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Monday, October 19, 2009


Productivity. That's the god I worship when I'm not willing to worship the only true God. I make sacrifices of time, relationships, priorities, just to try to get some approval from my god of productivity. It promises so much satisfaction, so much recognition, fulfillment, respect. But it requires more than I can give. That's because it's a false god set up by the one who rebels against the true God. I'm just like the Israelites who made their own gods, claimed those gods could give them what they wanted, and obeyed the demands of those s0-called "gods" - even going so far as to sacrifice their children. Well, I've seen children sacrificed to the god of Productivity. But, that's not really my god. I know my God is the Lord. He's again taken me back after I've taken a promiscuous spin with Productivity. I need to spend time with my real God so I remember how good He is and how much more worthy He is of my worship than my other god.

So I've been thinking and praying about a few things. How do I keep myself from being a slave to that god of Productivity, while still being responsible to God's call on me? What does God really want my life to be about, because I know really clearly what Productivity wants me to be about, and I can connect with that pretty quickly. My thoughts go to a few sections of my God's Word I've been in lately. First is in Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." So what does being productive have to do with acting justly and loving mercy and walking humble with my God? Occasionally, a little. But the god Productivity doesn't allow time for considering that.

So how can I combat Productivity? This morning, my friend Dustin taught from Jeremiah 17. It starts in verse 5 with God putting a curse on those who trust in "mere human beings". Productivity demands that I trust in my own abilities (and maybe the abilities of those under me). Productivity threatens that if I don't worship and give it my full devotion, I won't be provided for. So in verses 7 and 8, God says

"My blessing is on those people who trust in me, who put their confidence in me. They will be like a tree planted near a stream whose roots spread out toward the water. It has nothing to fear when the heat comes. Its leaves are always green. It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought. It does not stop bearing fruit."

So, God's saying all I have to do is trust in Him and I'll be amazingly provided for. That sounds like a much better promise than Productivity has ever given me. So then we go down to verse 19 to the end. God tells Jeremiah to go to the city gate and tell the people they better stop working on the Sabbath. If they don't stop doing work one day a week, He'll destroy them. But if they start observing the Sabbath (resting one day a week), they'll be blessed, rich, and respected. What kind of an upside down requirement is that, says my mind that's been brainwashed by Productivity? But God is very clearly laying out the way things work in His Kingdom (which He's inviting us all into, by the way). If I trust in God, I need to stop worshiping Productivity, stop believing that it's me that provides for myself. Show that I trust God by stopping all activity (both what I do to provide for myself, and even the good things I'm doing to serve God) and rest. And incidentally, I believe God's designed this Sabbath so that when we observe it, we are weekly reminded of what it's all about and how good our God is compared to any other god that tries to compete with Him.

One more thought related to this. In Leviticus 25, when God is first setting up His nation of Israel, He says they should work for 6 years (agriculture was their main work) and then take a whole year off. He said on the 6th year, the land would produce a triple crop - enough for that year, the seventh year when they didn't work, and the 8th year before their crops came in again. That takes even more faith, and is even more upside-down than the Sabbath day. So I wonder how I can live out that kind of understanding of just how trust-worthy my God is in my life. Any thoughts?

If you've read this (which I guess you have if you're reading this sentence) please take some time to consider whether the god of Productivity is getting any worship from you, and then take some time (a lot of it, so you're taking it away from Productivity) to consider God's worthiness promises compared to Productivity's, and what it means for you to trust in and worship God alone.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

You don't need a map.

From "Life on Purpose" - an article in my "Perspectives" book... Yes, I'm still talking about the Perspectives course. It was over a month or 2 ago, but I'm still working on finishing my reading and assignments.... Anyway, I thought this was really good and I truth a lot of people I know (including myself) need to take to heart:

When it comes to God's will, many of us want the GPS version of God, hopefully with a turn-by-turn British-American voice prompting us at every intersection. Sometimes God gives people very specific instructions, mapping out what they are to do in detail, but this is rare. The world, however, is a map factory. It continually bombards us with plans for success, agendas both personal and political and road signs that read "happiness just ahead." Most maps lead toward pwersonal gratification and status or just loop back to the status-quo.

