Romans 6:4: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.” NASB
OBSERVATION: What do I bring to the Cross? What do I have to offer Jesus? When I partake of Communion, the Lord’s Supper, how do I do this in a worthy manner?
I don’t usually have dreams that I remember or are more than just a collage of past memories and events. However, this morning I woke up early following a dream that made a powerful impact on my life. It was a dream about communion. This dream made me rethink how I approach the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians writes about their misuse of the Love Feast, or the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion. He writes,
- “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a person must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-28
While my dream is by no means greater than the revelation of Scripture, like Peter’s dream in the book of Acts my dream has brought some clarity to a common misunderstanding that I have labored under and have carried with me to the communion table.
In my dream, I was at the church I pastored (actually it was a composite of all the churches I had pastored). There were familiar faces from the past 40-plus years. I was not supposed to be at church this Sunday so there were many people who were filling in for me that morning.
Arriving unexpectantly, in the middle of the Sunday School hour, I noticed that they were preparing to celebrate communion. The wafers had been distributed and everyone was holding an empty cup because they could not find the grape juice. When they saw me they asked me if I would lead communion and I gladly agreed.
My first thought was – we need grape juice! I scanned the tables and noticed a grape cocktail fruit drink but no pure grape juice. I asked them to use this and we began to fill the cups. Then, I felt unprepared and asked for a moment to prepare my thoughts. What would I say? How would I lead them in a meaningful time of remembrance?
I remembered some old wood that was at the back of the church. I quickly grabbed some tools and began to cut and prepare a small old rugged cross. It was a race against the clock as the Sunday School hour was quickly approaching the end. They kept asking me – “Are you ready?” I replied – “Just one more minute!” When I tried to put the cross together it broke and all I had in my hands were broken pieces of wood.
As I approached the platform I felt discouraged and realized I still had nothing to share before partaking of the elements. As I shot out a desperate prayer to the Lord I felt the Holy Spirit speak these words to my heart.
You have nothing to bring to the cross!
Then it hit me. I have nothing to bring to the cross! Oh, how often I think that I have something to bring to Jesus. Yet, like Paul, when I genuinely examine myself, I realize that all my righteousness, past, present, or future, is nothing but filthy rags. When I came to the cross, and when I come to the cross, I must come just as I am. I must remember that there is nothing within me that is needed.
This is what it means to examine ourselves. This is why Paul focused so much on our union with Christ on the cross. We come to the cross to die. We leave the cross to live. We come to the cross with nothing to offer. We leave the cross with Jesus. We come to the cross clothed in filthy rags. We leave the cross clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
When I begin to believe that my righteousness has anything to do with me I have begun to exhume the old man from the grave and put on my old dirty rags once again. Communion reminds me that it is all Jesus. My life is in Jesus. My strength is in Jesus. My righteousness is in Jesus. He is my all in all.
This does not mean that I purposefully go out and sin realizing that all I need to do is come to the communion table to reload with God’s grace and forgiveness so that I can repeat the process. Paul addresses this misconception of grace and the cross.
- “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Far from it! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” Romans 6:1-3 NASB
Rather than sinning so that we can experience grace, grace reminds us that we are sinners in need of the cross. It is the cross, our call to die to ourselves, that allows us to live in the power of His resurrection. It is when we once again begin to think that we have something to bring to the cross that we find ourselves falling back into the old patterns of our life that will lead to sin and failure.
In communion, I bring nothing to the cross – I leave with everything in and through Christ Jesus!
There is a wonderful rendition of the classic hymn, “Just As I Am.” The bridge speaks to our need and our preparation for coming to the cross of Jesus Christ in communion.
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot
O Lamb of God I come! I come!
I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am
Lord, this morning, I come, just as I am. I come broken, wounded, desperate, empty, guilty – and through the blood of Jesus Christ, I leave – mended, healed, rescued, filled, pardoned, and embraced in the arms of the Father!
In Jesus’ Name!