Communion: In Remembrance of What?

“We ought carefully and with the utmost seriousness and consideration attend the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: this was appointed for this end, to draw forth longings of our souls toward Jesus Christ.”
– Jonathan Edwards

Preparing for a wedding can be a wonderful, yet a chaotic time. There are many details that go into creating a wedding. However when families find out a wedding is coming, it seems like everyone comes out of the woodwork. Everyone has an opinion about how a wedding should be done. The dress, the music, the vows, the rehearsal dinner, the reception, the invitations, etc. Each element has an opinion.

My wife and I have only been married a year-and-a-half. We remember putting together our wedding. We had ideas. Each family member had ideas. Each friend had ideas. Pinterest had ideas. Yet, one thing kept us going: our wedding was about celebrating us. Our wedding was not ignoring family, but it wasn’t about everyone. The wedding was about us and vowing to be loyal to each other and love each other as Christ has loved us, and be an example of a godly marriage to the world around us.

We did things some felt were “unconventional.” Yet, again, we wanted the wedding to celebrate the main thing: our marriage.

“Keep the main thing the main thing” is a popular phrase thrown around today. It is true that we need to keep a main priority on things that are important; however, sometimes good things tend to rise above and overshadow the main thing.

Communion (or the Lord’s Supper) is a sacrament or ordinance in churches that is celebrated many times throughout the year. Recently, my wife and I took part in our church’s observance of communion. As we were reflecting as the elements were being passed, a thought hit my mind and I began thinking.

“In remembrance of what?”

The Story of Communion

The night of the Passover had arrived. The disciples found an upper room to observe the celebration of the Exodus with Jesus. They gathered together. Reclining at the table, the disciples’ eyes were fixed on Jesus. He talked about suffering and not eating the meal until it was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus took the bread. He gave thanks and broke it. Yet, His words spoke something unusual, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).” After they had consumed the bread, Jesus grasped a cup. He gave thanks. Again, His words were unexpected, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (Luke 22:20).”

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

The disciples did not realize that these words were not symbolic. These words became a reality not even twenty-four hours later.

Jesus the Son of Man, the Miracle Worker, the Great Teacher, the Messiah was arrested. He was tried, beaten, and flogged. A leather whip with ends of bone and other sharp objects ripped through his flesh like a lion tearing at prey. His beard was ripped out of his face. A crown of thorns was wedged on his head causing blood to stream down his face. He was unrecognizable. Yet, he did not protest. He freely gave over his body.

The bloodied Christ, burdened with a cross, was led out of the city to be crucified. His muscles were so weak and torn, that another man had to carry Jesus’ cross.

The soldiers arrived with Jesus at a place called “The Place of the Skull.” He was stripped and became vulnerable for all to see. His arms were pulled to each end of the beam while spikes were hammered through his wrists into the wood. His feet suffered the same.

Jesus, the one who healed a woman with the issue of blood, the one who cast out demons and put a man in his right mind, the one who saved a woman about to be stoned, the one who fed hungry souls was lifted on a cross for all to see. The soldiers then dropped the cross into a hole tearing his ligaments and dislocating his shoulders.

In agony, Jesus had to gasp for breath. In pain, he stretched his bloodied form to fill his lungs. After a while, he looked to heaven and said, “It is finished.” No more air entered his lungs. His kind eyes grew dim. Jesus was dead.

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

His lifeless body was taken down and buried. Yet, three days later. Jesus rose from the dead. He was not a spirit. He had a physical body and ate in front of his disciples. He lives. His disciples were changed and began to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world.

One thought permeates their message to the world, “My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

In Remembrance of… our Purity

The story of communion is sobering. We come to communion based on this story. However, what is it in remembrance of?

I have sat through many communion services and observed one thing that really sticks out – “Take time to pray and get your heart right before God. Christian, if you are living in sin, you cannot partake until you are restored with God.”

I Corinthians 11:27-32 is the basis for comments like this. Paul commanded the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were partaking in the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. Why? 11:17-22 gives us the answer. The Corinthians were abusing the Lord’s Supper. They were partying and stuffing themselves like a pagan celebration. There were factions among the rich and poor. The Lord’s Supper looked no different than what happened at the pagan temple. The Corinthians had lost sight of the purpose of communion.

Similarly, the pendulum can swing the other way. Have we forgotten the main purpose of communion? In our churches, we tend to belabor the point of repentance and being right before God that we make communion in remembrance of our purity before God. When we pass the bread and the grape juice (or wine depending on the church’s beliefs), we tend to figure out who took the bread and who has not. Our minds quickly race, “What is going on in his life?” “What is she hiding?” We tend to make communion a memorial of our purity before God.

Sure, we are not celebrating and abusing it like the Corinthians. But, we are making it about us. Communion is not about our purity before God. That is not the main point. When we belabor and focus on our purity and confession before God during the Lord’s Supper, we have missed the purpose of communion.

In Remembrance of Me

In the book of Luke (Luke 22:14-23) and in I Corinthians 11 (I Corinthians 11:17-26), a phrase is repeated: “In Remembrance of Me.” Twice in I Corinthians 11 it is repeated.

The main purpose of the Lord’s Supper is remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is remembering the incarnation, remembering his life, remembering how he redeemed us and signed a new covenant in his blood, and sealed it with his resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is in remembrance of Jesus as we look forward to his coming and restoring everything as he brings about the New Earth where he reigns and we are living like we were originally created to (Revelation 21).