A map is very appealing to a person looking for direction. But the map is an easy way out. It appeals to the lazy (ouch!). God gives people direction more than directions. He will not rob you of the faith-building experience of obeying Him based on what He says, not on what you see. We cannot expect to get all the detailed instructions before we are willing to begin traveling the path. The Bible doesn't lay out a "map." It gives us a "compass." God calls you to join Him in journeying in a steady direction toward a grand global destiny. He is calling us to follow a compass and to evaluate any maps that come our way by His over-arching purpose.

There's more to the article, but I'm not going to type it out. But it really speaks to what's going on in my life now. I think God's testing my ability to follow Him right now and the compass I see is pointing to the glory of Jesus being understood by people. I'm trying to understand how to head that way and I think I'm going to be taking a route that God hasn't specifically laid out on a map for me, but I trust that He's with me and is fully willing to help me navigate towards His purposes.

Will you join me? Not on my specific route necessarily, but in being willing to head towards God's purposes - gospel and glory of God being known - trusting God enough to not need a map?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Social Action War Rebellion Prayer

Take a look at some excerpts from the book I'm reading for the "Perspectives" class on prayer below. Prayer is something I've felt compelled by God over the last few years to make an important part of my life, but I often really struggle with understanding why I should pray and what I'm doing in it. God's been shedding light on the darkness in my understanding - some through this book.
"Too often, our petitionary prayers are feeble and irregular because they are addressed in the wrong way. We beat ourselves up for our weak wills, our insipid desires, our ineffective techniques and our wandering minds... I suggest that the problem lies in a misunderstanding of the nature of petitionary prayer. Our practice of prayer will never have the persistence of that widow until our outlook has her clarity.

What, then, is the nature of petitionary prayer? In essence, it is rebellion - rebellion against the status quo, the state of the world in its sin and fallenness. It is the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is completely abnormal. It is the rejection of every agenda, every scheme, every opinion that clashes with the norms that God originally established. Our petitionary prayers are an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates Good from Evil, a declaration that Evil is not a variation on Good but its very opposite.

...resignation to what is abnormal contains a hidden, unrecognized assumption that God's power to change the world, to overcome Evil with Good, will not be actualized. "At all times," Jesus declared,"we should pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1)
- Adapted from "Prayer: Rebelling against the Status Quo," Christianity Today, Vol. 17, No. 6, November 2, 1979.

"In the book of revelation, the apostle John describes a vision God gave him of humankind's history.... The Lamb of God opens seven seals -- each affecting the history of the planet. by the end of chapter seven, all of heaven is singing and worshiping God, wondering what will happen next in human history. However, at the beginning of chapter eight, all fall silent. Seven angels with seven trumpets stand before God ready to announce the unfolding fate of the world, but they must wait until the eighth angel offers god incense which includes all the prayers of the saints -- prayers for justice and victory. Nothing can happen until the fragrance of these prayers rises before God.

Prayer is the most powerful form of social action because God responds directly to praying people...

I am not saying that prayer is all that is necessary to change the world. Many evangelical Christians have used prayer for too long as a substitute for action -- dumping back on God the responsibility for doing what He has already commanded us to do throughout the Bible. Yet neither is social action a substitute for prayer. there is still a profound air of mystery surrounding prayer and how God uses our praying to transform the world. "

- From "In God's Kingdom... Prayer is Social Action," World Vision, February-March, 1997
Does this speak to you? It does to me. I want to pray the way God desires and understand my role in rebelling against what's rebelling against God and humbly, boldly ask God to act and be willing to obey Him fully when He asks me to act.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Upside-down Allegience

At the perspectives class tonight (I wrote a little about what that is in my last post), the speaker talked about the Kingdom of God and how much this world is opposed to it and how odd it looks to this world (He mentioned some things from the Shane Claiborne book "Jesus for President" that I blogged about last spring while I was in Nepal).

