A message presented Sunday, August 2, 2020 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
As part of what I can only refer to as a ground-breaking, unprecedented event, I have personally been involved in high-level discussions with my employer about the issue of race relations and addressing areas of concern that involve employee relations. These discussions have been taking place at the request of the CEO and the Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer in order to create a better climate within our company and greater career opportunities for minorities and women. With this endeavor, there have been many great ideas shared, and for all participants, it is very important that the information is handled in an appropriate manner—specifically, it is to be treated with a high level of respect.
The act of respect covers a lot of ground in these types of discussions. Respect has to be in the forefront of all parties when you are discussing ethnic and cultural differences. Respect is very important when having dialogue between supervisors and subordinates. Respect is allowing these differences to provide paths and programs for people with different backgrounds to give input that promotes greater inclusion.
Respect, after all is said and done, fills in any gaps between people while allowing for them to work together for the common good of developing positive relationships and building a successful company.
In last week’s message, I mentioned the importance of respect as a characteristic of a believer in ministry because it reflects Christ-like behavior and love for a person—even if you don’t have much in common. Respecting another person is a true act of love in Jesus Christ.
Romans 12:9-10 ESV
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Notice that this verse shows the importance of love prevailing over anything that would cause a barrier in interpersonal relationships. Christ is at the forefront when love is shared in our interactions with others.
Love gives us the ability to respect others.
Now, let’s explore our respect for God Himself.
God has reminded us of the importance of love by showing us the life of Jesus Christ as His example.
1 John 4:8 ESV
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
OK. We know this and understand it, but we need to continue to look at whether or not our actions match our zeal for God.
How are we to love God?
John 14:15 ESV
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
1 John 5:3 ESV
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Obedience is the way we love God, and for the sake of this discussion, it is how we are to show our love for Jesus Christ.
Loving Jesus Christ in obedience is a matter of respect.
When it comes to Jesus, we gather together to give Him the worship and praise, and in respect, one of the definitions of respect is to hold someone in high esteem. This esteem of our Lord Jesus Christ is an act of reverence. Respect and reverence are close synonyms, but as we grow and mature in our faith, our love for Christ is a natural progression as we look to Jesus as Lord and Savior with reverence.
The love of Christ is ultimately to have reverence for Him because we are focused on growth, maturity and remaining obedient to Him in fellowship as we serve Him in ministry.
God’s Word shares that being obedient to Jesus is not burdensome; but is there opposition that keeps us from loving God and having reverence for Him? Absolutely. There are a number of obstacles, of course, and it’s easy to blame Satan for our troubles, but sometimes, in our flesh, we just need to look in the mirror.
Our obstacle to loving Jesus Christ, respecting Him and having reverence for Him, is our own fleshly desires.
So, in this statement, we are all guilty, because all of us have been out of fellowship with Jesus because of a lack of respect for His Word.
I mention this to not put us under a guilt trip. I am mentioning this because we are having Communion today.
In the same way that we have used this time to reflect upon our lives and circumstances, Communion causes each and every one of us to pause and reflect upon the need to look at our level of fellowship with Jesus Christ. If we look at it with all sincerity, we are immediately asking for God’s forgiveness for sin in our lives.
Communion—the Lord’s table—is an act of reverence for Jesus Christ.
It is an act of love and respect for the One who died on the cross for each one of us.
Communion is to be taken very, very seriously. Before Jesus had His last supper with His disciples, which gave us the New Covenant method of remembering Jesus Christ, the Old Testament method of honoring God and asking for God’s forgiveness of sin was through the practice of sacrifice. It was the responsibility of the priests of Israel to perform these sacrifices for the people of Israel according to very specific guidelines.
In the book of Malachi, God warned the priests, the spiritual leaders of the people of Israel, that they were not taking the act of sacrifice very seriously. There was a lack of respect for God’s command—a huge lack of reverence.
Malachi 1:6-8, 11-14 ESV
6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.
11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
What you are seeing here is how God responds to His people who do not take His commands seriously. The priests were offering blind and lame animals as sacrifices for the people, which was an affront to God, and the “snorting” and weariness of the priests reflected a bad attitude. God would not accept their offerings.
Do you remember what happened to Cain in this similar situation?
Genesis 4:1-7 ESV
1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
Note God’s words here…”if you do well, will you not be accepted.” Can you see where I’m going with this?
Fast forward now to the practice of Communion. The short definition for Communion is a time of fellowship with God. We practice Communion because Jesus has provided each one of us the complete sacrifice in payment for our sins with His death on the cross. We honor the memory of Jesus Christ with the remembrance that His body was broken and that His blood was shed for all of us for all eternity.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Note Paul’s words, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” His death on the cross means everything to us. Without His sacrificial death, we have nothing to look forward to when we die. His victory over death is worthy of our remembrance and is more than enough reason to give Him praise.
It is a remembrance that, according to God’s Word, is to be taken very seriously. It’s not to be blown off as trivial or unimportant (no snorting, please), and note that it requires the proper personal attitude and perspective.
1 Corinthians 11:27-31 ESV
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
These words should remind you of how God felt about the poor attitudes and inconsiderate behaviors of the Israelite priests, and how Cain seemed to struggle with not doing what was right. So before you take the elements of the crackers, symbolizing the body of Christ, and the juice, representing the blood of Christ, you should reflect upon your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and whether or not something needs to be fixed.
Have you checked your bad attitude at the door? Have you sought forgiveness of sin? Have you prayed to God for healing and restoration of your relationship?
Always remember this…
1 John 1:9 KJV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
He forgives us immediately from the moment that we humble ourselves before Him and ask for it.
It is a matter of respect for Jesus Christ.
It is a matter of reverence for His existence as your personal Savior.
It is a matter of His love for us that He wants to be in fellowship with you.
Respect. Reverence. Love.
Let us take the time now to reflect upon Him and His goodness. It is time to pray and meditate as we ponder all that He has done for us, and for how our lives are in His very hands.
© 2020 Melvin Gaines