The Completeness of the New Covenant

The questions below are a helpful way for me to reflect on the completeness of the finished work of Jesus on the cross on our behalf.

Think of these five questions on kind of a sliding scale with “not at all” on the left side of the scale and “completely” on the right side.  Where are we on this line?


Not at all                                         Completely

Question 1:  Under the new covenant, how much am I forgiven?

Am I partly forgiven?  Am I forgiven of all my sins up to my salvation, up to my decision to believe the gospel?  Are there sins that I am responsible for after that?  Am I only forgiven of the sins I remember to confess?


Am I completely forgiven of ALL my sins; past, present, and future?  The new covenant answer is YES, I am completely forgiven.  (Colossians 2:13-14)


Question 2:  Under the new covenant, how much of the Law am I under?

Do I need the moral law but not the ceremonial law?  Am I under the some of the Old Testament Law, but not the sacrifice system?  Am I under the ten commandments?


Am I completely set free from ALL of the Old Testament Law?  The new covenant answer is YES, I am completely free from the Law.  (Romans 7:1-6)


Question 3:  Under the new covenant, how much of my old self died with Christ?

Is my old self kind of dead?  Is my old self positionally dead?  Is my old self partly dead?  Which part of my old self died with Christ?


Was my old self completely crucified with Christ?  The new covenant answer is YES, my old self was completely crucified with Christ.  (Romans 6:6-7)


Question 4:  Under the new covenant, how acceptable am I to God?

Sometimes acceptable?  Mostly a disappointment?  Depends on my actions?  Maybe God doesn’t even see me?


Am I completely accepted and deeply loved by God at all times?  The New Covenant answer is YES, I am completely accepted and deeply loved by God.  (I John 3:1)


Question 5:  Under the new covenant, how close am I to God?

Kind of close?  Am I getting closer?  Not close at all?  Depends on the day?  Maybe 6 out of 10?  Depends on my behavior?  Do I alternate between getting closer to God and falling further behind?


Am I completely inseparable from Jesus and the Father?  The new covenant answer is YES, your union with Christ is unbreakable.  (John 14:20, I Corinthians 6:17, Colossians 3:3, Hebrews 13:5)

Jesus said, “It is finished”.  The cross worked and accomplished all that Jesus promised to us.

(Adapted from a message by Andrew Farley)

Seeing with Clear Eyes

Understanding the Red Letters   Bonus

I have written previously about the challenge of interpreting the Sermon on the Mount in this series about the red letters.  To be clear, the message of Matthew chapters 5 through 7 is not a set of guidelines for living the Christian life.  But neither do we just cast it aside as an old covenant message for an old covenant people.  It appears to me to be an intertwined mix of three threads in Jesus’ teaching to His Jewish audience.  Jesus is preaching old covenant Law, Jesus is preaching Law 2.0 (an updated version of the Law), and last, Jesus is giving us a glimpse of life under the new covenant.

A passage that I didn’t cover previously because I really didn’t know what to make of it is Matthew 6:22-23.  Could these words of Jesus be a glimpse of the coming new covenant?  “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Think of it this way.  The eye … the eye is how we perceive the world around us.  Jesus came preaching, “Repent and believe the gospel.”  Repent, as we know is “changing one’s mind.”  Another way to say it is “changing one’s perception.”  We perceive with the eye.  Jesus spoke often about truly “seeing” the gospel.

is the lamp … the lamp illuminates what we see with our eye … of the body … the body is our earthly experience.  What we perceive with our eyes will illuminate our earthly experience.

If your eye is clear … if your perception is seeing correctly, … your whole body will be full of light … the light is the kingdom of God inside you.  This is a preview of what is coming in the new covenant; the light of the kingdom of God will shine in us.  It will shine in us who repent (change our perception to see clearly) and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If your eye is bad … if you are not perceiving and receiving God’s offer of salvation … your whole body will be full of darkness … you will experience the total darkness that comes with being a lost person, outside of the kingdom of God.  Or said another way … If then the light that is in you is darkness … Wait a minute, how can the light in us be darkness?

Jesus said to the Pharisees, even as they were not believing in Him, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).  How could Jesus say that?  Because the kingdom of God was available to the Pharisees just as it is to all men.  But they refused to believe, they denied the kingdom available to them.  That is how the light in us can be darkness.  We reject the light when we reject the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

When the light goes out because of one’s unbelief, … how great is the darkness! … the darkness is great because it is literally the difference between life and death.  The light is life.  The darkness is death.  The darkness is spiritual death.  And the darkness is total.  There is no partial darkness for the lost.

In the gospel of John, Jesus speaks often about light and darkness signifying saved to eternal life and those who are lost.  And this passage, a bit obscure in Matthew chapter 6, is a preview of the salvation offer that is being announced by Jesus throughout the gospels, “Repent and believe the gospel.”  If you have believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ, your eye is clear and you are full of light.  Shine on, my friends.

The Greatest Download in the History of the World

In the age of mobile devices, downloads have become part of our everyday lives.  I download television shows to my iPad before a trip out of town.  I download music to my phone that I enjoy hearing over and over.  I download family photos from our son-in-law photographer.  I download articles about quantum physics for later reading.

But here is a “download” that you may not have thought about.  It is the greatest download in the history of the world.

When you believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ … whoosh … the greatest download possible landed directly in your inbox.  The life of Jesus Christ, complete with the character of Christ and the love of Christ, was deposited right inside you.  Jesus promised it and God did it, just as He promised.  Christ came to live in you by His Spirit.

