Andrew Fountain - Living in the Freedom of the New Covenant

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Sermon notes - Living in the Freedom of the New Covenant

  • Jesus tells us we are living under a New Covenant
  • This has some radical and practical implications for our daily lives that we can easily miss.
  • Many Christians do not have clarity in this area which can lead to making poor choices in their lives.
  • I want to do three things in this presentation

The Covenants

  1. What is a Covenant
  2. The Old Covenant
  3. The New Covenant
  • Bad experience with direct buying organization
    • today we have legal contracts, enforced by putting our signature on the bottom

1. What is a Covenant?

  • A relationship (often friendship or family), not merely a legal contract.
    • the only things in our society which are like covenants are marriages and adoptions
    • even they are not quite the same as a covenant
  • The Covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15
    • We are going to read a passage from Genesis about God making a covenant with Abraham
    • Before we read this passage, it might seem strange to you, but this was the common way making a covenant.
    • In ancient times, suppose a king went to war against another king of a smaller nation
      • after a time the king surrendered
      • The two kings would often make an agreement
      • I will promise to pay you tribute of 1000 talents of gold every year
      • I promise to be loyal to you
      • The big king would promise to defend the small king against attackers
      • Then they would cut some animals in pieces and the two of them would walk between the pieces
    • What do you think the walking between the cut up animals symbolized?
    • We see a mention of this in Jeremiah 34:13–20 Where God is going to punish them for breaking the covenant by causing them to die like the animals.

Jeremiah 34:13–20

  1. “The LORD God of Israel has a message for you. ‘I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt where they had been slaves. It stipulated,
  2. “Every seven years each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you for six years, you shall set them free.” But your ancestors did not obey me or pay any attention to me…

Jeremiah 34:13–20 cont’d

  1. I will punish those people who have violated their covenant with me. I will make them like the calf they cut in two and passed between its pieces. I will do so because they did not keep the terms of the covenant they made in my presence.
  2. I will punish the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, the priests, and all the other people of the land who passed between the pieces of the calf.
  3. I will hand them over to their enemies who want to kill them…
  • Abram & the Smoking Torch
    • Follow along in Genesis 15 (role-play)

Genesis 15

  1. After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance.”
  2. But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3Abram added, “Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!”
  3. But look, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Gaze into the sky and count the stars—if you are able to count them!” Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.”
  4. Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted his response of faith as righteousness.
  5. The Lord said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, by what can I know that I am to possess it?
  6. The Lord said to him, “Take for me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10So Abram took all these for him and then cut them in two and placed each half opposite the other, but he did not cut the birds in half. 11When birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
  7. When the sun went down, Abram fell sound asleep. Then great terror overwhelmed him. 13Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit.”
  8. When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking firepot with a flaming torch passed between the animal parts. 18That day the Lord made a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River— 19the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”

adapted from NET Bible


  • Pictures of animals used in the Genesis 15 covenant

Heifer

Heifer

Goat

Goat

Ram

Ram

Dove

Dove

Pigeon

Pigeon

Genesis 15

  • Note that this was a special covenant with Abraham, not what we call the Old Covenant or the New Covenant
    • why does only God go between the pieces (not dependent on Abraham)
  • So this is what a covenant is:
    • very serious affair: life and death
    • not just a legal agreement, but brings two people into a relationship
  • The covenant we have just read about was the original covenant with Abraham
    • It was a picture of the New Covenant, as I will explain in a minute

2 The Old Covenant

  • God made a covenant with the whole nation of Israel in Old Testament times
  • He gave them a lot of laws and commandments
    • If they kept them, then he would give them
      • financial blessing
      • health and long life
      • lots of children
    • If then broke them then
      • He would punish them
      • He would take away all the good things
      • Ultimately the nation would be destroyed
  • It was all based on their performance
    • It was gracious (they were totally undeserving)
    • But that is not the same as saying it was a covenant of grace
  • It was mostly external
    • (this is an oversimplification because mixed in with these laws were promises of a new covenant)
  • What does it mean to be living under the Old Covenant?
    • They related to God as an authority figure
      • who would judge them if they failed
      • The Jews would never call God “Abba” (daddy)
    • Blessings and cursings: Deut 27, 28, 29, 30 (e.g. Deut 28:1–2 & 28:15)

