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Life Ministry

Talking to Your Kids about the Sacraments

Parents, you have probably wondered where you begin when it comes to talking to your kids about sex and drugs and choosing friends and why nothing good happens in Taco Bell’s parking lot after 11pm. I know I have. But have you ever wondered how to talk to them about baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

In this post, I want to think through how we can talk to our kids about the sacraments. It’s one thing to explain them as something Jesus told us to do. It’s another to talk about them in a holistic, gospel-centered way so that they are seen as much more than mere memorials. If we can do this well, by God’s grace, they will become what God intended them to be for us and our kids: means of grace that cultivate vibrant, spiritual life.

Let me suggest three emphases to tether ourselves to as we think about and discuss the sacraments with our kids (or anyone for that matter!). There are certainly other things the sacraments emphasize, but these three are most critical in my mind.

  1. Gospel on Display. When the sacraments are rightly taught, administered, and received, we are dramatizing the gospel. Baptism points to Jesus passing through the waters of death, only to rise again to new life. It is God’s confirmation that we have risen from spiritual death and one day will rise bodily from the grave. The Lord’s supper points to Jesus’ being given up for us and our participation in his life and death and with his people all over the world. Furthermore, in an age that is increasingly visual, our kids may often ask, “Why can’t God give us something to see to prove himself, to prove his love?” The truth is, he has: he has given us water, bread, and wine–three very physical, tangible, visual elements to demonstrate the gospel to us.
  2. Body and Soul. Because God has given us physical means (water, bread, and wine) to understand spiritual realities, the sacraments teach us that God cares about all of us, body and soul. It reminds us that we will forever be embodied souls.  Baptism and the Supper both give physical form to our faith. Since we are embodied souls, we need a way to sacramentalize our faith (i.e. use physical means to point to spiritual reality). The sacraments teach us that God loves our bodies and values materiality–after all, he made everything material! We don’t worship our bodies as god; we don’t reject them as gross; but we rejoice that our bodies are to be stewarded as a gift because of Christ who gave up his own body that our soul and body might be redeemed.
  3. A New Family. The sacraments are for God’s new covenant people: his sons and daughters who were redeemed by the blood of his Son. When we are baptized, we are initiated into a new family, God’s family. We now have new allegiance. Our first allegiance is no longer to our parents, children, aunts, uncles, or even a spouse. It is to God and his people, the Church. Baptism is therefore for those who are united to Christ and have God as their Father. The Lord’s Table is a family meal and outsiders are not welcomed. This is a visible sign to the world that there are insiders and outsiders. It is a visible sign to our children that only belief in Jesus opens up the door for us to come to this meal. In light of these things, we must model for our children priorities that are in accord with the gospel and our sacramental faith. Where and how are we spending our time, money, energy, words, etc.? If we really are members of a new family, it will show in our lives.

What other things do the sacraments emphasize?

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Theology

This I Believe: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ appointed two ordinances/sacraments to be observed by his church until his coming: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is the immersion of the believer in water into the name of the Triune God and is connected with entrance into the new covenant community. The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus Christ to commemorate his death and is connected with ongoing covenant renewal.

Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Cor. 11:23-26

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Theology

This I Believe: God’s New People

God’s New People
I believe that from all eternity, God ordained to redeem and justify a multitude of guilty sinners by grace through faith in Jesus Christ from all ages from every tribe, language, people, and nation. He has set his love on this people for no other reason than that he loves them. God’s new covenant people make up the universal church, the body of Christ. The universal church manifests itself in local churches, of which Christ is the Head. Local churches are gatherings of this new people who observe baptism and the Lord’s Supper and exercise the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by God’s word. The primary mission of the church is to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, making disciples of all nations. The church’s only proper offices are elders and deacons. God’s new people are not only justified by grace through faith but also sanctified by grace through faith. Above all, God’s new people must be characterized by love for God and love for people. They are to be salt and light in the world and holy in all their conduct.

Deut. 7:7-8; Matt. 5:13-16; 22:37; 28:19-20; Acts 2:38, 42-47; 26:18; Rom. 3:20-28; 8:1, 34; 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Gal. 3:1-7; Eph. 1:22-23; 2:19-22; Col. 1:18; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-16; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 2:9-10; Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9-17; 21:2-3

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Life Theology

The Lord’s Table on Good Friday

For the Christian, the Lord’s Supper is about covenant renewal. When we partake of the Table together, we are dramatizing the gospel: Jesus body and blood given for us. It is a reminder of what Jesus has done for us–a means of grace to reinforce our faith in him.

Often times, before communion (another name for the Lord’s Supper) Christians try to “get right with God” and confess every known sin. We beat ourselves up, feeling that if we wash our conscience, then we will be “worthy” to approach the Table. We think that Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:27-24, when he says not partake in an “unworthy manner,” mean that we need to clean up before showing up. But Paul isn’t writing about cleaning ourselves up; he is writing to people who are making a mockery of the Supper. The Lord’s Super is about Christ’s humble, self-sacrifice for us. The Corinthians were cutting in line for more bread and getting drunk on the wine (vv.20-21). Put simply: the Corinthians were making the supper about them, instead of making it about what Jesus has done and using it as an opportunity to serve others in the church.

