Enjoy Holy Communion

Enjoy Holy Communion

Chapter Three

Enjoy Holy Communion
Communion With God Through Prayer 42 Devoted To …. The Breaking Of Bread 50
Sacramental Moments 44 Baptism Is a Public Statement 52
Communion Unifies Christians 46 Cooking From The Lord's Recipe 54
Communion Must be a Personal 'Koinonia' Experience 48 Discussion Questions 56

Acts 2:41-47

Communion With God Through Prayer

Going to the library and browsing through the periodicals can be an enriching experience, depending on what magazines one spends the most time in. A magazine can keep us current with the trends of the world, inform us of new developments in science, the arts, and humanities, and expose us to ideas which have the potential to enrich our lives. But we must read discerningly. Not too long ago, I went to the library and picked up a popular psychological journal. It caught my eye because inside was an article on spirituality. What was odd about the article was that, although it confessed that prayer and meditation are good for spiritual health, it only referred to God three times in six pages. Prayer had little to do with communion and communication with God, and more to do with getting in touch with the inner self and becoming self – aware. They had diminished prayer into a practice which was conveniently vague with the primary purpose of forming a healthy self-image. This is far removed from any Christian concept of prayer. It seems that much of the popular talk of spirituality has little connection with any Biblical or Christian experience with God.

On the one hand, prayer is for our good. It is ultimately healthy for our minds, hearts, and bodies. God uses prayer to develop us and form us into his image. He pours out his grace to us through times of prayer. And we are strengthened by it. So prayer does the body and mind good. But it is only good insofar as it is informed by truth and practiced rightly. It is only good when it is a conversation, not within us, but between the Almighty God and us. Prayer, at its essence, is Communion with God. We are communicating not with ourselves, but with the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We speak and listen to the God who dwells on high, complete and separate and outside of us; he made us and makes authentic prayer possible.

But our prayers are directed to one who is a Father. Abba, Father. We have a personal relationship with this mighty God and so we are privileged to come into his presence. We pray as individuals but also together saying, "Our Father." This is at the heart of Christian prayer. Not self-enlightenment. Not with the goal of physical or even mental well-being. Prayer is to deepen our intimacy with our Heavenly Father. So our prayers are addressed to the Most High God who is our Father. It is this conversation which ultimately enlightens us because through prayer we are opening ourselves to God and he is letting us get to know him. The result of this submission to God and exposure to his holy love is nothing less than becoming more like him. That is a goal worthy of our

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aspirations. One can see why it was so important to Jesus and the Early Church. It is still a fundamental way God directs his people to become holy and loving as he is.

"Heavenly Father, I open my heart and mind to you for you to speak to me. I want to know you better today than I did yesterday, and more intimately tomorrow than I do today."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: How wonderful that I can carry on a conversation with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as my Heavenly Father!

– Martin Adamson –

NOTES:

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Matthew 26:26-30

Sacramental Moments

Sacraments are means of grace to draw us closer to the Lord and to remind us of spiritual imperatives. Like the Lord's Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, and the Apostles' Creed, the familiarity with sacraments may have the effect of hindering our ability to receive grace from them.

Last Fall I was reading from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. The Bible I was using is the Discovery Bible, which has certain aids to assist in interpretation. The verb tense Jesus used in presenting the elements of the sacrament to the apostles is significant. In verses 26, 27, of Matthew chapter 26, after blessing the bread, Jesus said, "You take and you eat it!" After giving thanks over the cup He said, "You drink this!" The verbs "take", "eat", and "drink" identify action that is urgent and immediate, calling for a specific and definite decision at a given point in time each time the decision is presented.

The verb tense guides us as we approach and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. The invitation to receive the bread and the cup is more than a request but less than a command. It is a call to decide to participate in the life and death of Jesus. To refuse to take, eat, and drink would be to refuse the Host. To accept the sacrament is to announce, "From this point in time, I choose to live for Jesus".

The verb tense also provides an opportunity for a rededication of one's life to Jesus, as it compels us to make a choice each time the choice is presented. It is a new choice each time, not the reconstruction of an old choice. To choose to accept the sacrament is to say, "I rededicate myself as a disciple of Jesus from this point onward."

All of this helps me to understand the troubling verse of 1 Corinthians 11:27. There Paul cautions against taking of the sacrament in an unworthy manner. The unworthy manner has little to do with our moral or spiritual perfection. Who of us would ever qualify if that were the case? An unworthy manner would be to receive the sacrament with no intention of participating in the life and death of Jesus or of living as His disciple. Luke is the only Gospel writer to add Jesus' words, "Do this in remembrance of me". The verb tense here is a command to commit to a long-term way of doing something. With the sacrament of Holy Communion, we are given means of remembering Jesus with practical opportunities to recommit our lives to

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Him.

