Come to the Table

Question 75. How does the Lord’s Supper signify and seal to you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all His gifts?

Answer. In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him. With this command He gave these promises:[1] First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely was His body offered for me and His blood poured out for me on the cross. Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and the cup of the Lord as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely does He Himself nourish and refresh my soul to everlasting life with His crucified body and shed blood.

[1] Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20; I Cor. 11:23-25.

Heidelberg Cathechism

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THE POWER OF THE CROSS: Testimonies from Church History

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But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to open Paradise
The thief on the cross (born: ? ✜ born again: 32 A.D.)
CRIMINAL TO CHILD OF GOD

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Jesus, saying, “Are
you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

 

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to convert the soul
Saul/Paul (born c. A.D. 5 ✜ born again: c. A.D. 34)
PERSECUTOR TO EVANGELIST
“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ.”(Philippians 3:4b-9a; see also 1 Timothy 1:14-15; Acts 9)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to give new life
Augustine (born: A.D. 354 ✜ born again: A.D. 386)
LIBERTINE TO THEOLOGIAN
“I quickly returned to the bench where . . . I had put down the apostle’s book [Paul’s Epistle to the Romans] when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof’ [Romans 1313-14]. I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.” (Confessions 8.12)
“We glimpse our goal across the sea of the present age. . . . But to enable us to go there, the One who is our goal came to us. . . . No one may cross the sea of his age, unless he be carried by the Cross of Christ. . . . So do not forsake the Cross, and the Cross will carry you.” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 2.2)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to free from guilt
Martin Luther (born: 1483 ✜ born again: 1516)
FEARER TO REFORMER
“Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. . . . I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners. Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. . . . At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ‘In it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live”’ [Romans 1:17]. There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. . . . Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” (Works, volume 34, pp. 336-7)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to amaze with grace
John Newton (born: 1725 ✜ born again: 1747)
SLAVE TRADER TO PREACHER
“I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders. ‘O to grace how great a debtor . . .’ [from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson, 1758].” (“Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade,” 1788)
“To be inscribed upon my death: ‘John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.’” (Self-epitaph, on his gravestone in Olney, England)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to convert the mind
C.S. Lewis (born: 1898 ✜ born again: 1929)
ATHEIST TO APOLOGIST
“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. . . .You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen [College, Oxford University], night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. . . . I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing: the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? . . . The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” (Surprised by Joy, chapter 14)
“It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost him crucifixion.” (Mere Christianity, chapter 32) 

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to lead us home
Mary Ann Frazier (born: 1923   ✜   born again: c. 1929)

“I was a fortunate little girl. I had a mother and daddy that loved the Lord Jesus, and wonderful Sunday School teachers. And they would keep telling me about God, who made this whole world, became a Person to take my place on the cross; and would talk to me about the Lord Jesus, and how He shed His precious blood that cleanses me from all of my sin. And because of this, when I asked Jesus to be my Savior, God forgave me my sin, He made me His child, He brought me into His family, covered me with His righteousness, and gave me His precious Holy Spirit. And all these years the joy of my life has been experiencing the Lord Jesus with me every day. One of my wonderful Sunday School teachers, Mrs. Fanny King, loved the Lord. (You’ll meet her when you go to heaven.) She would talk to us about heaven every Sunday and teach us how the Lord Jesus was preparing a place in His glorious home in heaven for all who loved Him. And I’ve been looking forward to going and being with Him ever since. In fact, I can hardly wait!”

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to give a new beginning
Hunter Acosta (born: 1989   ✜   born again: 2011)
“I wore rage like a blanket, like a suit of armor that could be put on at any point to deflect relationships and to keep from people getting too close to me. I shunned relationships and I pushed others away, not knowing how it affected them, and definitely not knowing how it affected me. Luckily, I had a group of friends that persevered with me and continually pushed, in a good way, the Word of Christ into my life; continually asking me to come to a youth group and to experience something else. Eventually, I felt comfortable enough with them and the people around me to share my story and the fact that I had such rage and such contempt and such anger. And one night I felt it being lifted off of me. I felt it was okay to take down this suit of armor. I felt Christ take it off. With this new beginning, I am able to grow. I am able to foster relationships and love those that had been loving me all along. I am able to persevere through hardship with Him at my side; and with those people around me in Christ, I feel like I have become what God wants me to be or continually to grow as God wants me to.”


For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

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The last two people quoted are members of First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee. A worship service featuring all of the above testimonies, with musical commentary by the First Evan Worship Choir with orchestra, may be viewed HERE.

EASTER HYMN by Martin Luther

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands,
And brings us life from Heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be,
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of Alleluia!

No son of man could conquer Death,
Such mischief sin had wrought us,
For innocence dwelt not on earth,
And therefore Death had brought us
Into thralldom from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And kept us in his bondage. Alleluia!

But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
To our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone,
His power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim
And left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever.

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life;
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love!—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, Death passes over,
And Satan cannot harm us. Alleluia!

So let us keep the festival
Where to the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
The Sun that warms and lights us.
By His grace He doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended!

Then let us feast this Easter day
On the true Bread of Heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old and wicked leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our Meat and Drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other!

–Martin Luther (1524); trans. Richard Massie (1800-87)

(can be sung to the tune Mit Freuden Zart [“Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above”])

Amazing Grace 3

In evil long I took delight
Unawed by shame or fear;
Till a new object struck my sight
And stopped my wild career.

I saw one hanging on atree
In agony and blood;
Who fixed his languid eyes on me
As near his cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to change me with his death
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins his blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there.

Alas, I knew not what I did
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.

A second look He gave which said
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid
I died that that thou mayest live.”

Thus while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon, too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled;
That I should such a life destroy
yet live by Him I killed.

–John Newton, 1779 (author of the text of “Amazing Grace”)

(See the wonderful musical setting by Bob Kauflin)

Easter Hymn

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands,
And brings us life from Heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be,
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of Alleluia! Alleluia!

No son of man could conquer Death,
Such mischief sin had wrought us,
For innocence dwelt not on earth,
And therefore Death had brought us
Into thralldom from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And kept us in his bondage. Alleluia!

But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
To our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone,
His power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim
And left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever. Alleluia!

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life;
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever! Alleluia!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love!—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, Death passes over,
And Satan cannot harm us. Alleluia!

So let us keep the festival
Where to the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
The Sun that warms and lights us.
By His grace He doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended! Alleluia!

Then let us feast this Easter day
On the true Bread of Heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old and wicked leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our Meat and Drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other! Alleluia!

–Martin Luther (1524)


Easter Prayer

O GOD OF MY EXODUS,
Great was the joy of Israel’s sons
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives for ever.
He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is levelled.
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in Him I rose,
in His life I live, in His victory I triumph,
in His ascension I shall be glorified.
Adorable Redeemer,
Thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to highest heaven.
Thou, who as man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.
Once, no shame more deep than Thine,
no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive Thine enemies behind Thee.
What more could be done than Thou hast done!
Thy death is my life, Thy resurrection my peace,
Thy ascension my hope, Thy prayers my comfort.

–from The Valley of Vision