Have you ever wondered whether there is not more to the Christian faith than what you are experiencing? You're right - there is!
The Christian life is much more than what most Christians believe or experience
The Christian life is the most adventurous and fulfilling life one can experience on earth. Christianity is much more than what most Christians understand or believe. Many, if not most Christians never discover the deeper truths of the Bible. They are quite content just to scratch the surface of the Bible message. Sadly, many Christians are quite content to know they are saved and on their way to heaven, but heaven to them is something that only concerns the distant future. In the mean time they are continuing with their earthly and material lives as if nothing has changed. The vast majority of Christians are living a Christian life on the fringe, while a small minority dare to move into the centre. The vast majority of Christians are playing in the shallow waters of the Gospel, while a small minority dare to swim into the deep waters.
The fact of the matter is that God has an inheritance of indescribable spiritual riches available to every born again Christian who is willing to seek after the full truth of the Gospel and the Bible with his or her whole heart! The book of Ephesians gives us a glimpse of this inheritance and in Eph 1:11-23 we read: "In Him (Jesus Christ) also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." What a glorious mouth-full!
The problem is that although most Christians have read this passage and have heard it before, the dynamic reality of it's contents is revealed to, and experienced by only a few. Why is that? Why do only a small percentage of Christians ever discover these truths? Why do only a small percentage of Christians move into the centre and the deep waters of the Bible message, in spite of God's rich inheritance in Christ and the awesome promises of His Word for every Christian? The reason is because of the secret of the Covenant! I will explain this secret in detail as we proceed.
God's Everlasting Covenant in the Bible
God is a Covenantal God and not many people fully understand, or are willing to enter wholeheartedly and unconditionally into this Covenant with God. What does it mean that God is a Covenantal God?
Another term for a covenant is a contract or agreement. A covenant is a binding and irrevocable agreement between two or more people or parties. The most common example of a covenant or contract is the marriage contract between a bridegroom and his bride. When a man marries a woman the two enter into a covenant with each other, promising to be faithful to each other until death. This is what marriage means. Many young people today choose to live together in stead of marrying, because they are not prepared to accept the responsibility that comes with a life-long marriage commitment. God calls a sexual relationship outside of marriage, adultery or fornication; but we are going to come back to the example of marriage at a later stage.
We first read about God's Covenant with His creatures in the history of Noah. In Gen 6:17,18 we read: "And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark - you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you." This was God's covenant with Noah. However, in chapter 9 we read about God's Everlasting Covenant, of which the rainbow is the sign, which did not only include Noah and his family but all of creation: "It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." Gen 9:14-16.
On the surface it appears that the contents of the Everlasting Covenant is simply the promise that God would never again destroy the entire earth with water. However, when we read through the entire Bible we come to the conclusion that the meaning of the Everlasting Covenant must be much more than that. There must have been an underlying reason why God made that promise. Indeed so, for we read about the Everlasting Covenant 14 times in the Old Testament. The ungodly conditions that applied at the time of the great flood had certainly again applied not long after the flood - and most certainly applies today! It is therefore reasonable to expect that the sign of the rainbow means much more than simply that God would never again destroy the earth with water.
In Gen 17:7 we read about God's covenant with Abraham: "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you." (Emphasis my own.) Here we see that the Everlasting Covenant includes the thought "to be God to you". The Everlasting Covenant is further mentioned several times by the prophets with reference to Jesus Christ as the coming Messiah. (See Is 24:5; Is 55; Is 61:8; Jer 32:40; Ez 16:60; Ez 37:26.) The Everlasting Covenant includes therefore both the Old as well as the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was God's covenant with Abraham and Israel, while the New Covenant is God's covenant with the whole world through the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Jer 31:31-34 puts it this way: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
The book of Hebrews explains the New Covenant in great detail and ends with this glorious word: "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." Heb 13:20,21. (Emphasis my own.) Finally, in Rev 4:2,3 we read: "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald." (Emphasis my own.) Why did God have a rainbow around His throne? The rainbow was the sign of God's Everlasting Covenant (first revealed to Noah), that was now being brought to fulfillment.
