the Winepress

New Covenant, same God.

As Christians living under the New Covenant we can sometimes say to ourselves – and to one another – that everything is different for the born again believer; that we are no longer under the Law; that we are new creations; that it’s by Grace that we have been saved through faith, and so on. And all of these things are very true. We have been purchased for God by the blood of Jesus and nothing –“neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8: 38-39). The terms of the new covenant are clearly very different from the old one, under which the blessing of God was dependant on the Israelites  being able to “obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law” (Deuteronomy 13:10).

Big difference. But there is one very important aspect that hasn’t changed: we have the same God. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). “I, the Lord, do not change” (Mal 3:6) Or again, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent.” (Num 23:19). I think we’ve got the point. Our God has fundamentally changed the terms of His covenant, but everything about Him – His holiness, His character, His thinking – is the same. Does the fact that we can boldly approach the throne of our God through the blood of Jesus mean that He no longer cares about whatever stuff in our lives is going on underneath that precious covering? If that is how we see our covenant relationship with God we have missed the point, and we will miss the blessing that He has prepared for us to walk in while we are on Earth.

The fundamental difference between the old and new covenants is this: the Law detailed a covenant of the flesh, and Grace is what defines the covenant of the spirit. The terms of the Law stipulated how human beings had to behave before God so that He could live among them without their flesh being destroyed by the blaze of His holiness. God never tiptoed around His people: He required them to tiptoe around Him, because He does not change who He is. And there were times when they didn’t tiptoe, and they were destroyed. The wonderful thing about the covenant of Grace is that there is no flesh to destroy: our flesh is already dead, crucified with Christ. This means not only that our spirits are free to be one with God, but also that God is free to be one with us without us being destroyed! Our God really is a consuming fire, and only fire can live with Him.

This is where it gets interesting. The veil is torn; we are one with God; and He dwells among us by His Spirit in the church just as He dwelled among the Israelites in the tabernacle. But, although our access to Him is different, the core dynamic of our relationship and the condition laid out for our blessing is the same. Through Moses, God says: ‘And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will …” and there follows a list of blessings that God promises. Fast forward to the gospel of John, and we find Jesus saying “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), then “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15 :7)

What God wants from us has not changed. He wants us, quite simply, to do what He says. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not mumbo-jumbo. If we do what He says He will bless us, because He may be a consuming fire, but He is also a loving Father; and because He is a loving Father His desire, above all, to bless us. Furthermore He is a God who keeps His covenant, and He promised Abraham that He would bless us. Being true to His word is absolutely fundamental to God’s nature: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

If God is not true to His word, He is not being Himself. He has to do what He says: not just from a point of principle, but because doing what He says is who He is. “I am that I am.” He is both the subject and the object of Himself. Just as the life of a plant is in its seed, He is in the word that He speaks. The power for God to accomplish the word that He speaks is in the actual DNA of the word itself. ‘If we do what He says, He will bless us’ is a word (my paraphrase) that He has spoken, and He is in it, because God’s Spirit and His life are in His words. He said so: “My words are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)

The old testament blessing was promised in terms of victory over enemies, fertility and fruitfulness in the land they were going to occupy, long life and good health. (Read Deuteronomy 28 for the full package.) They were blessings that could be experienced physically as long as God’s people obeyed God’s commands. The New Testament blessings are received in the Spirit, because the flesh is dead. And what are they? Victory over the enemy (“I shall build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”), fruitfulness (“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:8), abundant life (“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10: 10) and supernatural health and healing (“if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:18)

The main difference between the old, (the physical) and the new (the spiritual) is this: if the Israelites messed up, they were dead. When we mess up, we are forgiven – because in Christ we are dead already. The condition is the same: “If you do what I say,” and the outcome is the same: “I will bless you with victory, fruitfulness, abundant life and healing,” because these are the things that happen when the presence of God is in our midst.

I, for one, want to take God up on that ancient promise of blessing which is imbued with His very life. Because the spiritual covenant isn’t just a spiritual experience, since “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Under this amazing new covenant, the holiness of God’s Spirit no longer destroys our mortal bodies, but it brings them to life, and brings His life into our physical circumstances. Seeds sown in the Spirit, by the word of God, through faith and prayer, bear fruit in the flesh. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received (in the Spirit) it, and it will be yours (in the physical world). (Mark 11: 24, NIV)

I can’t think of anything more exciting or fulfilling.

The quest for the Presence of God

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