Remember and Proclaim (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

If two people say they love each other, then what is the proper step for them to take to declare that love publicly? The proper step is a wedding ceremony. In the wedding ceremony, the couple exchanges vows, verbalizing their commitment to one another. While not all vows are taken seriously, the wedding ceremony should be the occasion where the meaning of marriage and the significance of marriage is made known. Matters like this are not limited to wedding ceremonies, though. Within the church, a ceremony exists. This ceremony is an ordinance known as the Lord’s Suppe or communion. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is not to be taken without understanding the meaning and significance of the event. If we fail to understand and apply what the Lord’s Supper means, we will fail to be taking the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:20). The Apostle Paul knew this and that is why in his letter to the Corinthian church he takes space to remind and exhort the Christians in Corinth to realize the meaning and significance.

The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper: Remember and Proclaim

Before we can consider the significance of the Lord’s Supper (as we will look at next week), we need to grasp the meaning of it. This meaning precedes Paul and takes us back to the words of Jesus. In Matthew 26 we read Jesus and His disciples were making preparations to eat the Passover meal. It was within that context the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26–29). How does knowing that contribute to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Well, the Passover meal was instituted by God to the people of Israel for His act of deliverance and redemption for them as they were delivered from Pharaoh and Egyptian slavery. With the Passover meal the Israelites were to remember and proclaim their redemption from Egypt (see Exodus 12:14, 25–27). Put simply, in celebrating the Passover the people of Israel remembered and proclaimed.

What Jesus does with His disciples in the Lord’s Supper, then, is He institutes a new Passover meal. The purpose of this new Passover meal is for the same purpose, to remember and to proclaim, but on a greater scale. The deliverance and redemption were not merely from physical slavery and oppression. The deliverance and redemption in this new meal was from spiritual slavery and oppression, sin and death.

How would this deliverance and redemption occur? For that, we look to the elements used to remember and proclaim. The bread and wine cup are meant to represent and symbolize the body and blood of Jesus. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “the Lord Jesus…took bread, and when he has given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (11:23–25). The bread we partake in the Lord’s Supper is meant to symbolize the body of the One who was put to death on a cross in our place. Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our sin and He absorbed the wrath of God that we may be forgiven. By the blood of Jesus we can enter into a New Covenant. This New Covenant does what the Old Covenant was not able to provide (see Romans 3:20). In the New Covenant, God gives a new heart and puts a new spirit in all who believe in Him (Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 36:26–27). This means by which this can occur is through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In partaking of the bread and the cup, we not only remember the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. We also proclaim it. The Apostle Paul continues, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (11:26). All who partake in the Lord’s Supper, that is those who have repented of their sin and have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, make a proclamation. When they take the Lord’s Supper with others Christians in the church gathering, they are proclaiming the death and, by implication, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bread and cup portray what Christ has done for those who believe in Him. Those who believe in Him, then, proclaim until Christ returns what He has accomplished on the cross. His death on the cross was not the end, however. He has risen from the dead and He is coming back. We proclaim Him and what He has done in the gospel while we anticipate His return. That is what we remember and proclaim.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is remembering the Lord’s Supper important to the Christian faith?
  • In what way does partaking in the Lord’s Supper proclaim Christ’s death?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Book Review: The Resurrection Fact

Easter is quickly approaching! This Sunday Christians will gather to celebrate the event which changes everything. To be sure, the incarnation and death of Jesus are essential and as important. Yet, if the resurrection of Christ did not occur, we are still left in our sins and are without hope (see 1 Corinthians 15:17-19). It is during this season, too, channels like CNN run specials on the claims of Christianity, usually to the neglect of biblical truth. These specials do not so much ask, “What does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean?” as much as they are asking, “Did the resurrection of Jesus Christ even happen?” As Christians, we claim the resurrection of Jesus did indeed happen. But how do we go about affirming that and defending biblical truth amid those who disagree? Enter in The Resurrection Fact: Responding to Modern Critics.

In this work edited by Pastor John J. Bombaro and Professor Adam S. Francisco, The Resurrection Fact takes eight chapters written by various men in their respected fields to show the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a physical resurrection that happened in history. As well, these authors not only affirm the reality of the resurrection but they also speak to the significance and meaning of the resurrection. The authors of this work are aware of scholars and the like who disagree with them. As a result, they inform the reader what unbelieving scholars and people are saying and then they give the reader substantive evidence and material as to why we can be sure of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There is much to affirm in this book, although a couple of times an author may seem to be setting up strawman arguments of their opponent. As well, it should be said the book can be technical at times for some readers. Nevertheless, The Resurrection Fact: Responding to Modern Critics is a good resource for a Christian who is interested in investigating how to defend the reality of the resurrection.

