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Posts Tagged ‘New Covenant’

I had a conversation several years ago with a friend and we got on the subject of Jesus and how he showed the love of God to the world. I told him I had a simple analogy to explain why Jesus came to our world, but my friend told me it was pretty silly. I got to thinking maybe he was right, but the thought keeps coming to mind every now and then so here is my silly thought.

When I was young I would watch my mom enjoy the birds. She had bird feeders and bird baths and she always kept food and water ready for them. She enjoyed watching the birds fly down and eat and clean themselves in the bird bath.

I know she would have loved to go out back and sit with the birds, but every time she went out they would fly away and not come down for food and water.

I thought, if only she could become a bird for a few days she could relate to them and they would not be afraid because she would be like one of them.

birds

That got me to thinking about God. We have always been told about the wrath of God and that makes many people afraid of him. I believe the bible was inspired by God but it was written by men and my personal thought is that men added a lot of their own interpretations and thoughts making God look like a mean, revengeful being.

If only God could come to earth as a man and relate to us in a way we could understand and accept. He could spend some time with us and let us know that he loves us and wants fellowship with us.

To me that is a simple story but explains Jesus and why he came to earth. Jesus was God in human form. He came to show us that God is not a mean, revengeful being just waiting to smash us to bits. God watches us as we go about our daily lives just wanting to spend time with us and enjoy our company.

Yet because we have been told that God is mean, hateful, condemning and judgmental we are afraid of Him. We run and stay away because we have been told wrong things about him.

Truth is that God is love and Jesus came to show us that truth. As we read about the life of Jesus in the gospels we see a person who was loving, kind, accepting and who generally cared for people. Jesus said he who has seen me has seen the Father. By Jesus example we can be assured that God loves us and wants fellowship with us.

When we come to know that God loves us, we can know that he has our best interest in mind. We no longer have to be afraid of messing up and have the judgment of God fall upon us. The old covenant law no longer binds us to the ‘do this/do not do that’ performance mentality. When we know God loves us and we love him no law or rules are needed. Love naturally does what no law can do, which is love one another and be pleasing to the one we love.

The more I think about it, I notice that birds seem to be mentioned several times in the bible such as Matthew 6:26, 8:20, 10:29 and 13:32 and in Luke 12:24 talking about how they are valued, cared and provided for by God. Maybe there is something to this analogy of us and the birds.

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I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I do not want to be someone who is always against something. Seems so many christian people today speak out more about what they are against and who they are against.

Whatever that may be, against this sin or that sin, against particular lifestyles, against a particular denomination or Bible version, all the different subjects we Christians can think of that end up taking away our main focus….loving God and loving others. We will take the bible and twist interpretations and meanings or use verses out of context trying to prove our point.

WhatAreYouAgainst

Jesus told us in the New Covenant that His commands were to love God and love others. We do not have to agree with everyone to love them. We obviously all have our convictions of right and wrong and we are not going to agree on every one of them. We do not have to focus on those convictions or try to push our views on others. We are told to love others no matter what. We are not responsible for converting people, that is God’s job. We are told to love them.

When Jesus walked the earth He did not spend a lot of time with the religious people. He was out with the sick, poor, the neglected, and those the religious people did not want to be around.

I know I did it for a long time. I thought I was better than others because I went to church. I felt I had to stay away from those who did not believe because their sins would rub off on me. I would always hang out with my church friends and stay away from the “worldly” people.

I would spend more time trying to prove my points and my beliefs, telling people what was wrong and what to stay away from, rather than spend time with God and others.

Obviously God calls us to follow Him and that is going to be in different ways for each of us. Yet to spend more time arguing, condemning, trying to prove our views on the Bible, pointing out people’s mistakes and shortcomings does not do anything except turn people away from us.

When we begin to understand the freedom we have in Christ and start living through grace that Christ provided, we can be free to love and accept all those we come in contact with each day even in our differences. We can show the love of Christ to all by allowing the Spirit to live through us.

