Whose glory are you seeking?

Our world is full of those seeking their own glory. If you need an example, open your Instagram feed. There are examples after examples of those who seek their own glory, whether they use whit, sex, interest, or charm. The currency of glory, at least on Instagram, is hearts and comments. The more the better. 

But I am not here to pick on Instagram. I post pictures on my account regularly. It is not a bad medium. I gain a lot of inspiration from others for my own photography. It is, however, an example of the natural human desire for self-glory. 

I believe we all need to be aware of our natural tendencies, but today I want to speak specifically to ministry leaders and pastors. As leaders, we must be aware of our natural desire for self-glory. If we don’t, we will forget our reason for ministry. 

Paul, as example

Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, seeks to clear up a misunderstanding they had regarding him and his ministry when he says: 

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thess 2:3-8)

Paul is clear. He didn’t come:

  • To please man but to please God. 
  • He didn’t seek to flatter.
  • He wasn’t after their money. 
  • Nor was he seeking self-glory. 

Paul came to the Thessalonians in order to preach the gospel to bring glory to God.

Not Our Glory

As ministry leaders, our desires must be pure. Our motives must always be right and good. We must not seek position in the church for our own glory or gain. If we are in it for what we can get out of it, we will be tempted to hedge when times are tough. Instead of standing up for what is right, we will let things slide to keep our position or status. Unwillingness to take a stand, seeking self glory, is not how healthy churches are formed. As ministry leaders, our goal should be to win others to Christ, help them grow in the faith, and bring glory to God. If that is not our focus, then we are deceiving ourselves and the people/church to whom we are seeking to minister.

For Our Ultimate Boss

While we might be able to hide our motives from men, we can’t hide them from God. He is the only One who can peer into the innermost recesses of our lives, into our very heart — will, mind, emotions — and see why we do what we do. He is the ultimate judge. Not only should we seek to please Him in all we do, but we must also seek His glory above our own.

Whose glory are you seeking?

Don’t Retreat, Engage!

While it might be the case that many of you work and live among non-believers, it is also true that Christians often look for ways to retreat into their holy huddle.

Instead of gathering together in a holy huddle, I believe we are supposed to interact with and engage non-believers. If we don’t, we can’t accomplish the Great Commission — to make disciples because we don’t know any non-believers. If we want to win non-believers to Christ, we have to know some non-believers.

The reason I bring this up is because I know it is easy for us as Christians to gather together in our holy huddle. That is fine for a time, but at some point we have to break the huddle and engage those around us with the gospel, especially knowing that Jesus could return at any point. 

Imagine throwing down a couple of hundred dollars for a ticket to a Cowboys game, fighting traffic all the way over to Arlington, and spending even more time finding a parking spot and even more money at the concession stand, only to see the Cowboys never break the huddle after fielding the first kickoff and having to turn the ball over to the other team because of delay of game penalties. Imagine that? Imagine seeing that? 

That is exactly what we do if we remain in our holy huddle. Sure it is safe in there, but if we never engage anyone with the gospel, all we are doing is turning things over to the other team. That’s not good because the other team isn’t just going to score a touchdown. The other team is scoring someone’s soul. Instead of remaining in a holy huddle, we need to engage those around us with the gospel.

In order to do that we have to know people who are non-believers. When I say know, I don’t mean know of, but actually know them — as in you have a relationship with them. If we are going to accomplish the Great Commission, we have to know non-believers. We have to interact with them on a regular basis. 

We have to be like the world, engaging them in relationship with the gospel, while at the same time we must be unlike the world, so that they can see what it would look like for them to live as a Christian. 

Use the relationships you have. Engage the people you know on a regular basis. Get to know non-believers and engage them with the gospel.

Stop trying to create Jesus in your image!

Creating is in our DNA. It is built into us. God created the world and everything in it, including you and I — humans. We are created in His image — Male and Female alike. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

Just a little bit later you read:

” …So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:26–27)

As those who are made in God’s image, we are gifted towards creating. Some of us are more gifted than others, but we are all designed to create.

Not only is creating built into us, but we are tasked to create by God.

In Genesis 2:15 we read:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Ge 2:15)

To “work it” carries the meaning, the idea, of creating, of making. To take the raw materials of the garden and work it to make something glorious. Creating itself is not a bad thing. It’s more of a neutral thing. It is the why and what we create that matters.

Not only does man create in order to make a name for themselves, but man also creates in order to make gods for themselves.

Idolatry is one of the oldest forms of rebellion.

Since the beginning, man has been fashioning gods in their own image. But God abhors idolatry. We know because in the first and second commandments of the 10 commandments God says,

““You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Ex 20:3–4)

God abhors idolatry!

Idols never provide us with that which we desire. Israel learned this through the prophets. One was Habakkuk, who asks:

““What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it”” (Hab 2:18–19)

Other prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah, join with Habakkuk in condemning and pointing out the futility of creating and worshipping idols. But man continues to do it. Even those in Jesus’ day continued to manufacture idols.

More crooked than creating an idol from wood, hay, or straw was their desire to create Jesus in their own making.

We have a tendency to try to make Jesus into who we want Him to be.

Instead of believing and accepting Jesus’ message with joy, The religious and even the irreligious, they reject the Jesus of the Bible and seek to make Him into the god they want Him to be.

The religious seek to make Him into:

  • A rigid and hard figure whom we must work for in order to earn or keep our salvation.

The irreligious seek to make Jesus into:

  • A “woke Savior” or what you might refer to as “Hippie Jesus”. He would never say anything that hurts anyone’s feelings. No trigger words or actions come from Jesus. He is fully welcoming. Accepting everyone and anyone into the family no matter what they believe.
  • Or Jesus is made into: “A meek and mild figure”. One who doesn’t judge anyone. Hell is not a reality, except for the really bad people like Hitler. Everyone else is going to heaven. No one will suffer or experience judgment.
  • Still others seek to make Jesus into what I like to refer to as: “Genie in the bottle Jesus” He will give you whatever you want. Whatever your heart desires Jesus will provide. All you have to do is say the right thing and have enough faith and you can have whatever your heart desires.

The religious and even the irreligious, they reject the Jesus of the Bible and seek to make Him into the god they want Him to be.

Jesus doesn’t accept our image of Him. He is not an idol.

Jesus is not someone we can fashion and form any way that we like. He is not someone we can make in our own image. That is not who Jesus is. Instead, Jesus is the God sent Savior of the world.

Instead of becoming who we want Him to become, Jesus is who we need Him to be — a gracious God who calls us to repent of our sins and trust in His sacrifice on our behalf.

Idols can’t provide us salvation. They can’t provide us release from the bondage of sin, Satan and death. Idol’s can’t change us. Idols are what we make them to be.

If we make them, that means we make them in our image.

How do we know if we have made Jesus in our image?

I don’t know about you but I don’t make things that cause me to change. I make things that support me for who I am so that I can be who I want to be. That is how you know if you are worshipping an idol of Jesus or the true Jesus. The Jesus we make doesn’t disagree with us. He doesn’t hold us accountable because there is nothing we need to be held accountable for. We are good. We have it together. The Jesus of our own making affirms who we are. But that is not the real Jesus.

The real Jesus calls us to repentance.

He knows we are sinners who have rebelled against Him. He calls us to turn from our rebellion to follow Him.

The real Jesus also calls us to believe the joyous message of the gospel.

He offers us forgiveness, salvation, and a different way of life that reflects God’s wisdom.

That is who the real Jesus is. He is the God-sent Savior. He is not an idol. He is not someone we have fashioned. Instead, He is someone in whom we should find hope and salvation.

Stop trying to create Jesus in your image!

Why do those who seem to be Christians walk away from the faith?

