Chapter 8 - Growing in Grace, through the Means of Grace.
Key Thought: We grow spiritually in grace by availing ourselves of God's ordained CHANNELS (MEANS) OF GRACE to us.
God wants us to: “GROW in the GRACE of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (1Peter 3:18). God wants us to GROW UP into maturity.
The normal state for all created things is to grow according to their internal programming (seed). If we are not growing then something is wrong. We must not stay as a spiritual baby but we must grow up into maturity. We all want to grow spiritually, but we need to know how. As a good parent God has provided all the means we need in order to grow spiritually in grace, but we must be diligent to apply ourselves to them.
All spiritual growth in God is growth in His grace for God operates toward us in and by grace. GRACE is the freely given LIFE and BLESSING of God, but there certain anointed Channels (Means) of grace that He has established and ordained for us, so that if we will faithfully give ourselves to them and be obedient to practice them, then we will be in position to receive a regular supply of grace that will result in our consistent spiritual growth.
Although the grace of God is freely available, God has ORDAINED CHANNELS or MEANS of Grace which are normal ways it flows to us. As we give ourselves to these Channels of grace we will be in position to receive an abundance of grace, and thus continually GROW IN GRACE. In the same way that we receive electricity into our homes, the blessings of His grace are all paid for by Christ and transmitted to us by (in) the Holy-Spirit, but God has established certain outlets for His grace, which we must plug into in order to receive its flow into our lives. These are the Means (Channels) of Grace.
All GRACE IS IN and THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.
John 1:16-18 tells us that Christ is now the Source of God's Grace to us: “Of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has declared Him.”
2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” The Grace of Christ originates in the eternal love of God, the Father; it comes to us through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, and is communicated, revealed and manifested to us by the Holy-Spirit. Grace flows to us from Christ's death, burial and resurrection. On the Cross it was all paid for. When Jesus cried: “It is finished (Tetelestai)” this was a commercial word meaning: “PAID IN FULL.” Through His resurrection and ascension this grace was released to us in the Holy-Spirit as a totally free gift. The issue for us now is how do we get ourselves in position to receive it.
It is God who gives us all growth by His grace (1Corinthians 3:6) So, we can only grow in grace as we walk in fellowship with God and receive the supply of His life. But He has ordained that much of this grace comes through our fellowship with each other. God's vision for us: "until we all come to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect (mature) man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; no longer children tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine...but may grow up in all things into Him who is the Head-even Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share causes growth of the body in love" (Ephesians 4:13-16).
*THE first MEANS of Grace: the Preaching of the Gospel.
We initially receive the grace of God when we hear the Word of God through the Gospel (the first means of Grace) and repent and trust in Christ alone for our salvation. We are then put into Christ, and receive forgiveness and eternal life. Our spirit is reborn and we become a New Creation. We are now sons of God in right-standing with Him. All this was accomplished at the moment of salvation but now we are to continually grow in grace (letting that grace grow in us), so that the life and potential God has already put within us is fully expressed in our lives. Our soul and character needs to be developed into the image of Christ that already exists in our spirit. We are to grow up into all that we are in Christ, until we are fully manifested as who we are as sons of God. In the natural we eventually stop growing, but there is no limit to our spiritual growth, as long as we continue to avail ourselves of His grace by being faithful in God's Means of grace.
We are BORN AGAIN from DIVINE SEED - the WORD of GOD:
"Born again, not of corruptible SEED but INCORRUPTIBLE, through the WORD OF GOD which lives and abides forever... the WORD which by the GOSPEL was preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:23,25).
The Word (Seed) of God contains His life and nature, and when we received it through the Gospel, we received His new life and nature within. Our reborn spirit is made of the incorruptible life and nature of Christ, having been produced by incorruptible Seed. Our spirit has been reborn of God in the image of Christ. As all life comes forth from a SEED which contains the blueprint (DNA) for its full development, and is destined to grow under the right conditions until the nature, potential and life hidden within is fully manifested, so likewise we are born of God's Seed and our reborn spirit contains our spiritual DNA (from God) which contains all our potentiality as sons of God, so that the new life and nature that is already in our spirit is destined to grow in us until it is fully manifested. As the DNA for all life is derived from its parent and gives it a like-nature to its parent, so our spiritual DNA comes from our Father God giving us His nature and causing us to grow into His image. We are predestined to grow into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-30), by the seed and new-life God has implanted within us.