If we say that it is much more than simply a promise never to destroy the earth with water, this brings us to the question, what then exactly is the purpose and content of the Everlasting Covenant? The fact of the matter is that there is only one covenant, and God's covenant with Noah, Abraham, the Old as well as the New Covenant, reflects only progressive stages of God's one and only Everlasting Covenant. Hence forth when we use the term Covenant we use it synonymous with God's Everlasting Covenant.
The purpose and content of the Covenant.
The purpose and content of the Covenant in a nutshell is simply this:
Now we can clearly see the relationship between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God's Eternal Covenant. The Gospel is God's eternal plan and purpose for man; and the implementation of this plan and purpose against the backdrop of creation, the fall, the great flood, dispersion of the nations at the tower of Babel, calling of Abraham, the history of Israel and dispensation of the law and prophets; as it came to perfect fulfilment in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, His death on the cross, His resurrection, ascension into heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; and will come to final fulfillment when the Bride of Christ will be restored into His image of holiness and love, and be complete and representative of every nation, tongue and tribe, at the return of Jesus Christ and the judgement of God over the unrighteous world.
The timeline of God's Eternal Covenant in the ages
Below is a possible illustration of the timeline of God's Eternal Covenant in the ages. Not all Christians are in agreement with regard to the number of years as indicated below, but whether one agrees with the timetable or not, this does not in any way change the overall picture of God's restoration plan in the ages.
The difference between the Old and New Covenant
What exactly is the difference between the Old and New Covenant? The content of the Old Covenant was in a nutshell: Obey My laws and I will bless you. In the Old Covenant God spoke to His people through the prophets. The Holy Spirit rested only on the prophets and they proclaimed or preached the message of God to the people. The Old Covenant was represented by the Dispensation of Law as indicated in the above illustration. God's Moral Law was written on stone tablets and the people were instructed to obey God's law. In return God promised to bless them. The Ceremonial Law instructed the people how to sacrifice animals for the remission of unintentional sins; and the Judicial Law prescribed the death penalty for intentional transgression of the Moral Law.
The content of the New Covenant in a nutshell is: I will write my laws on the table of your heart through the indwelling and control of My Holy Spirit, and I will bless you. (Jer 31:31-34 quoted above.) The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Jesus Christ came in perfect fulfillment of the law. He perfectly fulfilled the Ceremonial Law by sacrificing Himself - the perfect Lamb of God without blemish - on the Cross of Calvary for the sin of the entire world. He came in perfect fulfillment of the Judicial Law by taking the death penalty for sin on Himself. He came in perfect fulfillment of the Moral Law by pouring out His Holy Spirit into, and renewing the heart of man from the inside through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of every born again Christian.
The inheritance, promises and blessings of the Covenant
We said at the beginning that the Christian life is the most adventurous and fulfilling life one can experience on earth. Christianity is much more than what most Christians understand or believe. What then exactly does the inheritance of the Covenant include? What promises and blessings are included in God's Covenant for His children? We have also said previously that God has irrevocably committed Himself to restore humanity and creation from the fall, and to fulfill His eternal purpose in creation by bringing His creation to glory through the Church. But what exactly does this mean for the individual Christian?
The heavenly and eternal blessings of the Covenant include:
The earthly blessings of the Covenant include:
It is of course true that no single Christian fully experience all of these blessings. It is also true that different Christians experience different blessings to a varying degree. It is further important to acknowledge that the spiritual blessings are of greater importance and significance than the material blessings, and that it is often necessary for a Christian to relinquish certain material blessings in order to gain the spiritual. The material blessings of the Covenant, health and material prosperity, should be viewed as fringe benefits that will pass away. Christians who are searching after health, wealth and prosperity in Christianity are pursuing a Christian life on the fringe. It is important to understand that, although Jesus healed multitudes of people during His earthly ministry, this was first and foremost a prophetic ministry that pointed to the spiritual healing that would follow from Calvary. Jesus first and foremost came to deal with the problem of sin, and the spiritual blessings form the center of the Covenant.
