A friend had a message from the Lord once. It was ‘You have given an old truck a new coat of paint.’ The Lord was saying that His Kingdom is not the old covenant with a Holy Spirit makeover. It is He Himself as our life.
If there is anything that makes the church a straw man it is living in the old covenant when He has given us the new. This is Himself as our life. Here we are lifted out of a trajectory in the knowledge of good and evil and made one with God who is incarnated in our being. This quite different to pedestrian and ‘normal’ Christianity where we live from a belief system, habit and our Christianized version of the knowledge of good and evil. The trouble is, this powerless religious life inhibits the new creation and makes dwarfs of any believer who inhabits it. The new covenant is Christ your life in your being by the Spirit.
The new covenant life is the only genuine holistic life there is. The whole person approach is fully met in Jesus. We have a complete and unified life in Jesus because He Himself becomes our life - individually and as the church Jesus builds. This is the essence and the effect of the new covenant - oneness with God, wholeness in ourselves and community with each other.
This is a life in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts, or as we might learn from Dr Who a life that is larger on the inside than on the outside. There is none of this wholeness in the old covenant law. The law and a law culture of try-harder performance is always less on the inside than its externality. Today the order and dynamic of our life is not in the Torah but in the law of the Spirit of Life - the person of Jesus manifesting Himself in and among us by the Spirit. In Galatians Paul tells us what counts as life to the full. Law and legalism does not count because it is the old creation. The new creation counts and enlarges itself because it is the reality of the resurrected Jesus in us.
‘Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation’ Gal 6.15 NIV.
Stephen Crosby makes these points. The Torah embodies 365 negative and 348 positive laws. So if we are an insistent Sabbath-keeper we should be doing all these as well. We are either in the law or in Christ. Paul indicated that we cannot pick and choose here. If we are going to live by a piece of the law then we have consigned ourselves to keeping all the pieces and all the law - every jot and tittle (Gal 5.3). But did not Jesus declare that all the tittles and jots would evaporate in favour of the completeness that is Him? He did. This is the gospel of the kingdom in spirit and in truth and the regenerative power of the new creation. The implication of joining ourselves to even one law, is to connect ourselves to all law and by so doing disconnect ourselves from Christ.
‘For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished’ Matt 5.18 NIV.
A colleague once advised rubbing the anointing of the Holy Spirit into the old wine skin to transform it. This was well-intentioned but sadly ill-advised ploy. The new wineskin is the new covenant. This is not an adaptation of the old. It is a replacement of it with the new and living way of Jesus Himself. We will never resurrect a church, a denomination or a culture by turbo-charging it with Holy Spirit and His gifts if it is rooted in the law. The dynamic of new creation life is not Holy Spirit and the gifts. It is union with Father.
Holy Spirit does not belong to the old covenant and the life of the Spirit of Christ will not take root in woodenness and death. We cannot transform and empower an old covenant community into Kingdom power and authority by adding the Holy Spirit. This cannot work in principle or in practice because law is anti-spirit and anti-life.
The new covenant is not a renewed old covenant or an adaptation of it. It is entirely new, a new beginning and a new and living way that is the person of Christ in and among us from first to last.
1 In Hebrews the language used of the old covenant is one of decay, expiry and coming to a stop. 2 The apostles did not use the new covenant in terms of metamorphosis into something similar but different. The expected and described a new and living way. 3 Jeremiah's ‘laws on hearts’ does not mean the legalities given to Moses. It is a prophetic reference to Christ our life come in the flesh. 4 All the Greek words for ‘renew’ are never used with reference to the old covenant in the new testament. They apply exclusively to the new and living way. 5 The author of Hebrews does not define the new covenant as a redeemed old covenant. He calls it a better way. 6 The fact that old covenant righteousness re-appears in the new covenant does not mean that this is an appendix to the old. It is the sign of the one God. The new covenant is not a renewed old one. It is disjunctive and distinct. It is the person of Jesus in you and multiplied in us all as the church.
‘Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ 1 John 5.12 NIV.
If we are in the law or connected to the law by some icon we deem important we do not have the Son. We do not have Him no matter how much Holy Spirit and Christ talk we engage in. Ensure that we are harbingers of life and channels of living water rather than leaking buckets.