Saturday, March 24, 2018

Two Lamps

I have always admired the Art Nouveau style, and particularly the stained glass work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, for its flowing designs and vibrant yet subtly blended colors. As my husband was reading aloud our daily devotionals in our living room, he had turned on the reproduction Tiffany lamp on the sofa table beside him, while its companion on the other side of the couch remained unlit.

The light beside him shown in brilliant colors, catching my attention from across the room with its ruby, topaz, amethyst, and opal hues. It illuminated its metal base, which shone softly in reflected light, highlighting its graceful lines. And it clearly fulfilled its main purpose of shining light on the Scriptures my husband was reading.

In stark contrast, the unlit lamp sat glumly unused, its most prominent feature being the gray soldering holding together the stained glass pieces, which also looked dull and drab without light transmitting through them. 
Without being lit from above, the metal base appeared as rough, dark and shapeless as a tree stump. And it goes without saying that the unlit lamp served no useful purpose at the moment. In fact, from my vantage point in the neighboring easy chair, I could see dust collecting on its surface.

The lit lamp cast a shadow behind it, highlighting the contrast between light and darkness, while the unlit lamp blended right in with its surroundings. The two lamps reminded me of the importance to the Christian life of letting the light of Jesus Christ shine through us. Once we are saved by placing our faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, we are to become the light of the world (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:15), just as He is the Light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).

Our pastor has recently been preaching on light-bearers in the Bible. God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Born-again believers (John 3:3-8) are the light of the world, but we must be careful not to be deceived by Satan, who can transform himself into an angel of light, along with his false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

Do we long for the gaudy, garish, neon lights of the world, like those in Times Square, with all their allure and false promise? It seems that the wisdom of the world prevails over the wisdom of God’s Word in worldly matters (Luke 16:8), and that evildoers love darkness and hate the light of Christ, for it points out their condemnation (John 3:19). Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers to the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, so that it cannot illuminate them unless they trust in Jesus as Lord (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But as believers, we must follow the light of God, and walk in the light (2 Corinthians 11:14), for we are the children of light (Luke 16:8). Are we fulfilling our destiny of being Christ’s light in this dark, doomed, wicked world? Our mission is to open the eyes of the unsaved through God’s plan of salvation, and to turn them from darkness to light (Acts 26:18).

If we yield to the Holy Spirit, He will elevate us to heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6), and then we can shine like the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden, or the candle lifted up on a candlestick to illuminate the entire house. Then His light can shine through us (John 1:9) for others to see through our good works, to God’s glory (Matthew 5:14-16).

If we follow the light of Christ, we will keep from stumbling (John 11:9), no longer live in darkness (John 8:12; 12:46), walk in the light of day (Isaiah 2:5; 1 John 1:7; Romans 13:13), and live in the light by loving one another (1 John 2:10), for we shall have the light of life (John 8:12). Just as a burning lamp creates contrast by casting a shadow, the world should be able to see the difference between the light of Christ shining through us, making us holy and beyond reproach, and the crookedness and perversity of the dark world through which we pass (Philippians 2:15).

Born-again believers (John 3:3-8) have the choice to be like one of the two lamps in my illustration. We can never lose our salvation (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:35-39), but we can grieve and quench the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19) by disobedience and indifference to God’s Word and His will for our life. In so doing we are like the unlit lamp – functional once illuminated, but serving no useful purpose while turned off.

When we walk in His Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), we become like the wise virgins who kept their lamps filled with oil, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, and who were ready when the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, came for them unexpectedly at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17), symbolized by the marriage feast (Matthew 25 1-13)

But those who have not accepted Christ are still vessels unfit for His use, for they cannot be filled with the oil of the Spirit until the light of the glorious gospel shines in their heart. While unsaved, they are like the foolish virgins who failed to fill their lamps with oil and who were shut out from the marriage feast when the Bridegroom returned, for He never knew them.

This parable (Matthew 25 1-13) makes it clear that it is not enough to keep company with those who are saved, whether through being born into a Christian family, traveling in Christian circles, or even regularly attending church and doing Christian service. We can only be the light of the world and be ready for Him to take us home if we have made our own personal decision to trust in the glorious Gospel light.

Then we can live forever in that glorious city that will not need the sun or moon, for the light of the Lamb of God Himself will shine in it to illuminate the saved nations (Revelation 21:23-24). May His light shine through us continually until He returns!

© 2018 Laurie Collett


Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Lord’s Supper: Before, During and After

God’s Triune nature, reflected in triplets of Scripture throughout the Bible, is echoed in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-21; Luke 22:7-30)

This memorable meal, with special significance to Jesus, to His apostles, and to born-again believers, looked back to the past, celebrated the present, and anticipated the future

The Lord’s Supper, convened by Jesus with His disciples the night before He was crucified, took place on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (Matthew 26:17) during Passover. Finding the guestroom for this meal involved three people: the disciples Peter and John, and an unnamed servant (Mark 14:13-16; Luke 22:8-13). 

