PREPARING OUR HEARTS FOR THE LORD’S SUPPER: WEEK FIVE
How to Prepare Our Hearts
We have been taking a deeper look at our observance of the Lord’s Supper, in order to come with hearts that are better prepared to celebrate this ordinance. We’ve examined the broad topics of the link to the covenant of betrothal, the importance of preparation, and the meaning of the bread and the cup. Now it would be helpful to go beyond these insights and ponder some practical ways we can go about preparing our hearts to meet the Lord at His table. What can we do to make this vibrant in our lives?
As we mentioned in an earlier article in this series, we would do well to prepare before we come through the door of the church for service. In the Jewish tradition of observing the Sabbath, it did not begin the morning of that day, but the evening before, at sundown. We can see that rhythm of evening and morning as far back as the Genesis account of God creating the world, where each of the days we marked as, “And there was evening and there was morning” (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 31). Therefore, it would probably benefit us for all worship days, and especially those which include the Lord’s Supper, to begin to still our souls and turn our hearts to the Lord the evening before we go to worship, asking the Lord to help us prepare our hearts to meet Him.
One of the first ways we can prepare is by asking the Lord to show us if there is any sin in our lives that He wants us to deal with. When He reveals it, we should confess it, acknowledging it as an offense against His holiness. The discipline of confession seems to be one which is not as diligently practiced or emphasized today as it has been in the past. Confession is both an acknowledgement of who God is and of who we are. In the first place, it reminds us of His holiness and right to judge sin, His grace, mercy and love in redemption, and His forgiveness of our sins. We definitely need to be reminded how much we need to be forgiven. Jesus says that the one who is forgiven much loves much. But after we’ve walked with Him a while and He has sanctified some of the rough edges off our outward lives, we run the tandem risks of forgetting what we were, and not seeing the heart and attitudinal sins which still pervade every one of us. Jesus was direct in pointing out how sins like adultery and murder lurk in the recesses of our hearts in the form of anger, hate, lust, selfishness and covetousness. And who of us can come close to loving to the level of Christ’s sacrificial love or being devoted to God with all our heart? And how many of our motives behind even our best deeds are fully pure and unmixed? Do we have a glimmer of realization how sinful our attitudes of self-seeking, idolatry, indifference, and divided loyalties are in the Lord’s sight, and how much we need to confess and repudiate our sins of the mind and heart? These things all lurk in us.
Rather than our longer walk with God relieving us of the need to confess, the reality is that the closer to the brightness and intensity of the holy fire of God we draw, the more clearly that we see our impurities, and the more it will sting us to see those impurities still dwell within us. If we aren’t finding things to confess in our lives it is simply because we aren’t look or asking Him to search us. This needs to happen more often than before we go to the Lord’s table, but it should happen then, at the very least.
And we should also make a beginning at the repentance that goes along with that confession of what the Lord has revealed to us, for it does little good to acknowledge our sin then fail to turn from it. King Saul famously “confessed” that his fear of man had caused him to disobey, but then turned around and asked Samuel to help him save face before his men, thus showing that he had acknowledged sin, but had not repented of it (see 1 Sam. 15). We know how he ended up. This principle is particularly important when it comes to any steps of forgiveness (and potentially reconciliation, if the person isn’t dangerous or dead) which might be necessary, particularly with fellow believers. We can come to the table without being perfect, but not while holding stubbornly to our sin.
The companions to this sincere searching, confession, and repentance are rejoicing, thanksgiving, and praise. The point of this deep searching of our hearts is not that we wallow in our depravity, but that we realize anew the greatness of God’s salvation and forgiveness, the vastness of His love that would cause Him to bear our sin, and the depth of the grace and mercy to give us all that we have in Christ, both now and for eternity. The reason that the seasoned saint can be abjectly humbled by the remaining sin in the corners of their heart, yet not driven from the Lord or crushed by self-disappointment is because their understanding of glories of God’s redemption is as great as their understanding of their need for it. There is such peace and joy in fathoming these wonders! The Lord’s Supper is a celebration dinner (of His victory at the cross) as much as it is a commemoration of His sacrificial death.
Finally, to prepare we would do well to reflect on the meaning, or some aspect of the meaning, of the Lord’s Supper. Consider His sacrifice, the ties of the cup to the betrothal covenant, the covenantal promises He gave to love, return, forgive, restore, etc., or His role as our sustaining, sufficient, and satisfying Bread who gives us life. We can go to the table with a sense of recommitment to our determination to follow Christ in His life and death. Or, as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we can think about how we are taking His life into us, giving us the power to live out all He has called us to, and all He has promised us.
We should go to the table rejoicing, thankful, worshipful, and filled with hope. We should go with expectancy, as the bride awaiting the promises of the groom to be fulfilled. With our sanctified imaginations we can envision ourselves taking the cup from His hands, once more covenanting with Him to faithfully prepare and purify ourselves for His return.
That may seem like a lot to bring to the table, but if we would intentionally bring any part of this—anything that the Lord particularly laid on our hearts, maybe highlighting some aspect of the table on a rotating basis throughout the year—we will find our experience of this ordinance richer than it has probably been for a while, perhaps ever. What aspect of this rich observance will you carry with you the next time you come to the table?