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“Purge out the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened. For our Passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ” (1 Corinthians 5:7 RVIC, other scriptures from NAS unless otherwise noted).
by Kent Humphreys
Introspection is a difficult task because it lays bare all of our faults and shortcomings pertaining to our walk in the narrow way. The Scriptures are filled with examples of faith, trust, and admonitions about being prepared. The journey we have agreed to undertake is one of conviction, steadfastness, and obedience.
Many have chosen earthly professions or trades that require much thoughtful planning before engaging in them. As members of the body of Christ, we too have been asked to first count the cost — examine the entire course set before us. When just twelve, Jesus was already beginning to consider the path he had agreed to undergo in order to complete his mission. “And it came about that after three days they found him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him, they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” And he said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:46-49). Jesus’ mind was already beginning to consider the road of sacrifice.
We should have the same attitude for our preparation (Philippians 2:5). For some, this preparation begins early in life, and for others, much later. There is a story told of a man who was preparing for a long journey. His friend, who had accompanied him, asked how the packing was going, to which the man replied, “Well I’ve put in my compass, some love letters, a map, a few poems, and a lamp.” His friend replied, “How can you get all that in such a small suitcase?” With that, the man carefully showed his friend the Bible he had put in the suitcase and closed the lid!
We also have that lamp for our feet. The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear what God expects from us beginning in the 12th chapter of Romans. “Therefore, I urge you, brethren.” The word “urge” is from Strong’s 3870, translated “beseech” in the authorized version. The NAS translation captures the thought of an imperative rather than a request: “Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). This is not asking for the impossible, but reasonable. Paul goes on, “and do not be conformed to this world [do not get yourself wrapped up in the controversies of this world’s politics etc.] but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (verse 2). Our Father wants us to succeed!
The Problem of Leaven
All have sinned and come short of the mark. At the time of the Passover, the Hebrews were told to clean out all the leaven from their houses, as leaven would be used by God to represent sin. “Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your house; for whoever eats what is leaven, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land” (Exodus 12:19). This was a serious situation. The late Bible commentator Jacob Milgrom, in his commentary on Leviticus, suggests that, because fermentation is similar to decay and corruption, it was prohibited in a sacrifice. While acceptable to eat at times, leaven was prohibited as part of an offering because God is associated only with life.
When we consecrate our lives to God to be put on the altar of sacrifice, we ask to be recognized as a pure sacrifice through the blood of Jesus. As long as we remain under the robe of Christ’s righteousness, we remain justified by his blood and are looked at by God as free from sin (Psalms 19:7-14).
We will be ministers of a New Covenant. This requires preparation. Dedication, knowledge, and obedience to the words of instruction are required. Are we ready? We are to be an example to the world through our words and actions (2 Corinthians 3:1-5). During this Memorial season, we should be keenly aware of our misgivings and sweep the leaven clean that has stained our hearts. We must remember that we are observed daily, hourly, by our Heavenly Father as to the progress we are making to be like His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus.
It is within our charge to ask ourselves, “Am I ready? Have I fulfilled my commitment as a saint of God to walk this narrow way circumspectly?”
Paul asks us to examine ourselves. “For indeed he was crucified because of weakness, yet he lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in him, yet we will live with him because of the power of God directed towards you. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:4-5)? The Apostle gets to the heart of the matter when he quotes the words of our Lord as he was about to initiate the ceremony of what would be known as the Memorial. “And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).
Paul goes to the heart of the symbol in verses 27 and 28. “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.” This is not to say that at the Memorial is the only time one should examine oneself! If, during the year, we feel that we have failed to stay close to the narrow way, we must at those times go directly to the throne of grace and ask not only for forgiveness, but for strength to overcome, according to the will of our Heavenly Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Let us revisit the words of David: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). This should be our prayer every day of our lives. And above all, we must not become discouraged. Jesus himself tells us of God’s care over us: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Therefore, everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:29-32).
The call to the church has been going on for almost two thousand years, and only the Father knows when the required number will be reached. However, realizing that we are near the end of the Gospel Age, it is likely that the time is very short. Urgency is even greater for those remaining to complete their course. This is why the question “Are you ready?” is so important. One of the best examples of this urgency is given by Matthew. The parable of the ten virgins makes it quite clear that urgency is needed when we walk this narrow way during the time of Jesus’ second presence (Matthew 25:1-13 RVIC). The wise and the foolish had the same opportunity to have their lamps filled, representing the necessary holy Spirit. All the virgins began to sleep because they did not know when he was coming! When the time to arise came, only the wise were ready for him. Although both groups had heard of his presence, only the wise were prepared to enter into the marriage.
Knowledge is important for this walk in the narrow way. However, moral character, obedience, and faith are also required to have our lamps filled to the brim. What does the apostle Paul say in regard to the requirements expected of us as we walk this very narrow way? In his treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13, he lays out the steps that accompany knowledge, crucial to completing our walk. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
This Memorial season let us examine ourselves knowing that we have Jesus with us every step of our walk and ask: Have I walked circumspectly? Have I damaged the brethren in any way? Have I been an example of the believers? Have I handled myself properly in all situations? Do I recognize that Jesus is viewing my every move? And finally, let us ask, AM I READY?