By Res Spears
Message delivered November 25, 2018 at Liberty Spring Christian Church
I trust you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and pushed yourselves away from your tables with slightly more difficulty than usual.
Our family was blessed to celebrate for the first time with the family of one of our sons-in-law, and we made some great memories.
Our daughter, Desiree, loves to put together silly games that get the family laughing and competing for dollar store prizes. You’d be surprised at how competitive some people who shall remain nameless can be for a green sponge with an alien head printed on it.
But just in case certain other people have anything to say about it, let me just be clear about something: If a game does not include rules against certain behaviors, then technically speaking, doing those things in order to gain a competitive advantage is not, strictly speaking, cheating.
Anyway, I do hope your holiday was free of contentiousness.
And now, with Thanksgiving behind us, it is socially acceptable to turn our attention to Christmas, and as we do, I want us to take a couple of minutes this morning to consider Advent, the waiting time.
Having been brought up in Baptist churches, I really had no idea what Advent was until I began to research it to see what we might do here at Liberty Spring Christian Church this year. Now that I’ve done so, I think I love the concept of it, and we’ll fully embrace some of the facets of this celebration during the coming weeks.
For this week, though, I just wanted to share this video with everyone who might have been in a similar position as me.
Advent is about waiting; it marks the wait for the promised coming of the Messiah.
But the wait for that baby born in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago was not the first time God’s people had waited in anticipation for His promised rescue.
That night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born for the eventual sacrifice by which He would offer mankind salvation and freedom from their bondage to sin. But nearly 15 centuries earlier, God’s people had been waiting to be delivered from bondage in another time and place.
The people of Israel had spent more than 400 years in Egypt, much of it as slaves, and after God had unleashed 9 plagues over the land, there was one more plague to come before the pharaoh would finally release them.
You all know the story: Moses had pleaded with the pharaoh to let the people of Israel go, but the Egyptian leader just hardened his heart against God, not matter what terrors were brought down upon the people of that land.
Finally, Moses told him that the back-and-forth between them was over.
And then he told him what would happen.
Moses said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well.Exodus 11:4-5
Among the people of Israel, preparations were made for what would become the first Passover feast. Turn with me to Exodus 12:21-32, and we’ll see what happened.
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb.Exodus 12:21-32
22 “You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.
23 “For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.
24 “And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.
25 “When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite.
26 “And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’
27 you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’ ” And the people bowed low and worshiped.
28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
29 Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle.
30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.
31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said.
32 “Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”
Throughout the Old Testament, we find different “types” for people and events that we see in the New Testament. Moses, the great prophet, for instance, was a “type” for Jesus Christ. He was a picture, a symbol exemplifying some of the characteristics of Jesus.
The Passover and the Jewish people’s escape from bondage are also types. God gave His people these types to help them recognize the way He works. He has always been about redeeming fallen mankind.
The Passover feast, itself, points forward to what we now know as the Lord’s Supper, and the people’s rescue from bondage is a type for how we are rescued from the bondage of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In fact, God called the Jewish people to celebrate Passover every year as a reminder of what He had done for them. And when we look at the Passover feast, we should be reminded of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
Just as the people of Israel were spared the work of the death angel because they had spread the blood of a Passover lamb on their doorposts, we who have followed Christ are spared the wrath of God for our sins by the blood of the perfect Lamb of God.
Just as the lambs that were sacrificed saved the Jewish people from their slavery, we who were slaves to sin can be saved from our lost condition by the sacrifice that the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, made on a cross on Calvary.
John the Baptist recognized that Jesus would serve His people this way.
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!John 1:29
That was near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth. When our Savior met with His disciples in the upper room of a home at the time of the Passover, it was just hours before his arrest and crucifixion. He told them that this was an important event for them.
When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;Luke 22:14-15
We see in Luke’s account that Jesus took the bread and the wine and shared it with them. But none of the accounts of that meal mention the lamb that would have been part of every Passover celebration.
Jesus himself was the lamb that would be sacrificed. And just as in Egypt, the sacrifice was necessary for the covering of sin.
This is an important point: The Lord’s Supper — communion — is, among other things, our reminder of the cost of our sins.
We probably don’t talk enough about sin in the modern church. To be sure, it’s vitally important to talk about God’s grace, but we should never lose sight of the fact that His grace is demonstrated most clearly in its manifestation as a response to our sins.
Sin is missing God’s mark. We know all about the 10 Commandments, but even if we have managed to keep all of them to the letter, each of us misses the mark in the spirit of those commandments.
Is there someone you just hate? Jesus said you have as much as murdered that person. Ever lusted after someone? Jesus said you have as much as committed adultery with that person. Have you ever disobeyed your parents? Wished you had something of your neighbor’s? Failed to help someone you could have helped? Used the Lord’s name in vain? Approached God with anything short of reverence?
