October 9, 2007


31. Partake – The Christian disciple and the Cross

Jesus said in Mark 10v45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Not only without Jesus’ death on the cross would there no Christianity, but also there would be no hope for the world! The interpretation that we place on Jesus’ death is paramount! That He died is without doubt, but why did He have to die and what gain do we have as His disciples?

The Situation!

God's Character

By His very nature, God is loving and compassionate, forgiving, faithful and slow to anger - Exodus 34v6-7. That is the part if we are honest we are most comfortable with!! Yet God is holy, righteous and just and must punish sin because of this very same nature. That is the part we as 21st century people are uncomfortable with! We love to think of God as being all love and gentleness, but don’t like to think of Him as a Judge who must punish sin!

But remember that God loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Psalm 45v7). Therefore sin must be dealt with and it cannot simply be ignored. God is set apart from humanity and holy, and if He wasn’t, He could not be worshipped. So, how can God be both just and the Justifier of sinners? He does this by declaring sinners righteous! But why does He do this and where do humans fit into the picture?

Humanity's sin

Sin is what separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 6v23, Isaiah 59v2). Nobody escapes as all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3v23). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17v11), for without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9v22).

A blood sacrifice is God's way of dealing with sin. These blood sacrifices of the Old Testament signified several things:

· It provided a covering for sin.

· It showed the great cost of sin.

· It was an exchange or substitution.

· It was only always going to be a temporary measure as it points forward to Jesus' death

The Solution!

The solution lies not in continual animal sacrifice of the Old Testament because Hebrews 10v4 reminds us that the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only a veneer or covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again! It is only through the death of Jesus, that sin is taken away (Hebrews 9:v11-15, 26-28), and that was only needed once! Therefore Jesus is our permanent sacrificial substitute!


Jesus died for our sin, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3v18). That is how God is both just and the Justifier of sinners. That is why Jesus needed to be both fully God and fully human! If he lacked either, it would not be the full substitutionary sacrifice that was necessary to bear the permanent consequences of sin! For while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, (Romans 5v6-8), willing giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10v45) and when He died in our place on the cross, he bore the consequences of all sin – past, present and future. This substitution was the sacrifice, or sin offering, required in order that Jesus as the Lamb of God could take away the sins of the world (John 1v29). He therefore became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5v21) and it was His precious blood as a lamb without spot or blemish (1Peter 1:18-19) that fulfils God’s requirements permanently. He was the propitiation for all sin!


Now we must remember that with sin, God is angry (Psalm 7v11). Towards sin and sinful behaviour He has great fury, anger and wrath (Jeremiah 21v5). Hebrews 10v30-31 reminds us, “It is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God.” Yet as Micah 7v18 “He is slow to anger and quick to forgive”. Propitiation basically means the turning aside of God's anger by the offering of the sacrifice of Christ. God's anger and judgment of sin falls on Christ, instead of us. We need to approach God to appease His anger, in order to accept it (Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:5; John 2:2, 5:6).

Romans 3v25-26: God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

1 John 2v2: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4v10: This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins.

To some people, even some in the church, this is abhorrent! The very thought that God could willing send His son to be a blood sacrifice for sin is tantamount to abuse, some say! However God’s requirements are very clear! John 3v16 says it all in response to this “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. If there was any other way, would not God have done it that way?


Not only was it propitiation, but also an act of redemption! In the time of the New Testament, this word was used to refer to the buying back of a slave - the price paid to buy the slave’s freedom. God paid redemption so that humans can be freed from the slavery to sin (John 8:35 Romans 7:14). The price was paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) and so we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christian disciples, we are bought at a price, and we have a new position before God! We are bought out of slavery to sin, into glorious freedom where we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:19); slaves to Christ (Romans 6:22). We are also Jesus Christ’s personal possession (1 Corinthians 16:19). But it is our responsibility to choose that way! God does not coerce forcefully – He leaves it as a choice for humans to make as individuals.

What is our response to this to be? Sacrifice, substitution, propitiation and redemption can be summed up in one word: love. For 1 John 3v16 states: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Jesus told us to take up our cross if we are to follow Him as His disciple (Luke 9v23). Are you as a Christian disciple willing to take up your cross and do all you can do to love others?

For more to think about, please do read John 10:1-18. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What parts of my life am I still holding onto, that should be handed over to Jesus?

Q2. What is the best thing I can do, in order to be thankful to Jesus, for His death?

Q3. How can I, as His disciple, learn to listen to Jesus’ voice speaking to me?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

October 5, 2007


30. Partake – The Christian disciple and Sacraments

Jesus said “He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” (Luke 22v19-20)

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28v18-20)

These two events are what in the Protestant church are the sacraments: Holy Communion and Baptism.