Do not worry so much about who is right and who is wrong. Do not always be against something. Be for Jesus. Be for love. Be for others. Follow Jesus and let him love through you. Let him be the central focus of your life and allow his love to flow out of you and touch those around you.

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Have you ever wondered when the Old Covenant ended and the New Covenant began? We tend to forget that the Old Covenant does not end with Malachi and the New Covenant does not start with Matthew.

For 33 years Jesus walked the earth living under the Old Covenant, which required following all its rules and regulations.

The New Covenant began when Jesus was crucified. When He said ‘It is finished’, he was talking about the Law, the Old Covenant. Upon his resurrection the New Covenant began and from then on we were no longer required to live under the Old Covenant Law.

OldandNew

The old agreement was basically a tutor. A way God used to show us that we were unable to live a perfect life on our own. It was a way to show us that we needed someone to save us from our sinful nature. Once Jesus came and lived a perfect life on earth, He became the perfect sacrifice that fulfilled the Law and freed us from our sinful nature (Matthew 5:17).

Now that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, we are no longer required to try to live by the ten commandments and the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant (Galatians 5:1-6). So often we seem to forget that we now live by faith in Christ because of grace. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are no longer just poor sinners saved by grace, although we were sinners and we are saved by grace. We are now the righteousness of God through Christ. God no longer calls us slaves, but He calls us Sons (John 15:15) and tells us we are seated in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). This is not to say that we should go out and do whatever we want, right or wrong (Galatians 5:13). We do have freedom in Christ to do what we choose, but of course there are consequences if we choose things that God has warned us to stay away from for our own good.

Freedom in Christ

Today we choose to live a life pleasing to God because of love (Matthew 22:37-40). Godly love is the fulfillment of the Law (Galatians 5:14, Romans 13:8 and 10, 1 John 3:23). We love God, we have been made righteous through Christ, and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who guides us, teaches us, and gives us strength. We do what is pleasing to God because of love for Him, not out of obligation or because we are trying to fulfill a set of rules and Old Testament laws that we could not fulfill anyway.

Enjoy your freedom in Christ, the freedom to love God and love others, but do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh. (Galatians 5:13). Be guided by the love and strength of the Holy Spirit of Christ, who lives within us.

 

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It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:1-4

As followers of Christ, we have been set free. From what have we been set free? Is it circumcision? I personally think circumcision is a place-holder in this verse. It could be anything we use to try to earn our right standing with God.

It Is By Grace

It is by grace we are accepted, and when we try to do anything….keep the law or do good works, we are putting trust in our work and not the work of Christ.

It we do not trust in the grace of God, the only thing we have left is to keep the Law, and we have to keep the whole Law. Obviously, we cannot do that, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

So why is this verse saying we have fallen from grace? What have we done to do so? It is by trying to keep the Law, trying to live by the Old Covenant and rejecting the grace Jesus provided.

The Old and the New

In today’s church it seems, at least for me, that the mingling of the Old and New Covenant is taught. We are told we are saved by grace, but we mature in the faith and live pleasing to God by keeping the Law. This just should not be. The above verse tells us that this is the way we fall from grace.

free from lawWe are free from the Law, we are free from the punishment for our old sin nature (still consequences sometimes, but not punishment), and we are free from trying to measure up by keeping rules and laws.

Jesus has already done all the work that needs to be done. We can now rest in the grace He provided. Good works will follow because of our love for him, not due to an obligation to measure up and earn his forgiveness.

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Most of us were taught to pray when we were just little kids. We were taught that God is up in heaven watching and listening, and we should pray to him every day.

As we got older, we found out that praying was actually talking to God. We were to take our praises, our needs and our concerns and tell God about them. After we did that, we should then read our bibles, because that was the way God talked back to us. I do believe he speaks through the writings of the bible by the Spirit, but I don’t think this is the only way he speaks. Certainly it is always by the Spirit no matter what he uses to communicate.

We were told to pray without ceasing, to pray with the correct style and order, and to always end our prayer with ‘in Jesus name’. If we didn’t, our prayers may not get through to God.

