Michael Youssef - Healthy Living in a Sick World - Part 16
Remember the Passover. Remember the crossing of the Red Sea. Remember the crossing of the River Jordan. Remember, remember, remember, it is the theme of the Scripture: remember the past faithfulness of God in your life. Remember the past grace that God has brought in your life. Remember past mercies that God had brought you through. Remember the hand of God that supernaturally worked in you and through you in the past. Remember where you were and where you are today. Remember.
The reason God says, "Remember, remember, remember," is because the act of remembering fills us with gratitude and with thankfulness. Remembering the past graciousness of God always leads us to being thankful and grateful people. That's why God wants us to remember. That is why, because remembering brings about gratitude and our Lord Jesus Christ knew all about this proclivity to forgetfulness. And that is why he instituted the Lord's Supper as means of not forgetting. Not forgetting that colossal sacrifice that he made on that cross, not forgetting the enormous price that he paid for your salvation and for mine. Not forgetting his gracious act of self-giving so that we may be forgiven.
Now, of course, the danger of constantly having these services as a ritual, just as a habit, the danger is, it becomes a regular ritual and you forget the meaning. In fact, the danger of keeping the symbolism and losing the meaning is the very problem of the church in Corinth. Even today, this great remembrance of that colossal sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross is misused and abused in some traditions. Some have turned it into a somber event. Others have turned it into an institutional requirement that actually people believe that they are saved when they take communion. Communion cannot save you.
Jesus save you and you remember his death and Resurrection when you participate at communion. Others still practice it on a very few occasions. Here in 1 Corinthians 11, turn to it with me if you haven't already, Paul corrects so many of the misunderstandings. Misunderstandings that need be corrected today. It is a loving celebration, a true spiritual enrichment, and not a time for selfish indulgence. In the case of the Corinthians, they turn it into a time for shaming the poor Christians. As a matter of fact, it turned out to be a time of scandalizing the church of Jesus Christ in front of an unbelieving world. And in correcting them, the Apostle Paul gives them three things.
First of all, Paul is saying, "Stop perverting the Lord's table". Secondly, he said, "Understand the purpose of this table. Understand what it's really all about". And thirdly, he is saying, "There is a right and a wrong way to celebrate the Lord's table". Let's look at them very quickly. First of all, he said, "Stop perverting it". These Corinthians were perverting the Lord's table, if you look at verse 18. They could not agree on anything. I mean, they absolutely disagreed on every issue. They loved divisiveness in the church. They, these Corinthians, loved creating division and fights and arguments and these Corinthians, each of them, were in love with their own opinion and they were not listening to anybody else.
Instead of seeking to serve one another, they looked for opportunities to stir dissension. Some are gonna see verse 19 to be a very disturbing verse. Look at it with me, please. What Paul is saying here is, that God uses these cantankerous Christians, ha, ha, ha. God uses these carnal and divisive Christians to purify the righteous Christians, even these divisive, cantankerous, contentious people, God uses 'em to purify us and to sanctify us. Remember, give thanks to God for them. I know this is a hard sell. Listen, trust me, I know it experientially is a hard sell, but there can be no doubt that Apostle Paul is saying that these fractious people, not merely disruptive but they can be destructive.
And that is why we should not really put up with 'em for too long. The Bible gives us with clarity what to do with such people. In Titus chapter 3, verse 10, the Bible said: "Reject a fractious person after a first and a second warning, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinning, and is being self-condemned". In the Corinthian church, these fractious people, they were operating even at the Lord's table. Look at verse 20. Paul said, "It could no longer be called the Lord's table".
May God forbid ever that happens here. They had the ceremony but not the celebration. They had the form but not the substance. And Christ had no part of these services. Why? Because in their hearts they had no love for one another. Lord forbid it. They may have talked about love. Oh, they probably sang about love and they read about love, but their hearts were hard as rocks. Paul is gonna say more about love in chapter 13 when we get to it. They had so much pride and selfishness in their hearts that their walk did not match their talk. And that is why, secondly, they needed to comprehend afresh what the Lord's table is all about.
