One thing that fundamentally changed my Christian life was getting a better understanding of the New Covenant (Agreement). And a particularly surprising thing I discovered about the New Covenant is its massive separation from the Old Covenant.
Imagine if we were transported back in time to live with Moses or Elijah or John the Baptist for a month. And then, we came back to our present lives here. Would we be grateful for the much greater spiritual life that we get to enjoy (Matthew 11:11)? Not because we are better than them (not at all!), but because of the God we have access to (as our Father), and the life we get to enjoy IN Christ which they didn’t?
This is such an amazing thought to consider, and to see whether we are falling short in our ENJOYMENT of the life we ought to have.
Yet I find that there is an equally massive opposition to the message of the New Covenant. There is literally zero opposition to exchanging a life of No Covenant with the life of the New Covenant. But when told to throw away an Old Covenant life for the New Covenant life, I have found tremendous opposition – and especially from Bible-believing Christians. This perplexed me until I discovered that Jesus told me it would be this way (Luke 5:39). Only those who are violently opposed to the Old Covenant will have any chance of entering into the New Covenant life (Matthew 11:12).
Some people are scared to reject the Old Covenant because it is documented in the Bible. And since the Bible is revered as God’s inspired word, many people are hesitant to reject the Old Covenant, despite the Bible itself clearly telling us to do so (Hebrews 8:13). But sadly, what hurts Christendom most is that many Christian leaders are blinded to the Old Covenant, or love the Old Covenant as it supports their love of money, power, and glory.
So I urge you to get to know this New Covenant. And I saw some things afresh in 2 Corinthians 3 that stood out to me as differences between the Old and New Covenants. But that said, there is no article, sermon series, or even passage in the Bible that fully describes the New Covenant in full. The fullness of the New Covenant is in God! God as our loving Father, God manifested in the Son Jesus Christ and His life, death, resurrection and present glory, and God the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
1. A ministry of Condemnation and Death OR A Ministry of Righteousness (v9, v17)
No human being is righteous (Romans 3:9-18). One could never get rid of the dark cloud of condemnation and death. And there was no place for anyone in the Old Covenant to live in God’s presence. Even the greatest Old Covenant saints did not have an enduring peace, and they lived in fear of death (Acts 2:24). They were outside God’s presence, longing to come in but not able to.
But in the New Covenant, we are offered the complete righteousness of Jesus. When we come clothed in Christ ALONE as our righteousness (Romans 3:21-25), we are rushed straight into God’s presence, and seated on the Heavenly Father’s lap. And we have the exact same access as Jesus did. This is a magnificent privilege of the New Covenant alone.
But even after years and decades of following Jesus, I must be ruthless to discard ALL my righteousness (Philippians 3:7-9). I must eliminate all boasting (Romans 3:27). This gets harder for people who have been Christians for a while. This is exactly how prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before many religious people (Matthew 21:31).
2. A glory that is fading OR increasing
The glory of the Old Covenant (symbolized by the shining face of Moses, v7) faded over time. However, the glory of the New Covenant increases from one level of glory to another (v18).
The Old Covenant was fundamentally limited, because God was only involved from the outside (rules from God to man). So like everything on this earth, its glory corrupted over time. In the New Covenant however, it is God dwelling in us. As we enjoy this direct relationship with God, we are renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). We are renewed as we behold (take in) the glorious life of Jesus, and as we choose to follow Him in His “always" mentality to die to our own will (2 Corinthians 4:10; John 6:38).
3. Written on tablets of stone OR on my heart
I have to ask myself if the gospel is primarily a message or a messenger. The Old Covenant was characterized by “Thus says the Lord!” The New Covenant is characterized by “Follow Me!” Moses brought a message DOWN to the people from God. Jesus brought a true way of life that leads people UP to God the Father (John14:6).
If the message hasn’t changed my life, and if the message isn’t changing my life from one level of glory to the next, then I am still living an Old Covenant life.
The symbol of the Old Covenant was the Ten Commandments. What then is the symbol I carry of the New Covenant? A crucifix around my neck? Not at all! Rather, my crucified life with Christ (v3).
4. Obedience to commandments OR Beholding Jesus
How does our transformation from one level of glory to another occur? In other words, how do we get our hearts to be transformed?
Obedience to the commands sounds like the right answer. After all, Jesus does tell us that we evidence our love for God by our obedience to His commands (John 15:13). But for the true Christian, obedience is a reaction, not the first action. All our love is only because He first loves us (1 John 4:19). Any love that is not a response to God’s love for us, is an earthly love that is corrupted and ultimately evil.
That is why I must not evaluate the glory of the Christian life by my obedience to the commands or my victory over sin. They are an indicator for sure. But it is possible to have victory over sin and still only have the fading glory of the Old Covenant. Even a person like Daniel in the Old Covenant who was faithfully obedient for 70 years had the fading glory of the Old Covenant!
We are not more faithful than Daniel – not at all! But we have access to something that Daniel never had. We have the opportunity to behold the glory of the life and love of Jesus – and as clearly as I see myself in a mirror. As we keep our eyes fixed on the glorious life of Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-4), we put ourselves in the position to have our hearts transformed by God, rather than just a behavior that is changed.
The best picture I have to illustrate this is the story of water being turned into wine. The servants faithfully obeyed the command of Jesus to fill the water pots with water. And they had to fill 150 gallons of water (John 2:6), so this was clearly laborious hard work. Yet, at the end of their faithful and perfect obedience to Jesus’s command, what was in the water-pots was still water, which was unfit for the wedding feast. They still needed Jesus turn the water into wine. Only then was the glory of Jesus seen (John 2:11).
1 John 5:3 tells me that the love of God is not that I merely obey the commandments, but that I obey the commandments AND find that they are not burdensome. This is the difference between my love for God and God’s love poured into me. If I seek to love God by myself, the best I can get is religious obedience to His commands (I can get better at not lusting, not getting angry, forgiving others, etc.). But it will still be a burden that I will do begrudgingly or with some selfish motive.
5. A hardened heart and mind OR liberty of spirit (v14-16)
We read that Moses was afraid to remove the veil that covered his shining face, because he didn’t want people to “look intently” at “what was fading away” (v13). Moses had an exalted status with the people because his face literally shone from being with God. And he was afraid that the people would think less of him once his face stopped shining.
This is the veil that remains over all Old Covenant ministries: A heart and mind that is hardened by the love of man’s opinions. There are many people who may preach New Covenant truths, but who still have this veil over their hearts. I will enjoy the promises of the New Covenant only when I am determined to fear God alone. The giant of seeking the approval of man has a big family with many relatives! And it takes an all-out and sustained assault on this giant and all of his offspring, for the rest of our lives.
How will we win this battle? Praise be to God, because the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus) can bring me liberty. He brings a spirit that frees me from fearing all created beings, by reminding me that God is now my Father (Romans 8:15) and teaching me to fear Him alone (1 Peter 1:17; Isaiah 8:13).
This veil of “fear of man” that can harden and blind us, is removed IN Christ. Our hearts and minds are freed from pleasing people as we seek to be completely immersed IN doing God’s will and not our own. Jesus IS the softening agent that we need, because we naturally tend to be hardened by the immense deceitfulness of pleasing others (Hebrews 3:13; Galatians 1:10). An intellectual belief will not do it, and neither will faithfully preaching all the New Covenant truths. Immersion IN Christ alone will do it. He alone, and not even the New Covenant doctrine, is the softening agent for our hard hearts.
So may we make beholding His glory a lifestyle, and never be led astray from our pursuit of Him (2 Corinthians 11:3).