Laying Down the Law Part 2
Transition from Old to New
In 1985 I got my first cassette tape. It was Aerosmith greatest hits. On my cassette player I pressed rewind and then play, then rewind and then play over and over till I found the beginning of my favorite song, “walk this way.” Even though I had to rewind the tape over and over in order to listen to a song again or to push fast forward in order to skip one I didn’t like as much, it didn’t really bother me. I just accepted that as normal for the present age. It was the same thing with VHS tapes, which were contemporaries of the audio cassettes. When you got done watching them, it was easy just to push eject, but the next time you wanted to watch it you would have to wait for it to rewind. That was just part of life. You have to rewind a tape if you want it to start from the beginning. Furthermore, the longer you had a cassette tape or a VHS, the more you wore it out, it’s like the tempo slowed down significantly as the tape got stretched out over time. Then there was tracking. You know when there were lines across the screen and you had to fix the tracking. And to make matters worse every now and then an audio or video cassette tape wouldn’t act right. You could tell that something was wrong so you pushed eject and sure enough, a mound of crinkled up, twisted, folded brown tape popped out. Oh, cassette tapes.
Well, a day came when a new and better form of audio and video technology was born, one that made the former old and obsolete. Remember when CD’s and DVD’s came out? They were so much better! CD’s were so much better than cassette tapes. You didn’t have to rewind them; they always start at the beginning. You could skip songs in an instant with the push of a button. No more waiting for fast forward. No more stretched out or mounds of crinkled tape, but rather a crisp clean polished digital sound. Tapes became old and obsolete. It was the same with DVD’s. You didn’t have to rewind them; they always start at the beginning. No more tracking; no more bunched up tape. Pop in a disc and voila: crisp clean polished image and sound. I remember when people started to leave the old, obsolete way of the VCR and buy in to the way of the DVD player. Blockbuster changed their entire inventory and they were practically giving away their VHS cassettes. Though the new way was better, there were some people who resisted the change; they didn’t want to make the change over to digital sound and video. They were comfortable with tapes. They kept their VHS and cassette tapes. Eventually, stores didn’t carry that stuff anymore. There was really no way to carry on that style of entertainment as comfortable as they were with it. Things have moved on, the world around them has moved into a new era. Society, by and large has gone from analog to digital. I doubt if any car manufacturer puts a tape deck in a newly manufactured car these days. VHS and cassette tapes are obsolete. And what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
Now, pretend it’s 1985 and you’re watching VHS movies and listening to audio cassette tapes. Imagine if I come along and tell you with authority that a day is coming when we will have a new way of listening to music and watching movies; it won’t be like the way you do now with these cassette tapes. This is the way you will be entertained after that time: you will listen to CD’s and view DVD’s. No longer will a man listen to cassette tapes, or a man view VHS movies, saying, ‘if only this tape was rewound,’ because CD’s and DVD’s will all be rewound from the least of them to the greatest. For they will need their tracking buttons no more.
What would your response to that be? You would have been like, “Whoooah.” Sounds cool. It would have sounded far-fetched, intriguing, different from what you were used to. That’s what it was probably like for the Israelites when God spoke through His prophet Jeremiah.
If you have your Bibles go ahead and turn to the book of Jeremiah 31. If you don’t have a bible with you, we will have this on the screen.
What I’d like to do this morning is start to kind of fill in some details. Last week I gave you two great markers. The basic message from last week was that the Law was for a specific people, for a definite time. It was for the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and it began with Moses and ended with Christ. The Law, also known as the Law of Moses was part of the Mosaic Covenant, which we also refer to as the Old Covenant. That Old Covenant was basically Israel, here is the Law, the 613 commands that you are to follow and if you follow them, then you can stay in the Promised Land, God will grant you material blessings, prosperity, and victory in war. If you disobey the Law, God will curse you, take you out of the land and you will be defeated by your enemies.
One important thing to note here is that the Law of Moses is inextricably linked to the Mosaic Covenant. The Law and the Covenant go hand in hand. The Law was part of the Covenant that Moses mediated. So Israel agreed to this covenant and lived under it for hundreds of years. During that time God sent prophets, who spoke on behalf of God to His people, the Israelites. Prophets usually weren’t popular people. The primary purpose of the prophets was to reinforce to the Israelites the Law of Moses. (Jer 11) They were usually the bearers of bad news. This is what the LORD says, remember the Covenant. You have broken the Law. Return to the Law. Stop bringing lame sacrifices. Stop oppressing the poor and neglecting the alien and the widow and the fatherless. That was the primary purpose of the prophets. Additionally, the prophets predicted future events, often times coming judgment on nations, sometimes Israel was the recipient of such judgment and usually through the form of a foreign army.
After living under the Law for nearly a millennium, God sent the prophet Jeremiah, who did all of the above. Jeremiah, however, explicitly introduces to Israel the idea that one day God would make with them a New Covenant.
