Home > church > Living in the New Covenant part 2, by Larry McKnight
“Now the thing I said that concerns me – and I include myself in this – is that we more
naturally relate, more naturally react to, the conditions of the Old Covenant than we do the New Covenant.  Let me see if you agree:  when you commit a sin, how many of you feel ugh! about it?  OK, I do.  I think we relate to that ugh!  feeling on the basis of how we perceive the Old Covenant to be.  In other words, we know that we’re supposed to live in a righteous way, there’s things  such as don’t covet, don’t steal, don’t do this, and when we do it we react ugh!, I’ve blown it.  I would suggest that if we related according to the New Covenant, our reaction would be different.  I might still think that thought, or say those words, or be tempted to be ashamed, but that would be the essence of living in the New Covenant – I’m tempted to be ashamed, but I’m not ashamed; because the New Covenant is not a place of shame, it’s a place of perfection while being sanctified.  It’s really different.
“(Under the New Covenant) what I would do, is I would not look away from the Lord; I would not look to myself; I would not be tempted to go ugh! ; and what would happen, is that temptation would begin to progressively lose some power over me, lose power over me to shrink back and be ashamed.  The New Covenant is the place where the dominant reference point to my life in relationship to my Father, is the perfection that was issued on my behalf – and on your behalf – by the sacrifice of Jesus.  That means, if I am walking…and I stumble or trip – I don’t ask myself, oh my gosh, how did I get down here?  Or, I wouldn’t think, I’ve been walking a long time; you’d think I could pick up my feet.  I’m not saying we need to glory in our sin, or in our stumbling.  I’m saying the reference points should not lead us to entertain the question, what’s wrong with me?  And when we do that, we are testifying to our allegiance – mentally and in our soul – to the Old Covenant.  Because we believe that we just should ‘do it right.’  We should ‘do it right,’ then we should ‘do it right’ again.  And we should ‘do it right’ again, and again.  We place that expectation on ourself, and we place it on the people around us.  And as a result, we create a culture that leaves the door open for separation and distance, it leaves the door open for judgment, all the stuff we’re counseled against doing, in the New Testament.
“And the reason Paul says, don’t compare yourselves with yourselves, and the reason Paul says, I don’t even care what people think about me and I don’t really care what I think about myself, is because I have One; he’s speaking about Jesus.  He’s fixed his eyes on this New Covenant.  His dynamic reference points are the fact that Jesus has performed one sacrifice forever, that perfects me while I am being sanctified.  So when I fall flat on my face, I go, man, I’m thankful that I’m sanctified, and I get back up.  And I’m not tempted to deal with guilt.
“But, if I were to sit here as your pastor and I were to teach you out of the Old Covenant – and I’m not talking about simply reading out of the Old Testament —  I’m talking about, go back to Exodus, cover between Exodus 24 and Exodus 34, and I were to talk to you about the laws, and I were to talk to you about the rights of property, and talk to you about all these things – there’s stuff in there that reveal the righteousness of God as it could be worked out in a society of men that would separate those men and women from the men and women who don’t have that revelation – but if I did that to you, I would be entrenching you, incrementally – step by step, inch by inch – back into thinking in terms of the Old Covenant and we would just roll the little veil down over our face.  And we would begin to evaluate the worth and value of our life, the success of our daily walk, the success of our prayer life, the success of our church, based on reference points that are in the Old Covenant.  And that’s why I can’t do that….there’s nothing wrong with “that stuff,” except that it couldn’t take away sin.  We have to keep focused on the New Covenant.
“And the centerpiece of the New Covenant – when I realize the work that God went through, the gulf of darkness, and the gulf of separation and distortion that He crossed, to be us – is that we keep wanting to push the whole thing out at arm’s length and just a little bit beyond.  We want Jesus to be somebody that we adore, not somebody that we intimately interact with.  We want Him to be “safe,” and at a “safe distance” – we’re willing to acknowledge Him seated on the Throne; and that’s true, He is seated on the Throne.  But there’s a more central reality as to why we live and why we are Christians – and it is the fact that we have been embraced and drawn in through the Incarnation and the sinless life of Jesus, through Him drawing all to Himself on the Cross; through us dying with Him and being joined with Him in His death; so that we would be joined with Him in His Resurrection.

