Sermon – Ages of rules – or Spirit lead lives?
The Christian life – Preached at Aguaviva Christian Fellowship, Albox
Sunday 4th June 2006
This sermon is available as an audio (MP3) file Click to listen
Covenants are agreements, usually formal, signed sealed documents, but in the case of the Bible, they are God’s promises to His people, usually with some form of two way acknowledgement of duty. We could call it God’s contract with us.
In studying divine covenants, we are understanding God’s Redemptive Plan throughout history; it is a matter of Eternal Salvation.
God has had one purpose and plan for mankind ever since the Fall: to restore a people for Himself from fallen humanity through the Messiah – Jesus.
First instructions: Genesis 1 vv 28-29:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
The first rules given to the man, with reasons for them:
Genesis 2 vv 15-17:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Genesis 3 v 6 the woman and the man break the rules.
This is commonly called “The Fall”.
The reasons for the rules were given along with a warning which was necessary to deter disobedience, even though we know it failed to stop it.
The consequences were as given in the warning. Adam and Eve who were created without limit on their lives, would now die.
There would be other prices to pay too:
- Enmity between woman’s offspring and serpents.
- Woman will have great pain in childbirth, and be ruled over by her husband.
- The ground is cursed and toil in the garden became necessary.
- They would become dust from that which they were created.
Genesis 3 v 15 is the first sign of a future Saviour, where it says that Eve’s offspring will crush the serpent’s head.
Some say that God stopped caring for Adam and Eve, but this is not born out by the scripture Genesis 3 v 21 because it was God who made them garments to wear.
To prevent them eating from the tree of life, Adam & Eve were banished from the garden, and thus ended the first age of rules.
The next age of rules starts with the 10 commandments. In Exodus 20, Moses was given the law for the Israelites.
- No gods before me
- You shall not make idols or images
- You shall not use the name of God in vain
- Remember the Sabbath, keep it holy, don’t work on it
- Honour your father and your mother
- Do not murder
- Do not commit adultery
- Do not steal
- Do not bear false witness against your neighbour
- Do not covet your neighbour’s house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to him.
Verse 24 introduces animal sacrifices, as a way of reconciliation, or covering for sin. This involved the sacrifice of an animal, usually a lamb, without blemish, as a sacrifice for sin.
Exodus 32 v 19 The stone tablets got broken when Moses had a fit of anger.
Exodus 34 v 1 The Lord God instigates new tablets of stone for the commandments to be rewritten, this actually reiterates the law as it was given twice to the people of Israel.
Leviticus is crammed full of many more detailed laws, rules and regulations. It is full of meticulously described ritual.
Israel consistently failed to live up to the covenant of the commandments. They were a disobedient nation.
In Jeremiah 32 v 40:
I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.
God promises of a new and everlasting covenant to come.
The new covenant came with the redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is typical of a loving God, He saw that man was unable to keep to the rules before the fall, He knew that man was unable to keep the commandments. So he devised a way of beating sin for ever with the perfect once and for all sacrifice. Jesus was without sin as he was God became flesh without a human father. Jesus was God and Man. Being without sin or blemish he replaced the animal sacrifice, becoming the only sacrifice needed for our sins. He became the perfect lamb of God. All of our sin was heaped upon Him by some spiritual miracle he took our punishment for us.
The New Covenant in Jesus is this:
Repent our sin, believe by faith in Jesus Christ and be saved to eternal life.
So what of the 10 commandments and the law?
The commandments were given to God’s chosen people, Israel.
They failed to keep them and that covenant had to be replaced by something better.
Matthew 5 v 18 Jesus says:
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Matthew 19 vv 17-19 says:
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, ” `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honour your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’
Luke 10 vv 27-28:
He answered: ” `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, `Love your neighbour as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
John 19 vv 28-30:
Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
With these words, knowing that all was now completed, so ended the old covenant of adherence to rules and regulations, at the same time as the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. In three days time came the power of the Resurrection, now available to us, available even to a sinner like me. Alleluia!
The Christian and the commandments:
One of our problems is that our flesh actually likes rules. We respond to them quite well.
However the tragedy of the false gospel of adherence to rules is that there are millions of people out there that believe that if they are good they will go to Heaven. As Christians we need to correct this falsehood as part of the full Gospel we are spreading to the lost.
We need to be sure in our own faith, that it is living by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and living in the Grace of God that will save us, by the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No set of rules will keep us from Hell.
Only the grace of God through Jesus Christ his son, who paid the price for our sin, will keep us from Hell.
We all know in our hearts what is right and what is wrong
We all have the promised new covenant “helper” of the Holy Spirit within us and we know that trying to keep to rules does not lead to salvation.
We have freedom in Christ, not to sin, but to do good.
Let’s take a look at Galatians Chapter 5: Verse 1:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
So the question in our lives has to be whether we are being led by the Holy Spirit?
God has given us a plan for this third and final way, the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ:
Adam and Eve were on probation in the garden of Eden and failed to comply with the rules. They were disobedient and God acted.
The Israelites were given a long set of detailed rules to follow, and they failed to keep them, so God acted again.
God has now given us this wonderful opportunity to repent, to turn to Him, to meet with Him through His Son, Jesus our Saviour. It is an opportunity to be free, to live by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and thereby to become an effective ambassador for Christ.
We are commanded “Love your neighbour as yourself”. If we ever should think that this is a soft option, think again. Think of what it really means. A few weeks ago we were told to “Love our enemies” in an address by Robin Hawkins and now we are also told to love our neighbour as we do ourselves.
How are we going to live our spirit led lives?
We need to be open and listening to Him, so we will spend time in prayer.
Having listened we need to obey what He is saying in our lives, if we do not we are living in disobedience with all that that involves.
We have to learn how to love our neighbours. We have to learn how to bless people who do not bless us. We have so many blessings from our Lord that we can share with others.
To sum up, we are free to serve Christ, NOT free to be sinful and self serving. We have been bought at a high price, and have been given the Holy Spirit as guide, helper and comforter. Let us each turn to the Lord afresh asking Him to give us more of His Holy Spirit, and at the same time be prepared to give up a little more of self to allow in a little more of Jesus in our lives. This week, let us work towards leading a Holy Spirit led life, and in this way we will honour God in what we say and what we do…