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Mouth: Feasting on the Bread of Christ

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From the Series: The Anatomy of Faith
May 2, 2010

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

The Christian life is God’s work in which we become involved. The problem is that we can easily become so interested in what we are doing that we lose sight of what God is doing.

Conversion

This is often true in conversion. The Bible makes it clear that “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:10). “It is by grace that you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation is God’s work. Jesus saves!

Of course we are involved in God’s work. When I came to Christ, I repented. I believed! I committed my life to Christ. If you are a Christian these things are wonderfully true of you, but if all your attention is focused on what you did, it’s easy to lose sight of the amazing fact that God saved you!

In the same way, when it comes to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, it’s easy for us to get so interested in what we are doing that we lose sight of what God is doing.

Baptism

Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s great work in bringing a sinner to new life in Christ and cleansing a believer from sin. That’s why we are immersed in water.

God speaks the great promises of the Gospel to us in baptism. But it’s easy to lose sight of what God is doing in baptism. When that happens, baptism becomes about me giving my testimony, or me taking a step of obedience, or me telling other people how my life has changed.

It is true that in baptism, we confess that Jesus is Lord, and it is a step of obedience. But if our interest is tied up with what we are doing, we quickly lose sight of what God is doing. When that happens, baptism feels more like a human work to be applauded, rather than a gift of God’s grace.

The Lord’s Supper

The same is true with the Lord’s Supper. When we gather around the Lord’s Table, there are important things that we are to do. We remember Christ’s death: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24), and we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). But what is Christ doing in the Lord’s Supper?

If all our interest is tied up in what we are doing in the Lord’s Supper, we will lose sight of what God is doing, and the Lord’s Supper will soon feel like another human work rather than a gift of God’s grace in which faith is wonderfully strengthened.

I want to focus on what Christ does in the Lord’s Supper. I want to awaken in you a new sense of communion with Christ, so that you will have a new joy and anticipation in coming to the Lord’s Table. When this happens your faith will be nourished, strengthened and increased through your communion with Him.

What Christ Does At the Table

  1. Christ invites you

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22:15

Its not that the disciples were having a supper and they invited Jesus to come join them. Christ says, “I am having a supper, and I invite you to come.” Christ invites the disciples. It is not the disciples who invite Him.

Read the account of the Lord’s Supper and you see that Jesus is in charge:

“I have eagerly desired to eat this supper with you…” (v15)

“After taking the cup he gave thanks…” (v17)

“He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…” (v19)

This is not our supper in which we invite Christ to be present with us. It is the Lord’s Supper, to which He invites us to be present with Him. It is the Lord’s Supper, not our supper.

This is His meal! We do not come to give something to Him, as if He were our guest. We come because He offers something to us. We are His guests. This meal is for the friends, the disciples of Jesus. Bishop Ryle says:

“Sinners living in open sin, and determined not to give it up ought on no account to come to the Lord’s Table. To do so is a positive insult to Christ, and to pour contempt on His Gospel.

 

Self righteous people, who think that they are to be saved by their own works, have no business coming to the Lord’s Table… What do we declare at the Lord’s Supper? We publicly profess that we have no goodness, righteousness or worthiness of our own and that all our hope is in Christ.” [1]

This table is for repentant sinners. If you feel that you are good enough for God without a Savior, this is not for you. It is not for people who feel that they are without sin. It is not for people who intend to continue in their sin. This Lord’s Supper is for repentant sinners who are looking to Christ to save us from our sin.

Don’t let your failures or your achievements keep you from coming to the Lord’s Table today. The table is spread and the invitation is open. Christ invites you to come, and to turn away from your own sense of adequacy, and share fellowship with Him at His table.

  1. Christ speaks to you

“He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you…’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” Luke 22:19-20

When we come to the Lord’s Table, the pastor will repeat Christ’s words.

Why does the pastor, every time we come to the table, speak Christ’s words? These are not just old words spoken to somebody else, these are Christ’s words, and Christ is speaking these words to us.

Christ speaks to you at the table. He says to you, “This is my body given for you.” He says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

As you take the bread and wine, Christ is saying, “There is forgiveness for you. There is strength for you. My body has been broken. My blood has been shed, and this is for you.”

The Lord’s Supper is not an exercise in placing the cross before God to persuade Him to be merciful to us. The Lord’s Supper is about Christ placing the cross before us to persuade us that He shed His blood for us.

  1. Christ feeds you

“Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” Luke 22:19

The most obvious thing about the Lord’s Supper is that it is a supper, and people come to a supper in order to be fed.

Christ gives the food to the disciples. Christ feeds them. He gives them bread, but then He says of the food, “This is my body.” In other words, He is telling them that they will be sustained by the food He is giving them, which is His body.

When you come to the Lord’s Table at The Orchard, you are given a wafer the size of a thumbnail and a cup the size of a thimble. Any thinking person would ask, “Where’s the meal?” Christ is the meal. The Lord Himself is our food. He nourishes and sustains our souls to eternal life.

How Does the Body and Blood of Jesus Feed Us?

“The Lord Jesus… took bread… and said, ‘This is my body.’”

1 Corinthians 11:23-24

It was in His body that our Lord Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, fulfilling everything that God requires of you and me. The bread speaks of His completed obedience, the perfect righteousness of His life in the body.

When we are united to Christ in the bond of faith, His perfect righteousness is imputed to us. That means it is counted by God as if His perfect righteousness was ours. My Christian life at its best is a work in process. I come to the table knowing that this has been another week in which I have fallen short of the glory of God.

