There is nothing we do as a church that proclaims the grace of God more clearly than communion. Each month we take it together as a community, and we regularly have it available in our services for individuals to take as they feel the need. We do this because Jesus told us to do this in remembrance of Me. When we take the bread and cup were reminded of His cross. Its His invitation to each of us to lay hold of His mercy. No matter how long weve been a Christian we need that mercy over and over again, because theres still a war going on inside us between our flesh and our spirit. And even the best of us yields to the flesh in some measure in moments of temptation or conflict. Which gives the enemy many opportunities to bring condemnation and cause us to hide from God in shame.
Knowing this would happen, Jesus left these powerful symbols to remind us of His abundant grace. Each time we take the bread and cup there is a fresh opportunity to confess our sins, hand them to Him, and let Him carry them away from us. He wants us to live in the peace and joy of a clean conscience, but He also wants us to remember that we always need His grace. Without it, every one of us will quickly fall under condemnation. He wants us to remember that and to depend on His cross
and then He wants us to give that same grace to others.
The Last Supper (Lk 22:7-20)
Heres where it all began
The flesh and the Spirit (Gal 5:13-25)
There is within every believer two distinct forces:
1) One is the pressure of our flesh. These are the cravings and emotions that arise from our bodies, and by flesh Paul also means the thoughts that go through our minds which come from our old way of thinking, not from our redeemed spirit. Some thoughts are planted in our minds by the enemy to harass us (Eph 6:16). All of us have to cope with these influences, but recognizing their source is a very important step in gaining victory over them.
2) The other distinct force within a believer is the Holy Spirit who has come to live within us as His holy temple. He wont drive or torment us like our flesh does. He must be sought out and listened to. But His power to change us is far greater than the power of the flesh.
Heres how Paul describes these two inner forces to the churches in Galatia:
Gal 5:17 In this verse Paul describes the struggle a believer faces. The flesh presses us to do one thing, while our redeemed spirit wants to do Gods will. If a person does not learn how to walk by the Spirit (v16), that person will fall prey to the flesh and will not be able to obey God as they want to.
Gal 5:19-21 When I yield to the impulses of my flesh, or listen to the fleshy thoughts that come from my old way of thinking these are the type of things I will do: fornication, uncleanness, insolent disregard of decency, idolatry, sorcery, hating enemies, quarrels, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, divisions, false teachings, envy, drunkenness, partying.
Gal 5:22, 23 When I draw close to God and obey His Word, these are the emotions I will feel and the actions I will take: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.
Gal 5:24 When I became a Christian I made a decision to completely stop yielding to the impulses of my flesh. This is the decision of my heart: I want to please God and be with Him forever.
Gal 5:25 This decision means I must learn to refuse to yield to the impulses of my flesh and follow the leading of the Spirit on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis.
My new realities
Because I have repented and believed in Jesus Christ, here are spiritual realities at work in my life:
1) The Holy Spirit lives within me and doesnt leave when I sin.
2) My human spirit (the essential me) has chosen to love God and obey Him. I want to please Him. I am not a rebel.
3) My flesh hasnt changed one bit. Its just as nasty as its ever been.
4) I am often confronted by pressure from my flesh to do the wrong thing.
5) It is easy to yield to the flesh, but it requires real effort to listen to the Spirit and obey.
6) I cant obey God without Gods help. I have to be in the Spirit to obey the Spirit.
Drawing close to Him becomes part of the routine of my day, and is something I refresh throughout the day.
7) When I am under pressure, my flesh will inevitably become involved at some level.
In virtually no interaction with others, in no attitude, am I completely pure.
If I allow the Holy Spirit to inspect my heart I will discover I was less right than I thought, that I contributed to the problem more than I realized.
8) My integrity is tested the moment the Holy Spirit shows me this. Will I acknowledge what I have seen in myself, or will I instantly push that thought away? Will I accept guilt for making a bad choice, or will I transfer that guilt to others by blaming them, or deciding that what I did was not significant because they were worse than me?
9) If I accept the conviction of the Spirit then I must process that guilt Biblically. I must not allow shame to creep in.
Shame is a lie the enemy will always whisper. He will tell me that my spirit does not love God or want to obey Him, that I am essentially an evil person, that my bad choices arise from my heart, not my flesh.
If I accept this lie, a wall will come up between God and me. I will be seized by a feeling of self-hatred and hopelessness, of spiritual exhaustion. I will want to hide from people and God.
10) The Bible guides me in how to process my guilt:
I must admit to those actions or attitudes that arose from my flesh, not from the Holy Spirit.
I must place the guilt for what I did onto Jesus Christ, giving it to Him and completely letting go (scapegoat).
I must confess that my guilt is completely forgiven and forgotten (Jer 31:34; Heb 8:12). This does not mean I wont go and apologize or make restitution if possible.
I must confess that my salvation, my relationship with God, did not change for a moment, even though I yielded to my flesh. By His Spirit He has disciplined me as a child whom He loves, but He has not rejected me.
Heres how Jesus explained this truth to His disciples: Jn 13:1-10. Then He went on to serve them the Last Supper (communion).
11) Then with a fresh awareness of the grace I have received, I freely give that same grace to others. I refuse to condemn them as evil people. I recognize they are struggling with their flesh just as I am, that I need to be patient and choose to love them in spite of their weakness.
As we prepare ourselves to take the symbols of Jesus broken body and shed blood, lets let the Holy Spirit bring to mind those areas where our flesh took control, so we can admit them to God, place the guilt on Jesus Christ, and completely let go.
1) Explain what it feels like when the Holy Spirit convicts you of something you did or thought that was wrong.
2) Explain what it feels like when the devil condemns you for something you did or thought that was wrong.
3) Have you ever heard of a Life Transformation Group? If not, ask someone to explain the process for you and look for a bookmark in the foyer.