Counterfeit spirituality can look a lot like true biblical conversion. A counterfeit Christian can show signs of the real thing in their life. They might present like someone who is on fire for Jesus, whose life is changing and turning around. They might praise the Lord, tell others about Him, pray to Him, and come to worship service. At times, they might even make their way into church leadership. But then something happens and you never see them again. I know we have all experienced it. We have all sat next to someone. We have all known someone who seemed like a true convert only to fall away.

When someone walk away, we are left wondering — what just happened? We might have been so sure Jesus had changed their life. We might have even been mentoring and discipling them. But the next thing we know, they aren’t walking with the Lord anymore.

When someone who seemed like a true believer falls away how do we make sense of it?

Why do those who seem to be a part of the family walk out on the family?

Jesus’ parable of the four soils helps us process why those who seem to be believers walk away.

Look at what Jesus says,

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”” (Mt 13:1–9)

Instead of going with His family (Matt 12:49-50), Jesus leaves the house where He was ministering and goes to the sea. The crowd that followed Him was so large, he had to get in a boat to address them.

Jesus tells the crowd a story every farmer and resident of the area would understand. Farmers back then didn’t have the equipment like farmers do today. Most likely this man had a bag with seed in it. In order to plant his crop, he would have to walk around his field sowing it by hand. As the farmer walked around his field sowing the seed, he ended up sowing in 4 different types of soil — the path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil.

The Seed

In the Parable, the seed represents the gospel. Jesus sows the gospel message. The gospel is referred to here as the “word of the kingdom.”

The good news is that a king has come who will setup another kingdom. A kingdom that is unlike any kingdom in this world. There is no death, disease, injustice, heartache. No sin at all. It is a perfect kingdom. But only those who are perfect can enter the kingdom. The problem is we aren’t perfect people. We are sinners who have rebelled against the King. We are barred from entering the kingdom.

But Jesus has come on our behalf to make a way for us to enter the kingdom. He does so by paying our debt. The wages of sin is death. He dies in our place. All those who believe in Him, His death is our death, and His righteousness is our righteousness. In that way we are able to enter His perfect kingdom.

A kingdom that had come in part when Jesus arrived. One that is breaking into the world now as we live out the kingdom’s ethics. One that will finally and fully come when Jesus returns in the future.

That is the good news, that is the seed Jesus is sowing. If you notice, Jesus sows the gospel message indiscriminately to the crowds who follow Him and listen to His teaching. Some reject His teaching. Some accept it. Others accept it for a while then walk away.

The parables teaches us that there are four responses to the gospel. The response has to do with the people’s heart. The heart represents the soil in which the seed, the gospel message is sown. The message is the same but the soil is different.

Let’s look again at the different types of soil with that in mind and discover why some who seem to be believers end up walking away from the faith.

(1) The Impenetrable Heart

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.” (Mt 13:19)

Again, everyone hears the gospel — that Jesus’ kingdom has come, a kingdom that is drastically different than the kingdoms of this world. A kingdom we can only enter by believing that Jesus is the Messiah who paid the penalty for our sin in order to restore our relationship with the King.

The people who represent the path hear the gospel. Jesus tells us it is not a hearing issue, it is an understanding issue. They hear but they don’t understand.

The reason they don’t understand has nothing to do with a language barrier, or a cultural barrier. The people they hear what Jesus is saying. They hear Him, but they don’t understand His teaching regarding the kingdom. They don’t understand, they don’t grasp that the Messiah has come. That what they see in front of them and who they are hearing from is the Messiah for which they have been waiting. Since they don’t grasp who Jesus is they reject His message. Their heart is as hard as a path that has been trampled by 1000 footsteps. Their heart is impenetrable.

The heart, if you remember, represents our intellect, our emotions, our will. They refuse to allow the gospel message to penetrate their heart so that it affects how they think, feel, and act. They hear what Jesus says, but they flat out reject it. Their heart is hardened to the gospel message.

This represents both religious and secular society today. They have an idea of who the Messiah should be; what salvation looks like. Just think of any gospel today. One of the more popular ones is that we are to be mindful. That we are able to control our emotions and thoughts. That we are able to calm ourselves through meditation breaks throughout the day.

