Starting the New Year off Right
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Denomination: Southern Baptist
Edited from a sermon preached 1-1-2017 at Carrington Baptist Church, Fulton, MO.
Happy New Year, everyone! There aren’t very many better places to be on the beginning of a new year than here at church, and I thank you all for coming today.
The message this morning is about the Lord’s Supper and how we can start the new year off right. We can do this by taking a look back, to remember what our Lord did for us; a look ahead, so that we don’t forget what’s in front of us; and the hardest of all—a look in the mirror. The text is from the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, beginning with verse 23.
1Co 11:23-32 NASB 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
Paul was writing to these believers in Corinth so that he could not only encourage them to keep on doing what was right but also to remind them of what they were doing wrong. Something we don’t always remember is that many of these folks were just recently converted from either Judaism (there was a synagogue in Corinth, incredibly!) or paganism. Corinth had any number of temples to Greek deities plus a temple to Aphrodite (Venus, for Romans) at the top of a nearby mountain where people could get any kind of pleasure they wanted, for the right price. Even though they had been saved, they were still making mistakes, and the Lord used Paul to give them the instructions they needed.
We need to take a look back The first thing they needed to do was take a look back. In fact, the text says to do that very thing—how can we do something, anything, in “remembrance” if we aren’t looking back at the deed? Especially so, when it’s as important as the Lord’s Supper!
Now, I’m thinking that each believer in Corinth would think back, look back, on any number of events. The first one might be the time each one became a believer, repenting of his or her sins, and praying for the Lord Jesus Christ to save his or her soul. Please remember that salvation was, is, and always has been a gift, and there is absolutely nothing, according to the Word of God that anybody can do to earn salvation. You’d be surprised at how many other ideas, concepts, doctrines, you name it, are appealed to as a basis for salvation. I’ll spare you the details, but just think about it: people have been trying to twist God’s Word for thousands of years.
They aren’t going to stop any time soon, I’m afraid.
By the way, to get an idea of those first generation believers, just take a look at chapter 6 of this letter. There were some pretty rough customers! Now, we have our photo directories from some years back and everybody looks great in those pictures. Believe me, either a good photographer or good software (or both?) can make just about anybody look good. Well, most of us . . . .you’ll notice, my picture’s not in that book!
But these believers wouldn’t have been the kind you find in a nice church members directory in their “B.C.” days. They would more likely have had their pictures on display at the first century equivalent of the post office, with numbers under their names and photos! And yet, this shows us all that God’s grace reaches anybody, and any person can be saved if they really want to.
We need to take a look ahead. Certainly, we don’t want to spend too much time looking back. Verse 26 tells us that we show (demonstrate) the Lord’s death until He comes (again).
This is great news!
Jesus Christ, our Lord, is coming back! Twice! We aren’t sure if the believers in Corinth knew about the Rapture, as did the Thessalonian believers, but we know they had heard about the “unveiling” or “revelation (NASB)” or “coming (King James Version)” as mentioned in verse 7 of chapter 1. Please remember that there are no “signs” mentioned as regards the Rapture, so it’s important to get ready for it, and stay ready every day. I love what one preacher said: “One day that horn’s gonna blow, and I’m gonna go!” Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
We need to take a look in the mirror And yet, despite the need to remember (how many times does the Lord tell us to remember) and look back, and the promises which are ahead, there is one look we need to take, and it’s one that few of us really want to do. It’s to take a look in the mirror, seeing how we compare to the standards of God’s Word.
Thing is, nobody—myself, included—enjoys judging ourselves or making corrections where needed. We rejoice in God’s goodness (amen!) but are reluctant to admit or confess our sins. Please remember, beloved, that our Lord is not angry with us when we sin. He is grieved, of course, but He would rather forgive than punish. And yet if we keep on going on in a way of sin or ignoring the plain commands of God’s Word, we can expect chastening or discipline from our Father. He loves us, absolutely, but He will step in if we don’t step up.
Do you hear the voice of experience here? I myself have had some times of dry spells, where there was absolutely nobody to blame except me. And yet, I found that when I finally got right with God, that the colder my heart was, the warmer His welcome! You don’t have to let what happened to me happen to you. It’s just not worth it.
So let’s pull it all together. As we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper in a moment, think back--look back--to the time you became a Christian. Maybe there are other things the Lord is reminding you about? Just don’t spend too much time looking back, or, as one said, “you’ll end up going that way”.
And don’t forget to look ahead. Jesus is coming! One day we will be with the Lord, and whether it comes when the trumpet sounds, or if it’s when our life ends, we have that promise.
Then, and perhaps most importantly, take that look in the mirror. Difficult to do? Absolutely. Important? No doubt about it. Worth the effort? Certainly. Remember that some of the Corinthian believers were weak and sick, and some had died early because they didn’t judge or evaluate themselves properly.
Had they done so, they wouldn’t have suffered the pains of sickness, weakness, or even death. The same principle is true today: if we judge ourselves, we won’t be judged. Our Father’s forgiveness and restoration are ours for the asking, right now.
Won’t you respond to your Heavenly Father?
Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. http://www.lockman.org