A GOD-LIVED LIFE – Introduction

What does a God-lived life look like? It looks like Jesus.

God became man and lived life in our place. Christ lived the perfect God-lived life. Living as a Christian, a little Christ, we have the privilege of demonstrating what God looks like in how we live our lives, in living lives that show God.

For the next 5 weeks, God’s Word will be challenging us, and we’ll be challenging one another to live a God-lived life. And that encompasses everything. We will be talking about a life of being a disciple, a life lived for others, a life of hospitality, and a life lived shrewdly.

Each week, we will be introduced to a challenge that we then prayerfully commit to carrying out the rest of the month. These challenges ask us—people who are moved by the grace of God and Jesus’ life and death in our place—to commit to acting on the encouragements to put the Word into practice.

How will we commit to the challenges? As individual members, we are going to fill out a different challenge card each month. This will help to involve our entire family of faith in the challenges and help us encourage each other in the challenges.

The Devotion

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For Forgiveness of Sins

You may have heard the story of the woman who is bustling about her house, cleaning it from top to bottom. “Honey, what are you doing that for?” her husband asks. “The new cleaning service will be here in half an hour.”

“That’s right,” says his wife, snapping her dust cloth. “But you don’t want them to think we need them, do you?”

It would be pretty silly to clean up just before a cleaning service arrived. There would be no point in hiring the service and, at the same time, trying to make it look like you didn’t need it. But many Lutherans take a very similar approach to coming to Holy Communion.

The Lutheran church has always emphasized proper preparation for the  Lord’s  Supper.  The  Scriptures  teach that “a man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). Because the Lord’s Supper can actually harm a communicant who receives it improperly, every communicant  at  the  Lord’s table needs to ask, “Am I prepared?”

Unfortunately, many people take “Am I prepared?” to mean “Am I good enough?” They search their hearts for warm, pious feelings about God and their church. They search their consciences for uneasy feelings of guilt. They search their memories of the past week for sins they’ve committed. Then if they find some, or even if they simply find that their relationship with God or their church “doesn’t feel right” today, they decide not to commune.

The Lutheran church has always emphasized proper preparation for the Lord’s Supper.

But “Am I good enough?” is the wrong question to ask.   In the Lord’s Supper we receive Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for the remission of all our sins. When Luther listed the blessings of the Lord’s Supper in his catechism—forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation—the forgiveness of sins comes first. It’s the benefit of the Sacrament that we as sinners need most. It’s the blessing from God on which all other blessings depend.

So the right question is “Do I need forgiveness?” And   just as only dirty houses need cleaning, only sinners need forgiveness. The people who  belong  at  the  Lord’s  Table are precisely those who sense a growing coldness in their hearts toward God and his church, whose consciences bother them, and who know of sins in their recent pasts.     If you’re one of these penitent people, then come to the Lord’s Table without delay! His forgiveness  will  cleanse you. His peace will surround you. His Spirit will strengthen your resolve to battle against sin more vigorously in the week ahead.

Your spiritual house will be spotless, inside and out— and without lifting a finger. You have received the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you for the remission of sins.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Use Carefully

What would you think of a doctor who let his patients write their own prescriptions? How about a pharmacist who let his customers help themselves to whatever medication they thought might help them?

“Dangerously irresponsible” would be about the kindest way to describe such a health care provider. The fact is, medicine isn’t quite the same as food. Everybody needs and wants food. People can handle most foods perfectly well. Except for allergic reactions, there is little danger.  In deciding what to eat and when, most people rely on personal taste and a little common sense.

Medicine is different. The effects drugs may have on people are very specific and often very powerful. The same drug can be a godsend for one patient and fatal for another. Even combinations of beneficial drugs can cause problems. For that reason, we rely on health care professionals to tell us what to take, how much, and when. We know that medicine is a complicated science and that when something doesn’t work, the results can be disastrous.

The Lord’s Supper is more like medicine than it is like food.

Odd as it may sound, the Lord’s Supper is more like medicine than it is like food. It is, first of all, powerful stuff. At the Lord’s Table, we come into the presence of the Son of God himself, who gives us his true body and blood to eat and to drink. From the earliest times, the Christian church has considered the Sacrament as a sacred, spiritual power. Whenever celebrating this Sacrament, the church always tries to treat the Supper with solemnity and respect.

Second, Scripture makes it clear that the Lord’s Supper is prescription medicine—in other words, not for everybody. It comes with a warning label, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Like medicine, when administered to the wrong person, the Lord’s Supper can actually bring harm rather than help.

We would never want to see that happen to anybody in any congregation. That’s why we don’t simply give the Lord’s Supper to anyone who cares to receive it. To administer the Lord’s Supper responsibly is, at the very least, to see that every communicant thoroughly understands what he or she is receiving. That requires instruction, and that usually takes time.

We know that, for some people, that makes our church “strict” about the Lord’s Supper. But Christian love for our communicants demands nothing less.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

A Meal Together

Do you believe that people in America are free simply to be themselves and do whatever they want? If you do, here’s a test you can try. Walk into a restaurant, approach a party of complete strangers, and sit down at their table. Here’s another test. Sit down by yourself at an empty table, and when some complete strangers walk by, ask them to join you.

Either way, you’ll find out very quickly that there are strict social rules in America, just like anywhere else. You usually don’t sit down with just anyone.

