“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (II Cor 3:5-6). As ministers of the new covenant, we recognize the flowing river inside each believer and we serve in ways that encourage its flow to come to the surface in our friends and family.
Let me give you an example of how this works in ministry. Several years ago, Rhonda and I were asked to lead an adult Sunday School class at our church for young married couples who were just starting their families. We were at the other end of the young family years as the first of our five children was just entering college. We started our teaching assignment with some trepidation. Would these couples be interested in what we had to say about biblical principles for marriage and family? How would we drum up interest in these topics? In short, would leading the way be like pulling teeth?
We had a choice to make. We could lead the class with an old covenant approach to living the Christian life. That is, this path ahead is a difficult one and you are not going to like it, but it is just what you have to do. So buck up and give it your best. In other words, “eat your vegetables”, they are good for you.
Or we could take a new covenant approach. Under this system, we present the Christian life as an overflowing feast, not a lukewarm plate of vegetables. We “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24) by watering the fruit of the Spirit that is already present in every believer by the provisions of the new covenant. Our teaching is under the overarching message of the New Testament; your old nature died with Christ, sin is no longer your master, you were raised with Christ, and infused with resurrection power to live the supernatural Christian life; to live into who you already are in Christ.
We took the new covenant approach and invited our new friends to join us in experiencing the river’s flow as a community. In short, our message was, “You can do this”, and we found indeed that these couples were primed for us to join them in the flow that God was already leading them in. Instead of needing to coax the class forward, we discovered that a desire to learn was already present in our fellow believers. We just needed to join them and provide some leadership and mentoring in the direction they already wanted to go. It became a collaborative effort as we encouraged each other in what new covenant living looked like in a family setting.
The whole enterprise was one of our most enjoyable ministry efforts. Why? Because we were experiencing the promise of Jesus in John 7 – the flow of the Holy Spirit – in a community of like-minded believers. It was a great lesson in new covenant ministry, and we were energized by God’s presence and leading for us all!