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Sermon Series

 

September 1, 2013 AD, by Pastor Ben Willis

According to John 7:1-16 [NLTse]

7 After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting His death. 2 But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where Your followers can see Your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if You hide like this! If You can do such wonderful things, show Yourself to the world!” 5 For even His brothers didn’t believe in Him.

6 Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for Me to go, but you can go anytime. 7 The world can’t hate you, but it does hate Me because I accuse it of doing evil. 8 You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because My time has not yet come.” 9 After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.

10 But after His brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.

The Festival of Tabernacles celebrated God’s taking care of the tribes of Israel during their 40-year journey through the wild lands of (what is now) Saudi Arabia and the Sinai Peninsula following the Exodus from Egypt and as they awaited God’s permission to enter the Promised Land. The Jews lived in huts made of branches decorated with garlands of fruits and flowers during the Festival to remind them of His care then and now.

The Festival of Tabernacles was really several celebrations one after the other: The Feast of Trumpets; the solemn Day of Atonement; with the rest of the week being a time of celebration and reveling. The Temple area was illumined by large candlesticks that reminded the people of the guiding pillar of fire; and each day the priests would carry water from the Pool of Siloam and pour it out from a golden vessel, as a reminder of God’s miraculous provision of water from a rock during the wilderness wandering.

It was one of three Festivals that all faithful Jews were required to return to Jerusalem each year to celebrate.

As we’ve seen, for Jesus Christ it was a difficult time, because it marked the beginning of open and combative opposition to Him and His ministry. Ever since He’d healed the paralytic on the Sabbath Day, Jesus had been targeted by the Jewish leaders for death. He had purposely stayed away from Judea, in Galilee where, because it was under Herod Antipas’ authority rather than that Roman, Pontius Pilate, He was safer for the time. But He couldn’t remain in Galilee and also observe the mandatory Feast.

And yet the opposition He faced wasn’t merely from the Jewish leadership. His brothers (Mary and Joseph’s other – natural – children) taunted and mocked Him, teasing and goading Him that He should attend the “big event” to win back the following He’d lost during what they considered to be  His “My body is real food and My blood is real drink” fiasco.

2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” God’s people have always faced opposition and persecution. The prophets were hated, tortured, and killed. History records that ten of Jesus’ disciples were executed for preaching Christ. Tradition says that Simon-Peter insisted on being crucified upside down because he counted himself unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. Yet he wrote, “Be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:14)

The apostle Paul was jailed, beaten, shipwrecked, and stoned numerous times for preaching Christ, but he considered suffering not even worth mentioning compared to knowing Christ and the reward He knew awaited him in Paradise. (See Romans 8:18)

Jesus told us to expect persecution from the world, saying that if they persecuted Him that they would surely persecute His followers also.

Has anyone here ever faced opposition to or been teased because of your faith in Jesus Christ? …

Sure. So if we thought we were alone in it we can now see we’re all in this together.

Yup. There’s a price to pay for the glories and the wonders of Jesus desires to bring with Him into our lives. As a matter of fact, Jesus has said that living with Him and trusting Him will cost us our lives. He said, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake,” (Jesus said) “you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

To follow Jesus Christ – to live trusting Him – means we’ve chosen to die to our own way of doing things. We consider our will, our rights, our passions, and our goals to be crucified on the cross with Him. Our right to direct our own lives is dead to us. And death involves suffering because our “flesh” – our sinful selves – don’t want to die. Dying to self is painful and goes against our natural inclination to seek our own pleasure. But we can’t serve two masters: We can’t follow both Christ and the flesh. (Luke 16:13)

But closely adhering to the teachings of the Bible sets us up for rejection, mockery, loneliness, and even betrayal. If we choose to take a stand for righteousness and biblical truth we all but ensure that we will be misunderstood, mocked, or worse. Even so, Acts 5:41-42 describes the apostles’ reaction after receiving another beating for preaching about Jesus: “The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”

Following Him will cost us our lives. But that’s not the only cost: Living with Jesus and trusting Him may result in the loss of close friendships and relationships, because His presence often brings division between those who follow Him and their families, friends, and other non-believers around them. We see Jesus Himself facing this in His brothers’ sarcasm. I’ve experienced this in friendships at seminary and at my home church and in our old presbytery as Jesus became less of a biblical figure to me and more of a personal friend.

