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25 February:The Old vs the New

The Mosaical Covenant vs Christ’s New Covenant

I do NOT want to minimize what God accomplished with His people in the Old Testament.    I also do not want to seem like I am criticizing how God worked with His people. He was more patient, forgiving, and compassionate then anyone in Israel deserved. But I do want us to lift-up and glorify the new covenant through Jesus Christ.    Heb 8:6  “But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

I want us to recognize how magnificent and personal and loving the way the New Testament covenant works on our behalf and how precious it is for us.

The Old Covenant was established from Mt. Zion and through the mediator: Moses!

Deut 5:22-31 “These words the Lord spoke to your whole assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, from the cloud, and from the thick darkness, with a great voice, and He added nothing more. . . . .; And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you approached me and said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; . . . .  if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, then we will die! For who is there of humanity who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go near and listen to everything that the Lord our God says, then speak to us everything that the Lord our God speaks to you, and we will listen and do it.’  Go, say to them, “Return to your tents.” But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them”.

The conditions and circumstances of the first covenant’s establishment was fearful and dangerous. There was a connection between God and His people, but it was conditional and fearful. When things were good then they were good, but when they were bad – it was deadly.

The conditions and terms of the New Covenant were established under entirely different circumstances. 

Philistines 2:6-8 “Although Jesus existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Heb 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus did not keep Himself at arms-length distance from us or stay upon a fearful mountain and speak to us through others. He did not use a mediator or go-between, but He came down to be with us – up close and personal and even shared the same nature as us!

     Then when He did speak to us it was personal and caring:

Mtt 5:1,2 “When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying…”

Mtt 14:14-16 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. When it was evening, Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!”  Jesus then preceded to feed the 5.000!

John 13:4,5 “(Jesus) got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”

Under the new covenant, the connection between man and God (Jesus) was both personal and compassionate.

 

Under the first covenant the Ten Commandments  established the nature of the relationship between God and His people:

The Ten Commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before Me   2) You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of creation for I am a jealous God          3) You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.  4)  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.” 

     In the Ten Commandments we see the primary response of our hearts in recognition of all the love God pours out on us in this world and this life. The old covenant was built on a symbiosis relationshipWhen Israel was obedient and faithful the Lord blessed them and protected them. When they rebelled, forgot, and strayed away from Him – He punished them to bring them back in line. The Old Covenant had a distinct “carrot & stick” flavor.

Now consider the nature of Jesus’ commandments. And notice that His commandments follow His example: Romans 5:8 - But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.      John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.   Luke 22:20 “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”        1 John 4:19 - We love because He first loved us.

Christ set the example for how He wanted us to relate to Him. He died for us and then told us how we should respond: John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”   

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”    1 John 4:19, 21 ‘We love, because He first loved us.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”  1 John 5:2,3 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observed His commandments.  In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome”.

In the first covenant we are commanded to love and be obedient to God. Our obedience was then rewarded.  But when we fell into disobedience then we were disciplined and/or punished.  In the second covenant we are given an example of God’s personal love and then told we are to do likewise. We have received the second covenant because God left His mountain and joined us in this life. His spirit of truth and righteousness is now cloaked in love and compassion. We have now received a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide us down our life’s path and like the Prodigal Son, we know forgiveness and love waits for those who repent and turn back to Him. Because of this, our love for God springs from a well of appreciation and thanksgiving. The new covenant which the Lord instituted is based on His sacrifice which comes from His love for us all.

Heb 8:6  “But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

Therefore, let us live our lives out of love and appreciation – being the best we can be for Him – not out of fear but out of love!

 

 

18 February: Jesus is Troubled

     Last week I spoke of two ways in which we can try to weather the storms of life. One way is to make sure we are reading and studying God’s Word and the second was to train ourselves to have a positive and trusting outlook on life which is accomplished by setting our minds on the things above. Such a spiritual outlook will allow us to fulfill the instructions in Philippians to rejoice, always rejoice and find a life of contentment regardless of our circumstances – as Paul reflects in Philistines 4:13.

     Today I want to consider those moments in our lives when we find ourselves anxious, worried, distressed, and distraught. If you look in John 11 you will find an occasion when even Jesus was troubled and wept.     John 11:33,35,36-38 “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled…. Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him.’ But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also form dying?’ So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb.”

     You know the rest of the story how Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb. In these verses it twice says that Jesus was troubled and even wept. Two of the possible interpretations of this are that Jesus was empathizing with the friends and family members gathered. The second possibility is that Jesus is seeing their pain and sorrow which reflects how little they truly understood about who He was. In other words, after all they had seen Him do in His ministry, they still did not get it – He was the resurrection. He had told them and shown them time and again who He was, and they continued to behave like unbelievers. Some believe His troubled spirit is because of His disappointment in their unbelief.  

     Regardless of which interpretation is right – what was the next response of Jesus. John 11:41-43 “So they removed the stone.  Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.’ When He had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’” Which is what exactly happens. But the point of the lesson is that when Jesus become troubled, He turned to the Father for help and the solution.

     Another situation where Jesus is troubled is found in John 13:21,27,30,31 “When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.’ … After (Judas took) the morsal, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’ … So, after receiving the morsal he went out immediately; and it was night. Therefore, when he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him”.   Once again, the option might be Jesus is troubled because one of His disciples is going to betray Him and His concern for Judas causes His sorrow.     He also might be troubled because His suffering is rapidly approaching. Either way, He turns to the final resolution of this conflict – glory is going to be brought to the Father and Himself and God’s will is about to be done/completed.

     A final occasion where it is recorded that Jesus was troubled and grieved is at the garden of Gethsemane: Mark 14:32ff “They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here until I have prayed.’ And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’ And He wen ta little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. (And two more times He withdrew to pray to the Father).

      Jesus’ troubles each and every time led to His going to the Father for guidance and support.    Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Prov 3:5,6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Philistines 4:6 “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Rom 8:28 “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

     I pray that you are willing and able to obey the words of Joshua:

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

 

11 February 2024:     Getting Through the Storms“Preaching Today”: Staying on the Field;  Jeremy McKeen

     Last week we looked at some of the sinful behaviors which the Israelites engaged in during their 40 years of wandering. As I was thinking about what to consider for today’s lesson, I wondered if maybe Moses ever got tired of dealing with all their foolish and sinful activities. Then, I wondered if maybe we also get tired of the struggles and problems that seem to continually plague our lives?

     Let’s be honest. That man building his house on the Rock was doing so because he knew there were going to be storms coming his way and he wanted something that could help him weather the storms and come out ok. 

2 Cor 1:8,9 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead”.    

     Even the Apostle Paul and those traveling with him found life very difficult at times. In this passage they were even despairing of life. They didn’t know if they were going to see the next sunrise. Life can be difficult and a real challenge sometimes. The question I have is what do we do when these times come upon us????    I ran across this article which had some insight into answering that question, so I decided to share it with you.

 

  1. What are you reading/studying/dwelling on?

 

Mtt 19:3,4 “Some Pharisees come to Jesus, testing Him and asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ And He answered and said, ‘Have you not       read . . .   “Have you not read . . .???” We so often spend our time struggling with issues and we find a dozen different approaches to our problems and THEN – when all else fails we turn to God and say Lord, I have to give this to you.  But how many times has the answer to our problem been there in the Scriptures for us to learn and practice. Consider:  2 Tim 3:14-16 “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. ALL SCRIPTURE is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

     In these verses we see that scripture leads us to finding salvation but there are also two other issues here. 1) the learning process is a lifelong process. 2) Scripture can and will help us in all manor of things in our lives.  The problem here is – are we willing to spend the time and effort to learn those things that it can teach us. Ps 19:7 “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul”. But the only way God’s word is going to revive us is if we are spending time reading/studying it.       1 Cor 9:25, 27 “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.  . . . . but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”  

What do you think the man digging down to the bedrock to find his perfect foundation is doing in his digging????  No, seriously!  What is a person going to be doing when he is trying to find a bedrock of faith? He is reading, studying and searching the word of God’

Rom 8:6 “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”        Rom 12:1,2 “…by the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice. Do not be conformed to this world, by be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is….”  Rom 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”     How does a person act like a believer? How does a person live like a child of God - he acts with the faith and knowledge of God’s will.

 

  1. What are you seeing?

 

In the story, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, George Bailey feels like is life is a failure because he never gets to live out his dream of traveling and building great famous structures. But then, he is given a chance to see what the world would be like if he was never born. The reason for this ‘miracle’ is to show George that the good that he does has an immeasurable impact on the other people in his life – even if he never sees or knows it.

     When George returns to his real life his heart is full of joy for all the wonderful things that he had in his life.   NOTHING had changed – except his perspective in looking at things.  He finally came to look at things through the lens of grateful eyes Our perspective on the state of our lives plays a huge factor in how we react to things. And God, wanting us to have an abundant life (John 10:10) tells us in numerous places (IN SCRIPTURE) (see previous point) how we ought to live our lives. One of the secrets to experiencing the peace of God in the stresses of life is praying “with thanksgiving” Phil 4:4,6,7,8  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice!  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if any thing worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Col 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

               “Set you sight on the things above”

As Christians, we’ve already received the greatest gift imaginable.  Luke 10:20 “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”   1 John 4:10,11 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to as payment for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”    Mark 10:45 “And Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”  Rom 12:10 "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves."   Phil 2:4 “ not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Our focus and efforts are on those who need the love of Christ and our love as well:

    Mtt 25:35-40 "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."   

Our lives should reflect a spirit of gratitude with an out pouring of love and compassion.

We can be so busy giving love to others that we don’t have time to be anxious.