03 August 2013

Covenants: Old vs. New

Scripture: Nahum 1:2-8, John 5:1-3, 5-7, 8-12 NLT

The Lord  is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage. He takes revenge on all who oppose him and continues to rage against his enemies! The Lord  is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet. At his command the oceans dry up, and the rivers disappear. The lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wither. In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed. Who can stand before his fierce anger? Who can survive his burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in his presence. The Lord  is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. But he will sweep away his enemies in an overwhelming flood. He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night.

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Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda,  with five covered porches.  Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.  

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him,  “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him,  “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!

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But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,  so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.

Observation:

These first two passages highlight, starkly, the difference between the Works- & Law-based covenant of the Old Testament, and the Covenant of the New Testament through the blood of Christ.  Nahum wrote about the power of a vengeful God over those who live without Christ in the world.  And John shows us the freedom and mercy and grace of Jesus in the miracle performed.  (Oh, He is SO GOOD! If you ever see me grinning from ear to ear, laughing, shouting, or jumping up and down, it's usually because I'm remembering just how amazingly Good our God is.  I'll do my best not to disrupt any meetings.) ;o)

But what really jumped out at me was the last passage: the collision of these two covenants.  Jesus freed that man, and then the Pharisees jumped all over him for having the audacity to break a rule they had made . . . quite possibly a rule that this man suddenly realized was as futile as the rest of the rules they had made.  When we're set free in Jesus, those still living in the old covenant, under the law, don't like it.  Not one single bit. Whether they're members or leaders in the body of Christ, they have a really hard time with it because it terrifies them.  When you see salvation as a matter of works, seeing someone else abandon the works you hold sacred (whether it's not carrying things on the Sabbath, what is worn to church, or the type of language used in prayer--not that I know *anything* about the last two ;oP), your gut reaction is to squash the deviant behavior, because you see that person as sliding into sin, flirting with losing their soul.

But that's the crazy part.  Now that I'm free, when I backslide, it's not this HUGE DEAL.  (Granted, I'm not falling back into heavy, destructive sin. It's mostly too much time on the computer and not getting enough sleep, or not spending enough time in the word & prayer. But is there any difference, really? Something tells me that there isn't . . . ) When I realize I'm regressing, I feel the spirit of confusion that traps me in those things leave immediately, and Jesus comes back and walks with me as I return to His path for me.  There's no recrimination. No guilt. No "Now, I told you . . . "  Just His love coming back in to wash over me and make me deeply hungry for more of Him.  And that's HUGE, people.  SO HUGE.  I hung my everything on the law for my entire adult life. It was such a prison--a salt mine--with the occasional glimpse of glorious light that just made me knuckle down and work all the harder.  And now, NOW I'M FREE!!!!  Can you wrap your minds around that? Imagine, for just a minute, what astounding, night and day, life and death, difference I feel.  Is it any wonder that I regularly make a goof of myself, getting all giddy over Jesus?  Yeah.  I thought you'd understand. ;o)

John 5:39-40 says “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life."

I was that person.  I came not unto Jesus because I thought I was already Doing It Right.  God blessed me for my efforts, and did not leave me entirely comfortless . . . I had the consequences of my works, which were good things.  But I chose the reward of my works, instead of the reward of Jesus.  I was missing out on all of the best stuff.  Of carrying the Holy Spirit with me, in joy and rejoicing, anytime I turn my heart to Jesus.  Of everything I do being worth it here, and now.  Of letting the price Jesus already paid settle my debt.

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, I THANK YOU, over and over and infinitely over again, for the mind-blowing gift of Jesus.  Please . . . show me when and how to bring others to Him . . . and fill me with Your love so completely that all they see is You.  I can hardly bear to think that others, especially others I know and love, might never know You like this; might never feel this lasting joy and light and continuous love that changes them, radically.  In Jesus' most glorious and liberating name, AMEN!

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!