Therefore our spiritual growth is all about expressing (working out) the life and nature that God has already worked within us (see Philippians 2:12,13). It is not about trying to become someone we are not, but discovering and manifesting who we already are on the inside. We were born again by grace, now we must grow in His grace, letting that new life and nature be shown in our lives. We are a new man, a new creation, through the working of God's grace within us.
Now we must let this new life and love that is within our spirit grow in us, develop us and be revealed in our lives: "We are His workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good (excellent) works, which God prepared beforehand (and programmed within us) that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
Just as my natural growth involves the increasing development and revelation of potentialities that were already within me but hidden so likewise my spiritual growth is the fulfilling, developing, revealing and expressing in my life of who I am already in my spirit. This new-life is in my spirit, and so as I live out from my spirit, by faith depending upon the help and power of the Holy-Spirit in all that I do (praying and walking in the Spirit), I am expressing, releasing and revealing this new-life, and producing (manifesting) the fruit of the spirit in my life and character. As I walk in love, so the love of God that is in me is developed and perfected. In this way I grow up spiritually towards attaining the full maturity of my character and the full expression of my true personality, achieving the fullness of my potential, and fulfilling my God-given call and destiny in life.
However this growth in grace is only possible if we continue to receive the Word, for although the Son has truly set our spirits free (John 8:36) it is only those who continue in the Word who will enjoy and experience this freedom in their lives, for only through knowing the truth of the Word are we set free (John 8:31,32), for it is the Word that tells us who we are now in Christ in our spirits, and when we know and act on this truth, this new-life and freedom is released and manifested in our lives. Without the Word renewing my mind to who I am in Christ, I cannot walk by faith in the new-creation realities. Therefore, the Word of God is a continual Means of grace to me that I will always need to grow and develop spiritually in my Christian life.
The Primary Means of Grace for the Christian Life is the Word of God.
In 1 Peter 1:23 we saw that our new life (spirit) was brought forth by the Word of God. It therefore follows that a major key for this life to grow in us is to keep on receiving His Word. This is why Peter goes on to say: "As new-born babes, desire the pure milk of the WORD, that you may GROW thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Thus the TEACHING of God's WORD is an ongoing Means of grace that is essential for our spiritual health and growth in grace. The Word of God contains the supply of grace we need to grow spiritually.
We are already sons of God in the spirit through God’s Word, but we need to grow into that likeness (in the expression of our life), by continually feeding on the Word, for the Word feeds our new-creation spiritual life, activating it and making it strong in us (Matthew 4:4). Therefore in order to grow we need to give ourselves to God's Word, for it is the major Channel (Means) of God's grace to us. His grace comes through His Word. So as we outwardly give ourselves to hear, study and meditate on His Word, inwardly His grace is being imparted to our lives, so that we grow in our spiritual strength and life.
This same truth is given in James 1:18-21: "Of His own will He (God) brought us forth by the WORD of truth (the New-Birth), that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. So then my beloved brethren (who have received this same spiritual rebirth), let every man be swift to hear (the Word)... and receive with meekness the implanted Word (Seed), which is able to save (transform, develop) your souls."
We have been reborn by the Word of God planted within us. Now we must continually HEAR, RECEIVE and SUBMIT to the WORD of GOD that has already been implanted within us, for it not only has the power to feed our spirits and activate our spiritual lives, but also it has the power to save our souls (mind, will and emotions), transforming them into the likeness of our new spirit-man which has already been saved (transformed into the image of Christ). As we give ourselves to His Word, it will become dominant in us, controlling and changing our thoughts, attitudes and actions, so that as our soul comes into agreement with our spirit, the new-life and nature of Christ within us will grow in us and find more and more expression in our lives, with the result that we will grow spiritually, showing forth in our lives who we really are in our inner-man, being increasingly conformed to His image.
