Tag Archives: Easter

The Essence of Communion

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Most people have heard of communion but many are unfamiliar with either its meaning or significance. Some who have taken communion for years may not truly understand its meaning.

Communion

Communion symbolizes and celebrates the most important doctrines of the church and the very essence of the gospel message. Communion is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

Jesus instituted communion during the Last Supper, the night before he was crucified. At that time, Jesus explained it’s meaning. His simply spoken explanation is deeply profound: “Take, eat; this is my body … Dink, for this is my blood of the new covenant.”

Several aspects of communion have deep significance for Christians, and, indeed, all of mankind.

Communion is all about our relationship with God.

Jesus expressed his deep desire for a relationship with us on that unforgettable night. Jesus said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15)

Why? Because he is eager to enter into the lives of his disciples and he wants to share his life with us.

We have a relationship with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

In Matthew’s account of the Last Supper, we read:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

The “blood of the new covenant” – Jesus’ blood – was shed “for the remission of sins.” Our sins.

Unless we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, we have no life. It is through identifying with Jesus’ sacrifice that we enter into a relationship with him. Jesus referred to this as a “covenant.” (A covenant is a binding agreement.)

At the time, the disciples did not grasp the enormity of what had just transpired. Jesus replaced the old covenant of works and obedience with a new covenant of grace and faith. (See Hebrews chapter 8 regarding why the new covenant is a better covenant built on better promises.)

We have a relationship with God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

In Luke’s record of the Last Supper, we read:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

Jesus wants us to remember – and to both commemorate and to celebrate – his sacrifice for us. It is through his sacrifice that we can approach the throne of God. We do that by coming (figuratively) to the foot of the cross. It is at the cross that we apprehend the body and blood of Christ.

Jesus referred to himself as the “door” (John 10:9) and “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). That door – that pathway to God – is the cross. We need to walk through that Door.

Jesus offers us a never-ending relationship with him.

Remember Jesus’ fervent desire “to eat this Passover with you before I suffer?” Jesus’ next words point to our final destination in Paradise.

Jesus continued, “for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:16)

Until what is fulfilled? The salvation of all those who accept the blood of Jesus as atonement for their sins.

Jesus offers each of us eternal life with him in heaven. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus gives us an invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.”

Through communion, Jesus offers us the opportunity to dine with him; to partake of the bread and the wine, which symbolize his broken body and shed blood. The time of communion invites us to commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice and to remember that our relationship with God is made possible only because of what Jesus did.

Jesus is knocking at the door of your life. Will you accept his invitation? Jesus fervently desires that you do.

Advertisements

Life at the Cross!

An instrument of cruel death was used by God to bring life to all.

The Easter season celebrates the fulfillment of Jesus’ most beloved words in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Life at the Cross

Jesus fulfills those words at the cross. There, he paid the penalty for all of our sins (1 Pet. 3:18, Rom. 6:8, Heb. 9:28). And it is there where we find Him to receive the gift of everlasting life (Rom. 6:23). It is a free gift when we repent in faith.

Jesus actually predicted the manner of His death in the words preceding his great promise. In John 3:14-15, we read: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Notice that verses 15 and 16 end with almost identical words. Why? Because Jesus was drawing a parallel between a spectacular Old Testament event (which prefigured the salvation which would be provided at the cross) with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

14-Sept-Rm-Aloysius-1

As recorded in Numbers 21:4-9, the ancient Israelites rebelled against God in the wilderness. God punished them with “fiery serpents who bit them, killing many. After the people repented, God provided a means of salvation:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”

numbers 21v9b

In similar fashion, whenever anyone who has sinned looks at Jesus  in repentance and faith, they shall live.

Speaking to the crowd, Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). The next verse expressly states, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.”

Just as Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole to save all those who looked at it, God lifted up Jesus on a cross to save all those who put their faith in Him.

Let us all turn to Jesus, who beckons us with arms wide open, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

Being Connected to the Love of Our Creator

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, NIV)

LifeLifter12

We are all passionately loved by God, but sadly few know it.

Our world is lost and going to hell, not knowing it needs God. Thus, many people are missing out on a personal connection with the One who created them in his image, the One who desires to share an eternity of love with them.

To reveal his great love for us, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to become one with us. God clothed him in human flesh (John 1:10) and he walked among us. We joyfully celebrate this act of love during the Christmas season and at Easter.

Think about that: God actually stepped down into our world to save it. And he has been redeeming it ever since.

Jesus and the first-century church turned the world right-side up by preaching the gospel (Acts 17:6). Today, God sends us to reveal Jesus and God’s love and life to a world lost in darkness. We are called to be God’s life-saving conversation with the world.

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) This is called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18) and it applies to every generation of believers. It applies to you.

First, will you accept the unconditional love of our Father?

Then, you join become the face, hands, and feet of Jesus to a desperate world?

If the whole church will commit to being the conversation of God’s love to our world, then together we can change the world!

Attacking the Faith: Did Jesus Say that He is God?

Bart Ehrman is the latest biblical scholar to attack the divinity of Jesus and the33 authenticity of Christianity. Just in time for Easter, Ehrman promoted his new book, How Jesus Became God: the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. In that interview, he claimed, “Jesus himself didn’t call himself God and didn’t consider himself God, and that none of his disciples had any inkling at all that he was God.”

Jesus is God

What is the truth?

Did Jesus claim to be God?

Did Jesus consider Himself God?

The Jesus Myth?

Was Jesus’ divinity a myth invented by the church to gain followers or was Jesus, as billions of people believe, God in the flesh?

Ehrman clearly believes a myth was perpetrated by the early church and he stacks the evidence in his favor by entirely discounting the Gospel of John, which provides a super-abundance of evidence contradicting his claims.

