August 1, 2015

Jesus New Covenant Unites Us In His Spiritual Body (Proper 18)

The Readings help us understand how the new Covenant of Jesus helps us grow and mature together into the spiritual body of Jesus. They began with the Prophet Nathan rebuking David for “despising God” and breaking the Covenant of Moses in his acts of adultery and murder. In the Gospel (John 6.24-35) Jesus declares a new covenant, that adds to the teaching of the Moses Covenant, describing Himself as the bread of heaven that gives life to the world. Finally in Ephesians (4.1-16) the Apostle Paul urges us to grow up into the joy of maturity in our spiritual life as part of the spiritual body of Jesus.

 1. Covenants with God are serious and have consequences
Covenants have two parts – what we do; and what God does. In the Covenant of Moses the people were to love God and their neighbour as defined in the Ten Commandments. In return God promised land, children, prosperity and protection from enemies.

  • Failure to keep the Covenant was rebellion against God – sin
  • Sin separated the people from the promises of God – land etc.
  • Sin led to spiritual death – end of relationship with God
  • Covenant of Moses allowed animal sacrifices as substitute
  • Sacrificial system became abused and corrupted – ineffective
  • Nathan rebukes David for “despising God” in adultery, murder
  • David lost God’s protection and had to fight with the sword
  • David was humiliated by the loss of his wives to other men
2. Jesus announced a new covenant in His sacrificial death
Jesus re-established the Covenant of Moses – did not replace. Jesus made this new covenant in His own blood. He explained it as being like the manna the ancient Hebrews depended on in the wilderness.

  • Just as manna gave physical life – Jesus sacrificial death gave spiritual life – eternal spiritual life
  • Ordinary man could not do this – Jesus was divine and could
  • Critical to understand Jesus as God with us
  • God Himself came to us, provided a way to right-relationship
  • Hebrews had to obey / trust God, gather and eat the manna
  • Christians have to obey / trust / believe in Jesus as saviour
  • Christians show belief by repenting, confessing and asking Jesus for forgiveness of specific sins
  • New Covenant provided a way to right-relationship with God – cleanses us so Holy Spirit can come and live in us
3. Paul explains how we mature as the spiritual body of Jesus
At first we do not understand how things operate in the spiritual dimension. We are like infants, tossed about (Ephesians 4.14) by contradictory different teachings. The Good News is that Jesus has provided, through His teachings and the ongoing work of Holy Spirit:

  • Apostles – such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who were eye witnesses or talked to people who had been with Jesus, heard His teachings, seen His miracles – and recorded them
  • Prophets – Holy Spirit-gifted men and women in history and down to our own time – like Mother Theresa; who have shared new insights about what God is doing in modern times
  • Evangelists – like Billy Graham who have challenged people in our own time to repent and turn back to Baptismal Covenant
  • Pastors – like John Sandford who have provided counselling and taught us how things work in the spiritual dimension
All these people are available to us through books, movies, courses and lectures to help us go deeper in our faith so we are not tossed about by false teachers. We in the Anglican Church have been tossed about for decades because many local parish clergy became distracted by Liberal philosophies and may not have done the hard work of carefully  teaching what the Bible actually says and depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance and healing ministry.

Readings challenge us to work on growing in our spiritual life
We cannot depend on others to tell us what to do. If we love God we need to spend time each day in study and prayer. We need personal experience. It is like any other relationship. Imagine a marriage where you spent one hour a week together! My experience is that:
·         I needed to read the Bible myself and pray every day
·         Needed to be in a Bible Study fellowship for shared experience and wisdom
·         Needed to read other books, go on Cursillo, attend Alpha and other workshops on Healing Ministry.
Good relationships require work –  we all need to work on  our spiritual relationship with Jesus – to grow into a life of joy!

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