What are Sacraments?

The word sacrament derives from the Latin word sacramentum, which is defined as consecrated and made holy. The sacraments as commanded by Jesus are ceremonial by nature. By spiritual and inward means are the sacraments made effective, useful and purposeful.

Sacraments are the outward rites given by Christ to the Church, as symbols of the saving truth of the Gospel. The Anglican Catechism rightly calls them ‘An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’. There are three hallmarks of what a sacrament is: a visible sign of union with Jesus, points to invisible grace and there is a bond between the visible sign and invisible grace. For the Protestant church, baptism and communion are as Augustine stated the “visible words of God”, in so much as they point directly to the gospel – Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection. As Christian disciples we are obliged to follow Jesus’ commandments (John 14v15; 2 Corinthians 5v9). Therefore we should participate in being baptised (Matthew 28v19) and in taking Holy Communion (Luke 22v19). Martin Luther referred to them as the bath and the bread!!”

Baptism is commanded for all who believe in Jesus (Matthew 28v19; Acts 2v38) and it naturally followed after conversion (Acts 2v37; Acts 10v47; Acts 16v33). But what does it mean?


Christian disciples are baptized into Christ (Romans 6v3), and into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is to show a total identification with Jesus Christ, whereby Christian disciples are baptized into His body (1 Corinthians 12v13) and His death (Romans 6v1-6). Our old inherent sinful natures are seen as buried with Christ and we are raised to live a new life with a new nature! Baptism is also a public testimony that Christian disciples have entered into God’s blessings. But who should be baptized?

There are two main schools of thought over who should be baptized.

Firstly there is “Believers baptism”, which is for all who confess faith in Christ and is mentioned frequently in the New Testament (Matthew 28v19; Acts 2v41). This was by full immersion, usually in a river or other public place.

Secondly, there is what is called “Infant baptism”. This practice and teaching was passed down by the Apostles and was current by the time of the early church Fathers, Origen and Tertullian. The basis for Infant Baptism lies in the Old Testament, where the sign of the covenant between God and His people was circumcision of the male babies. Baptism can be thought of as the equivalent in the New Testament and therefore applicable to infants (Colossians 2v6-12).

I wont tell you my opinion on which I think is the correct form, but let you think about and study it for yourself! Suffice to say, that God has used proponents of both opinions!

Holy Communion Depending on your church, it can be called amongst other things, the Eucharist or The Lord’s Supper. Christian disciples are commanded to participate, as Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22v19). Some churches do it every service and others do it monthly. Whenever we participate in it, we do it regularly as a remembrance of Jesus until He comes again (1 Corinthians 11v26)! The bread symbolizes His body broken on the cross and the wine symbolizes His blood shed on the cross. Therefore before we partake of the bread and wine, we are to examine ourselves and confess any unforgiven sin (1 Corinthians 11v28-29). This is done so because it would be hypocritical to eat it while harbouring known sin in our hearts and having fellowship with Jesus and others in the church!


· Symbolizes fellowship with other believers in the universal church (1 Corinthians 10v17)

· We receive the benefits of His sacrifice (1 Corinthians 10v16)

· We spiritually feed upon Christ (1 Corinthians 11v24)

· Symbolizes the death of Christ for our sin (Luke 22v19)

· Symbolizes our acceptance of Christ’s death for us.

· Symbolizes our dependence on Christ for spiritual life.

All these symbolize the New Covenant made between God and Jesus’ disciples – a Covenant guaranteeing salvation!

Two other main views insist that it is more than just symbolic! Firstly, there is transubstantiation, which believes that the bread and wine actually become the blood and body of Jesus Christ. Secondly there is, consubstantiation, which believes that the body and blood of Christ are present in the Communion meal. However both of these views would indicate that Jesus Christ is being re-sacrificed and Hebrews 7v27 refutes these views. The bread we eat and wine we drink at Holy Communion, is only symbolic of his sacrifice and not a re-enactment.

I wonder if you noticed the common theme holding these two sacraments together is Jesus death? Without Jesus death on the cross, there would be no Christianity. How do Christian disciples remember the significance of Jesus’ death? As we have seen Christian disciples do this in two ways – through the twin sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. So why is Jesus’ death so significant for the Christian disciple? That is what I hope to discuss next time.

For more to think about please do read Matthew 28v19-20 and 1 Corinthians 11v17-34. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What lessons can I learn from the Corinthian church regarding Holy Communion?

