Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


Covenant Community

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(7/21) Today I want to talk about covenant community, we have just wrapped up our new members class, and we have grown a lot as a church numerically. We’ve seen many people come to and be interested in Christ’s Community Church. But God’s concern is that people would not just attend church… that they would not just attend events… but that they would become the Church… being worshipers and followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. And so my goal always is to lay out the big idea of the Christian faith so that you would understand why we do what we do. And today I want to teach on the covenant. As we wrapped up the new members class we ended with a membership Covenant. What does that mean? Covenant is a huge word that your Bible uses a lot; 297 times to be exact. So that’s where we’re going this morning.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

"The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." NIV

1. Defined

As an introduction I’ll start with this question. Who has betrayed you? Who have you loved, you served, you gave, you cared for them, and they totally betrayed you? This is the person you don’t want to think about, the person that you don’t want to hear their voice… feel their touch… or even see their face…

I want you to go there with me emotionally because as we deal with the big idea of covenant I think we often neglect to look at things from God’s perspective. You see, you and I, we’ve betrayed Him. You know the story of Genesis. That God made the heavens and the earth, that he carefully prepared a place for our first parents, He created Adam and Eve in his image and likeness, He God blessed them, spoke to them, honored them, and gave them great freedom. He cultivated a garden for them to live in, said they could eat of any tree except one, brought them together in marriage so they could love have intimacy, pleasure, and joy.

And Adam and Eve, and every one of since, has totally, utterly, completely betrayed God. We disrespected him. We disregarded him. We disobeyed him. We dishonored him. And we all do. What is amazing is how God responds. Most of the time you and I, we either run or fight. We don’t want to get hurt again or we’re gonna get revenge. We’re going to hurt them right back, but God draws near to us, He deals with our sin, and he loves us and enters into a relationship with us. The word that the Bible uses to describe how God responds to our disloyalty is covenant. It’s covenant. That’s how God responds.

So let me define covenant for you. A covenant is a relationship with God on his terms. Because he is God… because he is Creator… because he is the author of life… he gets to define the terms of the relationship.

And so when the Bible speaks of God being in covenant with us, it truly reveals the character of God. It shows that God is gracious. You see, because God owes us nothing. He could’ve just taken Adam and Eve, "You sinned. You die. You go to hell. The race is over. That’s it." And he could do the same with us. But God is gracious. He owes us nothing. Yet he pursues us for the purpose of relationship.

So God says. "I will make a covenant with you. I’m the Lord. I define the terms of the relationship." Now the Old Testament often speaks of cutting a covenant; where two parties entering into a covenant would sacrifice an animal, they’d split it in two, there would be blood, there’d be vows, conditions, and obligations. So God lays out the conditions of the covenant and He says, "This is right. This is wrong. I will discipline you if you sin. I will also continue to pursue you so that you can learn to be obedient."

And it is in that concept of God pursuing us… that we find one of the most beautiful words in the Old Testament. That one word is the word hesed. No single word in English captures its meaning. But it’s a beautiful word that speaks of our covenant relationship with God. It is one of the richest, most powerful words in the Old Testament and it reflects the love and grace and mercy and patience and kindness and affection and loyalty and devotion, dependability, intimacy, concern, compassion, understanding, empathy, and affection of God in covenant relationship with us. It is illustrated in God’s pursuing of Adam and Eve in the garden. It is illustrated here in Jeremiah 31:31-32. And it is illustrated in the life of Abraham in Genesis chapter 12…

2. Illustrated

And in saying that… the first thing we learn about Abram is he wasn’t a great guy. He’s a sinner saved by grace just like me. Now Abram was from an area that was full of pagan idolatry… he’s from the same area where they came together to build the Tower of Babel… to build a society where they themselves would be functional gods. So Abram doesn’t worship the God of the Bible. He’s from those people… same area… a godless man. He was just a regular old pagan, worshiping false gods, sinning… that’s how he started.

Until Genesis chapter 12… here’s what happens. Now the Lord comes down to Abram… he shows up to talk to him… he’s pursuing a covenant relationship… and He says, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing" (Genesis 12:1-2).

Now fast-forward to chapter 17 and we’ll read some more. Here in verse 1, when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you" (Genesis 17:1-7).

Now Abram was 99 years old… he wasn’t the father of anyone… he certainly wasn’t a likely candidate to be making babies and founding nations, but let’s fast forward again to chapter 22. God does bless him… God gives Abraham and Sarah a son, they name him Isaac. They love him… he’s their only son… and through him is to come the nation that will be a blessing to the nations of the earth. And then God tells him in verse 2, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering…"

Now here’s what happened. God said, "Abram, I’m gonna give you a boy." Abraham said, "God, I believe you." The baby boy grew up and God said, "Take your son. Go sacrifice him." Now this is shocking for us but remember Abraham came from a pagan idolatrous culture where child sacrifice wasn’t unusual. So Abraham doesn’t even blink an eye… but you know Abraham had such great faith that he knew even if Isaac died God would resurrect him from death. He knew God would fulfill His promises and he says to God, "I will obey you. I will sacrifice my son Isaac."