The Means of Grace are revealed in Acts 2. The Book of Acts is an excellent place to learn about the means of grace, for there we see the early Church living and growing in the grace of God, as they diligently continued in the Means of grace ordained by God. As a result that they quickly grew in grace. We will see what these channels of grace were, and how by diligently living by them they grew and thrived spiritually. We will also notice that these means of grace all centre on Church Life showing how important it is to be part of a local church to grow spiritually for that is how God meant it to be. Like a body each part is supplied by the Head, but much of the supply comes through the other members of the body of Christ (our ministry to one another):
1. The Grace of Salvation is imparted through the Means of Gospel-Preaching.
Acts 2:37-38: "Now when they heard this (Peter's Preaching), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “REPENT (from trusting in self) for the remission of sins (resulting in the grace of SALVATION)."
2. Initiation into the Christian Life is marked by WATER BAPTISM - an ordained Means of grace for a new-believer.
Acts 2:38-39: "and let every one of you (new believers) be BAPTISED in the name of Jesus Christ (the MEANS); and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (the GRACE). For the promise (of the Spirit) is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off (that’s us), as many as the Lord our God will call (this Means of grace is for all believers).”
Baptism is the Means of Grace which we are commanded to observe at the start of our Christian Life (Mark 16:15,16, Matthew 28:19). As such it is foundational to our Christian Life. It is connected with receiving the gift (grace) of the Holy-Spirit. We see this also in Jesus' Baptism, for as He was obedient to be baptised, He received the anointing of the Spirit for His ministry. Had He refused Baptism, He would have missed out on the grace that God associated with it. Obedience always releases blessing (grace), and as you obey God in Baptism you position yourself to receive a spiritual blessing you would otherwise miss out on. If we are disobedient and do not avail ourselves of this means of grace our whole Christian life will be lacking as a result, because we will have failed to receive His grace as we should.
Believer's Baptism is a Testimony and Confession of our faith, where you declare the salvation God has accomplished in you, by your outward words and actions. When we confess outwardly what we believe in your heart, our confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9,10). Thus it brings about (releases) a manifestation of the new-life within, revealing in our life the salvation that God has already worked within us in the New Birth. That is why Mark 16:16 says those who believe and are baptised shall be saved. Not only do new believers prove their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord by being baptised in water (by full immersion), but their Baptism releases the salvation in their lives that they received when they believed the Gospel.
Along with Communion, Water Baptism is a Sacrament. This means it involves an outward physical action which has a spiritual significance. It is an outward sign of an inward grace. In other words, God has ordained Baptism as a means of grace, so that as you submit to Baptism you are in position to receive the grace associated with it. Because Baptism is ordained and anointed by God, as you go through the outward action of Baptism by faith (calling on the Lord to wash you from the past sin-consciousness and to fill you with His Spirit to empower you to live this new life) God imparts to you the inward grace. As a sacrament the inward grace works in conjunction with the outward act that is ordained by God.
Unlike Communion which should be received regularly as an ongoing Means of grace throughout our Christian lives (representing our continual drawing upon the life of Christ released through His death and resurrection), Water Baptism is only administered once to us at the start of our new life (representing the completed work of our New Birth). Thus Baptism is an essential Means of grace designed to give a new believer the best possible start to the Christian life, releasing grace for the cleansing of the past and the filling of the Spirit for the future, and is foundational for any future growth in grace. It is the method of initiation ordained by God by which we can receive grace to enter a full and fruitful Christian Life.
In Acts 2:41 we see them obeying and receiving these Means of grace:
"Then those who (1) gladly received his WORD were (2) BAPTISED; and that day about 3000 souls were added to them.”