We break the bread with our teeth, we drink the juice and we are to remember Jesus. Our righteous standing has nothing do with our efforts or the number of prayers given. It has all to do with Jesus. As we partake the Lord’s Supper, we are proclaiming the new covenant God initiated in Christ. The temple curtain is torn. His blood is there for us to paint our doorposts with. It is all about him. We eat and drink communion in remembrance of him.

In Remembrance of Him… We Pray

Are we just supposed to throw out making sure our hearts are right before God? No. The Christian life is a lifestyle of repentance. The fruit of salvation is repentance. Too often we come to communion with fear of the judgement that comes if we eat in an unworthy manner (I Corinthians 11:27-34). Have we forgotten that in Christ there is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)?

We are not condemned. We are free from sin. This is why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Yes, we need to examine our live. But, we do not have to fear because we are adopted as heirs and sons of God (Romans 8:15-17).

When we remember Christ, we praise God for his salvation and we bow in humility as we know we do not deserve it. Communion is a reminder of our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we come to that realization we cannot help but repent of our lukewarm hearts. It is not out of fear, but out of longing for the satisfaction that Jesus gives. It is a longing to be with Jesus when he comes again. It is a longing to finally see our Savior face to face and touch the body he took on and kept.

So, shake off the spirit of fear. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial celebration of thanksgiving to our God. We repent because we marvel and remember the great work Christ did for us on the cross and in his resurrection.

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!
– Martin Luther

Saved unto a List or Saved unto a New Life

“Though there is not always grace where there is the fear of hell, yet, to be sure, there is no grace where there is no fear of God.”
– John Bunyan

This week I handed out the requirements for my students’ next project. As the students got the list, they quickly began looking at the details and what would happen if they did not fulfill those requirements. As I went over this simple sheet of paper, each one was frantically underlining, highlighting, and starring each point in order to not miss a single one.

A hand popped up with a concerned face connected at the end. “Mr. Field, what is the penalty of missing one of these requirements?” My response sent shivers down some of their spines, “I will return your outline back to you, and you will receive a late penalty when you turn it in corrected.” The seriousness of following the requirements set in, and since then I have had many students come to me asking to check their outlines to see if they are on track.

I pondered on this simple academic situation. It is not unusual for this type of experience to happen at the college level. Yet, there is an important spiritual truth to be seen.

The Great Gift of Salvation

It is no denying that the greatest gift God has given to man is salvation. We were dead in our sins, and we were on our way to eternal condemnation. But God, who is rich in mercy, saved us by His grace to a new life (Ephesians 2:1-10).

When we come face to face with the holiness of God, we see the wretchedness of our sin and the glorious forgiveness of Christ. It is only through the death and resurrection of Christ we can be fully set free from the burden and slavery of sin, and be made alive to God.

Do you remember the day you were saved? Do you remember the Spirit pushing the weight of sin on your mind? Do you remember not being able to do anything else but cry out to God for salvation? The moment of being justified and reconciled with our Creator is the sweetest thing in life.

Salvation. It seems so simple, and we praise God for it. But, have we missed the great gift of Salvation and unwrapped a false salvation?

Saved from Fear to… Fear?

Romans 6:16-18 states we are set free from the slavery of sin, and are now servants of God. Romans 8:15 claims we are set free from the slavery of sin and set free from a spirit of fear. Instead, we are given the spirit of adoption where we are now called the children of God and heirs with Christ.

Yet, have we listened to a “salvation” that frees us from a spirit of fear and, in return, given us a different spirit of fear?

I am talking about the list. Many in churches today see salvation as praying a prayer, and then following a list of do’s and don’ts their church culture made from application of Scripture. We will not admit to it, but we say a prayer, write the date down, and then we carefully follow the check list:
– Attend church services every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and
Wednesday evening
– Give to the church
– Read your Bible and pray
– Serve in the church
– Look the part for church
– Hand out tracts
– Give of your best to the master

The list can go on and on. Yet, when we doubt our salvation we turn to the date in our Bible and look at our checklist. We fear hellfire because we do not believe enough in a date or our fulfilling a checklist of chores.

This is not the spirit of adoption. This is not being saved to a new life in Christ. This false salvation is a belief in a date written in your Bible and your faithfulness to a list. This is superstition. It becomes about your work and your ability.

Following this mentality leads to being saved from fear of hellfire to being saved to the fear of your ability to believe and do enough. Biblically speaking, it is no different than the issue of the Galatians of trying to justify themselves through the works of the law (Galatians 2:15-16).

We no longer become servants of God. Instead, we are like puppets fearing what would happen if we mess up on our list and not hold fast to the date in our Bible. There is no grace in this attitude. We become more fearful of hellfire and the people in our churches, rather than being fearful of God and falling on our faces before Him to rescue us.

We have traded the burden of sin and death for the burden and fear of the church and a list of requirements. This is not salvation.

Saved to a New Life

So, what are we saved to? We already know that we are saved from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23). We know this.

But, are we not saved to a new life to live a new way? Yes we are. The classic passage is Romans 12:1-2. Because of all that God has done for us, we are to be living sacrifices to Him. Because of Romans 1-11, we see the mercy and grace of our great God and Savior as He reached down and saved our souls when we could not help but die in our sins. However, we tend to get this passage mixed up. Our minds quickly breeze through verse 1 and go straight to “do not be conformed to this world” found in verse two. We look for what we need to do first. But, we need to take the passage exactly as what God gave us in His Word. We are to glory in the mercies of God and be. We are to be His living sacrifice ready for His will. There is no doing yet. We bask in his mercy and grace of no longer being condemned, but being adopted, and having a new life for God. This makes drives us to be a living sacrifice, and then begin doing. Paul reiterates this point in Galatians 2:20.

We no longer have to fear condemnation from anyone. We live, and have our being, and have our purpose in life because of the grace and mercy of God. Fearing God is not fearing hellfire. Fearing God is seeing who we are before Him, rejoicing in His work and gift of salvation, and living our lives for Him because of who He is. It is an awe in the God who is our Creator, Savior, Father, Justifier, and King of kings.

The Fruit of Salvation Lived

Oswald Chambers says, “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” When we fear, we use a list as the “fruit of our salvation.” Then, when someone is not following the list, we quickly state, “You will know them by their fruit.”

The fruit of salvation is not a list. The fruit of salvation is repentance. Matthew 3:8 shows us that it is not about being from a family, or following laws, or completing a list. The true fruit of salvation is repentance. It is not just and one and done deal. Repentance is a lifestyle of constantly turning from our pride and sin to be our our God, and running to the cross to find forgiveness as we learn to live our new life in Christ. From this lifestyle, the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) blossoms from a once dead tree made alive through the blood of Christ.

A.W. Tozer says, “Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.” We no longer have requirements. Instead, we live by faith because we see who God is and we want Him more than a list and more than anything in this world.

We are saved from sin, slavery and fear. We are saved to God, purposed in a new life, serving God in Christ, because of Christ. This is salvation. This is living our new life poured out from the grace of God.

All I was I lay aside now dead to sin
To God alive! Born again into a new identity!
Once asleep to God in sin, now wakened by the blood and cleansed!
Born again to be who He called me to be!
All I have I lay aside, run the race to gain the prize
For the sake of knowing Jesus Christ in me!
I cannot yet fully see all I’m truly called to be,
Knowing Christ reveals my hope and destiny!

He calls me child! He calls me to his side eternally!
He calls what once was lost now found, once bound to sin – now free!
He calls me holy! Calls me righteous! By the blood redeemed!
He calls me overcomer, crowned with victory!
This is my destiny!

What once bound me is no more! What was stolen is restored
By the resurrection power of my King!
What was old has been made new; lies and doubts replaced by truth!
What was silent now resounds, “I am redeemed!”

He calls me servant, calls me warrior; calls me royalty!
He calls me resurrected one! He calls me His redeemed!
He calls me higher, calls me for beyond my wildest dream!
He calls my heart to come and be all he can see!
He calls me chosen! New creation! Trophy of his His grace!
He gives me strength to fight the fight and run to win the race!
He tells me he delights in me while singing over me,
Accepting me as His beloved bride-to-be! This is my destiny!

– “This is My Destiny” by Dennis Jernigan

Getting into the Water: A Review of a Study Bible for New Believers

“In the divine Scriptures, there are shallows and there are deeps; shallows where the lamb may wade, and deeps where the elephant may swim.” – John Owen

I remember sitting in French class in college not knowing what I got myself into. I felt lost and confused. I needed lots of help at the beginning while adjusting to this new study.

We all have been there. A new phase of life begins and we feel lost or confused and need help as we get started.

The new life in Christ can be overwhelming at the start. You gave your life to Christ. You are forgiven of your sins. You are now apart of the Body of Christ, the Church.

And, as the story goes… As soon as you make a profession of faith, someone hands you a large book called the Bible. You are told this is your guide to life. Read it, and study it with care. This is how you get to know Jesus and understand how to live your new life in Him.

Getting a Bible when starting your new life with Christ can feel daunting. The book is larger than most books you have read. There are many books within the Bible. The language may seem archaic and strange. How in the world are you supposed to study and understand everything in this book?

A Study Bible to Start Your Quest

Zondervan recently rereleased the NIV Quest Study Bible. This Study Bible is a great tool to start your new journey as a Christian.

The contributors on the Quest Study Bible have taken the task to create a study Bible that is understandable, easy to access, and easy to use for those who are new to the faith as they seek to know God through His Word.

I have personally used this study Bible in the past and have found it helpful in my Christian walk with God. There are so many aspects of this Bible that are beneficial to new believer that I would like to walk through a few of them as you consider this Bible as a tool to start your walk with Christ.

A Study Bible that is Easy to Understand

The NIV translation is a great place to start when studying the Bible. The language of the NIV is easy to comprehend as one makes their way through some of the tougher passages and long paragraphs. Paul can be confusing sometimes, but the language of the NIV can clear some of the confusion up.

Also, many of the other study Bibles have notes that involve Greek and Hebrew key words, deep theological notations, and other such things. The study notes in the Quest Study Bible are set up as questions. These are quite helpful when studying the Bible for the first time. Not only are the notes at a good level to understand the Bible, but the questions help the reader begin to ask questions of the Bible. This is a great way to begin studying the Bible with some depth. The questions are found on the side margins of each page and are linked with the passages next to it.

When one feels lost or confused with a passage, just look to the side and a question will help you on your way. The language of the study notes help clear the confusion, and at the end of the note are references to other passages and notes to help with clarity.

