Understanding the New Rhythm
Have you ever tried blending two things that just don’t quite fit? In the spiritual world, it’s like trying to mix the Old Covenant with the New. We’re diving deep into New Covenant Christianity because, let’s be honest, how can we fully experience our faith if we’re unsure about the very foundation we stand on?
The Galatian church faced a similar dilemma, and truth be told, many of us still grapple with that old versus new tension today. God’s advice is straightforward: stop mixing and embrace the new.
Lessons from Luke
The Book of Luke offers a compelling perspective. Remember the time the Samaritans snubbed Jesus? His disciples, still wrapped up in their Old Covenant mindset, proposed a rather drastic solution – raining fire on the village! It might sound dramatic, but it reflects how things used to be.
Jesus, in his infinite wisdom, set them straight. It wasn’t about the old ways; a new era had begun. He was setting the stage for a transformation, shifting the focus from the ‘where’ of worship to the ‘how.’
Embarking on the Right Path
As we embark on this journey through Galatians, we must get our bearings right. Let’s commit to understanding and following the path Jesus has laid out for us, fully immersed in the grace and truth of the New Covenant. It’s time to ensure we align with the spirit and essence of what Jesus offers. Let’s walk this path confidently, appreciating the clarity and depth of our renewed faith.
Breaking Down the Old Covenant
Let’s simplify the difference between the covenants. When discussing the Old Covenant, consider it an umbrella, dictating how humanity and God relate. Under this system, humans tried hard to gain God’s approval through their actions, be it discipline, following laws, or behaving rightly. However, there’s a catch – make one mistake, and you’re guilty of breaking the whole law. Yep, there is no middle ground. So, even with all the effort, achieving true righteousness on our own? Simply unattainable.
Embracing the New Covenant
Now, shift gears to the New Covenant, a refreshing new chapter. Here, righteousness isn’t about your checklist of deeds. Instead, it’s all about what Jesus already accomplished for us. Picture this: Jesus faced the ultimate test of law and righteousness, then, in the act of pure love, handed over his perfect score to you. It’s like having the answer sheet for the most challenging exam ever, with your name written at the top! And the best part? You receive this gift simply by accepting and believing in Jesus.
Misunderstandings and Real Freedom
Religion can sometimes add a layer of confusion, presenting a formula like Jesus plus regular church visits or Jesus plus baptism equals salvation. While these practices hold value, they aren’t the ticket to salvation. True salvation is a free gift. And when you genuinely grasp this, there’s no need for constant reminders about what to do.
This new understanding doesn’t weigh you down with demands; it liberates you. Unlike the exhaustive list of “don’ts” that might’ve distanced many from the church, true New Covenant Christianity is all about empowerment, freedom, and the beauty of grace. So, it’s high time to embrace this truth!
The Transforming Power of Jesus
Starting with Galatians, we’re reminded of a pivotal shift: the coming of Jesus and the immense change He brought. He’s the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. With Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we transitioned from being under the law to embracing grace. This monumental change isn’t just theological; it’s deeply personal.
Think of Martin Luther, who was so fond of Galatians that he likened it to his wife, showcasing its significance. Galatians is our Christian Declaration of Independence, freeing us from legalism and pride and welcoming us into grace.
The Nuances of Grace and Living in This Age
Looking deeper into Galatians, Paul encapsulates the theme with a single word: grace. It’s a greeting and the central theme of this epistle.
Despite being delivered from the power of darkness by Jesus’ sacrifice, it’s crucial to note that we still exist in a world filled with challenges. Using the imagery from Psalm 23, it’s not about feasting in front of our perceived enemies or coworkers but understanding that in this New Covenant, our battles are spiritual. Though we’re still amid adversities, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we aren’t delivered from challenges but instead empowered amidst them.
Understanding the Covenants Through Scripture
Grasping the differences between the Old and New Covenants is paramount. Take a verse from the Old Testament: “The Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
At a cursory glance, this seems conditional, emphasizing our behavior. But with a proper understanding of grace, we see it as a promise of God’s unchanging generosity. And while some may jest about interpretations of ‘glory’ (like that cheeky comment about money!), it’s a reminder that our focus should be on the spiritual richness and not just the material.
Understanding Grace and Righteousness
Reading the Old Testament, we often encounter verses emphasizing one’s behavior for blessings, such as the promise that good things won’t be withheld from those who “walk uprightly.” But what does it mean to walk uprightly?
If we compare ourselves to historical figures or even our peers, it can seem we’re doing pretty well. Yet, when juxtaposed with the perfection of Jesus, we often feel lacking. However, under the New Covenant, our worth isn’t based on this week’s performance or a fleeting lapse in judgment.
Through Jesus, we have been declared righteous and upright. No longer are we bound by the conditions and limitations of the Old Covenant. Through Him, our past, present, and future sins are absolved, giving us the confidence and boldness that the Bible speaks of. This isn’t about pride or self-righteousness; it’s about recognizing the transformative power of Jesus in our lives and looking to Him for our worth.
The Galatian Warning: Don’t Mix Covenants
In Galatians, Paul’s tone seems starkly different. He’s not offering his usual commendations; he’s expressing his discontent. The Galatians were misled by the Judaizers, who were advocating a blend of the New Covenant with the old Levitical laws. This wasn’t just a mere doctrinal issue; it was a shift away from the very essence of Jesus.
When the covenants are mixed, one drifts away from Jesus and His grace.
It’s crucial to understand that Jesus embodies grace; He’s not just a concept or teaching. While the Old Covenant required individuals to work for God’s approval, the New Covenant, with its foundation in grace, emphasizes that Jesus did all the work and we’re beneficiaries of His sacrifice. Paul’s message is clear: stay true to the grace in Jesus and avoid being swayed by diluted teachings.
Understanding True Grace
Grace, when preached as intended, might seem radical. It’s a common misunderstanding to think that grace gives one a license to sin. However, serving God out of fear of retribution misses the mark entirely.
True Christianity motivates believers through love and gratitude, not threats. Those who practice faith out of obligation or fear may only last for a short time in their commitment or become judgmental and bitter.
Martin Lloyd Jones, a revered teacher, once said that if you’re preaching grace right, some might accuse you of disregarding God’s moral law. But genuine grace focuses on our love for God, a love that outlasts and outweighs the transient urge to sin.
The Power of the New Covenant
The new covenant, unlike the old, is built on the foundation of what Jesus did for us, not what we do for Him. Many believers, burdened by societal norms and upbringing, find grace challenging to accept. It strips away the pride of personal achievement in spirituality.
Under the new covenant, Jesus has taken our shortcomings out of the equation, placing Himself as the eternal sustainer of our relationship with God. It’s this very nature of the gospel that makes it “good news.” Yet, despite the evident beauty of grace, many still turn away, held back by pride and misunderstanding. In essence, grace isn’t just a helping hand from Jesus; it’s a complete rescue.
The Essence of True Gospel
The true gospel, as expressed, is a message of salvation and grace. It brings us to our knees in gratitude, recognizing our Savior. Yet, Paul, in his writings, shows deep concern about believers diverting from this pure message of Christ’s grace to another “gospel” – one that’s not truly gospel at all. The Greek language, for example, differentiates between “another of the same kind” and something completely different. Paul emphasizes that any variation from the gospel is not just another version but a distorted, perverted one.
Distorted Teachings: A Grave Concern
Paul’s words strongly caution against mixing covenants and distorting the gospel’s teachings. The term “pervert” in this context means to distort – much like how a funhouse mirror alters our reflection. Such a skewed gospel can be likened to that mirror, where the essence remains, but the image is contorted. The intensity of Paul’s emotions when addressing this issue is palpable. He defends the gospel’s integrity with a passion rarely seen in his teachings, even when addressing other severe problems within the early church.
Righteousness Through Faith
One of the most crucial things to understand is that in Christ, we are now made righteous. It’s not about puffing up our egos or claiming our own righteousness; it’s recognizing and declaring the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to us. It’s essential to keep the covenants distinct. In the Old Testament, sins could be visited upon future generations, and failing to follow commandments could result in a curse. Fast forward to the New Testament: Christ’s sacrifice ensures that our sins are no longer held against us, and we are free from the curse. It’s a profound shift in how God interacts with us, not because God has changed but because the terms of our relationship with Him have been transformed through Jesus.
Understanding Grace and Relationship
The beauty of our faith lies in its paradoxes. For instance, when believers genuinely understand their freedom under grace, they respond with even greater generosity and commitment.
Christianity is indeed mysterious, but not in the sense of being incomprehensible. It’s about delving deeper, seeking with genuine hunger, and uncovering truths lovingly laid out for us.
Under the New Testament, our blessings aren’t contingent on our perfect adherence to laws but are freely given because of Jesus’s sacrifice. As believers, this realization doesn’t make us complacent but instills in us a profound gratitude and a desire to live in alignment with God’s heart.
Heart Transformation over Behavior Modification
In the Old Testament, the focus was on behavior modification without a genuine change of heart. But God’s true intent isn’t just about outward actions. He desires a profound inner transformation in us.
True holiness emanates from the inside, and grace fuels this transforming power. When we look to the New Testament, gazing upon Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, it ignites this inner transformation.
Too many Christians act out of fear of punishment rather than being motivated by God’s profound love. Recognizing and accepting the unconditional love Jesus offers can unlock a transformative experience in Christianity.
Engage in Grace and Community
Our journey in faith is enriched when we come together as a community. Whenever in doubt, seeking prayer or spiritual guidance, lean on the church community. It’s also a great time to invite those unfamiliar with Christ to understand His teachings better.
Remember, while our human love may waver, Jesus’ love remains steadfast. Embrace it, and see the powerful changes it brings.
Lord, help me understand the grace and righteousness I have as a result of Your sacrifice. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear the powerful truth of what it means for me to live under the New Covenant and in a relationship with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.