3. CONTINUATION and growth in the Christian life and experience, requires us to continually receive the grace of God made available through His 4 ordained MEANS of GRACE described in Acts 2:42:
"And they continued steadfastly:
(1) in the apostles’ doctrine (teaching) and (2) fellowship, (3) in the breaking of bread, and (4) in prayers."
The resulting GRACE they received is described in v43-47:
"Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 2:42: “They (together) continued steadfastly
(1) in the apostles’ TEACHING, and (2) FELLOWSHIP, (3) in the BREAKING OF BREAD and (4) in PRAYERS (and PRAISE)."
When God ordains a Channel of grace, it means He will always work with it. The Word, Fellowship, Communion, Prayer and Praise are ways by which we can always tap into and draw upon the grace of God. God guarantees to supply grace to us when we participate in these means of grace. The early Church knew this and that is why they continued steadfastly in all these activities. They knew they were not empty religious rituals, but ways in which they were able to draw upon the life and grace of God enabling them to grow. Notice that these Channels of grace are mostly related to the Church meeting together (although they can and should also be done privately, the emphasis is on their corporate life together). This tells us that there is much grace that we can only receive corporately. The grace received through the public ministry of these means goes beyond what we can receive through them privately. An isolated, unchurched Christian is not involved in the Means of grace and so cannot grow as he should.
MEANS 1. THE TEACHING of the WORD (The Apostle's Teaching). This is mentioned first, for the Word is our primary Means of grace and growth.
"As new-born babes, desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow thereby” (1Peter 2:2)
God's 2 desires and priorities for every person is:
(1) that they would be BORN AGAIN and
(2) that they would GROW SPIRITUALLY -
from babyhood to adulthood.
"God wills all men (1) to be saved (this is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel) and (2) to come (by a process of growth) to the knowledge of the truth (this comes through the teaching of the Word)" (1 Timothy 2:4). It is primarily through knowing and doing the Word that we grow up spiritually, for it is the Word that gives us the knowledge of the truth.
Food is necessary for growth. The WORD is our spiritual FOOD: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). As bread is food for our body, so the Word is food for our spirit and spiritual life. It is essential for our sustenance and growth.
The PARABLE OF THE SOWER reveals that the key to our spiritual life and growth is God’s Word. He works through His Word: “Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11). Therefore the key for us to maintain strong spiritual life and growth is to continue to give our attention to hearing the Word. This is in fact the main point Jesus makes to us in His conclusion to the Parable: “He who has ears to hear (the Word) let him (continually) hear (the Word)!” (Matthew 13:9).
The primary key to our spiritual growth is hearing the Word. This hearing is receiving the WORD, which is like a plant receiving WATER. If the plant and the earth (heart) continues to receive the WATERING of the WORD, then growth will continue. Since the key is the Word, satan's strategy is to take the Word from us or to keep us away from it.
Jesus confirms this when He interprets the Parable and explains more fully the Conclusion (His main point) which is: “He who has ears to hear (the Word) let him hear (the Word)!”
His Commentary on this is given in Matthew, Mark and Luke: “Whoever has (ears to hear the Word) shall more (blessing, life and growth) be given in abundance, but whoever has not (ears to hear the Word) what he has (blessing) shall be taken from him (by satan)” (Matthew 13:12).
“The measure (of attention) you use (in hearing the Word), it (spiritual growth and blessing) will be measured to you, and to you who HEAR (the Word) shall more be given” (Mark 4:24).
“Take heed therefore how you hear (the Word) for whosoever has (ears that hear and receive the Word) to him shall be given (blessing and growth - for the life and blessing of God is in the Word!) and whosoever has not (ears that hear) from him shall be taken even what he seems to have” (Luke 8:18).
MEANS 2. FELLOWSHIP with other believers is also a vital Means of grace. The early Christians maintained a strong fellowship life together, sharing with each other, participating in a common life together, worshipping and reaching out together, helping and encouraging one another, as illustrated in Acts 2:44-46. God gave us this photograph of the early Church as an example for us. God has ordained our fellowship together as an important Means of grace, which we ignore to our own peril.