The study features in the Quest Study Bible aid new believers in the ability to study the Bible for themselves. Taking Bible classes or attending Sunday School classes on how to the study the Bible is great. However, the ability to study the Bible on one’s own time is a crucial skill for the believer. The Quest Study Bible‘s question format helps develop the individual’s skill of studying the Bible with clarity.

A Study Bible to Guide your Quest

When approaching Bible reading and study, many believers take a Bible reading plan, and by about the second month the feeling of being overwhelmed can easily set in. This can happen to new believers, and can cause great discouragement when starting out.

Those who put together the Quest Study Bible thought up a brilliant solution to this issue. In the front of the Bible (as opposed to in the back like many other study Bibles), the reader will find three different “courses” of Bible reading. Course 1 is an “Introduction to the Bible”. Course 2 is a “Guided Tour of the Bible.” Course 3 is “Every Word in the Bible.” Each course takes a different amount of time to complete. The Quest Study Bible‘s reading plans start with a good survey of the Bible and end with reading through the entire Bible. This is a brilliant pathway to work your way from the shallow end of Bible study and into the deep end.

Another helpful tool, that is found in the front of the Bible, is an overview of each of the books of the Bible. Understanding a brief statement of the contents of each book helps the reader develop a map to navigating each book.

A Study Bible to Keep the Motivation of the Quest Going

Lastly, a good study Bible will help the reader stay motivated throughout their study. Even though knowing God deeper and living His calling out to the fullest is the ultimate motivation for studying the Bible, a new believer has a different perspective. A new believer has just had their world turned upside down and needs help staying motivated in their pursuit of knowing God.

This is a great feature of the Quest Study Bible. When one begins a book, the first thing to notice that, instead of seeing who wrote the book, the question of why should I read this book is answered. Knowing the why can help motivate one to read each book of the bible – even the so called “boring” books of the Bible (i.e. Leviticus).

Also, sprinkled throughout like a trail of bread crumbs are the numerous vignettes of special notes (i.e. Top 100 Questions, maps, charts, and other articles). These help a reader dive deeper into the depths of God’s Word and interact with Scripture through the maps and charts. All of this helps keep the motivation throughout the quest to study the Bible.

Come on in, the Water is Great

New life in Christ is an adventure from salvation till we see our Savior face to face. Getting to know our Creator and Savior by studying the Bible can be overwhelming and daunting for new believers. The Quest Study Bible is a great way to start and a great tool to have on your shelf and on your lap.

Making God’s Word understandable, accessible, and usable is a challenge, and the contributors of the Quest Study Bible have done an excellent job. I highly recommend this study Bible to new believers as you start your walk with Christ. This study Bible will help you learn how to study on your own, and study deeper without the discouragement that can come as one begins to study the Bible.

II Timothy 2:15 says to do your best to handle the Word of God. This is a great study Bible to start just that.

The quest may seem overwhelming and wonderful starting out. Yet, the Quest Study Bible can help you take those first steps in Bible study.

Purchase the Quest Study Bible Here

*I received a free copy of this study Bible from BibleGateway to review as I am a member of their Blogger Grid

The Christian, The Government, and Living

“Most Christians salute the sovereignty of God but believe in the sovereignty of man.”
– R.C. Sproul

Have you read the comments on various news articles on Facebook? Doing this can reveal a lot about our attitudes toward government and where our government is going.

We see the 2020 election as a pivotal point in our American society. We hear words like “socialism” or “gun control,” and we take to our keyboards writing our opinions.

The pathway our government is going has become a headlining issue. We all have an opinion on this. You will hear one person decry socialism. Yet, another will try to show the benefits of it. There are debates, protests, and online fights over different government systems.

Our reactions expose a theme in our lives: the system of American government is important. However, is this a biblical priority for Christians? How should we biblically respond to governing systems in our country and around the world?

Christian and Government: The Biblical Data

What does the Bible directly say about government?

Thinking about the Christian and government, Romans 13:1-7 is the first passage that should come to mind. We see here there is an imperative in the Greek. We are to submit to the governing authority.

I Timothy 2:1-4 is another location where Paul writes about the Christian interaction with government. We are to pray for those in authority in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life.

Peter, also, mentions the government. I Peter 2:13-14 states that we need to submit to the governing authorities over us.

From these classic passages, we are instructed to submit to and to pray for governing authorities in our lives. In American culture our authorities would be the president, senators, governors, representatives, mayors, judges, police, teachers, employers, etc. Every day we live our lives under multiple layers of governing authorities. According to Scripture, we are to submit and pray.

Christians and Government: The Source

Even though we know the command to submit, we forget there is a divine source and divine sovereignty to all government.

Romans 13:1 reveals God bringing to authority those who he wishes. All governments and their leaders are instituted by God. This God is our Creator (Genesis 1). This God loves each of us so much that our sin needed a Savior (John 3:16). This God cares about individual sparrows and cares for us. We do not have to worry (Luke 12:22-34).

God is sovereign. God knows what is happening. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He knows what is best for us, and He will never leave or forsake us.

Do you think God does not know what He is doing when it comes to our government?

Christians and Government: A Lesson from the Past

Christians do worry about and voice their concerns of who is going to be in office. We cast our votes, we put signs on our yards, and we promote others to vote a certain way in order to keep one group (we deem evil) out of office.

