There’s a classic scene in The Simpsons where 8-year-old Lisa is offered a large check. Monty Burns has made a $120 million from an idea that Lisa gave him and he wishes to give her a ten percent share. But the money represents ill-gotten gains from harvesting the sea, so Lisa says no.
Lisa later apologizes to her dad for not taking the money. Homer replies, “I understand. But we really could’ve used that $12,000.”
When Lisa explains that ten percent of $120 million is a great deal more than $12,000, Homer has a heart attack.
Homer’s bad maths makes me think of Christians who don’t appreciate all that Jesus has done for us. Because they don’t know what makes the new covenant new, they assign a low value to grace. It’s only worth $12,000. It’s a nice gift, but hardly enough to live on. Then when you tell them that God’s gift is worth far more than that, they get a great shock.
Do you know what makes the new covenant new? Are you getting all that Jesus paid for?
Elsewhere I have listed the top 12 blessings of the new covenant. The first of these is the complete and total forgiveness of all your sin – past, present and future. Other blessings include the free gift of Christ’s righteousness, holiness, indeed, his very life. All these blessings testify to God’s grace, which is one of six ways the new covenant can be distinguished from the old.
1. It’s a covenant of grace
In the old law-based covenant you reaped what you sow, but in the new we reap what Christ has sown. In the old you did to get, but in the new we get because Christ has done it all. This is grace and grace declares that all is a gift. Every spiritual blessing is ours in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3).
2. It’s a covenant of rest
Under the old it was do, do, do, but in the new it’s done, done, done. Faith is a rest, not a work. Only when we rest in the finished work of Calvary can God begin his good work in us. And as his grace abounds, good works abound (2 Cor 9:8). Good works don’t produce faith, but faith produces good works.
The old covenant was characterized by ceaseless effort in the pursuit of holy demands that could never be met, but the new covenant is rest and peace in the Holy Spirit. Labor to enter his rest.
3. It’s a covenant of new life
Old covenant preaching will make you stupid and harden your heart to the goodness of God (2 Cor 3:14). But new covenant preaching removes the veil and reveals the Lord’s glory. As you behold him you become like him, transformed by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:18).
Under the old the best you could hope for was self-improvement that never lasts. But in the new you become new (2 Cor 5:17) – a brand new person with a new heart and a new spirit. Born of the Spirit you are no more a prisoner of sin, but a co-heir with Christ.
4. It’s a covenant of union
In the old covenant God lived in a temple you could never enter, but in the new you are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16). You are one with the Lord and as he is – holy, righteous, perfect forever – so are you in this world (1 John 4:17).
You don’t need more faith, more anointing, or more of God. That’s old covenant thinking. You are complete in Christ (Col 2:10). In the new growth happens as we acknowledge every good thing that is already ours in Christ (Phm 1:6).
5. It’s a covenant you can never break
The old covenant was underwritten by your frail promises to God, but the new rests on the “better promises” of God himself (Heb 8:6). In the old you loved God and forgave others because it was commanded of you, but in the new you love and forgive because he first loved and forgave you.
The old covenant was between God and Israel, but the new covenant is between God the Father and God the Son. God holds up both ends of this arrangement, swears by himself, and gives us his Spirit as a guarantee of what is to come (2 Cor 1:22).
Under the old covenant, you were blessed if you obeyed, but under the new you are blessed because Christ obeyed. Your salvation is eternally secure because it is Jesus who saves and keeps you.
6. It’s a covenant that reveals your Father’s heart
God gave grace to the first man Adam and called him a son (Luke 3:38), but Adam ran and hid. God gave grace to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the children of Israel said, “No thanks. We’d rather go our own way.”
At Mt Sinai the children of Israel swapped a covenant based on God’s faithfulness for one based on their own. “We will do whatever you command” (see Ex 19:8). It was the forbidden tree all over again and it broke our Father’s heart.
An old covenant emphasis on rules will cause you to view God as a bookkeeper recording all your sins and a judge condemning your failures. But Jesus says, “God is not like that! He’s your heavenly Father who loves you and holds nothing against you. He yearns for his prodigals to come home.”
A simple test
Many Christians don’t know what makes the new covenant new and as a result they are working to get what they already have. Like Homer, they’re a heart attack waiting to happen.
How can you tell if you are walking in the new covenant? Ask yourself, am I God’s son, servant, or friend? Is God my judge, employer, or Father? If you don’t see God as your loving Father and yourself as his dearly-beloved child, you have not fully apprehended all that Christ accomplished on your behalf.
In his 1973 book Knowing God, J.I. Packer wrote:
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.
For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God.
Before Jesus, almost no one called God Father. After Jesus, every New Testament writer did. Jesus came to reveal your Father, and this is what makes the new covenant new.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father!