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About this series
Pathways to Intimacy with God
Do you need to restore your first love with Jesus, but the "world's system" has you stopped dead in your tracks? Do you yearn for that place where you and Jesus are so close that nothing can separate you; you're on the same wavelength and everything is clicking. This series will help you examine your direct line of communication with God.More from this series
Lean back, if you will, and just try and imagine: It’s late; you’ve been in the car six or seven hours and you’ve got to 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.
And you punch a button here and that’s no good, and you punch a button and a song comes on. And when you hear that song something happens, 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 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 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, 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?
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.
He took something that was historic, about 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.
The 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 1 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 1 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 be lifted 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 that 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. 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 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. It would be having the memorial without the meaning.
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 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, out of the routine, out of just, you know, reading the Bible, out of just praying, out of being religious, out of trying to be a good, moral person.
It brings you back to just you and Jesus, His love for you and what He’s done, and now where are you at with Him? That’s the warning.
The instruction is very simple. He says, verse 28, “A man ought to examine Himself.” And that just means take personal inventory.
When you open your heart and you say, “Lord, if there’s anything between us,” He’ll bring a specific incident, and a specific issue, because His heart’s desire is never to push you down. His heart’s desire is to make a correction, so that He can put His arm around you and draw you back close to Him.
His Son, by His blood, paid for whatever sin is keeping you and me from Him. And all He wants to do is, by faith, have you recognize that, so there can be a fresh application of the atonement, or the covering, or the grace, and the forgiveness to restore the fellowship with God.
And so, this is a time where you examine yourself. And then notice the reason. “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” You might put a little parenthesis around “the body of the Lord” because as you see this you would, in the context, think initially that we’re talking about Jesus’ body.
And it is but it’s not His physical body. You see, we’re going to find just a little bit later that when Paul introduced this, the reason he gives this long explanation about the Lord’s Supper is the Corinthian church was involved in abuses and the abuses were, some people were coming early and eating a big meal, and they ate real fast because when the poor people came, they didn’t want to share their food.
And some people came so early and were having such a big time before the worship service, that some people were actually drunk in the worship service. And some people would come and have a big meal, and some people would come with nothing, and it was causing division in the church.
And not recognizing the body of the Lord is when you examine yourself you don’t just examine yourself on the vertical, “How am I doing with God?”
You examine yourself and what you do is you say, “How am I doing with God’s people, the body? Is there a relationship in the body of Christ that needs my attention? Is there an attitude in my heart, is there someone I need to go to?” That’s what it means to recognize the body of the Lord. You examine yourself and then you say, “Lord, I want to be right with You, but I’ve got to be right with my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
And the reason is is because judgment occurs. That’s why He says, “Because these abuses,” can you imagine going to a church service and some people were drunk?
Going to a church service and some people are going thinking, “We’re the body of Christ and Christ died for us and He loves us and you won’t share anything with me?”
He says, “Because of this some of you are,” God’s judgment, “are weak and sick and some have prematurely even died.” Now if that doesn’t get your attention and if you don’t think taking the Lord’s Supper is an issue of sobriety that ought to get your attention.
God says when we do not treat one another, and when we take things that are very precious and very holy, and we’re callous with them, and we go through the motions, and we make a mockery of them that He will, in the velvet vise of judgment, keep closing that and if we don’t respond the ultimate judgment for a believer is He doesn’t kick you out of His family, He takes you home early.
And that’s what this passage teaches. He said in the church, at that time in Corinth, some people were sick and some people actually had premature death because of their lack of obedience and responsiveness to God.
So what should the response be? He says, verse 31, “But if we judge ourselves we won’t come under judgment.” In other words, if you don’t take it in an unworthy manner, if you come and recognize who Jesus is and what He’s done and if you stop and evaluate and, “Where am I at with You, God, and with the body?” Every time we take the Lord’s Supper it’s a purifying time.
I remember the story of a fellow, he was at MIT and he was teaching and he was a nationally known speaker, and one of the heads of a nuclear submarine let him go on board and he said, “you know the submarine can only stay down,” and I forget, it was only sixty or ninety days.