Deuteronomy 28

  1. “If you indeed obey the Lord your God and are careful to observe all his commandments I am giving you today, the Lord your God will elevate you above all the nations of the earth.
  2. All these blessings will come to you in abundance if you obey the Lord your God:
  3. You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the field.
  4. Your children will be blessed, as well as the produce of your soil, the offspring of your livestock, the calves of your herds, and the lambs of your flocks.
  5. Your basket and your mixing bowl will be blessed.
  6. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
  7. The Lord will cause your enemies who attack you to be struck down before you; they will attack you from one direction but flee from you in seven different directions.
  8. The Lord will decree blessing for you with respect to your barns and in everything you do - yes, he will bless you in the land he is giving you.

  1. “But if you ignore the Lord your God and are not careful to keep all his commandments and statutes I am giving you today, then all these curses will come upon you in full force:
  2. You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the field.
  3. Your basket and your mixing bowl will be cursed.
  4. Your children will be cursed, as well as the produce of your soil, the calves of your herds, and the lambs of your flocks.
  5. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.
  6. “The Lord will send on you a curse, confusing you and opposing you in everything you undertake until you are destroyed and quickly perish because of the evil of your deeds, in that you have forsaken me.
  7. The Lord will plague you with deadly diseases until he has completely removed you from the land you are about to possess.
  8. He will afflict you with weakness, fever, inflammation, infection, sword, blight, and mildew; these will attack you until you perish.
  9. The sky above your heads will be bronze and the earth beneath you iron.
  10. The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; it will come down on you from the sky until you are destroyed.

adapted from NET Bible


  • in fact, it was impossible for them to completely keep all the laws
    • God was actually very patient with them
      • In fact he was much more gracious than the covenant demanded, e.g. David was not stoned to death for adultery and murder
      • This gave them a hint (that David understood, e.g. Ps 32:1,2,11)
    • but in the end the whole nation rebelled against God and all the curses came upon them

3 The New Covenant

  • One of the clearest places it is described is Hebrews 8
    • The Four promises of the New Covenant:

Hebrews 8:6–13

  1. But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is based on better promises.
  2. For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one.
  3. But showing its fault, God says to them,
    ‘Look, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will complete a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
  4. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt…

Hebrews 8:6–13 cont’d

  1. For this is the covenant that I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord.
A. God’s law written on our hearts I will put my laws in their minds and I will inscribe them on their hearts.
B. We will belong to him and he will belong to us And I will be their God and they will be my people.
C. No need for priests between us and God 11. And there will be no need at all for each one to teach his countryman or each one to teach his brother saying, “Know the Lord,” since they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.
D. Our sins are all forgiven 12. For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.
  1. When he speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear.
  • This is a quote from Jeremiah 31:31–34

A. God’s law written on our hearts

  • In Galatians Paul tells us that no matter how many laws you make, it can’t change the heart.
    • Just imagine that the government passed a law that everyone must love each other—no more hate!
  • But the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives: [Gal 5:22–23]
    • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
  • However, it is not just that we have a new heart, the old one has been removed
    • we have had a heart-transplant—we don’t have to carry on with our old lifestyle
      • [get volunteers to demonstrate a heart transplant using a large stone, bag of wheat (& pen), and scalpel]
    • we are free to serve Christ
    • Recently I saw a trapped butterfly, under a piece of glass on our deck.
      • If you throw a caterpillar up in the air and say “fly! fly!”, it won’t work
      • but a butterfly naturally flies (unless it is trapped, and there are things that can ensnare us but that is another subject)
  • Relationship to the law
    • Moses brought the 10 commandments
    • How many commandments did Jesus give?
      • Someone has cataloged the commands in the N.T. and come up with 1,050 !!
      • Did Jesus have a higher standard?
      • So do we end up replacing the OT laws with more and harder laws?
    • Some teach that Jesus just gave us some more commands to add on to Moses, but that is a total misunderstanding
    • The replacement for the law is not a new law, but a person, Jesus himself!!!!
    • He says “follow me”, do what I do, think how I think, love others like I love others
      • Moses never said “follow me”!!
    • Goes far beyond a written list of rules
    • Can we do it ?
      • Not in our own strength, but Jesus is actually living in us through the Spirit.
        • Moses never said “I will come and live in you!”
      • We are united with him
      • he has defeated the power of sin and he is living within us
    • e.g. girl who was recently saved. Her family started hostile, but stopped being antagonistic within days when they saw her change of life, and eventually were saved.
      • It wasn’t that she now had more laws to obey!!
    • lovers outperform servants (Mike Bickle)
  • So what does this mean in practice?
    • Two ways of thinking: old heart (legal) or new heart:

Legal or New Heart

Legal or New Heart

  • Here is a key idea: what has changed is not the law
    • but our relationship to the law
  • How does this make a difference in my life and your life on Monday morning?
    • Another practical example:
      • Law says “Thou shalt not steal”
      • It is so easy on your income tax, if you are self-employed, to “forget” some of your income
      • It totaly changes things if you think
        • “it’s his money
        • “It will bring joy to his heart if he sees me being honest with it”
        • “He can so easily bring me more anyway”
      • This takes all the resentment away
  • Let me ask you a question
    • Could we run the country like this: not by laws but by grace
      • no speed limits, just tell people to drive in a way that would please Jesus?
    • (He is not in their hearts)
    • What about our children—can we run a family like this?
      • Do we need rules in a home?
      • Need to model grace as much as we can
      • some books on bringing up children are pure behaviourism
  • If there is one thing to remember it is this:

One thing to remember

  • It is not the law that has changed, but our relationship to the law
  • Story of the maidservant (get a couple up)

B. We belong to him and he belongs to us

  • The essence of the New Covenant:
    • brought into God’s family
    • we were enemies, in rebellion. Now we are brought into his family
    • He is “ours”, in a sense he belongs to us as a possession, and we belong to him
    • This is like love language, isn’t it:
      • “I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s mine” [SongSol 6:3]
    • secure!!!
  • Three pictures or aspects of this relationship in the New Testament:
    1. Servants (Paul calls himself a “bondslave of Jesus Christ”)
    2. Children / Father (Adopted as “sons”)
      • Jesus taught us to call the father “Abba”
      • The Spirit puts that cry into us [Rom 8:1]
    3. Bride / Bridegroom
      • A marriage is probably the closest thing we have today to a covenant (we don’t usually do the parts with the blood)
      • Our wedding rings are the seals (get Anne to hold her hand up)
      • What do they symbolize (all that is mine is yours)
      • What is the seal of the New Covenant? (The Spirit e.g. Eph. 4:30)
        • That is why it is so important that we experience being filled in a tangible way
  • How do we live?
  • How does this affect us on a Monday morning?
    • It is so important that we regularly have a tangible touch from God
    • Daily devotions can become a chore, a duty
    • But think of it like this: Imaging a wedding ceremony
      • (Get a couple up)
      • Duty of spending at least 10 mins a day talking to him!
      • Must kiss him at least once a day!
    • But what if I never touch my wife or kiss her?
      • So, back to Monday: regular times with God are not chore, they are the life-blood of the relationship
  • I think the most important element of this part of the N.C. is that it is unshakable
    • Think of God going between the animals
    • Not dependent on our feelings
    • Whole point of the book of Hebrews is “better promises”
    • This is what we can hang onto in the storms of life
      • “an anchor within the veil”

C. We can all hear God for ourselves and don’t need to be totally dependent on “priests”

  • God still gives teachers to his people
    • but they are to be listened to with discernment
    • Since we have the Spirit, we can discern truth from error
  • There is a fundamental difference between the O.T. prophet and the N.T. prophet
    • They spoke into a community who didn’t have the Spirit in the same way we do and so could not weigh their words
    • Most people couldn’t read anyway
    • Totally dependent on the priests to speak the truth
      • (That is why it was so serious when O.T. prophets spoke falsehood)
    • In the N.C. we all have a responsibility to test what we here
    • Not just from prophets, but from teachers as well
  • God’s written Word is our primary authority
    • but in the New Covenant we can all read it and understand it for ourselves!
    • Because all of us have the Spirit
  • In O.T. times if someone wanted to know God’s will, they had to go to a prophet,
    • Even King David did (e.g. at Ziklag)
    • but in the New Covenant, Jesus says “my sheep hear my voice”
  • This is a responsibility that many of us would rather not have
    • It is much easier to have a priest who will tell you the answer to every question
      • Tell you how to live without you having to think it out yourself
    • This is how cults get going
    • Something in us wants to follow a leader
  • Christ is our leader—he leads us all directly
    • This gives us encouragement
    • “I thought something was not quite right, but I never liked to question the leader”
    • You are empowered to disern the truth
  • But of course leaders should be honoured—they are gifts to the church

D. Our sins are all forgiven

  • You might say at this point, “how was anyone in the Old Covenant saved”
    • Actually the O.C. never saved anyone:
      • Heb 10:4 “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
    • They were saved under the “promise” of the N.C.
      • They didn’t clearly understand it apart from what the prophets said
      • Jesus hadn’t died yet, but they were saved by faith in the promises
  • No Assurance
    • In the Old Covenant you could never be sure that you had kept even the most basic laws
      • You could spend your life worried and anxious about whether God would accept you.
    • But many Christians today live lives full of
      • condemnation
      • guilt
      • anxiety over their failings
      • feelings of being inadequate and failing God all the time
      • A sense that God is angry with them and is judging them
  • The covenant God made with Abraham was a picture of the New Covenant in that it was unconditional
    • A free gift
    • We don’t have to do anything to earn it -> It was received by faith
  • But God says: “I will forgive their wickedness, and their sins I will remember no more.”
    • Don’t you get it? God is not counting your sins!!!!
    • If you mess up today, he will have chosen to forget it tomorrow!
      • (That doesn’t mean their are not consequences—if you get drunk and crash your car, you may find the police remember it.)
      • (Also, God is committed to helping us get out of sinful lifestyle, but he will not ultimately count it against us)
      • Once I was taking a course and just about to go into the exam when I added up my marks and realized I had already passed!
        • What a relief! I didn’t even need to take the exam!
        • You can imagine how it took the pressure off!
        • We have already passed—Jesus has earned us a 100% grade
  • Scandalous
    • Terry Virgo was preaching this once and a man at the back of the church interrupted him and shouted out:
    • “That is the most scandalous thing I have ever heard!”
    • “Then you very nearly understand it, Sir”
    • People are offended by this teaching (and were when the Apostle Paul taught it), saying it will lead us into more sin...
      • This truth is almost dangerous (why is it actually safe?)
      • If it were not for the new heart and the relationship then it would!
      • But the New Covenant is a package
        • If someone does use it as an excuse for sinning freely, then they probably don’t actually have the new heart
  • We need to take this truth and apply it to our relationships
    • Not “remembering”
  • family: when children mess up, and it is dealt with, don’t “remember it”
  • friend who brought something up.
    • “I asked you to forgive me, and you said you did! so why are we talking about it...”
  • If you are a supervisor in the workplace, it is very freeing when someone makes a mistake to someone to say
    • “Let’s pretend this didn’t happen—I’m just going to forget about it”
    • (I’m not saying that people should not be corrected or disciplined, but when we are able to do this...)

Summary:

  • If you are a member of the New Covenant:
  1. You have a new heart, that like a butterfly wants to soar
  2. You are God’s beloved and he is your beloved. You are secure in the relationship
  3. You relate to God directly, not through priests
  4. You are totally forgiven and God is never judging you or condemning you
  • Go back to the visual God gave Abraham
    • God has made this promise to me
    • It is so certain that God says he would cease to be God if he broke it
  • We need to respond to this message!
    • Maybe you are feeling condemned and a failure and want to enter into these truths more.
      • “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus...” [Rom 8:1]

Updated on 2015-10-25 by Andrew Fountain

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