There certainly benefit to taking breaks from stressful situations, allowing ourselves to calm down. But often times the way this occurs is through self motivation and self talk. It is does not occur through believing and trusting in God to be your provider, or that you are accepted in Christ and you don’t need the acceptance of the world. Those who believe a secular gospel or any other gospel besides the biblical gospel, they hear the gospel but they reject it because it doesn’t look like their gospel and their heart is hardened to any form of correction.

Their heart is hardened because of what we learn in verses 10-17. These verses provide a lot of guidance when looking at Jesus’ explanation of the parable. There is a reason this teaching is sandwiched in between the parable told to the crowd and the explanation given to the disciples. We can’t gloss over its teaching. We have to let it inform our understanding of the parable.

In verse 10, Jesus’ disciples ask why He speaks in parables. The implied idea is that parables aren’t easy for everyone to understand. Wouldn’t a straight forward teaching be more beneficial?

Look at Jesus’ response in verse 11:

And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

There is that word “understand” again. The same word that appears down in verse 19 — “they hear but they don’t understand

Jesus tells the disciples that they have been given the ability “to know” the secrets of the kingdom. But the ability “to know…the secrets of the kingdom of heaven…has not been given” to them. The Father has given it the disciples, but He hasn’t given it to those who don’t follow Jesus.

To know”, which is ginosko in the Greek, it means to come to an understanding, to perceive, to comprehend. To know what? To know the “secrets of the kingdom”.

When we think of the word secret, we often think of it as something that is hidden that others are trying to find. Some people are able to discover another’s secret because they looked hard enough. Think about an investigative journalist, they are able to uncover the secret life of a high profile celebrity because they looked, they dug hard enough.

While that might be how we often think of that word. The way it is being used here is different.

The “secrets of the kingdom” do not represent that which others sought to uncover but were not able to uncover. They represent those things that were hidden, that were unmanifested. They are those things that remain hidden until God reveals them.God is the only one who knows them. God is the only One who is able to reveal them.

The “secrets of the kingdom” is that Jesus, very God and sole Son of the Father, has come to earth to bring the Kingdom in an upside down way — not through force, but through Sacrifice. To show that He is bringing the kingdom, He has been teaching and performing many mighty deeds that testify to Him as the Messiah.

But those whose hearts are represented by the impenetrable soil reject Jesus. That is because they haven’t been given the ability “to know” to understand the “secrets of the kingdom.”

Even though they see Jesus’ work, they hear Jesus’ message, they refuse to believe. As we see in verse 15,

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”

Because they don’t understand, they reject Jesus’ message of salvation. As a result they dull their hearts, they close their ears and eyes to Jesus’ message. Instead of turning to Jesus and experiencing healing, they turn from Him. Because the gospel message sits on the surface of their impenetrable heart, Satan, who is the deceiver, is able to come and continue his deceptive work in their life.

That’s the first soil. They are absolutely closed off to the gospel because God hasn’t softened their heart and they turn from Jesus hardening their hearts even more to the true gospel, which results in Satan continuing his deceptive work in their life.

(2) The Emotional Heart

Look what Jesus tells us about them — verses 20-21:

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Mt 13:20–21)

Whereas the first soil was absolutely impenetrable, the gospel is able to work its way into the heart of the second soil, but only at an emotional level. These people hear the gospel, the good news about the kingdom, they get all excited. Somehow, someway the message has tugged at their emotions. In the moment, they have a feeling, an emotional response to the message. Maybe it was at Youth Camp, a Revival, or a particular message one Sunday touched them. Because of what they are feeling, they respond. They respond in a positive way.

But the problem is — there is not much depth. There is not really a desire to grow in their understanding of God’s Word, nor to be obedient to it.  It is all about the emotions. It is all about the feeling. It is all about the experience to them. The positive vibes Christianity brings. These are those people who are always chasing that spiritual high.

As long as the feeling, the spiritual high is there, they are with Jesus. But nothing kills a spiritual high like tribulation and suffering that is related to belief in Jesus. When persecution comes, the spiritual high, the emotional feeling one gets about Jesus, disappears. Because the mind and the will were not engaged, they end up falling away from the faith. It is no longer worth it, beneficial for them to follow Jesus. Their safety, their status in the community is more important than being a part of Jesus’ family and entering His kingdom. They choose the temporal over the eternal.

This is why it is important we aren’t just after emotionalism, but that we truly dive into God’s Word. That we purposefully seek to develop an understanding of who God is, who we are, what we can expect from the world. Feelings fade fast when you are being attacked. That attack doesn’t have to be much. It could simple be the way people look at you when you talk about finding Jesus. Or maybe your friends not wanting to hang out with you anymore because you claim to be a Christian. These attacks don’t have to be physical. Your life doesn’t have to be threatened in order for the spiritual high to fade and for you to walk away from Christ.

That’s the second soil. It is all about the Spiritual high, the feelings. When the feelings fade because of persecution and suffering, they walk away.

(3) The Idolatrous Heart

Look at what Jesus reveals about this soil in verse 22:

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mt 13:22)

This group doesn’t outright reject the gospel. They aren’t all about the feelings, getting caught up in the emotions of it all. That’s not to say that the gospel, that worship doesn’t affect their emotions. It certainly does. But there is some depth to this group. They know God’s Word. They seem genuine.

But we are told that it is “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches [that] choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” In other words, their idols are more important than Jesus.

As we have talked about in the past, an idol is anything you allow to get between you and Jesus. It can be anything other than Jesus that you believe will provide you with satisfaction, joy, purpose in life, and salvation.

It might be your work — Now, we certainly need to take care of our families. I’m not advocating for you not working. But work might be your idol if it consistently takes you away from regularly gathering with other believers. Or maybe it doesn’t take you away from your regular gathering, but you are not willing to take a stand on anything. You are willing to fudge a bit here and there. Operate in the gray or outright break the law in order to get ahead.

Maybe your recreation is an idol — You find yourself on the golf course, the lake or the hunting stand more than in the pew or gathered with others. Or maybe it doesn’t take you away from church, but you know more about the local or national sports team than you do God’s Word.

Maybe money, status, or position is your idol — You are willing to do whatever it takes to gain and keep them even if it means acting contrary to God’s Word.

Those whose hearts are thorny will choose their idol when there is a conflict between the idol and Jesus. They will obey their idol over obedience to Jesus. Whatever it takes to gain and keep that idol, they will do. They will submit to its will over Jesus’.

The result is that these people are unfruitful. They don’t really ever change, they are stagnant. There is no fruit to speak of because all their attention, all their affections, all their time and energy are given to serve the idol instead of Jesus.

If you have been coming to church your entire life, and there is no fruit in your life. There is no peace, patience, joy, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, and love. If these fruits aren’t evident in your life,  if you haven’t grown and are not continually growing in these areas, if you know no more about God’s Word than what you learned in Sunday school as a kid, if you haven’t changed, your life might be characterized by the Thorny Soil.

Eventually when a choice has to be made between Jesus and your idol, you we will walk away from Jesus because you care more about the things of the world than you do spiritual things.

That’s the third soil — the idolatrous heart. Obedience to their idol is prioritized over obedience to Jesus.

(4) The Fertile Heart

We finally get to the one that is the true believer. Look at what Jesus says in verse 23,

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”” (Mt 13:23)

This person doesn’t reject the gospel, instead they believe the gospel. They understand its purpose and implication for their life. If you notice this is the only one Jesus says understands the Word. They are the only ones who allow Jesus’ message to penetrate their heart, to affect their mind, their emotions, and their will.

They are not just in it for intellectual knowledge, to prove they are smarter than someone else. They aren’t the continual debater. Nor are they always after a certain feeling, an emotional, a spiritual high. They don’t obey the wishes of an idol. Living according to an idols will instead of the Father’s.

