Friday, December 18, 2009

Covenants of Promise

Have you ever made a promise to God that you did not keep? Perhaps you wake up one day and feel overwhelmed with a desire to serve God with your whole heart. So you tell God, “I am going to follow You every moment of my life from here on out.” And then what happens? A few hours later you lose your temper and you find yourself doing the very opposite of what you had promised.

Or perhaps you are in a bind one day—you don’t have enough money to pay your bills, or your car breaks down with no hope of soon repair. So you close your eyes and say to God, “Lord, I promise You that if You just work this one thing out, I will start going to church every week,” or, “I will start paying tithe.” And then what happens? Things work out and you forget all about your little promise.

When these things happen, instead of actually binding our hearts more closely to Christ, they actually alienate our hearts from Christ. You know how it is with human friends: when you let someone down it has the tendency to build barriers between the two of you because you feel guilty around him or her for not making good on what you agreed to or promised.

And the devil wants nothing more than for us to feel like we are alienated from God. So he tells us that God wants us to make promises and commitments to Him. But this is the exact opposite of what God wants us to do.

You see, we have mistakenly believed that when God comes to us wanting to make a covenant, it means that God will do fifty percent and then we’ll do the other fifty percent. Or that He will do seventy-five percent and we’ll do twenty-five percent. “God will do His part,” we say, “If we do ours.”

But the Bible tells us something very interesting about God’s version of a covenant: His covenant is actually a one-sided promise. He wants to do one hundred percent! There are a number of places in Paul’s writings that correlate God’s covenants with His promises, but notice what he writes to the believers in Ephesus: “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13). Paul actually calls these covenants “covenants of promise,” all effective through the blood of Christ.

What wonderful news this is. God is not coming to us, hoping to make a bargain with us. He wants us to simply believe His covenant of promise to us. Yes, indeed, as Paul writes, “For all the promises of God in [Christ] are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). And as Paul writes to young Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful: He cannot deny Himself” (1 Timothy 2:13).

So why not take God at His word today?

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