These insights are given with a prayer that they will assist you at the next occasion you are called to decide to be a follower of Jesus.

"Blessed Lord, who gives me grace with nail-scarred hands, receive my gift of devotion just now

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: As I receive the various means of grace, I will remember that I am a work in progress.

– William Jenkins –

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1 Corinthians 11:23-28

Communion Unifies Christians

Communion is celebrated throughout the world in churches, commemorating Jesus' death.

What does it really mean to Christians today?

In many churches, sadly, it has become a ritual, something that people participate in because it is done by the Church. Ask the individual what it means to them, and an explanation may be rather shallow.

Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord's Supper and told his disciples to do it until he returns. Jesus also said, "As often as you do it, do it in remembrance of me."

In May, we celebrate Memorial Day and return to the family plot in the graveyard. We decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers, sometimes talking to the departed one or praying. It is a time of remembering the person, what he or she meant to each individual. We reflect on specific acts of kindness done by our loved one and spoken words of wisdom which are still cherished.

Jesus' disciples and his followers had first hand experiences with Him as He lived among them, teaching them and ministering to people in need. Therefore, it was not difficult to remember him as they gathered to participate in Communion. They knew about his agonizing death on the cross. They saw his blood spilled out on that cross. Although they probably did not understand the breadth of the substitutionary atonement for all people for all time, they knew it was for them personally.

Today, as we gather around the table, we remember what we have learned from scriptures about God's great holiness and Jesus' obedience to humble Himself, become a man, and die on the cross to pay that penalty: "The wages of sin is death." However, for true believers, we also remember a time when we accepted God's free gift of salvation. Life was changed; we became new creatures. Nothing we could ever do for ourselves would ever merit God's attention. Nothing we could ever do for mankind in the form of good works could ever balance the scales.

The knowledge of God's free gift to undeserving sinners can only bring us to humility,

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love, and thankfulness. When Christians gather to participate in Communion, they are coming together to identify in a brotherhood that is closer than a natural family.

When I hear the words, "Take, eat, this is my body, broken for you," I put the wafer in my mouth and crush it with my teeth. It is broken and ready to become part of my body. I remember how Jesus was beaten and a spear was stuck into his side. He was broken, for me. I should have been the one on the cross. Jesus took my place. He purchased my freedom.

When I hear the words, "This is my blood, shed for you; all of you drink of it," I experience unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I remember words of a great old hymn: "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus."

We are brought together by this common experience that Jesus left us to practice until He returns. We remember and we give thanks. It is a spiritual experience.

"Father, thank you for the experience of taking the Lord's Supper with other Christians. Thank you for loving us so much that you paid our debt and gave us the free gift of salvation."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: A common experience produces unity. Communion engages our memories and causes that experience to live.

– Laura Drewer –

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Luke 22:7-20

Communion Must Be a Personal 'Koinonia' Experience

Whenever the Church gathers together and partakes in the ordinance of Communion, we need to be careful that it does not become so commonplace that it is nothing more than a ritual. We need to realize that Communion is a symbolic experience, a 'koinonia' group experience and a personal spiritual experience.

Each year the Jews gathered together to celebrate the Passover. They remembered their release from the bonds of Egypt. As they ate each item in the meal they remembered the lamb that was slain and the blood that they spread on the doorposts of their homes so the death angel would pass over. They remembered the obedience of their ancestors, the miracle of being protected from death and the gift of life they were given. It was there in the upper room with His disciples, after they ate the Passover meal together, that Jesus instituted what is now known as Communion. When Jesus said, "This bread is my body, broken for you," they knew that a lamb had to be slain for the sins of the people. Jesus became the final sacrificial Iamb. The wages of sin is death and when Jesus died, He became sin for us.

When Jesus said, "This wine is my blood, poured out for you," the disciples knew the significance of the blood of the lamb poured out before God. While on the cross, a spear was thrust into Jesus' side and his blood poured out. Since that moment, God looks on repentant sinners through the blood of Christ. They have chosen to apply Jesus' blood to the doorposts of their hearts.

Communion is a group experience. The Church as His body, is a 'koinonia'; coming together to remember and partake of the elements of the bread and the wine. Communion cannot be experienced alone; it must be a group experience. It must not become a churchly performance, a ritual we do because the Church does it That would be an empty participation without significance. The word 'koinonia' means common, the fellowship of coming together to partake of the supper; this produces Communion because we have the same experience. We come together before God as a group, a unity, a bonding. It becomes a testimony of what we believe and stand for because we are united.

Communion is a personal spiritual experience. It points back to a time when there was a significant change in my life as a result of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It

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is the realization that Jesus died for me so I might have eternal life. He willingly laid down His life for me; His blood was poured out for me. Jesus forgave me of my sin and I became a new creation. I no longer desire to walk in sin. Jesus accepted me as his child; I was adopted and I became a part of His family, a Christian.

