Sunday, February 1, 2015

The New Covenant Part 1

Really, Really Understanding Jesus

Friendly Jesus

Most of my life I have clung to the friendly and loving Jesus who died for my sins, was raised from the dead and now lives in my heart. And because I have put my faith in Him, I will go to heaven when I die. Simple, right?

Yeah, for a while.. 

But when I matured in my faith and studied more about Jesus, I had to deal with the "Lord with a sword" -- the fierce, demanding Jesus who told people to cut off their hand if it offends them, pluck out their eye, sell everything to follow Him. Be perfect. Some of that talk was directed to the hypocritical pharisees, but some of it was directed to others like the rich young ruler -- who seemed like a pretty nice guy to me. I never understood that part of Jesus. But one thing was for sure: It scared me. Even though I was taught that He would forgive me when I failed at that level of commitment and perfection -- when I fell short, I felt like I was a big disappointment to Him and I feared His chastisement.

I fully accepted this as just an unhappy fact that all Christians have to live with. It never even occurred to me to question it. I lost so many years of my life in that sad state. It breaks my heart to think about it. But before I can tell you how I learned the truth that changed everything, it is vital to understand the context of the life and times of Jesus.

Enter the New Covenant

The New Covenant is just another word for the New Testament. The words "covenant", "will", and "testament" all come from the same word in the original language. But it is very important to understand that although we use the word (New) "Testament" to refer to the twenty-seven books in the Bible that tell us about Jesus, a more accurate description would be the word "Covenant" because it stands for something truly amazing: God's new and better plan for bringing us into relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus (Hebrews 8:6). It's not just a set of books, it is a new promise from God to us. The old way (Old Testament/Covenant) was out, and the New Covenant is in!

The Two Ministries of Jesus.

The New Testament begins with the birth of Jesus. But technically, the New Covenant does not begin until the death of Jesus. While Jesus was still alive -- He, along with every other Jewish person -- was still under the Law. This is a really, really big deal -- and grasping this will help you understand the "scary" Jesus.

Ministry #1: To bury everyone under the utter hopelessness of self-righteousness. 

Jesus knew, of co urse, that we are all hopeless under our own power to keep God's laws. Only complete perfection was acceptable to God -- and to break one law was the same as breaking all of the laws (James 2:10). But the Jews ignored that and kept working the Law plan. Jesus had to show them graphically and emphatically that "close enough" wasn't good enough. He was preparing them for the deliverance that was soon to come through His death. But first, they had to see their need for that saving deliverance. Remember: Jesus had not died yet, so He and every other Jew was still under the Law. His harsh teachings served the purpose of driving home the hopelessness of self-righteousness. So, He wasn't condemning them -- He was preparing them -- for the most amazing, loving act of God imaginable.

Ministry #2: Jesus came to die for us -- not necessarily to show us how to live.

Before you cringe, remember: He taught perfection in order to show us that we cannot possibly attain it. Our relationship with God is no longer based on keeping rules, doing rituals, and good behavior. It's now a faith-based relationship where good behavior is an outcome of His indwelling Spirit. It is not the goal. (More on that in Part 2.)

The paradigm shifted from what we could do for God -- 

to what God did for us.

I don't know about you, but when I finally got that -- it changed how I understood Jesus.  It has also completely transformed my understanding of His life and teachings, the necessity for His suffering and death, and the glory and hope of His resurrection. But above all else, I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude for His amazing Grace -- and I am definitely not afraid of Him anymore!

And that is just the beginning of what I was never taught in church.

To be continued...

Read about the New Covenant:
Relaxing with God by Andrew Farley 
The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley
Grace Walk by Steve McVey
Unlock Your Bible by Steve McVey (very easy read/like Cliff Notes)

Watch a great sermon by Andrew Farley that covers all of the basics of the New Covenant in 50 minutes. 

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