The New Testament assumes that all believers should be part of a Church community, and those who separate themselves from fellowship and Church-life separate themselves from the means of grace and so their growth is hindered and they are an easy target for satan. God never meant the Christian life to be solitary, but to be lived in fellowship with other believers, for we are members of the same family and even members of the same body and how well would a member do if it were detached from the rest of the body and the supply of life and support that the rest of the body supplies? As we fellowship with other believers we receive a supply of grace that cannot be replaced by anything else (Ephesians 4:13-16). God has ordained it this way so there is nothing we can do to bypass the need for this Means of grace.
MEANS 3. THE BREAKING OF BREAD or COMMUNION (v46) is one of two Ordinances instituted by our Lord Jesus.
(1) BAPTISM represents the once and for all start to the Christian life (our New Birth) showing how we died and rose to a new life with Christ, entering a RELATIONSHIP with God through Jesus. Thus we are only BAPTISED once.
When we receive Christ into our heart, He comes in to have FELLOWSHIP with us: “...if anyone opens the door of his heart to me, I will come into him and sup (eat) with him.” (Revelation 3:20). To eat a MEAL with someone has always signified having FELLOWSHIP with them - that is the main purpose of eating together. This is what the LORD'S SUPPER is about - fellowship (COMMUNION) with Christ.
(2) COMMUNION is a time to draw near to God and deepen our FELLOWSHIP with Him - and the best way is over a meal. It is only for Reborn Christians who have already entered into relationship with God. It is for them to renew and deepen fellowship. It is inappropriate for others. We see this in the original Supper where only Christ's disciples were there (Judas had left by now). Only if you are in God's Family can you sit at the family table. We receive Communion again and again for though we enter into relationship once we continually renew fellowship. It is a meal - the Lord's Supper which represents our ongoing need to feed on the life of Jesus and to receive cleansing and forgiveness.
Jesus instituted Communion: “As they were eating Jesus TOOK bread GAVE THANKS (BLESSED) and BROKE IT and GAVE it to them saying: “Take eat, this is my body which is GIVEN for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.' Likewise He also TOOK the CUP after Supper and GAVE THANKS and GAVE IT to them saying: “DRINK from it all of you. For this CUP is the NEW COVENANT (established) in My BLOOD, which is shed for you (for many for the forgiveness of sins) and they all drank from it” (harmonised from Luke 22:19-20, Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-25).
Jesus' actions in instituting Communion have rich Symbolism:
(1) HE TOOK BREAD. He TOOK HIMSELF (His BODY) He is the BREAD OF LIFE born in BETHLEHEM ('House of BREAD'). He was born to feed the world with Himself.
(2) HE BLESSED IT (lifting it up to God, OFFERING IT up to God with thanksgiving). Jesus offered himself up to God as a willing sacrifice.
(3) HE BROKE IT. Jesus allowed his body to be BROKEN for us on the cross. BREAD in Hebrew means: 'that which is crushed between the jaws.' Bread contains nourishment but only when crushed by our jaws is it released to us. Jesus was crushed in the Jaws of Death so that the LIFE that was IN HIM could be released to us (see also John 6).
(4) HE GAVE IT to His disciples to eat. The LIFE and BLESSINGS purchased at the Cross were FREELY GIVEN to us for our nourishment.
(5) He told us TAKE and EAT it. We must receive it. We have the choice to accept or reject this grace. We must believe and receive the life of Christ into ourselves. He is the BREAD OF LIFE, to be received daily in our fellowship with Him.
Jesus then TOOK the CUP (symbolic of the NEW COVENANT) containing the WINE (symbolic of his LIFE-BLOOD POURED OUT on the Cross), BLESSED IT and GAVE IT to his disciples to drink. Life, joy, forgiveness and all the blessings in the CUP (New Covenant) are in the WINE (His BLOOD) for “the life is in the blood” and when His Blood was poured out the price was paid to establish the Covenant and that life could be made available to us. Christ has BLESSED and GIVEN that LIFE to us and now it is up to us to TAKE the CUP and DRINK DEEPLY from it, receiving forgiveness, cleansing, peace, healing and all the blessings that are ours in the blood of the New Covenant, (represented by the Wine).