Why is it, at least for me, I always have a weird feeling if I don’t end my prayer with ‘in Jesus name’? Do we really need to add this phrase to the end of our talk with our Father? I know it’s not really necessary, but a lot of us always add that at the end of our prayers like it makes everything we just said official. I feel that praying in Jesus name really means that we pray in the power and authority that Jesus gave us under the New Covenant. It really isn’t a phrase that needs to be said, but an attitude and privilege we have through him.

We also have this concept that God is way up in heaven, and our prayers may not get through right away. Have you even been told that demons can interrupt our prayers and hold them up as they pass up to heaven? I always used that when I didn’t get an answer when I thought I should.

The thought of praying without ceasing always gave me a problem too. After all, how could I pray when driving a car if I had to have my eyes closed? Obviously, we don’t have to close our eyes, but that is one of those things we were taught when young, bow your head, close your eyes and fold your hands. Praying isn’t about any of those things.

I think praying without ceasing is an attitude. Since God lives within us, everything we do, everywhere we go, he is with us. He is involved in our thoughts, and our interactions with others. He loves us and is interested in every part of our lives. So, in that way of thinking, since prayer is talking with God and he lives within us, we can pray without ceasing. We can talk with him any time, any place, in any position and in any style. There really isn’t a right and wrong way to talk with our Father, who loves us and wants to communicate with us.

Sometimes I think we make prayer to religious. It has to be done a certain way, in a certain order and in the right attitude. We need to have ourselves prepared and ‘cleaned up’ to come into God’s presence.

What happened to the fact that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we are one with God, that the Father and Son have come and made their home in us? The way I see it, there is nothing that can hinder us talking with God (not even taking prayer out of schools). He is right here within us, there is no need to worry about our prayers getting interrupted.

I have been thinking, if prayer is talking to God, it really doesn’t have to be in a certain order or style. It doesn’t have to be when we are feeling holy, it is a daily talk with our Father, no matter what our mood. Our earthly fathers didn’t required we come to them at a set time, or in a set place, or speak to them in a specific way, so why would we expect our heavenly Father to require all these things?

Talking to God

We can be ourselves, we can just talk, question, complain, praise, request, and know that God is listening and concerned. We aren’t going to upset him with our bad attitude, poor choice of words or even our questions. After all, he loves us and accepts us just as we are.

So, I’m finding that prayer is not a religious act, but a daily attitude, talking and communicating with God our Father who lives within us. And since the Spirit lives within us, we will hear and know his voice which comes from within. It is the Spirit that speaks and teaches us, no matter what method he uses to do so.

I think it all boils down to this, God wants to communicate with us. I’m not sure there is really a right or wrong way to talk with Him. If we are formal, informal, if we feel good or bad, holy or not, if we say ‘in Jesus name’ or not, God loves us and wants us to talk with Him all the time.

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It’s hard accepting the fact that God lives within us. We’ve been taught to live our lives trying to follow the commandments and do good things, and one day we will go to heaven and live with God face to face. We have an image of God sitting on a throne way up in heaven, and here we are, far, far away down on earth.

We talk about going to a meeting and the Spirit showing up, or being at a specific place because God is there. We pray and talk with God, yet we wonder if our prayers are even getting to Him.

The more I read, I’m finding that we really have the whole thing backwards.

The Old Covenant has been fulfilled in Christ and we are living under a New Covenant. We no longer have to try to be good enough. The law was a tutor that led us to Christ, but now that Christ has come, we no longer need a tutor. We are free from the law, and children of God through the gift of his grace.

Jesus came to live among us and show us the love of God. When Jesus left, he said he would send us the Spirit. God has now come to live within us. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have the mind of Christ. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one with God, just as he and the Father are one.

Sounds to me that we are missing the main point. We do not have to wait to die and go to heaven to enjoy kingdom living. We do not have to wait to be united with the Father. We no longer need to look to a human guide, teacher or preacher. We have the living, powerful, perfect Word of God living inside us, the Spirit of Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with listening to others, getting their thoughts and ideas, and being encouraged by other believers, but we do not need to rely on other humans. We have the Spirit within us, teaching us and guiding us in the way he has for us.

We do not have to look up in the sky to some far-away place and wonder if God is listening. We can turn our thoughts inward and realize the Spirit is right there within us, listening, loving us and ready to teach us as we begin to hear his voice from within.

We are all at different stages along the path we walk with him, and we need to remember none of us have it all figured out. We so often want to fight and argue from the understanding we currently have without realizing that we have not reached completion. There is more the Spirit wants to teach us as we become ready to accept it.

For my wife and me, we have changed a lot over the past few years, but we realize we have not come to perfection. We will change over the few next years also. So why argue over doctrine, interpretations and beliefs, as if we had it all figured out and everyone else is wrong. We all have a lot more to learn as we walk with the Spirit each day.

We should come to accept each other where we are currently, realizing what we know and believe today will more likely be different a little further down the road. We can love each other, learn from one another and accept each other as we are, just like Jesus loves and accepts us just as we are.

We should be looking deep within ourselves, listening for the voice and guidance of the Spirit, rather than putting all hope in others, and to those we think are more spiritual because they have been trained, educated and paid to do so. Remember, we are all kings and priests and have the same Spirit within us. Each of us are equal and important parts of the body, with Christ as the head. His Church is not a building, not a denomination, but a people.

This is not saying we are all God, but the Spirit lives within us and we are one with our Father. It would do us all good to start focusing on this fact rather than what we have been taught in the past, that being one with God is a future event after we die. Kingdom living is now. Listening to the Spirit, being taught by him and living day by day in communion with the Father is a reality that we all need to realize.

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So many followers of Christ today live like they are under the Old Covenant.

We have been brought up in the religious system that seems more like a corporation rather than a community where the priesthood of all believers should be the norm. The church has a pastor, elders and deacons just like a corporation has a CEO, board of directors and operating committee.

We still have the mind-set that we are living in the Old way of doing things. A lot of us still think the church is a building we gather in and listen to a ‘chosen few’ tell us what God is saying.

We tell each other to ‘have a good Lord’s day’, thinking Sunday is the chosen day to set aside to worship God and rest.

We look to the bible like it is part of the trinity and we worship it and use it for all kinds of rule keeping, judging and condemning others.

We tithe ten percent to the church, thinking God requires it from us and if we do not give the tithe, we are robbing God.

Jesus completed the Old Covenant and brought it to an end. He made a New Covenant with his creation, which we are now living under.Old and New

Jesus is building his Church, which is made up of people, not brick and mortar. It is a community of believers with Christ as the head, and each of us equal, participating members in a loving group of people. Now that may happen anywhere and anytime; in a building, in a house, in a park, a restaurant and so on. The fact is that Church is not an organized meeting in a set place at a set time, but it is a fellowship and relationship among fellow believers, no matter if there are only two or three.

Each and every day is the day the Lord has made. Every day is holy and for resting in the work God has already done. The idea that the seventh day is holy is just not true in the New Covenant.

The bible is the inspired word of God. Although God inspired men to write, it is still a book written by men. It is the Spirit that gives life and meaning to those words. If the Spirit isn’t enlightening us and teaching us, the words do not have life.  Jesus is the living, all powerful, inerrant Word of God.

Tithing was a law given to the Jews in the old covenant. It is no longer part of the new covenant. Giving out of love as the Spirit leads is the way things are done now. God does not need our money, but giving to those who do, out of love, is a way that is pleasing to God and a help to others.

It is sad that men have continued to teach the Old Covenant way to believers today, although it is understandable. All of us alive today do not know anything different since this has been taught for hundreds of years. Not until the Spirit opens our eyes and leads us in His truth do we see this new way of living by his grace.

Seek God’s truth, ask the Spirit for guidance. Do not be condemning and argumentative towards fellow believers who see things differently, but be open to what God shows you. Do not be close-minded and continue to do things just because that is the way we have always done them.

The Spirit is within us and he is our guide into all truth. Be open to hear his voice and follow in the way he leads you. Do not be condemning towards your brothers and sisters in Christ who follow a different path. It is the same spirit that leads us, and we are all called to love one another.

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