I am preparing to teach the third lesson in our series on “covenant”. This is a crucial study for any follower of Jesus Christ. Once we understand the idea of covenant, we discover that God has His part and that we have our part to uphold, if we choose to enter into the New Covenant with God through Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift based on the grace of God. We receive salvation when we enter into the New Covenant. When we enter into the New Covenant, we agree to uphold our end of the bargain, or covenant, if you will. This lesson is going to focus on what our responsibilities are as covenant partners with Christ under the New Covenant. If you are just joining this series, here are some links to the previous lessons:
I. The covenant between Jonathan and David
In the previous article, we covered aspects of the covenant between Jonathan and David as revealed to us in I Samuel 18. While making the covenant, they first exchanged robes. This was a sign of Jonathan becoming David and David becoming Jonathan. They both pledged no longer to live for themselves but to live for each other. After they exchanged robes, they then exchanged belts and weapons. In essence, Jonathan pledged to protect David and David pledged to protect Jonathan. David was ready to take on Jonathan’s enemies and Jonathan was ready to take on David’s enemies. Immediately, we see David begin to benefit from the covenant. He begins to prosper. Jonathan’s father, King Saul, begins to hate David and wants to put him to death. King Saul actually commands his son Jonathan to put David to death. Jonathan keeps his end of the covenant and defends David in his father’s presence. Jonathan protects David by speaking highly of him to Saul and actually persuades Saul not to harm David. Later, King Saul plots to kill David and Jonathan discovers the plan. He intervenes on David’s behalf and helps him escape from King Saul’s wicked plan. Jonathan knew his duty as a covenant partner and he kept his end of the agreement even when he had to go against his father’s evil wishes. How does this play out in the New Covenant. When we enter into Covenant with God through Christ, how does He take on our enemies and how do we take on His enemies?
II. Responsibility to defend, protect, and strengthen
In Psalm 105, God is speaking about His covenant people Israel, and He shares how He kept His end of the covenant. He did not allow anyone to oppress them. He even reproved kings because they wanted to attack His covenant partner, Israel. The only time that He did allow enemies to attack His covenant people was after they had been repeatedly unfaithful to their covenant with God. In the New Testament, we find Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul, persecuting the believers, Jesus Christ’s covenant partners. In Acts 9, Jesus intervenes on behalf of His covenant partners and defends them from the persecutor Saul. Jesus equates persecuting believers with persecuting Him. The same person, Saul, after his conversion became the Apostle Paul, wrote to the church in Thessaloniki and explained when God would defend His covenant people, the believers who were being persecuted for their faith. According to II Thessalonians 1, God will repay those who afflict us upon Christ’s 2nd coming (not the rapture). This is revealed in Revelation 19. Jesus will descend to the earth from heaven and He will place His feet on the earth for the 2nd time in human history. The first time happened when He was born of a virgin. When He returns, He will repay all of those who have afflicted His covenant partners under the New Covenant. He does not deal out retribution immediately because God’s desire is that none should perish but, that all should repent and come to the knowledge of the Truth. The punishment that He inflicts on that day will be an eternal form of punishment. Our affliction is only temporary. Not only will God defend us, He will also strengthen us in our time of need. God promised to strengthen His covenant people, Israel, in Isaiah 40. This is a common verse that we use today but it was actually given to the Jewish people under the Old Covenant. In the midst of their difficult circumstances in this life, mostly brought on by their disobedience to God, He promised to renew their strength if they will trust in Him, depend on Him at all times. Under the New Covenant, our covenant partner has promised to renew our strength when we are weak. We find this amazing promise in II Corinthians 12:9-10 (another Truth from the Apostle Paul), when he writes about his own time of weakness and need for strength. Paul had a problem that He begged of His covenant partner to take away. He asked 3 times and the answer was “NO” each time. Them God followed up with the fact that His strength was sufficient for Paul in his time of need. Paul had to learn to rely on the strength of God during his weak periods. Paul came to discover that when he did so, he had more strength than when he relied on his own strength. That is why Paul later wrote to the church in Philippi that he would do all things (endure all things) through the strength of Christ that He offers to His covenant partners. In II Timothy 4, Paul reveals that even after everyone else had abandoned him, the Lord stood beside him and strengthened him in his time of need.