“Somehow, mysteriously, Paul teaches without hesitation, without explanation, that you are seated in heavenly places with Christ, and that the Holy Spirit lives in you, and Jesus, Himself, said, ‘In that day, when the Holy Spirit comes, the Father and I are going to live in you.’  And I would venture to say that nobody in this room…to the degree that we need to, think first about our relationship with Jesus in terms of  Him being fully in me, and fully in you.

There should be something that triggers a consciousness that the central reference point…is that Jesus is in me.  The other reference points are all real —  yes, He’s on the Throne; yes, we worship Him, all of that is legitimate, all of that is real and wonderful.  But that all takes a bit of a second place to the realization that Jesus is in me.  Paul says, the mystery that has been declared in these last times to me, is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  If we do all the others things without embracing the reference point that Christ is in us, then we do it at the risk of being lured back into Old Covenant reference points.
“The other thing that is disastrous about it is that we live in a war zone.  We’re called into places where there are hard jobs to do.  And they don’t always work out ‘fast and smooth,’ right?  So, if we have those Old Covenant kind of reference points – hey, if you do this and you do that , then I will destroy all your enemies (a lot of us quote those things like Scripture promises) – and I’m OK with that, as long as you understand we are living in the New Covenant where Jesus sometimes sends us into dark places because He wants to go there, Himself.  And that’s how He goes, nowadays.  He goes in us.  And sometimes, those people reject us…but I fear that a lot of our promises and expectations that we tailor and relate to ourselves are probably based on Old Covenant kinds of things, like, ‘if I do good, then God’s going to defeat my enemies.  If I do bad, there’s going to be calamity come upon me.
That isn’t how it is.  In fact, the New Covenant expressly says no, I’m going to relate to your sins and failures in two ways:  I’m going to have mercy on them.   And then I’m not going to think about them.  
“2 Corinthians 3:  ‘But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’…verse 18:  ‘but we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit…’  What that means, I think, is that we look and we see Jesus, reflected..the New American Standard translation says, ‘but we all, with unveiled face’ – meaning that the blinders have been lifted off – ‘beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.’  The only way I can come up with a revelation about that is that means, when I look in the mirror and I see my face, I am beholding that hope of glory that is in me.  The reality of Christ living in me. 
 “It’s more normal than you think, we’re just not used to it.  Paul goes on to say, ‘the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image’ – the image of the Lord.  The image of the Lord I see in me.  The image of the Lord that I see in me is the goal into which I am being transformed, it’s the image into which I am coming into alignment.  And it’s happening ‘from glory to glory.’ It’s happening ‘from glory to glory.’  It’s a progressive thing…  Christ works His way into us through His sacrifice, through His Resurrection, through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as it comes forth.  In that day, He says in John 16, the Father and I will come and dwell with you.  That day is after the Spirit has come, Pentecost has come, that’s history for us.  That’s already happened.  We’re beneficiaries of that.  And so here we are, in the New Covenant, Jesus lives inside us, the mystery has now been revealed – it’s not still a mystery.  The ‘mystery’ is that God has been poured out to the whole world, and the hope of glory is Jesus Christ, in us.  In me.  Don’t let it be ‘us’ in some vague sense – make it be personal…the point of the matter is, we are being transformed into ‘the hope of glory’, into Christ, by what we see when we look into the mirror…try to see Jesus in your life, in the mirror.  And when you do see Him in there, try to celebrate it…out of the overflow of your life, out of the overflow of your security out of the overflow of being changed – incrementally, from glory to glory – as you see Jesus reflected on your face, as I see Jesus reflected on your face, as we see one another…
“As Paul goes on a little bit, as we go through chapter 4 and into chapter 5, he says this:  ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.’  (2 Cor 5:19)  this is not us, trying to dodge out of our responsibility about sin; this is God’s self-declaration about, ‘I’m not going to think about your sin anymore.’  The relationship that I have established with you through Jesus; whatever kind of issue there was about sin that caused Me to have to hold back, caused Me to have to not care for you…that has been absolutely, utterly and forever  resolved in the death and resurrection of My Son.
“That means there is now no barrier from My side of the fence, at all, between you and Me, even because of your sin.  It creates a terrible barrier in our minds, if we reflect on it from the Old Covenant.  That is why Paul goes on to say, in 2 Corinthians 5:20, ‘Therefore, as ambassadors for Christ, we beg you – be reconciled to God. ‘  Don’t waste the blood of His Son.  Don’t waste the establishing of this New Covenant. “