So Jeremiah, speaking to ethnic Israelites who were under the Mosaic Covenant, says beginning in Jer 31:31
31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
We defined covenant as a solemn and binding agreement, kind of like a contract, but perhaps better defined as a promise. The audience is under the Mosaic Covenant. The time is coming, God says, when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel & Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
This New Covenant will not be like The Mosaic Covenant, which included the Law.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Under their current covenant the Law is written on tablets of stone that they read and then do their best to observe and follow. God says in the new covenant I am going to put my law in their hearts and on their minds. They are not going to be a disobedient and obstinate people (as Rom 10 says); they will not be a stiff-necked and rebellious people (as Scripture says ten times). They will be a regenerate people, a people who love and live the word, a people characterized by truth and love. They will have renewed minds and hearts. They will truly know me from the least of them to the greatest. I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more. There will be reconciliation between a holy God and sinful man as there will be forgiveness of sins.
Israel at the time is under the Mosaic Covenant and they are told that a day is coming when God will make a new covenant with His people. What exactly is this new covenant and when is it made? I mentioned last week that the Law was for a particular people (Israel), that it was for a definite time: it began with Moses and ended with Christ. It was with Christ that the Old Covenant ended and the New Covenant began. Luke 22 describes the last supper. Jesus made new application to the elements of the Passover meal. Verse 20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. The covenant you are currently under, The Mosaic Covenant, which included the Law of Moses is about to be superseded by a new covenant at the shedding of my blood. The new covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah has come. The New Covenant is realized in Christ. The New Covenant finds its fulfillment in Christ.
TIME OF TRANSITION
Flip over to Hebrews 8. The book of Hebrews was written to Hebrews, to Israelites, with the goal of showing them that Jesus was pre-eminent and superior to Moses and that the New Covenant was pre-eminent and superior to the Old Covenant. The gospel is pre-eminent and superior to the Law. It contains much talk of the Old Covenant simply serving as a types and shadows of the better things to come and the reality being found in Christ.
With that as our context, let’s look at Hebrews 8: 1The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. 3Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
6But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.
The ministry of Christ is superior to the former ministry. The covenant of which Christ is mediator is superior to the covenant of which the former priesthood was mediator. Christ is a heavenly high priest and is a better high priest than the earthly high priests called for in the Old Covenant. Christ is superior to the old priesthood. The Gospel is superior to the Law. It is founded on better promises. In the first century, with the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Law is rendered obsolete and inferior to the Gospel.
7For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.
If the Mosaic Covenant changed hearts and produced a God-loving people, no place would have been sought for another. If the Law justified people before God, there would have been no need for a new covenant. But the Law binds men and enslaves them; the Law cursed men; the Law of Moses apart from rebirth from the Spirit produces rebellion. If there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another, but the people produced by that covenant were a stiff-necked and rebellious people; they were disobedient and obstinate.
He said if there was nothing wrong with the Mosaic Covenant there would have been no reason for a new covenant. If the end goal and the fulfillment of the promises was accomplished by the Law, the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be pointless. But they were not accomplished by the Law.
But hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying God failed. It’s not that God tried to produce a people that would love Him, gave it a shot with Israel and the law but had to say, Aww, shucks…I guess I had better try something else. Son? Jesus was not plan B. The church was not plan B. Jesus Christ was always THE PLAN. God used the law as a type and shadow of the better things that were to come that are found in Christ and His redeeming a people for Himself by the shedding of His blood.
God did not fail. 8But God found fault with the people (not Himself. The Law did not produce a God-loving people) and said: The author of Hebrews quotes that passage we read earlier from Jeremiah 31.
“The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 9It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 10This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
13By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. The Law is obsolete and inferior to the Gospel.
By calling this Covenant “new” he has made the first one obsolete and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. Now, all analogies break down, so don’t be distracted by that…just understand that I am using this as an illustration: A day came when VHS and audio cassette tapes were made obsolete by a new and better way – CD’s and DVD’s. So also a day came when the Law of Moses, the old covenant was made obsolete by a new and better way, a new and better covenant with better promises.
There was a period of time in which what was obsolete and aging was passing away and would soon disappear. There was a time of transition while CDs and DVDs were slowly replacing VHS. I was working part time at Blockbuster video when this transition was happening. There was a time when there was a DVD section and a VHS section. Eventually they sold all of the VHS and now there are no VHS in the entire store. At one point it would have been very applicable to say, “What was obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” A year came when that which was associated to the old form of audio and video entertainment has disappeared. I don’t even think you can buy a new car that has a cassette deck. I don’t think they manufacture cars with tape decks anymore. They are obsolete at this point and have disappeared.
