul’s teaching picking up in verse 27. He says, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner,” circle that phrase, “will be guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of our Lord.
A man ought to examine himself,” circle that phrase, “before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
Then listen to this very often strange but powerful passage. Verse 30, “That is why many among you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep.” That’s a technical term used every time in the New Testament for when a believer in Jesus Christ dies and goes to heaven.
“But if we judged ourselves we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”
Notice there is a warning, there’s instruction, there’s a reason, and then there is a response. The warning is: Don’t eat, or don’t come to the Lord’s table, in an unworthy manner.
This passage has been much debated, you can go to commentaries and find a zillion different explanations of what an “unworthy manner” is. Option number one for many: It’s an unbeliever taking the Lord’s Supper. It’s obviously not, you know, one of the things you need to do, I don’t know where you’re at or where you’re coming from. I didn’t grow up as a believer.
But this is a holy moment, and it’s a holy moment for God’s family. And when you’re going to be offered an opportunity to get up and take the bread and take the cup, if you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, you’re instructed to watch and observe, just see what happens, don’t go, don’t take it, and try and say, “What are these people doing and what does this really mean?”
Another explanation has been that there’s some unconfessed sin in a person’s life. It’s an unworthy manner because there’s unconfessed sin and you take it in this way. And of course we’re instructed to make sure that there’s no sin, to literally say, “God, is there anything between us? I’m going to sit quietly.”
No music, no strumming guitars. Dead, cold silence where you can say, “Lord, if there’s anything between You and me,” and you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit lives in you, “will You show me, will You just show me right now? And I know Your heart is never to condemn and You’re never to be vague.
Will You show me if there’s anything in my life that I need to tell You and come into agreement with You, and ask You to forgive me, and claim Your promise that if I confess my sin You are faithful and just to forgive me of my sin, and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.” That’s certainly a part of the Lord’s Supper.
But the actual phrase “an unworthy manner” is not so much pointed toward unbelievers and it’s not so much about unconfessed sin. That’s something that believers would understand they were to do.
To partake in an unworthy manner, the meaning of this word has to do with meaning taking it carelessly, thoughtlessly, routinely, going through the motions. No appreciation for who Jesus really is. No recollection back to what He’s really done for you. No quiet, extended time to evaluate where you really are at in your heart, in your life to recalibrate your soul? It’s just going through the motions. It’s just doing what you’ve always done. It’s coming to church and going through the spiritual motions of taking the Lord’s Supper.
That’s what it means to take it in an unworthy manner. And what it does it diminishes His work on the cross. What it does it diminishes His blood that was shed for you. What it does it diminishes the fact that you’ve been sealed with the Spirit and that you’re a child of God, and you don’t take time to let the Spirit of God love you and care for you, and God’s plan always and every time in convicting is never to be down on us. It’s to point something out like a surgeon sees a piece of cancer and cuts very carefully so that no arteries or anything would be hurt, and gets just the thing that needs to be out, and lifts it out and is it painful, yes, and removes it so you can be whole and to be healed.
That’s God’s heart. And when you take the Lord’s Supper, it always brings you to a time where you come back to first things. Back to your first love. Back to the relationship.