I received this book for free from NRP Books/1517 Legacy via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Heart-Revealing Treatment (Matthew 25:31–46)

Matthew 25:31-46 is a worthy passage for reflection and thought. In this passage, Jesus describes the moment when He will return to establish His Kingdom here on Earth. Upon His arrival, “He will sit on his glorious throne” and “Before Him will be gathered all the nations” (25:32). In this moment, every eye will see Him, and every person will be obligated to stand before His presence. He’s going to bring everyone into account for the lives they have lived (Romans 2:6-8).

When He arrives, the King has some work lined up. He plans to separate those who come before Him. On His right will stand believers (the sheep), and on His left, unbelievers (the goats). The believers shall be welcomed by the King and invited into His Kingdom. Unbelievers will be cursed and condemned into everlasting torment.

What’s the determining factor? How does the King decide who will enter His Kingdom and who will not? Their works (25:35-46). The sheep are commended and blessed because they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned. The goats, however, are cursed because they didn’t do these things. In the end, their manner of life determined their destiny.

Now, let’s be clear. Right standing with God (justification) is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). It is not a “result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9). But, if this is the case, then why does Jesus make it very clear that entrance into the Kingdom is based on whether you have engaged in good works, such as assisting the needy? He almost seems to imply that you have to earn your way into His Kingdom.

But, Jesus does not mean that at all. He is not teaching that you have to earn your salvation. So, why does His judgment seem to depend on what the people did? It’s simple, your treatment of others reveals your heart.

The sheep have saving faith in Christ, and they expressed their faith through good works. Conversely, the goats didn’t have faith in Christ, and they showed this by their lack of love and concern for those in need. This is because genuine believers have transformed hearts, renewed by the Holy Spirit and unbelievers do not.

One of the top-tier evidences that you have received a new heart leading to saving faith is that you demonstrate love towards those in need. It’s feeding the hungry. It’s giving water to those who thirst. It’s clothing the naked. It’s comforting the afflicted. Christians have been radically changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the proof of their salvation is a life committed to serving other people, particularly the needy and helpless.

If you follow Jesus, I hope, to some extent, this describes you. We cannot live for ourselves. We must live sacrificially for Christ’s glory and the good of others. We must be willing to give ourselves to Jesus and be His servants. We cannot reduce our Christianity to mere church attendance and nothing else. If that describes you, then you’re missing the point.

If you look down on people and judge them as those who deserve hardship because they’ve made poor choices, you’re probably a goat, not a sheep. Sheep extend the love they’ve received. Goats self-righteously hoard all the goodness God has bestowed upon them.

So, which are you: a sheep or a goat? Where will you be when Jesus returns, on the right or the left? Look at how you treat the lowly and needy. There you will find your answer.

Reflection Questions:

  • What does the treatment of others reveal about your heart?
  • How can you extend the love you have received from God to others in your life?

This devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana. He is currently a Master of Divinity student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.

Out of Darkness (Matthew 4:12-17)

If you would have asked any Jew during the day of Jesus, the majority of them would have assumed Israel’s Messiah would start His ministry in the religious epicenter of the world—Jerusalem. Israel’s capital is the city of God, the city of the great King and the location where all the religious elites spent their time. But our Lord didn’t inaugurate His ministry there. His ministry began in Galilee, an obscure and despised region in Israel.

After being tempted by Satan, Jesus left the wilderness when He heard that John the Baptist was arrested (see Matthew 4:12-17). I’m certain our Lord was avoiding facing the same fate. It was too early in His ministry to endure similar opposition.

When He arrived, His first stop was Nazareth (4:13), but we know from Luke’s gospel that Jesus didn’t spend much time there because He was rejected and nearly killed (Luke 4:16-30). Therefore, He left His hometown for a nearby village called Capernaum. It would seem many human circumstances were sending Jesus all around Israel. John is arrested. Jesus leaves for Galilee. His hometown rejects Him. Jesus leaves for Capernaum.

Though the human element is certainly a factor, you can be sure God’s sovereign will is being accomplished. Upon His arrival to Capernaum, Jesus fulfills ancient prophecy (4:14-16). Capernaum is the old territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, two of the twelve tribes of Israel.