Having said this, the question we would like to answer is, why do the majority of Christians never experience the fullness of the Covenant? We said at the beginning that the vast majority of Christians are living a Christian life on the fringe, while a small minority dare to move into the center. The vast majority of Christians are playing in the shallow waters of the Gospel, while a small minority dare to swim into the deep waters.
Why is this? We said at the beginning that this can be attributed to the secret of the Covenant. Let us now pursue the matter further.
The two sides of the Covenant
There is also a give side - a conditions side to the Covenant. My bride is not my slave, she is my 'other half'. The give or condition side of the marriage covenant is that I have to give myself. Firstly, I have to accept that this relationship is for life - divorce is not an option! Secondly, I have to severe and deny every other love relationship! I now belong to him or her alone. I have to sacrifice my independence. I have to sacrifice every aspect of my life that is in conflict with, or will have a destructive or negative effect on my relationship with my husband or wife. I cannot live for myself anymore - I now live for my husband or wife and us as a family.
I have often heard people speaking of marriage as a 50/50 partnership. I give 50% and I take 50%. However, may I tell you that there is only one formula for a happy marriage - and that is giving 100% by both partners. Marriage is not a 50/50 partnership - marriage is a 100% surrender by both partners, and anything less will manifest as cracks in your marriage foundation! Anything less will rob you of an intimate relationship with your husband or wife and the full blessings of marriage!
You see, there are two sides to the Covenant. Any covenant or contract has two sides - the give side and the take side - the benefit side and the conditions side. Let us now return to the example of the marriage covenant. The benefit or take side of the covenant is my bride. I receive this woman with her beauty, talents, love and affection as my wife to be at my side, be my support, and be the mother of my children - to love and to cherish for the rest of my life.
The conditions of the Covenant
What are the conditions of the Covenant? (Take into account that I am now speaking to regenerate, saved Christians.) There is only one condition of the Covenant - and this is that I give myself - all of me, entirely, whole-heartedly, unconditionally, completely - in faith, to God in Jesus Christ for the exclusive purpose of the fulfilment of His Eternal Covenant - IN my life, as well as THROUGH my life! In Mat 22:37.38 we read: "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the first and great commandment." And in Rom 12:1 we read: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."
God wants to enter into a 'marriage' relationship with you and me in Jesus Christ. God has instituted marriage as an example of the relationship He desires with His creation. For this reason God's relationship with His children are often portrayed as a marriage. We read for example in Isa 54:5,6: "For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the LORD has called you Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, Like a youthful wife when you were refused," Says your God."
We find this truth running through the Bible like a golden thread. The parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins in Matthew 25 is another example, and in 2 Cor 11:2 the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
God is preparing the Church for bridehood. The ultimate goal of God in creation is to unite the Church to Jesus Christ in marriage at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb: "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God." Rev 19:7-9.
The secret of the Covenant
This then brings us to the secret of the Covenant. We have already revealed the secret in the previous paragraph, but let's repeat it here: The secret of the Covenant is found in giving myself - all of me, entirely, whole-heartedly, unconditionally, completely - to God in Jesus Christ for the exclusive purpose of the fulfillment of His Eternal Covenant - IN my life, as well as THROUGH my life! The secret of the Covenant is absolute surrender! This involves a dying to self - a giving up of the control of my own WILL, INTELLECT and EMOTION to God's control by the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ.
The secret of the covenant is to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God - and the secret of being filled with the Holy Spirit is absolute surrender! Let us now look at the meaning and implications of absolute surrender in more detail.
As we already know that God instituted marriage as an example of the relationship He wants to enter into with us, let us see what other insights we are able to draw from marriage.
