The Blood Covenant, Part 8: Remember! (1 Cor 11:23-26)

At the heart of the church’s worship life is a meal. Not a song. Not a hymn. Not a shout. Not a dance. Not even a sermon, but a meal. At the command of Christ, believers gather around a table, give thanks, eat a piece of bread, and take a sip of wine. In doing so, we remember what is central to the Jesus Story and our place in that story. Specifically, we remember what Jesus did in the past (i.e., his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension), and we remember what he will do in the future (i.e., his return in power and great glory and restoration of all things). We also experience in the present moment his Real Presence in a unique way (i.e., the bread, which is his body, and the wine, which is his blood.) Indeed, Holy Communion is Jesus sharing himself with us.

The practice is rooted in the ancient custom of covenant making, where representative heads would exchange bread and wine at the end of their public ceremony. (The bride-and-groom cake exchange and interlinking-arms toast at contemporary wedding receptions go all the way back to the ancient covenant ceremony.) In this final message of the series, we consider some reasons Jesus asked us to remember him in this way. First, the God of the Bible is the God who feeds his people. (Like Father, like Son!) Second, eating is the universal language of fellowship and companionship. Third, bread and wine are the universal symbols of a covenant established. And fourth, the symbols given to us by God are windows into eternity. They reveal his gracious heart to all who commune by faith.

In the days when the British Red Coats were warring with the Scots, no one was allowed to go outside early in the morning. The Brits knew that underground churches were meeting illegally, and those who were out walking at dawn probably were making their way to a daily service of Holy Communion. One day a Scottish teenage girl was stopped by a Red Coat. “Where are you going?” he demanded. As a Christ follower, she didn’t want to lie, but she also didn’t want to expose her church. So, she staked everything on the theological ignorance of the soldiers. She replied, “My elder brother has died, and I’m going to the reading of his last will and testament. While there, I’ll be collecting my share in the inheritance.” Her elder brother, of course, was Jesus Christ. What she failed to mention was that her elder brother was now risen from the dead and serving as the “attorney” who would ensure she gets everything she has coming to her. Clearly, the young girl understood the covenant. We can, too, especially as revealed in the table of the Lord.

Sermon Resources

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Image Credits: depositphotos.com.

The Blood of Jesus Speaks for Me

These lyrics by Travis Cottrell and David Moffitt hit all the right marks. While preparing for worship this morning, they found a place of lodging deep within me, igniting a sense of gratitude that should never wane. As I listened again, the first stanza set the vital theme, the second crushed my heart, and the third put my soul to flight. For the rest of the song, I was undone. Thank you, Jesus.

The Blood of Jesus Speaks for Me

The blood of Jesus speaks for me
Be still my soul, redeeming love
Out of the dust of Calvary
Is rising to the throne above

There is no vengeance in His cry
While “It is finished” fills the sky
Forgiveness is the final plea
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

My heart can barely take it in
He pardons all my guilty stains
Surrender all my shame to Him
He breaks the curse of every chain

My sin is great, but greater still
The boundless grace His heart reveals
A mercy deeper than the sea
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

When my accuser makes the claim
That I should die for my offense
I point him too that rugged frame
Where I found life at Christ’s expense

See from His hands, His feet, His side
The fountain flowing deep and wide
Oh, He did shout the victory
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

Worthy is the Lamb
Lamb for sinners slain
Jesus, Lord of all
Glory to His name

Heaven crying out
Let the earth proclaim
Power in the blood
Glory to His name

Worthy is the Lamb
Lamb for sinners slain
Jesus, Lord of all
Glory to His name

Heaven crying out
Let the earth proclaim
Power in the blood
Glory to His name
Jesus!

Oh let my soul arise and sing
My confidence is not in vain
The One who fights for me is King
His hope, His covenant remain

No condemnation now I dread
Eternal hope is mine instead
His word will stand, I stand redeemed
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

Amazing love, how can it be?
The blood of Jesus speaks for me
For me!

Words and Music by Travis Cottrell and David Moffitt
© 2016 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing / Great Revelation Music / TimeChange Music (ASCAP) 

The Blood Covenant, Part 7: The Final Exchange (1 Cor 15:50-57)

Human beings have a rendezvous with death. The Grim Reaper is coming for everyone, regardless of who they are, where they live, how much money they make, or what they believe. As one writer put it, if death were a preacher, “every tombstone is his pulpit, every newspaper prints his text, and someday every one of you will be his sermon.” That’s a creative way to say what Charles Dickens said bluntly a couple of centuries ago, “We are all fellow pilgrims to the grave.” It’s a cold fact of life, and no one likes to dwell on it. Thankfully, the followers of Christ have something glorious to look forward to despite the unavoidability of death. The reason for that hope is the theme of this series.