What does the author mean in Hebrews? The author of Hebrews says By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
The first century was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New. It wasn’t an overnight switch. It was a transition that occurred over a forty year period from about AD 30 to AD 70. It began with Christ’s ministry, death, burial and resurrection and ended with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
The law began with Moses and ended with Christ. But the cross was not the clear line of demarcation between the Old and New Covenants. Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross, but that didn’t mean that the things prescribed by the Law ceased to exist before their very eyes. Remember what we just read in Hebrews. Hebrews was written in the first century, just prior to AD 70. The sacrificial system prescribed by the law was still being carried out by a priesthood prescribed by the law. It was an obsolete priesthood performing obsolete and pointless sacrifices. And what was obsolete and aging was soon to disappear. History tells us that in 70 AD, that obsolete Temple was destroyed and all of the obsolete elements of the Old Covenant order disappeared. Without a temple in which to perform the sacrifices prescribed by the law, you can’t perform the required sacrifices. The Law is obsolete and inferior to the Gospel. The Law is obsolete. The remnants of that obsolete covenant have long since disappeared as the temple was destroyed in AD70.
Just like in the late 90’s when you bought a DVD player and replaced your VCR. You may not have thrown away your VCR yet, but its days were over. The order of the cassette tapes had ended and the digital entertainment age had begun. The remnants of the old order were still around, though they were no longer serving a purpose. They were obsolete and replaced by something new and better. You just hadn’t made time to take it to goodwill yet. What was obsolete and aging would soon disappear, but until you disposed of it, it was still there. The Law is obsolete and inferior to the Gospel. That which is obsolete has disappeared. For the author of Hebrews, in the first century, there were remnants of an obsolete system until they were disposed of in 70 AD by Roman armies.
How is the Law obsolete? How is it inferior to the gospel?
· It enslaves (Gal 4:21-31)
· It curses (Gal 3:10-14)
· Brings death and not life (Gal 3:21, Rom 7:7-11)
o It is inextricably linked to sin and it is the power of sin
o Rom 7:8
o 1 Cor 15:56
· It doesn’t justify sinners before a holy God
o Gal 2:15-16
o Rom 3:20-28
o Acts 13:38-39
Part of the gospel for first century Jews is not just: you are free from sin, but you have been set free from the Law! That is good news! Romans 7:1-6
We are the recipients of a better covenant. The Law is obsolete and inferior to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, of which we are the partakers. We are not under the law, which enslaves men; we are free…not free to indulge the flesh, but free to serve God. We are not under the law which curses men; we are recipients of spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. We are not under the law which brings death; we are recipients of the Spirit who brings life. The Law is obsolete and inferior to the gospel of our glorious lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s enjoy the freedom, the blessings, the forgiveness that we have in Christ as the glorious New Covenant community of God.
Laying Down the Law Part 1
The Law: For a People, For a Time
This morning, we begin a brand new message series entitled “Laying Down the Law.”
One of the goals of this series is to walk away with a better understanding of the DNA of the Bible, how it is made up, how it is put together, and more specifically, what role the Law has in the Bible and ultimately in our lives.
I think this is important because if we are going to be outward focused in 2015, then we are going to be making an effort to reach people who probably know very little about the Bible. Of course, they will have their own opinions about the Bible, what they observe from the outside, what they may remember vaguely from Sunday School as a child, what they hear from televangelists as they flip the channels, what they may hear if they happen to land on a Christian radio station. The assumption for most people is that when you have a religion that has a book associated with that religion you follow it. Islam has the Koran, and Muslims are to follow the Koran. Christians have the Bible and Christians are supposed to follow the Bible.
Back when I was doing youth ministry, I was invited to be a small group leader at a Discipleship Now at a large church in Austin. Dnow is a weekend retreat for the youth group where speakers are invited and after the large groups with worship and a message, the small group leaders drive the group back to the house of the host family and facilitate discussions. One of the young men in my group was particularly intelligent and ornery. He asked me, “As Christians are we supposed to follow the Bible?” My answer was yes. He followed up by flipping open to Leviticus and asking if we were supposed to make animal sacrifices and my answer was “no.” He asked, “why not? It says right here in the Bible – the one that you said we are supposed to follow.”
The command he pointed to is found in the Law. His question was a good one and it represents a series or group of questions that pertain to our topic at hand. How does the Law relate to the Bible as a whole? How does the Law relate to Christians? Are we to follow or obey the Law? If not why not? Doesn’t that mean we are being selective – picking and choosing what we want to obey? How, then do we choose which parts of the Bible to obey and not obey?
If Christians are supposed to follow the Bible does that mean that as Christians we can flip open the Bible to just any page, put our finger on a verse and say, we need to be doing this? That gets a little tricky as most of you know. A large portion of the Bible is narrative. That means it is telling history. How do you “follow” a narrative? The OT is over ¾ of the Bible. The first five books of the Bible make up what is known as The Torah or the Law. The bulk of the commandments in the Bible are found there in the Law. It is said that there are 613 commandments in the Law. So when somebody says we as Christians need to follow the Bible does that mean that we are to obey the 613 commandments found in the Law?
In short, my answer to that would be, “no.”
