Communing with Christ Throughout the New Year
Study Guide, January 2, 2022
Pastor Clay Olsen
Do you practice the tradition of making a resolution or resolutions for the New Year? Of course, the common ones are things like: Exercise to get in better shape…(But as a wise man once said: “Round is a shape”); Another common one is: Eat healthier…Lose weight; then there’s: Manage finances better; or Learn a new skill, and so on.
Some less common resolutions are ones like: Stop procrastinating…except for today, that is! Or – Use a paper map just for fun instead of your GPS. Or – Learn a new trick to show your family and friends. And then – Learn a new family game. Those are good.
But since we are beginning the New Year with observing Communion together, what if we were to make this ‘beginning’ not just a beginning tradition, but a continuing practice, as in, continuing right on throughout the New Year? What do we mean? Well, what if we were to expand this ‘memorial’ of Communion so that it becomes a ‘method’ of how we do life? I like how the origin of the word for ‘Methodists’ came from students at Oxford University, where John and Charles Wesley and a few others formed a Bible Club where they would order their lives by ‘methodically’ living out the central teachings of the Scriptures. And thus, they came to be known as “Methodists”.
Of course, we think of some of the great songs we often sing that were written by Charles Wesley, such as: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” “Christ the Lord Is Ris’n Today,” “Soldiers of Christ, Arise,” and “Rejoice, the Lord Is King,” and more.
The thing is, the Wesley’s made it a point to clarify that the Scriptures teach that, for one thing, because of man’s sin against God, all were thus ‘dead in sin’, or separated from a relationship with God. Therefore, and secondly, everyone’s need was to become ‘justified by faith alone.’ This involved turning to Christ alone to give them a ‘new birth’ of their spirit into a saved relationship with Christ. And their third foundational point was that by living by faith, by trusting daily in Christ’s leading and working, that would then produce inward and outward holiness in their lives. Because of that, some gave them the name, ‘The Holy Club’.
I love looking into the origins of things, don’t you? But the point we’re getting to here is that we are designed to live by a design. We are designed to live by a ‘method’ of practice…or a set of ‘disciplines’, since we actually are ‘Disciples’ of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are ‘disciplined’ followers of Christ. And one of the key disciplines is not only observing the practice of ‘Communion’ in remembrance of our Lord Jesus’ sacrifice, but we are to then keep practicing ‘Communing’ with our Lord Jesus and living a sacrificial life as our thank-offering to Him.
And that is a key connection in understanding not only this memorial of Communion, but also in understanding our practice of communing with our Lord, day by day. And that ‘connection’ is related to the fact that ‘Communion’ is connected with ‘sacrifice’. Remember, as Jesus introduced this memorial of ‘Communion’, or the Lord’s Supper, He said this: “When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before My suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Luke 22:14-16 NLT Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper it’s like a ‘preview’ of when we will partake of it with Jesus in the Kingdom of God. It appears, that along with some of the Feasts of Israel, that we will be celebrating this memorial of the Lord’s Supper in the New Kingdom.
Can you imagine sharing the elements of the Lord’s Supper with countless numbers of God’s family, no doubt raising up the bread and wine as tributes to Jesus for His infinite sacrifice in order to eternally save us each? Every Lord’s Supper here is a preview of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper there. Makes us think that we might even sing in concert with all the family of God those words of ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ – On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood. See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
And now imagine what that song would sound like with millions and millions of voices singing in unison those words of love and thanks and commitment as the Lord Jesus Christ sits on His throne, in the midst of all of His people, listening to and loving it all. How amazing…how awesome!
Now, let’s bring it back to our resolutions. What we are saying is that our central resolutions, those particular points of our resolve, the ones that make us who we are and cause us to do what we do, should also be like ‘preview resolutions’ of what we will be doing in the coming Kingdom of Christ. And one central practice in the Kingdom will be our communing with our Lord. Communing in the sense of making Christ be the central focus of our day to day living. Communing in the sense of Christ being the central motivation for what we do and why we do it. Communing in the sense of Christ being the One for whom we willingly sacrifice anything in our life in order to serve and to please the One who gave His entire life to save us. Again, ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!’
Resolve to commune this way with Jesus each day and watch what it does not only to you, but to others around you. For when you give of yourself in communing service to the Lord it results in building up and blessing the lives of those around you. Your sacrifice of your time and your talents and your treasures to Jesus not only honors your Savior, but it enriches the lives of those around you.
