A message from God (part two)

The Bible is the Word of God, the only trustworthy communication we have with the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of sinners. As God’s Word, the Bible can be used to test and judge other messages—not only dreams and visions, thoughts and feelings, but also preachers, teachers, and writers. If their message contradicts the Bible, their message is not from God. Because our understanding and interpretation of the Bible’s message can sometimes be diverse and unclear, I have written about how to reconcile different Christian interpretations of the Bible here.

But once we have acknowledged that the Bible is God’s Word, that it is the only test of other messages, how can we be sure that the truth of the Bible is true for us? Written long ago in foreign languages and foreign cultures, the Bible might not seem like a very personal message to Christians in the contemporary world. Therefore, some Christians seek and trust additional connections to God, additional ways that they can receive his Word and apply it to their lives.

Jesus knows everything. He knew this yearning for closeness could lead to problems. Therefore, Jesus promised that he could be found. “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29); “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Where did Jesus promise to be found? Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Some Christians are frustrated with the Christian Church on earth. It is filled with sinners. It sometimes fails to protect members and visitors from sinners in offices of power. The Church sometimes neglects the most needy and pays too much attention to worldly wealth and power. Yet Jesus promised to be present where people gather in his name. A study on discipleship I took when I was in high school proclaimed, “There are no Lone Ranger Christians.” The Church is the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. Those things that happen in the Church give us a closer relationship to Jesus—closeness that we will not find by enjoying Creation, meditating quietly in our rooms, or waiting for dreams and visions and quiet voices.

We see sinners in the Church. Jesus sees saints, already forgiven through his work. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Because the Church is his Bride, Christ does not allow us to seek a relationship with him apart from the Church. If you love him, you must love his Bride and see her with his eyes. When we see the sins committed in the Church and remember that those are forgiven sins, we are reminded that our sins also are forgiven through the cleansing work of Jesus.

What happens when people gather in Jesus’ name? The forgiveness of sins is proclaimed and believed. The Word of God is read and explained. Prayers are raised to God on behalf of the Church, its members, and the world in which we live. Sacraments also happen in the Church. It is no mistake that Paul uses baptismal language when talking about Christ’s cleansing of the Church, “by the washing of water with the Word.”

To some Christians, Baptism is a thing they did for God, an act that shows that they love and trust Jesus. They see Baptism as obedience to a commandment. But Baptism is a gift from God. It makes a Christian new every day, able to obey the “new commandment” to “love one another.” Studying the commandments does not make us better; God’s grace and forgiveness makes us better. Only through God’s grace and forgiveness are we restored to our Maker’s plan, being transformed into the image of Christ. Baptism is one of God’s expressions of this grace.

The other expression of God’s grace is called the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, and the Sacrament of the Altar. Again, some Christians eat and drink at the Lord’s Table as obedience to a command. They are remembering Jesus and showing that they love him. But Paul calls this Sacrament participation in the body and blood of our Savior: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (I Corinthians 10:16). Jesus says of the bread, “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you.” He says of the wine, “This is the cup of the New Testament, given for you for the forgiveness of sin.” He urges Christians to “do this often, remembering me.”

A quiet whisper like the one Elijah heard, a message from the Lord that springs into the mind unbidden, might seem like the closest relationship a believer can have with the Lord. But receiving his body and his blood in the Sacrament is even more intimate than hearing a whisper or receiving a message. It seems that the Christians most determined to experience God through dreams and visions and inner thoughts and voices are those who are neglecting the intimacy of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The Bible urges us to cling to these Sacraments for confidence of our salvation and for connection to the Lord. I joke with Jesus about receiving messages from him through the radio, but Jesus earnestly reminds me to base my relationship with him upon the Bible, the Church, and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. J.

7 thoughts on “A message from God (part two)

  1. J, I have a blog for tomorrow regarding The Lord’s Supper. When I first read this I thought I ought not use it; on second thought I will do so and also connect to this, Okay? I’m sure it is. It is quite possible he is leading both of us in this direction. They do not conflict; hopefully they will broaden the understanding of the importance of this rite. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The most intimate experience I ever had with God occurred in the Supper.

    It is always intimate to approach the Table of the Lord. To simply kneel, open ones mouth, and *receive* the Lord.

    But the most profound occasion upon which I ever received the Sacrament was,
    after receiving the body of the Lord from my pastors hand (which, when you think about it, is a pretty intimate act!), the cup was then brought to my lips by my husband, who spoke, “Anita, take and drink, this is the blood of the Lord shed for you”.

    And I’m not ashamed to say it WRECKED me.

    There, all of a sudden, was this picture for me, of love and headship and sacrifice, and something just kinda clicked. I got a little bit more illumination on all that His love for me encompasses…and it is *good*.

    My spirit, apparently, rejoices when it recognizes Christ. God grant that it ever shall be!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen. to that last line! So many Christians miss the intimacy of the Sacrament and try to replace it with something else. If only they could be persuaded to seek the Lord where he promised to be found!
      By the way, I finally checked, and you are right about the same word for “hearing” in John 10 and in Romans 10. It’s the Greek word from which we get the English word “acoustics.” I may write a post about that idea, since hearing is the most passive of the senses. The speaker does all the work; the hearer merely receives what the speaker offers. J.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh cool, thanks for digging into that.

        You know, I can remember when I was pregnant with my first child, and I was having a really tough time with it, morning sickness made me wrechedly ill and getting out to Service was, frankly, a real chore, one that I really had to push myself to do. Any flimsy excuse to get out of it would have done for me! But my pastor kept hugging me and telling me how great it was that I kept bringing my baby-in-belly every week to hear the word proclaimed. He encouraged me to keep coming, saying he’d rather see me give up an hour’s worth of Bible devotions (I did NOT do an hours worth of devotions, lol) than give up an hour of the preached word.

        Funny thing is, I wasn’t sure I believed baby could hear in the womb! I mean, I wasn’t sure that it was physiologically possible. (Hey, I was young and we didn’t have Google). So I was kinda like, meh, I don’t know if I believe that.

        Turns out, of course, that my pastor told me the truth, babies CAN hear in the womb, in fact they are able to distinguish the mother’s voice quite well from the womb! Once I overcame that doubt, the fullness and beauty of my pastors long-ago advice came into breathtaking clarity for me. The implications for us are stunning, profound.

        God’s word is efficacious, yes, but it seems to me there is something uniquely potent about the *preached* word in particular. I have grasped at least that much! 😊

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  3. Well said!

    I would add something I think is implied in your post. When Christians worship in community — as the body of Christ — we pray, we sing, we hear God’s Word explained, and we perform the sacraments together. The sacraments remind us of Jesus, and they put the focus upon Him. When we remember the Bible is entirely about Him and what He did for us — the grace and mercy He showed us, the Bible is more easily understood.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly! The Sacraments put the focus on Jesus, not on ourselves. I would strengthen “remind us of Jesus” to something stronger–perhaps “unite us with Jesus.” But otherwise you are right on the mark. And the Bible is indeed entirely about Him and His work. That is the most important point to remember when trying to understand the Bible. J.

      Liked by 2 people

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