It’s interesting how many of our social conventions have to do with food. People seem instinctively to view a meal as a social situation of great significance. Eating with some- one presupposes a certain level of intimacy. We just don’t intrude into someone else’s mealtime. When we invite people to share a meal with us, we are sharing special time with them. We invite them to a closer relationship. And when we accept an invitation to eat with someone else, we participate in creating that relationship.

If that’s true when we share a sandwich, it’s profoundly true when we share the Lord’s Supper. To share the Lord’s Supper with someone presupposes a certain level of spiritual intimacy. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). To partake of the

People seem instinctively to view a meal as a social situation of great significance.

Lord’s Supper in a congregation says, “Together, we, who are gathered here to receive Christ’s body and blood, form one body. We have the same Savior. We believe in him with the same faith. Together, we hold to the same teaching— the teaching of Christ.”

That’s why we Lutherans want to be sure we can honestly say all those things before we commune someone. We can’t simply assume that we know the beliefs and thoughts of all those who might be present in our worship service on Sun- day morning. So if a visitor comes to our service, we’d like to get to know that person a little better. Strangers don’t sit at our table in a restaurant, and we want to be sure those who come to the Lord’s Table are disciples of Jesus.

And again, that works both ways. We think it would also be natural for strangers to want to get to know us better— for example, through a Bible information class—before they decide to come to the Lord’s Table together with us. Practically, that might mean that a stranger would not attend Communion his or her first time in church. But it also means that when that person does join us for the Lord’s Supper, our communion can be a true, spiritual “coming together.” Just as it was meant to be.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Coming Together

Communications companies bombard us with advertising that appeals to a basic human need: the need to connect in a meaningful way with other human beings. Slogans suggest “connecting people” and “bringing people together.” Deep down, even the most independent of us need to feel that we are not alone. We need to talk to others. We even need to touch others. Newborn babies do not develop properly if they are deprived of the touch of another human.

God created us with this need to connect with one another. Since he understands our need to make connections, the Lord Jesus gave his church a way to satisfy this need on the deepest level imaginable.

There’s a reason why the church refers to the Lord’s Supper as “Holy Communion.” The word communion means “coming together,” and the Lord’s Supper is a coming together in three different ways. First, in the Lord’s Supper, the bread that is blessed and distributed to us communicants comes together with the body of Christ and the wine comes together with his blood. In this way, we receive both a physical element and a divine element—bread and body, wine and blood— indistinguishably and inseparably joined together.

Second, at the Lord’s Table, we communicants come together with the Lord Jesus himself. Here he is truly present with us as he is nowhere else—with his true body and blood, to give to each communicant his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

What unites us together at the Lord’s Table is vastly more profound than the differences that set us apart.

But there’s a third coming together too. The apostle Paul referred to it when he wrote, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). Communicants at the Lord’s Supper are not only united with their Lord; they are united with one another into one body, his church. Men and women, young and old, rich and poor—at the table of the Lord, believers of every size, shape, personality, and back- ground blend together in one harmonious whole. There is  one Lord who has one body, which is exactly the same for every communicant who receives it. That means that what unites us together at the Lord’s Table is vastly more pro- found than the differences that set us apart.

It also means that when I partake of Holy Communion, I am not simply enjoying a private moment alone with my Lord. This helps us understand why the beliefs of each communicant are not simply a private matter that’s between  the individual and God.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Practical Christianity

Pick the word from the list that doesn’t belong:

mathematics      auto repair         socialism          Christianity

Most people, I think, would pick auto repair. It’s easy to understand why. They think of the other three as groups of ideas that involve the mind. Auto repair is different; it takes intelligence but also a skilled pair of hands. I think that many people might see auto repair as operating on a different level from the other three things. It’s more down to earth, less theoretical and more practical.

The interesting  thing about the little test above isn’t what   it reveals about how people think of auto repair. What’s interesting is what it shows about how people think of Christianity. They tend to think it’s mainly a matter of the mind. It’s about words and ideas, not things. So for many it’s in the same category as a discipline like mathematics or a philosophy like socialism. For some it’s just another subject on the long list of religious “isms” in the world. Sadly, that means that people think of Christianity as something more theoretical than practical. To them it’s something far removed from the everyday world. It may be handy at a few crucial moments in life, but it can safely be ignored the rest of the time. People seem to get along fine without it.

Christianity is all about such simple, humble things as eating bread and drinking wine.

It’s almost as if the Lord Jesus foresaw all this. Before his death, he instituted something that removes Christianity completely from the list of religious “isms” in the world and makes it far more than another set of ideas. Something, in other words, that makes Christianity less like mathematics and more like auto repair.

Before his death, Jesus took bread, broke it, gave it to   his disciples, and said, “Take; eat. This is my body, which is given for you.” Then he took a cup of wine, gave it to them, and said, “Take; drink. This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is not some vague, abstract idea. He comes “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. The disciples of Jesus take bread and eat it together. They take wine and drink it together. When they do, Jesus gives them his body and blood—and with them, the forgiveness  of all their sins. Through the simple, down-to-earth, physical act of eating bread and drinking wine, Jesus gives his followers the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation— blessings that constitute the heart of the gospel.

You see, Christianity is all about such simple, humble things as eating bread and drinking wine. Christianity does not belong only to the world of words and ideas but also      to the world of things. In our everyday world of words and “isms,” Jesus has given us something practical to help us cling to his promises.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Our Savior Lutheran Church & School