Compared to the world of money, fame, power, violence, influence, pursuit of happiness and security, the Kingdom of God appears to be weak, worthless, insignificant, depressing, and insane. Take another look at the Sermon on the Mount in Mathew 5-7 if you're in doubt. But I think a lot of us are in doubt, because we aren't, and we don't see many people truly living their lives only in allegience to the Kingdom of God. But as we turn to the Kingdom of God, we find Jesus to be the most beautiful, powerful, awe-inspiring, glorious, yet humble, generous, self-sacrificing, LOVING King. We are given way more than we give up when we give ourselves to this kingdom. But if I'm not willing to give up the kingdom of the world and what it's worth for me, to the same extent I won't participate in the glory of the Kingdom of God, and I won't be the joyful ambassador of that Kingdom to the foreign kingdom of the world that I live in. It's exciting and scary stuff.

Can I be okay with giving up the money I've worked for because I don't believe it's what can protect me, better my reputation, give me security, or provide for my family, and I want to bless another (maybe even someone who wouldn't handle it as well as I would).

Can I be okay with seeing my country invaded and not fighting back because I know my King is my Protector and He wants my "enemies" to see His character through me.

Can I be okay with giving up my life for another when an "enemy" is coming to steal, kill, or destroy. Rather than using violence to fight, can I sacrifice myself in love, entrusting my life, and theirs to my King, while believing my King may be in the process of bringing my "enemy" into His Kingdom?

Can I be okay with being considered insignificant because I've chosen to truly give up my life to serve the lowest in the world - even those who will have no appreciation for me - because I know my Father and King loves them, and He's put His love in me.

Can I be more than okay with this life, but rejoice in serving my king through suffering?

My King is inviting me and you to live in His Kingdom and my King is offering to transform us into those who love what His Kingdom is about.

Jesus, You are beautiful. Jesus, you are my only King. Jesus, You are my most humble Servant. I am Yours and I am frail and untrustworthy. Jesus, you are our slaughtered Lamb King and only You can fill me with Your desires. I LOVE you, Jesus!

Where are you at in relation to this Kingdom, friends

Monday, January 19, 2009


Well the new internship semester started last week. We've got 5 new interns and none of the old interns left, so it feels pretty big. But I think it's going to be really good. God's already been doing some sweet stuff in the lives of the new people to show them He's trustworthy.

And speaking of God's trustworthyness (Firefox spellcheck doesn't think that's a word, by the way...), that's what Jodi and I are both really wanting to learn about this year. Jodi's parents asked us to think of a verse that we'd like them to pray for us, and both of us independently immediately thought of Isaiah 26:3
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You , Because he trusts in You. (NKJV)

You keep completely safe the people who maintain their faith, for they trust in you.(NET)

I believe that in my head. There is perfect peace when I'm totally living out trust and faith in God. But, I haven't experienced that fully and while I believe it's possible and what God wants, I want to know from experience that I am kept in perfect peace and perfectly safe even when things seem totally out of control and unsafe - even deadly. So I'm not sure how God wants to bring that about, but we're expecting to learn some more about that this year.

This semester, we're also involved in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement classes. They're being held at a local church. If you haven't heard about it, click the link. So far, it's been really cool. It's pretty intense with lots of reading, but I'm hoping to be able to put a lot into it and let God shape me and direct Jodi and I if He wants to give more specific direction for our future through this class.

So... that's kinda what we're up to these days. God has been giving us encouragement lately, too. He is so loving and is too gentle and kind with us.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Doctrines Paper - 2 Covenants

Here's a paper I recently wrote for our doctrine's class at the MAC internship. I learned a lot. Feel free to comment with any thoughts...

The Two Covenants
Daryl Winger - 12/11/2008

As I've grown in my faith and my knowledge of the Bible, there are a few things I've had a very hard time understanding about God and how He's chosen to work with humans. Some of those things I expect I may never understand since God's thoughts are so much higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9). But there some of these things of which I get the idea that I'm supposed to have an understanding. One of these issues that I've never quite understood is the relationship between the old covenant and the new covenant - old testament and new testament - law vs. grace. I notice that at least Paul, in the books of Romans, 2 Corinthians, and Galatians, and the writer of Hebrews seem to have a very good understanding of this mystery in my mind, and they make it seem like a large part of my foundation as a Christian should rest on this understanding. As I've been lately studying the old testament Pentateuch - the books of the law - this tension and question in my mind has only increased. The assignment of this paper on an issue of doctrine seemed like a very good time to seek out the truth from the bible and the Holy Spirit.

