It’s available for all of us. It’s not contingent (thank God) on circumstances. It’s able to move us, faster than a glacier, but slower than jet, towards a quietness and confidence that enables us to be people of hope. Every. Single. Day.
I’m talking about the new covenant, which is the topic of our present sermon series at the church where I teach. Who’d have thought that, in the midst of career crises, housing crises, financial crises, global security crises on three continents, and personal crises of every stripe, there would be a way to live—not above it all (in some sort of Pietist separation with nothing more than a longing to get out of here and get to heaven), but in the midst of it all, as people of hope.
Paul exemplified this in the way he lived with such confidence and joy right in the midst of challenges and setbacks. The came could be said of my friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived so courageously right in the midst of all the darkness and insanity that was the Third Reich (if you’re in Seattle, don’t miss the play about his life). If Paul could exemplify hope in the midst of imprisonment, and Bonhoeffer in the midst of a culture plagued with a genocidal maniac, I’m thinking there’s got to be a way for me to exemplify hope too, right in the midst of my setbacks and challenges, which pale in comparison.
The principles of the New Covenant are simple to articulate:
1. Believe that Christ lives in you. Believe it enough to say “thank you” every morning for who you are, now that you’re “in Christ.” You’ve been given everything pertaining to life and godliness, so you don’t need to ask for things like wisdom, strength for your circumstances, or joy. You need to thank God for what he’s already given and believe that, in God’s time and way, these elements will find expression through you.
2. Thank God for the day ahead. Pray something like this: “Thank you God, that this is the day you’ve made. Thank you that you’ve given me everything I need in this day to face the challenges that will come my way. I commit the day to you, thanking you that come what may, I’ll be able to display your character in some measure.”
“And what happens if your kale doesn’t germinate in a day?” is the answer I give all the time. But Paul said it this way, and Jesus said it this way—so maybe you should check their stuff out first. All three of us are saying the same thing though: we’re all saying that transformation happens—but now as quickly or visibly as we goal setting, driven, objective minded, introspective, efficiency obsessed, people would like. Stick with the new covenant, and over time (I can say this now that I’m old) Christ in way will find a way to become visible through you—increasingly, eventually, patiently.
Learning this is more important than what you do for a living, what’s in your bank, who you will vote for, whether or not you believe in predestination, and even who you believe will be in heaven or hell. And yet, in spite of its importance, the simple truth of learning what it means that Christ lives in you remains in the shadows, while church conferences focus on the techniques of starting new church (80% of which will fail, according to statistics), and why it’s important to be “emergent” or “anti-emergent,” “Calvinist” or “Anti-Calvinist,” “mega” or “anti-mega.” These conversations have value in the same way that there’s value in debating whether it’s best to run barefoot or wear shoes. It’s a great debate if you run—but pointless if you don’t.
Hear me in this: If we’re not actively practicing the truth of the new covenant, we’re not even running!
Isn’t it time to get in the race? I welcome your thoughts.
PS: Though I don’t normally do this, but I commend my sermon on this subject to you, available here, because I believe it’s so foundational to everything it means to follow Christ. Please listen— and pass it on to others who will benefit!