1. Engagement versus marriage
Engagement or betrothal is the promise of giving oneself to a partner with the view to a future marriage. A love relationship exists between the couple who is engaged and although they have not yet entered into the marriage covenant, they have already given their hearts and affection to each other, and have promised to marry each other.
What is the difference between betrothal and marriage? There are two major differences. The first difference is the permanency thereof. Marriage is for life, while betrothal is temporary. Betrothal is temporary in the sense that it must lead to a marriage, or be broken.
The second difference is that the advantages or blessings of a marriage is restricted to a betrothed couple. A betrothed couple may not co-habituate, engage in a sexual relationship or build a family. The Bible prohibits a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Partners only become beneficiaries in their mutual estates when they are married in community of property. Betrothal does not meet the requirements of absolute surrender and therefore the full blessings of marriage are not available to a betrothed couple.
This is one of the major reasons why many Christians do not experience the full blessing or inheritance of the Covenant. They have never entered into a 'marriage covenant' with Jesus Christ. Many Christians are merely 'betrothed' to Jesus - they are involved in a love relationship with Him but have not yet made an absolute surrender to Him. They have, like Jacob in Gen 28:20,21 made a conditional surrender: "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God." It was not until 20 years later at the Jabbok river that Jacob came to a place of unconditional surrender to God.
In the same manner many have made a conditional surrender to Jesus Christ in order to see if it will work for them. They have given their hearts to Jesus on condition that He blesses them and meets their needs, but they are not willing to break altogether with sin and the world of sin. When they are persecuted, having to take a stand for Jesus, or when their faith is tested in affliction, they fail the test of faith.
2. Knowing the character of the Bridegroom
For a bride to enter into a marriage with a bridegroom she has to know the character of her bridegroom. How many marriages have already ended up on the rocks simply because marriage partners did not fully know each other's characters before marriage. I know of a women who married a man just to find out that he was an alcoholic. Their marriage lasted only three weeks.
In exactly the same way you must know the character of God before you can enter into a marriage relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Fortunately He already knows your character! He knows you are born a sinner! That is the reason Jesus Christ had to die on the Cross of Calvary to make it possible for you to enter into a 'marriage' relationship with Him!
God has many characteristics, for example, He is omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign, and eternal. It is not possible to consider every attribute or characteristic of God in this article, but there are especially two characteristics of God that are pivotal and absolutely vital for every Christian to understand in order to enter into the Covenant with God. These two characteristics are the holiness and love of God.
God is holy and righteous
The Bible teaches us that God is holy and in Him is no sin. God hates sin and He will never enter into an intimate relationship with anyone who is not willing to renounce, and turn his or her back on sin! In 1 Pet 1:15,16 we read: "but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."
Holiness is the opposite of sinfulness. God will never condone sin - He forgives sin - if we confess our sin! God will never overlook sin - then Jesus died in vain. God never hides sin, God never sweeps sin under the carpet - He exposes it and cleanses from sin - if we repent from all known sin! If we continue in sin without repentance, He will judge sin - but will never overlook sin in the life of a Christian!
Sin is the reason why God's original plan and purpose in creation have not been fulfilled. Sin is the reason why God destroyed the ancient world with water. Sin is the reason why God will destroy our current world with fire. Sin is the reason why hell exists and why multitudes of people will end up in hell! Sin is the reason why it was necessary for God to make an eternal covenant with man to restore creation from the fall. Sin is the reason why the Son of God had to become a man and die on the Cross of Calvary. "... Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, ..." (Php 2:5-10)
I sometimes hear people say that because Jesus died for my sin He does not see my sin anymore but looks upon my sin through the blood of Jesus. This is only true if I have confessed and renounced my sin. It is a fallacy to think that I may continue in sin while Jesus look upon my sin through the spectacles of the blood of Jesus. Jesus paid for my sin with His own precious blood! How can I continue to live in it? In Rom 6:1-3 we read: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"
What is sin? Maybe we should pause for a moment on the question, what is sin? The simplest description of sin is transgression against, or disobedience to the laws and commands of God. In the Old Testament God gave His law to us in Exodus 20 comprising of the ten commandments written on stone tablets. In the New Testament Jesus explains that sin is not only the deed contrary to God's law, but also the thought and intention of my heart.