In the early church, there was not much control of who was in office. The early Christians did not have a voice like we have today. Many of the emperors of Rome persecuted Christians. Religious freedom was not a denied right. Religious freedom for Christians did not exist until Constantine.

Christians were persecuted. Even in the book of Acts, Christians were hunted down as the most dangerous game. They were beaten, thrown in prison, crucified, beheaded, and ripped apart by wild animals.

While in prison for preaching the Gospel, Paul writes, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself (Philippians 4:11-12).” Paul used the circumstances he found as opportunities to give the Gospel and make disciples around him (Ephesians 6:19-20).

Democracy and religious freedom did not exist in Paul’s society. Yet, Paul was content. His goal was to bring Christ to others no matter who was the governing authority. The government was not the hope and foundation of his faith.

Christians and Government: A Lesson from the Present

I had the opportunity to listen to a pastor from a culture where it is illegal to speak about the Gospel openly. In his culture, Christians must meet in secret. Christians have concern for their safety. Christian families may be split apart and the father put in prison. There are consequences from the government like not being able to do banking or other business just for having a home church.

He was asked how he could have such a strong faith amidst such an oppressive government. His answer was quite thought provoking. The hope of his faith did not rest in the government. His hope was in his heavenly citizenship secured by the death and resurrection of Jesus sealed by the Holy Spirit. The citizenship in his culture came second to his citizenship in heaven.

This pastor is able to live out his faith with boldness, courage, and an open hand because his citizenship is sealed by the Holy Spirit. His government has regulations. Does the tightening down on these regulations concern him? No. His goal is to live for Christ. His faith does not rise and fall with whatever system of government is in power.

Christians and Government: The Challenge

Timothy Keller writes, “If the Christian faith gets too identified with a party, it reduces Christianity to a political position.”

2020 is coming. Republicans and democrats seem to be going at each other every time the news is broadcasted. We hear the words “socialism” and “impeachment,” and our emotions get going. We hear about people wanting to change the constitution and take away our rights. Our emotions start to bubble and our reactions come out. It seems like our faith is strengthened or weakened by what is happening in government.

Can we live as content Christians with the republicans in office? Can we live as content Christians with the democrats in office? Can we live for Christ whether the governing system is democracy or socialism?

We are commanded to submit, pray, and live. Can we be like Paul and this pastor living in a hostile culture and be content? Can we find opportunities to make disciples while living under a government system that is not our preference?

We tend to forget that God is sovereign when the ways of government do not go our way.

What is the hope of your faith? Putting faith in a political party makes a bad religion

We say God is sovereign, but we tend to live as if man is in charge.

“It is a most blessed thing to be subject to the sovereignty of God.”
– John Calvin

Cross-Fit Bodies: A Biblical Perspective on Male Body Image

“The most critical need of the church at this moment is men, bold men, free men. The church must seek, in prayer and much humility, the coming again of men made of the stuff of which prophets and martyrs are made.” – A.W. Tozer

Body Image. This is an issue that is becoming more and more visible for men. For me, it is a personal issue. Having a disability makes the issue of male body image hit close to the heart. Yet, I am not the only one. Men may not speak out about their struggle, but it is real. Even as I write this post, I am overhearing three different conversations where men are discussing body image in relation to working out.

Us men, whether we realize it or not, are constantly barraged with images and ideas of what our bodies should be like. We live in the culture of super heroes and celebrity eye-candy. Images of fit men like Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, John Cena, and Michael Phelps are celebrated as the specimen of good male body image. The cultural phenomenon of the “dad bod” is another way for those who do not want to be in the “fitness camp” to relate to their bodies.

We might not say this is a real issue for Christians to talk about. However, look at culture. Men are more and more seen for their bodies. It might not have been obvious 50 years ago, but it was still there. Look at movies such as Grease. There is a body image for men even back then. When we think about the church, there are plenty of books and conferences for women on the issue of their bodies, yet why is it that nothing is said for men?

Amidst the flashes of models, fitness programs, and celebrities, Christian men need a biblical perspective on how to view their bodies. This post will not cover everything, but I pray this starts a conversation encouraging men to sharpen other men to live a biblical life dedicated to Christ.

Back to Genesis

When talking about men and our bodies, we need to go back to creation. However, we cannot start with God making man. In fact, we cannot start with creation. We need to start with our Creator.

In order to understand a biblical male body image, we need to truly come to an understanding that we have a personable, Creator God. Genesis 1 reveals that our Creator is the Almighty God who can breathe creation into existence. He is in a relationship with humans from the beginning. Even after the fall of man into sin, our Creator promises a destruction of sin as he reconciles our relationship with Him (Genesis 3:15).

God knows us, and not just facts about us. Due to being our Creator, God is able to know us on an intimate level (Psalm 139). We cannot begin talking about our body image unless we realize that our body comes from being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

Created with a Cross-Fit Body

CrossFit. What comes to mind? Do you think of guys straining to flip tires? Men drinking protein shakes? Mirror selfies showing transformation?

What is the purpose of working out? We tend to only see fitness as an aesthetic quality that we must possess in order to be considered attractive. Or, we react against the fitness craze and not care about our looks. But, what is the purpose in that? These two trends boil down to the qualities of aesthetics.

What if our male bodies were created for more?

When we talk about our bodies, we tend to hear sermons on Psalm 139:14. But, have we taken the time to read Psalm 139:13-16? It is not enough to marvel at God creating our bodies, but it is even greater to marvel in the fact God formed our inward parts, fitted together each physical aspect of our bodies for a specific purpose (v. 16).