Let me start by giving a brief introduction to the two covenants I'm referring to. I will later go into more detail. The old covenant I'm referring to is best portrayed in my mind by what God did and said at Mount Sinai. The Israelites were camped there after God had led them out of slavery in Egypt. This is where God gave the ten commandments to Moses and commanded that the Israelites follow those commands. If the Israelites would obey the Lord, he would bless them in many ways. If they would not obey the Lord, he would take away His blessings and they would suffer. When they disobeyed (or sinned) there would be punishment - often harsh. "Each must be put to death for his own sin.(Deuteronomy 24:16)" There was also a system of sacrificing animals to pay for sins and being ritually unclean. So the old covenant is associated with the law. It's terms were that God would give blessing only if He was obeyed perfectly. The new covenant is associated with Jesus and grace. Rather than being saved by obeying all of the law, we are saved by Jesus. God sent Him to live a perfect life, obeying all of the law, but He was still killed to pay for the sins all all humans who believe in Him. We just need to believe in Jesus and we'll have the eternal life that would have only come from a sinless life in the old covenant (John 3:16). So the terms of the new covenant are that a person just needs to believe that Jesus died to pay for their sins and make them right with God and they'll receive God's full blessings - including eternal life. A covenant of grace.

With this simple understanding of the two covenants, I'd like to explain some of the confusion and the questions that I have had. The biggest question for me has been "Why did God make these two different covenants?" It's not as if I haven't thought about this question and I haven't read any scripture that pertains to it. I've been reading scripture and been preached to in the Church all of my life. But every answer to this question that's made some sense in my mind always seems to have a huge hole in it, so it doesn't really un-confuse me. When I've read certain sections of scripture or heard teachings on certain topics, they'll seem to partly address the issue, but then leave inconsistencies that don't allow me to hold onto any real doctrine regarding the issue. I will explain some more specific questions that I want to deal with.

An idea that seemed to make sense to me from my childhood is that God's original plan was the First Covenant. He thought we should be able to just obey His commandments, but He noticed after a while that no one was actually living up to it, so He gave in and made an easier way through Jesus. One can get this idea from the parable of the vineyard and the tenants in Mark 12. That idea made sense to me until I combined it with the doctrine of God being all-knowing (Jeremiah 23:23-25, Psalm 147:5) So if God knows everything, He knew from the beginning that humans wouldn't live up to their side of the first covenant. I also have to combine my thoughts with the doctrine of God being unchanging (James 1:17). If God doesn't change His mind, I can't believe that His purposes for humans has changed with the coming and death of Jesus. So if I acknowledge that God is unchanging, meaning that the new covenant with Jesus was His final, and only, plan for salvation, why did He implement the first covenant and cause people to fail so miserably? I'm also confused about why Moses told the Israelites that the first covenant was not too hard for them (Deuteronomy 33:11) and then Paul seems to say it's impossible (Romans 7)? Another thing I haven't understood is why the old covenant was so firmly attached to physical things in this world - a tabernacle, ark of the covenant, sacrifices of animals and produce, promise of land - while the new covenant speaks of the sacrifice of Jesus (which was physical, but we don't physically experience it) and eternal inheritance and blessings that aren't physical.

Possibly the hardest thing for me to understand about this two covenants idea is what it means for all of those people in the old testament who were trying to follow God, but Jesus hadn't come to earth and died for their sins yet. I read Jesus in John 3:18 saying "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.(ESV)" which seems pretty clear to me. But it makes God seem unfair if he made it that Jesus is the only way for salvation but let hundreds of generations live and die before Jesus' resurrection without the opportunity to trust in Jesus since He hadn't been revealed yet. My only conclusion about this is that maybe Jesus was revealed in the old testament and therefore believers could have the same faith as we are called to in Jesus, but Jesus coming to earth in the new testament was just fuller revelation. This seems possible given my understanding of God, but if it's true, I want to know how Jesus was revealed in the old testament and what examples are we given of people who had the same faith that we are called to in the new covenant. So with these questions in mind I have sought to understand and have my mind transformed by God's word. I've found the books of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews to be extremely enlightening on these issues as the Holy Spirit is guiding me into truth.

