I like this particular quotation:
“Learn hence, that although men are very prone to rest upon church-privileges and external performances, as evidences of divine favour, yet they are no testimonies nor signs of the truth of grace. What circumcision, sacrifices, and the temple were to the Jews of old, the same are baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and public assemblies to professing Christians at this day. And as the Jews rested in those externals, without eyeing Christ in them, without desiring to drive holiness and sanctification from them: In like manner, multitudes of professors set up their rest in outward duties, and repose a fleshly carnal confidence in ordinances, without either desiring of, or endeavoring after, any lively communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the exercise of faith and love, without any regard to spiritual warmth in religious duties, and being by ordinances rendered more like to the God of the ordinances, which are the most desirable things, next to heaven itself.” (Richard Anthony)
So many of us rely on the superficial, outwardly signs of having been affected and effected in our relationship with God. It is for this very reason, just before the turn of the millennium I stopped undergoing the “Service of Humility” (foot washing) when and “if” I found myself in a church which just happens to be “Communion” time. We get so caught up in the symbols, ideologies and traditions and customs we find ourselves not only like the ancient Jews involved in their ceremonies, but even worse like the heathens caught up in their meaningless rounds of services! And we wish to make a public example when it fact it means nothing at all because it is not being done in the right principle.
Think about it, similarly to when the one performing the marriage say, “If any man can find just cause as to why these two persons should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace…” Have you ever seen a wedding stopped? The same regarding the “Communion” service. There is a warning given “eating and drinking unworthily”, yet, how many people have you noticed, if they hadn’t left the church, refuse to partake of the sacred ordinance and still be sitting there? I’ve not seen a one! Why, because the “inward” condition of the heart hadn’t caught up with the “outward” condition, and we go ahead and fulfill the outward display because we don’t want it public what’s really going on with our condition and faith.
How many of us were dipped in the pools of baptismal having gone down dry devils only to arise wet devils? We are so full of ourselves thinking we’re “alright” when we aren’t, and we are afraid to turn to our neighbor which is so common now and instead of say, “God loves you”, to admit, “I stink! I reek right now but I cannot admit this”, so with facades of smiles and pretended warmth we’re able to past the outward test but have failed miserably inwardly, and cannot wait to get off the “church clothes” both physical and emotional and get back to being what we are: a mess!
We need to be honest about ourselves regardless of the person next to us. We cannot fool God no matter how much deacon so-and-so might think so well of us. Those who cover themselves with the robes of eldership and pastoral-ship have a different story to tell, if it could only be heard, and as my younger brother used to say, “You might be a man of the cloth, but what are you doing with that cloth?”
We need to just stop. Either we are or we aren’t. Either we are trying or we are not, but we cannot keep up the charade because it is not a party. This is a very serious time in our life and earth’s history and we need to make those emblems, whether baptism, the Lord’s Supper, foot-washing and anything else which has a symbol of importance, to make them have meaning because for a surety, neither of that stuff will get us anywhere if our hearts are not right.
April 23, 2016