Instead they are wholly engaged — mind, emotions, and will. They are always seeking to learn and understand God’s Word. Their hearts are warmed by worship, their affections are drawn to Jesus. They seek to obey Him with their whole life. They don’t hold any areas back, nor do they put anything above Jesus. They are wholly engaged with their whole self. Mind, emotions, and will. Each are kept in check by God’s Word.

This is the person who is the true believer, the one who ends up being fruitful instead of fruitless. This is the one who will go the distance, who won’t quit at the first sign of persecution. Who won’t allow an idol to draw them away. They will continue to follow Jesus, understanding that the gospel is the only message that saves.

These are the ones who recognize Jesus as Messiah because God has changed their heart, He has made it fertile to the gospel message. He has given them the ability to comprehend the “secrets of the kingdom”. As a result, they turn to Jesus for salvation and they experience healing.

Without God’s work, they would be like the soil on the path, the rocks and the thorns. They wouldn’t give the gospel a second thought, they would allow persecution to drive them away, or they would seek after idols over Jesus. That is how man naturally responds to Jesus. But not those whose hearts are fertile. They respond rightly.

Recognize Blessing from the Lord

As well as those whose hearts are fertile, recognize how blessed they are. Look at the text beginning in verse 16,

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Mt 13:16–17)

If our hearts are fertile, we will recognize the blessing God has poured out on our life, how fortunate we are, how privileged we are to sit at this moment in history. The prophets and righteous men from long ago, longed – they so desired the blessing and privilege we have.

Not only that but if our hearts are really fertile, we will praise God for the salvation He has provided. We will rejoice at our understanding of the gospel of the kingdom! We will long to know and see and understand more. We will allow what we learn to affect us. We will repent of our sins and turn to God on a regular basis. In other words, we will live as true family members of Jesus.

Is your heart fertile? Do you understand the gospel? Has it affected your mind, emotions, and will?

Do you recognize the blessing God has poured out in your life by allowing you to understand the gospel? Do you praise God for your salvation on a regular basis? Is your heart fertile?

Conclusion

The parable of the sower reveals why some walk away. Their hearts are hardened. They are just in it for the spiritual high. They worship and obey their idols over Jesus.

When someone walks away from the faith, don’t loose heart. Don’t loose faith in Christ. Instead, pray for their salvation. Pray the Lord would soften their heart to the gospel. Not only should we pray but preach the gospel to them. We should spread the seed indiscriminately to all. While at the same time praying their hard, unfruitful, idolatrous heart would become fertile soil in which the gospel would take root and be productive.

Yes, people walk away from the faith. But don’t allow their actions to cause you to walk away. Instead, recognize who blessed you are, praise God, pray for them, and spread the gospel to all who will give you a hearing.

The Lord’s Supper is a Family Meal

And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.” (Mk 14:13–16)

After Jesus and His Disciples came to the house where the Passover meal was prepared, they reclined at the table and began to eat.

We read this as if it is what was supposed to happen — Jesus gathering with His disciples to eat the Passover. But that is not typically what would take place. Typically the physical family would gather together. The eldest father would preside over the meal. But that is not what takes place here. Instead, Jesus gathers together with His disciples. In doing so, He and they understand that they are family. That Jesus is the head of the family.

In the Lord, as Christians, we enter into a family. A family with Jesus as our head, which is why we can call one another brother and sister. It is important to understand we are family because family watches out for and looks after one another. Family cares for one another. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to look out for and care for one another. Our relationships with one another should be deep and wide, not shallow. We should know how to serve one another, how to minister to one another. We shouldn’t have cursory relationships with those at our church. We are family. Family knows one another. Family cares for one another. The Lord’s Supper reveals and points to the fact that we are family.

As a family meal, the Lord’s Supper is reserved for those:

(1) Who are a part of the family.

When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become a part of a family. A family of believers. We may be from different races, nationalities, backgrounds, and socioeconomic classes, but Jesus brings us all together as a family. It’s the family that is invited to this meal.

The Lord’s Supper is not for those who are unbelievers.

It is a family meal. If you don’t believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are outside of the family and you shouldn’t partake of the Lord’s Supper when you go to church.

