Before you think uh oh, here comes the fire and brimstone, hold that thought. This article isn’t what you think…
This article is about me. I hope as a larger extension of it, you should gain the benefits that God has for you from its’ truth.
When I first became a Christian in high school, I had this idea that I was still like everybody else. I could do the same things, but it was okay, I was going to heaven because Jesus saved me. And if everybody else got saved, they could go to heaven too! Well, I was new to the faith, what did I know? I had no idea then that I was accountable to God for the choices I made and the deeds I did while in the body. I figured as long as I could repent, it was all good. So I partied. I drank like a fish. I was a bit of a playboy. I cussed like a sailor (and my dad was in the Navy, so I know what that means). I fought like Bruce Lee. Okay, maybe like his fictional younger brother Steve Lee. But I took on all comers. After a while, they stopped coming because they didn’t like the after-effects. My name was Party Zeke (no, I’m not making that up), and I was famous from Montreal (about 2 hours to the east) to Sault-Ste.-Marie (about 9 hours to the west). People came just to party with me, because I was the life of the party. And I was saved over a year earlier – I mean really saved.
I had a good friend and brother in Christ try to disciple me, and tell me what was important. He talked about needing to read the Bible every day. He talked about the need to be in a place where the Bible was taught and fellowship there with other believers. He talked about how powerful worship was and why all believers needed to do it. He tried to teach the young idiot that I was to pray, and ask God everything. I just wasn’t listening. So when I moved 1200 miles to attend university, I made shipwreck of my faith. I won’t defile you with details, but you wouldn’t have had enough for a conviction if being a Christian was a crime. I am aware that is a depressing story, but it doesn’t end there. What I can tell you is that people do this all the time. They just…backslide. There are a lot of reasons for it, but it is what we do as humans walking in the flesh and lusts thereof. God, because He loves us and WANTS us to be with Him for eternity, sowed the seeds of discontent into my soul.
The night came that I was invited to a party in the building I lived in, and I went. Because the arrangement was for each to provide their own refreshment, I brought my own case of Molson Export (a case is 24 in Canada, y’all). We were all just laughing and talking and joking; I was feeling good. And then I wasn’t. A very sober thought occurred to me – was this all there was to life? We work hard all week and then drink hard all weekend so that we can go into work with a hangover on Monday and everyone will know how much “fun” we had by the size of our headache? Something down in the core of my being pushed back at that thought hard…and won. I left the party and returned to my dorm room, where I began for perhaps the first time to make decisions based on what the Lord of the Universe wanted, not just made me feel good. I began to judge myself and my own choices and actions based on what i knew God wanted, not on what I wanted. And I found myself wanting. I was just as guilty as before I was saved and i knew it. I felt it. It was horrible. I was disgusted with myself. Then God spoke to me in my heart. Gerry, my son, you know what you have been doing is wrong and is not what i want for you. You need to change your mind about the path you have chosen and reverse your course. You need to come back to me.
I did what I had done about 2 years earlier – I repented, and I believed that Jesus had paid the price for my sinning and rose from the grave to prove it. What other course is there? It wasn’t long after that I encountered a group of Christians on campus and started fellowshipping with them. I began, also for the first time ever to walk with the Lord for myself. And I began to realize a principle that is reflected in 1. Cor. 11:27-32:
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
I know this particular passage is speaking about the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, whatever your Christian tradition calls it. But like the rest of Scripture, there is a deeper meaning that just a cursory reading of the text does not pierce. First, it is possible to participate in worship as a Christian in an unworthy fashion. What this means is that if there is sin in your life, you are not walking worthy of the calling with which our Lord has called you. Here is an example: Suppose a brother strays from the Lord and wanders into a pornographic movie. During that movie, the Lord calls the brother home. Will that brother be held guiltless of his sin, of which he had no opportunity to repent? It is a frightening thought. Let us say that brother lives instead, and now goes to his place of worship as if nothing has happened and participates in Communion. Has he not partaken of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy fashion? It is unconfessed sin! If we are not walking with the Lord in the best way we know how, with the energy He has allowed us to have, then we cannot say we are worthy of participating in his calling, and this is Paul’s charge to us: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…” (Eph.4:1)
So how do we walk worthy of Him? He is the one that died – in our place – and rose again to prove it! Well, we do as Paul says – we judge ourselves. We examine our actions, and what’s more, we examine our motives – our OWN motives, not our neighbours’. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17) Let a person examine prayerfull their own actions and motives and see if they be worthy according to Jesus’ standard to participate in His ordinance of Worship (which should be our whole lives, Rom. 12:2). First, have they discovered His New Birth (John 3:3) from above? Then have they repented (changed their thinking and direction) of their sins before God? After that, are they maintaining that walk the best way they can every day? Are they doing this kind of self-examination every day? Let’s face it – if I am unwilling to examine myself, Jesus will do it for me. I doubt that will be as beneficial and character-forming as if I had done it myself before meeting Him.
Every day God gives us is a gift for examining ourselves in His light in the manner I have just described. It is true that judgement begins with the house of God. Let us be those who judge ourselves rightly before His return so that He doesn’t have to do it for us. We can bend the knee now and confess with our mouths joyfully now that He is OUR Lord and that He can be others too! Or we can have our knees broken so that we MUST bow and then be forced to painfully admit that Jesus is Lord through pain-clenched teeth. Bothers and sisters, I implore you – judge yourselves rightly before he returns.