Do you believe that your blessings from God are a reflection of your obedience? This is Old Covenant Living. New Covenant Christianity is about the Holy Spirit guiding and directing us into the life He has for us. In this 5-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe explains New Covenant living and how we can experience God’s promises, the Holy Spirit, and God’s grace while living a life blessed by Him.
Leaving the old behind
Periodically, someone will say to me, “Hey, Pete, I came across an old cassette tape of yours.” Because cassettes are obsolete, I automatically know it’s from a long time ago. So I’ll respond, “Do me a favor and burn it, will you?”
I’ve been teaching in vocational ministry for 30 years, but I’m not the same teacher I was three decades ago. To be more exact, I experienced a shift six years ago that radically changed my understanding of God. Six years ago, I became a new covenant guy. Let me explain…
When I reflect upon the last 30 years, I see three phases of living: old covenant, middle covenant, and new covenant.
During my years of old covenant living, I followed the words of Jeremiah 7:23 that say, “Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.” Said differently: Obey God and be blessed. Disobey Him, and there will be consequences.
Did I sin? You bet. And following my failure came the fear that I’d lose fellowship with God. So I entered a cycle of messing up and then working relentlessly to “earn back” God’s approval. Whenever bad things happened in my life, I attributed those things to God’s much-deserved anger toward me.
Later, I learned about the Holy Spirit and entered what I call “middle covenant living.” Finally, I knew the Spirit had power! Perhaps He’d help me please the Father. During this time, my prayer life went something like this, Spirit, help me to be obedient, so I can please God.
Because I now knew that God had promised never to leave me nor forsake me, I fixated upon a new fear: God would surely stop using me if I sinned too much or too greatly.
Neither old covenant nor middle covenant living is the abundant life Jesus came to give us. Our salvation isn’t based on our performance but on God’s promises. There is a better way, which we’ll discover together this week.
Jesus, set me free from fear-based faith this week! I want to rest in my relationship with You, knowing both intimacy and empowerment from Your Spirit. Lead me into that freedom. Amen.
The best blessing
What’s a blessed life? Is it tangible—like a job promotion, a good deal on a house, or savings for a rainy day? Is being blessed the product of doing something for God and receiving something from God in return? Is blessing the result of obedience and performance—like getting a gold star on a test?
Or is the blessed life something entirely different from all of the above?
As you read through the Old Testament, it becomes clear that God has always desired intimacy with His people. “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 30:22).
If Israel obeyed God’s commands, all would be well with them. If they disobeyed, they’d experience exile from God’s Promised Land and His presence. It sounds pretty basic, but Israel was still unable to perform. And as a result, God was unable to bless them.
But rather than withhold His blessing, God replaced the covenant.
Now, I know some of you struggle with that. After all, God gave us the law, didn’t He? And everything He gives us is perfect. So why did the old need to be made new?
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people…. (Hebrews 8:7-8a)
The problem with the old covenant wasn’t the covenant; it was the people. No matter how many sacrifices the priests offered on behalf of the people, Israel continued to rebel. And so God introduced the only High Priest who could atone with a promise rather than a prescribed performance. No more priest-led sacrifices.
Instead, we were given a Priest who became the sacrifice.
Because of Jesus, anyone and everyone can live a blessed life. What does that life look like?
In Christ, we can stop performing. As we become home to His Spirit, nothing separates us from God any longer—not sin, not the law, not even the inability to be holy. There is no separation, only intimacy. This is the blessed life—one based on His promise and not our performance.
Jesus, I have You, and I’m blessed—I believe this to my core. If I’ve been pursuing cheap blessings—blessings that rot or fade—steady my gaze upon You instead. Whisper to me the promise every morning: I am Yours, and You are mine. Amen.
Living in the Shadow
When my kids were little, they loved to walk in my shadow. Sometimes I’d be rushed and forget to pay attention to my pace when a frustrated kiddo would sound the alarm behind me. Having no time for the shadow game that day, I’d turn around, scoop up my child, and plop him or her on my shoulders. This was a guaranteed way to bring a smile. Yeah, Dad’s shadow is pretty cool, but being on top of the world with the real Daddy is always so much better.
As Hebrews tries to explain new covenant living to us this week, the author uses this contrast between a shadow and the real thing to make a point: Jesus is better.
[Every high priest] serve[s] at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. … But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one…. (Hebrews 8:5a, 6a)
God had given Moses detailed plans for the tabernacle and the Most Holy Place. Jewish priests understood that the Most Holy Place was an intricate copy—a replica—of the throne room in heaven. When the high priest entered that space, he was entering a place that shadowed the glory of heaven. But even though the early temple was glorious, it wasn’t as glorious as the real thing.
This shadowed existence was also true for the priesthood. When Jesus came, the real High Priest had arrived at last. In every way, the ministry and priesthood of Jesus were superior to the old.
Some of you have been living in the shadow. You’ve been trying to please God for as long as you can remember—trying to live in the shadows of the old covenant, frustrated that your best efforts leave you feeling inadequate. I want you to know that your High Priest is inviting you to step away from the shadows and into a real and better way.
Jesus is inviting you to rest by believing three essential promises of new covenant living.
Lord, I’m tired of trying to hide my sin and imperfection in the shadows of faith. Embolden me to take that first step into real living—into the warmth of Your glorious grace. Amen.
Three essential promises
There are two categories of people: Those who keep to-do lists and those who don’t get much done. I joke, but this task-oriented mentality can leak into our relationship with God. We long for a list that tells us exactly how to please Him.
Instead, Jesus invites us to trust in His work. New covenant living ceases striving and starts resting. But for those of you who love lists, here are three essential promises available to you in Christ:
1. Internal Activity
When the law was given to the nation of Israel, they responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said”(Exodus 19:8). Their intentions were good; they meant what they said. But they were completely unable to keep their word.
Realizing the people’s inability to perform, the Lord made a new promise: “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10).
This promise was fulfilled with the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit transforms our nature. He liberates us from sin. He empowers us to know God and to love Him with enduring love. It’s through the Spirit’s internal activity that we are set free from an external performance mindset.
2. Intimate Relationship
Very few people in the Old Testament had a personal relationship with God. Certain kings and prophets were given the Holy Spirit for specific functions, but everyone else worshiped God from a distance, using priests as mediators.
The new covenant is so much better: “I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:10b-11).
You no longer have to “be someone” to know God. The Holy Spirit is available to all.
3. Indisputable Forgiveness
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). This means exactly what it says. The sins you can’t seem to forget are the same sins God doesn’t remember. They’re gone. Completely.
These promises invite you to release the need to do more and rest in what He’s already done.
Father, I am overwhelmed knowing You have a plan to take up residence in me—not leave me alone in this lifetime. Thank You for calling me “home.” Amen.
No more middle ground
Remember how indispensable floppy disks were 12 years ago? You needed 15 of them just to back up the hard drive on your oversized computer. And now? Obsolete.
What if I told you the old covenant is obsolete—unnecessary—irrelevant to new covenant living? That’s a strong statement, which is why I’m glad I didn’t make it up.
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)
It’s scary to consider such a large chunk of Scripture as being obsolete. In fact, I believe many of us cope with that truth by developing a mentality of middle-covenant living. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us live the old covenant way, all the while suspecting—hoping—the old way is obsolete.
Jesus didn’t die so we could create a middle covenant. When He conquered death, He did something new—something never done before. He cleared the way for His Spirit to reside in His followers so we’d never be separated from God again.
New Covenant Christianity is about the Holy Spirit guiding and directing us into the life He has for us. But what does that look like in everyday life?
I’ve listened as people have tried to explain their decision to leave their spouse for another person. “I’ve prayed about it,” they might say, “and I have peace that this is God’s plan.”
No, it isn’t. The Spirit will never lead you in a way that is contrary to the law already written. God said we should not commit adultery; He cannot be contrary to Himself.
So as a believer, what can you do with the large passages of law found in Scripture? Read them, so you know what He’s planted in your heart. Get to know His character and standard of holiness from those passages.
The new covenant difference isn’t the absence of holiness, but it’s the presence of the Spirit. Our holiness no longer comes from a list but from His indwelling.
Jesus, I don’t want to straddle the fence between the Old and New Testaments. I reject a faith defined by my performance, and I cling to a faith made whole by Yours. Live through me—freely, abundantly. Make me new. Amen.
- Identify “Old Covenant” obsolete beliefs in your life.
- Do you believe the three essential promises of New Covenant living?
- What can you do to embrace New Covenant living?