However, sin is much more than that. The mother-sin is unbelief. When Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan in Paradise, we read these words: "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" (Gen 3:1) You see, the very first thing Satan did was to plant a seed of unbelief and mistrust in God in Eve's heart. Eve's original sin was unbelief, and then the act of disobedience followed. That is why we read in Rom 14:23: "... whatever is not from faith, is sin."
This is also the reason why the inheritance of God's Covenant can only be acquired by faith. Salvation is by faith alone! Regeneration is by faith alone! The infilling of the Holy Spirit is by faith alone! Healing is by faith alone! Victory over sin, Satan and the world is by faith alone! In fact faith is the basic requirement for each and every gift from God - and without faith it is impossible to please God! "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Heb 11:6)
Finally, sin is also the tendency I was born with to sin against God. I have inherited a sinful nature from my grand-grand parents, Adam and Eve, and this sinful nature has the tendency to sin. I am programmed with a 'DNA' that by nature does not want to trust God, but insists on trusting and following my own will, desires, and understanding. My sinful nature is my inborn tendency to continuously wanting to satisfy my own desires and follow my own instincts - it is self-centredness. The great 'I' - I, mine and myself - is the expression of my sinful nature, and every expression or act emanating from my sinful nature is sin - however noble or sanctimonious it may be perceived by the senses. The reason for this is that the sinful nature functions in independence from God.
God is love
The second characteristic of God that is pivotal to an intimate relationship with Him, is the love of God. The well-known verse, John 3:16 describes this so well: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." However, there are two things that are important to understand about the love of God. The first is that the love of God never functions independently from His holiness, and the second is that it is unconditional.
It is not possible to understand the love of God apart from His holiness! There are people who believe that because God is a loving God, He will overlook sin or never send anybody to hell. No, no, no - this is a grave misconception! The fact of the matter is that His love is so huge because His holiness is so great! It was the love of God for man and the hate of God for sin that nailed Jesus Christ to the Cross! Let us repeat John 3:16 we have quoted above: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Let me paraphrase this verse for you in my own words: 'God so loved the world that He became a man to die a vicarious death on a cross as an eternal sacrifice for the sin of the world in place of every individual who would accept His sacrifice and free gift of everlasting life by faith, by allowing Jesus Christ to save, cleanse and deliver him or her from sin.'
Anyone who is willing to accept eternal life from God, but not willing to be cleansed and delivered from sin, is trampling the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross underfoot. It was your and my sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross! It was the love of God for you and me in our sinful state that nailed Jesus Christ to the Cross. How then can I continue to live in sin? The very first thing that happens to a person when he or she is truly born again, is an abhorrence of sin. If you believe you were born again but still loves sin and the world of sin, you have all the reason to doubt whether you were truly born again. The Spirit of Christ that comes to indwell a person with regeneration is the HOLY Spirit and His primary function is to convince a person of sin, righteousness and judgement. (John 16:8.)
When thinking of the love of God some people have a picture of Jesus with a loving and tender smile on His face in their minds. However, this is the picture that should come to your mind when you think of the love of God:
This is the love that drives you to an absolute surrender of your entire life to God. This is the price Jesus paid to win your love! This was God's demonstration of love to you and me - a hell-deserving sinner! Shall I give Him anything less than my all?
The words of that precious hymn by Isaac Watts says it all:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And mourning weep o'er all my pride
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
3. Knowing the purpose of the bridegroom in marriage
Another important thing a bride needs to know when entering into a marriage is the purpose of the bridegroom in marriage. What is she going to do in marriage? Is the bridegroom simply going to use her to wash the dishes, clean the house and be there for him when he needs her, or is she going to form a purposeful part of her husband's life? Is she going to be a servant or a partner? Will she have to sit at home raising children, while her husband travels the world, or is she going to fulfill a purposeful part in marriage?
