What Is the New Covenant and Are We Living In it?

ImageMy wife grew up in a very similar church experience as many of us have. She sinned every week and constantly, like so many in the church, had to go down to the altar and “recommit” her life to Jesus each Sunday or take a chance on dying and going to hell. She said that it seemed that Christ had the power to save her, but no power to keep her saved. She had to do it all from that point on by living a pure life and doing good works according to church doctrine and rules that must be kept.

I had a very similar church upbringing as she did, except I was raised a Catholic and had the same sin issue and the same striving against sin with the same necessity of confessing my sins and going down to the altar every Sunday to take “holy communion” that I might get right with God again and then the cycle started all over again the following week. What bondage!

Things became very clear to me that my salvation was not a result of my works, but God’s when I read chapter eight of Hebrews. There I read the difference between the Old Covenant of works and the New Covenant which Jeremiah prophesied of God’s wonderful grace. The writer of Hebrews wrote:

“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb 8:7-12 KJ2000)

The first covenant (the old covenant) was doomed to failure because it hinged on the obedience of seemingly endless list of commandments that the Hebrews had to keep.by their own strength and as we read her they failed and broke the covenant that they made with God. So God knowing this had a further plan that WOULD work and in this plan it was not dependent on the righteous of the first Adam (fallen man), but the righteousness of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. The first covenant was filled with “thou shalt’s and thow shalt not’s” but the second and more perfect covenant is pronounce with a short list of “I WILL’s” and it is all fulfilled by the working of the will of God in us:

I will make a new covenant
I will put my laws into their minds
I will write my laws in their hearts
I will be to them a God and they shall be my people
They shall not teach every man his neighbor…for all shall know me
I will be merciful to their unrighteousness
I will remember their sins no more

In Ezekiel we read a bit more about this covenant saying,

“And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Eze 36:23-27 KJ2000)

I will sanctify my great name
I will be sanctified in you
I will take you from among the nations
I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean
I will cleanse you
I will give you a new heart
I will put a new spirit within you
I will take away your stoney hearts
I will cause you to walk in my statues and do them

Nope, not a single “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not,” but fifteen “I will…” statements by God. The New Covenant is “good news” because Jesus and the Spirit of God gives those who surrender to Christ the power to obey Him and live upright lives IN Him. We live by God’s power and heart and not our own inability to please Him by our works.  So what are all these statutes and commandments He puts on our hearts? In Hebrews again we read,

In that he says, A new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and grows old is ready to vanish away.
(Heb 8:13 KJ2000)

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
(Heb 7:11-12 KJ2000)

Jesus Christ is our great High Priest and with Him and His covenant came in a New and changed law. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35 KJ2000)

Paul wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, self-control: against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23 KJ2000)

And in Romans we read, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Rom 13:8-9 KJ2000)

So, as we abide IN Christ we now find that we have a new heart, a new mind (the mind of Christ), a new Spirit, the Spirit of God, and are able to walk in His New Commandment, the law of love that sums up the whole old covenant law and it is all by the power of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the sending forth of His Holy Spirit to abide in us. THIS is the Good News of the gospel, not a new list of rules and regulations we have to keep by our own strength… a list that we can not keep any more that the Hebrew people could keep the laws of the first covenant. The New Covenant is not about us, but it is all about Him and we who abide IN Him as members of HIS body. Amen, Lord. So be it!

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Transparency and Freedom

woman_at_the_well

However, their minds were hardened, for to this day the same veil is still there when they read the old covenant. Only in union with Christ is that veil removed. Yet even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are being transformed into the same image with ever-increasing glory by the Lord’s Spirit. (2Co 3:14-18 ISV)

Recently I had an exchange with a sister with whom I was in high school. We didn’t know one another back then other than by sight. In fact I find that I really knew very few people back then because of the veil we all projected for fear that we would not be loved for being simply who we were. There was always someone looking for a way to get a leg up and over another person so that they would look good and appear above the rest at their expense.

There is the spiritual man and then there is the carnal or worldly man. The world has been all about hiding and intrigue ever since Adam and Even sinned and covered themselves with fig leaves and hid from God. Men prefer darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.

Anyway, my exchange by email with this sister (who I really met for the first time at recent at a high school reunion) has been going very well, because we can now communicate spirit to spirit with transparency because we both have the Holy Spirit within us and have been maturing in Christ.

It is interesting to read the gospels and Jesus’ encounter with the people of Israel in light of transparency or the lack thereof. Most didn’t have a clue where He was coming from or what He was saying. His greatest appeal to most of them was the fact that He could heal or give them a free meal when hungry. But there were a small handful that He could speak to who had an unveiled face and nothing to hide. Take the Samaritan woman at the well, for instance. What a contrast this “sinner” was with the learned Jews who constantly sough to trap Him from behind their veiled faces… the very meaning of the word hypocrite! To her He revealed great spiritual truths that the learned Pharisee, Nicodemus, couldn’t begin to understand and she was a “sinner” and a “dog” in their eyes. Her unveiled face and honesty made all the difference.

The root of the word hypocrite according to Merrium-Webster:

Middle English ypocrite, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin hypocrita, from Greek hypokritēs actor, hypocrite, from hypokrinesthai

These Greek actors wore masks to deceive and play the part of the person they portrayed. Their faces were “veiled.” So we see Jesus calling these sanctimonious, learned Jews who sought to trap him, hypocrites. He never once called a sinner, harlot, or a publican or even a hated Roman by that name. They all knew that they needed help and came to Jesus, the Great Physician, for that help and he turned none of them away. When criticized by the religious Jews for having contact with the sinners Jesus said, “Those who are whole need not a physician, but those who are sick.”

Have you, as one of His saints, every had a religious person come up to you and fain that they really liked you and wanted to be taken into their confidence, only to find that once you revealed to them what you really felt or believed,  they then turned on you and tried to capture or attack you in their vein philosophies and self-righteousness? Have you ever been wounded by such people simply because you laid open your heart to them and then were trampled into the ground? I have.

Jesus warned us to “be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves.” He warned us not to spill our pearls before swine because first they will stomp your pearls in the mud and then turn and tare you apart! Transparency is something that makes us vulnerable, but you will see in the Gospels that Jesus was cautious with the Pharisees and Scribes, but open with those who the Father gave Him. In fact He prayed regarding this contrast saying,

“’O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.’ My Father has given me authority over everything. No one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luk 10:21-22 NLT)

Dear saints, we should be able to be “open faced” with one another, because the love of God compels us to reach out to one another in the bond of Christ as members of His body. If we find that we are being betrayed by a person we confided in or that they never reveal what is in their hearts to us and heart to heart communication is a one way street, chances are that we are dealing with either a wounded person that has not been healed or a hypocrite. Remember, our enemy has sown tares in among the wheat in the Father’s field.

But, oh, what a joy it is when we can communicate in loving safety with another in the Spirit and go away knowing we have found a true member of our Spiritual family and just been edified by the experience. This experience keeps us searching and hoping for a broader manifestation of the kingdom of God where unveiled faces abound. Remember, “Only in union with Christ is that veil removed.”

What a promise there is connected if we live with an unveiled face! “As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are being transformed into the same image with ever-increasing glory by the Lord’s Spirit.” Transparency leads to transformation! We are not being conformed to this world, but transformed into the same image of Jesus Christ by the mind of Christ within whom we behold with open faces and are changed from glory to glory. Remember it is for freedom that Christ has set us free and with that freedom comes transparency and a release from all fear. This transparency affords the revelation of Christ’s true beauty deep from within, the beauty of the Lamb abiding there.

Forever Pilgrims

PioneersTherefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works… And this we will do if God permits.
(Heb 6:1-3 RSVA) [emphasis added]

How often we have seen ourselves clinging to something as though we have arrived in our Christian walk? As I look around Christendom this seems to be the norm more than the exception. We find ourselves in a nice comfortable meeting, church building or denomination where there are no threats and where there is no one to challenge us or stretch us or even push us out of the nest and we settle in and vegetate. Funny how God does not allow these things to continue in our lives if we are fully committed unto His Son and abide IN Him.

Many of us think we have got God, His kingdom and what it means to do “church” all in a neat theological bag. But even Paul was not so foolish. He wrote,

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if indeed I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phi 3:12-14 KJ2000)

Let us go on… I follow after, if I might apprehend… the very reason that Christ apprehended me for! To not go on is to be caught-up and entangled in dead works at best! You see, God is Spirit and they who would worship Him must do so in Spirit and in Truth (verity). When we cease to follow on after the Lord in our lives is when we start living a lie.

“Forgetting those things which are behind…” Wow! How many of us have done that? How many are doing what we are doing because of past events in our lives, past comforts or past woundings? We have become cogs in a wheel that goes endlessly around in circles. My daughter, Dinah, when she was in a church youth group was asked by the leader with the other kids, what they thought of Sunday services. The good church kids all had a nice, warm, churchy things to say about church services, but not Dinah. They finally got around to asking her and she said, “I think going the Sunday service is like going to the circus… if you seen one you have seen them all.” I call this trap, “the tyranny of the comfortable.” We humans are quite adaptable and love our comfort.

No, if we are intent on following Jesus we will find ourselves “outside the camp, bearing His reproach” and eventually find that here on this earth we have no continuing city…. BUT do we throw in the towel and settle down and become wilderness dwellers for the sake of being “in the wilderness”? No, that can be a trap as well. Even that can become too comfortable. If we are called to follow Jesus we will follow Him wherever He goes (Rev. 14:4).

I would like to share this bit of revelation from T. A. Sparks on this theme…

To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. (Revelation 2:17)

God always keeps the revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations. You and I can never get revelation other than in connection with some necessity. We cannot get it simply as a matter of information. That is information, that is not revelation. We cannot get it by studying. When the Lord gave the manna in the wilderness (a type of Christ as the Bread from heaven), He stipulated very strongly that not one fragment more than the day’s need was to be gathered, and that if they went beyond the measure of immediate need, disease and death would break out and overtake them. The principle, the law, of the manna, is that God keeps revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations of necessity, and we are not going to have revelation as mere teaching, doctrine, interpretation, theory, or anything as a thing, which means that God is going to put you and me into situations where only the revelation of Christ can help us and save us….

Now then, that is why the Lord would keep us in situations which are acute, real. The Lord is against our getting out on theoretical lines with truth, out on technical lines. Oh, let us shun technique as a thing in itself and recognize this, that, although the New Testament has in it a technique, we cannot merely extract the technique and apply it. We have to come into New Testament situations to get a revelation of Christ to meet that situation. So that the Holy Spirit’s way with us is to bring us into living, actual conditions and situations, and needs, in which only some fresh knowledge of the Lord Jesus can be our deliverance, our salvation, our life, and then to give us, not a revelation of truth, but a revelation of the Person, new knowledge of the Person, that we come to see Christ in some way that just meets our need. We are not drawing upon an “it,” but upon a “Him.” [emphasis added] (By T. Austin-Sparks from: The School of Christ – Chapter 3)

Binding God with Our Traditions

Well, dear saints, I have to apologize for not posting anything new for a couple of months. We had an unfinished home on 20 acres that we started back in mid 2009 that I had to complete and put on the market. It was designed like a hunting lodge, rustic with a vaulted ceiling, three bedrooms and one and a half baths. Anyhow, it has now sold and I can get back to putting my head and heart on things eternal, once again.

I recently had a series of communications with a brother by email in which he ended up criticizing me for not going back into the institutional churches of men and trying to fix them after God told me to leave them once and for all and seek Him alone.

This came yesterday in a very timely way in my email devotional from T. Austin-Sparks. God once again verified to me that I heard His voice and that He has me right where He wants me, seeking that city whose builder and maker is God which has its foundations built on Jesus Christ alone.

Don’t say that the things which God has made clean are impure. (Acts 10:15 GW)

“Who was I that I could withstand God?” Now what we have here is that, over against the sovereignty of the Spirit, was the fixed tradition of Peter in the one case, and the same in the case of those at Jerusalem who “contended with him” for doing what he did. On a later occasion Peter fell into the same old traditional snare and Paul had to contend with him very strongly about it. The point is that the Lord was making for spiritual increase, but an obstacle encountered was this unpreparedness to leave room for the sovereignty of the Spirit. If a child or servant of God in his or her secret walk and history with God is led to move in a way that is not according to the recognized and established system, but new and different, and seemingly in violation of all the accepted and fixed conventions or associations, there is all too often a repetition of what took place in Jerusalem; a suspicion, a contention, and an opposition.

Now, dear friends, look here: we have got to take ourselves honestly in hand over this or we may be found to be “withstanding God” and “limiting the Holy One.” Read the Gospels and the Acts again, and ask the question as you proceed, “How can this, and that, and that be interpreted or construed as doing violence to an accepted and long established Divine order?” You will not get far before you are in the company of those who opposed Christ at every step, and of the Judaizers who pursued Paul across the world with the one object of making his ministry impossible. They were very jealous and zealous for the divinely established order – as they believed it to be. Do you not recognize that every movement of God down the ages has been in conflict with something that men believed to be the Divine order, and those concerned have been regarded as doing the Devil’s work? It was so with Christ, and it was so with the apostles. It has been so again and again when God has moved to enlarge His people by ignoring their fixed framework of custom. It is so easy to use thoughtless and misapplied slogans, or apply fragments of Scripture wrongly (such as, “By their fruits ye shall know them”). Very often such damaging dagger-thrusts are only because of a failure to give the Lord room and right to take some of His children by a way that is new, unusual, or very strange…. So we see that for all enlargement and increase we must leave room for God to do new things, strange things, things that we cannot understand for the moment. We only put ourselves outside of His intention to enlarge spiritually if we bind Him to our own fixed judgments.


By T. Austin-Sparks from: Hindrances to Fullness of Life