But, one might reply, the Law is where we find the Ten Commandments. That’s where we find the commands to not murder, or steal, or commit adultery, or bear false witness. Aren’t those good commands that should be obeyed? If we aren’t to follow the Law, does that mean that we are abandoning those commands? Does that mean murder and theft are okay?
You can see why this is a tricky topic and an important one. Those who do not go to church usually have a reason. Some of them we can do nothing about. Sometimes it is a heart issue that only God can resolve. But in some cases they have good reasons; they have legitimate questions. I think that by having honest answers to those questions, we have a better chance of reaching them. Sometimes smart people have read parts of the Bible and wondered why Christians say we follow the Bible but don’t follow all of it.
I’m not saying that after this message series we will all be able to give satisfactory answers to all of the intellectuals that challenge Christianity. My hope, however, is that we will have informed answers so that we can have intelligent conversations with people – conversations that explain why it appears that we pick and choose certain parts of the Bible to follow to the exclusion of others, conversations that show that Christianity is not a foolish religion – but a reasonable one, conversations in which we share the real gospel, the real good news of freedom that sets people free from bondage, the real good news of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ not a false gospel of here is a list of 613 new rules that you must follow in order to be in covenant relationship with God.
For this morning’s message, I want us to walk away with the understanding that The Law was for a particular people, for a definite time. It was a covenant made with ethnic Israel; it had a beginning; it had an end. It began with Moses and ended with Christ. Before we dive in there are 2 terms that I want to clearly define as we will be using them regularly one is covenant, the other is The Law.
Covenant. The dictionary defines covenant as a solemn and binding agreement. It’s kind of like a contract, but perhaps better defined as a promise. God made several covenants with his people in the course of history. The first covenant we see in Scripture is a covenant that God made with Noah that He would never flood the earth again; the sign of that covenant was the rainbow. God then made a covenant with Abraham, promising that Abram would be the father of many nations and that his descendants would inherit the Promised Land; circumcision was the sign of that covenant. Then God made a covenant with the descendants of Jacob aka the nation of Israel. This covenant was known as the Mosaic Covenant or the Law of Moses. So a covenant is a solemn and binding agreement, kind of like a contract, but perhaps better defined as a promise. Throughout history, God has made several covenants. Understanding the concept of covenants will be a great foundation for us in the next few weeks.
The Law. The second term I want to define is “The Law.” The term law is found all throughout Scripture and is used in various ways, but the primary use is in reference to the Mosaic Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant is essentially the Law of Moses or The Law. In a nutshell the Law is the Mosaic Covenant which lays out the commandments that God gave through Moses for His chosen people, Israel, to follow. The Law is laid out in Scripture beginning in Exodus 20 and concludes at the end of Deuteronomy.
Since we don’t have time to read all of that this morning, the best place we can go to get a snapshot of the big picture of the Law of Moses or the Old Covenant without reading Exodus through Deuteronomy is Deut 28, so let’s open our Bibles to Deut 28. As you find your place, put your finger there and then give me your eyes. I want to point out a few things. When studying Scripture we always want to consider audience relevance and historical particularity. In other words I want to draw your attention to the: who, what, when, where, and why of our text. Who is the original audience? Listen as I read to you from the first verse of Deuteronomy 1:1-4 1 These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the desert east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. 2 (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)
3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them.
Who (is the audience?)= Israel
What=the words of Moses
When=in the fortieth year on the first day of the eleventh month (thousands of years ago)
Where=in the desert east of the Jordan
Why=immediate why is found in context: to recap Israel’s recent history, repetition and expansion of the laws laid out in previous books. The ultimate why is found in the NT and we’ll cover that later
So the audience is “all Israel.” The audience doesn’t change from chapter 1 to chapter 28. In fact, it is reiterated several times
4:1 Hear now, O Israel…
5:1 Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel…
9:1 Hear, O Israel…
10:12 And now, O Israel…
27:9 Then Moses and the priests, who are Levites, said to all Israel, “Be silent, O Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God.”
The audience is ethnic Israel, the descendants of Jacob. That is crucial to understand prior to jumping into Deut 28, lest you get it twisted.
Deuteronomy 28: 1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. 4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. 5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. 6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. 7 The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. 8 The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
You could continue reading through v 14 and see simply more and more material and physical (here and now) sort of blessings that were contingent upon the obedience of the Israelites. Now let’s pick back up in v15 and see the contrast, the curses that the Israelites would receive for disobedience to the Law.
15 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: 16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. 17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. 18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. 19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. 20 The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. 21 The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22 The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. 24 The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.
25 The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. 26 Your carcasses will be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 27 The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. 28 The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. 29 At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.
You could continue reading about more and more and more terrible things that would come upon them as a result of disobedience, which seems to far outweigh the blessings for obedience.
The Law, or the Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant that God made with a particular people- ethnic Israel, the biological descendants of Jacob, son of Isaac. The Law of Moses was a covenant that God made with ethnic Israel thousands of years ago, not Americans in 2015.
The Mosaic Covenant was not made with you and me because you and I are not ethnic Jews.
