If you bear no fruit, then all you did was eat a little bread and drink a little grape juice.
- Jim Shempert
People are funny when they come to church. Some sit in the same pew every week and heaven help you if get in “their spot.” Some will barely let the preacher finish praying before they are out of their seat headed for the door. Some spend more time looking at their watch than listening to the songs, the Scriptures, or what the preacher has to say. Sometimes, we spend so much time trying to “play church” that we forget the whole reason we are there in the first place. I am one of those people.
Recently in worship, God decided to show me the importance of a true relationship with Him. It was communion Sunday, and I was ushering. I went row by row, guiding the folks to the front. When I got close to the end of my section, I noticed a visitor who I had not seen before. I touched him on the shoulder and said, “You are up next.” He turned and said, “No thanks, I’ll just stay in my pew.”
Participating in communion requires a personal decision. I obviously couldn’t force him, so I moved on. His words have stuck with me for a while though. I don’t want to overlook the fact that there could be some denominational reasons for him not wanting to receive Communion. However, I got the impression that he didn’t wish to participate. Something similar happened a few weeks later with someone very close to me. They visited our church to hear my wife speak but refused communion. Some will jump to 1 Corinthians 11:27 for the explanation. To that, my answer is Romans 3:23. Not some of us, all of us.
I am a sinner. I am as Paul said, the chief of sinners. Do you remember when you first accepted Christ as your Savior? How on fire you were? The proverbial “charge the gates of Hell with a water pistol” mentality? That is a key part of salvation, the beginning of a new creature. However, it’s not the end. In reality, Christianity is a lifelong journey toward the goal of being more and more “like Christ.”
My sin separated me from God. Had it not been for Christ, I would still be separated from God. When I sin now, and believe me, I need a fountain of grace each day, it is covered by the one and only sacrifice that would ever be enough. God is not ok with my sin, nor will He ever be. The only trump card that Christians have to play is the sacrifice of Christ in our place.
The person close to me refused communion because he is not a Christian. He has run from Christianity his entire adult life. He nervously sat through service that day and left as quickly as he could. He sees Jesus as a judge, not as a Savior. Deuteronomy 30:15 is one of my favorite verses to cite with discussing Christianity with anyone. It is simple and straightforward. “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” Jesus is two equal parts: Savior and Judge. To the Christian, we will face Him as one or the other. He is equal parts mercy and justice. If you do not receive His mercy, you will taste His justice.
The importance of Communion, though, is to remind you that His mercy is free and plentiful to all who seek it. It’s also to remind you that there is absolutely nothing that you can do to attain salvation yourself. Outside of the sacrifice of Christ, we are all lost.
In taking the message of Christ to the world, it is that example that we must communicate. There most definitely is a conviction of one’s sin and repenting. There must be outward signs of an inward change. If you bear no fruit, then all you did was eat a little bread and drink a little grape juice. We cannot lay out a list of rules to a dead person first. Reason being, the dead don’t know they are dead until they receive the life that Christ provides. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sins must be communicated. Anything else, and you make yourself a hypocrite because that is the message that Christ communicated to you.
The next time communion is offered, approach it with reverence. Approach it as what it is: the sacrifice of One for many. Invite all who will come. Encourage, disciple, teach and support even the ones who are different than you.
Christ died so that you could. When you take of His body and drink of His blood, you take up His mission to the world. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)”