Covenant partners become functionally one—as symbolized in their exchange of weapons, outer garments, token possessions, names, blood, and places between the slaughtered animal sacrifice. What’s true of one covenant partner is true of the other. Jesus died, but he rose again. Therefore, those who are in covenant with him will die and rise again, too. When Jesus was raised, he got a new and glorified body. Therefore, those who are in covenant with him will get a new and glorified body, too. Indeed, the Body of Christ will get new bodies from Christ. It’s the final exchange of the New Covenant, and it will lead to everlasting joy, not to mention the final humiliation of death.

As such, Paul can taunt the Grim Reaper by saying, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55). He can also celebrate with fellow believers, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:55).

Sermon Resources

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

The Blood Covenant, Part 6: Rescued and Released (Luke 1:67-75)

Fear is a universal sensation. Everyone experiences it at some point in their lives. Thankfully, it’s not all bad. Good fear protects us from danger and keeps us from hurting ourselves. It prevents a child from getting into a stranger’s car. It causes adults to slow down on slippery roads. It even keeps spouses from forgetting their wedding anniversary! But there’s also a bad kind of fear that we have to face in life. Bad fear paralyzes us from doing what we should be doing, and it provokes us into doing what we shouldn’t be doing. Because of sin, this kind of fear is deep within all of us. In fact, the first words out of Adam’s mouth in his fallen state were, “I…was…afraid” (Gen 3:10). From that point on, many people have gone through life like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Fear dominates their every move.

When the New Covenant dawns in Zechariah’s day, the priest praises God because the Lord had remembered “his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear” (Luke 1:67-75). Christmas happens, says Zechariah, because God made a promise a long time ago, and now he’s bringing it to pass. But it’s not just any promise; it’s a covenant promise—an oath he swore with uplifted hand to Father Abraham. One result of that covenant is that believers can now serve the Lord “without fear.” Quite significantly, all the major characters in the Advent story are given the same angelic word: “Do not be afraid.” In this sermon, we look at the various kinds of fear they experienced, and how the God of covenant love addresses each one:

  • Zechariah—the fear of disappointment:
    “It’s hard to hope again!” (Luke 1:5-25) 
  • Mary—the fear of inadequacy:
    “This is too big for me!” (Luke 1:26-38) 
  • Joseph—the fear of rejection:
    “What will people think?” (Matthew 1:18-25) 
  • Shepherds—the fear of the unknown:
    “This doesn’t make sense!” (Luke 2:1-20) 

The message for believers today is this: The more we trust God with our fears, the more we will participate in his plan to recapture the world. God says to his people, “You don’t have to be afraid anymore. I know you live in a scary world. I know you’ll have to face difficult situations, but you are not alone. I am with you. Because of covenant, we’re in this together. So, fear not!” That’s a good word for God’s people today, too. 

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

New Worship Song for This Sunday: ‘Made Me Glad’

Corporate worship continues this Sunday, November 1 at 10:30 a.m. in Dech Memorial Chapel in Myerstown, PA. Local folks will be singing “Made Me Glad”—a song that is new to our fellowship (selected because of its covenant imagery). You can preview it here to help prepare for worship:

MADE ME GLAD

Verse 1

I will bless the Lord forever
And I will trust Him at all times
He has delivered me from all fear 
And He has set my feet upon a rock 
And I will not be moved
And I’ll say of the Lord 

Chorus

You are my shield, my strength
My portion, deliverer
My shelter, strong tower
My very present help in time of need 

Verse 2

Whom have I in heaven but You? 
There’s none I desire beside You 
You have made me glad
And I’ll say of the Lord 

Chorus

You are my shield, my strength
My portion, deliverer
My shelter, strong tower
My very present help 

You are my shield, my strength
My portion, deliverer
My shelter, strong tower
My very present help in time of need

Words and Music by Merriam Webster
© 2001 Meriam Webster and Hillsong Publishing

The Blood Covenant, Part 5: After Darkness, Light (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The heartbreak of the Old Testament is that Israel kept breaking covenant with God. They violated its terms and dishonored their King. We’re not talking here about common struggles of the flesh, such as losing your temper, speaking an unkind word, or being guilty of greed, gluttony, etc. “We all stumble in many ways,” said James (James 3:2). No, these were persistent violations of the first two commandments (Exodus 20:3-6). The nation kept turning to foreign gods and bowing down to lifeless idols. It was a disloyalty to God that amounted to the worst kind of spiritual treason possible. They even engaged in child sacrifice, which deeply distressed the prophets (Jeremiah 32:35). The covenant eventually collapsed (Jeremiah 3:8), and judgment came in the form of a 70-year exile to Babylon.