“Do this in REMEMBRANCE of Me.” If a husband 'forgot' he was married he would stop living as a married man. His wife would then remind him with their wedding photos and rings-the symbols of their union. In the busyness of life we can forget our roots and identity in Christ. Communion is a time to remember who we are - that we're God's children, forgiven and beloved, purchased by BLOOD. As we look at the symbols of bread and wine we remember that every blessing comes by GRACE from the Cross of Jesus Christ. Every blessing is in the bread and wine (the body and blood of Christ) so when we eat and drink, we are receiving the grace of God, acknowledging our need of His sustenance. This keeps us from pride and trusting in self and causes us to look to Christ. The Cross is the heart of our faith and we continually need to come back and focus on it, and remember (bring to the forefront of our mind) what Christ has done. Communion helps us to do this.
Luke 24:13-35. On the Road to Emmaus Jesus had His second Communion. Jesus drew near to 2 disciples, but they did not know him (v15,16). Often Jesus is with us, but we are too caught up with our problems we do not discern His Presence. But: “As He sat at table with them (fellowship) HE TOOK BREAD, BLESSED and BROKE IT and GAVE IT to them” (v30).
“Then their eyes were opened and they KNEW Him.” (v31)
Later they told the other disciples: “how He was recognised by (known of) them IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD” (v35). Jesus draws close to us and reveals Himself to us in the Breaking of Bread. Our eyes are opened and we see Him anew.
“The CUP of BLESSING which we bless is it not the COMMUNION of the blood of Christ? The BREAD which we break, is it not the COMMUNION of the body of Christ? For we though many are one bread and one body, for we all PARTAKE of that one bread” (1Corinthians 10:16,17).
COMMUNION ('Koinonia' - a spirit of generous sharing, the opposite of greedy grasping) means FELLOWSHIP, the mutual sharing of life and blessing. In Communion we actually PARTAKE of the body and blood (we receive in a special way the spiritual life and grace that the bread and wine represents - see also v18-22). You PARTAKE of the spirit of those you have close fellowship with - that is what fellowship means!
In Communion we partake of the LORD. He has FREELY given and freely offers His grace and we freely give our thanks and praise and rededicate ourselves to Him. Thus the Lord's Supper is a time of Communion, a place to renew and deepen our fellowship with the Lord. It reminds us that our fellowship is based and centred on the cross. It also deepens our fellowship with each other for we're reminded we are ONE BREAD and ONE BODY and share the same salvation, Saviour and life. We are sitting at the same family table in fellowship. So to properly enter into Communion we must be in a spirit of unity and forgiveness with brothers and sisters (1 John 4:7-21).
1Corinthians 11 gives instructions for Communion proving that Christ gave it to all the Church, not just the original disciples. Those who ate in a spirit of grasping and division were not eating the LORD'S SUPPER (v17-22). Communion was so important it was supernaturally revealed to Paul (v23):
“Jesus TOOK bread and when he had GIVEN THANKS he BROKE IT and said: 'Take eat, this is my body which is BROKEN for you, do this in remembrance of Me” (v23,24).
“Likewise He also TOOK the CUP after supper saying:
'This CUP is the NEW COVENANT in my BLOOD. This do as often as I drink it in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes” (v25,26).
“As often as you eat” shows we are to take Communion repeatedly and there is no limit.
'Until He comes” shows that He instituted communion for the Church until His Return.
“You proclaim the Lord's death" means we confess (show) our personal faith in His Blood by drinking from the cup.