We have developed so many techniques to address sin in our lives through various disciplines and accountability groups and so on.  And these can be helpful.  But the power to continue in righteous living will never come from self-discipline and will power.  It will never come from trying to set up controls, either internal or external.  The power will only come through a supernatural infusion of the life of Christ in us.

The download of the life of Christ in you is the lasting power to live the Christian life with victory and peace.  Victory because grace gives us power over sin (Romans 6:14), teaching us to turn away from sin (Titus 2:11-12).  And peace because your striving to manage your sin is over.  We have peace because Christ removed the guilt, shame, and condemnation of our sin.  We are free to walk in the new self, created in righteousness (Ephesians 4:24).

Does that mean we never sin?  No, not at all.  And I have written many times about our growing up in Christ and how we learn to walk according to our new identity.  But that topic is for other posts.

For today, just ask yourself what this would look like in your present situation.  “What if the download of the life of Christ in you is the only reason you behave?”

Closing Thoughts on the Words of Jesus

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 43

Today, we wrap up our series on understanding the red letters of Jesus.  There is much more that could be said about the words of Jesus, but I hope you have gotten a taste of the beauty of Jesus’ words in the gospels.  The first four books of the New Testament describe a transition from the age of the old covenant to the coming of the new covenant.  And it can lead to confusion about which of Jesus’s words we should take to heart and which we should leave behind in the world of the old covenant.

I have tried to show in this series that not all of Jesus’ words were meant for us, new covenant believers.  Jesus was sometimes speaking old covenant to His Jewish audience.  Remember how many times Jesus used the phrase, “The Law and the Prophets”, to refer to the old covenant time or message (Luke 16:16 and elsewhere)?  But there is a bounty of new covenant in Jesus’ teaching as well and we will miss it if we just lump everything Jesus said into old covenant because it was said before the cross.

Jesus’ promise of life; new life, forgiven life, resurrection life, abundant life, eternal life, are all new covenant promises.  Jesus’ pronouncement that His kingdom has arrived introduces us to the coming of the new covenant.  Jesus’ parables often describe what life will be like in His new covenant kingdom.  And His sermon in the upper room expanded on all kinds of new topics about our new covenant experience.

One of the best ways to interpret Jesus’ words in light of the new covenant is to read them through the lens of His kingdom message; its arrival and what life in His kingdom will look like.  The kingdom in us that He brought to us is all part of the promise of the new covenant.

Another helpful way to read Jesus’ words is through the lens of all the new covenant explanation given to us by the apostles in their letters.  Jesus promised them that the Holy Spirit would bring His words to their minds as needed.  We believe that their writings are a direct result of this leading of the Spirit.

Finally, read Jesus’ words through the lens of rest and connection.  If you believe that your relationship with the Father is one of separation, felt as a fragile and shaky connection, then you will interpret Jesus’ words as a confusing mix of complicated commands.  And you will be weighed down by guilt, shame, and condemnation; looking for some price that still needs to be paid for your sin.  Jesus paid the price in full, once and forever.  Your connection to Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit is unbreakable, unshakable, rock solid, and never-ending.

And that forever forgiven and connected to the Father starts and never ends the minute you believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  Understanding the time and place and meaning and point of Jesus’ words in the gospels sets us free from guilt and shame.  And it points us to rest, peace, comfort, and joy.  The words of Jesus that apply to you as a new covenant believer are not in the gospels to raise your stress or angst or worry level.  They bring you rest in His finished work on your behalf.  Enter His rest, my friend, and find rest for your soul.

Awash in the Love of God

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 42

For the past several days, we have been sharing thoughts from the Sermon in the Upper Room.  Jesus’ last message to His disciples before His death lays the foundation for what life under the new covenant will look like.  And unlike the Sermon on the Mount, this message is pure new covenant.

One of the interesting things I find in Jesus’ upper room discourse is the lack of commandments.  This is one of the most significant differences between the two covenants, the old and the new.  The old covenant, the Law, was ALL about keeping the commandments.  The new covenant, on the other hand, is about who you are; a new creation, a child of God with an unbreakable connection to your heavenly Father.

A covenant is a promise.  And one of the promises of the new covenant is that you are a totally forgiven, fully accepted, and deeply loved child of God.

You see, when you know who you are as a reborn child of God, you know what to do.  You don’t need a list of commandments because grace is teaching you “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).  Your new nature is guiding you.  And your new indwelling of Christ’s Spirit is empowering you.  Can I say it again?  When you know who you are, you know what to do.

Is doing what you know to do automatic?  No, it is a maturing process to live into your new identity; to live according to who you are.  And “Christ in you” is an endless supply of power to grow into who you are.  The key to how the “who you are” translates into the “knowing what to do” is recognizing the reality of Christ living in you; the power source for doing what needs to be done.

Now the Sermon in the Upper Room is not command-free.  It does contain one commandment.  Jesus calls it “a new commandment.”  I call it “a new commandment for a new covenant.”  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

The focus of the Sermon in the Upper Room is two-fold.  First, it is about who you are as a child of God.  You are “vine and branches” close with the Father.  And second, how we live.  We are to love one another.  And the sheer beauty of it all is that the who you are – complete with a new heart, new Spirit, new nature, new life, new self, new power, new identity, and new freedom – is the HOW you keep the commandment to love.  You love as God loves because of who you are; filled with the love of God because He lives in you.

Can you tell I love these upper room chapters in John’s gospel?  And I love this new covenant message.  And even from afar, I love you, my friends!