(The One Who is the reason the universe was created and Who holds the entire universe together – your and my friend! Does anyone else here never get used to the reality of that?!)

Of course, living with and trusting Jesus may result in the loss of all our possessions, too. Do you remember the rich man who thought he was good enough to get to Heaven? Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But the young man didn’t invest in Heaven and he didn’t follow Jesus. The Bible says, “He went away, and that he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (Matthew 19:16-22)

Of course, following Jesus doesn’t mean you will lose all your possessions, your family, your friends, and go through horrible suffering. But what Jesus’ is asking us is: Are we willing to, for Him, if that’s what’s necessary?

All that being said, as Christians we need to recognize the value of persecution, and even to rejoice in it, if we would! Because persecution has great spiritual value.

First, persecution allows us to share in a unique fellowship with the Lord. In his letter to the Philippians Paul listed a number of things he’d surrendered for the cause of Christ. But he viewed them all as “rubbish”, “sewage”, “dung” (depending on your translation) when compared to the fellowship he’d come to enjoy with Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:10)

A second value to us in persecution is that the Bible says it’s good for us.

Several of Jesus’ half-brothers came to believe in Him after His resurrection. James and Jude are two who have left us writings among the New Testament letters. And James wrote that trials test our faith, develop endurance in our lives, and help us grow to greater maturity. (1:2-4) Like steel that is tempered in the flames of a forge, trials and persecutions file down the rough edges that tarnish our character.

Yielding graciously to persecution allows us to demonstrate that we are of a superior quality than those coming against us. Like when the Lord teaches us to turn the other cheek or walk a second mile or give away our shirt as well: We may not be able to stop someone from hitting us, but we can show them we are not afraid and that they have not overcome us by offering to let them hit us again; we may not be able to stop someone from making us carry their bags for them, but we can show them they are not our ruler and that we are not their slave by offering to carry their stuff even farther; and, we may not be able to keep someone from stealing our stuff, but we can show them that our stuff doesn’t define us and that they have not taken anything that has any real value to us by offering to give them something else we have as well! (See Matthew 5:38-41)

It’s easy to be hateful. But much more Christ-like to remain calm and to respond in kindness in the face of evil opposition. Of course, this is a tremendous challenge, but we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us and the perfect example of the Lord Jesus and the apostles and many faithful witnesses to encourage us!

Another value of persecution is that it enables us to better appreciate the support of true friends. Conflict sometimes brings faithful Christians together in encouraging and supportive ways they might not have known otherwise. Hardship can move us toward a greater resolve to love and comfort one another and lift one another to God’s throne of grace in prayer. There’s nothing like an unpleasant incident to help the more mature rise toward a greater level of brotherly and sisterly love.

The Lord is especially close to believers during times of persecution, knowing our limits and giving us grace. (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; and, 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9) The Lord gives the Kingdom of Heaven to the persecuted, promising them great rewards in Heaven. (Matthew 5:10-12) And the Lord assures us that even opposition and our persecutions will work out for our good, shaping our character and bringing Himself glory through us. (Romans 8:28)

Surely the rewards far outweigh the cost of living with, trusting, and following Jesus Christ!

Let’s close with these words from Simon-Peter: “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps.

“He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, Who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25)



August 25, 2013 AD, by Pastor Ben Willis

When evening came after the Lord Jesus fed the five thousand plus, His disciples took a boat to the other of the Lake where Jesus later followed them walking on the water. The next day, the crowds He’d fed looked for Him and, crossing the lake, arrived in Capernaum…

John 6:25-40 [NLTse]

25 They found Him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given Me the seal of His approval.”

28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.”

30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if You want us to believe in You. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from Heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from Heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true bread from Heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the One Who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

35 Jesus replied, “I AM the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in Me even though you have seen Me.37 However, those the Father has given Me will come to Me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from Heaven to do the will of God Who sent Me, not to do My Own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given Me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is My Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Sermon

Those of you ladies involved in aerobic-type working out will recognize these hand-weights. When you first get started you use these little weights to work you out with, but after a while these weights become too easy for you and you go on to heavier weights so that you keep having to work. And then when they become easy she got these to keep working….

