If you all can bear with me, I would like to share another aspect of my earlier personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. I do believe many will relate to what I am about to describe. My mother was deeply devoted to the Lord, and was a powerful influence in my life. It seems I always had a sense that God was real, but often had the impression that He was against things that I thought were fun, like going to the movies and listening to rock and roll, etc. I also had the impression that suffering and persecution characterized the Christian life often more than peace and joy.
At the age of 12 I felt the call to commit myself to Him and was baptized. The problem with the timing of this event was I would soon enter my teenage years and the changes that come during that period of life. The Lord would fall to the background of my mind for some time, and I rebelled against my mother as well. Around graduation time my consciousness of God began to return, but I continued to withhold the reins of my heart in many ways.
It wasn’t until age 21 that I would return to Him during a personal crisis. There was a gradual surrender at first. I began attending my mother’s church again and renewing fellowship with other believers. There came a point in time where I saw myself and my need for Him more clearly than ever before. At the same time I realized how much He really cared for me. It was not only a moment of surrendering my will but also the huge weight of guilt from my past and worry for my future! At that point I truly experienced what it meant to be a new creation in Christ!
In the past I had small glimpses in this kind of life in Christ, but this was the full reality! Very early on I began to wonder why I had missed this all along, and also why some other Christians seemed to be missing this dimension as well. In this way I had hoped to avoid falling into a formalized and dead kind of religion that lacks the vital relationship that I had recently found in my Lord and Savior Jesus.
The New Covenant……..
The great news is that the Bible has much to say about this very thing. In the four Gospels we learn of what Jesus had to say about my concerns. And the apostles Peter, Paul and John were not only examples of what an exiting, vital relationship with God was like, but they also had much to say about this prevailing problem.
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews expended a tremendous about ink to warn his fellow Christians of the dangers of depending more upon laws and rituals than on the very person of Christ Himself. He tells us of the Old Testament prophecies from Ezekiel and Jeremiah that were fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
To the people of God in Ezekiel’s day, He says:
“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.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
“Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that 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 that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband unto them, says the LORD:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
On the night of His death, Jesus declared that this New Covenant was being inaugurated with the shedding of His own blood. His also detailed to them how the Holy Spirit would come to live within them, leading them and guiding them into all truth. According to His instructions, they waited in Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high,” and “were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Luke 24:49, Acts 2:4).
Immediately they understood things that were before unclear, for now they possessed the same Spirit that empowered Jesus in His earthly ministry. This same experience was then offered to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior and King, not only to the House of Israel, but to all nations as well! Do you realize what this means? Now we can possess more than the knowledge to live right and pleasing to God, but the desire and ability as well! This new heart, this new spirit He gives is the grace by which we are transformed from sinful humans and into the very children of God. Born of the Spirit! Born of God!
All of this sounds fairly simple, and yet we often struggle with all the implications involved. Most of us have realized that we are not under the Old Covenant of Moses, but the New Covenant in Christ. But it is still easy to think in terms of laws and rituals. If not the Old Covenant rituals then maybe the rituals that have been developed over the past two thousand years. If you are like me, then you might have at one time decided to abandon all commandments and rituals after discovering the reality which they represent.
The fact is that rituals, principles, traditions are not always wrong in themselves. They can and do often serve a purpose if they remind us of the things that are the most important. The most important thing is that we love, honor and trust in Christ to be our righteousness, peace and joy. To live His life through us. There is a real difference between the Old and New Covenants, but there are some things they have in common. For one thing a covenant, whether old or new is still a covenant, that is an agreement between two parties. This one is more like a traditional marriage covenant than a simple business agreement. The two parties in this covenant belong to one another.
When people embrace the Christian faith with the idea of trying it out for a while, they miss the entire point. Christ has given His all for you and to you, now you belong to Him alone. Not a bad deal, really. In fact the greatest rip off of all is to cheat yourself out of the wonder, the glory, the transcendent reality of the Lord of the whole universe by withholding part of you heart from Him.
In the first covenant the law of God was written in stone, and placed into the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle in the wilderness. In the New Covenant the Law of God is written in our hearts. Furthermore this law that originally was summed up in ten sayings, is now summed up in two.
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” NASB
Paul put it this way:
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10). NASB
Jesus did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. He did this by love! (Matthew 5:17, John 15:13).
Please hear me! We are not saved by the keeping of commandments, but by trusting in Christ, who fulfills the law in us! “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5) And this divine love will bring forth all the fruits of the Holy Spirit which demonstrate and fulfill the true meaning of God’s holy law.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
New Covenant, born-again believers are not “lawless ones” like those whom Jesus rejected. They have His “royal law,” the “perfect law of liberty” written in their hearts. Also known as the “law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus” it is ultimately the perfect love of God. (Matthew 7:23, James 2:8, Romans 8:2).
If they heed the warnings of all His apostles and New Testament writings, they can avoid the traps of man-made philosophies and religions and the temptation to depend upon their own good works. They will also receive wisdom to correctly understand How God used the original covenant and what we can learn from it. They will know how to live by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God in both the Old and New Testaments, and continue to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus our Lord. (Luke 4:4, 2 Peter 3:18).
God Himself has invested enormously in us. He gave His only Son. What kind of investment are we willing to make for a relationship with the most awesome being in the universe? We have so little to offer Him, but oh so much to win. The greatest risk is to seek an easier route, to limit our commitment to a few hours on Sunday, or a financial contribution to a church.
He has so much better things in mind for us all! A New and a Living Way!