It is ‘the LORD'S SUPPER’ (v20). He has invited us to come to His table and eat. "He has prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies ...my cup runs over” (Psalm 23). All the blessings (healing etc) are on His table - symbolised in the bread and wine for they all come through the body and blood of Christ. We are free to TAKE and EAT them. All the blessings are great but the FOCUS of attention is JESUS. Our eyes should be open to see JESUS - THE HOST IS PRESENT. He has provided everything on the table. He wants us to enjoy all the blessings but most of all he wants to enjoy our fellowship. No good host would invite but not come! He said: “REMEMBER ME - put me on the forefront of your mind-remember I am with you.” SEE JESUS, the Focus of the Feast.
Therefore we must approach the Lord’s Table knowing we do it in His Presence, at His invitation and not to participate unworthily. Treating the body and blood lightly is UNBELIEF which opens the door to destruction (v27-32). We need to judge (check, prepare) ourselves to make sure we are entering into the meal properly. COMMUNION IS POWERFUL. For received wrongly, it can be a cause of early death. Received correctly, it is a major CHANNEL OF GRACE (like a high voltage wire).
MEDITATION AT COMMUNION. SEE JESUS standing here. Open our eyes to see Jesus. You are sitting at his Table - His banner over you is love. He wants to share Himself with us. He calls us to a deeper fellowship with Him. The doorway to this is in our heart to draw close to the Cross and remember.
*Looking at the bread remember that all the blessings are from body of Christ broken for us.
*Looking at the Cup remember that all blessings are through the blood. As we see Him dying for us, let go of all pride and superiority: “Forbid it Lord that I should boast save in the Cross of Christ my God - all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”
*Forgive and pray for the person that hurt us. How dare we not forgive, when we remember we were forgiven of so much!
*Confess any sin, see him die for it, release it and receive forgiveness.
*See Him carry your sickness, rejection and shame and receive His health, favour and acceptance from God.
*As you see Him giving his life for you, THANK HIM and REDEDICATE yourself (your plans, your week) to Him.
Psalm 121:1-3: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD (not from the hills) Who made heaven and earth (He made the hills). He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” We are to not to look to the natural, but rather lift our eyes above the natural and look to God for His help and grace. However qualities of natural things can remind us of qualities of the God who made them. So as we look at the dependable, unchanging, strong hills and mountains, we are reminded of our eternal, faithful, mighty God and so turn our eyes to Him to trust in Him, Who is the true Rock of Ages, for all the help we need.
Likewise the Sacraments involve natural elements (water, bread and wine), but they are only symbols of Divine things. They are given to aid our meditation, so that as we look upon them, we are reminded of the realities of the grace of God that they represent, and so we are inspired to lift up our eyes to see the Lord and what He has done for us, and put all our trust in Him.
We have been studying the 4 Means of Grace, that were continually and faithfully practised by the early Church, which resulted in their great spiritual health and growth:
“They (all together) continued steadfastly:
(1) in the apostles’ TEACHING, and
(3) in the BREAKING OF BREAD and
(4) in PRAYERS (and PRAISE)" (Acts 2:42).
Finally 4. In PRAYERS (and PRAISE).
If receiving the Word is like eating food, prayer is like breathing. We are to pray without ceasing, in our own language and in tongues, giving Him our requests, intercessions, confessions, thanksgivings and praises, and receiving (breathing in) His Spirit and answers by faith. It is our continual fellowship with God and is a vital means of grace. Every successful venture in the Lord is birthed in prayer.
Psalm 100: “enter His Presence with praise and thanksgiving”
Psalm 22:3: "He is enthroned on the praises of His people."
Nehemiah 8:10 says that we should rejoice in the Lord for: "the joy of the Lord is our strength."
As we pray and praise the Presence (Grace) of God fills our lives filling us with His joy, wisdom and strength. Our spiritual life and growth depends on good breathing (a healthy prayer life).
This is not just an individual activity, but it works to a greater degree when practised corporately, for where two or more are in agreement (symphony) Jesus said He would be in the midst to answer (Matthew 18:18-20). When we praise God in unity there is a greater anointing than when we are alone. Likewise when we pray in unity there is a greater release of God's power. Thus this Means of grace involves corporate prayer and praise and indeed this aspect is emphasised in Acts 2 where it describes the life and growth of the first Christians in the early Church.