Category Archives: Teaching

New Covenant, a.k.a. The Way

pexels-photo-1578750John 14:3-7, 9 [NIV] “3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” … 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me [. . .] Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

The Way, the Truth, or the Life?

I have heard the verse “I am the way and the truth and the life…” many times in my life, and I often feel the context and application is lost. Usually, it shows up in some discussion on the nature of truth. “Jesus is ‘The Truth'” the retort usually says. This is correct, but this is not what this passage is about.

Early followers of Jesus were called the followers of “The Way.” This is apparent as early as the Acts of the Apostles. In John’s gospel above, we see why. Disciples are, by definition, followers, and disciples of Jesus are followers of The Way Himself.

The grammatical structure of this series “the way the truth and the life” is sometimes called “adjectival.” In other words, Jesus is primarily stating that he is “The Way,” then He goes on to describe what sort of “way” He is. He is the way that is true and alive! In other words, His path is the one based in truth that leads to true and everlasting life.

See the context: He is telling the disciples of their eventual reunion (and the implication is certainly marital) in His Father’s house. However, most brides know where their future father-in-law lives. In this case, the disciples haven’t the first clue. Jesus comforts them, “Don’t worry! I will show you the way there, and it is the way of truth that I have already been laying out.”

Later in the same conversation, Jesus says:

John 14:16-18 [NIV] “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever– 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

He is leaving, coming back, and showing the way, but that’s not all. He’s giving us the guide to walk with us along the way. The (Holy) Spirit, who comes from this same truth, guides along the way to the Father’s house.

What does this Way look like?

The answer is the clear theme of Paul’s letters, but it is oddly easy to miss. The answer to this question is the main difference between Old Testament and New Testament–what moves us from one covenant to the next. It is Spirit versus Flesh, Grace versus Law, Holy of Holies versus outer courts kind of stuff.

The old covenant was driven by Law. Do this, don’t do that, and you will be blessed. Break these laws and you will be cut off. What is the new covenant? We are told what it will be during the old covenant.

Jeremiah 31:33 [NIV] ” ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ “

Paul reminds us (in Romans 2) that this opens up the covenant to Gentiles who have this law written on their hearts rather than on pages.

The old covenant was a set of rules designed to keep us in line. The new covenant is emphatically not a new set of rules. It is Spirit, Life, and Truth.

You ask for a rule; you are given the Holy Spirit. You ask for guidance, you are given conscience. You ask for a babysitter, and you are given a Father!

This is all over the place in the New Testament, but one of my favorite places to watch this happen is in Galatians 5. How can you tell you are living by the Spirit? There will be fruit:

vv. 22-23 [NIV] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control…”

How do you know you are living by flesh, violating the Law because you are acting under your own authority? There will be fruit:

vv. 13, 19-21 [NIV] 13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. … 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

What does your life look like? Are you on The Way? You can’t get there by yourself, because Jesus himself is the way, and it is by Jesus that we are given the Spirit to guide us in The Way.

2 Corinthians 5:17 [NIV] “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

How do you know that your actions are right?

Galatians 5:14 [NIV] “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

When’s the wedding?

So, Jesus is The Way, and we must have Him to be on the right “Way.” This is why moral principles themselves do not save and that no amount of self-imposed righteousness can get us to the Father’s house.

Think of it this way, there are plenty of well behaved people in the world that I did not chose to marry. The one that I brought into my home is the one who wanted me, who would love me, and whom I could love for eternity. She is the one I have a covenant with, and it is not based on her good behavior, though there are some general expectations. She is mine because she will have me and I will have her.

You are Christ’s because He will have you and you will have Him. He is to be in your heart as you are to be in His. He has met the requirements of the law and it is now our job to trust him. To say, “nothing more, nothing less,” sounds off here, because trusting him is not a mere mental assent. It involves everything we have. My love for my wife is not an occasional thing, it must be all-defining. It must be moreso for our Saviour.

He is the Way to Life, after all!

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Trustworthiness and the Multiple Intelligences

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I was recently tasked with writing a series of six 10-15 minute devotionals on the topic of Trustworthiness using the six Multiple Intelligences. I would like to share the results of that project with you.

Day 1 – Spatial and Interpersonal intelligence

Give students 3 minutes to draw a sketch of what they think God physically looks like. Encourage the timid to give it a shot.
Have students take 30 seconds and describe to the person next to them what they think God looks like.
Now, have them turn to someone different and describe a person in their life that looks physically like their description of God.

We know that God the Father has not revealed himself with a physical body. We only have guesses of what Jesus looked like historically. The Holy Spirit appears as a dove or fire on some biblical occasions. Why, then, do we picture God the way that we do?

God is beyond our ability to understand or imagine, yet we relate to him. One way we relate to him is by developing an image in our minds of what he looks like. If we see God as trustworthy and timeless, maybe we picture a kind, bearded, old man. If we picture a cruel God, maybe we see a fiery gaze and a lightning bolt in-hand.

Close your eyes. Consider your image of what God looks like. All our imaginations of Him come infinitely short of the truth. Silently consider what God would want you to imagine about him. Consider how your picture of God has changed since you were in kindergarten. Consider what your picture of God might be in 10 years.

Finally, consider what others think of God when they see you. Most people know you’re a Christian. What picture do you give them?

Day 2 – Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence
Get two volunteers. Have them both stand by their desks. Request that one of the volunteers close his/her eyes and promise not to open them. Let everyone know that you and the other volunteer are going to talk to the blind person and “guide” them around the room verbally. Yours and the other volunteer’s advice may or may not be trustworthy. It will be up to the blind student to decide who to follow.

Go for it. Help the student make a lap of the room, being as trustworthy as you want to be. (If this goes really fast, you can do it 2-3 times with different kids.)

When the student lands safely back at her desk, let her open her eyes. Get her reflections on what happened.
1) Who did you decide to trust?
2) Were either of us completely trustworthy?
3) Even when we were trying to be helpful, how did we fail?
4) What kept us from being trustworthy? (A desire for some laughs?)

Open conversation up to the class.
5) Do our friends ever guide us through decisions?
6) How do we decide who we’re going to trust? Based on previous experience?
7) Do we have any other “voices” guiding us?
8) How do we silence the untrustworthy voices in our lives?

Day 3 – Musical and Existential intelligence
Watch (The Jungle Book scene of Kaa singing “Trust in Me”)

1) Before he even starts singing, what is Kaa (the snake) trying to convince Mowgli to do?
2) How does Kaa manipulate Mowgli by playing on his desires? (I can make sure you never have to leave the Jungle)
Mowgli knows he shouldn’t trust in Kaa, but he doesn’t appear to take the threat seriously enough. How is this similar to Adam and Eve’s temptation?
3) How is this similar to our own temptation?
4) Is it good to trust someone what we know will harm us? Can you describe a time that you did that?
5) The line “Trust in me…just in me” tells us what Kaa is actually saying. Make me a priority and ignore everything else. Who or what is the only thing that deserves this kind of trust? Why?

Day 4 – Linguistic
Today we learn some Hebrew!
Jeremiah 17:7 says (repetitively), “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD.” ESV

While the English says “trust” twice, there are two different Hebrew words here. The first word is batach (like “attack” with a “b”). It means to have confidence or to be bold because you feel safe.
So we are blessed when we can feel safe in the protection of the LORD and move forward with boldness.

The second work is mibtach (pronounced miv-ta-phlegm). It means to have hope that someone will protect or deliver you, so it is sometimes just translated as hope.
So we are blessed when we hope that God will deliver us.

We can see throughout the history of Israel and the Church that God often acts to save his people from physical harm. He was first known as the God who delivered the Hebrews from Egypt. Later He became identified as the God who saved the Jews from their exile. Now he is known as the God who became man to save humanity from their sin and darkness. In the future he will be known as the king who delivered his people from evil and established them forever.

Discussion:
1) What do we hope that Jesus will do in our normal, day-to-day lives?
2) What do we hope that Jesus will do ultimately?
3) What is a good way to determine how much you really trust in God’s protection?
4) Can you describe a moment when someone around you trusted God more than you did?
5) Do you need more boldness in your life? How can a lack of trust in God cause you to be timid?

Day 5 – Logical-mathematical
We’ll take a quick poll.
If you lost a wallet or purse that contained two hundred dollars, and it was found by a neighbor, do you think it would be returned with the money in it, or not?
Raise your hand if you think it would be returned.
When this question was asked to people all over the country, what do you think the percentage of people who said yes was?
Do you think the yesses were higher in Kansas?

When Gallup conducted this poll in 2008, the national average was 70% saying yes. Kansas was at 74%, not much higher.

Discussion:
1) The states with the highest and lowest numbers are actually right next to each other: Utah was 85% and Nevada was 60%. Why do you think this is the case? (Are Mormons and Las Vegas the only variables here, or is there something else?)
2) Why do you think that people, even in the least trustworthy states, still trust their neighbors more than half the time?
3) Is it sad that Kansas isn’t higher? Why do you think 1/4 of us don’t trust our neighbors?
4) How would your neighbors answer this question about you? Why do you think that’s the case?

http://www.gallup.com/poll/123986/Utah-South-Dakota-Best-Places-Lose-Wallet.aspx

Day 6 – Intrapersonal
Having discussed Trustworthiness for several weeks, we’re going to take this last day to think through what we need to do in our own lives. Please get out a blank piece of paper that you will keep for a while and write out your responses as we go along. (A sentence for each response should be appropriate.)

1) Can you think of any times in the last week that you weren’t perfectly honest? What should have been done differently?
2) What promises has God fulfilled in your life this school year?
3) How has God shown that he is committed and loyal to you?
4) Think of the areas in which you show loyalty (team, school, church, family). Which of these areas has been lacking recently? Why?
5) Who have you trusted that has let you down? Why do you think that happened?
6) Who has trusted you that you have let down? Why do you think that happened?
7) Finally, write something that you know about God that you are absolutely sure of.

(As time allows, invite willing students to share anything they wrote. You may encourage them to reflect on these questions in the future.)