A little background is helpful at this point. In the days of Joshua, Israel was commanded to overtake the land of Canaan. God also commanded them to drive out the inhabitants of the land lest their gods and false religions become a snare to the children of Israel. Israel obeyed God’s command to raid the land. However, they failed to drive out all of its inhabitants. Many Gentiles were left and this caused endless problems for the Jews. By the time Jesus came on the scene, this region is full of false religion and the worship of false gods. Galilee was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” (4:15). The religious established scorned them and steered clear of going there.

Jesus, on the other hand, began His ministry in the midst of spiritual darkness and death (4:16). The light of the world went to those who needed Him most. Our Lord called them out of the darkness and into the light, and He did this with a simple but profound message that still preaches today: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus didn’t merely call these people out of darkness. He commanded them.

The way we come out of darkness is by repenting of the darkness we love so much. I’m talking about sin. If you’re like me, you know sin all too well. It’s a part of the fabric of our being. And if you’re honest, apart from God’s grace, you love your sin more than you love Christ. Left to our own devices, we would all choose our sin and perish apart from the Lord.

But Jesus shines a light into our lives. He lets us know there is a different way. If we repent and turn to Christ, we’ll be saved. Repentance consists of three things—confession, contrition and conversion. We confess our sins to God. We agree that we’re wrong and we ask for forgiveness. We also express genuine contrition and sorrow for our sin. And then we turn to Christ, we trust in Him and are converted.

When we do this, we find inclusion into this Kingdom that Jesus promises is so near. While the fullness of His Kingdom is a future reality yet to come, Jesus reigns upon the thrones of everyone’s hearts that trust in Him.

Reflection Questions:

  • What does it mean that Jesus calls us out of the darkness and into the light?
  • How does knowing the three elements of repentance bring us to a better understanding of how to deal with our sin in responding to the gospel?

This devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana. He is currently a Master of Divinity student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.

An ‘Entrusted’ Life with Jaquelle Crowe

This is the first interview in a series entitled An ‘Entrusted Life. This series serves to introduce you to Christians who display faithful stewardship amid an entitlement culture. This first interview is with Jaquelle Crowe. For those of you who may not be familiar, Jaquelle Crowe is a gifted 19-year-old writer and speaker from eastern Canada. She is the editor-in-chief of TheRebelution.com and a regular contributor to desiringGod.orgThe Gospel CoalitionUnlocking the Bible, and Beliefnet. She is the author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway), which releases this month.

Jaquelle, thank you for your willingness to take part in this interview. Before we discuss your first published book, I would like for you to share with us your story as a writer. First, what gave you such a passion for writing? Along with that, when did you start to get serious about your work as a writer?

My love for writing really started with a love for storytelling. As a little kid, I was constantly making up elaborate stories with my dolls (even before I could write) and as I got older, this naturally led into a love for writing these stories down. Non-fiction was something I dabbled in throughout elementary school but got passionate about the summer I turned 12. This was when I started a blog (largely from the encouragement of my parents) and began to record reflections of what I was learning in God’s Word and in his world. I was captivated by the art of making beautiful sentences and drawn to the capacity of non-fiction to tell truth compellingly.

I started to get increasingly more serious about writing when I was 16 and formally decided to pursue it vocationally when I was 17. Shortly before I turned 18, God provided an idea for a book and an incredible literary agent – and then a few months later, he provided a publisher and a book contract!

Now, here you are at 19 years old with your first published book, This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms Our Teen Years. What were your motivating factors in writing a book on this subject?

For me, the desire to write a book existed before the idea of what book to write. Because of that, I found myself routinely asking, “What kind of book should I write?” And eventually the question turned into, “If I could only write one book, what would it be?” And I realized it was this: a book for fellow Christian teenagers who wanted encouragement and instruction on how to follow Jesus as a teen. This was the book I wanted to read. Since I started the book at 17, it was (and still is) deeply relevant for the stage of life I was at.

Furthermore, I knew so many teens who were pursuing holiness or wanted to pursue holiness, and they were left to read books by adults and for adults. I also knew teens who were struggling in their Christian walk, who wanted to read something written for them, something robust but not exhaustive, something theological yet practical, something fun but deep. They wanted something specific – a book on how the gospel transforms the season of life they’re in right now.

Your book is said to be a “deeply theological and yet practical and accessible book on how the gospel radically transforms every aspect of the teen years”. As a young adult and as a youth pastor, this book timely. Even for teenagers who profess to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, there seems to be a disconnect between their life as a Christian and their relationships and habits. Why do you think that disconnect exists?

I think culture plays a big part in this disconnect. They’ve subtly fed teenagers the lie that Christianity is not transformative. You can call yourself a Christian and do whatever you want.

Sadly, I think the church has played a part as well. There are often stunningly low spiritual expectations for teens – it’s thought that if they’re coming to church and showing some positive interest in Christianity, they’re living a gospel-centered life. But this is in radical opposition to the demanding, self-sacrificing, totally revolutionizing message of the cross.

In D.A. Carson’s endorsement of your book, he remarks, “In a culture where many young people feel entitled and struggle through the swamps of victimization, Jaquelle Crowe calls her fellow teens to Christian discipline…in response to the gospel of grace.” Based on your study of and meditation on Scripture, how does the gospel counteract an entitled mindset?

From beginning to end, the gospel is a message of grace. It’s a story of us getting what we don’t deserve. We never deserved mercy, forgiveness, redemption. We never even deserved creation. We exist purely and solely because of the goodness of God. Entitlement is a self-focused framework that rejects this truth, that hates grace, and that boasts in itself. I really believe it’s an enemy of the gospel.

Where many young people are tempted to buy into an entitled mindset, you seem to work from an entrusted framework. One of the posts on your website sums it up, “That the day you hold in your grasp doesn’t belong to you. That your time is not your own. That every minute you breathe, every morning you wake up, every day you live is God’s. That you are only a steward of the time God has given you, and that you are entrusted to care for it well.” How has understanding this biblical truth affected your teenage years?

The realization that my time is not my own completely changed the lens through which I viewed my teen years. I only have one life, one youth, and one fast and fleeting opportunity to make it count. I’m accountable to God for how I use this life, this uniquely precious resource he’s given me, and that means I don’t have the “freedom” (if we could call it that) to live for myself. I must live for his fame. I must use this life for his glory. It has to be about him, not me. And that perspective organically changed what I watched, what I read, how I treated my family, what kinds of friends I had, what I bought, how I dressed, how I spoke, and how I viewed things like dating and school and work.

The biblical concept of stewardship comes up not only in your life generally; it also comes up in your writing. As God has entrusted you with a gift, you are equipping and entrusting others to use the gifts God has given them. You are the co-founder of a program for young writers that you lead with Brett Harris called “The Young Writers Workshop”. Could you share with us what this program is about?

Absolutely! The Young Writers Workshop is a monthly membership program for any writer aged 10-25 (from writing novices to publishing pros). We create exclusive content to motivate, encourage, and equip young writers to accomplish the individual goals and dreams they have. We interview experts, teach mechanics and skills, critique writing and book proposals, host Q&A events, facilitate a private online community for young writers, and lots more.

Brett and I firmly believe that writing is a powerful tool to serve God and that young writers have a unique capacity to wield this tool well. In the Young Writers Workshop, we teach them how to do that – write well and reach others for the glory of God.

The Devil’s Most Effective Temptation (Matthew 4:1-11)

Have you ever wondered why Satan tempted Jesus to make the stones into bread? Take a look at Matthew 4:1-11, paying special attention to the first temptation (vv.1-4). Of course, Satan knew Jesus was hungry. Our Lord hadn’t eaten for 40 days (v. 2). Therefore, it’s easy to see that the Devil was striking at Jesus’s weakness. But this doesn’t get to the heart of the temptation.

What is the Devil Doing?

Some have speculated that Satan was trying to get Jesus to use His power as God’s Son for His own personal benefit. Remember, Jesus set aside His divine rights (Philippians 2:6). He humbled Himself in becoming exactly like us, yet without sin. Yet, I still don’t think that gets to the core of the issue. It wouldn’t have been sinful for Jesus to make the stones into bread. He had that right. Eating isn’t sinful. Bread isn’t sinful. So, what is Satan up to?

The Trickery of Distraction

The Devil was using a tactic he has tricked mankind with since the dawn of creation—distraction! Satan will expose our weaknesses to distract our attention away from God. Jesus was fasting, which means He was spending alone time with God. The Tempter, however, wanted to break Jesus’s focus from His Heavenly Father to food.

Here’s why Satan’s Temptation is so crafty and effective (except with Jesus). He distracts us with good things. Satan will divert your attention away from God by distracting you with things that are not inherently sinful. Bread isn’t sinful. Bread is good. God gave us bread as a gift of His love. It tastes good. It’s filling. It’s nutritious. No one would say bread is bad. And that’s exactly why Satan used it.