Those are all sins.
And every one of us has sinned.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,Romans 3:23
And every one of us deserves punishment for our sins. That punishment is the same today as it was in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve ate from the one forbidden tree — eternal separation from God, spiritual death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23
What our sin earns us is death. We sinners cannot stand in the presence of a perfect and holy God — not without some act on His part. We cannot save ourselves.
Imagine you have waded into the mud. It’s up to your hips. That’s what it looks like when we’re stuck in our sins.
How can you save yourself? The more you struggle against the mud, the more you become stuck. No matter how many good things we do, there is nothing that we do that will release us from sin’s hold on us. We need someone to pull us out of it.
And God, in His infinite grace and mercy, wants to do just that.
As David wrote:
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.Psalm 40:2
God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to live among us — to show us how mankind was supposed to live — and then to die as the perfect, once-for-all, sacrifice, paying the debt for our sins.
In His great love for us and in His great desire for a relationship with each person who has been made in His image, God devised a plan whereby mankind could be rescued from the sin that enslaved us all.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.John 3:16
Your sin separated you from God. But God had a plan to bring you into fellowship with Him. That plan called for His Son to die on a cross on Calvary, where He gained victory over sin. And then He gained victory over death itself in His resurrection on the third day.
This is the message of the Gospel, the Good News that we recall and proclaim each time we partake of communion.
You will hear me refer to communion sometimes as the Eucharist. The Greek word from which we derive “Eucharist” means “to give thanks.”
And just as the Jewish people give thanks to God during Passover for delivering them from slavery in Egypt, we give thanks to Him during communion for delivering we who follow Christ from our slavery to sin.
In a moment, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper — we will give thanks to God for His Son’s sacrifice for us, for the body that was broken and the blood that was shed to cover our sins and save us from the justified wrath of a Holy God.
This is a meal of celebration as well as remembrance. But it is only a celebration for those who have confessed Jesus as Lord.
If you have never done that — if you acknowledge Jesus as anything short of the Lord of all your life and of all you have — you should not participate in this ceremony.
Instead, take this time to ponder this great promise, and please come and see me at the end of this service. Eternity hangs in the balance for you, and there is nothing more important than this decision.
(I)f you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.Romans 10:9-10
Jesus had asked His disciples for just such a confession. As they were traveling one day, He asked what people were saying about Him.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”Matthew 16:13
And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”Matthew 16:14
And then came the important question, the one we all must answer for ourselves.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”Matthew 16:15
And then we hear Peter’s answer, unashamed and unafraid:
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Matthew 16:16
The Son of the living God.
That is the person who would soon hang on a cross to sacrifice Himself for our sins.
That is the person who sat with His disciples in that room to share one last Passover meal with them, to recall the great things God had done for them and to give them a picture of what He was about to do.
First, He would break the bread, as we shall do in a moment.
Please remain seated as we sing “What the Lord Has Done in Me.” The deacons will join me here at the front after the song, and while they are distributing the bread, please be in prayer, asking God to reveal to you any unconfessed sins and any unforgiveness in your hearts.
Just as the blood of the Passover lamb was needed to cover the sins of the Jewish people in Egypt, we need the blood of the Lamb of God to cover our own sins.
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.Hebrews 9:22
Because Jesus shed His blood on that cross, we who follow Him are forgiven for our sins.
As He sat at that table with His disciples, Jesus was giving them a tangible lesson about this doctrine of our faith. And as we drink the fruit of the grape, we remember that it was His blood that saved us.
Please remain seated as we sing “Behold the Lamb.” The deacons will join me here at the front after the song, and while they are distributing the juice, please be in prayer, thanking God for His grace and mercy, for His plan from the foundation of time to save us and to release us from bondage to our sins.
This communion — this Lord’s Supper, this Eucharist or thanksgiving — looks back at the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.
But it also looks forward to the day when we will join the resurrected Christ in our own resurrected bodies in heaven, when we will share a meal with Him at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.1 Corinthians 11:26
We are proclaiming the great work that God has done for us in Christ. We are proclaiming that Jesus has already won the victory over sin and death. We are proclaiming that His death and His resurrection are the only hope for this fallen world.
And what a wonderful hope, indeed, we have in our great redeemer.
We are all so different here. Some old, some not-so-old; some from Suffolk and some from California and other far-flung places; some city-folk and some country. But one thing binds us together here; one thing makes us a community; one thing makes us a family: Jesus Christ.
We are a community of the Holy Spirit because of our confession that Jesus is Lord. Let’s celebrate what we share now. Let’s form a circle and sing “Bless’d Be the Tie That Binds.”