A more complete understanding of a covenant seems to be in order. According to WordNet dictionary, a covenant in the sense we're dealing with is "an agreement between God and his people in which God makes certain promises and requires certain behavior from them in return;" God made several covenants at different times in the Bible (Genesis 9; Genesis 17; Leviticus 26:42; Numbers 25:12,13; Exodus 34:27,28; Ezra 10). So it seems that a covenant is made by God to reveal some of His purposes to those with whom He made the covenant.

The Old Covenant

Let's look more closely at the old covenant. What we call the old covenant might be more aptly named the "covenant of works." It seems to have been established from the beginning of creation. In Genesis 2:16-17, Adam and Eve are living in eternal life, but they're given one command - not to eat of a certain tree. If they obey all of God's commands - only one at this point - they can live, but if they disobey they die. They chose death. And so have all of us every since. God is perfect and all good, and cannot accept those who reject His goodness, but He wants His creation to embrace His goodness. God laid out more rules for the nation He chose for Himself in the ten commandments (Exodus 34) and again demanded that they obey them to have life. So what exactly are the terms of this covenant? Leviticus 19:2 sums it up very succinctly - God says "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.(ESV)" Jeremiah 11:1-5 explains that those anyone who doesn't keep the terms will be under a curse, but those who do will be God's people and receive land flowing with milk and honey. We also see that there is forgiveness for some disobedience. Much of Leviticus explains how atonement would be made for the sins of the Israelites through sacrifices and rituals performed by the priests. The old covenant requires holiness and perfect obedience on the part humans. If they keep their end of the bargain, God will accept them as His people and bless them. It is a covenant of law. God also provides grace and mercy by setting up the sacrificial system so that sins can be "paid for" and not held against the people.

So what was the purpose and results of this covenant? We see in the old testament a few examples of people who were trained under the old covenant and law and learned to fear God and experience some closeness with Him. According to Deuteronomy 4:1, it was supposed to produce life, but Paul tells us it brought death (Gal 3:21). Paul and the author of Hebrews give us some more results and purposes of the law that they've observed (and we know Paul was a Pharisee who supposedly was very good at following the law):
  • Condemnation (2 Cor 3:9, Romans 7:7)
  • To make us see our own powerlessness and need for redemption. (Romans 7:8-13, 18-20)
  • To stop every mouth and show us our sin (Romans 3:19-20)
  • To be a tutor to bring us to Jesus to be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24)
  • To bring a better hope (Hebrews 17:19)
  • To show us a shadow and symbol of good things to come (Hebrews 10:1,Hebrews 9:9-10)
Paul and the author of Hebrews also tell us several things that were NOT the purpose or results of the old covenant and law:
  • NOT to make anyone perfect (which is what is required) (Hebrews 17:19)
  • NOT to make us able to carry out the law. (Romans 7:18)
  • NOT to justify us (Galatians 2:16)
  • NOT to impart the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:18)
  • NOT to cleanse consciences (Hebrews 9:9-10)
  • NOT to bring us into God's presence - (Hebrews 9:8)
It seems that God had some specific purposes in mind with the old covenant. It makes it clear that God is holy and perfect. For some it stirs in them desires to please God and be holy for Him. It doesn't make God less desirable. In our inmost being perfection and relationship to God is what we desire. But the covenant makes it clear that we don't measure up. The weakness of the law is seen in that while it shows us our need and rejection from God it gives us no remedy for our condition. As we look at our failings in the covenant, we see very clearly our need for a mediator - someone to go between our sinfulness and God's perfection and make a way for us. We also see through the priesthood and sacrifices a glimpse that God is able to make a way for our imperfection to be done away with. But it's only temporary and limited and partially dependent on humans in the old covenant. Even the high priest could only go into the holy of holies (where God's presence was) once a year. The animal sacrifice symbolizes God forgiving sins committed up to this time, but it doesn't do anything to do away with a man's guilt or tendency to continue sinning. It shows us our sin but doesn't help us to stop sinning. I need that help! Since God seems to be the one wanting relationship with humans, we can expect Him to make a way. And we see that He has.

The New Covenant

The author of Hebrews tells us that this old covenant is faulty, as designed by God, giving people a reason to look for a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6-7). God gave glimpses of the inability of the old covenant and the promise of the new covenant long before the coming of Jesus. God gives Jeremiah these words:
"Indeed, a time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the Lord. “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people.

