Posts Tagged ‘new covenant

06
May
11

post office theology

Heard at the local US Postal post office today:

Customer: “yeah…we got to obey God to be blessed”

Sales assistant: “absolutely…we have got to do what God says so we will be blessed instead of cursed”

Customer: “I hear people say I can’t afford to tithe, and I say to them that they can’t afford NOT to tithe”

Sales assistant: “Absolutely!”

Thus enlightened by their theological insights, I couldn’t help but thinking why it is that so many Christians still talk about and believe in the God of the Old Covenant? What the two ladies described was true. At a point in history it was true. It just isn’t true anymore. We as Christians live under the New Covenant! Read the book of Hebrews, if you want to look at all the differences between the two Covenants, and why the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant, and why it’s sad when Christians still relate to God from the basis of the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant it was all about what you did. It was established between God and Israel. It was simple and easy to understand: do this and this, and you’ll be blessed. Do that and that and you’ll be cursed (just like the two people at the post office were saying!). The Old Covenant was about asking for forgiveness through sacrifices and other practices. In the Old Covenant you could never feel fully safe, for what if you had committed a sin that you hadn’t done the appropriate sacrifice to cover…?

The New Covenant is established between God the Father and God the Son, Jesus on behalf of mankind. It’s a Covenant that cannot be broken. It’s a perfect Covenant! It’s a Covenant I’m placed into when I accept Jesus as my Savior and my only, perfect sacrifice. I’m safe here. Absolutely safe. The New Covenant is about love, trust, joy and faith. The Holy Spirit is now residing in me (Ezekiel 36:25-27). God is in me! I’m joined spirit to spirit with God himself! (1. Corinthians 6:17). I can give according to what the Holy Spirit impresses on me. I know of people who give more than 50% of their income to the work of the Kingdom of God, and I know others who give 2% – and both sets of people are doing what God wants them to do!

I’ve often thought about writing a book titled “New Covenant for Dummies” or maybe “The New Covenant Made Simple“. There is so much richness in God showing us the beauty of the New Covenant. And I wish to experience more myself and I wish the same for the two ladies from the post office!

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16)

Blessings, Torben

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21
Sep
10

the minute maid gospel

Every morning I enjoy a cup of Minute Maid orange juice, and recently I noticed that on the juice you can find the following words:

Put Good In. Get Good Out. You can taste and feel these words in every drop of Minute Maid. When it comes to life, we believe what you believe. The effort you put in is equal to the good you get out

I read that and thought to myself that maybe it’s a modern day pastor who has a part-time job with Coca-Cola, the company that produces Minute Maid, who came up with that slogan…Unfortunately, there are many Christians who believe the Minute Maid Gospel. They believe that if I do all the right things, then life will turn out the way I want it. And even more so: when I have done my part, God needs to do his part. He has promised – people believe – that we will get exactly what we want, when we put in a good effort to please God and do the right things.

The law of linearity

In his excellent book “The Pressure’s Off“, the author Larry Crabb describes how lots of Christians believe in the law of linearity where there is an A that leads to the B you want. Now you just have to figure out what A is, do it consistently and disciplined, and you’ll have the life that you desire. It’s the Minute Maid Gospel that Crabb describes here.

But the problem is, that God hasn’t promised that everything will be great and fun, just because you do your best. Just because you raise your kids and tell them about Christ, there are no guarantees they’ll turn out the way you wanted. Just because you pray diligently to find the spouse you so desperately want, there isn’t any promise provided that you’ll find him. Even if you pray, study, tell other people about Christ, and give to God’s kingdom, you might still end up sick or lose your job.

The law of linearity, or the Minute Maid Gospel, doesn’t preach the truth. But so many of us believe it. I meet people all the time in my counseling office who have come to a place of broken marriages, depression and a general sense of hopelessness, because they believed in the false Gospel, and now they’re disillusioned and mad at God! And unfortunately, there are even more people who simply give up on God, because he didn’t provide what they thought he had promised. It’s essential, in counseling, and in the rest of our lives, that we figure out what God has actually promised. That’s the journey I take my counselees on. God’s promises in the New Covenant are absolutely wonderful, but it’s not from a law of linearity. The Minute Maid Gospel appeals to us, because we enjoy eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that Adam and Eve ate from a while ago. We enjoy the power. The power to be God. The power to be in control. We think we can control our circumstances and other peoples’ choices. And we actually believe that God promised us that our lives would make sense. But these are some of the words that Jesus said regarding living in this world:

In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Plain and simple. You’ll have trouble. Things won’t turn out the way you want them to. People won’t respond the way you desire. Accidents will happen that you didn’t plan for.

But Jesus also said: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27). This is part of the real Gospel – the really great news! Jesus can and will give you peace. Not the kind of peace the world, other religions or people who claim they don’t believe in anything at all give. That kind of peace is based on circumstances. When there is no conflict, you have peace. But Jesus’ peace is a peace that you and I can experience in the midst of marriages falling apart, rebellious kids, lack of a spouse or meaningful friendships, loneliness, unemployment, depressive thoughts, or whatever other situation you may be in the midst of. It’s his peace. The peace of knowing who I am in him. The peace of knowing I am safe. Of knowing I am loved, accepted, and secure. Of knowing that nothing or nobody can ever change that fact. It’s the peace – that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7 – that goes beyond understanding! It’s a peace you can experience that you can’t explain. Other people around you are losing hope and falling apart, but strangely enough you feel at peace. I have experienced this peace. Sometimes. Not all the time. I long to experience it more. I rejoice when I experience it. And I am excited to share about that peace with other people. We all need peace. Especially when we have run sour trying to pursue the counterfeit-truths of the Minute Maid Gospel. There is no peace when we drink that tonic. We can never rest. We can never just be. It’s a demand to strive and try and go further and push harder. Jesus invites us to rest. He invites to be. It’s the New Way, as Larry Crabb calls it in The Pressure’s Off.