As you can see, God will always do His part. What is my part? What are my responsibilities?
Our first responsibility to our covenant partner is to remain devoted to Him and Him alone. In I John 2, the writer warns us not to love the world or the things of the world because they will divide our hearts and our devotion to our covenant partner will not be total. The two things of this world that he mentions, things that will divide our focus are lust and pride. Lust is a desire to have something. That desire, if dwelt upon, will quickly become a passion. It will take control and begin to dominate us. It will get to the point where it takes our covenant partner’s place as number 1. Anything that takes God’s place in our lives is an idol and is sinful. Do not give lust a chance. Lust plays upon our sin nature. Lust is stimulated by what we see and hear. Lust is stimulated by our thoughts. The word pride means an empty pretender. Our covenant partner, God, is the One who calls the shots because He made all things. Pride is an empty pretender who claims that we do not need God to function properly. We can do it on our own. In other words, we don’t need God telling us what to do, we can make decisions on our own, based on our own intellect and reasoning skills. Lust and pride are passing away. Instead, we need to focus on our eternal covenant partner and seek to do His eternal will. We must remain totally devoted and dedicated to Him. That is our #1 responsibility. According to James 4, our second responsibility is very similar to our first. We are not to try and be in covenant with God and still do things the way that they world does things. If we try to be one with God and friends with the world then we set ourselves in opposition to our covenant partner. How does partnering with God and trying to be friends with the world manifest itself? In quarrels and conflicts for starters. Lust pops its ugly head up again. Envy enters the scene as well. Because of lust, you want what others have and you quarrel and fight because of it. You are envious. Envy means that you boil over with jealousy because something good happened to someone else and not to you. Envy causes you to try and destroy the person to whom the good happened or the good thing that has happened to him or her. This leads to having impure motives, disobedience, and unfaithfulness to our covenant partner. So far, our #1 enemy to our covenant partner is our own sin nature. We must fight it tooth and nail. The 3rd responsibility that we have is found in John 15. We are to abide in the love of Christ and take the love of Christ to the lost world. When we do this as He intended, we will be persecuted for sharing the Gospel. Why? Because the Gospel reveals man for who he really is, showing him his desperate need for God. The Gospel pricks man’s sin nature and this stimulates a negative response. Our job is to continue to lovingly share the Good News of the Gospel without compromise. This is how we take on God’s enemy, sin nature by sharing the only thing that can overcome it.
What does this look like practically, in my every day life?
III. Practical application
As you do battle with your own sin nature and overcome by the power of God, you want to share this freeing Truth with others. As you do, there will many who oppose what you have to say. What do you do with them? According to Romans 12, when you are persecuted, you bless them in return by not paying them back evil with the evil that they have shown toward you. If you have the opportunity, meet your enemy’s needs. Repay their evil with good. This will melt their hard hearts and open up their eyes and ears to want what the Gospel has to offer. Jesus gives a similar teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, when He says to love those who are your enemies and pray for them. When you have the opportunity, serve them and meet their needs.
What about you, my dear friend, are you in the New Covenant with God so that He can protect and defend you from your enemies? If you are in the New Covenant, are you seeking to fulfill your responsibilities of fighting against God’s #1 enemy, your own sin nature? Do you love the people around you enough to share the Good News of the Gospel with them no matter the cost? Are you ready to pray for and serve the people around you so that you can share the Good News with them? How do you handle persecution? Do you keep your mouth closed so that you will not draw attention to yourself? May the Lord help us fulfill our responsibilities as His New Covenant partners!