Tag Archives: New Covenant

Christ the King

Track 1: The Lord Is Our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-71
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Today we celebrate “Christ the King” Sunday. Jesus is King of King, and Lord of Lords. But his earthly ministry had very humble beginnings. That was necessary. The Hebrew people were not ready for his message.

John the Baptist needed to be the forerunner of Christ, to prepare them to hear the message of the Gospel, and the coming New Covenant. Zechariah prophesied over the infant John:

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.   (Luke 1: 76-79)

John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Although we are reading about him in the New Testament, the New Covenant had not been established at this point. (That would take the cross).

Jeremiah prophesied that this New Covenant was coming:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”   (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

What was new about this covenant? God would do what humankind was unable to do, fulfill the righteous requirements of the old one. Jesus, the King of Kings, was also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of this world. Again, Zechariah prophesied

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,

that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.   (Luke 1: 68-75)

Do we worship Jesus as King? He is not our King; he is not our Lord, he is not our Savior, unless we honor him as the Lamb. The Apostle wrote:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1:11-14)

Has Jesus rescued us from the powers of darkness. He has if we have acknowledged our sin and laid it before the cross. We have no righteousness, except by faith in the saving act of Jesus. As prophesied through Jeremiah: The LORD is our righteousness.

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 25

Track 1: Freedom from Condemnation

Joel 2:23-32
Psalm 65
2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Last Sunday we talked about the New Covenant, where God would write his laws on our hearts, Today, let us explore how God doer the writing that he promised.

Through the Prophet Joel, God spoke to Israel:

You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.

And my people shall never again
be put to shame.

Then afterward
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.   (Joel 2:27-28)

On the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled. The Apostle Peter preached by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, the Church of Christ was born, and the New Covenant was now in effect.

The key to the new covenant was the pouring out of God’s Spirit. Jesus for told that this would happen. In speaking to his disciples, he said:

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.   (John 16:4-11)

The New Covenant has to do with sin, righteousness, and judgment. Only the Spirit of God can establish the effectiveness of this covenant. God is a loving God, but he is a just God. He must punish sin. This he has done on the cross where his Son bled and dies. Jesus bore all our sin, and God the Father accepted his sacrifice for sin. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. On the cross a righteousness was established, a righteousness based on faith in Jesus and not on any of our good works. Our good works were not good enough. Lastly, and perhaps the most misunderstood part of the New Covenant is condemnation and judgment. The Apostle Paul wrote:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son but gave him up for all of us, how will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ who died, or rather, who was raised, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?.   (Romans 8:31-35)

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. The condemnation belongs to Satan alone, and his minions.

The Apostle Paul goes on:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (Romans 8:38-39)

We have not been condemned. The ruler of this world has been condemned, that Satan. He has been condemned for ever over what he has attempted to do. Satan is said to be the accuser of the “brethren.” He condemns us with his own condemnation. He trick is to say exactly the opposite of what is true and then convince us that what he says is true. Let us not fall for it.

When Satan thought he was victorious, he was defeated. When he was defeated, the power of sin was defeated.

What happens when we attempt to stop sin on our own? We run into a wall. The psalmist wrote:

Our sins are stronger than we are,
but you will blot them out.

Happy are they whom you choose
and draw to your courts to dwell there!
they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,
by the holiness of your temple.

Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
O Hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the seas that are far away.   (Psalm 65:3-5)

Our sins are stronger than we are? Have we experienced the great difficulty of ridding ourselves of sin? The Apostle Paul did:

For I know that the good does not dwell within me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do the good lies close at hand, but not the ability. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.   (Romans 7:18-19)

We cannot win any victory over sin on our own. We must put our trust and hope in the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we do not accept his victory we are left still dealing with sin. This awareness of sin without the redemption of the cross caused twisted thinking to take place.

In today’s Gospel we are given a clear picture of this thinking:

Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”   (Luke 18:9-14)

The humble tax collector knew that he had no right to justify himself before God. Even though the second covenant had not yet been established, he was well on his way to understanding that he needed the mercy of God.

Where do we stand today? Are we free from condemnation or are we joining Satan in condemning others? The Apostle Paul wrestled with sin, but he came to this final conclusion:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (1 Corinthians 15:57)

 

Track 2: God’s  Strength Working in Us

Sirach 35:12-17
or Jeremiah 14:7-10,19-22
Psalm 84:1-6
2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18
Luke 18:9-14

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Reading from Luke:

Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income,”   (Luke 18:9-12)

The Pharisee was comparing his walk with God with that of someone else. Why would be doing that? Perhaps he realized that his walk with God was less than it should be. from A Pharisee claimed perfection. A Pharisee wanted perfection. Realizing that he has not justified before God, he wanted to console himself by believing that he was, at least, ahead of someone else.