And he said, “Well, why? Do you run out of water?” He said, “Oh no. We got plenty of water.” He said, “Well, do you run out of food?” “No, we got plenty of food.” “Well, do you run out of oxygen?” “Oh no, we can create our own, it’s no problem.”
He said, “Well, why do you have to surface every sixty or ninety days?” He said, “Because in this submarine we have missiles that we can shoot all over the world, But what happens is because of the magnetic pulls of the earth, we have to come up and we recalibrate all of our instruments because we get off after sixty or ninety days. If we shoot a missile and we’re a fraction of a degree off, and it goes about three or four thousand miles, you can imagine how far it would be off. And the only way to keep this submarine in line is it needs to come up, and lock onto the North Star, and then we triangulate with all of our satellites to make sure we are exactly where we think we are.”
And, you know, that’s a good picture of what the Lord’s Supper needs to be. It’s where we stop and we align it, rooted in the Scriptures, focused on the person of Jesus, and the Spirit of God recalibrates our heart, our mind, and our soul about where we’re really at with Him.
Because we do deceive ourselves, don’t we? I mean the heart is deceitful.
The Lord’s Supper isn’t just a vertical “me and God,” it is about me and His body, the Church, about me and my brothers and sisters. He’s going to tell us that we need to remember who we are as fellow members of His body.
Not just who Jesus is and what He did, not just remember who we are and what our needs are, but we need to come out of the Lord’s Supper and say, “We are a part of a real, organic, living group of people tied together by the Spirit of God, placed in His body, and our relationships matter.
Follow along in verse 17. He says, “But in giving instruction I don’t praise you because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For in the first place when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you and in part I believe it. For there must be factions among you in order that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore, when you meet together it’s not to eat the Lord’s Supper.”
Do you hear it? It’s a rebuke. He said, “We got a problem here. You ask me a question when you,” notice the repetition, “when you come together. When you come together, when you meet together you are the Church,” do you hear what he’s saying? It matters about when God’s people come together.
He goes on to say, “It’s not to eat the Lord’s Supper,” verse 21, “for in your eating one takes his own supper first and one is hungry and another is drunk. What? Don’t you have houses in which to eat and drink? 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 will not praise you.” Do you hear the emotion here?
This is the church that he birthed; this is the church that he planted. He knows these people, they’ve come to Christ, they’ve had a radical transformation and then the actual celebration of their unity in Christ, and of their common forgiveness, and their new life as a new community, they are practicing just the opposite.
And I don’t know about you but I’ve read a few passages in Scripture. He sounds pretty ticked off to me. I mean He just sounds pretty doggon’ ticked off like, “What in the world are you doing? How could this happen to God’s Church? Your very actions are the antithesis of everything that Jesus taught, of everything that we know that’s true.”
And then notice how he bookends this section. Here’s the application, “So then my brothers when you,” notice the phrase, “come together to eat,” notice now consideration, “wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home so that you may not come together for judgment. And the remaining matters I shall arrange when I come.”
The rebuke is: Your actions, when you are meeting together in relationship, are telling the opposite story of Jesus who built a body, who died, who invited you into His body, who the moment you believed baptized you into this thing called “the Church.” We belong to one another. We’re interdependent. It matters. This is not a social group. This is not a meeting that you come to once a week.
We are a part of an organic, supernatural community and it matters what you say, and what you think, and what you do, and how I treat you, and how you treat me, and how we treat one another is the basis and the evidence, according to Jesus, whether the world will even know this is true.
“A new commandment I give you that you love one another. It’s by this love for one another that the world will know that God sent His Son.” And so, he rebukes them and then he gives them some instruction, this application to be servants, to wait, to share, and to love. And so, my response here is brotherly appreciation.
The Lord’s Supper is God’s visual aid to restore our spiritual passion by forcing us to do three things: Remember who Jesus is and what He’s done, one. Two, remember our present need of repentance. And three, remember we’re one body and members of one another.
I wrote on my notes a concluding statement that’s meant a lot to me. We are to express our love for God, whom we can’t see, by expressing our love and devotion to each other who we can see.