By Tom Ascol
We observed the Lord’s Supper last Sunday as a part of our worship that included a sermon on apostasy from Jeremiah 18:13-23. In verse 15 the Lord summarizes Judah’s apostate condition with this simple charge, “My people have forgotten Me.” That succinct assessment is repeatedly made in the first 18 chapters of the book (Jeremiah 2:32, Jeremiah 3:21, Jeremiah 13:25). What an indictment it is! When those to whom the Lord has come forget Him they are doing something that goes against nature, is uncharacteristic of pagans with their gods, and which is spiritually suicidal (see the contexts of the verses listed above).
Forgetfulness is a common, yet deadly spiritual disease. That is why God’s Word gives so much emphasis to calling us to remember. Much of the burden of Moses’ message to the Israelites in Deuteronomy is warning them not to forget the Lord and exhorting them to remember Him and His salvation. David penned two psalms “to bring to remembrance” (Psalms 38 and Psalms 70).
This same emphasis is found in the New Testament as well. In the midst of their sufferings the Hebrew Christians had to be reminded that those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines (Hebrews 12:5). Peter exhorts his readers to “add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” Then he explains that “he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9).
The apostles saw it as part of their responsibility to remind the disciples of Christ of things that they already know. Paul explained to the Roman church, “I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you….” (Romans 15:15). He sent Timothy to Corinth in order to “remind” them of his ways in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:17). Peter plainly declared his purpose in writing to his fellow believers: “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you… (2 Peter 1:12-13). In fact, he self-consciously wrote his letters in order to encourage his readers to remember truth long after he had died: “Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease” (2 Peter 1:15; see also 2 Peter 3:1).
Part of pastoral ministry is to be given over to reminding God’s people of the Lord and His ways. Paul admonishes both Timothy and Titus to do just that (2 Timothy 2:14, Titus 3:1). He also encourages his young pastor friend to “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8). Forget this and Gospel ministry becomes impossible.
All of these reminders are indictments on our tendency to forget. Which bring me back to the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Isn’t it amazing that we need to be reminded of the sacrificial death of our Savior? What a commentary on the power of remaining sin that resides within believers! What a testimony to the subtle strategies of the devil and the alluring deceptions of the world! It seems inconceivable, doesn’t it, that people who have been rescued for the wrath of God and granted eternal salvation would ever forget the One who, at such great cost, brought it about. Yet, that is sadly our tendency. We forget.
That’s why we sin. We forget the wickedness of our sin and what it cost our Savior to redeem us from it. That’s why we complain and grumble. We forget the greatness of incomparable worth of all that is ours in Jesus Christ. That’s why we hesitate to forgive. We forget that God in Christ has forgiven us. That’s why we get depressed, lose hope, become joyless and settle into spiritual mediocrity. We forget Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, has conquered every one of our enemies and given us a sure future in heaven.
How gracious and kind and condescending of Christ to give us the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper so that by it we will be dramatically called to remember Him on a regular basis! An obedient Christian (who submits to the command to “Do this”) cannot long remain a forgetful Christian (because it is done in remembrance of Christ). Forgetfulness is a great enemy to a joyful, faithful Christian life. We must not underestimate our need for encouragement to remember Christ. And we must not neglect the very means that He Himself has given to us to do so.