“People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the Lord. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.” (NET)

And in Jeremiah 32:40,

"I will make a lasting covenant with them that I will never stop doing good to them. I will fill their hearts and minds with respect for me so that they will never again turn away from me." (NET)

This speaks of a covenant in which God does all that's required. Rather than it being all about what we can do, God will work His perfection in us, and we won't need to remind each other. David in Psalm 40:6 realizes that God doesn't really want sacrifices. Habakkuk 2:4 says the "righteous will live by faith."

We can be sure that God's desire of holiness and perfection of humans has not changed between the two covenants. We do however see hope of that perfection and closeness actually occurring through this new covenant.

We learn more about this new covenant and about its relationship to the old covenant in the new testament. In Mark 13, during the last supper, Jesus makes reference to the wine and bread the disciples are drinking being the blood of the new covenant. According to Jesus, Paul, and the author of Hebrews, here are the purposes of the new covenant:

  • Eliminate consciousness of sin to bring true worship. (Heb 10:2-4)
  • Make believers holy through the sacrifice of Jesus (Heb 10:10)
  • Eliminate need for sacrifices for sins. (Heb 10:18 -)
  • Justification (Galatians 2:15)
  • Perfection (walking in the Spirit) (Galatians 3:2-3)
  • Sanctify a people for God. (Heb 10:14)
  • Create way to God's presence with clean conscience (Hebrews 9:1)
  • God's rest for believers (Hebrews 4:1)
  • Peace and reconciliation with God (Romans 5:1,11)
Jesus - Fulfillment of the Covenants
This new covenant sounds amazing, and we can see it includes much better promises (Hebrews 8:6-7) but how will it come to pass? Hebrews 9:12 tells us that Jesus has made all of this possible. We're told that He fulfilled the old covenant in revealing the new covenant. Jesus himself said he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17) and He actually made it clear in the sermon on the mount, that the law of the old covenant was even harder to keep than the people of His day thought. But we know that Jesus actually did measure up to all of the requirements of the old covenant. He was perfect, as required. We know He was the only who didn't deserve punishment for sin, but He took upon Himself the punishment for the sins of all humanity. He also fulfilled the punishment required by the law for us. Jesus is this mediator that we need (Hebrews 12:24, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Luke 22:20). He creates a way into God's presence so we can truly worship God in His presence with clean consciences (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus appears in heaven before God for us (Hebrews 9:24-26). Jesus fulfills the requirements of the first covenant for us, giving us all of the rewards of a sinless and obedient life. Jesus fulfills all of the symbolism of the old covenant. The author of Hebrews explains it in chapters 8-10. It's new clear that this new covenant through Jesus what God intended all along - "for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." (Galatians 2:21 ESV). And "the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17 ESV)
This new covenant has a lot of promises and seems to be totally hinging on the grace of God, but what is required of the other party - me, you, any human? This is made very clear - faith! "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 ESV) It is by faith that we come near to God, have our consciences cleansed and become righteous (Hebrews 10:22, Romans 3:22). It's by faith that we receive eternal life (Hebrews 10:39, John 3:16). It is by faith that we receive the Spirit who works in us to follow God (Galatians 3:2) and be transformed more into God's likeness as his glory is revealed to us(2 Corinthians 3:18). And if we're led by His Spirit who He gave us, we're no longer under the law of the old covenant (Galatians 5:18). Receiving the Holy Spirit is our sign of coming under the new covenant as circumcision was the sign of coming under the old covenant. So we enter this new covenant only by faith - by believing that it is necessary to be holy as God is holy, that only Jesus has accomplished this, has paid for my rebellion, and acts as a mediator to bring me into God's presence.
Faith Before Jesus
Hebrews 11 is all about people with faith that pleased God. All of them lived before Jesus came to earth. So this chapter is integral to
understanding my confusion about how people before the new covenant was revealed lived according
to it and received God's promises by faith. The chapter is filled with accounts of people believing beyond their power that God would do the work for them to fulfill the promise He made. It talks about Abraham, whose faith Paul mentions in Romans 4. Abraham was considered righteous by God because of His faith. Though it seemed impossible for God to give him a son and make a great nation out of him, and give him a land of his own, he chose to believe that God could do what He promised. This is the same kind of faith we're called to in the new covenant. By faith we believe that Jesus has paid for our sins and we are considered righteous in God's sight. In Hebrews 11, examples of people with faith are given from all history, before the law was given, and after it was set in place. All of them saw what was promised - something amazing God would do to bring them to Himself - but they didn't receive the promise during their lifetime (v 39). They were "seeking a better homeland" (v 14-16) and they believed that God would bring them there.
Now the author of Hebrews says that "God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (v 40 ESV). This passage is difficult to understand. We see that perfection is still God's goal - in both covenants. But it doesn't seem like we have anything to offer the faithful saints of the old testament to make the perfect. But it seems like this means that the old testament faithful ones have had to wait until Jesus' resurrection to actually experience the fulfillment of their hope. According to Chuck Smith, when they died they didn't enter the heavenly kingdom, but waited for Jesus to make the way for their salvation. They went into "Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16), Abraham being the father of faith, and waited for God to send Jesus to save them It's recorded that old testament saints were seen walking around Jerusalem after Jesus' resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53). It also seems like Jesus sees Abraham as having waited to see His day of bringing salvation (John 8:56). Since we live after Jesus' resurrection, when we die, we won't have to wait to realize our full salvation. Whether Chuck Smith is right or not, it's clear that what Jesus did to atone for our sins was for all time (1 Peter 1:10-12, Hebrews 7:27,9:26,10:10-14).