Communion must also be a continual personal walk with Christ. We are instructed to examine ourselves and then to eat of the bread and drink the wine. I cannot just appear and say, "Hi, God, here I am," without acknowledging and repenting of sin in my life. It is a time of reestablishing a relationship.

"Thank you, Father, for Communion which reminds me of the sacrificial atonement Jesus provided when He gave His body, broken for me, and poured out His blood, poured out for me. Thank you that I am a new creature and I can walk in newness of life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The 'koinonia' experience is the expression of the knowledge that the group has been changed because of their unified experience in Christ.

– William Drewer –

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Acts 2:41-47

Devoted To …. The Breaking Of Bread

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of being part of a 20 year anniversary celebration for a nearby Church in town. I was invited to say a few words because when that Church first started meeting, before they had a building, our Church had let them use our facility for a midweek Bible study and prayer meeting. I was excited to be a part of the evening. It was a wonderful celebration of God's goodness over the years. Exuberant singing, clapping, arm waving, swaying, and shouting "Praise the Lord!" and "Amen!" characterized the celebration. At one point in the service, a deacon read a history of the Church marking some of the major moments. After each event he noted that they shared a potluck meal together. After awhile, people began to laugh and joke that all they did when they got together was eat! When it came my turn to speak, I thanked them for letting me celebrate with them even though they used our building long before I became the pastor. And then I said" Although our Church is different in many ways than yours as far as worship and culture and geography, we have one thing in common …. We like to eat too!"

This is not a new practice for Christians. Jesus had supper together with his disciples shortly before his arrest, trial and crucifixion. And remember how he often reclined at people's houses for a meal, how he fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, and how he said that the kingdom of God was like a great feast where everyone was invited to come and eat their fill. Shortly after Jesus' resurrection, on the road to Emmaus, two disciples recognized Jesus only after he broke bread. Throughout Acts, Luke records the practice as a very important part of the health and vitality of the early Church. In I Corinthians, Paul gives them instructions for properly practicing the Eucharist, which at that time was often celebrated with a full meal, or "love feast"!

It seems it can be said honestly that as Christians, we like to eat! And shouldn't we? What is there not to like about it? Eating is pleasurable and gives us the nourishment that our bodies need to survive and thrive. Breaking bread as a Communion ritual is no less important for our spiritual health. In order to live abundant lives, as Christ desires for us, we need to regularly partake of his body and blood. Through Communion, we are reminded that we need Jesus to live life, abundant and eternal. This is cause for celebration.

We anticipate being part of that great heavenly banquet, the marriage supper of the

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Lamb, the wedding feast of the Bride and Bridegroom, the union of the Church and her Lord. That we feed on the "bread of life" is a wonderful appetizer of the blessing of God's grace to strengthen us as we make our way to the great feast in Heaven!

"O Lord, give me spiritual nourishment for my life. Help me feed upon you in my heart so that I can live life to the full as I serve you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will approach the Lord's Supper not only with thanksgiving for Jesus' death, but also celebration in anticipation of his return.

– Martin Adamson –

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Matthew 28:19-20

Baptism Is a Public Statement

What is important about baptism to one who would accept Jesus as Savior and become a part of His Body, the Church? I know a man who told me, "I am a Christian, but I do not attend Church because I think all those people are hypocrites." That, of course, is a judgment he has no right to pass, because he has not seen how they lived before and how they are living since they have accepted Christ as their Savior. He is also saying, "I can be a Christian without being a part of Christ."

Baptism is the way one who is coming out of the world through faith in Jesus declares his stepping away from the world and stepping into the Body of Christ. St. Paul tells us that if we are in Christ, we are all a part of one Body and that Body is the Church. There are no "lone wolf Christians."

Therefore, if I would be a Christian, which is much more than acceptance of a moral philosophy, I must do it the way Jesus, Himself, instructed. It is a picture of burial and resurrection. I must die to sin and be raised to walk a new life. Baptism is the means Jesus gave to make this individual declaration to the public.

In the New Testament, baptism was done in a public place, usually in a river. Although it is usually done behind Church doors today, baptism was meant to be a declaration for all the world to see. It means that unbelievers, as well as believers, might view it.

In many countries, being baptized is a death sentence. Anyone who chooses to follow Christ also chooses to reject his former religion. That means that the people in the former religion will also reject him, refusing him work and persecuting him and his family. The Christian Church he joins must protect him, provide for him, and help him find a new life. They must become his extended family if he is to survive. So a person must be serious about such a declaration. The door of baptism opens only one way. It opens in. It is a declaration made that forbids any going back. Faith is the door to justification and sanctification, but baptism is the door to fellowship in Christ's Body, which is the Church.

