Firstly, thank you to everyone for the comments and e-mails encouraging me to carry on posting. Sometimes, I find myself busy with ministry responsibilities and sometimes I do suffer from something of "writer's block". I am still reading and preparing messages, but it has never been my intention to simply regurgitate my Sunday messages on here. I usually preach from an outline so simply to summarise my notes might not be a fair reflection of what I actually said.
Anyway, enough excuses. I have got something to share today!
This post has been growing since I led the church in the breaking of bread a couple of Sunday's ago. Most weeks we read, or at least refer to, 1 Corinthians 11v23-26, and sometimes onto the end of the passage. It suddenly and powerfully hit me in that communion service, really a Word from the Lord into my heart, which I shared with the congregation -
"This is not a time to remember your sins. Jesus told us 'Do this in remembrance of Me'. Make Him your focus. Your sins are atoned for. There is no guilt, no condemnation. Remember Him."
During my early years as a Christian, the most highlighted verse in 1 Corinthians 11 was "But let a man examine himself..." (v28). I have even been taught (and spoken myself) that communion is a time of reconsecration to the Lord, that around the table, we need to think on our walk with God and the sins that we have committed so that we are convicted and don't sin anymore.
Yet such an approach by itself can lead simply to guilt. The breaking of bread is a means of grace not a means of guilt.
Yes, self-examination is commanded. But what kind of self-examination? The context is the irreverent behaviour of the Corinthians towards the breaking of bread (see 1 Cor 11v20-21). The examination was so that they would "discern the Lord's body" (v29). This examination has more to do with our discernment of the work of Jesus on the Christ, and our blessing in receiving His finished work, than a deep and introspective examination of sin in our lives.
Don't misunderstand me, confronted with the cross, repentance is right - especially if the Holy Spirit graciously highlights areas that we are sinning. However, my point is this: if all we look at is our sins, then we will leave the Lord's table full of guilt. If our focus is the cross and Jesus' finished work, then we will leave the Lord's table full of rejoicing and passionate to obey Him. We will worship with reverence and awe because of His amazing grace.
A correct focus
We proclaim His death until He comes. Jesus Christ and His finished work should be the focus of our attention.
Thus communion becomes a means of grace. We lift our gaze to the empty cross - the place where sins have been paid for once and for all, where the wrath of God was satisfied, so that there is no wrath for us. To think about that, rather than my sins, led to praise, to joy. No more wrath, no more guilt - Hallelujah!
Out of that, communion should no longer a sombre time. It should rather be a time of awe-filled joy. This is what the Lord has done!! Amazing grace, that found me - even me. Amazing love, that has cancelled the debt. Amazing favour, that means I am now a son of the Living God.
What a different it would make if, once we have checked our heart attitudes, that we look to Him. What joy, that the victory has been completed, and, in the words of that old Sunday School chorus:
Now I am free,
Now I am free,
Now I am free,
He's so good to me!