(Exploring Life in Christ – Digging for Answers with
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
by Bert R. Hartmann
What does living in the New Covenant mean? Let’s try to answer this question without using haughty theology (if there is even such a thing as haughtiness in one trying to humbly know God); let’s begin by talking about the Ocean and the Land and their connection or intimate union that can never be separated, just like the Old and New Testaments are very separate from each other but forever connected. You can picture it as the ocean sitting in land shaped like a very deep bowl. Interesting how the water is actually joined with the land in all directions except heavenward. We know that God holds everything together in Christ—makes one think of gravity, which even scientists cannot fully understand. (Why doesn’t the water fly out of the bowl since we are spinning so fast?) “Christ is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). So how is this breach between Jesus, who rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenlies, and us here on earth bridged? Let’s make the analogy of the Ocean and the Land to the Old Testament and the New Testament respectively—the Old Covenant and the New Covenant!
Living in the Old Covenant with its focus on obeying the Law and ritual prevents one from experiencing freedom and the Life of Christ in the New Covenant. When you are on the ocean, you can’t be on the Land!
One can live in either one, though it is difficult to personally plumb the depths of the ocean. (Just a sidebar thought, if you plumb to the very bottom of the ocean, you’re right back to the land, in other words, you end up in the New Testament or Covenant again.) It is much easier to live in and explore the land, isn’t it? Funny how God designed the ocean first, and then the land for human beings to live in when you think about it. Why did the Old Covenant come before the New? What can we learn from all this?
The Ocean is certainly an indispensable source of seafood and of life-giving Water (the glorious Sun purifies (evaporates) the water and the powerful Wind rains it over the land—I’m thinking of our triune God in action). Analogously, the Old Testament or Covenant is an indispensable source of Spiritual food and life-lessons. This inspired collection of books helps us understand how to realistically experience Life in the New Covenant, which began after Jesus’ earthly ministry.
It is important to realize that we cannot even understand the Old Testament without the New Testament. Saint Augustine aptly observed that the Old Testament is revealed in the New, and the New is concealed in the Old. For the Christian, Christ is the theme of both covenants. For example, in the Old Testament, Christ is in pictures, in the New Testament in person; in the Old, Christ is in ritual, in the New, Christ is in reality; in the Old, Christ is prophesied, in the New, Christ is present; in the Old, Christ is implicitly revealed, in the New, Christ is explicitly revealed.
Now, what revelation is provided by this ancient indispensable source mentioned above that is so important to understand? It is simply understanding what the Old Covenant God made with His people was, and His purpose in it. The Old Covenant was a conditional covenant or promise that God made with mankind. It can be summed up as thus: “If you obey Me, you will be blessed, and if you disobey me, you will be cursed.” Time after time we see this in the Old Testament, story after story, picture after picture—and we see the results!
We see the first-born Cain, in making his offering, obeying God, but with an evil heart; and we see King David with a Godly heart disobeying God in adultery and murder. Cain and David are two opposite sides of the same counterfeit coin – the coin of trying to obey God in our own power, or with a selfish (what’s in it for Me) or self-righteous (I’ll do it my way) attitude. That coin is worthless! As John 15:5b says: “Apart from Him we can do nothing.” The Old Covenant shows us that apart from the Spirit of God, we cannot live the life we were designed for. Matter of fact, apart from the Spirit of God, human beings are like animals without instinct. Think for a minute what an animal without instinct would do—the absolute perversion of what could happen goes off the scale. Yet today, we hear about the evil things that human beings do and simply wonder why? (Instead of understanding why!) Animals without instinct would do only what they want to do. Human Beings without God’s indwelling Spirit do only what they want to do. Obedience to the Lord God Jesus is not even a considered concept, or at best, it is considered too difficult or impossible to do because of repeated failure.
But even a cursory study of the Old Testament paints a picture easy to see, of man being unable to consistently trust and obey God. We learn that we can only be consistently unrighteous. We learn that even partial obedience is full disobedience. In the New Testament we are explicitly told in Romans 3 (where Paul is quoting the Old Testament) that “there is no one righteous, no not one!”
A pure, holy (set apart from sin/disobedience), and righteous God is set before us and manifested for us in the person of Jesus Christ. This person is presented for our consideration as our personal Savior and Lord in the New Testament.
God gives us the gift of faith that we can choose to accept in order to enter this New Covenant—this unconditional promise of Life that sets us free from the Old Covenant of the Law where total obedience was the condition for blessing.
This is so remarkably profound and simple at the same time, that upon dwelling on this for a length of time, it fills us with awe, love, and thankfulness and a joy (that surpasses our understanding) in any circumstance, even the terrible dismal ones. A whole new way of life opens up when we begin to understand that Jesus never said we could [do anything], He always said He would [do everything]! Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life… (John 14:6a).
We begin to understand what God’s mercy and grace given to us means. We learn that apart from His indwelling Spirit, and the Lord’s presence, and the Father’s love in us—we can only act and live in the flesh and not in the Spirit. It is Jesus who says, “apart from Him,” an intimate union with Him, “we can do nothing” (meaning nothing of eternal value). And Paul further teaches that we can do everything in Christ—since He is the One doing it! We learn in Philippians 4 where Paul says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (The Greek word for through here is “en” which is most often translated “in”.)
The New Covenant is not an idea! It is the reality of having God with us in the person of Jesus Christ. At first, it is hard to accept this! (The Holy Spirit’s main activity is always pointing to the person of Jesus.) It is experiencing God’s peace independent of our circumstances. It is living in the covenant of Grace. It is being set free from the law of sin and death and of being made alive in Christ (see Romans 6). The New Covenant is an understanding of how our life becomes His Life; it is our trust and faith in the Reality behind reality. It is a place of rest and peace in Christ only entered into by faith (see Hebrews 4). The New Covenant is understanding and living in God’s revelation and promise of His eternal Grace.
To deny this New Covenant is to remain stuck in the law—not a fun place to be—always concerned about doing right OR being right! Are you one always concerned about pleasing God, or forcing your doctrines of theology on others? Do you think that there is anything that you can do or not do that will cause God to love you any more or any less? Of course not!
STOP trying to be like Jesus by doing or not doing certain things, or by trying to prove your theology or being stuck in a repeated ritual practice. INSTEAD, just love Jesus, because as you love Him, you will be like Him! How? Because by His accepted gift of faith we will know that it is Christ in us who is acting and speaking through us as us! Because we are in Christ, He is in us doing all the work while we enjoy His peace and rest in the midst of the toil. We rest in Him as He works through us! We end up in 1 Thessalonians being joyful always, communicating with our Lord constantly, and being thankful in everything! Notice how this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus!
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (RSV)
Oh, so many brothers and sisters have professed their belief in Jesus and have been given the gift of everlasting life, apart from perishing in their Sin of unbelief in eternal damnation. But then they have left that initial emotion at the foot of the cross and gone on to live their own lives trying to find the rest and peace that came with our Lord’s resurrection, or just trying their own way of religion now absent of a faithful relationship with Jesus. Trying and failing—re-living the Old Testament over and over again, wondering where the abundant Life is (John10:10b)!
Can’t you see how many have left Jesus just hanging on the cross and not allowed themselves to experience His resurrected Life coursing through their veins? Having the power of His shed blood (life), not only covering us and making us pure, but now in us, continuing His ministry on earth in us as us. People, people! Seek to know Him! The more we know Him, the more we love Him, and the more we seek to obey Him by letting Him live His life through and in us as us! Now, when it is Jesus who is doing all the work of ministry – who gets the glory! Bingo! He does! We were created for God’s glory—right?!
Learn that we do not have the power to do, only the power to choose! What is our daily choice, even our minute-by-minute choice? It is to have Him as not only our Savior but also our Lord. If He is our Lord, then we want to do what He wants and not what we want—right?! Is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, who is God, our Lord? Do our minds, our conscience choose to listen to His Spirit with us and in us? Do you know that the more you know Him, the more you want to make Him known!? We make Him known by His being [in us] and not our doing (Acts 1:8)! Wow!
How can we explore this further on our own? Let’s be aware of the books (see below) that Godly men wrote “at various times and in various ways”, all explaining the same essence of the Gospel, namely that: “by faith we are placed (baptized) into Christ so that what is true of Him is true of us.” Exploring and experiencing the implications of this truth is a lifelong journey of growth, adventure and joy in focusing on our Lord and letting Him in us continue His ministry on earth through us as us. For example, we are only righteous and holy because He who is in us is righteous and holy; we are sons of God because Jesus is the Son of God. We are able to love because God is Love. Simple, yet so profound!
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever (Revelation 22:5).
RECOMMENDED BOOKS to augment Bible reading/study:
Understanding the mystery [now revealed] of Christ in you (see Colossians 1:25-27):
Lewis Sperry Chafer, Grace, 1922 (see Chapter Four, Section Seven)
Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life, 1961
Major W. Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ, 1961
Lewis B. Smedes, Union With Christ, 1970
Ray C. Stedman, Authentic Christianity, 1973 ( http://www.raystedman.org/authenxnty )
Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, 1979
Bob George, Classic Christianity, 1989
Bill Gillham, Lifetime Guarantee, 1993
Steve McVey, Grace Walk, 1995
Dan Stone & Greg Smith, The Rest of the Gospel, 2000
Andrew Farley, The Naked Gospel, 2009
History of the Church:
Frank Viola & George Barna, Pagan Christianity, 2008
Synopsis: Many people today do not know that the Church (the Body of Christ) is an organism and NOT an organization. Anyone viewing the Church today will see its state hampered by endless divisions, power struggles, passivity, and lack of transformation among God’s people. The authors make an outrageous proposal that the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither biblical nor a historical right to function as it does. The well-qualified and experienced authors are convicted of this based upon the historical evidence they present in the book. The reader’s job is to determine if their proposal is valid or not.
The book focuses on Protestant Christian practices. And its main scope is “low church” Protestantism rather than “high church” denominations like Anglican, Episcopal, and some stripes of Lutheran. By “high church” the authors mean churches that emphasize the sacerdotal, sacramental, and liturgical Catholic elements of orthodox Christianity. The book touches on high-church practices only in passing,
Understanding the World in which we live:
Ray C. Stedman, Spiritual Warfare, 1975/1999 ( http://www.raystedman.org/warfare/warfare1.html )
May 27, 2008