Today, and in future newsletters I am going to pass on to you information directly from the Foundations Materials written by Pastor Gerald Martin, who is our spiritual father and mentor as a Network, and as a Church. This material is a huge part of our spiritual foundations and the spiritual heritage that we received from what some of you may remember as Cornerstone Church & Ministries International in 1996. In June, 2011 we multiplied CCMI into 9 new networks. Two of those networks are here in the United States, the HeartLink Network being led by Pastor Greg Mayo, which we are in spiritual relationship with, and the Restoration Network. The other seven networks are international networks, and are a part of our annual Faith Promise Offering.
As we move forward as a church my heart is to provide for you input that will shore up our spiritual foundations individually, and as a church so that as we move forward we move forward from a healthy and strong foundation. A building, structure, or organization that does not have a strong and healthy foundation has very little chance of standing the test of time. We can't have a strong or healthy foundation if we are not aware of what our foundations are, and how they apply to each of our lives. As you read, prayerfully consider these foundations. Please allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart so that you can receive into your own life these biblical foundations of truth.
Foundations Material - Covenants - Pastor Gerald Martin
The earliest confession of the Christian church was Jesus Is Lord. After the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, the disciples began to praise God in such a manner that it attracted a crowd of people that the Bible says were amazed, bewildered and perplexed. Some even accused the disciples of being drunk. We are not told exactly what the disciples were doing that gave that impression but it is apparent that it was something out of the ordinary.
So, Peter stood up to explain what had just happened and went on to preach a sermon.
At the conclusion he made this bold declaration. “Therefore, let all the house of Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).” What we have here is the announcement of a new covenant. Now if we are going to understand what it means to confess Jesus as Lord we must know something about the concept of covenant.
A covenant is an agreement between two parties. It’s like a contract. In this case it is an agreement or contract between God and His people. When we confess Jesus as Lord we enter into an agreement with God. We covenant with him. Now, it is important for us to understand that in this new covenant God draws up all the conditions and our part is to simply agree with it.
It is not like when we draw up a contract with another person. For instance in buying or selling a house, the owner may set the selling price and then negotiate with a potential buyer until they agree on the amount. At that point they would sign a contract that represented the negotiated price they agreed on. In this case both parties speak into the conditions of the contract or covenant. It is not that way when we enter into covenant with God.
When we enter into covenant with God we have no input into the conditions. God sets the standard, and draws up the conditions of the covenant. Our part is to simply agree with what he says. That was the way it was when He entered into covenant with His people in the Old Testament. God gave the law to Moses, Moses read it to the people and the people said we will do all that the Lord God says to do. There were no ifs, ands or buts.
Furthermore, God outlined what would happen if they obeyed or disobeyed the terms of the covenant. He said, if they obeyed they would be blessed. But if they disobeyed they would be cursed. In Dueteronomy 28, God lists the blessings and the curses they could expect. The key word in this Old Covenant that God made with His people was that little word “if.” God’s blessing depended on that one word. If they obeyed they would be blessed.
That proved to be their undoing. Even though they had declared they would do all that God said they were to do, it seemed they simply could not follow through with their end of the agreement. Over and over again they would sin and disobey what God had said. And true to His word, a curse would be brought upon them. This produced a repentant heart and they would cry out for forgiveness and God would rescue them. For a while they would serve God only to again sin and disobey. It became a cycle that was repeated over and over. The Old Covenant didn’t seem to be working.
Finally, God said he was going to make a new covenant, not like the old one they couldn’t seem to keep. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:31).” “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezekial 36:26,27).”
Under this new covenant that God says he will make the conditions are the same, obedience is still required, but there is a marked difference. Under the Old covenant the key word was “if.” Under the New Covenant the key word is not “if” but “shall.” God says, you shall be My people, I will be your God, I will cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will obey.” It almost sounds like the people have no choice. How can this be? It’s simple. God says he will place His own Spirit within them. Under the New Covenant God does radical surgery and cuts out the old heart and replaces it with a new one. You see? We are changed from the inside out.
No longer do we have to strain and strive in order to be obedient. No longer is it an external matter of keeping the rules. Under the New Covenant God takes responsibility for our obedience and sees to it that we become what He wants us to be. This is confirmed in the New Testament. In Philippians 2:13 we read, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to willand to workfor His good pleasure”. Here we see that not only does God cause us to be obedient but makes us willing to be obedient.
We see a similar word in Hebrews 12:20-21, ”Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal (new) covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen. Here again it becomes clear that God takes responsibility for our obedience. It’s God that works in us.
Are you living in the Old or New Covenant? Your answer to that question will determine what and how you will live from this point forward. It also will determine how we will live and function as a church from this point forward. New Covenant life is a foundational element to every disciples life, and every churches life. As disciples we live in the New Covenant where God changes us through the work of Jesus Christ, as a church we live in the New Covenant where God changes us all through the work of Jesus Christ. He is responsible for the work, we are responsible for how we respond to the work. In other words we can still reject the covenant by rejecting what He is doing, or by rejecting how He is doing it. When we accept completely, in every area of our lives whether we agree or disagree, His leadership our hearts will be changed, and He will become our God. That is the essence of New Covenant life through Jesus Christ. Surrender to Him who love us in all things.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”