What is New Covenant Theology, at least as I see it? It’s the Royal “Law” of Love writ large upon our hearts, revealing nothing less than our union with God. Here my turn-of-the-century email to my good friend Seth continues, with why I think that only God-with-us can please God, and the empowering implications of this idea. My decade-old college-era writing was a bit melodramatic at times, as you’ll see. What can I say? I was a passionate kid. Picking it right up…
We can echo with Jesus, incarnationally, “I and the Father are one.” So you ask “What is the law?” Or, to put it another way, “What do I do to please God?” Well honestly, Seth, the line of questioning you’re pursuing here makes my heart beat faster in anger. It’s not you, though—it’s much of Christendom.
Like the Israelites wanting an external king (really, check out this link) to guide them rather than the Lordship of God, so we (modern day Christians) act like Jesus’ Reality-Changing death and Life-giving resurrection never happened. We remain ignorant of the rich inner resources we have in Jesus now. We don’t take the Bible (say, Galatians) at face value as it concerns law and obedience, etc… For instance, how do we please God? The bible says “by faith” (Romans). In John, it says that to do the will of God is to believe in the Son.
Now, like Richard Foster, I believe that many evangelicals have made words like “faith” and “believe” mantras that allow many people to have a false assurance of being in Christ. These words have been emptied of meaning, to propagate what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would call “cheap grace.” I want to avoid cheap-grace-ism at all costs, Seth. I want to give God my all. But the way to do that is not to figure out what “the law in the new covenant” is. It’s not to try to figure out better rules, or a better system. Check out Hebrews. The old is done, dead! Christ is the mediator of a new and better Covenant. NEW (its really new) and BETTER (its really, truly, better than the one given to Israel in her sin!). So in faith believe. Or, to put it another way, “in trust, trust.” Or, to put it the best way, “in love, love.”
Believe in God. REALLY believe. REALLY trust Him. And all of this is bound up in REALLY loving Him, passionately! I know you know about this, Seth. Many of your songs attest to this. But yes, I know that you and I sin. And I know that it’s natural, once we sin, to rush to try and justify ourselves on the basis of this or that work. I am in such a position right now. I just returned from Model UN in New York City. Though I prayed and read the bible and loved God throughout the week, I was out of fellowship with other believers and God was not the fulcrum of my week or my attention. Thus, I did several things that are troubling to say the least: [Hmm, gang. Suddenly I don’t feel that usual blogging openness about cataloging my collegiate misdeeds and wanton thoughts. I wouldn’t, y’know, want to encourage any copy-cat sinners. Let me jump back in to something more suitably vague] I let the pride and ambition and manipulation of politics take me over at times. In many ways, Seth, I could just jump off a building right now! But I know I can’t submit myself to some law.
In fact, I was just reading in Colossians how disciplines of the body and rigorous practices are vain, and will do nothing to curb bodily lusts. I realize that you really like Renovare’s “spiritual disciplines.” I do, too, to a certain extent.Now, how does the law’s uselessness fit in with the “Celebration of Discipline” paradigm? I think it can. If I were to rank the spiritual disciplines that Richard Foster and Dallas Willard write about, I would place “contemplative prayer” or “Christian meditation” at the forefront. They might not do this, but I would. Why? Well, I’ll give you the theological answer first, then the personal one. Theologically/biblically, this is the most direct way to follow Jesus’s first and greatest commandment, “love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.” (The second, incidentally, flows out of this, since you can’t truly love your fellow humans until you truly have the love of the Lord.) To place this in purely personal terms, I know in my heart of hearts that the solution to all my hang-ups and all my sin is to simply be with Jesus! To sit in His loving presence and acknowledge Him, and His presence around and within me–this is the solution!
To be continued…
This was originally posted on October 7th, 2007.