So here is Isaac young, healthy, and strong, just like Jesus was. He is the firstborn, the only son, just as Jesus was. And here he carries the wood for his own sacrifice on his back, just as Jesus did. Verse 9 says, they go to the place that God had chosen and Isaac willingly, just like Jesus, lays down his life before his father. And just as Abraham, has the knife in his hand and is ready to kill his son, God speaks from heaven and says, "Do not lay a hand on the boy… Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Genesis 22:12).

There is no need to sacrifice your son. "The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant…" (Jeremiah 31:31). One day it will be provided. Jesus is coming and he will fulfill all this anticipation, this expectation, and foreshadowing of the only son who carries his own wood, a cross, to his place of sacrifice to die in love.

God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 22 and says, "Because you’ve done this, I know that you trust me… because you’ve done this… I’m going to fulfill my covenant vow to bless you." And it was through that one man, Jesus Christ… that one, who is the singular seed, the offspring, the descendant, the blessing from Abraham to all the nations. From one generation to the next God keeps pursuing. God keeps loving. God keeps blessing. God keeps saying "I am a covenant keeping God"

3. Embraced

And this is unbelievable… considering our history… that we’ve betrayed God. Yet He continued to pursue us didn’t He? He pursued Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, and each of them representing people like you and I that God is pursuing. And so here comes Jeremiah and tells him in chapter 31. "The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant…" (Jeremiah 31:31).

"This new covenant… will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt..." (Jeremiah 31:32).

This new covenant is not going to be like the Mosaic covenant they broke… you know when the Red Sea was parted… when God led them out… yet they still disobeyed, they wandered grumbling and complaining in the wilderness for 40 years, they didn’t get to enter the Promised Land even though the Lord says… "I was a husband to them…" and so He brings it back to the covenant… He says, it’s like a marriage, "I was a husband to them…"

And so God enters into a loving covenant with people who continue to sin against him, betray him, and disobey him. He enter into covenant saying, "I will be their God, I will love them, I will bless them, and I will be good to them. And I will do this in spite of them." That’s the new covenant… but then he expands on it… In this new covenant the Lord says, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33).

Now this totally and radically transforms the way we see our relationship with God and others doesn’t it?

This is a biblical truth that we should embrace as the people of God. And first, this transforms the way we see the marriage covenant. Let me ask you this… Does God ever abandon, betray, or commit spiritual adultery on his people? No… So the Bible says that as men we are to be the covenant head and representative of our family. That means as men we are the responsible party, we are to love God, and we are to reflect God’s love to our wife as well as to our children. Here’s what this means for Dana and I as an example. This means in the marriage covenant that I will never divorce my wife. This means if one of us messes up, that I will forgive Dana and she will forgive me. We are committed to one another, we support one another, we love one another, we will always pursue one another, and we will remain in this covenant until death should part us. Now I’m not saying that there are no conditions for divorce in the Bible, but what I am saying is this… that Christians are to approach marriage as a covenant and not a contractual convenience.

Secondly, the concept of covenant transforms our view of parenting. As a man created in "the image and glory of God" (1 Corinthians 11:7) I am in a covenant relationship with each my six children. No matter what they do, I will always be their Dad. And I embrace that… even if they should wander from the right path I will pursue them. It doesn’t mean that I accept their sin but I will deal with it just as God deals with my sin. So what it means is that my children are always my children and my love for them is not conditional. Its not, "If you’re good kids your Dad will love you." Its, "I will be your Dad and you’ll be my kids," just like God says, "I will be your God and you’ll be my people."

You see God wants us to understand that we’re in a covenant? He wants us to embrace the fact that he is our Heavenly Daddy. He is always here, no matter what. He is always faithful, always good to us, and always in covenant. So this affects our view of church membership too doesn’t it? You see the church for us is a covenantal community. That’s why we have a new members’ class where we talk about community and covenanting together.

Now this morning you should have gotten a covenant. Some of you may remember them. We go over these at the end of the new members’ class. And like any covenant there are conditions… like having received Christ as Lord and Savior… like having been baptized as a believer… and being in agreement with Christ’s Community’s purposes, values, strategy, and structure.

And like any covenant there is a response… and that is basically to say, "I covenant to love Jesus, to love others, and to do good for this church community… not just myself... I don’t come just to take services and information… I come to be part of a covenant people. I come to live out my covenant obligations to God and to others. And I commit to protect the unity of my church… to share the responsibility of my church… to serve the ministry of my church… and to support the testimony of my church."

"Therefore I’m willing to sign on the dotted line and say I am willing to be part of a covenant people."

I’ll just say this in closing. Our first covenantal response to God is repentance of sin and faith in Christ Jesus. Its saying, "God, I am sorry for my sin, my unfaithfulness… Jesus, I trust you to take away my sin and to give me a covenant relationship with God… Holy Spirit make me a new person and connect me to his covenant people."

So I’m going to pray. You’re going to respond, and then we’ll have communion, we’ll celebrate the Lord’s Supper which is really and outward expression of our inward faith. Outwardly repentant of sin… and internally… loving Jesus, thankful for what he has done, and celebrating his coming back again.

The Lord bless you!

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

Learn more about the Christ's Community Church