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Friday, October 26, 2012

The Terms Of The New Covenant Part 3 – Love Jesus

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (Jn 14:15)
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. (Jn 14:21)
If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. (Jn 14:23)

When Jesus says something three times in nine verses you'd better believe He means it!

Under the New Covenant our love and obedience are inseparably intertwined. Our obedience to the New Covenant is evidence of our love for Jesus while our love for Him prompts our obedience.

In Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, there are four different words for love.

The Four Loves 
Storge is natural affection, the kind of love that a parent has for a child. This is not the word Jesus uses in this passage.

Eros, a word we're more familiar with, means passionate love and applies to intimate relationships. Again, this word is not the one Jesus uses here.

Philia, the root of the name of the American city Philadelphia, means friendship or fraternal love.

The word Jesus actually uses in these verses above is agape. It means sacrificial love and was specifically adopted by early Christians to refer to the love of God.

Love and Obedience
It's not hard to see that agape love and obedience are tied up together. In Gethsemane and on Golgotha we see Jesus' love for the Father and for us bringing about the obedience that took Him to the cross despite His plea, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus is asking for that same kind of love from us if we are to participate in the New Covenant.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matt 16:24

Today, there are people around the world who literally take up their cross for Jesus. Arthur Blessitt was possibly the first but others have done something similar. While this is undoubtedly a productive ministry it wasn't what Jesus' first hearers would have imagined. In the first century the only place someone was going if they were carrying a cross was ... to death. No-one listening to Jesus would have had any doubt that Jesus was demanding a level of commitment that requires the willingness to pay the ultimate price. As Paul put it:

You are not your own; you were bought at a price (1 Cor 6:19-20).

The New Covenant was sealed in the blood of Jesus. That was the cost of our salvation. Why should we feel anything but a desire to give our all for Him? In the words of Don Francisco:

Love is not a feeling it's an act of your will.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Terms Of The New Covenant Part 2 – Jesus, The Way To God

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
(Jn 14:6)

As we study the terms of the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus we find that the second term to which we must adhere is to come to the Father through Jesus. There is no New Covenant apart from Jesus and no way to the Father without Him.

There are three aspects to this coming to the Father through Jesus.

Jesus The Way
The early disciples were known as the followers of the Way (Acts 22:4). The most significant difference between Christianity and other religions is that Christianity is not a list of rules but a relationship with a person. For example, while Islam requires the following of the five pillars and Sikhism has the 5 k's, Christians are simply required to follow Jesus and to come to God through Him.

On the day of Pentecost, when Peter preached his sermon, 3,000 people responded to his call:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Because the Lord Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for our sin we can follow Him through His death in baptsim and rise again with Him to eternal life (Rom 6:1-4).

Jesus The Truth
Pilate famously asked, "what is truth?" (Jn 18:38). This seems to be the question of our age. Most people behave, even if they would not admit it, as though there are no moral absolutes. Even for Christians decisions are often made on the basis of whether we can get away with it rather than on white is right and what is true.

But if Jesus is the way and the truth, then truth is required to enter in to eternity. Primarily this is admitting the truth about our sinful nature. Our sin needs to be confessed and repented of.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:9)

Jesus The Life
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (Jn 17:3)

It really is very simple. There is no eternal life outside of Jesus. The New Covenant is only for those who come through Christ.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Terms Of The New Covenant Part 1 - Love One Another

We are now going to begin considering the actual terms of the New Covenant as John recorded them in his gospel.

We have seen that in Jn 13:30 Judas left to betray Jesus to the authorities. The following few words are Jesus' introductory remarks and the terms of the New Covenant begin at Jn 13:34 with the following words:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Notice how the very first words of the Covenant, the first obligation laid upon us, is to love our brothers and sisters in the faith. I find it fascinating that John and Peter, who were both present, emphasised this love for one another in their epistles and used the presence of such love as evidence of whether or not we are true disciples of Jesus.

Peter's Perspective

Peter, for example says:

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Pet 1:22)

This is not a soppy, mushy kind of love because as he goes on to say later in chapter 4 verse 8:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Loving our brothers like this is worked out practically in forgiveness. Remember the earlier words of Jesus when Peter asked him about this as recorded in Matthew 18:21-22:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Loving one another means complete forgiveness. But it also means protecting the sinner. When we cover the sins of another, we do not broadcast them to the world but rather seek to protect them, to nurture them and to bring them back to wholeness. The aim should always be to restore the sinner.

John's Judgement

John's epistles frequently bring out the concept that our love for one another is evidence of our love for God or, conversely, that we cannot claim to love God if we do not love our brother.

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 Jn 4:20)

Like Peter, John also gives a practical example of the outworking of this love but rather than focusing on forgiveness of the sinner he looks to the need of the brother:

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 Jn 3:17)

Love in this case is worked out by making sure our fellow believers are not going hungry or are in any other kind of need. Paul made such a radical statement about this in 2 Corinthians 8:13 that I have never heard it preached on:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.

Equality? I have seen a lot of love and care within the church but never a drive towards equality amongst its members. Why is that?

God's Glory

I want to make one final observation about this command of Jesus. Notice what He doesn't say. He doesn't say, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love others," but "if you love one another."
We get caught in the trap of thinking that the world will recognise we are Christians if we show love to those outside our own community of believers. But that isn't the case. What evidences that we are Christians, and so brings glory to God, is the care we show towards His own people. Again Paul has something to say about this:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal 6:9-10 emph. added)

God is glorified when we place the emphasis on showing love to our brothers and sisters in practical ways.