One burden which has stayed on my heart from what we’ve heard in the messages regarding the new covenant these past few weeks was from Matthew 11:11 – that it is absolutely critical to be living under the new covenant if I want to live at a higher level in the Christian life.
A HIGHER LEVEL
God's exhortation to us is "Come up hither" (Rev 4:1 KJV). He wants us to come up to a higher level. Why is that? It's because that's where He is! He is at the top of the mountain, and the higher we get up the mountain, the closer we are to the Lord. Every child of God is totally loved by Him, but not all are living at an equal level – some live like they are spiritually homeless still at the bottom of the mountain, while some few have pressed on and are living in spiritual riches, living in wonderful close fellowship with their Father and Savior.. experiencing 'Days like Heaven on earth.'
Matthew 11:11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
John the Baptist lived at a very high level, the highest level possible (in the old covenant), but the level that someone in the kingdom of heaven lives (someone living under the new covenant, with all that God has provided to us after Jesus came) is higher than even John the Baptist!
I’m seeing clearer just how critical the new covenant is for us to have a deeper, victorious life with God. And it's not just the doctrine of the new covenant itself that is critical (we may learn the doctrines and still not be living the life), it's living life in the reality of the new covenant that is critical. No saint in the old covenant could attain to this level - not even John the Baptist.
My first thought in the past would have been, “Well look at how great John was, I would love to get to that level, what a godly saint he was!” But when I read something that the Bible says about him, it becomes so clear to see just how limited his level was:
JOHN THE BAPTIST
Matthew 11:2-3 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him [Jesus], “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
While John was in prison - he started doubting that Jesus was the Savior (after having already been revealed that by God - John 1:29-34). What does this mean for us that such a godly man had doubts in the Lord when he got sent to prison? Does it mean that we will also definitely fall into doubt in God if we get cast into prison? This is what happened to the greatest man in the old covenant. If I get thrown into prison I may also doubt my faith in God if I am living under the old covenant. I may have great faith one moment like David when he’s slaying giants, but then I may also fall into adultery and murder like David at another moment! I may have the patience of Job, but then I’ll also be subject to low periods of discouragement like him. May we all ascend to a life higher than the old covenant saints!
As great as the old covenant saints are, we can’t be content to live only at their level when God has opened up for us such a better life with Him in Christ than this. We have to enter into this new covenant that God established for us, where we know God as our Father personally, where we are looking to Jesus, carrying our cross in hope, and where we are filled with the Spirit and fighting our inward sins and getting victory by the power of His Spirit consistently, unlike how the old saints could fall quickly, experiencing great ups and downs. We have to see the line which the devil is trying to keep us shoved under – that line which keeps us from ascending higher than John, which keeps us from rising higher to meet the Lord, and we have to by God's grace rise above that line. What a pity that so many millions who love the Lord are still living under that line! The angels in Heaven must be shocked at how much we have available to us, but how little we gain of it.
And the devil is happy to keep multitudes of believers from ascending higher by blinding them to the truth of what God has enabled for us and given us in the new covenant, and also keeping many from ascending higher by convincing them that it’s not necessary or useful to ascend higher!
It is absolutely critical that we enter into new covenant life. But we will not, if we do not know God as our Father, and aren't filled with the Holy Spirit. We will live a mediocre Christian life, and perhaps we will still avoid Hell, but that’s not the main issue. Paul did not say “I consider everything rubbish so that I may avoid Hell”, he said “I consider everything rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Php 3:8) We may avoid Hell, but can still have massive eternal loss which we will regret forever (1 Cor 3:15).
THE FLESH RESISTANCE
There's a major thought today that it's all too much, to aim for this level of inner life. "Let's focus on other things, it turns life with God into a chore to think about our sin too much, and striving too much, pressing into the Lord this hard." It's akin to saying, "Don't take your life with God TOO seriously, or you will ruin it." But I've seen that this is a temptation of my flesh - the flesh says, "That's too extreme, that's too radical. That level is not necessary." We may even be tempted to look down on others as "too serious" who are living at a higher standard and level than we are - what a deception that is. The greatest and clearest argument against that are the constant exhortations in Scripture itself to live with our all for the Lord. Here are just a few:
1 Cor 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
2 Timothy 2:4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
Deut 4:29 "But from there you will seek'" the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
Matthew 22:36-38 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment.
If we really love the Lord, we will want to live at the highest level we can. If we're not aiming for that high level we have to be honest, maybe we don't love Him like we thought. On the last day when every person in history stands before God, I can't imagine Him ever saying to anyone, "You tried too hard to please me. You were too radical. You took me too seriously. You took my commands too seriously, and all those verses too seriously. You ran too hard."
I don't know how many years I have left to live, but I want to "consider them loss/rubbish" (Php 3:8) for the sake of knowing the Lord, living for Him, and giving my life fully to Him. If a rich man got sick with cancer and had a big hospital bill he had to pay, he could happily 'consider the hospital bill loss' because there's something much more important and valuable he paid for. He’d be happy to pay $1 billion to cure his cancer – it would be a bargain to him because of what he gained in return, which was his life back. I want to view my years here on earth like that, being totally happy to give them up in order to gain Christ.
We'll have trillions of years to live eternally with God without trials, without struggle with sin, enjoying the fullness of God and His great rewards in Heaven (the greatest being God Himself)… but we only have a few precious years here to gain them. May I never let them waste forever away, ending in eternal regret.
Millions are content to live a low level Christian life, similar to the level of old covenant saints. But the new covenant is now opened to us and we can fly much higher. It comes at a cost to our self-life, but it is absolutely worth it. "Great wings add weight to a bird, but they also add flight." The new covenant life of full discipleship and surrender to God looks heavy at first, but the level of our flight can be so much higher if we take the step into the new covenant with all our heart. May the Lord preserve a burden to live that higher level for the Lord, because He is also up there - the higher we are, the closer to Him we are!!
Ephesians 5:15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 5:16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.