Let me illustrate this. On March 16th, 2002, I made a covenant with Breann Blakely. I promised to take Breann to be my lawfully wedded wife. I promised to love and to cherish Breann in sickness and in health, in prosperity and in adversity, to nourish and cherish her, to be the spiritual leader of our home. I promised to be to her in all things a true and faithful husband, forsaking all others, keeping myself only unto her as long as we both should live.
I made that covenant with Breann. I made that solemn and binding agreement with Breann; I made those promises to Breann. Josh Miller didn’t make those promises to Breann. Josh Miller wasn’t a part of the Covenant made on March 16th 2002. Josh Miller cannot be expected to love and cherish Breann in sickness and in health; Josh Miller cannot be expected to be the spiritual leader of her or her children. Josh wasn’t a part of that covenant. I was. I’m expected to love and cherish Breann; I’m expected to be the spiritual leader of her and our children. I was a part of that covenant. Josh Miller wasn’t. Adam wasn’t. You weren’t.
In the same way, you and I weren’t a part of the Mosaic Covenant that God made with ethnic Israel. Just as Josh can’t be expected to follow the stipulations of the marriage covenant made between Breann and me, we can’t be expected to follow the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant made between God and Israel.
Even if we were a room full of ethnic Jews, we wouldn’t be part of the Mosaic Covenant. Why? First (and this is controversial), but who today could truly be considered a full blooded, Israelite? The bloodline has been for lack of a better term “watered down” over the course of time that it is not likely that such a thing exists. At one point they kept genealogical records or family trees to show who descended from whom, all the way back to Abraham, but those records were burned in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem.
Additionally even IF there was such a thing as a pure blooded Israelite today though the Law was for those particular people, it was also for a definite time. Though it was a covenant made with ethnic Israel; it had a beginning; it had an end. It began with Moses and ended with Christ.
So whether someone is an ethnic Israelite or not makes no difference, you and I are not under the Mosaic Covenant, you are not under the Law because it ended with Christ.
For example, that marriage covenant between Breann and I that I mentioned earlier also had a beginning and it has an end. I promised to do all of those things till death do us part. If Breann should die (God forbid) I would no longer be held to the covenant stipulations. At the point that she dies, the covenant ends. If she’s dead, I can’t exactly love and cherish Breann. She is no longer there to love and cherish. When she dies the covenant is over. She isn’t bound by the covenant/law and neither am I.
Rom 7:1-6 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
The Law was made with a particular people: Israel. But at the end of the age, Christ died and those who were baptized into Christ and identified with Him, those who were in Christ, died with him, participating in his death, burial, and resurrection. Thus, since they died with Christ, they are no longer bound by the Law because it only applied to them prior to Christ.
So even if you were an Israelite, you wouldn’t be under the Law as that covenant has ended. Look what Paul the apostle says in 1 Cor 9:20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. Paul, the Jew of Jews, is not under the law because he died with Christ.
Gal 2:19-2119 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Paul, the Jew of Jews, is not under the law because he died with Christ – he died to the Law so was no longer bound by the law and points out that righteousness could not be gained through the law.
Ephesians 2:11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. Jesus abolished the Law with its commandments and regulations. To abolish something means to end it. The Law was for a people and for a time. The Law began with Moses and ended with Christ.
Flip over to Colossians 2: 13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. The written code is the Law.
Col 2:14 Christ cancelled the written code. He cancelled the Law. When you download something, there is a button that says cancel. If you press that button you end the download. It ceases. It is over. It is no more. It is the same with The Law. The Law or the written code has been cancelled. It has ceased. It is over. It is no more. The Law began with Moses and ended with Christ.
SO WHAT? So shall we rip out our OT? NO! But we should take this understanding with us into our reading as we read OT Scripture (better hermeneutics)
1. If you read the Law – know that it was for them, not you THEY couldn’t:
a. Eat pork but you are not under Law
b. Work on the Sabbath but you are not under Law
c. Tattoo themselves but you are not under Law
d. Wear clothing woven of 2 different materials but you are not under Law
e. Cut the hair at the sides of their heads but you are not under Law
f. Trim their beards but you are not under Law
2. If you read history (Joshua – Esther)
a. know that they were under the MC
b. 2Chronicles 7:14
c. Needs context and v11-13 11 When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, 12 the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. 13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
d. Why no rain? (MC), Why plague? (MC), What land? (Israel) Where is the land of God’s people today? Everywhere! We can’t take this out of context & make it apply to America
While this may not sit well with some, I can assure you that this really is good news. Acts 13: 38-39 “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. We will discuss this concept in depth in the next few weeks, but let me just introduce the idea now. The law could not and would not justify anyone; it only brought condemnation. But through faith in Jesus (not observance of the Law) we have been justified and forgiven. Trust in Jesus.