God creates each man’s body for a specific purpose. Adam was created to work the garden (Genesis 2:15). The prophet Jeremiah was created for the purpose of being a messenger to God’s people (Jeremiah 1:4-5). In fact, Abraham’s body was created to show the glory of God’s miracle to bring about the nation of Israel (Hebrews 11:12).

God designed each part of our body, even the parts we do not like, for a this purpose. Abraham’s infertility was used to bring God glory through a purpose designed from the beginning of the world.

When we claim the name of Christ and live for Him, we have a Cross-Fit body. Our bodies are to be used to for the purpose God called us to. Your body can be used for purposes of teaching, constructing, analyzing, diagnosing, mentoring, writing, speaking, running, socializing, and even sexual intimacy in the context of God’s creation of marriage. Your body is not just a machine. It is the vessel through which we fulfill the calling of God that He created for us in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).

Using our Cross-Fit Body

However, how are we to use our bodies? Where does fitness come in?

Hebrews 12:1 shows us God’s race that is set before us. Usually, we talk about being spiritual fit for God’s calling in our lives. But, does this apply to physical fitness?

In order to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, we need to be physically fit enough to do what he has called us to do. Our bodies are used as God’s Temple. Can we glorify God with our bodies if we are physically unable to do what God has called us to?

However, there is another side to this issue. We should workout and be fit. Yet, working out and looking fit does not help us use our bodies. When we focus on looking good it is hard to step away from the mirror and begin using our bodies. That is the point of physical fitness. If we are unable to physically spend time with our families, fulfill our vocational responsibilities, or interact with the church due to us neglecting our physical fitness, then we are not honoring God. But if we are only working out to perfect our looks in order promote ourselves, we are still not honoring God.

The reason we have a body is to use our bodies. How are we physically preparing for the purpose God has for us?

Cross-Fit Community

But, all of this will not stop the struggle with body image. Satan is always warring against us. We battle against our flesh. Body image will never go away as a struggle; even if we are silent about it.

Paul tells us the church is to a place where we encourage each other in the faith (Ephesians 4:12). We are also told in Ephesians 6 that our struggles are not isolated from each other. We struggle together. The church is where we need men to open with each other and struggle together over every issue. God created our bodies. Therefore, is it wrong for us to talk about our bodies?

In order to encourage each other, we need openness and we need each other. Why would God create the church if we were meant to face the Christian journey alone? Community helps us refocus our minds on God’s truth – even with issues regarding our bodies.

The church is desperately needing men who are bold enough to open up about our struggles. When we allow the light of God’s Word to shine on every aspect of our lives we can fully live for Christ.

The struggle of body image affects many people. But, with the church’s commitment to the using of God’s Word, we can see men sharpening each other to refocus their thinking biblically, and begin living out God’s Truth.

It starts with a conversation searching the Scriptures and sharpening each other to use our bodies for God’s glory.

Our male body image is found in being created in God’s image for His purpose in order to bring God glory.

The Lost Mentality of the Christian

“There is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted.”
– Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Violence, raunchy movies, swearing, immodesty, drinking adds, liberal ideas, worldly messages, and worldly people. These are the things we run into on a daily basis. We see these things and our first response is to react, and then to hide. We stay in our churches and throw tracts at people in order for them to come in and be converted.

We see the fallen state and the continue depravity of man like a gathering storm. So we take shelters in our churches and with our Christian friends. We fear the storm. We fear the disaster it will cause on our lives. Self-protection of our spiritual lives and our moral lives become our number one priority when facing the World.

The ideas rage, the sin booms its thunder, and depravity rains down. Yet, we stay inside our shelter in the time of storm. Yet, we need to ask ourselves the question: is this biblical? Is this the way we should be acting towards the world around us?

The Heart of Interaction

When we look at interacting with the World, we must look at what the Scripture says.

John 1:14

Jesus, God himself, took a human body. He interacted with us. He interacted with your world, your sin, and your helpless state.

John 3:16

God loved you (and the world) so much that He came to interact with our world. He saw the storm from the beginning, and He needed to interact with it. He could not let you be damned for your sin. He could not allow you to die in your sin. He interacted with you.

The heart of interacting with the world is the Incarnation. Because God took on a body and kept it to interact with you at your level, He has freed us from the power of the World so you could interact with it. Without the Incarnation, we would have no faith. It is our faith in the Incarnate God which conquers the World (1 John 5:4).

The Forgotten Heart

But… Do we live like this? Do we find empowerment through the Incarnation to engage the World?

No. Instead, we try to save our own lives. We have made a Christ who sits in our churches and calls people to come. Yet, where was Christ found? He was accused of being the friend of sinners, because he ate with sinners. He was found at their tables. What does Jesus say in Mark 2:13-17? He did not come to call the righteous or who were healthy. Jesus wants the sinner and the sick.

This was the heart of Jesus. He came, took on a human body, died, and rose again for sinners. It is the sinner that needs this salvation. It is you that needs this salvation.

Why did we fall in love with Jesus? Was it because of the heart of Jesus? Yet, we have forgotten His heart. We have forgotten our first love: Jesus.