Look at verses 23 all the way to 26: "For I received from the Lord what I've passed on to you". Paul is saying here, this is not Paul's opinion, this is not Paul's ideas, this is not Paul's thoughts. Paul is merely reinstating God's truth. He's merely reinstating God's revelation and that's what's we're all about. What is that? That in the midst of betrayal God did a magnificent thing. That in the midst of the world's malignant evil, God established his good, that in the midst of Satan's wickedness, God planted holiness. That in the midst of ingratitude and greed, God established generosity and self-sacrifice. That in the midst of grabbing and taking, God established giving of his one and only begotten Son.
Even in the midst of the Corinthians' factionalism and division and jealousy and self-centeredness, the Lord's table stood as a symbol of forgiveness and renewal. Let me give you a quick background. In order to fully comprehend what the Lord's Supper is all about, you have to understand the Passover. You see, the Passover was celebrated by God's people to remember the gracious act of God for delivering them from the slavery of Egypt. And that is why you must understand that that Passover meal found its ultimate fulfillment in the Lamb of God who has delivered us from the slavery of sin and Satan. Can I get an "Amen"?
The Passover was an indicator. What's the value of an indicator? Indicator says, "Go this way". That's what an indicator is. And, beloved, that's what the word "sacrament" means. The word "sacraments" is a sign, go this way. There is nothing sacred about the sacrament of baptism, there's nothing sacred about the sacrament of the Lord's... It says, "Go this way". It takes you beyond itself. That's what a sacrament is. And the Passover meal found its ultimate fulfillment in the cross of Jesus Christ. The Passover was an indicator. It was pointing to the cross. The Passover was the shadow that reflected the cross of Jesus Christ. The Passover found its true meaning in the cross of Jesus. Can I get an "Amen"?
And the Old Testament saints who were saved, they were saved by looking forward to the cross, even as the Bible said that Abraham "saw the days of Jesus and he rejoiced". Two thousand years before Christ, he looked forward to it. Just as we in the New Testament times, we look back to the cross and we become saved. The cross is the focus. The cross is the center. We have gone away from the shadow. We went away from the picture. Now we have the cross. It is only the cross of Jesus Christ that anyone, anyone, anyone, anywhere in the world, anyone, regardless of background or ethnic background or wherever they've come from in the world, it is only through the cross of Jesus Christ can you escape the condemnation of hell.
That is why Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me". It's not a church table, it's Jesus's table. "Do this in remembrance of me". Remember what I have done for you. Remember the sacrifice and don't just go through the motions. Remember and relive the moment of agony on that cross when he carried your sin and my sin on his sinless body, remember to relive that moment of indescribable pain of separation from the Father which was for the first time since before eternity because of your sin that carried on his shoulders.
Remember to experience what it is like for him, the pure sinless holy Son of God carries your sin, your sin, your sin, your sin, my sin. I want to illustrate something about the Lord's table that, hopefully, is gonna explain what Paul is saying here. The very first time, almost 40 years ago now, that we ever visited London, the city of London, we were given three maps. We got a map of the city, we got a map of the Underground, the Tube, and then we had a map of the motorways, they have M1, M2, and so forth. So three maps. And all these three maps are true in themselves. Each one of them does not give you a complete picture. To get a complete picture, you have to put all those three maps on top of each other.
But that's very confusing. It would be bunch of jumbles and you wouldn't understand. It's very confusing. And that is why a new believer must understand those three maps. In the same way, these three words describe the death of Christ on the cross. First, redemption. Can you say that with me? Then the reconciliation, and justification. Each of those three words is like the three maps of London. They're accurate and correct by themselves but for a person to comprehend, especially those who may be coming to the Lord, new in their knowledge of Christ, to comprehend this, you have to understand if you try to put all the three maps together, three words together, can be confusing.
And that is why the Lord's table helps us separate each of those three words, each of those three concepts. Either these three truths helps us separate them in verse 26. The Lord's table when you come to it, you proclaim the death of Christ in the past. So you remember the past. You proclaim that death, remembering his death on the cross. But secondly, you remember the present, the present promise of empowerment. Jesus promised to empower us, to live this life, whatever your problems might be and we all have them, whatever difficulties you're going through, whatever pain you're experiencing, remember his promise of strength and power to live for him today.