The glory about God's Covenant is that He wants us to be an active partner in fulfilling His purpose for the Church and the world. God has a dynamic plan and purpose for our lives in covenant with Him! We have said earlier that the essence of the Covenant is that God has irrevocably committed Himself to restore humanity and creation from the fall, and to fulfill His eternal purpose in creation by bringing His creation to glory through the Church. There are two main objectives God has in mind for each and every one of His children who enters into a Covenant with Him:
3.1 God wants His bride to be conformed to His image
The very first thing God wants to achieve in your and my life is to restore His image in us. Now this is quite interesting. Guess what are the characteristics God most urgently wants to restore in your and my life! You have guessed correctly - holiness and love. This restoration process is called sanctification. Listen to these verses in Eph 5:25-27 and see if it makes good sense to you: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."
When we confess our sins and are born again, God imputes His righteousness to us. That means He cleanses our past from sin, places us in the right standing before God and sees us as if we have never sinned. However, He does not only want to impute His righteousness to us, He also wants to impart His righteousness to us. Imparted righteousness is the process of sanctification, and involves a change of heart - a renewal of our character.
God will not do anything in your and my life without our consent. Because God has created us in His own image with a WILL of our own, He requires our full consent before He will proceed with His restoration plan in our lives - and this consent is given by faith when we make an absolute surrender to Him. God will do in our lives, and we will participate in the blessings of the Covenant to exactly the same degree as to which we have trusted Him and surrendered ourselves to Him and His purpose for our lives.
Sanctification is an entire subject on its own and we will therefore not go into this any deeper here. But I encourage you to read other books on the subject of sanctification if it is at all possible in your country. Two books that I can highly recommend is, Absolute Surrender by Dr Andrew Murray and The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. The first can be downloaded free of charge in pdf format from the link provided, and the last can be downloaded free of charge in text format from the link provided.
3.2 God wants to use us as His instruments or representatives to fulfill His plan for the Church and the world
The second thing God wants to do in our lives is to equip and empower us for service. God wants to use us as His instruments or representatives to fulfill His plan for the Church and the world. What exactly is His purpose and plan for the Church and the world?
We are taught by the Bible that the end of earthly life as we know it and the fulfillment of God's purpose and plan in the ages, will be inaugurated by a wedding in heaven - the marriage supper of the Lamb. We have already explained that God is preparing the Church for bridehood. The ultimate goal of God in creation is to unite the Church to Jesus Christ in marriage at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb: "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " Rev 19:7-9.
But who will constitute the bride? The Bible is not absolutely clear on this, but many Bible scholars understand that the Bride will be the triumphant Church. (e.g. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown.) In other words, all born again children of God over the ages who have overcome sin, Satan and the world in life and death at the second coming of Christ. (See Rev 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:5; 3:12; 3:21.)
When will this happen? When will the second coming of Christ be, and why has it not yet occurred? When we look at the signs of the times as given in the Bible, it appears that many, if not most of them have already gone into fulfillment. Why then is the second coming of Christ still delayed? There can be only one reason. The reason is because the Bride of Christ is not fully ready and complete. But how will we know when the Bride is complete? What do we have to work towards?
The Bride will be complete when every nation, tongue and tribe have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and have had an opportunity to respond to it! "And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations." Mar 13:10. Please note this does not mean that the whole world must first be evangelized! It only means that the whole world must have heard the Gospel and must have had an opportunity to respond to the Gospel if they wanted to do so. God is not busy changing the world for the better - God is busy gathering His bride from every nation, tongue and tribe, and preparing her for the marriage supper of the Lamb! At the same time He is preparing the unsaved world for judgement! Jesus gave the Church one great commission and this commission reads thus: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15,16.)
