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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Communion: Feeding the Soul

By Thomas Lindberg
March 14, 2010

We eat physically so our bodies can be healthy, and we also must eat spiritually so our souls can be strong. That’s one of the reasons the Lord Jesus instituted Communion.

First Corinthians 11:23-34 is the most complete section of Scripture as to how our early brothers and sisters received Communion. It was a far more elaborate occasion than what most believers today are used to.

To picture what the apostle Paul was describing, it’s helpful to know a little background story.

For 18 months, Paul had been the Corinthians’ pastor. He taught, led and discipled new and growing believers in that church. Then the Holy Spirit guided Paul elsewhere, and he obediently spread the gospel in other regions.

Over time, Paul continued to get reports on the church in Corinth. He heard about their receiving Communion, and he was concerned. Those early believers called it a “love feast,” with the idea that the dinner demonstrated their Christlike love for one another. But the apostle quickly sensed there was too much feasting and too little loving. Moved by God, Paul picked up his pen, dipped into the ink of inspiration, and wrote to offer correction. Through the apostle, God reveals four principles all of us should follow when we come to Communion. You might be surprised at how practical they are.

1. Come hungry … for the right food.
Near the end of Paul’s passage, you find this caution: “If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment” (1 Corinthians 11:34, NIV). The Corinthians had lost sight of the spiritual benefits of Communion, and only saw the food of their “love feasts.” Their lesser appetite was compromising their hunger for the things of God.

My wife is a great cook. But what if she cooked a special meal, and on the way home I stopped and ate two hamburgers, a large order of fries and a super-sized soda. I could not enjoy Sandi’s meal. I would miss the intended impact from her food and would almost certainly hurt my wife’s feelings.

So it is with Communion. We need to come to God’s table hungry for Him. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

Go to any Spirit-filled church in our nation. There you’ll see Person A and Person B. They are in the same church, singing the same songs, hearing the same prayers, receiving the same sermon, and experiencing the same worship environment. Yet Person A is growing, and Person B isn’t. Why? So much of the answer rests on the fact that Person A came to church spiritually hungry while Person B did not.

It’s sad when some Christians are so full of everything else in their lives that they have little or no hunger for God. Don’t let that happen to you. Come to God hungry.

2. Wash your hands.
Paul honestly confronted the Corinthians about their lax approach to Communion, but his warning has caused some believers to shy away from the blessings Jesus intended when He established Communion.

Much of the concern ties to this verse: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).

Paul rightly cautioned the Corinthians to examine their hearts carefully before partaking of Communion. But some of us read 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 and assume we must be perfect to come to Communion. That’s a complete misunderstanding of these verses.

I wonder how many times growing up as a child someone told you to wash your hands before a meal. The one preparing the meal wanted you to come to the table clean.

So does God. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus taught, “for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). But if we have to be faultless and blameless before coming to worship Jesus through Communion, then none of us would ever be able to come.

For example, if you have a leaky kitchen sink, do you first fix it and then call the plumber? If you have a cavity in a tooth, do you first try to fill it yourself before you go to your dentist? Of course not.

So it is with coming to God. Communion is the best place to come when you’re struggling with a problem, temptation, or sin. But here’s the key: Don’t come and play games with God; desire and allow the Lord to genuinely change you.

3. Say please and thank you.
“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other” (1 Corinthians 11:33).

Paul noted that rude behavior could quickly diminish Communion’s spiritual impact. Isn’t that true in general in a church? The more considerate and Christlike that believers are with one another, the more powerful a church’s services and ministries become.

Let’s be honest, life can be tough. The devil is real. Discouragement has a way of seeping into our hearts. People face medical crises, lose a job, learn troubling news about their children — the list goes on. Polite and loving behavior in the church creates an oasis for the soul. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

This priority of focusing on others also reminds us to focus on the One who is the center of Communion. Only one time did Jesus say, “Remember Me.” That was at the first Communion table at the Last Supper.

We need to offer our love and gratitude to Jesus at Communion. We need to think of all He has done for us and carry those memories beyond Communion. Sometime today, sing a favorite hymn or chorus to Jesus. As you do so, stop and count the endless ways God has blessed you. A heart of gratitude and praise will change your life … guaranteed.

4. Enjoy the meal.
When Sandi cooks a special meal, she does not like it if I sit and eat like someone has a gun to my head. She wants me to enjoy the experience. That’s the purpose of a lovingly prepared meal.

It’s the same with God. The Lord wants us to enjoy Communion and celebrate it. In too many churches today Communion is either rushed or endured. We, as believers redeemed by our Savior’s gift of His body and blood, should celebrate Communion. We should praise God for how He has set us free from the curse of sin. We should expectantly anticipate Christ’s triumphant return, our Blessed Hope, when He promised that He would again share a cup and a meal with us.

Jesus gave up everything so you and I could have everything. He died so we could live forever. He is worthy of our continual praise. The Communion table is for every believer, offering a burst of spiritual nutrition that energizes our relationship with our Savior and our fellow believers. Let it change your life!

THOMAS LINDBERG is the senior pastor of Memphis (Tenn.) First Assembly of God.

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