Q2. What must I do next time I participate in the Holy Communion, and why?

Q3. How can I help those who haven’t been baptized and those recently baptized?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

October 3, 2007


29. Partake – Christian Disciple and Worship

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 105v1-6: “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord. Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given, you children of his servant Abraham, you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.”

One of the very essential growth elements for Christian disciples along with prayer and Bible reading is the requirement to worship publicly! There is a meaning of worship, whereby our very life is to be a spiritual act of worship according to Paul in Romans 12. However by worship, I want to talk about public acts of worship, as in a church or chapel service. When worshipping, the Christian disciple gives respect, honour and glory to God! When this is done in reverence, in truth and in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, then the Christian disciple continues to mature and grow spiritually. But why do Christian disciples worship?

Why worship?

Perhaps the greatest reason that we worship is because God commands it! The 10 Commandments (Exodus 21v1-3) insist that God alone is worshipped, adored and paid homage to! As humans we are made in His image and as Christian disciples, He owns us because we claim Jesus to be our Lord and Master! So it is right and just that we give worship to this God who paid the penalty for sin, so that we may be His children, and wants us to call Him Father! As Christian disciples, we discover an inner personal satisfaction when God is worshipped and adored, both for the present and in the future (Romans 12v2; Col 3v24)!

Another reason to give worship is that God deserves our worship! All of God’s attributes demand that we revere and worship Him! His holiness, goodness, love, mercy and providence are but a beginning as to why He, and He alone, is worthy of our worship. It is by His grace that we worship Him!

What is worship?

Worship is, by way of act, attitude, or thought, a way of giving supreme honour and reverence to God! As Christian disciples, God Almighty alone is worthy of our reverence, submission and worship. There are many other things that are worshipped and thus are ‘gods’, with a small ‘g’. Money, careers, possession, other people are 21st century examples of things which are worshipped by humans. Thus the threat of materialism is a huge danger to Christian disciples, because the worship of material possessions takes the supreme place of worship to God, and some Christian disciples have been duped by it! But the Bible clearly states that God alone is to be worshipped. For God is to carry the worshipping Christian disciple, and not the Christian disciple to carry the god. So how do Christian disciples worship?

How do we worship?

In some church services, a general confession of sin comes at the start. This is because before engaging in exultant praise, Christian disciples should approach with penitence and examine their inner selves just as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6. We also gather in expectation of meeting God and that He will receive the worship!

Worship services should consist of more than just singing songs. The church is 2000 years old and in that time a lot of resources can be found to help people worship, apart from singing songs! There are items like responsive prayers and psalms, whereby prayers and psalms are spoken between the congregation to each other and to the leader! There are times of silence, or times of spoken liturgy where truths of God are both spoken and heard. Saying the Apostles Creed or Nicence Creed help build the body in affirming their belief! Times of worship should be more diverse than just singing songs and should express the cultural and personality diversity of the people worshipping!

Other core parts of some worship services are the Holy Communion and Baptisms! These were fundamental in churches in the New Testament period and are just as important today! Holy Communion is where we as Christian disciples remember Jesus death for our sin, acceptance of His death for us; and our dependence on Him for our spiritual life. Baptism is where Christian disciples identify with death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I hope to elucidate on these two sacraments next time!

The third element of worship is the reading and preaching of the Bible! This where God’s word is read in public! This is where God’s Word is preached so as to that God’s word can be applied to the hearer’s lives!

The whole of a church worship service should be where the spiritually comfortable are discomforted and those spiritually uncomfortable are comforted! From 1 Corinthians 14v25, worship should be where non-Christians present can proclaim, “God is really among you”. So often our church worship services are flat, feeble and weak spiritually. At one extreme in churches, we have worship services that are flippant and no consideration to make worship an awe-inspiring time of devotion to an awesome God! At the other extreme we have worship services where everybody looks like they have been sucking on lemons, where grace is lacking. Somewhere in between, is where public worship should be. In the broad spectrum of being neither trivialized nor grace-less, is where our church worship services should be! Sometimes we need to worship, even if we don’t feel like it and pray for God to help us worship Him. Over all this, is 1 Corinthians 14v26, which plainly states: “Everything that is done must be useful to all and build them up in the Lord”. Public worship is for encouragement of the worshipping group of believers and not for the individual worshipper.

For more to think about please do read 1 Corinthians 14v26-39. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. When I attend worship services, is it for the encouragement of others or just for myself?

Q2. What are my favourite elements of worship and how should I react to those elements I don’t like?

Q3. Does my life of Christian discipleship, match the words I sing and words I speak in church worship services?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

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