But the prophets also preached a message of hope alongside the doom and gloom. Indeed, there were sparks of light piercing the gathering storm clouds. “With God,” they said, “there’s hope beyond the devastation—a future beyond judgment.” God would seek out a remnant who would be loyal to him (Isaiah 54:7), giving them a new and internal work of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25-27). He would give them a new joy in worship (Isaiah 35:10). And he would eventually cut the “new covenant” for them, saying, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Why? Because God’s lovingkindness is far greater than the worst human rebellion. 

Still, the new covenant would cost Jesus his life. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” he said, “which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). On the cross, Jesus endured the curse of broken covenant so that we could be redeemed (Galatians 3:13). His resurrection from the dead and pouring out of the Holy Spirit shows that the new covenant is now in effect.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Exchange! Braided hair from two girls illustrating the underlying concept of covenant.

The Blood Covenant, Part 4: The Battle Belongs to the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)

Sometimes the questions of life are so hard, we need divine guidance to answer them. Should I go to college or enter the work force right out of high school? Should I stay in my current job or look for another? Should I move to a new location? If so, where? Should I stay in this toxic relationship? Should I put my declining loved one in a care facility? Should I take my family member off of life support? Indeed, life can sometimes feel like one crisis decision after another, and our own wisdom is not always sufficient to make the call.

In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faces a major crisis. He’s being attacked by a triple alliance of nations, and he’s not ready for it. In fact, he’s alarmed when he first gets the intelligence report. He doesn’t know what to do, but he knows he’s in covenant with Yahweh—the God of Israel. So, if he’s being attacked, God is being attacked, too. Consequently, the king calls on his covenant partner for help: “O Lord…we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:6, 12b). In response, God gives him strange instructions, reminding him that the battle belongs to the Lord. 

The same is true today. When you’re afraid and don’t know what to do, pray to the God who does. God knows all about the scary situations we face and and the difficult decisions in front of us, so he puts divine resources at our disposal. When we trust him fully, we may—like Jehoshaphat—find ourselves praising our way to victory.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

ICL Old Testament Survey, Class Session 4

Class Resources:

Class video available (for 30 days) upon request.

The Blood Covenant, Part 3: Open Your Mouth Wide (Psalm 81:1-10)

The descendants of Abraham found themselves enslaved down in Egypt building the treasure cities of Pharaoh. Because they were in covenant with God, however, it was as if God himself was enslaved, too. In fact, part of Psalm 81 gives us a portrait of God walking through Egypt, as if he were right there on the scene where his people were being mistreated. God says, in effect, “I was there, and I saw you with a burden on your back. I saw you with a basket of bricks in your hands. I heard you struggling with the language of the Egyptians.” And as Israel’s covenant partner, God obligated himself to act on their behalf. That’s why his message to the obstinate Pharaoh was, “Let my people go!” 

God’s message to his own people was, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). That’s an illustration from the hedgerows—a picture of baby birds being fed by mother bird in the nest. A baby bird is nothing but a big open beak with a straggly bit of flesh attached to it. It’s the picture of absolute dependence and expectancy. God was reminding his people to trust him; to depend on him—to rely on him, even when life was difficult. Or, in the words of Jesus: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This spiritual dynamic is still true today. God is the ultimate covenant partner on whom we can always depend. We just need to learn how to open our mouths wide.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:10)

The Blood Covenant, Part 2: Is There Anyone Still Left? (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 2 Samuel 9:1-10)

David and Jonathan enter into a parity covenant, exchanging robes and weapons to signify their bond of loyalty to each other. The covenant they cut includes Jonathan’s young son Mephibosheth, whom David seeks out to bless even after Jonathan dies. Thereafter, Mephibosheth is invited to eat at the king’s table forever, unworthy though he may be. David shows Mephibosheth hesed (loving-kindness) because of his covenant with Jonathan, who served as his son’s covenant representative head.