The Lord’s Supper still has significance to the unbeliever

With that being said, that doesn’t mean the Lord’s Supper doesn’t have any significant for for those who aren’t believers.

For the unbeliever, the Lord’s Supper points to the good news that Jesus can be your substitute — that His death can stand in the place of your death. It points to your access to the family. It’s through Jesus that we enter into the family of God. While Jesus’ family is exclusive — only believers are a part of it — it is inclusive — all those who repent of their sin and believe can enter into the family.

If you aren’t a believer, let the Lord’s Supper be a witness to you. Let it be a picture of the good news of Jesus to you.

Not only is the Lord’s Supper reserved for those who are members of the family, but it is also limited to those:

(2) Who are unified family members

In order to come to the table together and eat, we must be unified. We must be a cohesive family unit. We can’t be harboring sin, holding a grudge, or mad at another and still expect to sit down and eat with them. No, we must be unified with one another in order to eat.

Lastly, family meals are limited to those:

(3) Who aren’t harboring unrepentant sin.

If you are knowingly engaging in sinful activities and you refuse to repent of that sin, your relationship with the Father is hindered. Until you mend that relationship, you should not take the Lord’s Supper. For as Paul talks about in one of his letters to the Corinthians, you may be eating and drinking wrath on yourself because you are presuming on the grace of God.

Conclusion

The Lord’s Supper not only reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice and future reign but it also reminds us that we need to deal with family relationships and unrepentant sin in our lives. The Lord’s Supper is a family meal. Are you a part of the family?

The Glorious Gospel Brings Us Together

Ephesians, at least the first several chapters, highlights the glories of the gospel.

The Glorious Gospel

Paul desires the Ephesians and, in turn, God desires we see the greatness of the gospel as well. Indeed the good news that we are saved by God Himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf is amazing. It is unfathomable. God experiences a condemnation He doesn’t deserve so that we might escape the condemnation we do deserve.

The gospel didn’t just happen. It wasn’t an afterthought. We are told it was God’s plan from before time began (Eph 1:3-14). How amazing it is thatGod thought of us before the world even began and purposed to provide us with salvation!

Breaks Down Hostility Bringing us Together

While the gospel redeems us from God’s wrath, which is no light activity, it does more, much more. It redeems all of life, including our relationships with one another. In Ephesians 2 beginning in verse 14 we read,

[14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Ephesians 2:14-16

In these verses, Paul is referring to the Jew / Gentile relationship. He reveals that Jesus makes peace between the two people’s. He does what nothing else in the world could, he breaks down walls of hostility that spans millennia.

Not only does Christ break down walls of hostility, but He brings the two together so that they no longer exist as two separate people but as one. In Christ, their is no longer a Jew / Gentile divide. In Christ, there is one new man. A singular people of God who are able to live together with one another in love and care.

The gospel does what no political message or law could. The gospel breaks down hostility between people of different races and nationalities. It is the gospel that creates unity. It is the gospel that brings us all together.

Several points of application:

(1) The gospel is what will heal our country, which means we need to preach Christ to our communities.

(2) The gospel is what will heal our churches, which means we need to focus on preaching the gospel to one another in the body of Christ.

(3) The gospel is what brings us together in community with one another.

Not that affinities aren’t important. They are important. But it is ultimately the saving grace of God and our desire to understand, apply, and share it that brings us together as a people. Yes, we want all want to be a part of community with which we connect. But are affinity connects the end all be all?

While we might not have everything in common with those in the local church to which we belong, we do have the one thing in common that matters and that brings us together — we have the gospel in common. We have the hope of Christ in common. We should have the desire to understand and apply God’s Word in common. The gospel is what brings us together.

When you are looking for a church with which to join, find one that preaches the gospel, that seeks to apply the gospel, and share the gospel with the community. Find one that is faithful to God’s Word and wants to see you grow in the understanding and application of God’s grace. Don’t look for the one that can meet all your needs or checks all your affinity boxes.