So then, to conclude, what does God want to prepare and use us for? To take the Gospel into the whole world! How do we do that? There are a legion of ways we can be used by God to fulfill the Great Commission. The most basic way each and every Christian should be involved in world missions is through our prayer-life and our giving. However, God has a very special mission for each and every child of God and He is preparing each one of us in a unique way for this mission. At some or other point in time in our Christian lives, God will clearly call us to do a certain work for Him. Each and every Christian has a calling - whether you are in a secular work or in full time ministry. However, the secret is to hear God's voice and to follow Him in obedience. In order to do that you have to be absolutely surrendered to Jesus Christ. You will not hear the voice of God or recognise His calling unless you are absolutely surrendered to Jesus Christ. Neither will you be used by God as His instrument unless you are absolutely surrendered to Jesus Christ.
4. Understanding God's hierarchy in marriage
The final insight with regard to marriage I want to discuss, is God's hierarchy or order in marriage. We live in an era of equal women's rights and the Women's Rights Movement have changed the way many of us think about God's order in marriage. We think that husband and wife are, or should be, co-equals in a 50/50 partnership. Firstly I want to say that the Bible is absolutely against abuse and repression of women. However, in the same breath I want to say that unless Christians return to God's hierarchy or order in marriage, the divorce rate will climb and more and more Christian marriages will end up on the rocks.
The Word of God says in Eph 5:22,23: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body." There is a very good reason why God's hierarchy in marriage places the wife in submission to the husband, and the reason is definitely not because the woman is in any way inferior to the man! The reason is because marriage is God's model of the heavenly relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church, as we clearly see in the verse above!
In the same way a bride loses her maiden identity and takes on the identity of her bridegroom in marriage, the Christian loses his or her natural identity in Christ when entering into the Covenant with God. We have previously said that my sinful nature is my inborn tendency to continuously wanting to satisfy my own desires and follow my own instincts - it is self-centredness. The great 'I' - I, mine and myself - is the expression of my sinful nature. In order to be united with Jesus Christ in a covenant relationship I will have to be willing to deny my own identity and self-centredness, I have to die to my natural self - I have to die to my "Great I", my "Old Self", my sinful nature! The apostle Paul explains this precious truth to us in various places in his letters to the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians. He says in Gal 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." You see, this is what it means to lose your identity in Christ - it means to give up your SELF-life to be crucified with Christ!
I want to explain a great secret of family happiness to you. For the Holy Spirit to work unrestricted in and through every member of your family, the Divine hierarchy has to be functioning in your family-life. The husband - head of the house; then the wife, then the children - all in proper submission to God's appointed authority over them. When and wherever God's authority is short-circuited, the power of the Holy Spirit will be short-circuited in your family life - because the Holy Spirit works first and foremost through God's appointed authority! Rebellion, or opposition to God's instituted authority, will always cause the work of the Holy Spirit to be short-circuited in your life - and will cause you to miss out on the blessings of God in your life! A great book I can recommend on this subject is, Spiritual Authority by Watchman Nee.
In exactly the same way the work of the Holy Spirit will be short-circuited in a child of God and you will miss out on the fullness of a covenant relationship with God, unless you are in full submission to the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ!
How to enter into a covenant relationship with God ...
In conclusion, how do we enter into the Covenant with God? It is simple - by faith! In exactly the same way you accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour - by faith in prayer! The only difference is the extend thereof. When you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you did so with the knowledge and light at your disposal at the time - and God honoured your faith by regenerating your spirit by His Holy Spirit. However, now you have more knowledge and light and you will put your faith in Jesus Christ in accordance with the knowledge and light you have now acquired - and God will honour your increased faith by giving you His Spirit in all His fullness.
