Tag Archives: bible

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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Conscience, Conviction and Unity – Romans 12 and 14

https://1drv.ms/u/s!Auq7HAi24rrq_DG9asCOMe5vLooQ

The link above goes to the audio file of a sermon I delivered on July 31, 2016 on Romans 12 and 14. The unifying theme is living by our biblical convictions, even when those convictions don’t mesh well with the convictions of others. My notes are below.

 

Intro: A conviction I was raised with:

  • No TV shows involving ninjas, other martial arts – due to false religion and violence – Deut 7:25-26 25 The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the Lord your God. 26 Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Regard it as vile and utterly detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.
  • No Halloween

Text:    Romans 12 and 14 (bold for my points of emphasis)

Romans 12 (ESV)

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 14

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

 

Thesis: God did not make a church of clones. He allows us to seek him in our imperfect flesh, guided and guarded by the Holy Spirit. Despite that flesh, the Spirit speaks to us and directs us. We can be confident that God’s word is always true, reliable, and to be obeyed. There are, however, matters of conscience in which one feel’s the Spirit’s conviction, but another does not.

Trans: Who is wrong? How can we be a unified body if people are convicted differently about different actions?

  • Is it ok for a “couple” to hold hands on a missions trip?

Conscience

  1. We should not do things the way the world does them.
    1. 12:1-2 present your bodies as a living sacrifice, Do not be conformed to this world. Theme for the next few chapters. Through 15.1-2. The reason we are a living sacrifice is because Christ was.
    2. 12:9 Abhor (ἀποστυγέω – from deep hatred) what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
    3. [Phl 1:10-11 ESV] 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
  2. Acting in conscience means acting in humility
    1. 12:3 – I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned
      1. What is this “measure of faith”? According to one’s spiritual gifts given by the HS. Paul will also explain in ch 14
    2. 12:12,13,16 – “be constant in prayer…seek to show hospitality…Do not be haughty [high and mighty], but associate with the lowly [near the ground]. Never be wise in your own sight.”
  3. Conscience comes from insight provided to us by the Holy Spirit
    1. These aren’t just opinions. The HS has guided our faith and we are accountable to obey
    2. 14:5-6 Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind… The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Trans: Before delving into this, we should understand the situation Paul is addressing. Observe, then interpret, then apply.

2 situations he addresses:

  • Jew/Gentile combo church – issue over food sacrificed to idols and celebration of Jewish holidays
  • Compare to a modern vegan, acting under firm conviction

Conviction

  1. Recognize that there are many areas that are not grey. God has spoken.
    1. Also recognize that often, disputes of conviction come because 1 thinks that it is a matter of personal conviction, while another regards the issue as a firm, clear teaching of Scripture.
  2. Modern examples? (that are safe to discuss)
    1. Worship song preference
    2. Movie choice, theater attendance
    3. Eating at a restaurant that has a bar
    4. Playing with dice or cards
    5. Dressing for church – either up or down
    6. Time wasters – phones, sports, tv
  3. How do we respond? Paul offers these teachings.
    1. First, as a minor, honor your father and mother
    2. If you find yourself to be the stricter one
      1. You honor the Lord by abstaining in order to worship and honor him
      2. Check your motives, have you created a rule out of your own, or a cultural, sense of honor that is not explicitly biblical?
        1. Are you trying to demonstrate moral superiority, or worse, try to cover up your own failings by finding weakness in someone else?
        2. Be fully convinced, if you are truly convicted in this area, obey the Lord’s convictions fully.
      3. Be mindful that some of your sins are a result of your own unnecessary strictness or even legalism (enforcing the man-made standard on someone else)
        1. 14:23 – “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
    3. If you find yourself to be the less strict one
      1. You honor the Lord by appreciating your freedom trusting that his “yoke is easy”
      2. Do not argue for others to drop their standards
        1. 14:1 – As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
        2. Check your motives, are you trying to “get away” with something immoral, or are you truly acting in the freedom of Christ with a clear conscience?
        3. Do not partake or participate in something that will offend someone else. This is becoming a “hindrance.” It will be difficult for the other believer to relate to you if you put this issue into the relationship. Honor them by obeying their standard when they are around.
          1. 14:13,15 – For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.
          2. 14:20 – Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.
      3. Notice, all along, the focus is on being mindful of one’s own actions and how they affect the body

Trans: Elder Paisios – “If you want to help the Church, it is better to try to correct yourself, rather than be looking to correct others. If you manage to correct yourself, one small part of the Church is immediately corrected. Naturally, if everyone did the same, the body of the Church would be in good health. But, today, people concern themselves with anything but themselves. You see, judging others is easy, whereas working on yourself takes effort.”

Unity

  1. The purpose of this section was to bring unity in a divided church without minimizing the importance of the guidance of the HS in individual lives.
  2. If a person is legitimately seeking to honor God, He receives that honor as honor.
  3. Ultimately what honors him and brings him satisfaction is our mutual submission and respect
    1. 12:16 – “Live in harmony with one another.”
    2. 14:19 – “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
    3. 14:18 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  4. Fruit of the spirit v works of the flesh Gal 5 – walk in the spirit
  5. Where is the balance? Gal 5:16,18 “16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

Trans: What must we do? Repent. Forgive. Repeat.

Conclusion: Pursue humility. Pursue sincerity. Pursue Christlike holiness.