Rom 8:1-3 there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. I encourage you to put your trust in Jesus, who was born of a woman, born under Law, who did for us what we could never do for ourselves. He followed the Law in Letter & Spirit. As a perfect being Jesus was qualified to be the sacrifice that the Law foreshadowed. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. If you have not done so, put your faith in Jesus! Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses.
I grew up in a very agnostic home although I’m not sure we would have called it that. If asked, we were christian, but not the every-sunday kind of christian or even the easter/christmas kind of christian. We were the your-aunt-is-singing-in-a-christmas-special-at-her-church-and-you-have-to-go kind of christians. In our home, the closest thing we had to a religious experience was our weekly mass around the TV Thursday nights for Survivor and Friday nights for Boy Meets World. To us, we seemed to fair pretty well without God.
I said we were agnostic, but really we were just ignorant. We had no knowledge of God. The closest encounter with religion my mom had was when she attended a catholic intermediate school. That was, before a priest blamed my grandmother for the death of my grandfather, and my grandmother gave up her faith entirely. My real father was mostly out of the picture and seemed to be fairly unreligious and my step-dad seemed to been burned by religious people at some point. Religion, and christianity in particular, seemed to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. I didn’t care. I didn’t know any different.
As a kid, I remember asking my mom where God came from. She told me in the purest conscience, “That’s easy. God’s mother.” As sweet and innocent as she was, she had no idea that she was committing a logical fallacy called infinite regression, where her explanation was just as much in need of an explanation. But, that was my environment. We felt fine on our own, we were satisfied with our own answers and we were generally uninterested in losing an hour on Sundays to listen to a southern pastor talk about life lessons we already knew.
After all, religion was for people who needed it. It was great to hear about how drug dealers and murderers turned their lives around after putting their faith in Christ, but we were good people. We didn’t need something like that. Plus, religious people were kind of weird and would do things we considered to be unnecessary. Like, selling all that they owned to live in some third-world country and praying for people at the most inopportune times – and in public. It all seemed very extreme.
When I entered high school, I expected it to be like American Pie (which, by that point, I had probably watched a thousand times). I was going to have what I considered to be the normal american high school experience that included kissing girls, drinking flat beer, buying a fast car, listening to loud music (preferably the kind my parents hated) and hanging out with my friends. What I didn’t realize was that I would meet Jesus at a hip-hop concert and my world would be completely changed.
Before I get to that, I need to give a little more background. I love hip-hop. I’ve always rapped. When I was in 6th grade I bought my first Tribe Called Quest tape from a Goodwill and I heard Eminem on the radio for the first time. After that, I was hooked. I wrote my own songs on top of other artists beats and secretly recorded in my closet after my parents fell asleep on weekends. I even had this horrible rap name that no one could pronounce. MCPeZZYD. But, as a freshman in high school, I didn’t shy away from sharing my crappy music with my friends and posting it on myspace.
I met Michael in my freshman IPC class. While I was into hip-hop, he was into sucky alternative rock bands and was also in a band that had a funny name. Rin Fletcher. We were friends and we bonded over a lot of things, but we always had a weird competition with each other. If I wrote a song, he wrote two. If I recorded a demo, he recorded a studio track. If I promoted my music in any form, he put on a concert. If I wore blue, he wore red. That kind of thing.
Looking back, I’m not sure why he asked me to open a concert at the park for him.
It was a windy day in late march. We had set this huge sound system up under a gazebo. I was set to perform with my friend Ryan in our hip-hop group accurately named Lyrics from the Gutter. To accommodate our ambitious name, we wore bright orange jump suits. The kind they give you in prison. On the arms and legs of these outfits, we used stencils to spray paint various words like MCPeZZYD and Squeaky Clean (which was Ryan’s alter ego). Of course, we filled the negative space with symbols of dollar signs. It was cringeworthy at least.
Mind you, this was my first time to ever perform on a stage. Like I (probably) am as I speak these words in front of you today, I was shaking, nervous, and on the edge of collapse. As I stood there, frozen, barely mouthing off lyrics to some half-memorized mumbo-jumbo, I counted every second until my set was over. When it was, I was relieved, but I was also ashamed of myself. I remember thinking I would never rap again.
I walked off that stage like a beaten dog. I felt so stupid for forgetting my lyrics and wearing this ugly orange jump suit. I tried to console myself by talking with another rapper but he blew me off pretty quickly and the 15 people in the audience wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Defeated, I sat on a park bench and sulked. But, almost immediately, a guy came up to me and said, “I heard you mentioned God in some of your lyrics.”
“Yeah,” I said. “What about it?”
“Do you know who God is?”
“How do you know that?”
“I know God probably as much as you do. I think religion is something we have to decide in our own heart.”
At this point, he pulled out a small KJV from his back pocket and turned to Jeremiah 17. He read, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
“You see that?” He said. “The bible says that your heart is deceitful and wicked. You can’t trust your heart to lead you to truth, so how do you know your heart will lead you to God?”
As straightforward as he was, he had a point. But, for me, all religions basically had the same moral implications. Do good, don’t do bad. Do more good than bad. So, it didn’t really matter to me what name you called God.
“I think God is everywhere,” I said. “It doesn’t make much of a difference to me whether someone believes what you believe.”
“Can I show you something else?” He said.
He turned to John 14 and read Jesus’ words “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“Jesus said that there is only one way, one truth, and one life. No one can come to God unless they go through him. A loving God wouldn’t just put us on this earth without a way of knowing him. Jesus makes God known.”
Have you ever had one of those awkward spiritual conversations where every inch of your body just wants to run away? Every second I stood there, I felt more uncomfortable than the last. But, at the same time, I had never seen someone my age talk with such certainty about God. It was like he knew him and had this knowledge that I’ve never heard.
“Can I show you something else?”
He turned to John 15 and read Jesus’ words again. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
Bad exegesis or not, I remember he looked at me with this very serious face. He had real concern that I was hearing him right. He told me, “Because of your sin, you will be cast into the fire and burned. Because of God’s love, he sent Jesus to rescue sinners and pay their sin-debt. If you trust in Jesus today, and believe that he died for your sins and was raised from the dead, you can have eternal life.”
I left that conversation and that concert feeling kind of strange. It was a mix of shame and guilt and curiosity all at the same time. Instead of driving home, I went to my girlfriends house but, oddly enough, she was at the church across the street. I’m not sure if she knew I was there when I sat down in the back pew. All of the lights were off and her youth group was watching the Passion of the Christ. I came in just before Christ was lifted up.
All at once, I had heard the Gospel in the park and saw it in front of me from this back pew. As someone who had lived until this point with virtually no understanding of God and no interaction with his people, this night had felt like a weight had been dropped on my back. To me, it felt intentional. Almost as if God was forcing his hand and all of these factors that had always been in my life were suddenly lining up. I drove home late that night without talking to anyone. It was a weird feeling and I remember this very real weight that seemed to be in my stomach. There was even lightening in the clouds.
On March 23, 2008 at one in the morning I sat in my bedroom and told God, “if you’re real, show me yourself. I’ll believe.” That was my only prayer. I remember having no other words I could say without crying, so I kept repeating that same line. And, although that was all I could say, I had already decided in my heart that he was real and that he was after me. Through those tears, I prayed that night that Jesus would come into my life.
If you’re searching for God, you will find him. When you come to a place in your life where you recognize that you’re a sinner and you’ve been lost much longer than you’ve thought, that’s when the Gospel becomes good news. Jesus says that he came to seek and save the lost, but on the other side of that, the lost must recognize that they are lost. I was lost. At this point in my life, I understood that there was something wrong. It wasn’t even about happiness, it was something much deeper and core to the human experience. Something that was once there, but gone, and we were all trying to find a remedy for it. My quaint life that seemed to all make sense started to fall apart around me. All of the walls my family and I had created and called normal now seemed to me to be built on a borrowed foundation and lacking of any true substance. I realized that my relationship with God was broken. Any attempt on my end to fix it had only left it more broken. There was no girl, no substance, no charity and no education that could heal me. It was only the reality of the Gospel.
But, the Gospel is this: we have each, in our own way, violated what we have known to be good. Instead of pursuing justice and righteousness, we have turned aside and succumb to sin in varying degrees. In truth, we have all lived in rebellion against the standards of God. And God, who is himself the standard for righteousness and justice, cannot be just and let our crimes go unpunished.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9
Growing Up Into Maturity
God has continually answered that prayer I made when I was 16. I asked him to show me himself, and he has abundantly. Most likely, my testimony will resemble some of yours. When I came to faith, it was my like a light switch flipped on. Good or bad, everything was in black and white, christian and nonchristian. Despite the consequences it had on my popularity and friendships, my understanding of the world immediately flipped and I began reading the Scriptures as often as I could. Mike, who remains my best friend today, ended up bringing me to his youth group where I met David Boone.
David has been the single biggest influence on my life. Although we immediately connected over a love for hip-hop, I respected David more for his commitment to the Gospel and to the people around him. He is the same man today as he was then. He has been both a father and a brother to me, and the only consistent example of a selfless leader. In high school, I followed David around as much as he would let me, and I begged him to disciple me, which he did. I reflect on those many long nights of conversation saturated in Scripture with fondness.
Of course, David has not been the only person who poured in my life. I’ve been very blessed to be surrounded by many intelligent, godly men including Dustin Curlee, Jesse Gutierrez and James Bowman.
At some point, all of us must decide what we believe for ourselves. I received amazing instruction from the godly men in my life, but when I went to college I was placed in a microcosm of the world. If college is good for anything, it’s good for this: to meet and understand people with different backgrounds. I was challenged by new intelligent and godly men to think differently about God’s election, his coming and his gifts. In many ways, I had to unlearn everything I learnt from my teachers in order to decide for myself what was true.