Sin was weighing on the Pharisee. Do we ever feel the weight of sin? The Apostle Paul did. In Romans we read:

I know that the good does not dwell within me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do the good lies close at hand, but not the ability. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.   (Romans 7:18-19)

The difficulty with sin is that we cannot do anything about. The Pharisee was relying on justification by his good works. But this left him feeling empty. His good works were not enough.

On the other hand, the tax collector in the parable had simply given up on defeating sin:

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”   (Luke 18:13-14)

The tax collector realized that he was not justified before God. But note, that in the parable Jesus says that the tax collector “went home justified.” How could that be? It has to do with the power and good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is our justification before God through his death on the cross.

Giving up on justifying ourselves is the best thing we can do. Self-justification does not work. The tax collector was well on his way of understanding the good news of the Gospel. He threw himself on the mercy of God. This is what God needs to hear from us. Do we ask for his mercy? Dd we humble ourselves before God. Do we acknowledge our sin?

We need to give up trying to defeat sin. But there is a deeper step. We need God’s power to defeat sin. The psalmist wrote:

Happy are the people whose strength is in you!
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.   (Psalm  84:4)

As Christian disciples, we are on a pilgrimage. God wants to eliminate the power of sin in our lives, the very thing that ww cannot do. He is able to do that when we put our full trust in him for justification. We need to continually do that. As we do, God pours into our hearts the power to defeat sin.

The good news is that we can have victory over sin. But the victory is only when we identify with Christ’s victory. The Apostle Paul, who wrestled with sin and lost, came to the realization that Jesus has won the victory for us. Writing to the Church in Corinth, Paul joyfully exclaimed:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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Fourth Sunday in Lent

I Have Removed Your Disgrace

Let us begin by looking at a very significant event in the life of Israel. Reading from Joshua:

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.   (Joshua 5:9)

The children of Israel had just crossed over the river Jordan into the promised land. The place they walked onto was called Gidgal. Gilgal was more than the name of a place. The meaning of the word in Hebrew is circle. When the priests carried that Ark of the Covenant across the Jordan the river parted so that they walked on dry ground. Twelve of the stones which the priests stepped on in the middle of the river were gathered up and placed in a circle at the landing site. Here they celebrated what God had done for them and renewed their covenant with God.

There were other Gilgal’s for Israel. Reading from 1 Samuel:

Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.   (1 Samuel 11:14-15)

Gilgal was a place and time of celebration of God restoring Israel and providing for their future.

In today’s Gospel reading we have another Gilgal moment, so to speak.

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘ So he set off and went to his father.   (Luke 15:11-19)

This son had disgraced himself, and he was no longer able to continue living without the help of his father. Fortunately, his father was more than eager to forgive him and restore him:

But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.   (Luke 15:20-24)

The father removed the disgrace of his prodigal son just as God had removed the disgrace of Egypt from Israel. Not only that, but he celebrated a new beginning for his son. Gilgal is a celebration of both forgiveness and renewal.

The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
and whose sin is put away!

Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
and in whose spirit there is no guile!

While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,
because of my groaning all day long.

For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.

I said,” I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.   (Psalm 32:1-6)

Gilgal is not jsut celebrating what God has done, but moving on to what God still wants to do. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!.   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Are we in need of a Gilgal today? Every thing becoming new does not stop for us. God is still working in us. Paul wrote:

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own;[c] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:13-14)

Apparently, the oldest son in the parable was in need of a Gilgal moment. He complained to his father about celebrating the return of the youngest son when he had never been given a celebration for doing the right thing.

For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:29-32)

The eldest son was keeping score on how he was doing compared to his brother. Love does not keep score.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.   (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV)

We cannot grow when we are holding on to the past. We all have some disgrace and must be willing for God to remove it.

We cannot remove it ourselves. God has removed it for us through the blood of the Lamb. He is like the father in the parable. He wants to kill the fatted calf. He wants to celebrate our new birth in Christ Jesus. We simply need to repent of our sins and go home to God. He has removed our disgrace.

Are we dead or are we alive? If we are alive in Christ then we are growing in him. Each day can be a new celebration for us. As we continue our covenant in Christ he is  removing our old self and making all things new. Amen.

See Gatekeepers and Healing the Soul.

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