Us men do the same things. To keep our muscles working and growing we start off with one size weight and when those become easy we go to heavier weights to keep us having to work. And all of us, male and female, exercise buffs know that as you keep working out that what used to be work at one time tends to become easy, and then you have to keep increasing the weight and keep increasing the weight to keep yourself working and growing and growing and growing.

In our reading this morning from John, the crowds have been following Jesus around. He’s been teaching them, He’s been healing them, He’s been feeding them. And they want more. And Jesus says to them, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs.” You can hear Him saying, “You don’t want Me, you just want the stuff I can give you!” And so He tells them, “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you! For God the Father has given Me the seal of His approval!”

But we human beings can oftentimes hear – not what the one speaking to us is actually saying, but – what we think he or she is saying. And in Jesus’ statement the crowds seem to hear Him saying, “I’m all about giving you stuff! So far I’ve given you physical stuff. But, here, let Me give you spiritual stuff, too!” And so they reply, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

But they’re still just focused on stuff: Whether it’s the cool stuff He’ll give them or the cool stuff He’ll give them to do, it’s still just all about stuff and it’s still just all about them! So Jesus says, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.” And today, we, too, can be tempted to make our relationship with Jesus just all about the stuff He might give us; and we, as well, can be tempted to make it just all about us. But Jesus says, uuu “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness!” Jesus says, “Make it about Me! And when you do I’ll fulfill your deepest desires and you’ll always have everything you need.” “Believe!”

Let me take a minute to teach you all a little Greek before we go on from here. Because in English we use words like “believe” one way, usually when talking about something going on in our heads, like giving mental assent, we say: “I believe you.” But we use words like “trust” and say “have faith” to mean something a bit different, usually having to do with our attitudes and our actions: “Trust Him,” we say, and when we do we’re encouraging each other to act differently because of that trust; or we say, “have faith,” but, again, we’re meaning to let our faith change the way we’re acting or responding in a circumstance.

But in Greek uuu “believe”, “trust”, and “have faith” all translate the same verb: ??????? (P?st-yoo-?).

My favorite way of understanding the difference between the way we use these words in English and the way they were used in Jesus’-day is to look at a math equation. Let’s take 4+4. uuu

Now, 4+4=8. And I can believe that. But in Western culture we have this idea that I can believe that 4+4=8 while writing that 4+4=9 on my tax return. And we say that that’s okay “because that’s how I was raised” or “because that feels right to me”. We have this idea in Western culture that one can believe something without our necessarily having to bring our actions into line with it. “Of course I believe in Jesus,” people will say, without being concerned at all about who Jesus is, what Jesus taught, and how Jesus modeled for us to live and has called us to live following Him.

But not in Greek. No. When Jesus calls us to pist-yoo-o

He is calling us to believe Him as well as to believe in Him;

He’s calling us to trust what He’s spoken and to act on His words;

He is calling us to be convinced of what He’s told us and to do our part to have our thoughts, our feelings, our words, and our actions reflect what He’s told us;

trusting Him so that we’ll be what He’s told us to be and do what He’s told us to do!

And that’s why Jesus says that pist-yoo-o-ing can be work, because there is often opposition to believing Him – pist-yoo-o-ing Him. Because our family might not want the truth to come out. Because our boyfriend might not want us to save sex for marriage. Because our business partner might not want us to report everything to the IRS. Because our daughter might want us to buy her immodest clothes. Because our realtor may encourage us to tell a little “white” lie. There can be opposition to pist-yoo-o-ing – to actively believing – as Jesus calls us to. And that’s why He recognizes that it can be work.

Believing can be work when money’s tight and you don’t want to tithe. Believing can be work when you don’t want to forgive the other person or ask for their forgiveness. Believing can be work when others around you seem to have so much and you feel like you have so little, and when everything you worked so hard for is falling apart around you: It can be work to believe.

Because it’s easy for worriers to worry, but it can be work for worriers to cast their cares on the Lord and trust Him through a situation. It’s easy for control-freaks to control, but it can be work for control-freaks to surrender and wait to see what God provides. It’s easy for addicts to work or drink or eat or use or whatever is the addict’s addiction, but it can be work for addicts to face their fears and anxieties and the disappointments of life un-medicated. When we hear that someone’s been talking about us it’s easy to believe that rumor and respond in whatever way, but it can be work to meet with the person or persons involved to get the facts. It’s easy to make a promise and keep it as long as the promise suits us, but it can be work to keep our promises even when they start to be inconvenient and hurt. It’s easy to do those things we want to do or remember to do, but it can be work to do what’s necessary to keep track of our commitments and do every-(even-little)-thing we’ve said we’d do. It can be work, but all of these things and so much more is what believing – pist-yoo-o-iing – in Jesus is all about.

“Don’t just listen to God’s Word,” James writes. “You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” (1:22) That’s pist-yoo-o-ing.  “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to Hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:14) That’s the way of pist-yoo-o-ing.

And, of course, all of this is why the apostle Paul’s can make his famous statement in his letter To the Romans that, uuu “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God Who forgives sinners,” (Romans 4:5) because Paul’s not talking about some head-knowledge cut off from attitudes and actions that live it out, Paul is making clear that “people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their pist-yoo-o-ing in God Who forgives sinners.” And so James can write, not that works make one faithful, but uuu that faith, “Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (2:17) “Pist-yoo-o in Me”, Jesus says.

And it can be tempting to avoid God’s Word – never reading the Bible ourselves, not being a part of a Bible Study, not making a priority of Worship – thinking that then we don’t have to face, thinking we won’t be held accountable for, what “believing in Jesus” really means and calls us to. And yet until we jump in the pool and start practicing swimming, water will always seem too much for us. And until we start doing the work that Jesus has told us that believing in Him can be, it may always seem hard and forbidding.

Of course, what’s work for me may be easy for you, and what’s easy for me might be work for you. So what’s work for each of us may be different.

But with swimming and weightlifting and anything we’re good at, and love doing, now that we had to first work at and apply ourselves to learn how to and grow to be able to do it: What might start out as challenging and frightening and too much for us, over time, as we exercise our faith and grow to more and more have the heart and mind of Christ; as we obey God’s Word and go about the “work of believing”; that which was once “work” grows to be “easy”; and what we once did by sheer duty, we grow to do out of sheer joy; and what we once did fearfully and self-consciously, now we begin doing seeing that it’s part of God’s calling on our lives, and recognizing it’s part of what God made us and called us in Christ to be!



August 18, 2013 AD by Pastor Ben Willis

According to John 6:53-69 [NLTse]

53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father Who sent Me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from Heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”

59 He said these things while He was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60 Many of His disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”

61 Jesus was aware that His disciples were complaining, so He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to Heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and He knew who would betray Him.) 65 Then He said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to Me unless the Father gives them to Me.”

66 At this point many of His disciples turned away and deserted Him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”

[Preach from behind the Lord’s Table]

In the middle of the 16th century, during the brief five-year reign of Queen Mary I of England – whom history has sometimes called, “Bloody Mary” – 288 Protestant Reformers were burned at the stake. Of these, one was an archbishop, four were bishops, twenty-one were clergymen, fifty-five were women, and 4 were children. Why were they burned by the Roman Catholic Queen? There was one central issue: The meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

Here are the words of Anglican Bishop John Charles Ryle to explain: “The doctrine in question was the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. Did they, or did they not believe that the body and blood of Christ were really, that is corporally, literally, locally, and materially, present under the forms of bread and wine after the words of consecration were pronounced? Did they or did they not believe that the real body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, was present on the so-called altar so soon as the mystical words had passed the lips of the priest? Did they or did they not? That was the simple question. If they did not believe and admit it, they were burned.

I share this history of the martyrdom of those who denied that the physical body of Christ was really there in the form of bread and wine to show that there was once a time when the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper carried meanings that were very important: Worth dying for! And some thought, worth killing for…

Let’s open our Bibles to the passage Joe just read, or, if you’re already there, look with me at those first verses, 53-58…

Jesus is speaking here about His upcoming sacrifice: The Gospel of John does not include Jesus’ dialogue about the Passover bread being His body and the Passover’s Cup of Salvation being His blood the way the other three Gospels do. No. As far as John was concerned, it was during this sermon while Jesus was preaching in Capernaum, that Jesus best made clear the fullness of the meaning of the Passover meal, that He best made clear what He was going to accomplish on the cross, and that He best made clear what would actually be taking place when His followers and brothers and sisters – for centuries to come, even through to today – would be doing when celebrating “Communion”, “Eucharist”, “the Lord’s Supper”. According to John, the Lord Jesus made all that clear here in this sermon even better than He had when He’d told them about it around that Passover table!