This historical episode illustrates well the concept of representation. As Jonathan was Mephibosheth’s covenant representative head, so Jesus is the covenant representative head of the entire human race. Moreover, like David looking for Mephibosheth, God is searching for us, wanting to lavish upon us all the riches and blessings that come from being in covenant with him through Christ. He invites us to eat at the King’s table forever, unworthy though we may be. God’s hesed (lovingkindness) now flows to all who acknowledge Jesus by faith as their covenant representative head.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

New Worship Song for This Sunday: ‘Covenant of Grace’

Corporate worship continues this Sunday, September 27 at 10:30 a.m. in Dech Memorial Chapel in Myerstown, PA. Local folks will be singing “Covenant of Grace”—a song that is new to our fellowship. You can preview it here to help prepare for worship:


COVENANT OF GRACE

Chorus

The wonder of Your mercy Lord 
The beauty of Your grace 
That You would even pardon me 
And bring me to this place 
I stand before Your holiness 
I can only stand amazed 
The sinless Savior died to make 
A covenant of grace 

Verse 1

I only want to serve you 
Bring honor to Your name 
And though I’ve often failed You 
Your faithfulness remains 
I’ll glory in my weakness 
That I might know Your strength 
I will live my life at the Cross of Christ 
And raise a banner to proclaim 

Verse 2

You welcome us before You 
Into this holy place 
The brilliance of Your glory 
Demands our endless praise 
The One, the only Savior 
Has opened heaven’s doors
We can enter in free from all our sin 
By Your cleansing sacrifice

Words and Music by Don Wallace 
© 1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

The Blood Covenant, Part 1: The Bond in Blood (Genesis 15:1-21)

The word “covenant” is used over 300 times in the Bible. In the ancient world, covenant making (or “cutting”) was a social arrangement of convenience or necessity, obligating two parties to show hesed one to another (i.e., mercy, kindness, loving-kindness, or covenant loyalty). At its heart, a covenant was a bond in blood; the establishment of a binding, legal relationship with no exit clause. Covenant partners died to their rights to independent living, becoming functionally one in the process.

The shock of the Bible is that God himself has entered into covenant with the human race! He swore on oath with uplifted hand to keep his word, even upon pain of death. It all started with a man by the name of “Abram.” God promised that one day someone would come through Abram’s line who would bless the whole world (Genesis 12:3), an ultimate reference to the Messiah. The bigger shock of the Bible is that to establish a covenant with humanity, God placed a death sentence on himself. What kind of God is willing to die for his people? The one whose Son wound up on a cross, where the New Covenant was cut.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

New Worship Song for This Sunday: ‘The Blood of Jesus Speaks for Me’

Corporate worship continues this Sunday, September 20 at 10:30 a.m. in Dech Memorial Chapel in Myerstown, PA. Local folks will be singing “The Blood of Jesus Speaks for Me”—a song that is new to our fellowship. You can preview it here to help prepare for worship:

THE BLOOD OF JESUS SPEAKS FOR ME

The blood of Jesus speaks for me
Be still my soul, redeeming love
Out of the dust of Calvary
Is rising to the throne above

There is no vengeance in His cry
While “It is finished” fills the sky
Forgiveness is the final plea
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

My heart can barely take it in
He pardons all my guilty stains
Surrender all my shame to Him
He breaks the curse of every chain

My sin is great, but greater still
The boundless grace His heart reveals
A mercy deeper than the sea
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

When my accuser makes the claim
That I should die for my offense
I point him too that rugged frame
Where I found life at Christ expense

See from His hands, His feet, His side
The fountain flowing deep and wide
Oh, He did shout the victory
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

Worthy is the Lamb
Lamb for sinners slain
Jesus, Lord of all
Glory to His name

Heaven crying out
Let the earth proclaim
Power in the blood
Glory to His name

Worthy is the Lamb
Lamb for sinners slain
Jesus, Lord of all
Glory to His name

Heaven crying out
Let the earth proclaim
Power in the blood
Glory to His name
Jesus!

Oh let my soul arise and sing
My confidence is not in vain
The one who fights for me is King
His hope, His covenant remain

No condemnation now I dread
Eternal hope is mine instead
His word will stand, I stand redeemed
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

Amazing love, how can it be?
The blood of Jesus speaks for me
For me!

Words and Music by Travis Cottrell and David Moffitt
© 2016 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing / Great Revelation Music / TimeChange Music (ASCAP)