When we’re distracted with “good” things we don’t realize that we are being tricked by Satan. We’ve conditioned our minds to believe that Satan only wants to entice us to commit horrible sins such as murder, adultery, lying, cheating, stealing etc. No doubt, he does cause all of those things. But let’s not forget Satan’s main goal. He desires to see you perish apart from Christ. That’s why he keeps unbelievers blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4). If you are a believer, he wants to keep your attention off of Christ so you will produce no fruit for His kingdom. Satan hates God and will do everything he can to hinder the work of God, and one of the ways he does this is by distraction.

Principle in Play

Think about it! How many Christians have no time for church because of sports? Are sports sinful? No. Sports can be good. However, Satan will use sports as a distraction. He’ll say something like this, “It’s okay if you miss church or if your kids miss youth group. They’re young. This is the only time in their lives they can play this game. Plus, they love it. You love it. Sports are fun.” Before you know it, your families’ attention is taken away from God.

And it’s not only sports. It’s anything he can use to take your focus off of Christ. Again, it doesn’t have to be inherently sinful. It just has to be effective.

So, what distracts you from Jesus? Food? Politics? Money? Materialism? Work? They’re all good things if used properly, but they can also become “good” distractions. We all have weaknesses, and Satan will use them to divert us away from our Lord. This is why we’re told to “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Reflection Questions:

  • What are the “good” things in your life that distract you from Jesus?
  • How does awareness of the devil’s tactics help you in overcoming temptation?

This devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana. He is currently a Master of Divinity student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.

The Key to Healthy Relationships

“What is the key to healthy relationships?” This question is not limited to the context of marriage. Healthy relationships are needed in the areas of family, friends, and church family. For those who profess faith in Christ, we know we are called to proclaim the gospel of how people can be reconciled to God. However, some of the time we miss out on showing them what that looks like in our life. In other words, we use words to share with them the gospel (which we must do) but we neglect to show how that very gospel has impacted our lives.

The Gospel and Our Relationships

The truth is the gospel changes everything. The gospel impacts every area of life, especially your relationships. So, to ask, “What is the key to a healthy relationship?” the answer is unsurprisingly the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, do not mistake the answer as an oversimplified solution. The gospel truly is the answer.

In the gospel, we see the person and work of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says it all, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The gospel reveals our source for salvation is not in ourselves but in Christ. We are not saved by our righteousness, but by Christ’s righteousness. Only as we are in Christ are we made right with God.

Clearly, then, 2 Corinthians 5:21 speaks to our relationship with God. But how does this truth inform our relationships with one another? As Dr. Paul David Tripp shares the video above: what God gives us in His Son is a righteousness that is not our own. In our relationships, we too often live with a sense of our own “righteousness”. What does this look like? We get defensive when we feel we are being confronted or corrected. Rather than seeking to be transparent, we are known to be unapproachable. Instead of admitting to our mess, we seek to cover it up.

Our Problem

Does all this sound familiar? It should. We are all guilty of this. We somehow think we must measure up. The problem is the focus is on us. We cannot measure up. We are sinners. What the gospel does is it reveals our fallenness and leads us to confess it. We repent of our sin and we trust in the righteousness of another. We stand righteous before God because of Christ. When we realize that, we don’t try to hide the mess and pretend to be something we are not. Before God and others, we admit to our mess and deal with our mess. How do we deal with our mess? In our relationships.

The Gospel in Our Relationships

The key to any healthy relationship is the gospel. This gospel produces two essential qualities for healthy relationships:

Quality #1: The Humility of Approachability: “I become an approachable person because I am resting in a righteousness that is not my own”. When we sin, we ought to be humble enough that brothers and sisters in Christ can approach us to correct and restore us.

Quality #2: The Courage of Loving Honesty“I am not afraid to speak the truth to you because I am not afraid of your rejection, because my well-being is not in your acceptance. My well-being is in the acceptance that was purchased by righteous Christ.” When we see others living in sin, we must do the most loving thing and speak the truth to them for the sake of their salvation and sanctification.

Are You Applying the Gospel?

Are you letting the gospel impact the way you deal with your relationships? Are you an approachable person who knows they need accountability? Are you willing to speak the truth in love in your relationships, even when that means correcting and confronting? As a follower of Jesus Christ, be a humble and approachable person who is courageous enough to speak honestly and lovingly in your relationships.

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.