I was sitting at my desk, a fifth-grade student at Midwood Elementary School in Charlotte, N.C., when my teacher called David Cannon and me to the front of the class. I had no idea what was about to happen, but I was pretty sure we were in trouble. To my surprise and relief, David and I were each given a safety patrol belt, badge, and flag. Since they lived close by, most of the students at our school walked to school each morning. Each corner was manned by a safety patrol team who helped students cross the streets. On that very morning, we began a training schedule designed to prepare us to function effectively as members of the Midwood Elementary Safety Patrol Force.
I can still hear Captain Livingstone from the Charlotte Police Department patiently instructing us with the safety procedures and principles that would enable us to do our job effectively. Little did I know that those training sessions would give me a useful lifelong teaching tool to equip believers as a pastor.
We can learn many things from safety patrol training about proper preparation for the Lord’s Supper — for the better and not for the worse, and in a manner worthy of the Lord. Specifically, we can learn from the number one safety rule: stop, look, and listen.
Before the Lord’s Supper, stop. Spend time in God’s Word and prayer. Reading and praying through the Psalms or 1 Corinthians 11:17–34, in particular, along with numerous other texts, is helpful in preparation. Stop and reflect also on the love of Christ displayed on the cross and revealed in His Word. Then stop and examine your life, rejoicing in the victories and persistence of God’s saving grace in your life. Stop and examine your heart, and confess your sins with specificity, knowing that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Then, by God’s grace, stop and repent of the sins that would assault your joy, attack your intimacy with the Lord and others, and mar your effectiveness and gospel growth in life and ministry. Finally, stop and “fix [your] eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2, NIV), the One “who loves us and has freed us from our sins” (Rev. 1:5).
After you stop, look. Look with focus in five distinct directions while worshiping in “spirit and truth.”
First, look back to the cross. Gazing upon the cross, we are assured of our salvation through the effective and sufficient atonement of Christ, which pays for our sins while providing an impeccable righteousness. At the cross, the door of hell is shut for the believer — “There is . . . no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). With His righteousness, the door of heaven has been opened wide to receive us into His presence.
Next, look inward and examine yourself. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so we can honestly confess our sins with repentance instead of hiding them. Looking inward directs us to embrace the Lord’s Supper as an asset in putting off the old man and putting on the new.
This allows you to look upward. We can look upward with confidence in the efficacy and sufficiency of the cross of Christ, honestly confessing our sins. We are propelled to give praise with our brothers and sisters in worship to the Lord of glory for His grace.
After this, you can look outward and see your brothers and sisters as you “wait for one another” while “coming together” for the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:33–34). We can leave the table, fully purposed to renew and maintain relationships with one another wherever necessary for Christ’s sake.
Finally, look forward to the coming of Christ. This supper is needed until our Savior returns. It exists in order to declare the gospel until that day — “you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). The Lord’s Table portrays the gospel, assisting us as we come to Christ and seek to live for Christ by faith. Yet, one more thing remains.
Listen to the Lord as He speaks by His Word to equip, connect, console, encourage, and compel you to follow Him. Listen to Him who first loved you and continues to love you and has loosed you from your sins. By His triumphant grace, you have been brought from sin to salvation — from death to life. Listen to Him. Then rise from His table and proclaim the gospel to the world in word and deed — Jesus saves.