Do you remember when you saw your sin? It was like a storm that was going to kill you. You could not find shelter from the death sentence over your head. You could not find it in a church, or in a translation, or in following a list of obedience. You could only find it in the heart of Jesus who comes to sinners like you and shows you the way to salvation. Have you forgotten this? When we remember what Christ has done for us, we gain His heart and His mindset to engage the world (Philippians 2:1-18).

The Ignored Commission

Christ’s heart gives us a commission. Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

When we first hear this passage we think of our missionaries across oceans living in weird places and learning languages to give the gospel. Do we ever consider this passage to mean our neighborhood? Our culture?

We tend to ignore this command when thinking about our current situation. We would rather hide in our churches throwing tracts at people and give them a moral standard as our fulfillment of the Great Commission. Sadly, this commission is the greatest omission of our Christian lives and in our churches.

Christ commands us to make disciples of all nations. You can’t make disciples when you are worried about your own life. Making disciples means you are worried about another person’s life. It does not have to be handing out tracts. Daily life evangelism is a better tool than handing out a tract. When the world sees you struggling and clinging to the hope of Christ, then they will be more open to hearing the gospel than off a piece of paper. Tracts can be effective, but only giving a “fire-insurance gospel.” The gospel transforms lives when it is engaged with lives. And, you have been given that gospel to make disciples of all nations. Are you going to continue to ignore Christ’s heartfelt command?

Engaging the World

Now, how do we actually work through the “storm of sin” we see in our culture? It is easy to run for shelter. However, there is a better route: Critical Thinking. It is not being critical and judgmental.

Critical Thinking is about evaluating the messages, ideas, and events around you. It is willing to listen to people you disagree with in order to understand them. Critical Thinking is interacting with what you are hearing, and then responding. A critical thinker does not react. Too often, we as Christians react to the world around us. We see sin dripping like slime off the wall and we decry it. Why are we surprised that sinners are acting like sinners? Did Christ react? Yes, he did. However, it was not just a reaction. It was a response. He knew how to respond to the people around him. Paul knew how to respond. For us, reacting never gives us an opportunity to give the gospel. Responding opens many doors.

Think through what is going on in our world. Seek to understand those around you. Engage in their lives. Be well read. Understand them in order to improve yourself as you seek to make disciples of all nations. Think critically how to respond before you react.

Acts 17:16-34 is an excellent example of critical thinking. Paul sees the culture around him in Athens. He does not go and smash idols. Instead, he looks for a way to respond that will open the minds of the people to hear the gospel. He even quotes one of their own poets. Paul did not react in protecting his moral life or imposing his moral standards on them. He responded. He showed them the heart of Christ.

Heading Out into the World

In the movie The Giver, the community is kept safe by the Elders. All memories are wiped away. All evil is put aside and taken outside the community. Everything is in black and white. Jonas, the main character, sees this as taking away from what makes us truly human. He then goes on a quest to bring back the memories and break the barrier. He is successful. The memories come back. However, they are not all good. It is the good and bad that makes us human. We experience bad and good. Yet, at the very end he comes to a house decorated for Christmas. He says he found the truth. He found where reality is. He finds what makes us real. Watch the clip below. As it comes to the end, identify the song being sung at the house.

The Ending of The Giver

Reality is found in Jesus. The world is living in the shadow and echo of what is real. There is good and there is evil. But, aren’t you grateful for that Silent Night? The birth of the Incarnation gives us the freedom to critically think, enter into our world, and engage with it.

How does this quote strike you?
“The reason why the Christians in this day are at such a loss as to some things is that they are contented with what comes from man’s mouth without searching and kneeling before God to know of Him the truth of things.”

Does it feel like it was written for today? It was written by John Bunyan in the 1600’s. There is a lost mentality of engaging the world through critical thinking. It is not just about listening, it is about understanding, it is about learning, and it is about responding like Christ and making disciples of all nations.

The good and bad makes us human. The Incarnation sets us free from this fallen world in order to bring the gospel to this fallen world. We can engage our world, because Jesus engaged us.

The Shaming

May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint! I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the fainthearted, the feeble and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.
– Martin Luther

Have you ever watched a movie with one actor and then watched another movie with the same actor and could not believe it was the same person? One name that comes to mind is Meryl Streep. You can watch Streep play a witch in Into the Woods, and then play a mother in Sophie’s Choice, and then play Julia Childs in Julie and Julia. She can put on one mask of a character and switch with ease.

Many times when we see a movie or a play we marvel at the acting skills. Books upon books have been written about how to portray characters with reality in performance. In fact, there are awards given for who can be the best character. It is not an award for being themselves. It is an award for being another person. Those who do not get nominated for an award tend to walk with shame as they have tried, but still cannot get it. In the film world, image is everything.

Have you ever felt like you were putting on another person in order to have an image? Is your image one of a successful Christian in order to hide what is really going on? Do our churches shame us into having an image?

Shaming in the Church

You have signed up for a small group. It is an exciting time to get together with your fellow believers to study the Word and help each other through struggles in your life. You are well aware of that one sin which keeps you down and stalks you in the shadows. The freedom you find in knowing a small group or a church that can help is celebratory… until the group starts.

You sit in a circle and begin sharing about your struggles in order to pray for each other. “Pray for me. I am struggling with staying in my Bible reading daily.” “I am struggling with pride.” Then all eyes watch you as it is your turn to share, “Pray for me. I am still struggling with (insert your sin here).” All of a sudden their eyes grow wide. Silence makes you feel claustrophobic. “Maybe I should have said pride or another less awkward struggle,” you think to yourself.

