The disciples asked Jesus an interesting question, even if it was a little cocky.
Why do we take Communion? Why does it matter? Let’s take a look at the big picture.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to think like Jesus thinks? To have His ideas and outlook on life? To connect with His wisdom and grace? Paul says that we can. But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) The problems is, most of us don’t realize it or feel it. How do we get this mind of Christ anyway?
We have to start with transformation. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2) The word transformed is the same word for Jesus’ transformation on the mountain, metamorphoo (Strong’s G3339). It means to be changed completely.
We begin to transform our mind by how we think. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things. (Philippians 4:8) Our brain is like a muscle that we need to exercise. We have to build up good thoughts to chase out bad thoughts. It takes intention and commitment. You have to tell yourself to think about what is honorable, right, pure, lovely, and good. When you find yourself drifting into negativity or fear, ask God to forgive you and be intentional about how you think.
Once you make it a practice to “think on these things”, you will develop a new mindset as you are transformed. Bath your thoughts with the Word of God and praise. Go for it. Find out for yourself what having the mind of Christ will do for you.
When Jesus began to have huge followings, He gave one of His most impactful teachings, which we call The Sermon on the Mount. He told us that those will be blessed who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are pure in heart, who are peacemakers, and who are persecuted for righteousness sake. (Matt 5)
This teaching was to a crowd who came out to hear the now famous teacher from Nazareth. He’d performed miracles of healing, maybe He would do something they could witness. Maybe they did hunger and thirst for righteousness sake so they wanted to know what He would teach. It was a diverse crowd, yet Jesus managed to deliver a message that would be transformative if they received it and understood it.
But the Sermon on the Mount is just basic kingdom teaching. It outlines the basis of what our lives should look like if we call ourselves followers of Christ – be humble, be kind, be merciful, etc. The crowd Jesus taught had no clue where He was going with this message because He taught so unlike the scribes and the Pharisees. He had to keep it basic so the people had a place to start their understanding of His kingdom.
But there is so much more. When Nicodemus came to Jesus to understand what he was hearing, Jesus said to him, If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:11) Nicodemus was hearing the basics that Jesus taught the crowds and he struggled to understand it. Jesus was never able to really teach the mysteries of the kingdom as long as the basics were so hard to grasp.
We have the advantage of scripture and the Holy Spirit. We have the option to hunger and thirst for righteousness and be filled. There is more to than Basic Jesus than simply being kind. Of course, nothing deeper can be learned if the basics are not working in our lives. By following those foundational rules, we are the wise ones building our house on solid rock. It gives us a grid to take on the heavenly things God has been waiting to give us. Don’t be satisfied with basic. Press in for the more that awaits.
Somehow David had a way of grasping New Testament teaching in an Old Testament world. In Psalm 86, he said, Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life for I am godly. First of all, if he hadn’t said he was poor and needy, we might have felt that calling himself godly was a little rich. But David understood that repentance brought him God’s forgiveness. When he was forgiven, he was pure before God. What ensured that godliness was his humility.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. Poor in spirit is just as David expressed it, poor and needy. David’s humility allowed him to step into the kingdom of God that Jesus described ahead of his time.
This is an important lesson. Godliness without humility is pedantic and often works-based. Jesus modeled humility for a reason. He was born in a barn. He grew up working as a carpenter. He washed his disciples’ feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:15-17)
Being poor and needy is a way to growth in the Lord. It is a hunger to know more of Him, to understand the ways of His kingdom, and learn the things that we need to let go of to do that. Once we stop being hungry for God we stop being humble before Him, and that’s a dangerous place to be.
Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt 5:8) He wouldn’t have said that if it wasn’t possible for us, but so much of living in the kingdom is intentional. It doesn’t always just fall into our laps.
We all know our sins. We know when we’ve screwed up. The question is, what will we do about it? Sometimes we feel so badly about what we’ve done, or thought, that we confess it right away. But there are other sins that we don’t think are that bad, or we’re just not ready to let go of them. You can’t have a clean heart if you hold onto sin.
“Confession is good for the soul” is not just a nice saying, it shows us the way to life. Jesus promised us abundant life. We will never experience that until we lay down everything to Him – both good and bad. Repentance cleans us up. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you those things you need to deal with. Just do it. You can’t move on until you do.
When you have a clean heart before God, the weight of guilt will fall away. You remove anything that blocks your heart from hearing Him. We are still human, so sin will always be something to deal with, but that’s the trick. Deal with it. Repent like David did, immediately and with your whole heart. Then you can stand before God washed in the blood and pure in His eyes. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
There’s so much in this psalm to learn from. It’s simple and straightforward, and so easy to pass by. Let’s look at this.
Don’t follow people who live ungodly lives. Surround yourself with people who will build you up, not tear you down. You may work with them and live next door to them, but you don’t need to laugh at their crude humor or seem impressed with their sinful life. Be helpful, be kind, but don’t follow them.
Meditating on the law was meant to focus the person on God and keep them safe from sinful influences. The law said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your strength. Just doing that would keep you from straying into dangerous areas. The intentional effort it takes to do that comes back in blessing.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The intentional focus to meditate on the things of God yields strength of soul. God sees that and loves it. He prospers the one who will keep faith strong. Planted by streams of water is refreshing and life-giving.
In our busy, worrisome life today, it’s so easy to overlook the simple things that God intended for our help. Be intentional. Think about the goodness of God and remind yourself to do it as often as possible. See what happens when you do.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 7:12) The Golden Rule is one of those scriptures as familiar as John 3:16. For many of us, it’s part of our religious DNA. And for many of us, it’s one of those teachings that roll off us like water off a duck’s back. Because it’s so familiar, we stop thinking about it. It’s just something that we know.
This forgetfulness is something Jesus is not amused with. Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:4) Doing for others what we want them to do for us was not a new command. It came out of Leviticus 19. God’s been saying that for a while. So why is it so hard to do, because yes, it’s hard to do.
When we’re sitting in church, the Golden Rule sounds right. We should treat others the way we want to be treated, but then we go home. We get on the freeway and go to the grocery store and, hardest of all, we live with family. The business of real life takes ahold of our perspective and all thoughts of that kindness flit away somewhere.
The good news is that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. When we see that we are lacking in this area, all we need to do is ask for His help. The Holy Spirit has equipped us with everything that pertains to life and godliness. He provides. It’s our job to ask. This won’t be a one-time request. It will be one that we ask over and over, because we need to. It’s important to God so it’s really important to us.
It takes mindfulness to treat others the way we want to be treated. It’s not convenient. But of all the laws and the teachings of Jesus, this is the one He said to remember. Let’s be careful to treat others well.
When Solomon was finished building his extraordinary temple for God, he called up all the heads of all the tribes and all the leaders of Israel and blessed them. Then the priests took the ark and all the implements from the Tent of Meeting in the old City of David and carried them to the new temple with great pomp and ceremony. It was a spectacular event to witness the opening of the house of God. So many animals were sacrificed that they quit counting. The priests placed the ark between the cherubim that had been made to stand over it with their wings extended in covering. “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord so that the priests could not stand there to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. ” (1 Kings 8:10-11)
We do not hear of the glory of God filling the temple like that again. It was, of course, an unprecedented occasion, but it is one that I wish to have been part of. I have been in small prayer groups of three or four people and felt the presence of God clearly. Many times in church, when worship seems especially sweet, I have felt His heavy presence. But I always wonder if there could be a time when God would again pour His glory into a place so much that it would literally drive people out. What would that be like? I want to feel it, but I think it would feel like dying to be in such close proximity to that glory.
I look around in church sometimes and wonder what is happening in the hearts of others. I see them checking their phones, staring out the window, whispering to someone, and I wonder if they can feel God moving. In small groups, it’s easier for every person to be engaged in worship, but the larger the group gets, it’s more likely that some portion of them will not engage. I’ve always believed that if every single person would enter into worship with a heart of passion, if the entire congregation was truly unified in worshiping God at the same time, He could not help but answer with some demonstration of His glory like He did in the temple. We should not seek after signs and wonders, we should seek God with all our hearts, but if He should find us fully united in praise, I hope to see His glory fall.
When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He was so famous for His astounding teaching and miracles that the people were wild to have him come. They cut branches from trees and laid their cloaks in the road so his donkey wouldn’t have to touch dirt. They shouted hosanna. They celebrated so much that the entire city was in an uproar. And within days, they were shouting for his death. What happened?
The most obvious reason for the change in attitude is that the Scribes and Pharisees were seeding the crowd with lies. They wanted Jesus dead so they incited a riot. Crowd mentality will follow the loudest voice, so when the cry went up, Crucify Him!, it was picked up willingly by those who wanted to be on the accepted side.
The second reason is that these were people who were not completely sold as to who Jesus was. He was a spectacle, someone who could put on a good show. Amazing things happened around Him and it was amazing to watch, but they never went past that. They never pressed in to find out who He really was. His teachings were hard to understand, yet they listened because He taught with so much authority. But when He was arrested, they joined the accusers because it must have come out that He was on the wrong side after all. If the Scribes and Pharisees said He was bad, then how could you argue against that? These were the people about whom Jesus said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? ” (Matt 17:17)
The third reason was that some truly believed He was the Messiah, but it didn’t go the way they thought it would . When Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, they cried out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11: 10) They thought that David’s kingdom was going to be restored and Jesus would overthrow the Romans. When He was arrested, it shook them. It was as if He failed them, personally, because their understanding of His kingdom was completely flawed.
And so the crowd turned, but after the resurrection, things began to come together. His teaching began to make more sense. And those who cried for His death had to come to terms with the stunning gift of salvation that Jesus came to give.