Still Striving?

I had a bit of a revelation last night.

I have invested an incredible amount of my lifetime into trying to perfect myself. Now, I’m not even talking about all I did when I was younger to impress everyone with my knowledge and ‘spirituality’, that was just a drop in the bucket. No, I’m talking about every moment since then. Even today I’m still investing an incredible amount of time into becoming perfect under my own strength.

And all I can ask myself is, why?

If I really believe everything I’ve been thinking, studying, writing and talking about, and if I really expect anyone to look at me and see evidence of the truth in my life, why am I still working to earn God’s favor? My automatic response is, of course, “Well I guess I better try harder to get this grace-lifestyle-thing down…”

I think Paul knew how I feel…

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

– Romans 7:21-25

I don’t know how to stop striving. But like Paul, I can say, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord!” by grace I am made right with God, and He cuts away my sinful nature (Colossians 2:11-13). It is him that works to perfect me for his own glory. And I don’t have to work and worry to sustain anything.

 

And so, the only standard I need to hold myself to is grace. Belief and love. I don’t need to worry about all the other stuff. And so my prayer is this: “Father God, teach me your ways; I accept the work of the Holy Spirit in my life to do Your will.”

 

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Jesus Christ, Our Sabbath Rest

Some time back now, I wrote an article on the Sabbath from my less-than-new covenant viewpoints of the time. I unfortunately removed that article not long ago, and no longer have it to reference to. However, I’m turning a new page in my journey tonight; this is how I came to believe that the Sabbath means something much, much greater than I ever imagined before.

It all began when somebody read somebody else’s book and told somebody else about what they had read. As it happened, the last somebody in that chain of events happened to be my fiance. In passing one afternoon she happened to mention what she had heard–essentially that since we can find rest in Jesus, Sabbath as a day is irrelevant now. At least, that is the gist of it as well as I can remember now. I utterly rejected it.

You should understand that I hadn’t begun to study new covenant at that point–hadn’t even begun to think that there could be something amiss in my view of things. It was a predictably defensive, Adventist response that I gave to this new idea about my precious Sabbath. Even after beginning to understand the new covenant more, and even after really starting to get a revelation of grace, I was still in a fog about the Sabbath. But one night it just hit me like a hundred-pound hammer.

Sabbath started after creation, in Genesis 2:3; God looked at everything he had created, saw that it was fantabulous, and sat down to take a commemorative breather (as if God ever needed a breather), and he declared the day holy. But actually, we don’t see this day called ‘Sabbath’, (or shabbath in the original Hebrew) until Exodus 16:23-29. And what was going on here you ask? The Israelites were complaining again; they didn’t have anything to eat. So God sent them quail, and manna from Heaven. For five days they gathered only what they could eat in a day–if they kept it over, maggots got into it. But on the sixth day Moses commanded them to gather twice as much manna, enough to last two days. When the people asked what this meant, he gave them a command from the Lord: “Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord.” (Exodus 16:23) They ate what they wanted on the sixth day and saved the rest over for the Sabbath, and what they saved on the sixth day didn’t spoil. On the seventh day, no manna came.

The Israelites were in a perfect position to learn that God’s goodness is new every morning, as new as the manna. But some went out on the Sabbath to collect more anyway, and God said,

“How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions? They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you. That is why he gives you a two-day supply on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days.” (Exodus 16:28-29)

God said it himself, the Sabbath was a gift to the Israelites. Why? So that they could rest from their work. So that they could chill out, munch on some day-old manna and just rest in the goodness of God.

After this, the next mention of the Sabbath is in Exodus 20:8-11 when God includes it in the ten commandments. Further instruction is found later along, and not only does God give a weekly Sabbath, but others as well; for instance, every seventh year they were to live off the produce they had stored up, leaving their fields unplanted, so that the land itself could have a Sabbath rest for a year. Sabbath in the old covenant is pretty in-depth, but I’m not going to cover it too thoroughly.

One point, however, is important. The next mention of the Sabbath in Exodus after the giving of the ten commandments comes in Exodus 31. Moses was still on the mountain, and God was settling the terms of the old covenant with him. God had just finished giving him all the instruction to build the earthly tabernacle–the place where the old covenant priesthood would minister. Then God seals the deal with final instruction about the Sabbath. Let’s take a look at that:

 

12 The Lord then gave these instructions to Moses: 13 “Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. 14 You must keep the Sabbath day, for it is a holy day for you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. 15 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the Lord. Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death. 16 The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day by observing it from generation to generation. This is a covenant obligation for all time. 17 It is a permanent sign of my covenant with the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and was refreshed.’”

18 When the Lord finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God.

                       – Exodus 31:12-18

The Sabbath was not just another commandment; it was central to the old covenant. And it was a serious deal; anyone working on the Sabbath got the death penalty, and in Numbers 15:32-36 we find the first account of someone being stoned for breaking the Sabbath–by gathering sticks. But let’s not leave off Exodus just yet.

In verses 13, 16 and 17 of the above passage, God explains to Moses that the Sabbath is the sign of the old covenant, and that it is an obligation for all time. And at the end of 17 he throws in another reminder about what the Sabbath is all about – rest and refreshment. Then in verse 18 he wrapped it up and handed the terms of the covenant–the stone tablets with the ten commandments written on them–over to Moses.

It is important to remember (though not as relevant to this post) that the ten commandments were the terms of the old covenant, therefore when the old covenant was done away with, the ten commandments were too, as part of this package deal that God just handed over to Moses at the end of Exodus 31.

Let’s jump for a moment over to Colossians 2:11-17. We’re going to get back to Exodus in a little while, but first let’s take a look at some new-covenant teaching, courtesy of Paul:

11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

               – Colossians 2:11-17

First, Paul recaps what happened when the Colossians accepted Christ and began living under the new covenant; they came to Christ, he cut away their sinful nature in a spiritual act of circumcision (the symbol of this is baptism rather than physical circumcision, as Paul goes on the explain in verse 12 and 13). Then in verse 14 he explains that Christ canceled the record of the charges against us (more on this in future posts) and nailed it to the cross. But the part that is most important for the moment is verses 16 and 17. Paul goes on to say that “these rules (the holy days, new moon ceremonies and Sabbaths) are only shadows of the reality yet to come.” And what is that reality? Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that this passage is the last time the Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible–by pointing toward Jesus as the real Sabbath.

Everything in the old covenant was a shadow of a better counterpart in the new covenant (Hebrews 9 and 10:1-18). The earthly tabernacle that God instructed Moses to build back in Exodus was just a shadow of the heavenly sanctuary. The offerings the priests ministered with were only shadows of Christ’s once-for-all offering. And the feasts, holidays and Sabbath days were a shadow of Jesus himself.

Let’s just spend a moment to recap. The Sabbath was given by God so that the Israelites would have assurance of rest from their work–rest assured. It was a symbol of rest from the very beginning when God rested from his work of creation (Genesis 2:3) and God reminded the Israelites that he gave them the Sabbath day so that they could rest in his provision and goodness (Exodus 16:28-29). The Sabbath was the sign of the old covenant, and obligatory for anyone under the covenant as long as the covenant was in effect; anyone breaking the covenant died.

But if Christ is the true Sabbath, the Sabbath which the old covenant Sabbath was just a shadow of, how does it fit? This is what hit home for me only just recently:

The Sabbath was God’s assurance to the Israelites that they would always have rest from their labor. And now that Jesus Christ has made his once-for-all sacrifice for sin, he is the very embodiment of eternal rest from our labor of earning God’s favor through the work of keeping the law. Christ made it possible for us to rest from our work of earning salvation by offering salvation as a free gift–forever! Now we can rest in God’s goodness and providence forever, trusting to him to take care of our every need, the same way he gave the Israelites manna, new every morning! What an incredible picture of Grace! Jesus himself invites us into his rest:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

                           – Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus was essentially saying, “Come to me all you who are tired out and trying to live up to the perfect requirements of the law, and I’ll give you a new burden–resting your souls in my teaching, humility and gentle heart. It’s an easy burden! All you have to do is accept it; I’ll do the rest!”

And if we don’t accept this rest? The penalty for disregarding the Sabbath was severe–death! How much more the penalty for disregarding Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, the provider of our ultimate rest from the labor of the old system of law!

Finally, to close:

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said,

“In my anger I took an oath:
    ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’”

even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts.”

            – Hebrews 4:1-7

God’s rest is still available in Jesus for you and me–today! And by resting after his work of creation, God assures us that he has the capacity to rest. There is a place of rest in Him, a place planned for us since the beginning of the world. That place of Sabbath rest is found in Jesus. So in the words of King David, “today when you hear his voice,” beckoning you into his eternal rest, “don’t harden your hearts.”

P.S.: Yes, the view that the mark of the beast is Sunday worship and that the remnant church is marked by Saturday worship is blown right out of the water if Jesus is the new-covenant Sabbath.

That’s fine by me 😉

The Ministry of Death

“The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life?”

                         – 2 Corinthians 3:7-8 NLT

If you want to know about law in regards to the new covenant, Paul is your man. Romans and Galatians especially are just full of grace and new covenant. And this guy was no amateur, either; he told the Galatian church that he had been far ahead of his Jewish peers in zeal for their ancestral traditions (Galatians 1:14) and we all know the story, Paul was raised up and trained carefully in the Jewish laws and traditions, as he testified to at the beginning of his defense in Acts 22:1-3. I think we can all agree; Paul knew his stuff when it came to the old covenant. He was young and zealous, and God got a hold of him and turned that zeal right over to Christ. And so this is where we turn to first, in his second letter to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 3 – Take a few minutes and read through the chapter (don’t worry, it’s only 18 verses).

Now that I have begun learning to live under the new covenant, it seems absurd that people still in the Adventist church–or any old covenant based system of religion–cannot see the new covenant as I do. Why couldn’t the Pharisees and teachers of the law see Jesus for what He is? Paul gives us the answer in this chapter; “Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.” (Verse 15) Focus on the old covenant blinds our hearts to the new covenant. To truly see the new covenant in all the glory that Paul was talking about in verses 7-11, we must begin to let the old covenant be…the old covenant. Dead. Gone and done with. And, Paul goes on to say in verses 16-18, “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (Amen?!) So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

It is important to notice that in verse 7 Paul tells us that the “old way,” the old covenant, had “laws etched in stone”. The ten commandments are not only part of the old covenant, Paul places them at the core of what the King James Bible calls here the “ministration (ministry) of death”, the old covenant. (Grab a King James bible and take a look at the language in these verses)

What does that mean? That means that when Paul says the law was fulfilled and done away with, he’s talking about the whole law. Not just the “ceremonial” law, but the ten commandments. And we see in examples such as Romans 7:6-7 that Paul makes no distinction between the “ceremonial” laws and the ten commandments. Let’s take a brief look:

“But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” “

                         – Romans 7:6-7 NLT

These two verses are absolutely packed. If you have some time, read through the whole chapter, but for now I just want to emphasize these two things: 1) Paul says that we are released from the law, and 2) refers to the tenth commandment (Exodus 20:17)  in his example. Neither did the Pharisees and teachers of the law (who taught Paul everything he knew about the law) distinguish between the ten commandments and the rest of the laws God gave to Moses.

So to recap:

1) Focus on the old covenant blinds our hearts to the new covenant. (2 Corinthians 3:15)

2) The ten commandments are an inseparable part–the core–of the old covenant.

So now the law is abolished and we just do whatever we want? If you’ve ever read James you’ll know that’s not the way the new covenant works. Living under the new covenant means rather than the old covenant’s ten commandments, written on stone, we now have the commands of God written on our minds and in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). It’s the core of the new covenant–God teaching His people His ways personally. And we know from Jesus’ ministry here on the earth that God’s command is to believe in the name of Jesus, love God and love our neighbors–essentially, to love as He loves us. (1 John 3:23)

At this point it may be very helpful and clarifying for you to read 1st John. That’s right, the whole thing. John just lathered the love of God on his church in this letter; a holy, sinless love.

And God’s command to love isn’t new; John says as much in 1 John 2:7-8. Love has been God’s character for as long as God has been God! The ten commandments were a spittin’ image of the just character of God, but they also summed up to love in two commandments (Matthew 22:34-40). So it really shouldn’t be any big deal that the listed ten got thrown out with all the ceremonial stuff, because God is still God; it isn’t that God’s justice was abolished with the law, but:

“now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”

                                   – Romans 3:21-22

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”

                                    – Romans 8:1-4

But you know what? Why don’t you close down my blog now, and go check it out for yourself?

Intimacy = In-To-Me-See

 “God, You are my God, and I will ever [always] praise You

   God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You [right now]

   And I will seek You in the morning [before all else]

   And I will learn to walk in Your ways [teach me]

   And step by step, You lead me [I follow]

   And I will follow You all of my days [forever].”

I will follow You Today.

If I call [cry] He will answer me–will not be able to resist answering.

If I speak audibly He will respond audibly.

If I speak clearly and with clarity, He will respond with clarity.

This is what I wrote in my prayer journal on November 18, 2011, about the kind of intimacy God wants to have with me:

“God is indescribable. He is amazing. He is wonderful, beautiful, incredible… My Father…

“This is what He showed me last night. I was praying and thinking about how I wanted to hear Him audibly. And so I asked Him out loud, “God, if I speak audibly to You, will You speak audibly to me?” I asked three times before I suddenly heard… this ticking of a clock.. the babble of my artificial waterfall… even my own heart-beat crying out “Yes!”

“I had just turned out the light when I heard the puppy crying in the entryway. God told me to go minister to the puppy, and as I walked out to the entry He gave me the scripture to use–“Be still and know that the LORD, He is God.” After declaring this to the puppy several times I went back to my room and God began speaking. The puppy had begun to cry much louder after I left and I could hardly resist. God showed me that it is the same when I cry to Him; He can’t resist coming to me when I cry to Him like that puppy did.

“A little while later I asked Him a question and I wasn’t sure what He was saying, my mind became so boggled. And so I asked Him this. “God, if I speak with clarity will You respond with clarity?” and I made sure to talk audibly and ask clearly. He said yes. Then I asked Him my question again, with clarity, and He gave me a clear, clarified answer.

“Thank-you Jesus. I am learning to speak sincerely with You in the secret place. You are amazing… More than amazing!”

—–

The new covenant is chalk-full of this intimacy:

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

–Jeremiah 31:33 – 34

God promises essentially to personally teach us His ways; “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts.” Not only do we receive His direct instruction, we receive it deep within us, written on our very hearts. God promises personal relationship with everyone, made possible by Christ’s offering on the cross which bridged the gap between God and man. Now, all have an opportunity to know God personally. And the final promise: “and I will never again remember their sins.” There is no longer condemnation (Romans 8:1, 33-34) in this relationship; God is free, even in all His holy justness, to be intimate with men–even such as you and I. And there isn’t a thing in existence that could ever separate us from this love God has for His people, revealed in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39). I used to think Paul left out the obvious; that I could, if I wished, choose to separate myself from God’s love. But how can I? How high, how wide, how deep is the Father’s love for us? It is displayed in all creation. As long as I live in this universe, I can’t get away from the reality of God’s love for me. And there is only one separation from God – the eternal death of sin, which none need fear who belongs to Christ.

BAM! Take that.

Fruit of the Spirit

In light of my last post, while I was searching through my old blog looking for something entirely different, I stumbled across the post in which I recounted the story originally of what God taught me about his purity, back in April of 2011. You can read the whole post here, but here’s the original story:

A week or so ago God spoke to me about purity. As some of you know I have struggled a very long time in the area of purity. This particular day I was feeling quite discouraged, having just fallen down under my own burden of sin, and I was talking to myself, beating myself up over this incident. But then God told me something quite clearly and it was this: “I don’t want you to be pure for Me; I want to be Pure for you.”

I’m reminded once again that no longer do I have to struggle on my own; quite the opposite! Christ has now stepped in; it isn’t about me, it’s all about him and what he did for me! My works won’t and can’t earn my righteousness, but the good things I now do are because the Spirit of God lives in me, because God has written his laws in my heart and on my mind. So then the good things I do are not really my works but the works of the Spirit of God in me. I love Paul’s admonition to the Galatians to allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lives:

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. 

                                                                          – Galatians 5:16-25

So when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives, we no longer have need of the old system, the law, and we are no longer under the law when the Holy Spirit is in us. And we no longer have to worry, because when we allow the Holy Spirit to live in us, he produces goodness within us. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And it isn’t really like I learned it under the Adventist system of thinking, that these “fruits of the spirit” were something I had to achieve, no! Paul is very clear in verse 22: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives” AMEN! It isn’t even my responsibility to live right anymore if the Holy Spirit lives in me! And that brings me back to what God said to me: “I don’t want you to be pure for Me; I want to be Pure for you.” 

None of my effort or strength comes anywhere near to God’s matchless all-powerfulness. None of my attempts toward purity or righteousness compare at all to Christ’s robe of righteousness which he has wrapped around me. Nothing could ever be more complete or perfect than what Jesus did that day some two thousand years ago on the cross – what the Holy Spirit now does right within me. And I can only wonder: how could anyone not accept such an unmatched, priceless gift?

P.S.: I’ve been studying lately about the Sabbath of the new covenant; I’ll be writing more on that very soon.

Living Under Grace – Realtime

This week I have been continually reminded how legalistic and pseudo-covenant my thought process and way of going about things is and has been. That’s right; I haven’t even arrived.

I began talking with an old friend again recently. It has been a number of years since we last talked, and because of a regrettable end with her, for the last several years I’d been rather afraid to speak to her. However, circumstances brought us back into contact recently, and it all came to the surface in me again. And I realized something. For the last six years I’ve been holding on to a guilty conscience. What’s more, for no reason other than my own shame. And it held me back considerably, so that when I began talking with her again, I held a fear complex, feeling as though I needed to make something of myself to be acceptable.

Of course, upon bringing all this up, she was quick to put me at ease, and I was able to put that six-year-old ghost to rest. But it really made me think; if I am under grace, why do I hold on to all these feelings of guilt over things in the past? Even things that shouldn’t be that major, that have likely long-since been forgotten by everyone else involved? The nature of grace says I don’t have to carry feelings of guilt any further than the cross and that “I forgive you, Son.”

But I do. I was brought up in such a way that I do. I learned it, though I never would have known it for what it was. Praise Jesus I am coming out of pseudo-covenant.

I was reminded this morning about something that happened a couple of years ago now. I had just failed big time and I was crying out to God. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went down, but it was something like this:

Me: “God, I need your purity, mine’s no good…”

God: “Of course you do. It isn’t about your purity, it’s about mine.”

Whatever the discourse, God made it clear to me then and there that all I could ever do to be pure wasn’t going to be nearly enough, I needed to put on His purity.

“Wait a minute!” I wanted to say, “That can’t be right!” And although I embraced His words that day, I never really understood what He was directing me to. That’s why it was such a huge revelation to me this morning when this came to mind; because now I get it.

All I can ever do to be pure, to be righteous, to live rightly, isn’t nearly enough. I can’t do it. But that’s okay. Because when Jesus Christ died on the cross to settle my debt with God’s perfect justice, He offered me His robe of righteousness. Now He calls me righteous, and pure, because of His holy righteousness and purity.

Now, does that mean I’m licensed to do whatever I like because I’m covered with the blood of Jesus and all my sins are forgiven and forgotten? Of course not! Because under the new covenant, God has written His laws in my heart and mind. Grace is no permit to live in sin and still be called righteous; but it is the omnipotent enabler that says “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more!”

An Everlasting Covenant

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: – Jeremiah 31:31

My Grace Journey began with a revelation of grace–and what better way? I remember when I was 10 or 11, reading Paul–Galatians in particular–and getting so hung up on his doing away with the law. The law had been so central to what I had been taught to that point It just didn’t make any sense to me that Christians could live apart from the law.

Let’s go back to the beginning briefly. Not quite to the very beginning where my safe, warm world was intruded upon by a doctor performing a caesarean section, but to my days growing up in the Seventh Day Adventist belief system.

I have to hand it to my parents – by the time I came along they were getting a lot more liberal with their Adventist faith, so I was saved some confusion and Ellen G. White quotes. But that’s another story.

I was brought up into the Adventist church, and although I was baptized outside of the church, allowing me to make even further liberal choices aside from Adventism, I was not spared being taught primarily an old-covenant based belief system. That’s not to say Adventists don’t teach salvation through Jesus at the cross, but I was taught that I had to work to be good enough before I could go to Jesus. The old way of being blameless before God through the blood of sacrifices mixed with the grace of Jesus to become a faith which uses the grace of Jesus as an enabler to make one perfect through keeping the law. I call it pseudo-covenant.

I was so well-fed on this belief system that I began to do all I could to be better. It was during this period that I read the New Testament all the way through once. I competed religiously with my peers almost vehemently. At Sabbath school we often played a game in which we put all the books of the Bible in order; one day the teacher decided to stack me against the rest of the class to see who could do it fastest–one boy versus seven girls. I can’t remember now whether I was given the New or the Old Testament to do, but you better believe that I beat those girls, and I was proud.

But sin finds us all no matter how perfectly we try to perform. What would become a 9+ year addiction to pornography began. No matter how I tried to believe what I’d read in the Gospels, Romans, Hebrews and other books, that it didn’t matter anymore what I’d done, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that if I didn’t stop this, I would follow it straight into hell. I continually cried out repentance after repentance, asking for God’s mercy. I chose to be baptized out of fear in order to secure my salvation.

I had never heard the quotes from Ellen White saying that no one could be sure of salvation, and that no one should ever say they were saved. I fell in between the cracks of grace and the Adventist pseudo-covenant and embraced that I was now saved, and that perhaps now I could finally leave the chains of pornography behind me. But I was only weighted down with more–chains of fear.

All that in mind, when I finally started to “get” grace, I was overjoyed. Like David in Psalm 32:1-2 I was saying, “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”

Take a look at the first 18 verses of Hebrews 10. It is a wonderfully clear picture of the new covenant God made with us. Actually, first go back and read Hebrews 8 and 9 as well.

Hebrews 8:8-12 outlines God’s plan for a new covenant:

[8] But when God found fault with the people, he said: “The day is coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. [9] This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the LORD. [10] But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. [11] And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already. [12] And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

 And because God has made a new covenant, the old is done away with:

[13] When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.

But the justice of God is perfect. The law demands death; therefore Jesus came to fulfill the law in his death in order that he could cancel the first covenant, and put the second covenant into effect (Hebrews 10:5-9).

And that was all that was needed. Hebrews 10:10 goes on to say that “God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” Christ offered himself as “a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time.” (verse 12) When Christ died on the cross, sin was paid for. He knew that his work was done and he cried out “It is finished!” (John 19:28,30) and he died. And when he died that perfect death of sacrifice, once for all, he put the second covenant into effect, and this is that new covenant declared by the very mouth of God: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people! And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.

The writer of Hebrews sums it up in chapter 10, verses 16 and 17 saying “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds … I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”

And suddenly everything Paul had to say makes sense! The Sinai law as part of the old covenant is fulfilled in Jesus’ death on the cross. Grace has made us righteous by faith alone, not so that we can go on sinning (see Hebrews 10:19-39), because now God’s perfect laws are written on our hearts and minds and his command to us now is to love as he loved us. Jesus calls us to go above and beyond what Moses’ law demanded, but He has empowered us to live above and beyond Moses’ law.

And so no longer do we have to make ourselves right before we may approach God, no! Since Christ’s death on the cross, we have been made right by the blood of His perfect, eternal sacrifice, to approach the throne of God and cry out “Abba, Father!” Because Christ did not only cover our sins forever, but He covered us with His son-ship, that we might be called sons and daughters of God. Amen.