Approved and Loved

Approved and Loved

Today, we’re diving into a phrase from the Bible that many of us have heard during Communion: "Let a man examine himself." This comes from 1 Corinthians 11:28. Often, we might think this means looking deeply into our faults and failures. However, the original Greek word used here, dokimazo, sheds a new and rather uplifting light on what it actually means to "examine oneself." It's less about finding fault and more about confirming something very positive about ourselves. Let’s explore how this understanding can change the way we approach Communion and our daily lives.

In many Christian traditions, Communion is a time when we're often taught to look inward critically, examining ourselves for any sin or shortcomings before we partake of the bread and wine. This practice is guided by 1 Corinthians 11:28, where Paul instructs, "Let a man examine himself." Traditionally, this has been interpreted as a call to reflect on our unworthiness and sinfulness, ensuring we are suitably penitent and humble as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus.

However, if we delve a little deeper into the original language of the New Testament, we find a fascinating nuance in the Greek word used for "examine" — dokimazo. This word doesn’t just mean to scrutinise for faults. It comes from a root that means to test, but with the purpose of proving something's value or quality, much like how a metallurgist tests metals not just to find impurities but to confirm their purity and readiness for use.

dokimazo is used several times throughout the New Testament, and its usage helps us to understand that this examination is not meant to lead us to a place of despair over our failings. Instead, it's a call to affirm the work of grace in our lives — to confirm and celebrate that, through Christ, we are renewed and made worthy of participating in such a sacred remembrance.

This shift in understanding can profoundly affect how we approach Communion. Instead of coming to the table with a heart heavy with our shortcomings, we can come with a heart grateful for grace, focusing on the transformation that has been wrought in us by Christ's sacrifice. This isn't about ignoring our sins — we acknowledge them — but it's about moving beyond constant self-condemnation to a place of accepting that we are a work in progress, and God is shaping us day by day.

What does this mean for our self-perception? It means that every Communion is not just a reminder of Christ's death, but also a celebration of the life and approval we receive through Him. We are tested and proven — not found wanting, but confirmed as valuable and worthy. This understanding invites us to live not as those constantly beaten down by our own failings, but as those uplifted by divine affirmation.

In summary, rethinking the meaning of dokimazo — from a call to find fault to an invitation to discover grace — changes everything about how we view ourselves and how we approach the Lord’s table. It encourages us to partake with confidence in the power of Christ’s love, which continually works to prove us worthy, not based on our merit, but on His generous grace.

In the journey of faith, trials are not merely obstacles but essential elements that foster growth and maturity. James 1:2-4 encourages us to "consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." This passage is a strong reminder that the challenges we encounter are opportunities to strengthen our faith and develop endurance.

The concept of testing, as seen in the word dokimazo used in 1 Corinthians 11:28, connects deeply with this message from James. Testing in this context is not about seeking out failure but about confirming strength and authenticity. It’s akin to testing the quality of gold through fire; the process is not about hoping the gold fails but proving its purity and readiness for use. In our spiritual lives, trials and tests serve a similar purpose—they are meant to reveal and refine our faith, making it robust and resilient.

This idea of testing for approval rather than for condemnation helps us to reframe our experiences of trials. Rather than viewing difficult times as God's disapproval or punishment, we can see them as His means of preparing us for greater things. These tests are not merely hurdles but are affirmations of our potential and growth in our journey with God.

Connecting this to the act of self-examination during Communion, we can see a beautiful parallel. Just as trials in our daily lives test and approve our faith, so does the examination of ourselves before Communion. This examination is not meant to discourage us but to remind us of our ongoing transformation and renewal in Christ. It's an opportunity to affirm the growth and the grace at work within us, acknowledging that through Christ, we are being made complete.

This shift in perspective turns moments of self-reflection from times of dread to moments of celebration. When we examine ourselves during Communion, we’re not just looking for what's wrong; we're acknowledging how far we've come by God's grace and how much more He has in store for us. It's a reaffirmation of our journey towards becoming mature and complete in Christ, not lacking anything.

