Don't allow church sacraments to become dead ritual. They can provide meaningful times of enjoying the Lord's presence.
By Tom Gill
esus set in the church several very important sacraments through which people can commune with Him. These doors of communion invite the believer to draw close to God and to enjoy His sweet presence.
The Lord's Supper. Jesus, on the night of His betrayal, ate His last meal with the disciples before the crucifixion. Using common elements--bread and wine--Jesus set before those present a means whereby they could remember Him and celebrate His life, death and resurrection.
Jesus provided the means for believers in every age to commune with Him. However, it goes much deeper. Isaiah 53 teaches that Jesus' suffering and death bring salvation to the lost--sin is forgiven, deliverance is assured and healing is provided.
Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 11:29-34 that failure to properly discern the Lord's body causes sickness and death. The importance of this sacrament cannot be overemphasized.
Baptism. Jesus came to John for baptism in order to "fulfill all righteousness" (see Matt. 3:15). Jesus instituted this sacrament so that believers could see and experience the beauty of dying to self and being raised in newness of life. Righteousness is simply "right standing" with God. Jesus' intent is clear: Obedience to the Father means dying to self.
The precious blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sin, not the waters of baptism. The ordinance itself is a demonstration of obedience and the discovery of new life. Jesus told Nicodemus that "'unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God'" (John 3:5).
Baptism by the Holy Spirit is just as important as baptism in water. Scripture says that Jesus will "baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8). This baptism marks the believer's endowment of power from on high, just as it did with Jesus in Luke 4:1,14 and the believers on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4.
Marriage. The first human institution ordered by God was the marriage union of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve (see Gen. 2:21-25). Jesus' first miracle occurred at a wedding feast (see John 2:1-12). God is vitally interested in weddings!
Throughout Scripture, the symbolism of the union between a husband and wife is used to illustrate the relationship of God to the church. Jesus as the Bridegroom, and the church as His bride, complete the picture, showing us the kind of intimacy God desires us to have with Him. Weddings provide a unique opportunity for God to minister His lovingkindness to the parties involved.
Funerals. Death to a Christian is not final. The body may pass away, but the spirit lives in the presence of God. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, "'O Death, where is your sting?'" Paul recognized that there was no victory of death in death. Instead, the victory belongs to the believer who passes from this life into the next.
Funerals, then, become a time of celebration and rejoicing because of the new life the loved one has entered into. This does not mean the grief of loneliness is absent. However, they can be assured God has not forsaken them or their loved one.
Unbelievers do not have the same assurance Christians do. Therefore, funerals for those outside the body of Christ take on new meaning as well. What better opportunity to share the gift of life with the "living dead" than at a funeral?
Funerals are forums for life, not finality of death. We meet God in the funeral. He is the One who leads us through the "valley of the shadow of death" and brings us out on the other side.
This brief examination of four sacraments only serves as a reminder of their importance. Worship God in them; He waits to meet you there.
Tom Gill is a pastor and free-lance Christian writer in Orlando, Florida.