Baptism says, "I believe that God loved me so much that He sent his only Son, Jesus, to be my Savior. I believe Jesus died on the cross for me, paying my penalty for sin. I believe Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father, making

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intercession for me. I believe one day Jesus will return and take all believers to heaven where we will always be with Him. I have accepted Jesus as my Savior and I want to participate in a group of people which also practices these same beliefs."

"Father, I thank you for the means of baptism that declares publicly that decision that I made privately to accept Jesus as my personal Savior. Thank you that I am now part of the Church. Together, as believers, may we always live as Jesus taught us, that His Body may be strong and its message may be clear."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will live every day in such a way that the world may see that what I declared in baptism is true in my life. Old things have passed away. I am a new creation in Christ!

– William Drewer –

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Psalm 100:1-5

Cooking From The Lord's Recipe

The Bible has "recipes" that teach us how to put together the "ingredients" of life to produce tasty, nourishing results. Consider the recipe of Psalm 100.

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations."

This psalm says, first who the Lord is: God who has made us. He is Creator, with unlimited power and intelligence. Second, it says we are being created by God. Our intelligence and power are so limited that, compared to God, we are just sheep in a pasture – His pasture. We don't own anything: we get to use some things for a while, but we are dependent upon Him. Is that bed or risky? No, being a sheep in God's pasture is good because, third: God faithfully loves his people forever. We are protected, we are safe, we are fed … we receive benefits from His love.

What do we do with these facts? We are to recognize and acclaim him for who he is. This has three parts that occur at the same time, just as ingredients are mixed together for cookie dough. Let's examine this "mix":

1. Believer. "Know that the Lord is God," this psalm says. Belief is a foundation of Christianity. We join the family of God by belief. (Mark 1:15, John 20:31, Acts 13:39)
2. Choose joy. The psalm begins with high emotion: Shout for joy! If we couldn't choose to do this, God wouldn't ask us to. Choosing God's way is rewarding because "the Lord is good and his love endures forever."
3. Do. The book of James tells us to go beyond just mental exercises of knowing and believing, and to act (e.g., James 2:14). Doing is essential. Thinking about the recipe won't bake the cake. Sports fans know the phrase,

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"That's why they play the game." As important as beliefs and choices are, even the best intentions accomplish nothing unless we choose to act.

A shoe company says, "Just do it!" Nice thought, but there are many t things we can't do. I won't slam dunk a basketball no matter what shoes I wear, but I can do some more important things. No shoes are required for me to believe God's righteousness and authority, and praise him with joyful song. So, even on days when I do not feel joy, if I choose to offer God a joyful son, joy will come.

Use this recipe to cook up a yummy day: (1) In prayer, reaffirm what you believe without a doubt who God is. Thank him for his greatness, for his personal interest in knowing and loving you. (2) Choose joy. (3) Serve him with gladness. Express praise. Five times today sing "Amazing Grace" (if the situation permits, sing aloud) as worship in thanks for his faithful care. Just do it!

"Dear Heavenly Father, your incredible power and authority are so great I cannot imagine them. Yet, you choose to love me and think me worthy. I accept your love with thankfulness so great I can express it only by saying, Thank you, thank you, blessed be the name of the Lord! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Lord, you will always love me. Thankful, I praise your name!

– Richard Walters –

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Discussion Questions

  1. What "elements" in a "Christian Prayer" makes it distinctive and separate from all other so-called forms of "Prayer"? Is it proper and "right" for a Christian to expect to receive personal "benefits" from prayer? Why or why not? If the primary purpose of prayer is to worship God and to deepen one's intimacy with the Heavenly Father, is it wrong for a believer to "use" prayer as a "means" of gaining "self-enlightenment" or "physical and mental well-being"?

  2. When you receive the Holy Communion with proper Biblical enlightenment (understanding), what are you declaring to the Lord, and what are you testifying to fellow participants at the "Lord's Table"?

  3. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "When Christians gather to participate in Communion (Lord's Supper), they are coming together to identify in a brotherhood that is closer than a natural family."

  4. What "facts" of spiritual reality, regarding the Grace of God, are effectively and symbolically declared when you participate in Holy Communion (the Lord's Supper)?

  5. In what ways is the celebration of the Lord's Supper (instituted by Christ) an "outgrowth" or "fulfillment" of the ancient (Old Testament) celebration of the Jewish Passover (instituted by God during the time of Moses)?

  6. Why is a believer's participation in Holy Communion (Lord's Supper) an opportunity for a believer to experience spiritual renewal?

  7. Why should one's participation in Holy Communion (Lord's Supper) be an occasion, not only of humble contrition and confession , but also of joyful celebration?

  8. Share in detail (with your group) your understanding of the significance of "Christian Baptism".

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  9. From your own personal experience, can you "testify" to the truthfulness of the following statement? – "Even on days when I do not feel joy, if I choose to offer God a joyful song, joy will come."

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