I think a true student of the bible should hold everything but the Gospel with a loose grip. While there was a certain level of peace that came with believing the 7 points of calvinism were absolute truth, for example, it forced me to glaze over some glaring textual issues. When I look back, I realize that I often majored on the minors and let petty issues distract me from being an effective teacher and evangelist. Through this, God has taught me to trust him even if I don’t know the answers. Moreover, I’ve learned to approach issues less dogmatically and react more slowly when I hear someone with a different opinion.
When I first became a Christian, everything was very black and white. A christian was someone who fit inside my perfect definition and everyone outside was under condemnation. Really, I was a jerk-for-jesus. But, this stems from a closed ecosystem. When you realize that other christians with entirely different traditions and backgrounds are able to bring substance to the table, your demeanor changes. You go from a corrective mentality to a ecumenical one. Instead of tearing down, you learn to build.
But, God puts us in situations that force us to trust him. After I graduated, I married my sweet wife and moved back to Georgetown. That had always been my goal. Georgetown is home to me and I’ve never wanted to be anywhere else. We were fully convinced we were supposed to plant roots, lead the youth group, and raise our family here.
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
When I was told I could either move to Dallas or lose my job I was heartbroken. Why did you do that God? I thought this is what you wanted for me? I looked for other jobs, but nothing seemed to open up. We moved to Dallas earlier this year. It was painful for us, and especially Amy.
The problem of pain is that we can either let it swell up inside or we can trust God to take care of us. God uses pain to teach us to stop trying to control our circumstances and rely on him. While we don’t know what the Lord has planned, we do know that we’ve met some amazing people and that doors have opened for our family and our ministry that wouldn’t have been there before.
The Sun is Up
That brings me to today. I wish I could tell you that I’ve helped plant churches across the world and helped save thousands of souls. I haven’t. I have a struggling music ministry and I’m trying to help New Covenant Fellowship grow from my little apartment in Dallas. In so many areas of my life, I feel inadequate and spread thin. Most days, it’s a struggle. Very rarely do I ever see any reward or fruit from the work I’ve done. As much as I want to see more disciples in Georgetown and in Dallas I come home most days thinking about what I could have done better. But, as easy as it is to see myself as a failure, when I sit down and reflect on the cross I recognize that everything has already been given to me. The kingdom of God has been handed to me. I stand as a priest of God regardless of my worldly accolades. All of the riches that are in Christ Jesus are given to his Saints.
When I don’t see Jesus as infinitely more valuable than anything I have or do in this life, I become unsatisfied. When I view my testimony as a story about myself, it feels anti-climatic. But, my story isn’t about me. It’s about a good God who chose the lowly in this world to make him famous. It’s about the Christ who condescended down to our level to become the apex of human history and die on a tree. It’s about the death and resurrection of God.
So, even if I never successfully make another disciple or I fail at evangelism entirely, God does not judge me based on my performance. He judges based on my faithfulness. And, as for my wife and I, we will serve the Lord until we are done. And, if I appear before God on my last day with zero conversions under my belt, he will still say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So often I discover Christians who have grown up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and they’re jealous of the testimony of their murderer, ex-drug-dealer brothers. Because they don’t have a moment in time they can point to and say, “This is when I made the decision to follow Jesus” they question their testimony altogether.
But, more important than knowing the exact moment the sun rose over the horizon, is knowing that the sun has risen. While some of us had the pleasure of seeing that exact instant when sunlight creeped over the earths surface, knowing the sun is up is what matters.
Really, we all have the same testimony. We were bought with the blood of the lamb. While our neighbor may have lived the life of a perfect sinner, it didn’t take Jesus any more effort to save him than it did you. We were all in sin. We were all deserving of eternal separation, and were by nature objects of wrath. But, whether you saw the sun rise or you see the sun shining, the sun is the focus. Christ is the object of our faith and our testimony is him. Knowing Christ today is more important than the commitment you made way-back-when.
God is Not on the Mountain Top
All of us want our mountain-top experience with God. We feel like, if we could only get away, we might be able to talk with God and maybe even hear back. But, God came down from the mountain. All that’s left up there are billy goats. If we want to experience God, we won’t find him by going away, or seeking some spiritual place outside of ourselves. God is no longer on the mountain; he is in valley walking with the people. He is in our homes and in our families. He is at our job next to that growing stack of to-do. He’s calling you to invite him to do it with you. He doesn’t just want a special space in your heart or a special time reserved for him. He wants all of it. He’s calling us to stop looking at the greener grass up the mountain, and commune with him where we are.
I’ve done everything that was expected of me in life. I got an education, bought a new car, got the corner office with the big salary, married a beautiful and intelligent woman. I can tell you that it’s not what we were made to do. If you believe that, you were sold a lie. Life is not the accumulation of stuff. We are not measured by our accolades. We were not created to buy a car to drive to work, and then work until we die. We were created to know and enjoy God forever.
If my testimony is useful for anything, I hope it would show that if we are not satisfied in Christ, we will not be satisfied at all. In the words of St. Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” May we discover that truth.