As the group dismisses, you receive warm encouragements of “I am praying for you.” Yet, as the week goes on, do you hear from them? The members of your small group begin to avoid you or just tolerate you. Then it seems like everyone in church knows. You feel shamed. Shamed to go to church. Shamed to speak out again. Shamed to even call yourself a follower of Christ.

The weight of your shame is back-breaking and you can’t take it anymore. So, you make an excuse. You say you have found victory. You slip on a mask of an image, and say, “I struggle with my prayer life.” In your mind, it is better to be a part of an image, rather than bear the shame of the church.

Have you ever felt like this? Do you know someone who has felt like this? Do you feel like you can be open about your sin struggles in the church? Or, do you feel like you have to keep them a secret and keep an image in order to not be shamed?

Shame is a powerful tool to use against people. In the church it can be used to keep an image of “perfect saints.” Sure, many will say their church is not perfect. But, when was the last time you heard someone open up and testify to God working in their hearts through a deep struggle? Does the church use sins like pride or lack of a prayer life to cover up what is really happening in people’s lives?

The Root of Shaming

Shaming in the church is real. It happens all the time. We hear people confess to not reading their Bibles enough or not praying enough. Yet, out of the blue they are renouncing their faith and joyfully embracing a life characterized by sin. Why did they not open up about this? Were they afraid of being shamed if they did? The fear of shame is powerful, and it causes many to not open up and let sin live in secret.

You do not shame someone unless you want them to change or adopt a set of practices. Shaming causes people to fall in line with an image presented. Many churches have an image of a nice building, people dressed to impress, and everything is right as rain. If someone comes in not properly dressed, or says something out of line there is an immediate reaction to nonverbally let that person know to fall in line. When that happens, the church is using shame to worship their image.

The root of shaming is image. When image becomes the most important, we make sure masks are provided to cover up things in our lives in order to be perceived as perfect.

The Real Image of the Church

So, what is the image of the church to be? Does the Bible say anything about this? Actually, it does.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 states what a church in the New Testament was perceived as. Paul states in graphic terms what sins the people in the church used to take part in: stealing, greed, homosexuality, drunkenness, and idolatry. Pride and lack of a prayer life is not mentioned. These are some pretty heavy sins that are mentioned. Yet, Paul does not glorify the sin. He glorifies the Savior who washed and cleansed them of their sins.

It is a story that is repeated throughout the New Testament. Ephesians 5:8 and 1 Peter 2:9 sing a similar song. The image of the Church is of individuals who were living in darkness and now called into the marvelous light of God. It is a group of people who recognize and remember where they were before Christ. They do not try to hide their past. They freely admit to it. Just like Paul does many times throughout his epistles. Paul clearly shares in detail where he was before Christ turned his life around. The image of the church is not one of perfection. It is one of a group of people being called out of darkness and into light, and the church elevates this story time and time again. The church’s motto is old made new (II Corinthians 5:17)

The Church That Struggles Together Shines Together

As we have seen from the New Testament the church is one that is being called out from darkness into light. Are we made perfect right away? No. Paul reveals in Romans 7:21-25 that he struggles with sin. He feels a war inside of him. Are we more perfect than Paul? No. But, should the church continue to sin that grace may abound? No.

However, we ,first, must acknowledge that all of us who are believers and inside the church are struggling with sin. If we say that we are not currently struggling with sin, 1 John 1:8 says that the truth is not in us. 1 John was not written to unbeliever. It is written to believer. The word “to have” in Greek is in the present tense. John is not saying if we do not acknowledge we have sinned in the past then the truth is not in us. That is not his focus John declares that if we deny we are currently sinning and struggling with sin, then the truth is not in us.

Everyone in the church is struggling with sin. And, we are not meant to struggle alone. In fact, we are commanded in Ephesians 6:10-18 to put on the amor of God and wage war. The commands “to take” are plural in Greek. The passage talks about our struggles. We are not alone in this. So stop pretending that you do not struggle with sin. Remove the mask that you have been shamed to put on. The church is meant to struggle together.

If the church was meant to be seen as perfect, people will be turned away. That is what is happening today. The church is to be a living, breathing, struggling demonstration of God’s glorious grace and redemption through the work of Jesus Christ and the transformation of the Holy Spirit. How much brighter would our testimony be when the world sees a church struggling together? What would the world say when they see the live transformation of people’s lives from salvation all the way till we meet Jesus?

Openness and transparency is difficult to cultivate. But, it is the way we see the working of the Holy Spirit. We can’t see God’s Working in the church when we shame people to hide their lives. When sin is kept in dark secrets, sin will only grow and destroy people. It must face the light of the Gospel. A church that shames people will only be concerned with an image and numbers. A church concerned with seeing lives changed and repentance will focus on openness and discipleship.

Jesus took the punishment for all our sins on the cross. We have been brought from darkness into light. Stop tell people this with only words, and start showing them how God is changing you. Put the mask down. We no longer have to pretend and be ashamed of the sin we are struggling with. Why? Because we are being sanctified by the washing of the Word and through the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. We all need repentance because we all have sin since the truth is in us and points out our sin. But, if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Shame leads to hiding God’s work in your life. Take off the mask. Don’t accept the award for being the best Christian. Tell the story of how God, through the death of His Son, brought you from darkness to life. This is the true image we should be proud of.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul
It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul