Think Richly Upon Jesus

This morning I came across the video of a question and answer session from the conclusion of a Ligonier Ministries Conference.  Sounds riveting, I know. In fact, it was quite informative, covering a wide variety of questions from the audience with thoughtful and pastoral answers.  One of the final questions to the panel was a powerful one, “What is the greatest threat to the Church today?”  Before reading further, how would you answer the question yourself?

We might be given to answer that it is the cultural conflicts the church is facing today that pose the biggest challenge to the Church.  Or we might answer it is the tendency toward compromise in the basic teachings of the church to become more “relevant” to the world around us. Some might even argue that it is still the “Worship Wars” which threaten the church today, the long argument over the style and content of our worship, particularly the music of worship.

While these are all important challenges that the church faces today, interestingly, that is not where the panelist focused in their answers.

The first response to what the biggest challenge facing the church today was “Not preaching the gospel.”  By this he meant losing a love for and trust in the life changing message of salvation in Jesus Christ.  Becoming tired of the word, looking for worldly means to supplement the preaching of the gospel, this the challenge the church faces.

The second response was “That I lose my love or passion for Jesus.”  The panelist clarified by saying it is not that he would deny his faith, but that he would grow cold and indifferent in his affections toward Christ. This, he said, is the greatest challenge the church faces.

The third panelist said the biggest challenge the church faces is that we would have a “shallow perception of who God is; that we would take God casually.”

Notice the common thread in all of these responses?  They are all internal, not external threats to the church.  The greatest threat to the life of the church today is not the existential, philosophical, or political climate in which the church finds itself today.  It is the threat of losing our love for Jesus.

This is the charge that the Lord brought against the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”  Losing this love for Christ is disastrous for the church, and threatens her witness and very life. Jesus even said, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent.”

How do we maintain a love for Christ?

I think it begins by thinking richly upon Christ and all that He is.

Think of His glory

Consider the glory of Christ the Lord:

(John 1:1–3) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

(Colossians 1:15–20) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

(Hebrews 1:3–4)He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

That’s just a few of the passages of Scripture that make much of the glory and splendor of Christ.  If there is any deficiency in our love and adoration of Christ, it is not because he lacks any worth, but because we think too little of his worth.  Consider the wonder of who Christ is, and let His glory fuel your affection.

Think of His love

Another way to maintain our love for Christ is to consider Christ’s love

He loved the Father.  In John 14:31 Jesus says, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”  He lived in perfect obedience to the Father, accomplishing the work of salvation for which the Father had sent him.

Not only did Jesus love the Father perfectly, he also loved his people perfectly.  Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14–15).

Considering Christ’s life for us brings us into richer fellowship with hm. Ephesians 3:17–19 prays for us, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Think of His sacrifice/suffering

If we consider his love, we must also consider the depth to which he came to demonstrate or prove that love for us.

(John 3:16)“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

(2 Corinthians 5:21)For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

(Romans 3:23–25)for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

(1 Peter 3:18)For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

In the powerful hymn of Isaac Watts we sing

Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Think of His coming in power

Thinking richly on the glory of Christ, his love and his sacrifice, are sufficient enough to fan the flames of our love for Christ.  But consider also his coming for the church in power.  He has not left us or abandoned us, but has poured our his Spirit upon the Church.  He has not ceased from his work for the Church, but continues to intercede for the Church at the right hand of God.  One day, he will return for his bride, and bring all the faithful unto himself, that where he is, we shall be also.

(John 14:3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

(Revelation 22:12–13) “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

(1 Thessalonians 4:16–17) For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Think richly upon Christ. Look to him who is the author and finisher of your faith.  Think of Christ in his glory, in his love, in his suffering, and in his soon-coming for the church. May your consideration of Christ renew and keep your love for him!

SDG

Do This

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19

I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase lately.  Whenever we gather at the Table in worship, the bread is broken, the cup is poured out, and we hear the words of our Savior saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  We hear these words, we see the signs, and we are reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for our Salvation.  His body was broken, his blood poured out, in order to bear the wrath of God against our sins which He bore on the cross, that we should be reconciled to God and born again unto new and eternal life.

At the Table we are reminded that Christ is the only source of life, and that there is no life without Him.  In John 6 we read, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my mood abides in me, and I in Him.”  Of course, this isn’t a call to cannibalism.  Rather, Jesus is telling us that we make take Him in by trusting and believing in Him and in His atoning death.  Neither is Jesus teaching that merely pulling up to the table and eating the bread and drinking the cup will give you life.  Instead, it is through abiding in Christ, and trusting and resting in Him alone that we find life, forgiveness, strength, and peace.

So we gather at the Table. Christ commands us to “Do this in remembrance,” and so we break bread together and remember Christ’s sacrifice for our Salvation. We see the grace of God evidenced in our communion with Him and with one another. We “do this in remembrance” of Him.

But is that all that is meant by that phrase? Is that instruction tied only to the Table? Is it possible that “do this” could also mean “be broken, yourselves”?

I don’t mean to suggest in any way that Christ is calling us to try to repeat His atoning work. If that were possible, why would he have had to die in the first place.  His death accomplished our salvation, His resurrection secured our justification.  Nothing more could be added to this perfect and complete work.

But are we not also called to a certain brokenness?  The apostle Paul describes his own life as being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith” (Phil 2:17), and even “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).  Now Paul couldn’t be saying that Christ’s suffering was deficient in any way for our salvation, for he had just written of Christ saying, “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20).  What was “lacking” in Christ’s afflictions was the ongoing manifestation, the sharing in the sufferings of Christ, “carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10).  We share in Christ’s sufferings, we lay down our lives daily and take up the cross, we “do this in remembrance” so that His goodness, His love, His grace may be made known in us.

How then are we broken for others?  It is certainly seen in the persecution of the faithful; but it is not limited to such extremes.  Could not our brokenness in remembrance also be seen as we give sacrificially to support missions and the ongoing ministry of the church?  I’m not talking about giving up that extra latte each week – the luxury items you could live without – but genuinely giving sacrificially for the benefit of others. This is the type of giving that Paul honors when writing about the Macedonian churches who gave “beyond their means, of their own accord, begging … earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor 8:3-4).

But let’s get beyond money. Are not our lives to be broken, poured out, for the sake of others around us?  Are you investing in, pouring yourself out to, another person?  Are you sharing your faith with those who do not know God, and encouraging the faith of other believers?  The old hymn goes

Did Christ over sinners weep,
and shall our cheeks be dry?

If Christ was broken for the salvation of his people, and we are called to follow Him, shall we not be broken also in remembrance of Him?

The next time you gather at the Table, eat and drink in remembrance of Him. But don’t leave it there.  When you walk from that table into the world around you, be broken with Him, that all may see and wonder at the amazing grace of His redeeming love.