When Paul says each person should “examine himself” (v. 28) he is essentially saying, “Realize that this is about the unselfish, atoning death of Jesus. If you get this, it changes your life. It makes you more humble, more serving, more loving, more others-oriented and less narcissistic. Come to the Table in this manner.”

Therefore, when you are ready to partake tonight, do not beat yourself up. Do not try to confess every known sin. Do not stay back until you “feel good” about your status with God. Do not try to “clean up” before showing up.

But wait! What about all the dirt left behind? Sure, we have idols. Brokenness. Wounds. But that is why we joyfully acknowledge that the Lord’s Supper is about the unselfish, atoning death of Jesus. He took all of our sin and shame on the cross and washed it away.  He removed the wrath of God and brought everlasting favor. Now daily he is washing us–because we are already washed.

Confess, yes. Repent, yes. Preach to your heart that Jesus has paid it all, yes. If you are entangled in grievous sin, pray with the elders (James 5:14-16). But you cannot get more right with God than you are in Christ. Hebrews 10:14 tells us, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Ephesians 2:6 says, “[God] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” You are already perfect in Christ. God can’t love you more than he already does if you are connected to him by faith in Jesus. Lay hold of God’s grace by faith and rejoice!

So how do we approach the Lord’s Supper? The same way we approach God daily: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). God has washed our consciences clean with the blood of his Son. We can’t get cleaner than we are now.

If you are not a Christian, and you attend a service tonight, then sit back and watch the live-action drama of the gospel. Watch people eat and drink and cherish the fact that Jesus gave up his very life so that they might never taste eternal death. If you partake of the Supper but are not connected to God by faith in Jesus, you will be guilty of eating and drinking in an unworthy manner because you would be doing something with your body that you don’t believe with your heart.

But you don’t have to be guilty. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:35, 37).

Christians and non-Christian need the same thing. Communion doesn’t save us; Jesus does. Christians must confess that Jesus is our only hope and he has washed us clean. Non-Christians must confess that Jesus is their only hope and only he can wash them clean. Feast on him as your supreme Treasure. Come with all your warts, all your wounds, all your dirt. Acknowledge that he paid it all on the cross and that you don’t need to clean up before you show up. Then partake of the Supper in order to proclaim and rejoice with all the saints that the Lord’s death is our only hope until he comes back (1 Cor. 11:26).

Categories
Ministry Theology

Martin Luther and the Lord’s Supper

In his short chapter “Of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper” in Table Talk, Martin Luther challenges the Roman Catholic view of how the sacrament (i.e. communion, Lord’s Supper, the Table) is administered. This short chapter does not tell us everything that Luther believed about the Lord’s Supper, but it points to his general convictions.

Luther’s Issue with the Church
The root of Luther’s critique of the administration of the Lord’s Supper in the Catholic Church is not in the administration of the sacrament itself. His critique is primarily concerned with the false authority that the church places on its bishops. For Luther, the root issue was apostolic succession. Apostles were elected by God, whereas bishops are appointed by man. Apostles never had “supremacy” over another and neither should priests, especially over the church and the sacrament.

As for the administration of the sacrament itself, Luther takes issue with “elevation,” at which point the body and blood of Christ is transubstantiated through the priests words hoc est corpus meum (“this is my body”). Luther calls this doctrine “mere idolatry.” Luther still believed Christ’s presence is somehow in the elements, but not because of the priest’s words. It is rather through Christ’s word and institution that he is present in the bread and cup. Therefore, Luther fights against the meaning behind the practice, while not finding it necessary to change the tradition itself.

This immediately gets the modern evangelical’s blood boiling. Jesus literally in the bread and cup! No! It is true, for Luther does not dispute the fact that Christ is somehow present in the elements; it is simply not the priest’s words that cause Christ’s presence to be there. Luther believes that Jesus body and blood are in the “present administering, although they may be understood as fulfilled on the cross.”

Unlike the Catholic priests, who believed that the Lord’s Supper gave grace through performing the act, Luther held that it was for “the strengthening of our faith, not doubting that Christ’s body and blood were given and shed for us, and that our sins by Christ’s death certainly are forgiven.” In short, Luther believed that the fruit of the sacrament was the assurance of forgiveness. He did not believe the sacrament was the cause of grace.

Why does this matter for us today?
The contemporary evangelical will rightly fire back at Luther for his lack of haste to completely repudiate the doctrine of transubstantiation. At the same time, evangelicals can praise God that Luther resisted Rome’s claim to apostolic succession and supreme authority in faith and practice, as well as the Church’s insistence on grace/salvation through/by works. Still, evangelicals can view the Lord’s Supper, with Luther, as solely for sinners who are desperate for grace and find, at the Table, an opportunity to proclaim Jesus’ death for them once again—and continually until he returns (1 Cor. 11:26). Despite the fact that we do not hold to transubstantiation, we can, with Luther, wholeheartedly agree that the Supper is connected to ongoing covenant renewal in the gospel, providing a means of grace to reinforce repentance to and faith in Jesus.