Publication: Pastoral Letter, May 2011
Dear Friend in Christ:
What is it that we have built our lives upon? What are our core values that motivate us regardless of circumstance? Should there be another great harvest, and I believe that there will be, what should new followers of Jesus build upon? What holds us steadfast when the promised tests come? (See 1 Corinthians 3:10-17.) Those are questions that cry out to be answered in today’s world.
I recently sat with a very dear friend who was enduring some of life’s most difficult trials from almost every side. As we talked, I remembered one of my most favorite hymns, “Christ the Solid Rock”. The first verse says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” That is what we believe, but in fact our hope is often in outcomes and dreams. The next verse of the hymn begins, “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.” That is when we truly discover where our hope truly is.
Faulty foundations are a tragedy greater than I can describe, as they ultimately lead to depression, disillusionment, and despair as the structures of life collapse. The Good News is that it need not be so. Great hymns such as “How Firm a Foundation” were written in times of testing, and remain true for us today.
An evangelical believer might simply reply to questions about our foundation by simply answering, “Jesus”. The Apostle Paul says that He is our foundation. But what is it about Him that we can trust in every “high and stormy gale”? Jesus is God made flesh; He revealed the true nature of God in every way. And what is at the very nature of God that He revealed? God is Holy, loving, righteous, merciful, and we could go on in ascribing greatness to our God.
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 tells us that God is the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, another favorite hymn, tells us that we can put our faith in His faithfulness. He keeps His Word and performs His promises. When the Lord decides to implement His purpose in a person or a group, He makes a covenant. His love is covenant love. His blood is covenant blood by which He purchased our righteousness. When we celebrate Communion, we celebrate the New Covenant, our union with Christ through the shedding of His covenant blood. We have a blood covenant made with the blood of the Son of God! We can trust Him.
Our Bible is composed of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. What is a covenant? It is the Sovereign declaration of God to show mercy to someone of His choice, who is committed to His will. It is a bond that brings two or more into a common union of one will. I am not speaking of an agreement between equals, but an offer of mercy from the Sovereign to a subject. God’s covenants with man are completely acts of grace to the undeserving-but-willing ones, who choose to enter His purpose. Why does God make Covenant? Because that is the nature of His love and, there will be tests to our trust in Him. In those occasions, we must rest upon His solemn Word.
Let us look at covenant History:
Jeremiah 33:18-26-God made a covenant with Creation; and that a Son of David would reign over Judah and Israel.
Genesis 3:15-21-God shed innocent blood in the Garden to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, and promised that the seed of woman would bruise the serpents head. (This promise was fulfilled in Christ’s victory at the Cross.)
Genesis 6:18; 8:20-God made a covenant with Noah that He would not again destroy the earth by flood.
Genesis 15-God made a covenant with Abraham that His seed would be as the stars, though he and Sarah had no child at the time.
Exodus 19:5-6-God made a covenant with Israel that they would be His special treasure, a kingdom of priests.
Jeremiah 31:31-36-God promised a New Covenant unlike the former Covenant where His Law was written on stone; a New Covenant where His Law would be written in hearts.
Luke 22:14-20-Jesus made the New Covenant with His disciples in His own body and blood and promised not to eat the covenant meal with them again until they would do so in His Kingdom. He went on to promise that His Spirit would be both in them and with them. Through His Holy Spirit, we receive His eternal life. Jesus was both the fulfillment of previous covenants and the One who would faithfully fulfill His New Covenant. Hebrews Chapter 9 gives us a further insight into His covenant. (I urge you to study Hebrews, especially Chapter 9.)
FOUNDATION FOR FAMILY
We have become family with God our Father, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit through the blood of Jesus Christ. We have become heirs with Christ and of Christ. Because we have received His will, which was put into effect by His death, we are recipients of His great rewards, though we did not and cannot earn them. (Just as a child becomes an heir to a fortune they did not earn)
On another level, natural family is created in covenant, reflecting the family of God. This is true from the very beginning. In Genesis 2:23-25, we see “two become one”.
In Matthew 19:5-6, Jesus took the Jewish leaders back to Genesis and said, “Two become one”. The Apostle Paul repeats the definition of family in Ephesians 5:28-33. Moses, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul all tell us that family is a covenant unit. Why covenant? Because relationships are always tested: Our faith, our family, and our friends.
The Apostle Paul tells us something else in Ephesians 5: family is a metaphor for Church. All that he says there about the natural relationship between husband and wife is also about Christ and the Church. It would be correct to say, “As the family goes, so goes the Church and the culture.”
Covenant love is the foundation of our faith and our family; a bond where life itself is pledged to maintain an unbroken relationship. That kind of family culture is a strong foundation for children where an unselfish commitment to the unit provides a stability for growth and maturity. Fractured families cause fractured lives.
God desires that we become fruitful (see Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1; Matthew 28:18-20). His intention was that fruitfulness would happen in the context of covenant family, both naturally and spiritually.
FOUNDATION FOR CHURCH
God’s spiritual family was born in covenant. Jesus gave us the New Covenant which we celebrate. It is not our covenant; it is His which we have received-His life. We have counted ourselves dead, have we not? We have sworn to our own hurt (see Psalm 15). Psalm 15 is very clear about those who abide in His Tabernacle. Those who walk in Psalm 15 “shall never be moved”.
We are told that on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were in “one accord”. They were united in the New Covenant and the Holy Spirit fell mightily upon them. They were responding to the prayer of Jesus, recorded in John 17. It is the Lord’s will that we walk in covenant love for one another-even when it hurts. That is the kind of spiritual family that the Lord desires.
When the Lord gave the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20), He told the disciples to teach the new disciples all that He had commanded them. Among those commands was that they love one another as He had loved them (see John 15:12-17). The Lord’s intent is clear. His command is that we lay down our lives for each other as He did for us. 1 John 4:7-5:3 also very clearly emphasizes this, and it tells us that the apostles taught their disciples covenant love.
So, is that what we are doing? In Matthew 11:19, Jesus said wisdom is justified by its children. Do our spiritual and natural children comprehend covenant love? I cannot adequately state the blessing of growing up in a covenant family. And my prayer is that all children, natural and spiritual, could have that. But, is that what is being offered?
Too often, the benefits of faith are being offered to the masses without the costs. People line up for the blessings in an effort to bypass the Cross. It is not my desire to be critical, but rather to offer a more firm foundation. Concerning those who seek outcomes without covenant, what will happen when “all around their souls give way”? Could they say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (see Job 13:15)?
LIKE A TREE
I join with David who said in Psalm 103, “I will bless the Lord who forgives and heals.” Thank God for His benefits; I have enjoyed and do enjoy them all. I also thank Him that when shaking comes-and it has and will again-I can be “like a tree planted by the waters.” I can be, because I trust in Him and not some other hope or outcome. That is the firm foundation that we need, that the Church needs, and the one we can offer to a very jittery and unstable culture.
When you stand with CSM in your prayers and in overall support-financial, encouragement, or in networking-you are co-laboring with us in the cause of Christ and sharing in the proclamation of this covenant message. Please remember us this month in intercession and in giving as we seek to be obedient to God’s leading to reach those He is directing us to reach across the globe.
And please pray for our May 4-6 Gatlinburg Conference as leaders and believers gather for prayer, worship, and training on “Translating Biblical Worldview Into World Mission.” We will have news and updates at www.csmpublishing.org as well as on our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook pages and on our Twitter account @CSMinPublishing. This month, we are releasing an audio Bible teaching series, “Foundations for the Future” featuring three messages: Covenant, Kingdom, and Church. For more information, please visit the CSM store online. May God bless you this month and always!
Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Genesis, Exodus, Luke, Ephesians, Genesis, Matthew, Psalms, John, 1 John, Job