Now, communing with Christ also has a particular result, a priceless result, and because of the grace of God, this one is for you…it’s from Christ to you. In fact, it’s one of the most prized experiential qualities of life that people have craved throughout history. Even the secular world craves it, and raves about it, and calls it ‘The greatest treasure of life’. Well, we know the greatest treasure of life is Jesus Christ Himself, but you get the picture. But however much the world longs for it, it is universally reserved for those believers…those followers of Christ who seek to commune with their Lord and Savior throughout their lives. For, you see, ‘communing’ with Christ’ results in ‘contentment in Christ’. And, again, ‘contentment’ is one of the highest joys that a human can experience.
In my Noah Webster 1828 dictionary, when language and words were rooted in their real meaning in relation to the Giver of language, the Word and Logos Himself, Jesus Christ, we come to better understand this connection between communing with Christ and genuine ‘contentment’. Let’s explore…
Now this will be completely different from the world’s idea of ‘contentment’, for as it states: “It is our duty to be content with the dispensations of providence.” Say what? A duty? Have you ever thought about ‘contentment’ as being a ‘duty’? A ‘duty’ is not something we first experience to the benefit of ourselves. No, a ‘duty’ is something that we first give to another because we owe it to them! And what is this ‘duty’ and to Whom do we owe it? Back to the song: “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” So ‘contentment’ is a duty because it’s connected with our surrender to Christ as Lord of our lives! And as we surrender to Christ as Lord of our lives we find that embedded in the offering of our ‘duty’ of our devotion to Christ…embedded in it is this greatest treasure of human delight – ‘Contentment’!
Let’s explore further: The root of the word contentment comes from the Latin contentus, which means ‘held together’ and ‘contained within limits’. It was used in relation to containers and their contents. So ‘contentment’ referred to a container and what the contents were inside the container. Are you getting a little ‘de ja vu’ here? Take a look at this: 2 Cor 4:7- “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” NASU How about that? So when applied to the human experience, contentment has everything to do with what contents are in the container. When we, the container, resolve to recognize and honor and pledge ourselves to the contents in our life, this treasure that is Christ Himself and His truth, it is then that we experience the out-workings of the treasure in our life…this peace, joy, love, and all those ingredients that make for a contented heart and mind.
In this sense, contentment is no longer just some tranquil experience we wish for or try to work up ourselves. No, not at all! Rather, contentment is a duty that we, as containers, then practice as we dwell upon, and devote ourselves to, and then share the contents of what God has placed into us earthen vessels…which is the Spirit of our Lord Jesus and His words of truth and life for us and others. It is as the Apostle Peter stated it: 1 Peter 2:9-10- “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” NASU As we are daily ‘caught up with Christ’ and communicate the excellencies of Christ, we then can enter into the ‘contentment of Christ’. It’s all connected.
So then one thing we should now clearly understand about genuine contentment is that it is not a stand-alone treasure. Rather, contentment is a by-product of the greatest treasure. Again, even the world thinks of contentment as the greatest treasure. But what they don’t recognize is that it is a treasure that is connected to Thee greatest treasure, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Plus, contentment travels with it’s twin virtue of ‘gratitude’. As Noah Webster explained further that a spirit of thankfulness promotes contentment. But there is one thing that destroys contentment, and that is a spirit of ‘complaining and grumbling’.
We can clearly see that! We see it in the bad attitudes in some the children of Israel, where their complaining against each other and their grumbling over this thing and that person destroyed any hope of contentment in their lives. Yes, complaining comes natural to us, but so does disease. Just because it comes natural to us doesn’t make it right. Rather, we are to fight against the vice of complaining and grumbling like we would against a disease…for that is what it is; a disease that destroys the joys of contentment in our lives, as well as damages the spirits of others.
And yet, how strange that some complaining, spiteful, and grumbling people often claim to be content. That’s because what they have developed is not a contented spirit, but a calloused conscience. What they call ‘peace’ is actually a seared conscience. Their conscience has become hardened by the sin of selfishness and slander and strife. But be warned: A calloused conscience is Satan’s counterfeit to genuine contentment. But a calloused conscience is one that is no longer sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His working and even His growing of spiritual fruit in our lives.
Now, sometimes believers develop an overly sensitive conscience. But all they need is just a little re-alignment in their thinking. They are still going the right way; they are just experiencing some unnecessary bumps and wobbles in their journey. But with the one that has grown a calloused conscience toward the concerns of others and the commands of God, well they need more than a re-alignment…they need a new transmission! They need to get their heart right with God. As God told even the believers of Ephesus: Rev 2:4-5- “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent.” NASU Calloused believers have become disconnected from the practice of communing with Christ, and therefore they have forfeited experiencing the contentment of Christ. But for those believers who commit to daily communing with Christ, you can also look forward to Christ then bestowing His treasure of contentment upon you and of experiencing His peace of mind and satisfaction of heart.