Conclusions and Personal Application

The Holy Spirit, who lives in me because of the new covenant has revealed a lot to me through this study of His Word. It's hard for my mind to wrap around the concept that God knows I can't
live up to the law and he didn't intend for me to be justified by living up to the law. He does desire for me to live up to the law and be holy and perfect as He is, but He's well aware that I can't on my own. So He designed the law to show me that and I'm supposed to see that and despair of attaining righteousness on my own and look to Him for another way. So the law shows me that I need His grace. The law is not at odds with faith or grace. God requires holiness, but He is full of grace, so He provides a way apart from the law to fulfill the righteous requirement of being perfect - Jesus! Jesus accomplished what none of us could in fully pleasing God with His life. He lived up to the law and was perfect and holy as we were meant to be. Then, instead of receiving his right reward and us receiving our rightful punishment of death, He took on death and said we could partake of the reward for His righteousness. So, God still wants perfection from us, but I won't accomplish that on my own and I see His offer of grace in
letting my life be in Jesus. If I walk by the Spirit my life will be found in Jesus. God will identify me with Jesus' righteousness and the Holy Spirit will work in me to die to my sin and actually fulfill the law of being holy and perfect like God. I can't focus and try real hard to walk by and be led by the Spirit - that's applying the same methods I use for trying to be justified by my own righteousness. Walking by the Spirit is supposed to be by faith, so it seems that if there was no sin or rebellion in me, what would happen naturally would be walking in the Spirit - I wouldn't have to try to do it. It would be my nature because my heart would be fully set on pleasing God. But it's my sin and self-reliance that gets in the way of the natural way of living by the Spirit. So when I know I have the desire to walk by the Spirit and not according to the flesh, it seems that the best way for me to do that at this point might be to first remind myself of my inability to be justified and to please God by my own strength. He requires perfection. I'm not accomplishing that. And then I'm in a place to look to Jesus for His grace and to have faith in His atonement for me and His power to work righteousness in me. Oh God, please make my faith grow! I want to
experience this grace and this walking in the Spirit the way you intend! I want to please you and I'm not able except through Jesus!

Friday, October 31, 2008


I've been here a million times before.
Don't know how to think don't wanna pray.
I thought I'd gotten past this stage;
Maybe I'll sleep or work it away.

I think it's time for a change in thought,
But my mind won't think.
I think it's time that I look to You,
But my pride won't break.  It's firm,

But I'm Yours, and I ask You to change me.
Break me.

I've failed again I've fallen down.
Find another way to feel worthy.
My life is Yours that's why I can't feel now,
Until I let your love uncover me.

I know it's time for a change of thought,
I can see You're there.
Forgive me, I've no where else to go,
But I'm worthless now,
but You love me, and You take my hand and lead me home.

My home is where I know my only worth is in You,
And You call me son and friend even though I fell again.

So take me home,