Jesus arranged for this supper by telling the disciples to go into the city, to meet the servant whom they would recognize by his carrying a  pitcher of water, and to ask his master to lend Jesus the large upper room for the meal (Mark 14:13). 

There are many theories about what Jesus and the twelve consumed at the meal, but Scripture only mentions bread (Mark 14:22; Matthew 26:26), fruit of the vine (Mark 14:25; Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:18), and a dip for the bread (Mark 14:20; Matthew 26:23), most likely olive oil (Exodus 29:2) containing bitter herbs (Numbers 9:11). Lamb would not be on the menu that day, as no work, such as killing, preparing, and cooking a lamb, could be done on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:4-7).

It is fitting that the Passover lamb could not be sacrificed until the following day (Exodus 12:6), when Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), would Himself be crucified beginning at the third hour (Mark 15:25) of the day (around 9AM), with the time of death at the ninth hour, around 3PM (Mark 15: 34).

Jesus knew the agonizing ordeal He would face in a few hours, yet He began His last meal by giving thanks (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17-19), emphasizing that we should thank God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

He knew that He was about to be betrayed, arrested and subjected to three false trials; rejected, humiliated, and scorned by His chosen people; and beaten, crowned with thorns, and crucified. Even worse, all but John of His beloved disciples abandoned Him during this ordeal; He had to witness the heartbreak of His mother; and at the moment He took on all of mankind’s sins, God had to look away and Christ could not call Him “Father” (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19).

Jesus explained the symbolism of the Last Supper to His disciples (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:17-20). The bread He broke represented His body that would be broken on the cross; the fruit of the vine represented His blood that would be shed to take away mankind’s sin; and all were to drink of the cup to symbolize their spiritual union with Him.

The same three products consumed at the Lord’s Supper constituted the meat and drink offering given at the feast of firstfruits, which looked forward to Jesus as the First to rise from the dead to a glorified body. The meat offering was cakes made of two tenth deals of fine flour mixed with olive oil, and the drink offering was the fourth part of an hin of wine (Leviticus 23:13).

The absence of leaven in the offering cakes, in the manna God provided to feed His children in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15,31), and in the Passover bread connotes the absence of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-7) in Christ. He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35,48), the Bread of God (John 6:33), and the Living Bread giving eternal life (John 6:51) to all those who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) .

For Jesus and His apostles, the Lord’s Supper therefore remembered God’s deliverance and acts of worship established in the past: His sparing the firstborn Hebrew children from the angel of death in Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13; 21-23); the feast of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:17; 23:15; 34:18; etc.) to commemorate the Passover, and the temple offerings at the feast of firstfruits (Leviticus 23:13).

At the first Passover, the scarlet thread of redemption by the blood was dramatically shown in the blood sacrifice of the lamb, to mark with blood the lintel and two side posts of each doorway (Exodus 12:5-7;22-23). This forerunner of the sign of the cross signified that the angel of death should “pass over” the homes thus marked, sparing the life of the firstborn within.

For all those sealed by our faith in Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, death will “pass over” us in that our physical body will die, but we will pass through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4)., and we will live eternally with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8). Our soul and spirit will forever be with the Lord and will ultimately inhabit our glorified body, which will never age, get sick, or die (1 Corinthians 15:35-54).

During the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus and His apostles were highly engaged in the present moment. Jesus had longed for and was now savoring His fellowship with the disciples (Luke 22:15), serving them (Matthew 26:26-27; Mark 14:22-23), and teaching them by His example, by explanation, and by warnings that they would betray, deny, or abandon Him (Matthew 26:21-24; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-34).

The disciples responded at first with self-examination, each asking with great sorrow if he was the one who would betray Christ (Matthew 26:22; Mark 14:19), but this soon degenerated into arguing over who would be the guilty one and even into jockeying for position regarding who could be considered the “best” disciple (Luke 22:23-24).

How this must have grieved Jesus, particularly on the eve of His crucifixion, and yet don’t we do the same today? We examine our own hearts all too briefly, then attempt to justify ourselves by judging sins in others and concluding wrongly that we’re better by comparison.

While remembering the past and living in the present, Jesus also used His last supper before His death to prophecy the future. He prophesied that His body would be broken and His blood shed in His crucifixion. He looked forward to the new covenant between Holy God and sinful man, reconciling them by His perfect, sinless sacrifice to pay the entire debt for all our sins (Matthew 26:28). Finally, He prophesied His coming Kingdom, when He would again eat the unleavened bread and drink the fruit of the vine in fellowship with His beloved at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:16,18).

Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we should remember Christ’s sacrifice, thank Him for our salvation, and look forward to His Second Coming! 

© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives