Each and every week we take a significant portion of time from our limited time together to do something extremely significant: We remember Christ. What we are doing is a reminder, a celebration, in remembrance of Christ: His death, his resurrection, and his return. Let me read to you Paul's account of how and why Jesus told us to do what we are about to do:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also 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.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Co 11:23-26).
There are certainly many reasons why we take the Lord's Supper, but Paul in this section of his teaching on the Lord's Supper gives us primarily two reasons why we are to participate in the Lord's Supper.
- Remembrance: If I were to ask any of you believers during the week, "Did Jesus die for your sins?" I would get a quick and immediate response of "Yes." If I were to ask any of you believers, "Under which covenant are you, The Old Covenant based on keeping the law or the New Covenant based solely on the merit of Christ, his payment for sins at the cross, and the Holy Spirit in our hearts?" I'm pretty sure that you wouldn't need time to try to remember. I don't many of us are in real danger of forgetting the facts about the cross. So why do we need such a reminder, and why do we need such a reminder every single week?
We forget. Our minds might not forget, but we demonstrate consistently with our actions, each and every time that we sin, that we forget.
The very fact that Jesus had to die shows us something. It shows us how horrible sin is. Sin is saying to God, "I want to be God. Your reign, your rules, and your Godness are an impediment to my happiness." When we sin, we commit high-treason against God. The fact of the matter is, when we sin we declare to God that we wish we were God. Ralph Venning, an old dead guy who spent a good portion of his life writing about the Sinfulness of Sin, wrote, "If we were as powerful as we are wicked, God would cease to exist...sin is tantamount to deicide, [the attempted murder of God]."
God created us and has given us every good thing. He loves us enough, despite our rebellion and hatred of him, to give us food that tastes good, to give us relationships with people, to give us a capacity to feel joy, and most importantly to die for us and give us eternal life with Him where we can enjoy Him forever. Christ purchased the church as His bride with his own blood at the cross, yet each time we sin, we look at Christ, the best husband one could ever desire, filled with love for us and ready to give us every good thing, and we look at sin (which, remember, is 100% anti-God) and we turn our back on Jesus and adulterously chase after sin. And we don't just do this once, we do it time and time and time again. Don't just think of this abstractly. This adulterer is you; this adulterer is me.
And against such rebellion against God, such a despising of God's goodness (Rom 2:4), God's wrath will be poured out. The same God who has the power to create all that is with a Word has promised that he will punish sin for eternity. I remember today when I see Christ on the cross screaming in agony, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?", when I see God the Father killing His own perfect precious Son...I remember my guilt. But more importantly, and the ultimately end of seeing my guilt: I cherish Christ, I cherish the cross.
I remember not only the fact that Jesus died, I recognize that he died for me. We must walk away from this realization changed. You must not come to communion and walk away unaffected.
o I realize that my pride this morning was an attempted deicide
o I realize that my unforgiving heart when I was sinned against was completely inconsistent with the fact that I've been forgiven the greatest debt anyone could ever owe.
o I realize that my grumbling and complaining was a statement to God that I don't really appreciate all that he's done for me at the cross.
And I remember the grace God has for me, and I repent. Each time we come to the Lord's supper we have an opportunity to pause, consider why we need God's grace, and then to cherish His grace.
- Proclamation: In light of my sin, I might have a tendency to wallow in guilt. But at this time, I declare to myself and to the world: "Jesus Christ died. My sin became His and His righteousness became mine. Therefore, nothing, not even my sin can separate me from God. And nothing, not even obedience, can bring me any closer to Him, because he has adopted me into his family. I am God's son, the church is Christ's bride.
And then we declare to the world when we do this. Your sin and mine deserve God's wrath, but look at God's love at the cross. We proclaim Christ's death and beg those who have not in faith embraced Him to turn. I do that now. If you cannot say that your only hope before God the judge is Christ, then you stand condemned just like me. Except, hoping that your own goodness will get you to heaven or believing that you're really not that bad or thinking that you can somehow earn righteousness for yourself, the Bible says that you will have to pay the debt you owe yourself. And the price of that debt is eternal death. But here, with this simple bread and cup, we proclaim Christ's death to you. Right now, stop putting your faith in yourself and trust Christ and along with all those here whom God has already granted faith, "Do this in Remembrance of [Jesus]." And let's "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."