Thus, every trial and every Communion becomes a moment to recognise God's hand in our lives, approving and affirming us as we grow in faith and love. These are not moments of judgement but of joy, where we see clearly how God shapes us for His purposes, making us ready and worthy of His great promises.

Living under God's approval radically transforms our relationship with Him and with ourselves. This new stance changes not only how we view our spiritual status but also how we approach life's daily challenges and opportunities.

Confidence in Approaching God

Hebrews 4:16 encourages us with these words: "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Knowing that we are approved by God gives us the boldness to come before Him without fear. This confidence is not based on our righteousness but on Jesus’ sacrifice, which made a way for us to be in God’s presence. This approval removes the barriers of doubt and hesitation, encouraging us to seek His help and presence openly and honestly.

Freedom from Guilt and Shame

Romans 8:1 declares, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Living under God's approval means that we are no longer defined by our past mistakes or our propensity to sin. Jesus' work on the cross has freed us from the crippling effects of guilt and shame. This freedom allows us to live lives that are not constantly weighed down by the fear of not measuring up but are uplifted by the assurance of His unconditional love.

Practical Applications

Living with the knowledge of God's approval empowers us to face everyday challenges with a different mindset. Challenges become less about potential failure and more about opportunities to demonstrate the strength and maturity we have gained through our faith. Each difficulty is a platform to showcase our growth and God's sustaining power in our lives.

Embracing Challenges as Opportunities

When we understand that we are tested and approved, our approach to life's trials changes. We start to see these situations as moments where our faith is not questioned but confirmed. This perspective encourages us to engage with challenges actively and optimistically, knowing that they contribute to our spiritual development and approval before God.

Reflecting on Our Identity in Christ During Communion

Communion offers a special time to reflect on our identity as individuals who are approved and loved by God. This is not a moment to dwell on our unworthiness but to celebrate the grace that covers us. During Communion, we focus on giving thanks for the sacrifice of Jesus and the new life we have in Him. It’s a time to remember that our identity in Christ is marked by grace, renewal, and approval.

Living as though approved by God isn't just theological—it's a practical, everyday reality that affects how we interact with God and how we face the world. It's about moving forward with the assurance that in Christ, we are deemed worthy and capable, equipped to face whatever comes our way with grace and confidence. This is the freedom and joy of living approved, not condemned.

Imagine a student, tense and worried before an important exam, fearing the worst. The anxiety is palpable: every moment is laden with doubt and the looming possibility of failure. Now picture the relief and overwhelming joy that floods in when the results come back positive, surpassing all expectations. This student doesn't just pass; they excel. The fear transforms into joy, not merely because they succeeded, but because the success reaffirms their capabilities and hard work.

This vivid contrast mirrors our spiritual journey. Often, we approach life's tests and even our moments at the Communion table with a sense of fear—fear of not measuring up, fear of our imperfections being too great. However, when we truly grasp the full meaning of divine approval through Christ, our approach shifts dramatically. We are called to engage these moments not with trepidation but with a heart full of joy, knowing we are already approved and loved immensely by God.

Communion is a particularly potent time to celebrate this shift. As we partake of the bread and wine, we remember what Jesus accomplished on the cross—His victory over sin and death, which granted us this approved status. Each time we participate in this sacred act, it's an opportunity to renew our understanding of His sacrifice and to rejoice in the freedom it brings.

Therefore, let us approach every trial and every Communion with a joyful heart, embracing our identity as God's approved. Let the knowledge of His approval wash away our fears, replacing them with joyous gratitude. As we stand before God, let us celebrate, not because we have avoided failure, but because we are embraced by His grace, proven through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, let's not hold back but fully embrace this joy. Celebrate your new identity at every opportunity, and especially during Communion, as a true reflection of what it means to live approved by God.

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