Drink from Jesus’ cup. It gives real life that doesn’t disappoint and doesn’t run out.

Blessings, Torben

23
Aug
10

Is that really worship?

What would you call a relationship between two people where only ‘positive’ feelings such as happiness, hope, excitement, passion, etc. were shared, but no ‘negative’ feelings including frustration, anger, sadness, bitterness, etc. were part of the discussions of the two people involved? “Shallow” seems to be the obvious word that comes to mind.

At the numerous churches I’ve attended over the years, I’ve heard the phrase: “worship is an expression of our relationship with God” countless times. If that’s really true, then I’m afraid a lot of church-goers are caught in very shallow relationships with God!

I believe corporate worship can be a place of honesty, and a beautiful expression of life, but in the majority of the churches, I’ve visited in the 40 countries I’ve been to so far, I’ve more often had the feeling of the little boy in Hans Christian Andersen‘s fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, who is the only one who has the audacity to express the truth about the Emperor in the parade through the city: “The Emperor is naked!“. I’ve often felt like that. This is so empty. This is not what it’s supposed to be, or even what it could be. I know from my own life, from people in my counseling office, and from countless conversations with discipleship training school students and the average person in our churches that none of us have this happy-clappy-life-is-always-great-relationship to God that we often sing about. It simply doesn’t exist. Life isn’t like that. We end up fooling ourselves. And surely the God of the Universe who knows all our thoughts and feelings must at times be as bored with our charades as I am…?

I’ve heard much teachings over the years about what worship is, and I’ve always sat in the pews with a feeling and a thought of: “there is more to this, than what I hear here”. This simply isn’t as good as it gets. To me, worship boils down to one word: HONESTY! I believe that God, above all else, is looking for us to be honest with him. Honesty is the key factor in any relationship. If you are not honest with somebody you call your friend, and you feel you have to fabricate certain feelings in order for the two of you to be okay, it’s a shallow and empty relationship. I fear that too many of God’s children see God that way. When you examine the lyrics of  most of the popular worship songs each Sunday in our churches, it’s hard to see most of them as expressions of honesty. We have to keep up appearances. We must be happy. We must rejoice, even when we’re depressed. We must this, we should do that, we ought to feel this…..all of this points to an Old Covenant/Law mentality and understanding of who God is.

The God I know, love, and serve is interested in who I really am, and how I’m really doing. He wants to be known by me, and he is inviting me to let him know me intimately. He who is all Truth, desires nothing more than to see me live and breathe and express what I really believe, feel and think to him.

Therefore, I believe the following to be true about worship:

worship songs about God’s true character and nature are always relevant and appropriate

– worship songs about my feelings towards God are great as long as they express all different kinds of feelings I may have. Again, a relationship where I can only express what I deem to be ‘positive’ and ‘okay’ feelings, is extremely shallow

worship songs about my promises to God (“I’ll do this and this, and I’ll NEVER do that or that”) are irrelevant, since I have no clue how I’ll react in whatever difficult situation I may face in the future. On the contrary, my relationship to God is built on HIS promises to me (“He’ll never let me go, leave me or desert me!”), and that’s worth singing about!

– worship songs – and there are lots of them these days – that describe a relationship to God in sensual terms that belong more in private bedroom conversations between a husband and his wife are inappropriate and show a misunderstood view of what real intimacy with God is

– worship songs that talk about promises that God never made are obviously tragic, especially since the average church-goer doesn’t know the Bible very well, and often gets a lot of his or her theology from worship songs

– worship songs that teach Old Covenant-realities to New Covenant-believers make no sense and keep people in fear-filled relationships to God (I often New Covenantify songs that we sing at different churches – I refuse to keep inviting God to come, since he’s already in me, and I refuse to ask that God won’t take his Holy Spirit away from me, since he has joined his Holy Spirit to my spirit and would never do that!)

– worship songs that preach what God demands of us are misunderstood. God doesn’t demand anyone to know him and share life with him. He invites me to know him intimately and to be completely known by him. But the nature of any real invitation is that I can choose to say no to it, and I’m still okay with the person (God) who extended the invitation

– worship songs that teach that God doesn’t care about the consequences of our choices or isn’t mourning our sin and the death (Romans 6:23) that we experience because of that are un-biblical and filled with lies

worship songs that hint at an understanding saying that ‘negative’ emotions are a problem that we just have to get over ASAP, so we can show God our ‘positive’ emotions, end up creating guilt and shame in God’s people who need space to be honest and real

– worship songs written by people who haven’t personally experienced what they’re writing about is….a waste of time!

worship songs that don’t show that forgiveness is something God already has given to his children (IT IS FINISHED!), and not something we only get if we ask for it and repent in the right way, don’t understand the freedom of the New Covenant, and the peace and rest that Christ wants his children to know and live in.

Blessings, Torben – you’re – as always – free to comment, agree, or disagree with my words on worship!




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