In the crush of modern living (i.e., busy, scattered, fatigued, etc.), adequate preparation for the Lord’s Table is often overlooked. Combined with hearts that naturally pull away from grace and truth, growing Christians must take time to prepare for the Lord’s Supper. Time is needed to reflect on who God is, what Christ did, what you need to confess, and how you need to put to death sin in your life.
Still, even if time is made, some may wonder: How should I prepare my heart?
I was thinking about that as I preached on this subject on Sunday, and this is what I shared with our congregation. I pray it might help you as you prepare for the Lord’s Supper—this Sunday or the next time your church takes communion.
How do you prepare for the Lord’s Supper?
When God descended on Mt. Sinai, he told the Israelites to take three days to prepare themselves for his arrival (Exod 19:10). Likewise, when the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, they took three days to prepare for their entrance (Josh 3:5). So it is that the people of God, whenever they entered God’s holy presence, must purify themselves (cf. Leviticus 8–9).
In the New Testament Jesus picked up the same idea. When he celebrated the Passover, he went to each of his disciples and washed their feet (John 13). Though Peter objected at first, he learned the Master must wash him in order for him to abide with Jesus. Just the same, when Paul spoke of taking the Lord’s Supper, he addressed the need to consecrate ourselves for communion (1 Cor 11:17–34).
What It Doesn’t Mean to Consecrate Yourself?
Fortunately for those who abide in Christ, our consecration is not dependent on washings or physical purifications (Heb 6:2; 9:10). Rather, washed by the blood of Christ, we have been sanctified once for all (Heb 9:14; 10:14). Accordingly, we do not need to make a fresh offering for the forgiveness of our sins.
That said, we do need the Spirit’s ongoing renewal (Acts 3:20). Like Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, we need to be cleansed by the Word of God on a regular basis. Yet, such purification is not merely a passive act. As Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, we must strive for holiness (Rom 6:13). Trusting that God will expose the sins in your heart (Phil 3:15; Heb 4:13), devotion to the Lord requires a regular time of self-examination and confession.
More than just having spontaneous confessions, the growing disciple should bring his life before the light of the Lord on a regular basis. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
Paul encourages our self-examination not to increase anxiety, but to cut off self-reliance and increase our dependence on the gospel. In fact, in his other letter to the Corinthians, Paul shows us that a vital part of the Lord’s Supper includes a process of examination.
In 1 Corinthians Paul confronts believers who are taking the Lord’s Supper in vain (11:20), but in his reproof he gives principles for all Christians to employ. He writes, “Let a person examine himself . . . and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (v. 32). Like with Sinai and Canaan, the Lord’s people must consecrate themselves to ensure their purity before approaching a holy God. Even more the Lord’s people prove the reality of their new nature (alive in Christ) by desiring to be examined and sanctified.
Ten Commandments as a Means of Self-Examination
Still, earnest Christians may ask: How ought I to prepare my heart for the Lord’s Supper? Do I just need to feel bad about my sin? Or is there something more concrete that might guide my thoughts?
What follows are a few questions you can ask yourself as you prepare for the Lord’s Supper. They are derived from the Decalogue (Exodus 20), and aim to search your heart for idols, pockets of sin, and other issues of life that may hinder your walk with God. (If they are helpful, feel free to improve them, edit them, or adapt them in any way that may help you or those you lead in worship).
- Is there anyone or anything you’re worshiping above God? What’s first in your life? Family? Money? Ease? Or God? Does your passion for ______________ exceed your passion for God? If so, why?
- Are there wrong ways you have thought about God this week? Are there harsh thoughts towards God in your heart? Do you worship God based upon the way he has revealed himself in Scripture and the Son? Or do worship God based upon personal experience or the influence of other books or teachers?
- Does your life reflect the Lord? Are you walking in a manner worthy of Christ and his gospel? Would you be ashamed to speak of Christ to others because your life doesn’t match your profession?
- Are you resting in the Lord and what Christ did on Calvary? Or are finding your identification in your labors? Is there anxiety gripping your heart? If so, why? What are resting in?
- Are you honoring your parents? Are you loving your children? Are hobbies coming before family? Are you neglecting the ones in your family that you should be caring for?
- Are you murdering anyone in your heart? Are you withholding forgiveness? What unchecked desire has prompted anger? Are you blaming others for your anger? If so, read James 4:1–2.
- Are you walking in purity? Are there relationships that are compromising your sexual integrity? Are you loving your wife as Christ loved the church? Or are you lovingly submitting to and respecting your husband, as the church does Christ? If single, are you using your freedom to serve the Lord?
- Are you trusting God for your daily bread? Are you working in order to share with others? Are you generous? Or are you stingy with your resources?
- Do your words reflect the truth of God? Do you intentionally hide behind vague words? Are your words building up or tearing down others? What does the overflow of your speech reveal about your heart?
- Are you guarding your heart from discontentment? Can you say that God is enough? What idol are your coveting? What step can you take to grow in contentment with the Lord?
As these questions expose sin, confess them to the Lord and look to the cross. The Law of God is never meant to leave us in our guilt. The law, when used lawfully (1 Tim 1:8–11), leads us to the gospel. It heightens our need for grace and by consequence it prepares us for the Lord’s Supper.
Therefore, as you read these questions, pray for God’s Spirit to prompt conviction and then look again to Christ. Trust in him. Flee from sin. Make peace with others. Get help if needed. And give thanks for the Christ of Communion.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss