We are a people obsessed with diets. There is an ever-chasing drive for lite versions of every type of this or that. We hope that the after-affect of consuming lite things will keep us slim and trim, healthier and happier. We tend to think that we can have all the pleasures but with half the guilt. Lite.
Sadly, this same mentality exists in the realm of Christianity today. Churches have shed off a multitude of portions of the sustaining, healthy, solid Biblical food over the centuries. Christianity lite has become the primary source of their religion today. It now contains half the calories of truth, half of the meat of the Gospel, barely any portions of accountability, and almost no salt content to the world. The good rib-sticking meat has been replaced with sweetenings of sugar and fluff. Empty calories that produce empty lives. And when the truth of the Bible is actually being proclaimed, the world denounces it as unnecessary excess because the world only wants to accept the diet version of Christianity. The “no guilt” version!
A watered-down Gospel will certainly never quench a hungry soul. Without the whole portion being consumed, you always walk away unfulfilled, like tasting off of a sampler platter…small morsels that don’t give you the sustenance needed daily to survive. Many know the feeling of hunger pains when being on a diet. Your body reacts in rebellion to having less than what it wants. There’s no doubt that denying our bodies harmful or unhealthy things is good for getting to a healthier condition. And, likewise, we do need to take in the good things for our growth, healing, and general overall health. We still need proper nourishment! So, consuming good things and avoiding bad things…it’s all very simple!
So why does the modern Christian cut out so much of the Biblical truth? Why do we deny ourselves the good truths that our soul needs? Because man has a problem with being held accountable. Because conviction of sin, which are the violations we commit against God’s law, is a guilt that he doesn’t want to face. Because mankind has a problem with keeping his end of a covenant and thinks that he can hide from the repercussions. You see, God has made covenants with man and man keeps breaking them. God says “I will (fill in the blank), and you will (fill in the blank).” Man eagerly agrees because he sees the good that he will get, but after getting his “wants” filled, he will usually (within a short period of time) end up failing his end of the covenant with God. So God’s Word continually stands as a reminder of man’s guilt and man doesn’t want to hear it!
I’ve had times over the years when I’ve broken a rule or agreement and had felt the guilt wash over me because of my failings. My mind panics as I run scenarios of how I can either cover up the offense or perhaps find a way out or, just avoid it all together. I want to avoid facing the backlash and suffering the penalties of the breech. But we all know that at some point we have to face the consequences of our infractions. Just like in the television cop shows, we all need to just “‘fess up” to our crime and face the music! God wants us to do the same.
A covenant is simply an agreement between two or more parties. Unlike a contract agreement though, covenants are usually established for the benefit of the “other party”, whereas contracts are ultimately set up for a personal gain. In many cases the covenant is upheld under a set jurisprudence. In the Bible, God establishes His covenants to help further His plans and benefit those who He enters into covenant with. There are a number of covenants referenced with God. Covenants were made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, the priests of the Temple, King David and his lineage (which flows to the Messiah and essentially led into the New Covenant instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper). The most important element with all of these covenants has been that God has fulfilled his promises completely!
Marriages are often entered into as a form of agreement between two people. The difference between a contract marriage and a covenant marriage can have very diverse results between success and failure. Unfortunately in today’s society, marriage is usually entered into solely as contractual. If party A doesn’t fulfill party B’s criteria, then party B can negate the agreement for breach of contract, thus leading to divorce. Sadly, it may have started with a covenant intent to “love you forever”, but when needs and expectations are not being met, it seems to revert to contract only. Marriages entered into a contractual union are almost always motivated by the desire to get something in return. When a marriage is entered into as a covenant union, both parties are driven by a deep desire to benefit the other person they are marrying. The marriage vows are often characterized by unconditional promises that have love as their foundation.
When governments have their fingers into the marriage institution, it can sometimes create an atmosphere of contractual thinking. But when a marriage union is entered into before God and His Word…you have a covenant union that grows and holds together, as intended by God, and “till death do us part” is seen through to the end.
If covenants are driven to benefit the other, why do we fail on our part to fulfill our commitment to God in His covenants with us? Since we have obligations to God, why does the majority of self-proclaimed “believers” regard Him with a discontented faith or feigned worship? The truth is because man has a sin nature and is naturally driven by selfishness. He often views the covenant as a contract-type of agreement that demands God to give unconditionally and if we don’t get what we think we want, we can just walk away. We tend to look at God and think “what do I get out of this” without a thought of “what can I give to God”? We treat the promises of God as nothing more than a one-sided “get out of hell” pass, yet think we can just continue to live life our own way and by our own standards. Despite our irreverence though, God is still faithful with His benefits upon us. ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ Matthew 5:45. As our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, it is by God that we are even given the opportunity to lift our holy praises to Him in the first place! He has provided the very conditions we need in order to glorify Him! And yet we don’t.
Through Noah, he gave His creation a new start after the fall to praise Him. Through the covenant with Abraham he unfurled His plan of a great nation that would mediate the blessings of the true God to all people on the earth. Through Moses, God showed us His high and holy requirements by revealing the very law that would show us how we have all fallen short of His glory, yet would also point us to our need for a Savior. Through David, God shows us the promise of a royal lineage that would come from his offspring; fulfilling His plans that were revealed by the prophetic messages to all the people, and give us the Messiah!
Which leads us to the New Covenant. In Matthew chapter 26, we read of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, one of the blessed sacraments commanded by our Lord Jesus. In representation of what was to come, Jesus broke bread and said that this is His body broken for us. He next took a cup and gave it to them, saying, “drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the (new) covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The new covenant is the bridging between man and God by the death and resurrection of our Savior. God gave us the final answer to what man needed to restore a right relationship to Himself; His Son Jesus, as the perfect sacrifice offered for the sins of the world! All we have to do is receive the free gift, believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, and follow Him! God gave fully through the covenant for the benefit of man! Yet man has requirements to complete as well.
But as we look around the world, we can easily see that we are far short from following God through Jesus Christ. Romans 8:7-8 explains our problem: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. We are surrounded on all sides by the works of the flesh. Even our very nature is always working against us when we try to walk in the Holiness that God demands. As mentioned before, part of our sin nature is pride, a selfishness that we all have within us. It took root in the Garden of Eden and has since spread throughout mankind to our very generation. Not only do we have this innate problem that goes against the very character and commandments of God, but people actually celebrate and strive for more ways to flaunt it today.
Humanity’s arrogance in light of the knowledge of God (see Romans chapter 1) speaks volumes. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Verses 21-23) Clearly this is shown throughout the world. Even within the very walls of religious institutions claiming to worship the God of the Bible, we see irreverence and indignation toward following His Word. But why?
We see throughout the Bible that people who were chosen by God had a habit of turning a deaf ear. After all the miracles and signs given, after all the saving grace that is poured out, after all the mercy God has clearly shown, the people still did not follow and worship God. God exclaimed in Psalm 81:11, ”But my people did not listen to my voice”. Why? Because they “would not submit to me”. We resist God and His decrees and follow after our own selfish desires. Christ said in Matthew 15:8-9 that “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Citing from Isaiah 29:13 and Ezekiel 33:31). We have the very Words of God, yet we still chose to ignore them and do our own thing. We are to submit to God, yet we treat Him as a footnote in our lives.
Our egos, our selfish pride, take on an almost viral infection within us as we plot and plan how we think everything should work and operate in our lives. We believe that we are in control and therefore we think we don’t need God. We will ignore God, but then entreat Him as a cosmic vending machine by saying little prayers on occasion to ask for special blessings or healings when we feel short changed by life. We give a complimentary ‘high five’ to the ‘big man upstairs’ when something seems to go in our direction, but quickly resort back to our inward focus. We enter into a facade of piety by attending “church” for the sake of showing others that we stand on a higher moral ground in our daily lives, yet don’t even know who it is we are supposed to be worshipping. This all may sound harsh, but our irreverent approach to God is actually an insult to the One who created the heavens and the earth! We need to understand who we are in comparison to the glory and righteousness of God!
The very God who breathed into existence everything is the very God who reached down from heaven and became mortal man for the sake of saving those whom He calls. That covenant was given to us for our benefit because our sin nullifies us to remedy our separation from God. And, as I mentioned before, covenants work two ways between the parties involved, and we have an obligation on our part. We are to give to God our devoted worship and praise. We don’t get into heaven by being good, moral people. We don’t get into heaven by attending a church or paying tithes. We don’t get into heaven by mouthing a little prayer. We get into heaven by repenting of our sins, submitting to the lordship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and walking in His ways. And we get help with all of that through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, the Bible.
A marriage is solely sustained through the giving by both parties to each other. We freely receive from people, but do we freely give? I like how Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains that the “marriage relation is used to represent the union between God and his people (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:1-14; Hos. 2:9, 20). In the New Testament the same figure is employed in representing the love of Christ to his saints (Eph. 5:25-27). The Church of the redeemed is the “Bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 19:7-9).” But the failing of most covenants occurs when one party doesn’t honor their part. As husbands and wives are to submit to one another for the marriage to succeed, we also have to submit to Jesus as well in order to be received in His covenant with us. We already know that God has given everything when He sacrificed His Son for our sins. He provided the payment that we should have paid as a penalty because of our breaking His laws. But since we were not able to meet that high price, God gave us another way. And so now our part is to worship and serve God and enjoy Him forever!
We know that we are called into a covenant relationship with God through His Son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. We know that within this covenant, that God has given abundantly to us, that we are also called to give to Him. Psalm 116 says What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. We know that we are called to this union to be devoted and committed to God, not to the wicked ways of this world. Though we are in the world, we are not to walk like the world.
2 Corinthians 6 says:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
The world is constantly being told by the influencers of this present darkness that we are our own gods. That we can do anything that we want to do. That we shouldn’t be chained to any one ideology and must accept everyone’s views. That we can rise above humanities restrictions. That all modern religions should state that there are many ways to heaven and we are to accept every one, no matter what. That there are no absolutes and that truth is subjective to each individual.
And yet, God’s Word tells us that there is only one true God, YHWH, and He alone is to be worshipped. That we are to follow His commandments and walk in His ways, not the ways of the pagans. That there are no other gods beside Him. The Bible says that there is only one way to God, through His Son Jesus, who says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That the only way to heaven is to enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. God is absolute. Jesus is the truth!
When the Holy Spirit quickens us out of our slumber, shines light within the dark recesses of our fallen souls, we begin to see clearly that there are two paths in this life. Despite the constant barrage of the world’s endless push to worship the flesh, God is calling us to worship in spirit the truth of Jesus Christ. Despite the deconstruction of the Word of God by pagan temples that call themselves Christian churches today, we are to feed our souls continually with His complete Word, the Scriptures. God’s Word casts light in the darkness and shows truth when others twist or water it down. Hebrews 4:12-13 says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” We must arm ourselves with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to slay the evil that permeates this world and disguises itself as being a god. We are called to commitment, not compromise! There is no middle ground in our covenant with God. Jesus said “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.’”
Breaking a covenant is something that the god of this world has done, will do, and will always push for you to do as well. The devil wants you to maintain your selfish ambitions and desires and for you to have the thinking that you deserve whatever you want and that you are owed “blessings”. Well, God doesn’t owe us anything. What He does give, He gives out of the mercy and grace of His love toward us undeserving people. And His love is everything that we need, not only here in this life, but in the life to come! While we are here we have His love sustaining us, comforting us, protecting us, and giving us His peace. All of these things are more than what the world could ever give us. What the world brings is temporary fulfillment of the flesh that will eventually lead to eternal death. What God gives is a fulfillment that lasts eternally.
As I mentioned before, we have two paths to choose from: the narrow path of God’s covenant or the wide path that rejects God’s covenant. One leads to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The other leads to what Galatians 5:19-21 says will disqualify you from the kingdom of heaven: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Embracing the covenant offered through Christ gives us a hope that surpasses understanding. Realizing His sacrificial gift should cause us such gratitude that we willingly desire to worship Him! Knowing how immeasurable the gifts that God gives us should destroy our passions and selfish desires to walk in the ways of this world and cause us to turn and run with excitement toward our Heavenly Father with outstretched arms! He gives to us, so we give back to him our praises and adoration, now and forever more! “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19