John the Baptist called Jesus, “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world”. Though it’s a foreign idea to us today, those listening to Jesus preach in the congregation at Capernaum that Sabbath knew that when you offered a sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem that part of offering your sacrifice was eating the part of the sacrifice the priest gave back to you, as a part of your participation in the sacrifice.

As we’ve already said, Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ words during the Passover celebration saying of the Passover bread and cup, “This is My body; this is My blood”. And though Jesus is not referring to the Passover Feast here but to the sacrifices offered at the Temple in Jerusalem, even so, likewise He is calling His disciples to eat Him and drink Him… Only if we eat of Him, only if we drink of Him, He says, can He be our sacrifice, can we participate in His sacrifice and have the fullness of His saving work applied to us.

Now, I’m going to pause for a second here because Jesus seems to pause here. And I want to invite us to wrestle for a second with what Jesus first laid before those worshipers in Capernaum that day, and, by the Holy Spirit, what He lays before us today: [Pick up the bread and the cup] We are not eating bread or drinking grape juice here. I mean, we are, of course. But ultimately, if we have trusted in Jesus Christ and are living our lives for Him, by the Holy Spirit we are eating of His sacrifice and we are drinking of His sacrifice. That’s how we participate in His sacrifice: We share in it by eating the portions the priest gives back to us. And Jesus, our great High Priest, has given back to us this bread and this grape juice. (Or unfermented wine, some have called it.)

So I ask you: When you are served the bread, are you eating the sacrifice Jesus became for you on the cross? When you are served the unfermented wine – the grape juice – and we lift it up into the air, saying, “L’chaim! To abundant Life!” are you drinking the sacrifice Jesus became for you on the cross?

Let’s look at the next section of our reading: Verses 59-65…

After dropping this crazy, cannibalistic-sounding bombshell on His followers, only then does Jesus make clear that He’s been talking about spiritual things and not physical things with what He’s been saying. “The Spirit gives life,” He says, “the flesh means nothing.” So it’s not the physical eating of lamb parts, or eating Jesus’ arm or leg, or even eating bread or wine that means anything. What gives life – true, everlasting life – is the spiritual realities these parts and pieces we are eating symbolize!

Why were Protestants martyred by Queen “bloody” Mary? Because they believed the bread and wine to be physical symbols of spiritual grace!

And, just so! The Lord Jesus is making clear here that He’s talking about spiritual things, because only spiritual things can truly give life! But of course, He says, a person must believe these things to be true in order to obtain the abundant, eternal Life they produce. And He makes clear that it’s only the Father Who grants people that kind of faith, the faith to trust in, and live for, Jesus Christ…

And again, let’s stop here, because Jesus seems to, again, have stopped here.

During that first part He said that His flesh was real food and that His blood was real drink. And here in this second part He’s said how that can be so, because it’s not about the bread or unfermented wine, it wasn’t about the bull or the lambs or the goat parts those Temple worshipers offered and ate to participate in, either. Physical things can’t produce the abundant, eternal kind of Life the Father is offering us in Jesus Christ! There’s a spiritual reality going on behind the scenes in this bread and cup we give thanks for and ask the Father’s blessing on. We see bread and wine or juice, but in the heavenly places the angels (and the demons, grinding their yellow teeth about it, I’m sure) they see Jesus’ sacrifice: The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world!

So I ask you: Once you’ve eaten this bread, after you’ve drunk from this cup, do your sins still worry you? Do you think your sins still separate you from God? If you’ve truly participated in a sacrifice for sins, that cannot be! So I ask you: Once you’ve eaten, after you’ve drunk, do you know your sins have been forgiven? Do you know that you’ve been washed – for today, for all eternity! – white as snow in the eyes of God?

Isn’t that worth dying for? Isn’t that worth living for?