Old or New?
You can tell a whole lot about whether someone is walking in the New Covenant, or if their thinking is still grounded on the old. It's especially important that we understand which covenant prophets and other declarers of truth are working from.
The Old Covenant was all about blessings & curses (Deuteronomy 28). So Old Covenant prophets speak a lot about blessings and curses, or people who are blessed and people who are under judgement. That’s why Jeremiah & the others were declaring judgments and curses and such over the nations and the peoples who had defied what they knew about God.
That was the Old. That’s dead and gone (Hebrews 8:13 & others). If you have trouble with that, you might want to stop here and work this out before going further in this; the rest will just make you stumble.
The New Covenant is all about blessings and forgiveness (1Corinthians 14:3 and others). Therefore, that's what New Covenant prophets speak about: it’s the work of the New Covenant prophet to declare God’s blessing, God’s forgiveness, God’s Kingdom, to declare that they way to God is open!
You can tell a whole lot about what covenant someone is operating in by the words they speak (or write).
· If someone regularly talks about needing to avoid this activity or that place or those people, or if they talk about needing to honor this festival, that holiday, they’re working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has already done for you.
· If someone regularly talks about how this preacher is wrong, about how that doctrine is heretical, or about how this country or that people-group deserves judgment, then that person is working under the Covenant that’s about works and whose end-game is about blessings and curses. They’re under the Old Covenant. Don’t go with them, unless you want to walk away from what Jesus has already done for you.
· If their message is more about “Change how you think about God so that you can participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is right here among us!” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) then they’re working under the New Covenant where the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (or “within reach”) of all of us, and where the King of this Kingdom literally “became a curse” (Galatians 3:13) in order to remove curses from us, and from our words.
Here’s the short version: generally, if someone is preaching about “you need to change!” they’re preaching the Old Covenant. If they’re preaching about “Come to Jesus and be changed!” then they’re preaching the New Covenant.
Come to Jesus and have your mind renewed.
It has been said that “Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.” If we apply this personally, we could say, “Those who fail to learn from their history will find themselves making the same mistakes all over again.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to not make those particular mistakes again. It’s not that I’m afraid of mistakes, but I’d sure like to learn from new ones, instead of repeating the old ones.
And so I try to reflect on the year behind me, and I try to learn from the year I’ve just finished, with the hope that I’ll actually be more mature, not just older, next year. If you’d like to join me, here are some questions you might reflect on. Hint: this is a great time to get out your journal and write:
What was your biggest triumph in the past year? What does God say about it?
What was your most costly mistake in the past year? What do you learn from it?
What was the smartest decision you made during the year?
What was the greatest lesson you learned during the year?
If you could repeat one day of the last year, what day would that be, and why?
If you could forever forget one day from last year, what day, and why?
What one bit of Scripture best describes last year?
What are you most happy about completing during the last year?
Who are the three people that had the biggest impact on your life? Have you thanked them?
Who are three people whose lives you impacted for good? Have you thanked God for them?
What area of your life have you best taken responsibility for?
What area of your life did you leave to someone else to be responsible for, and why?
What was the most loving service you performed? What effect did you see from it?
What was the biggest risk you took? How did that turn out? How could it have gone even better?
What important relationship improved the most? What made the improvement?
What important relationship took a hit last year? What can you learn from that?
What compliment would you have liked to have received?
What compliment would you like to have given last year? Can you give it now?
What else do you need to say or do to be completely finished with the year?
What would you like to say to your Father about last year?
It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.
My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.
But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.
Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!
For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.
God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.
But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!
And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!
The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!
The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!
And tonight is the night that it all began.
Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!
Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!
This is the night! This is THAT night.
Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation?
Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation?