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"This Humbling Cup"

April 29, 2018 Speaker: Tim Zulker Series: Ripped

Topic: Sermons Passage: 1 Corinthians 11:25

1 Corinthians 11:25   “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”

When we gather for communion once a month, God knows we come with hungry hearts. Hungry in our souls to be fed by Christ and by the Word of God. Life drains us. Our circumstances discourage us and we feel like we live in a spiritual desert. Spiritually dry. Worn down. Conflict, frustrations, and the battles of the mind leave our souls run down.

But Jesus is a good care-giver. Psalm 23 says “He restores my soul. He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” The ultimate table will be the feast of the Lamb and our forever fellowship with Jesus at the end. But in this time, God has given us communion together, which is a time at his table to remember the work of Jesus for us, and as we remember, we are filled up again.

Communion is a God-ordained feast for our souls. The more we understand communion, the more we see how much food there is for our hungry souls.

So today, we finish our short series on the curtain that was RIPPED in two when Jesus died. We’re going to focus on the new covenant that began at that moment. And in seeing more deeply what was involved, I believe our eyes will be opened to the feast that God has prepared for us.

The way to feed your hungry heart in communion is not, of course, through our mouth. It’s through a thankful, humble heart. A deep thankfulness that mirrors the way we give thanks for a meal.

1. God’s grace in failure

Every time we celebrate communion we read these words of Jesus, quoted by Paul. 1 Corinthians 11:25   “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” What does this mean? 

“This cup” refers to the cup of wine that Jesus would have been holding in his hand, or at least pointing to. Jesus was having his last supper with the disciples before he died. They would have all been eating and drinking wine together. The bigger questions are, what does he mean by new covenant, and what does he mean by “in my blood.” 

A covenant  is not an agreement. Not a mutual, "you do this and I do that". It’s not a contract. It is an arrangement started by God. Our words, Old Testament, New Testament, could just as well be called Old Covenant and New Covenant.

As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, God made a covenant with Abraham. You could call it the Abraham Covenant and we read about this in Genesis 12 and 15 mostly.. God promised three things to Abraham: land, a huge family, and that God would make his family a blessing to all the other nations. When God made this covenant with Abraham, Abraham was asleep. This highlights the fact that it was not a mutual contract. Can you imagine working out a deal at work with a large client, and when it comes time to sign papers, you say, I’ll be over there on the sofa taking a nap. Help yourself.

Then in Exodus God makes an additional covenant with the nation of Israel. The Abraham covenant didn’t go away. And that covenant is what is referred to as the Old Covenant because that is what the Old Testament people lived by all those years. The rules and the sacrifices. Those rules came through Moses on Mt. Sinai in the desert. All together, there were 613 commandments, including the 10 commandments.

Then God made a covenant with King David: "And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16). The David covenant was that from David would come another king who would rule forever.

These were covenants that God established with his people. They were given graciously by God to make it possible for his people to relate to Him, even as sinners.  And they involved obedience and faithfulness to God. They were supposed to do things and obey God’s commands. 

But the people failed to obey perfectly. Just like I fail to obey perfectly. And just like you fail to obey perfectly. 

And so all along, God knew that he would bring his Son into the world, to bless us even though we didn't deserve it. A perfect son who would obey the law in our place. A perfect king who would rule and reign in our hearts to guide us with love and wisdom.

And so when Jesus came, he came to bring about the New Covenant. This was the plan all along.

Ezekiel 36:26-28 says, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."

God, by his grace would save us sinful humans by bringing a Messiah—Jesus—who would make it possible to be right and obey God. We would be included in God’s plan for Israel.

2. God’s grace in the New Covenant

Have you ever looked at something red through red glasses? Do you know what happens? It looks white! If you looked at a Japanese flag through red glasses, the circle in the middle would look white. Your sin and mine is like a red stain. But when God looks at our sins through the red blood of Jesus, they are, as the Bible says, "white as snow." It was only the blood of Jesus that could do that.

All of the blood of the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament couldn’t truly take away our sins. Why not? Because they were just animals. All they could do was show that blood would one day have to be shed to take away our sins permanently. 

And that's how Old Testament believers were saved—through the death and resurrection of Jesus. By God's grace. That's what the Bible teaches. Hebrew 9:15: "Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant." They could not experience all the blessings of salvation like we do, but that's how they were saved.

Knowing that we could not save ourselves, we needed the grace of Jesus. He died the death we should have died, to live the life we could not live. 

So when Jesus died, his blood was spilled. And the curtain in the temple ripped in half. It was ripped from the top to show that it was God doing this for us, not some group of people creating a new movement.  His shed blood opened the way to a new kind of relationship with God. What was new about it? Well, the heart of stone that is turned into a heart of flesh” is because we now are united with Jesus. We are in him, and he is in us. We have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. That is what it Jeremiah and Ezekiel mean when they talk about getting a heart of flesh, not a heart of stone. Our inner spirit comes alive with God’s presence somehow within us.

When that happens, we now desire to please God. We now have the ability to please God in a new way. We now do good works from the heart, as a result of God’s grace. 

Just as God established the Old Covenant — and covenants — by his grace. So here too, in a much bigger and more profound way, God gives us his son by his grace. Grace means “un-earned favor.” A gift not deserved.

3. The humility of communion

So Jesus says, this is the new covenant in my blood. A new arrangement made by my dying for you. 

Maybe you’ve seen the short movie called “The Bridge” or “Most” in Czech. It’s about a father who works on a railway bridge every day. He makes sure this bridge over a river is not open when the train comes along. The big gears turn the bridge and make the river crossing safe. The father and son are very close, and so the father takes his boy to work one day. It’s something they’ve both looked forward to for a long time. 

Well before the train comes, the boy goes exploring. But as he does, he gets out on part of the bridge.  Tragically, however, he slips while he’s exploring, and gets caught in the gears. As the father realizes this, he hears the train whistle announcing its arrival. The father is panic-stricken and screams for his boy. But he can’t get out. Either the entire train full of people plunge to their deaths in the river gorge, or the father sacrifices his son. He chooses the sacrifice, and watches the train full of unsuspecting passengers happily looking out the window as his boy is crushed in the gears of the bridge.

God did not have to make a last-minute, panic-stricken choice. It was his plan all along to save you. The people on the train stand for you and me, headed for certain death, or life at the expense of his Son.

Jesus willingly died for you.

And so this cup of the new covenant is humbling. Humbling in its bloody reminder that Jesus had to die for you to have life. 

Apart from his undeserved gift for you, you had no hope at all. Life without meaning. An afterlife in hell.

But it’s more than humbling. It’s also life-giving. Because Jesus not only died, but he rose again. He is the offspring of Abraham who came to bless you, even if you are not Jewish. To obey the law for you, even though you are a law-breaker. And to be a king greater than David to guide and rule your heart, and one day rule over all the world and heaven. So your life can be full, meaningful, lived with purpose and joy. 

What’s different between the Old Covenant and the New is not that the old one was by works, and the new one is by faith. The primary difference is that Christ now lives in us, and we are in him. We have the power to experience true inner change. 

We can’t do life without him. But with him, we can do all things. Meaning we can obey Christ and enjoy the abundant life he gives.

The world if full of religions trying to tear open the curtain to get to God. Earning his presence and favor by doing works. Only the blood is Jesus could do that.

Friends, there are some religions that re-sacrifice Jesus over and over. That’s a slap in the face of Jesus. He did this once for all. Do not return to the Old Covenant! We do not re-sacrifice Jesus, or add to any of his work. 

I think it is important to give thanks before each meal, when we sit down to eat. Jesus did this an example for us. It’s important in itself, so that we show we are grateful to God for our daily bread. He gives us all good things. But it’s also important  that we take communion with a humble and thankful heart. All the more so, because through Christ we have been given a new way of entering into God’s presence. And in the thankfulness our souls are filled again. Gratitude restores our spirit. Fills our souls. Shows us how rich we are when we feel poor. Shows us how possible this Christian life is with Christ in us. And reminds os that Jesus the good shepeherd died us for us, and continues to prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies. Even if that enemy is yourself.

When you hold this little cup each month, give thanks with humility, and allow Christ to renew your spirit—to love and worship him, to obey him, and to declare his goodness and salvation to a hungry world.

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