But the New Testament confirms Jesus’ deity throughout its pages. God is not silent about the true identity of His Son and He provides ample proof in Scripture. Since Ehrman and others dismiss the Johannine record and New Testament epistles, I will restrict myself to the synoptic gospels to prove what Ehrman denies.

Many Recognize Jesus as Son of God

It is striking the degree to which the biblical evidence proves the deity of Jesus. God the Father called Jesus His beloved Son twice.[1] Both angels[2] and demons[3] called Jesus the Son of God.

Peter proclaimed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[4] The Gospel of Mark begins, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”[5] The Roman centurion at the cross declared, “Truly, this was the Son of God!’[6]

Heaven and earth uniformly proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Many Worship Jesus as Son of God

In addition to the testimony of God, angels, and men, we have Jesus’ behavior. He performed countless miracles to reveal His identity. Moreover, He was worshipped – and He allowed the worshippers to do so. He never rebuked anyone for worshipping Him.

Jesus was worshipped by the wise men,[7] His disciples,[8] and the women at the empty tomb.[9]

Jesus Did Claim to be the Son of God

Clearly, Jesus was viewed by many as the Son of God and Jesus obviously considered Himself divine. Jesus also proclaimed His divinity in words and actions for all to see and hear. At His trial, prior to His crucifixion, Jesus affirmed that He is the Son of God.[10]

The people[11] and the religious leaders knew exactly who Jesus claimed to be. At the cross, the chief priests mocked Him, saying, “for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”[12]

Jesus was mocked while He was on the cross, dying for humanity that those who believe in Him might have eternal life.[13] Ironically, this Easter season Jesus and His followers are again being mocked by those who choose not to believe, by those who twist the Scriptures in order to deny what it really says and to deny the One who alone is worthy of worship.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”[14]

Endnotes:

[1]       Matthew 3:17; 17:5.

[2]       Luke 1:35.

[3]       Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41.

[4]       Matthew 16:15-17.

[5]       Mark 1:1.

[6]       Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39.

[7]       Matthew 2:1-2,11.

[8]       Matthew 14:33.

[9]       Matthew 28:9.

[10]     Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:60-62; Luke 22:67-70.

[11]     The adoration of Jesus during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday fulfilled messianic prophecies. Matthew 21:1-14; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44.

[12]     Matthew 27:43.

[13]     John 3:16.

[14]     Luke 23:34.

Resurrection: Life & Liberty, Power & Purpose

He is Risen!

The Passion of the Christ drew record audiences when it was released in 2004 and, even today, a spiritual hunger persists in our increasingly secularized culture.

Resurrection

Easter is upon us and the message of the cross and the open tomb are destined to be commercialized and corrupted. Yet, God’s Word will prevail and His will be accomplished. The cross and the risen Christ prove His power and His love, just as they demonstrate God’s commitment to those who will be with Him in Paradise.

Life & Liberty

The words of John 3:16 speak of salvation and eternal life: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” – yes, Jesus, the Son of God, was given (sacrificed) because of God’s love. Continuing, “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

That is the essence of the gospel and Easter is the proof.

For believers, God gives eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection vanquished death and, when we are spiritually born again, we are given eternal life. We are joined with Christ in newness of life and God’s Holy Spirit inhabits us.

Death no longer has dominion over us. Life is triumphant! Along with life, God gives us liberty. We are freed from sin, which also no longer has dominion over us. While we will sin, we are no longer slaves to sin. God’s Spirit within nurtures us and heals us.

In our darkest hours – whether external circumstances or internal battles – God provides hope and healing. Our hearts and souls are resurrected in Christ.

Nicol Sponberg’s song, Resurrection, is hauntingly poignant and peculiarly powerful. It speaks of our translation from darkness to life, the renewal (or resurrection) of our lives. The chorus reads:

 Here I am at the end, I’m in need of resurrection.

Only You can take this empty shell and raise it from the dead.

What I’ve lost to the world, what seems far beyond redemption,

You can take the pieces in Your hand, and make me whole again, again.

This modern-day psalmist expresses confidence in the Lord of life and the only One who can resurrect her life, who can make her (and us) whole and complete.

Power & Purpose

Along with life and liberty, God provides power and purpose. Jesus conquered death that we might live and He has given us liberty in that life – liberty to grow and mature and become more like Him. We are to emulate Jesus, who empowers us to do so. In my sermon, “Living the Resurrected Life,” I addressed our dependence upon the One who alone can work His will in our lives and empower us to bear His fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. With that power, as we grow to maturity in Christ, He calls us to proclaim the gospel, known as the “Great Commission.”

The power of the Easter message is unstoppable, as is the One who accomplished it. “It is finished!”

We no longer need fear death or the dangers we face in this life. We are freed from ourselves and given a new life. In the dark valleys of our lives, Jesus again resurrects us, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. He empowers us to seek and do His will, which includes spiritual growth and evangelism.

Life. Liberty. Power. Purpose. …

Paradise

Easter points us to Jesus, to what He accomplished in the past, to what He accomplishes every day, and to our future with Him in Paradise. (Jesus called it Paradise for a reason.) As we eagerly await our entrance into His presence, let us remember the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).”

One of my favorite songs, Selah’s All My Tears, is irresistibly exuberant and triumphant. It rejoices in knowing Jesus annihilated death and that at the end of this life we will be with Him for eternity. With confident faith, it beautifully anticipates our future home, where there will be no more tears and sorrows. Here is a sampling of lyrics:

When I die don’t cry for me
In my father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

 So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to Him
Who will raise the dead again

 

Happy Easter!