Then I am given the bread, and Christ says, “This is my body. My completed obedience is for you. My perfect righteousness has become yours.” Jesus says in the bread, “What you have not done for me, I have done for you.”

Are you feeling the pressure of relentless demands in your life? Does it seem that your life is one massive pile of things that are still to be done? Do you feel that you could write over your whole life, “It is not finished?”

Jesus Christ comes to you at the table and He gives you the bread and He writes over your life, “It is finished.”

God accepts you, not because you have finished your work…

            …but because Christ has finished His work on your behalf

That is food! Live on that in all the incompleteness of your obedience. When I hear that my standing with God is based on the finished work of Christ, my soul is strengthened.

God accepts me today, not because of what I have accomplished for Him, but because of what Christ has accomplished for me through His completed obedience on my behalf. That’s how the body of Jesus nourishes your soul.

“Then Jesus gave them the cup and He said, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:27-28). The forgiveness of sins!

We are accepted by God through the completed righteousness of Christ being imputed to us, counted as ours. That leaves us in this strange position. As Luther said it, we are “simul iustus et peccator,” which means “at the same time (simultaneous) righteous (or justified) and sinner.”

I come to the table knowing that I am at the same time righteous in Christ, and knowing myself to be a sinner. Since the last time I came, I have sinned in thought and word and deed, and so have you. We have grieved the Holy Spirit. We are ashamed of our sins. And when we come to the table, Satan accuses us and our own conscience condemns us.

I am given the cup, and Christ says, “This is my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.” When I hear this, I am strengthened. God really loves me as I am. Christ died for me. Through His blood there is forgiveness for me right now. There is hope for me. There is life for me right now. God embraces me in Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is a place where your faith is nourished. This is a place to know that God loves you. It is a place to find peace for your conscience, and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is a place to gain strength for all that lies ahead. These are found in Christ through the cross, and they are laid before you at the table.

Christ feeds you through His own body and blood—His own completed obedience, His atoning death. If you want to grow in your faith, if you want to experience more of Christ, know more of His love, find greater joy in Him, and draw strength from Him, make good use of the Lord’s Table. Don’t say that you aspire to these things and neglect the very means by which He gives them.

How do you do that? 

I want to answer that question from John 6. As we turn there, it’s important to say that Jesus spoke these words before He had instituted the Lord’s Supper. When the disciples heard Him say these words, they did not know what the Lord’s Supper was.

John 6 is not primarily about the Lord’s Supper. That’s important. If this is about the Lord’s Supper then, when Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you…” (John 6:52), it would mean eternal life comes to us through the Lord’s Supper.

This cannot be true because all over John’s gospel and the rest of the New Testament, it is made very clear that we gain eternal life, not by participating in the Lord’s Supper, but by faith in Son of God who gave Himself for us on the cross:

“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31

John 6 is not primarily about the Lord’s Supper. It is about how those who believe feed on Jesus Christ. The writer, Colin Brown, puts it this way:

“John 6 is not about the Lord’s Supper; rather,

the Lord’s Supper is about what is described in John 6.” [2]

The Lord’s Supper is a great place to do what John is describing here.

What You Can Do At the Table

  1. Believe in Christ

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty… I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life” John 6:35, 47

Everything we receive from Jesus Christ becomes ours through faith. Coming to the table won’t do you any good unless you exercise faith.

Believe what He says to you. Receive what He offers you. This isn’t like medication that works on its own—all you do it take it. Don’t be passive.

Christ is speaking to you. He invites you to communion with Him. When you come to the table, draw near to Him in faith.

  1. Feed on Christ

I want you to see the emphasis our Lord places on eating, or feeding on Himself—it’s in every verse for 10 verses!

v49 “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.”

v50 “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a                          man may eat and not die.”

v51 “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

v52 “The Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How                             can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”

v53 “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the                               flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no                                   life in you.’”

v54 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,                            and I will raise him up at the last day.”

v55 “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

v56 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me,                             and I in him.”

v57 “the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”

v58 “Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on                              this bread will live forever.”

Question: How do you feed on Christ? Answer: By believing (v35, v47).

So why doesn’t our Lord just say, “Believe?” Christ is telling us that this is what faith does. Faith feeds on Christ.

Faith is more than believing that certain things that happened a long time ago are true. Faith brings us into communion with Jesus, who died and rose, in which we feed on Him, share fellowship with Him, and draw strength from Him.

Christ is our strength. Christ is our joy. Christ is our peace. Christ is our comfort. Christ is our hope. Christ is our life.

  1. Live through Christ

“This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life.” 1 John 5:11-12

The promise of the Gospel is not just that you will get eternal life when you die, but that if Christ is in you, you have eternal life. You are joined to Christ in the union of faith. So, even when you die, you will live because Christ is in you and the life that Christ gives can never die.

Listen to the promise of Jesus to those who believe in Him and feed on Him, and let these words be life for you today:

v49 “Here is the bread from heaven that a man may eat and not die.”

v51 “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

v54 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,    and I will raise him up at the last day.”

v57 “the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”

v58 “he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

When we rise from the table, Christ says to us “Go live!” The Lord is for you, the Lord is with you. Christ died to redeem you, and He lives to keep you. He will sustain you and nourish you to eternal life. Even though you die, yet shall you live! (John 11:25).

This is the assurance that comes to us as we believe, live and feed on Christ: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?

It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:33-34).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

[1] J. C. Ryle, “Practical Religion,” p. 146-7

[2] Colin Brown, Cited in D. A. Carson, “The Gospel According to John,” p. 280



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