That's the present but also a remembering of the future. Those are the three things. You remember the future. The day is coming and maybe even quicker than we think. And maybe even sooner than any of us think. The day is coming when the Lord will preside over his table at the marriage supper of the Lamb where all the believers are gonna be gathered together. Don't pervert the Lord's table. Secondly, he said, "Understand its real meaning," and thirdly, and most importantly, as verses 27 to 34, he tells us how to approach the Lord's table.
Why do I say more importantly? Because the vast majority of you here or even those who are watching around the world right now, live, are in the category, the third category here. Approaching the Lord's table and how you do that. It is very important, beloved, it is very important to know the right way to approach the table of the Lord and I'm gonna tell you, never, never, never, never approach it casually. "Whoever participates in the Lord's table," it's coming out of these verses, "in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord". What is that "unworthy manner"? What does that mean? What's unworthy manner?
Now there are several ways in which you can come to the Lord's table in an unworthy manner. Listen carefully. Coming to the table out of a habit, participating in the Lord's table just out of a habit without engaging your mind, without engaging your heart, in the process of that participation. Secondly, unworthy manner is when you treat the elements as sacred in themselves, not what they point to, what they represent. The third way, which is, I believe, relevant for not 99% of us, all 100% of us, including your pastor.
The third way: participating at the Lord's table in an unworthy manner is coming with an unconfessed sin. With unconfessed sin. When you come and participate at the Lord's table in any church, carrying bitterness and hatred and anger and living in deliberate disobedience, and they come to the Lord's table without confession and without repentance. That's unworthy manner. When we come to the Lord's table with anything less than love for God and love for one another, we're sinning against God. And so when I go to the Lord's table with an unconfessed sin in my heart, I am not dishonoring the bread and the wine, I'm dishonoring the Lord Jesus Christ himself. I'm dishonoring the Lord whose sacrifice is represented in these elements of bread and wine.
Hear me right, please. Receiving in an unworthy manner does not necessarily dishonor the ceremony or the ritual; it dishonors the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. So what is the right way to participate at the Lord's table? Well, I'm glad you asked because the Word of God has the answer, not me. Examine yourself before you eat and drink. Sift out the wrong desires. Sift out the wrong attitudes. Sift out the wrong motives. Sift out any sin of thought, word, or actions.
Ask yourself the question, "Have I wronged anyone? Have I deliberately cheated anyone? Have I cheated God of his tithes and offerings? Have I carried an unforgiveness toward anyone in my heart? Do I have bitterness in my heart toward anyone? Am I faithful to my spouse or am I filled with pride and seeking honor for myself"? Examine yourself, the Apostle Paul said. Confess, repent, before you participate. Only confession and repentance qualifies us to coming to the Lord's table in a worthy manner, not unworthy manner, and that is why the Lord's table is only for believers.
Verse 30, look at it carefully. Underline it in your Bible. "If a person persistently comes to the Lord's table without confession and repentance, it has not only spiritual repercussions, it can have physical repercussion. Some people actually died as a result of approaching the Lord's table in an unworthy manner". That's what he said here. Ananias and Sapphira, Book of Acts, chapter 5, there were believers but somehow in their hearts they chose to lie to the Holy Spirit, lie to the church of Jesus Christ, and died, both of them.
If we don't judge ourselves, if we don't examine ourselves, if we don't confess our sins, if we don't seek his forgiveness, we open ourselves up to be judged by God and by others. God is not looking for perfection. Can you say that with me? God is not looking for perfection. He knows that's only gonna happen when we are there with him in heaven. David, the Bible said of David that he was a man whose heart after God's.
You know David was not perfect, right? But he knew how to repent. Whenever he came under conviction, he repented of his sin. He didn't try to explain it away, he didn't try to rationalize it. He just wept tears. My beloved friends, I plead with you today. I plead with you today that you comprehend what the Lord's table is all about. When you come to the Lord's table without self examination and judging of yourself, and repentance, when you come to the Lord's table out of habit and as a ritual, this is just the way things we've done it and it's the right thing to do. You're heading for the danger of a believer's judgment. And I don't know what form that takes.