Monday, January 9, 2017

A New Covenant, a New Heart, A New Command

When God tells pastors to “set the believers an example… in love,”[1] and then says that the standard of love to exemplify is, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”,[2] how can any man feel hopeful about his ability to love a congregation after the measure of how Jesus has loved us, laying down his life for us, [3] AND in a way that is a legitimate example others should follow?

Anyway, that’s how my time with God started this morning.

However, by the end, this is what God had ministered to me: that the new covenant has given me a new heart by which I can live and exemplify Jesus’ new command to love one another. Let me explain.

1.  Love is a New Command

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[4]

Not only is love commanded, but the specific measure of love is just as Jesus has loved us, expressing his love to us on the cross.[5] Notice that this is not something required of pastors but not the congregation. This is the way the church puts on display that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. It is not because our church bulletin says so, but that people see that the way we love one another matches what they read and hear of the love of Jesus Christ. They KNOW we are his disciples because there is no other explanation for how we got that kind of love.

At this point, knowing this is expected of all believers, and yet I am to set an example in this, I had a first thought of how impossible this feels. After all, I’m from the orphan-minded camp and have had to take quite a journey of my own just to truly believe that God truly loves me! And now the command upon me is to love by the same measure as Jesus’ love for us, and to set an example for those under my care that we can all do this together! God must have a sense of humor!

Or, of course, God has a way of accomplishing this in a man’s heart that is all to the glory of his grace operating in our lives through faith.[6] And so, instead of leaving us with a new burden of trying to love as he loves us, the joyful and hopeful key to our success is: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so![7] It is in this love-relationship with Jesus that we can love as he has, and is, loving us.

To comfort and encourage me in my assignment of setting an example of love, a love that is commanded and obedience is required, God reminded me that there is an order to the way Jesus presented things, and that would help me appreciate why he could give such a new command to his disciples at all, and command pastors to lead the way in exemplary love.

2.  Love in a New Covenant

“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”[8]

As I was praying about what felt like a huge goal of loving to the measure of Jesus’ love, I was drawn to consider the order in which Jesus taught things on the night before his arrest and crucifixion. It suddenly became clear to me that Jesus was not adding another command to the law of Moses. He was not saying that, along with keeping the law, he had a new command to add to the mix.

It was actually quite a blessing to have so many facets of God-breathed truth flow through my mind regarding our liberty from the law, and our new life in a new covenant. The summary teaching is encapsulated in Paul’s expression, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”[9] The new way of the Spirit is the life we now have under the new covenant.

The point for me was that the new covenant comes before the new command. This changes everything. The new command is not an addition to the law, but the new standard of a new covenant. It is the new covenant, God doing all the work to save me by grace through faith, that gives me the new life in which to live a new love. The new command is the fitting expression of all that God has done for us, and to us, in the new covenant.

What this means is that Jesus can command us to love as he loves us, and call pastors to set the example in doing so, because of everything he has provided for our transformation through his new covenant. We are no longer living in our sarks (flesh) trying to do these things in our own strength. Rather, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”[10] We are not in the domain of darkness trying to love out of all our bad and painful experiences and childhood traumas. We are transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son; we now have everything to do with redemption, and we are now enabled to love as God loves us.

One of my favorite expressions of what God is doing in us at the present time is this, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”[11] It is the new covenant that gives us this, and it is out of this daily growth in transformation that we love the way Jesus loves since we are daily being made more and more like him. The more we are like him, the more our love will be like his, and the more we love like him, the more people will know we are his disciples. And, apparently, pastors can lead the way in this!

3.  Love from a New Heart

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[12]

Not only has God brought us into a new covenant in which we can obey his new command to love one another, but he has given us a new heart by which to do so. God promised his people that he would one day give them a new heart and a new spirit. Along with this, he would put his own Holy Spirit within us and “cause” us to walk in his statutes and obey his rules.

When Jesus said that he was giving us a new command, to love one another as he has loved us, he was on the verge of fulfilling everything required for God to bring us into a new covenant, and everything God promised about giving us a new heart and a new spirit. He would not only give us every means possible of loving as he loves us, but would be with us always, teaching us to walk in his love.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”[13] Not only are we no longer under the old covenant, but we are no longer living out of our old hearts. We are born again by the Spirit of the living God,[14] transformed into new creations with new hearts and now spirits under the direct tutelage of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, as a believer in Jesus Christ, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”[15] and so we are now able to obey his new command to love one another as he has loved us, and pastors can lead the way in setting an example of how to do so.

I not only hope this encourages you to join God’s people in loving one another as he has loved us through his death, and loves us as our eternal Shepherd, and I not only hope this encourages pastors that God’s provision for us to set an example in love comes from him bringing us into his new covenant by grace through faith, and giving us a new heart, or a “new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”,[16] but I also hope this stands as a testimony of having a daily time with God in his word and prayer.

This isn’t just about the wonderful lesson of how we are able to obey Jesus’ new command because we are in a new covenant with a new heart that is growing up to be more and more like Jesus every day. This is also about how thankful I am that God daily ministers to us by his Spirit who “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”[17] Don’t miss what your heavenly Father would give you every day if you would meet with him to hear his voice and follow him where he leads.[18]

For today, include what I have shared as God’s calling on all his children, to join together to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”[19]

For me, that means not only doing so, but also setting an example of doing so. I clearly need to pray about this with a sense of,

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly
than all that we ask or think,
according to the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations,
forever and ever.

© 2017 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I Timothy 4:12
[2] John 13:34
[3] Galatians 2:20; I John 3:16 (cf John 3:16, of course)
[4] John 13:34-35
[5] Romans 5:6-8
[6] Ephesians 2:8-10 summarizes how we are saved by grace through faith, not of works, and then are sent out as God’s workmanship that is now able to do the good works he planned and prepared for us to do. Clearly the same grace that saved us must continue transforming us (and it does, of course).
[7] From the song, “Jesus Loves Me”, written by Anna B. Warner and David R. McQuire (1860), with music written by William B. Bradbury (1862). Copyright is now public domain.
[8] Luke 22:20
[9] Romans 7:6
[10] Colossians 1:13-14
[11] II Corinthians 3:18
[12] Ezekiel 36:26-27
[13] II Corinthians 5:17
[14] John 3:3,7; I Peter 1:3,23
[15] II Peter 1:3
[16] Ephesians 4:
[17] John 14:26
[18] John 10:3,27. Yes, I know that this first refers to our salvation, that all who are Jesus’ lost sheep will hear his voice in the gospel calling them home to his kingdom. However, Jesus presents this as a relationship in which his sheep keep hearing him and keep following him. The ministry of the Holy Spirit requires us to constantly “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). We follow him by putting into practice whatever we are learning from his word (in our daily time in the word, in our pastor’s sermons, in biblical teaching from any sources).
[19] Ephesians 5:1-2
[20] Ephesians 3:20-21

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