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Come to the Table

September 07 2017
September 07 2017

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A few weeks ago when I was preparing the congregation for our weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper I mentioned that the world has a story that it constantly teaches us. Photo courtesy of PCA General Assembly Technology, media, news, cultural institutions, giant corporations, entertainment celebrities, and Washington politicians—they are all tacitly conspiring to spread the message that our lives will work if we achieve, or if we perform, or if we’re satisfied. This is the “air we breathe” or our sitz im lebem, a German phrase roughly translating to one’s “setting in life.” Our culture is teaching us a story that places us at the center and yet ultimately depends upon us for success.

To be sure, there is something romantic about this story. It’s for “winners;” it’s a “hero” story where we get to play the lead role. There’s only one problem—us. The trouble is we are not just winners or heroes. To be sure, as those made in the image of God, all of us are carriers of profound glory with wonderful capacities. Yet, as those who have fallen from that original position, we are tragically flawed. Even in our best moments, our sinful DNA sows dangerous seeds that compromise our brightest efforts.

If this is true, then the world’s story about performance, achievement and satisfaction is actually a discouraging one. It dangles a “carrot” that we can never catch. Yet, this isn’t altogether bad. Frustration with the world’s story can prepare us for a better, truer story—the story of the Gospel.

In Romans 8:2-4, the apostle Paul writes,
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:2-4)

Here Paul declares that through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, believers in Jesus Christ have been set free from the world’s story of self-reliance that leads to death. But how? Paul answers that it was through Jesus Christ—his life, death and resurrection—that God put an end to sin’s corrupting and totalizing influence in our lives. Now, by the gift of the Spirit, we are able to fulfill God’s righteous requirements and more and more live as Jesus intended.

What this means is that God answers the world’s story of self-reliance with a Gospel story of grace. In Jesus Christ, God has done for us what we, weakened through our sinful nature, could not do for ourselves. Dependence on Jesus Christ has become essential for our growth and development, rather than any sort of “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” mentality.

Therefore, to believe and rest in Jesus means that we have rejected the world’s story and have embraced Jesus Christ and now rely on his grace. While counterintuitive, this is incredibly life-giving. In Jesus Christ, I am now more capable than ever before and can never be disqualified, even in my worst moment. His righteousness completely covers me.

Nevertheless, we are prone to forget the story of grace. This is why Jesus instituted what we have come to call The Lord’s Supper. He anticipated this and knew that there would need to be a place where his followers could get reacquainted with him and renewed in his mercy. In fact, this is an important reason why we celebrate communion every week at Redeemer.

When we come to the Table we are reminded that no matter how successful, wealthy, educated, religious or beautiful we are, we can never satisfy God’s righteous requirements. The Lord’s Supper is a continual reminder that even on our best days we are still his dependent children. At the Lord’s table we never advance from being beggars, we only become more advanced beggars, who have the opportunity to show others where the bread of our salvation is found.

Indeed, when we come to the Table truly repentant and seeking the Lord Jesus, there is no sin or story of tragedy that He cannot heal. Jesus set this Table for his weak and wayward children. He gave it to us because he knew how truly needy we would be. How encouraging is this truth when we set it against the start of our busy fall. I don’t know about you, but the onslaught of activities, responsibilities and demands, which occur at this time every year, is enough to make anyone feel like a failure. We get anxious. We lose our tempers. We make poor decisions. In a word, we fail God’s call on our lives. Yet, even when we fail, every Sunday when we come to the Table we are reminded that there is One who did not fail. He succeeded and summons us to trust in His gracious achievement.

If we want a story that truly gives us hope in this uncertain world, we cannot put ourselves in the center and depend on ourselves for success. Instead, let’s allow Jesus Christ to occupy that space and seek to live in the freedom his grace creates for us. This is what coming to the Table is all about!

Photo courtesy of PCA General Assembly.


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