Faith has two sides, like the two sides of a coin. The one side is faith or trust and the other is absolute surrender. It is not possible to have more faith in God than what you are willing to surrender to Him. Let me explain this by way of an illustration. I am a bad passenger because I simply have more trust in my own ability to drive my motor vehicle than any other member of my family. Three of my children have received their drivers licenses over the past few years and I had to learn to sometimes be content with being a passenger. I still don't feel very comfortable when one of them is driving, and I know there are two things I have to do to solve this problem. The first is, I have to fully trust the driver, and the second which is actually putting the first into practice is, I have to let go of the steering wheel and controls. In exactly the same way it is not possible to say you are fully believing and trusting God while at the same time you are still holding onto the control of certain areas of your life! You have to let go!
Placing your faith fully and unconditionally in God involves an absolute surrender and giving up of your sinful nature to be crucified with Christ! This simply means trusting Jesus Christ with your entire life - body, soul and spirit! Trusting Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit! Trusting Him to cleanse you and deliver you from every indwelling sin and every bondage! Trusting Him to sanctify you wholly! Trusting Him to deliver you from any fear of death or persecution! Trusting Him to heal your hurts. Trusting Him to keep you, protect you, and fulfill His plan and purpose in and through your life until Jesus comes again - body, soul and spirit. Trusting Him to work out your life for His purpose according to His Divine will! Trusting Him for your daily bread and your health - and if it His will that you should suffer for a time while He is teaching you, to carry you through! In short, to trust Him that His grace will be sufficient for you in every area of your life!
Jesus Christ has already surrendered Himself fully to you on the Cross of Calvary in terms of the Covenant in order to win your undivided love! Now He is waiting for you to surrender yourself fully and unconditionally to Him in terms of the Covenant - in order that he may pour out the full blessing of His Holy Spirit upon you!
Are you ready to place your faith unconditionally in Jesus Christ, trusting Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit? Are you ready to make an absolute and unconditional surrender of your entire life to God in prayer? Then I invite you to pray the prayer below, meaning every word you pray:
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I understand that You paid the price with Your own precious blood on the cross of Calvary, not only for the guilt of my sin, but also for my deliverance and liberation from the bondage of sin and my sinful nature! I also understand that You have a wonderful plan of victory and fruitfulness for my life and that You want to fill me with Your Holy Spirit!
I come this moment in deep humiliation to Your throne of grace. I confess that my life does not measure up to Your holy standard! I confess the utter depravity of my own sinful nature! I confess that I do not have victory over sin and my sinful nature and that I am living a life of spiritual defeat. I now come to You kneeling in sincere repentance of my sinfulness, my self-centredness and my unbelief, at the Cross of Jesus. I confess every conscious sin before you. Please cleanse me from every sin, but also create within me a pure heart, Oh God!
(Confess every known sin by name before God, and close every entrance to Satan and his demons, through the Blood of Jesus, by faith. It is recommended that you list them in writing and pray through every one systematically - and when you're through, burn or destroy the paper as a symbolic act of faith.)
I turn my back on every sin in my life this very moment; and I enter into a covenant with You to submit myself in unconditional obedience to Your Word, Your law, Your will, and Your plan for my life! I surrender my sinful nature this very moment to be crucified with Christ, and I take up my position as crucified with Christ by faith! I (place your own name in here) have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me! (Gal 2:20)
I surrender my whole life, including my WILL, INTELLECT, and EMOTION entirely and unconditionally to You! Everything I am and possess I give to You in order that You may fulfill Your Divine plan in and through my life! Whatever was important to me, I now regard as useless for Jesus’ sake! (Phil 3:7-11) Please take full control of every area of my life! Fill my heart and life now with Your Holy Spirit!
Thank you for the promises of Your Word, and I appropriate by faith every promise in Your Word for myself this moment! I believe You when You say that You reward those who seek you with an undivided heart! I believe that You have now taken full control of my life by Your Holy Spirit. I also take up my position as resurrected and victorious with Christ on the basis of Your Word by faith, and in the Name of Jesus Christ my Lord! I praise and worship You, Lord Jesus! I love You, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version, except where stated otherwise.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.