Monday, March 23rd

Monday, March 23rd

One day some people said to Jesus, “John the Baptist’s disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?”  Jesus responded, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Luke 5:33-35

Then the disciples came to him (different occasion) and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” Matthew 15:12-13

The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:2-6

We are in the third and final week of our series that examines Christ and the unexpected things he said and did in his ministry while he was here on earth. This week we are looking at "Gospel." The 2 Corinthians passage above refers to the old and new covenants and it is important to understand that they are not two different means of salvation. One of the devotionals from a couple of weeks ago offered the following statement: "Salvation has always been a provision of the grace of God that is bestowed on the basis of personal faith in God. In the Old Testament, people were forgiven on the basis of faith in God for his promised provision of Grace through the cross of Christ. In the New Testament people are forgiven on the basis of faith in God for his accomplished provision of grace through the cross of Christ. By the time Christ arrived on the scene God's simple plan of salvation by grace had been twisted into a complicated system of religious works." Rather than the old and the new covenants being two means of salvation they are two different ways (economies) that God's people (the redeemed) fulfill the intentions God has for them.

The focus of the old covenant is the "law" which included ceremonial laws (sacrificial worship), civil laws, and moral laws. While some of the "law" is for all time (you shall not commit adultery), many parts of it were temporary (the cross made them obsolete). The complicated system of religious works that was in place when Jesus was on earth was rooted in the law and had become the accepted means for achieving salvation. Luke 5 shows us some of what happened when Jesus and this religious system collided. This week's portion of Luke 5 helps us more fully understand why. The focus of the new covenant is the "Spirit" of God and this is what lies at the heart of the emphasis Jesus puts on the "new" in contrast to "old" (Luke 5:36-38) as we saw in Pastor Ben's message and will examine as we go further into the week. The fasting and praying mentioned in Luke 5 above had become requirements that must be observed along with everything else in the religious system of the day if one was to achieve salvation.

Jesus' answer to the objection raised concerning he and his disciples not observing these requirements is so simple. "I am here"  is the essence of Jesus' answer to them. The one who will inaugurate the new covenant has come. The new covenant will bring forgiveness and the giving of the Holy Spirit. My disciples are celebrating me and all that is to come because I am here. The simplicity of devotion to Christ and his indwelling presence through the Holy Spirit is a beautiful thing. We are the redeemed. Christ lives in us by his Spirit. We know him intimately, we enjoy him wonderfully, we are transformed by him triumphantly, we walk with him powerfully, and we live for him fully.

Lord, I continue to need you to help me comprehend and embrace fully all that I have and all that I am through your indwelling presence. And Lord, I continue to need your help at recognizing and forsaking anything of religiosity that remains in my life. Lord, I love you, I celebrate you, I embrace you, and I thank for your indwelling Spirit.

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