Sunday, February 8, 2015

The New Covenant Part 2

Really, really understanding "good behavior" (aka 'The Law') for Christians.

What is The Law"?

The Law: 613 Jewish rules and regulations for honoring God. 248 are "positive" (do's) and 365 are "negative" (don'ts). The most well-known are the Ten Commandments.



Perhaps you have heard the phrase "the Bible was written for you, but not to you". 

The majority of Christians today are Gentiles -- not Jews. The entire Old Testament was written by Jewish people, for Jewish people. So, for those of us who are Gentiles (anyone not Jewish) we have much to appreciate and learn from the Old Testament (the "Old Covenant"), but we were never invited into the Old Covenant. We Gentiles were only ever invited into the New Covenant, which generates upright living in a completely different way, from a completely different source. (Romans 2:14)

Mixing and matching -- just in case Jesus alone is not quite enough.

Many churches today follow a doctrine that incorporates a little bit of Law from the Old Covenant and a little bit of Jesus from the New Covenant. They teach Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (grace), but "rules" to keep Christians on the straight and narrow. And whether those preaching and teaching tactics include explicit "laws" from the Old Covenant or "implicit" laws from the New Covenant -- the result is the same: guilt and fear -- which drives us away from God, fearing His implied judgement -- instead of into His loving Presence, where we are blessed with freedom and forgiveness.

The downside of that is twofold:

 (1) According to Scripture, "law-based" behavior is incorrect: "So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law." (Romans 3:28)

(2) Law-based behavior has the exact opposite effect: "God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God's wonderful grace became more abundant." (Romans 5:20) And to make matters worse, Paul goes on to tell us that living under the law is a curse! "For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." (Galatians 3:10) If you break one law, you've broken them all.

But we all need rules, right?...but which rules?

According to Scripture, "good-behavior" rules performed from a place of obedience alone and motivated by fear and penalty were replaced -- not "added to" -- but REPLACED (Hebrews 8:13) with the New Covenant plan for godly living known as the "fruits of the Spirit" -- the natural result of Christ living in us and through us. There are indeed plenty of guidelines in the New Covenant for godly living which are there for our own good -- and they are written on our hearts -- not the ones on stone. (2 Corinthians 3:7) Christ gave us a new heart and a new nature that delights in Him, not in sin.

The Bible tells us that the fruits of the Spirit come from...well, the Spirit! Not a book, a preacher, or a building -- but the Spirit of Christ that lives inside of every Christian heart. (2 Corinthians 3:3) His Spirit creates a new identity and nature in us -- one that does not enjoy sin, even though in our human state, we continue to do sinful things. (NOTE: As Christians, our identity is secure in Christ Jesus, even though our "behavior" is a work in progress.)

New Laws for the New Covenant: Only Two!

Yes, we still have commandments that govern our behavior and our happiness. There are only two though, instead of 613 or even just "10" -- and here they are: Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:29-31)  


So, do we ignore everything in the Old Testament?

Of course not! Everything from Genesis to Revelation is the inspired Word of God. But, we read it for different reasons and through different eyes. Paul tells us "By calling this covenant new he (Jesus) has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear." (Hebrews 8:13) It certainly doesn't disappear from the world, but it should be rendered obsolete for the Christian who is no longer under the penalty of the law, but under grace now -- and our good behavior comes from love and the Spirit of Christ living in us. We have so much to be grateful for!

Relaxing with God: Grace not Law.

  • It's Easy: He assures us that "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30) 
  • It's Natural: It is easy and natural to respond to God with love when you know how much you are loved. "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4: 19) 
  • No Fear: God's love for us is so perfect and unconditional, that we have nothing to be afraid of! "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). 
  • No Judgement: In fact, when we do fail to do the right thing, there is no penalty and no judgement -- only forgiveness, even when we doubt Him... "if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself." (2 Timothy 2:13) 
  • Complete Forgiveness: Jesus died once for all of our sins -- past, present and future. "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10) 
  • Freedom from Fear and Guilt: We are forgiven and free! "You were dead in sins, and your sinful desires were not yet cut away. Then he gave you a share in the very life of Christ, for he forgave all your sins, and blotted out the charges proved against you, the list of his commandments which you had not obeyed. He took this list of sins and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. " (Colossians 2:13-14)

Shift your focus away from your sinful behavior, and ON to Jesus and what He did for you. Focus on what you DO WANT, and not on what you don't want. You generally get what you focus on!

REMEMBER: It's not about what you can do for God, 
it's what He did for you.

Freedom in Christ is Ours!

Believe it. Accept it. Live like it!

Wow -- and thank you, Jesus!


I have a song for everything: (click to listen and watch)

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