Saturday, August 29, 2015

How the Spirit-filled life is necessary to fulfill 3 expectations set forth in the Lord's supper

observing the Lord’s Supper
1 Corinthians 11:23-25   "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; 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 He took the cup also after supper, saying,“This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

We saw from yesterday's post why the Lord's Table not only portrays in picture form the cross and coming of Jesus, but also the call to the Spirit-filled life - whereby the Christian enjoys and partakes of the Ascended Jesus on a regular basis. Today's post takes this idea further by noting what the Lord's table calls Christians to do in their fellowship with one another and with the Lord. It will be demonstrated that there are certain expectations that require the Christian to be Spirit-filled if they are to carry them out consistently and with sincerity.

1. Expectation #1 communicated by the Lord's table - put others ahead of yourself (i.e die to self). 
When we talk about the expectations of the Lord's table - of what do we speak? Paul's concern here in 1 Corinthians 11 had to do with Christians putting themselves above other Christians. The promotion of self and the by-passing of the cross as the tool of conformity to Jesus Christ were sorely missing. The situation at Corinth rendered the activity of the Lord's table as nothing more than an empty ritual full of carnality and self-ish ambition. Paul needed to yank the Corinthians back to the reality of what the Lord's table was all about. 

Think about what is called for whenever we approach the Lord's Table. In 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 and 11:33 we see the need for Christians to put each other ahead of themselves. In short - to put someone else's interests ahead of my own - I need to deny self and thus die-to-self. Nothing but the Spirit-filled life will see this as the only option. 

It is one thing to go through the ritual of the Lord's Table and not let-on how we are in our hearts. It is quite another to partake together in the reality of the fact that I truly value my fellow saved-church members as more important than myself. The Spirit-filled life calls for self-denial on a daily basis. Whenever you read any of the key passages on the Spirit-filled life (Romans 8:1-11; Galatians 5:1-25; Ephesians 5:8-6:4; Colossians 3:10-18; 2 Peter 1:4-11), the common enemy of spiritual progress is the self-life. The idea of "self" refers to that principle inside all of us that asserts what-it-wants, when-it-wants and how-it-wants. 

The problem with the Corinthian church was "self". In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul said he had to address those at Corinth as spiritual babes who were carnal - that is to say - operating from a self-centered, rather than Spirit-empowered life. Hence the expectation to put others ahead of myself requires the Spirit-filled life.  

2. Expectation #2 communicated by the Lord's table - Using the cross as your tool of conformity to Jesus Christ (i.e the crucified life)
The Corinthians still had the Spirit of God as Christians, however they were living the life from their soul rather than from the Holy Spirit inside their human spirit. When Jesus called his disciples in Luke 9:23-24 and Luke 14, He told them that they needed to take up their crosses daily, and die to self, and follow Him. 

Undeniably the calling of the Lord's table demands we die to self if it is to be enjoyed and God-honoring.  All Christians who have been scripturally baptized and are members of churches of like faith are proper recipients of the table. Even if we come to the table and are in a season of being more carnally minded than Spirit-led, the Lord's table clearly tells us that we cannot remain in such a condition. 

The question we must ask ourselves regarding our last time at the Lord's table is: "have I been living the Spirit-filled life?" Such a life is the only way in which one can see the necessity to die to self and participate daily in going to the cross as the chief instrument of daily conformity to Jesus Christ. 

When we die to self, the command to examine ourselves before God in 1 Corinthians 11:28 means we have willingly acknowledged the constant need to be in fellowship with Jesus above our selfish ambitions, self-centered motives and self-gratification. Such an act of daily self-denial occurs when we daily go to the cross as the tool of our conformity to Jesus Christ. Whenever we see how the Lord's Table pictures the Spirit-filled life, the central focus of the cross makes sense. Paul's exposition in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 points us to Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen, ascended and soon coming. 

The commands to take up one's cross and die to self are really two parts of one great overall idea. Whenever I partake of those token signs of the bread and fruit of the vine, I am in effect declaring Galatians 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

3. Expectiation #3 communicated by the Lord's table: Desire more of Jesus, His work and His power. 
We honestly cannot love our fellow Christians as we ought apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, we cannot value the cross of Christ, the scriptures and Christ-Himself apart from the regular filling and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. How we treat other Christians reveals what we think of Jesus (compare Matthew 25:40). Paul's warnings in 1 Corinthians 11:27-33 regarding partaking of the Lord's table in an unworthy manner has mostly to do with how well we are regarding others Christians in our local churches. 1 John 3:14-16 reminds us - "We know that we have passed out of death into life,because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

To be sure, flippancy towards the Lord's table or a coldness towards the cross could be included in the warnings. However, to have any issue with a fellow brother or sister constricts the closeness I will have with Jesus until such issues are resolved (see Ephesians 4:32; 5:8-18).  

Closing thoughts
We have considered today how the Lord's table calls Christians to exercise themselves with one another and the Lord Jesus along the lines of three expectations. Such expectations can only be carried out when the Christian is repeatedly filled with the Holy Spirit. First, the expectation of putting others before myself (i.e dying to self). When Christians serve each other the elements, such an act represents what they ought to be doing all the time. The Spirit's filling work will make such a duty a delight.

The second expectation communicated at the Lord's table is to come to the cross as the tool of conformity to Christ. Dying to self occurs only one way - co-crucifixion with Jesus Christ. This is not getting converted over again. Rather, co-crucifixion has to do with taking what is an instrument of salvation and using it as a tool of sanctification. Self and the flesh would rather abandon the cross. However, the Lord's table features such. Hence the Spirit-filled life is necessary to embrace this second expectation of co-crucifixion communicated in the Lord's supper. 

Then finally, the expectation of loving Jesus and His people more deeply. Only when we have emptied our hearts of hurt and heartache by the Word and the Spirit can we be fit vessels for the filling and leading of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-22). The Lord's table calls Christians to unity, love for one another and the Lord Jesus Christ. The flesh will never be sold on such activities. Only the Spirit-filled life will continuously desire and strive towards improvement in the areas of loving Jesus and other Christians.