Coming Worthily

The old school Scottish communion season would begin on the Thursday, three days before the day of the Lord's Supper, with two services a day to go through the various important aspects of the Gospel—humiliation over sin, faith in the atoning work of Christ, and evidence of grace in one’s life. Well, I’m not advocating that we implement that, but I think we have lost something very important when we no longer have this rigorous discipline of preparing for the sacrament, in fact, I think that does have something to do with why we are perhaps not growing in grace as much as we should. It should trouble us how flippantly we come to the Lord's Table. And I speak for myself more than anyone else. I confess that I have come to church, saw the the table up here, and then went “Oh, I forgot it was a communion service today. Never spent a minute the last week thinking about it at all. But I haven't been behaving too badly lately, so I should be OK.” Maybe it is just me, but I highly doubt it. And it if that is you this morning, I honestly hope it does trouble your conscience
 that Christ's broken body and blood means that little to you that while he spent his life preparing for the day that he would suffer and die for your sins, you could not spend a few hours preparing to receive this pledge of his love to you.

The first order of business in the communion season as it is in the Gospel is, as mentioned, that of the conviction of sin, to have the people examine their lives and the ways in which they have sinned against the Lord so that we do not come unworthily and eat and drink condemnation rather than salvation to ourselves.

Most of you are aware that we usually take the words of institution for the Lord’s Supper from 1 Corinthians 11:23, but the subject of the sacraments, you would have noticed, begins here in Chapter 10, which begins with a stern warning from the Apostle Paul, in the form of a real life example—that of the Exodus Israelites who were baptised and who partook of spiritual food and drink, and yet of that generation, only two entered into the Promised Land—only two out of 603 thousand men, not counting the Levites were, in that sense, “saved.” The rest God destroyed and scattered their dead bodies all over the desert. And Paul here says twice in verses 6 and 11, that this is written for an example to us, meaning that the same principle applies to us—if you live like they lived, you’re not going to make it, no matter how much water you were baptised with and how many times you eat of the Lord’s Supper, they cannot save you.

What we must do then is repent from our sins. And Paul lists for us a number of sins that the Israelites committed that we must be careful to avoid, covetousness in verse 6, idolatry in verse 7, sexual immorality in verse 8, tempting Christ in verse 9, and murmuring in verse 10. Have you been guilty of those? Have you been sorrowful over having committed those sins? Have you resolved to put those sinful habits to death? Or have you been giving yourself the excuse, I can’t help it, the temptation is too strong? Paul says in verse 13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” There is no excuse for sinning. Have you come desiring to enjoy both the sinful pleasures of the world while at the same time to have the joy of Christ? You may not be eating food offered to idols, but you too are trying to, what we say in Chinese, to have one foot on two boats, to have fellowship with both the devil and with Christ, aren’t you? Have you come to partake of the body of Christ broken for you, while not discerning that the church which partakes in this one bread, Paul says in verse 17, is one body, and you are tearing apart the body of Christ apart by your unloving words and actions one towards another, refusing to forgive, or refusing to seek forgiveness? That is not discerning the body of Christ. Do you realize that?

Brothers and sisters, have we come together to partake of the Lord’s grace or to provoke the Lord to jealousy and to anger? He who thinks he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.

—Au Yeong Hau Tzeng