(Continued from the previous post)
“God doesn’t want us to have rigid rituals with Him. In the new covenant, He is more interested in having a relationship with us.” Joseph Prince
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit… For this reason, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:5-8
These words sound discouraging when read by themselves, apart from the “rest of the story.” They need not be discouraging, for our God has in place an elegant and effective solution to the shortcomings of our human nature and our weakness against sin. That solution is the core of new covenant living. So, what do we do to experience this new covenant solution?
We change the entire focus and purpose of our living. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. The Greek for “set their minds on” means literally to strive for something, to put personal opinion into action. The term combines both the cognitive and visceral aspects of choosing, making this a choice of the mind and the heart. If we choose to remain in control of our living and to not yield control to the Holy Spirit, we are set on the flesh. Even as believers in Jesus we may be living an old covenant religiosity relying on works we generate in our own strength.
The Holy Spirit frees us from the power and control of sin – the principle or law of sin – if we live not according to our own choices but set our minds on the Spirit. This setting our minds on the Holy Spirit is what Paul is also refers to as walking according to the Spirit in Romans 8:1-4. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” New covenant life is predicated upon the decision in both mind and heart to walk not by our flesh but according to the Spirit of Christ in us. When we choose to turn to our God to have full control over us, we gain the fullness of His new life and resurrection power in us.
The new covenant relationship with our God is completely different from the old covenant. It is not based upon the work of humans but the work of God in Christ and through the Holy Spirit. Instead of humans doing the work of religiosity, Jesus Himself does the work of redemption and renewal for us and in us. We no longer try to please our God by our human efforts. We can never please Him more than He is pleased right now, because of the work of Jesus Christ. Instead we relinquish control over our living to the Holy Spirit, who lives the life of God and accomplishes the work of holiness in us. See previous posts on the crucified life for more on this.
The old covenant relationship with our God appeared to be a covenant of works humans did in the flesh – rituals, festivals, sacrifices, and obedience – to please their God. These practices were prominent under the old covenant, but they were not intended to provide the salvation for which the people longed. Salvation came through faith in God, and it was intended to produce a deep love for Him, and a deep and intimate knowledge of Him. The laws of the old covenant were in place to prove that by works of human effort could no person ever be justified before our God. Try as we might, old covenant law-keeping never saved anyone. What it did was point ahead to the work of Jesus as our justifier and redeemer. And in so doing, it set the stage for the coming of our redeemer, Jesus, and the new covenant. The central focus of that new covenant is the Holy Spirit of Christ, alive in us and living the holiness of our God in us.
“The law is about you looking at yourself. The new covenant is all about you seeing Jesus.” Joseph Prince