New Birth – photo by Michael Clark
Looking around Christendom as I often do, I have concluded that we Christians really don’t see just how spiritual our New Covenant with the Father really is. If we did, we would not be serving so many Old Testament models, worldly paradigms and traditions in our institutions or praying so often for our worldly comforts instead of seeking first HIS kingdom. As Paul warned the Corinthians, we are yet carnal. Don’t we know that we are no longer of this world, engrossed in its temporal things and methods, but have been born of the Spirit of God? Paul wrote:
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a life-giving spirit. But that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, made of dust: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1Cor 15:45-49, KJ2000 – emphasis added)
How often have you been accused of “being so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good”? I know I have been. I used to hand out tracks, “buttonhole” people on street corners for Jesus, go door to door and make myself miserable, because it was put on me by men and not energized by the Holy Spirit within me. I did not know back then that Jesus told His disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Paul wrote to the Ephesians and Colossians:
For you were once darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Eph 5:8-11, KJ2000)
If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4, KJ2000)
What are the “unfruitful works of darkness” if they aren’t dead works void of the Spirit? Zechariah (see Zech. 4) was shown the difference between Old Covenant works of the Law and walking by the Spirit when he saw seven golden lamps (symbolizing the seven churches and seven spirits of God that John saw in Revelation). These were oil lamps (not candlesticks) that were fed their supply of oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit) by tubes that came down from the throne of God. When asked by God if he knew what he was being shown, he heard these words, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of Hosts.” This vision was contrary to the Old Testament system he was part of where the menorah (golden lampstand) in the Holy Place got its supply of olive oil in a different way! In that system it was up to the temple priests to service these lamps with new wicks and keep them filled with pure olive oil. In the eyes of God and the NEW Covenant, this was by human might and power, but NOT by His Spirit. The prophet was given a vision of what it means to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh (See also Galatians 5:16-18). As we grow up in the Spirit of God we will find that His Spirit is sufficient in teaching us all that God has for us and we will become less dependent on men to teach us (see Hebrews 5:12-14).
All too many of us come into the church thinking we have something to offer God because of our own soulish and natural talents that have served us well in the world. God has no place in HIS kingdom for the works of the old uncrucified Adam within us. Dietrich Bonheoffer was a man who died for his faith in Christ in Nazi Germany. He once said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” As we abide in Christ our old man is crucified and we who are His are given the Holy Spirit to walk by and nothing less. “For you were once darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8, KJ2000). We are light only as we walk IN the Lord. If we walk the deeds and talents of our flesh we are still “darkness” in the eyes of God (see also 1 John 1:5-7).
One person pointed out that as Christians we are supposed to be spiritual beings having an earthly experience, not worldly beings having spiritual experiences. Paul spoke of this when he wrote:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2Cor 5:17, KJ2000)
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10, KJ2000)
Jesus only did the works he saw the Father doing. When we walk by the Spirit, we do as Jesus did—we follow God’s master plan for us, not presupposing what He wants. All too many Christians walk in the vanity of their minds saying, “Now in this instance, what would Jesus do?” as if we in our carnal minds could imagine or find out by reading the Bible what works HE has foreordained for us to walk in!
Paul was in Corinth and while there we read, “When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled [KJV, “pressed”] by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:5, NKJV). Have you ever felt convicted by the Spirit to make right something that you said or did that was wrong or from a wrong spirit within you? I have and it is like a heavy weight pressing on my chest until I go to that person and make it right. I have been constrained by the Spirit to take a course of action that I could never have found by searching the gospels to find out “what Jesus would have done.” In His kingdom it is not “What would Jesus do,” but rather, “What is Jesus doing through me?”
The table below shows some of the differences between the Old Covenant God made with the Jews and the New Covenant that those who are Christ’s are to walk in. It would do many of us well to read all the scripture references in this table so we could begin to have an idea just how vastly different our New Covenant with Christ really is from the Old.
|The Old Covenant…
||The New Covenant…
|Was done away with by God (Romans Romans 7:4, 10:4; Hebrews 8:7-13, 10:18-19)
||Is a NEW and Lasting Covenant that replaces the old (John 14:6; Hebrews 10:20, 13:20)
|Was an earthly covenant (Hebrews 9:23-28)
||Is a spiritual, heavenly covenant (Hebrews 11:13-16, 13:14)
|Was overseen by a special priest cast, the Levites (Deut. 10:8, Ezekiel 44:15)
||Is a kingdom of royal priests (all believers in Christ) unto God (1 Peter 2:9, Rev. 1:6)
|Had earthly high priests who continually offered up sacrificial animals for their sins ( Exodus 39:38, Hebrews 5:1-3;10:11)
||Has a High Priest (Jesus) who made Himself an offering once for all our sins and is in heaven before God making intercession for us (Hebrews 7:24-25, 10:10-14),
|Had a fixed physical temple (which was done away with) at its center that was necessary for conducting animal sacrifices (1 Kings ch. 8, Luke 13:34-35, Hebrews 8:8-13,)
||Has a vast temple spanning the world with Christ as its Foundation and Cornerstone and is made with living stones (Isaiah 28:16, 1 Cor. 3:11, 1 Peter 2:4-6, Isaiah 66:1, John 4:21-24)
|Had an earthly kingdom, Israel, who failed to keep the law of the covenant (Exodus 12:25)
||Is a heavenly kingdom wherein dwells righteousness (Luke 17:20-21, John 18:36, 2 Peter 3:13)
|Included a law that forced people to rest one day (the Sabbath) each week (Exodus 31:13-17)
||Is where we have entered into God’s eternal rest knowing that His works were finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:1-9, 6:1; Eph. 2:8-10)
|Was broken by sinful men who were brought under a curse (Leviticus 26:14-39; Jeremiah 11:7-10, 31:31-32; Matt. 23:37-39; Galatians 3:10-12)
||Is not dependent on the righteousness of man, but on Christ’s righteousness alone where we are free from the curse of sin (Romans 5:18, 2 Peter 1:1)
|Was dependant on the works of the law (Romans 2:10-13, 10:5)
||Is dependent on faith in the works of Jesus Christ bringing an end to law keeping for all who believe (Romans 8:3-4,10:4; Galatians 2:16)
|(The Law) Was a strict schoolmaster meant to keep us in check by the threat of punishment (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Galatians 3:23-24)
||Sets us free from Old Covenant law keeping as we walk by faith and abide in His love (Galatians 3:25-26, 5:1-6)
|Was based on human effort to be righteous, “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not…” (Exodus 20:1-17)
||Is dependent on God creating His righteousness within us as His new creations by HIS will (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, Hebrew ch. 8)
|Was founded by a human law giver, Moses (Deut. 4:44-45, John 1:17)
||Is founded by the very Son of God with grace for grace (John 1:16-17, Eph. 2:8)
|Had its laws written on tablets of stone for stony hearts (Exodus 24:12, Ezekiel 11:19)
||Has His laws internalized, written on our hearts and motivated to do them by His Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-33, 2 Corinthians 3:3)
|Was weak because of sinful flesh (Acts 13:39, Romans 8:3a)
||Is spiritually powerful as we abide IN Christ’s grace (Acts 1:8, Romans 8:1-3b, 4,15-16, 37)
|Was dependant on the soul (mind, will and emotions) of man to keep it (Exodus 19:7-9, Nehemiah 10:9)
||Is dependent on our spirits being unified with His Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17, Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:30-32)
|Was based on man’s obedience to the whole law (Deut:11:26-28, 28:15; Galatians 3:10-11)
||Is based on Christ’s obedience who took the curse upon Himself for us (Romans 5:17-19, Galatians 3:11-14),
|Was made with one nation, Israel, as “God’s people” (Jeremiah 11:4)
||Is made up of all people who believe in Christ who are His New Creation (Isaiah 49:5-6, John 3:16, Galatians 6:14-16)
Paul thus sums up the message of the Good News (gospel) when he said,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-6, ESV2011)
Though we are still on this earth, we who are Christ’s are to walk before Him by the Spirit because we now dwell in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus and have been given spiritual sight.
Loaves and Fishes Christians or Broken Vessels unto God’s Glory?
The Jews who followed Jesus were totally focused on their temporal needs. At one point they were even going to take Him by force and make Him their King because He fed them. Then He told them something very spiritual that made many of them stop following Him. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whosoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.” Have you ever thought that by dwelling in Him and He in us, we are actually partaking of His body and blood because we are one with Him? He later told the twelve disciples, “Does this offend you? …It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (see John chapter six).
Both Jews and Gentiles wanted Him to heal their bodies (or the bodies of their servants and children) and He did, but he was more interested in healing their eternal souls. He said to them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” (see Matthew 9:1-8) On another occasion Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Some of us have had physical afflictions, as did Paul and Timothy, and God has refused to heal them. He has done this that we might discover that “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” to this Paul observed, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”
The Jews also wanted Him to lead a rebellion, cast the Romans out and set up an earthly kingdom for them to rule. They ignored the fact that God is Spirit, as is His kingdom is, so should His children be. Today we who focus on politics to get what we want are doing the same thing. Jesus said to Pilate during His trial, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, but now is my kingdom not from here.” Do we know what spirit we are of? Then why do we fight as the world does? When the disciples wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village because they refuse to let them pass through it, He “rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
On another occasion He told His disciples, “The kingdom of God comes not with outward observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The kingdom of God is not temporal nor is it like the world systems of men based on hierarchy, but we are a kingdom of servants bound to one another by His love (See Mark 10:42-45). As Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another… God so loved the world…!”
Dear saints, I join with Paul and pray.
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. (Eph 1:16-19, ESV2011)
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Rev 21:22-23, ESV2011)