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Covenant Theology For The Rest Of Us

What springs to mind when you hear the words “Covenant Theology?”

Complexity? Confusion? Controversy? BIG (unread) books?

Yes, me too.

Yet, if it was really so complicated, why would God have used covenants so much to teach His infant people Israel?

Yes, there are mysterious depths to covenant theology that we will never plumb. But I’m convinced that there’s a simplicity to it as well that even the simplest child can grasp. As is often said of the Gospels: “Shallow enough for a child to paddle in, but deep enough for an elephant to wade in.” With covenant theology, lots have done the wading elephant bit (and drowned us in the process), but few have done the paddling child bit.

But that’s what I want to do today. A bit of pleasant paddling in the soul-refreshing shallows of “covenant theology for the rest of us.”

Dark Cathedral
Let’s start in a old dingy cathedral with no windows and no doors. Inside this black and bleak building is fallen and dying humanity. In order not to blind those dying inside that He wants to save, God decides to gradually cut some windows in this cathedral in order to slowly let in the light of His covenant of grace.

Snake Window
First, He cuts a small snake-shaped window in one wall, which, on close inspection, reveals that the snake’s head is crushed. Everyone inside benefited from the light, just as all humanity benefited from God’s curse on the newly-dangerous snake. However, though many just admire the shape of the window and enjoy the light that comes through it, together with its natural benefits, others look through the window by faith and see a welcome spiritual reality shining brightly through it – a defeated Devil.

Rainbow Window
Some years later, God cuts another cathedral window, this time rainbow-shaped. Again, everyone inside the cathedral benefits from the natural blessings of relatively stable and peaceful seasons that flow through this window.  Others, however, look through the window by faith and see a more wonderful spiritual reality shining brightly through it—a peacemaking and pacified God.

More Light
As the years pass, more windows are cut, one in the shape of a knife in Abraham’s time, a couple in the shape of a Lamb and then a Law-scroll in Moses’ time (and that order is vital), and one in the shape of an everlasting crown in David’s time. Everyone in Israel benefits from these signs, at least outwardly. However, those with faith look through these windows and see the spiritual realities that they signify, and are drawn into a saving covenant relationship with God.

That’s what covenant theology is all about: RELATIONSHIP. covenant is a relationship, initiated and imposed by a superior, with life-or-death consequences.

New Covenant
While some used these Old Testament covenants to enter into that saving relationship with God, many just took the outward, natural, and national benefits. That’s why God promised a New Covenant in Jeremiah, that would be far more effective in bringing far more people into a saving relationship with God.

When Jesus instituted the New Covenant, He cut more and brighter windows in the shape of bread, wine, and baptismal water (bath or basin – you choose!). This time, it’s not just Israel’s window; the whole world is invited to look at it and through it.

Again, sadly, many just take the outward signs but show no interest in what they signify – forgiveness and cleansing through a suffering Savior. But lots of others see through these signs and enjoy the closest possible intimacy with God.

I will be your God
The covenant of grace shines increasingly into the world’s darkness from Genesis 3:15 on, as God increasingly expresses His desire to bond with us in a saving relationship. “I will be your God and you shall be my people.”

We await one final development in the unfolding plan of God: the return of Jesus for His people. Then He will demolish the cathedral, its walls and windows: “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”

Then the essence of the covenant of grace will be fully realized and experienced: “He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Then we will hear the divine voice say forever: “I will be his God and he shall be My son.”

Below you’ll find a digital poster presenting covenant theology in graphical form. It’s one of a series of digital posters that Dave VanBrugge and Cameron Morgan designed to accompany Jesus on Every Page. The book goes on sale today and if you buy the book before August 31, you can get all eight posters as part of a package of $100 of Old Testament freebies. RHB have the book for sale at a lower price than Amazon! They’re also offering a pack of 5 for $50

RSS/Email readers may have to click here to view the poster.

The Covenant of Grace


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How many lives is our privacy worth?

“How many lives is our privacy worth?”

“Not one!” most reply

“Why not?”

“Well some things, like freedom, are worth sacrificing life for; but not for just privacy.”

“So you have no problems with the amount of private information being vacuumed from our phones and computers?”

“Wait a minute. No, I hate that, and I wish it wasn’t necessary. But imagine if they stopped doing it and a terrorist bombed another building, plane, or sports event?”

“So you’re saying that you are willing to give up privacy rather than risk one life being killed in a bomb?”

“Yes, I suppose I am saying that.”

Just a candy bar?
It sounds like he’s just giving up a candy bar doesn’t it? I mean who’d sacrifice a life for a candy bar? Just give it up, man. Judging by stunning opinion polls, that seems to be the view of a majority of voters about the loss of their right to privacy.

But is privacy nothing more than a candy bar? In last week’s Wall Street JournalPeggy Noonan reflected on the dangers of the surveillance state we are now living in and argued persuasively that it is fundamentally changing us as a nation, and as individuals:

Privacy is connected to personhood. It has to do with intimate things—the innards of your head and heart, the workings of your mind—and the boundary between those things and the world outside. A loss of the expectation of privacy in communications is a loss of something personal and intimate, and it will have broader implications.

In conversation with Noonan, 80-year-old journalist and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff said that we are in serious danger of losing the Fourth Amendment which protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Threatened and Frightened
When teaching a class at Harvard last year, Hentoff connected the loss of privacy with the loss of freedom:

If citizens don’t have basic privacies—firm protections against the search and seizure of your private communications, for instance—they will be left feeling “threatened.” This will make citizens increasingly concerned “about what they say, and they do, and they think.” It will have the effect of constricting freedom of expression. Americans will become careful about what they say that can be misunderstood or misinterpreted, and then too careful about what they say that can be understood. The inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship.”

If you don’t have free speech you have to be afraid, you lack a vital part of what it is to be a human being who is free to be who you want to be.” Your own growth as a person will in time be constricted, because we come to know ourselves by our thoughts.

This is so, so true. I can already count a few times when I was about to write something in an email or on a blog about the IRS and, I admit, I hesitated and then decided not to. I mean, who wants to trigger an IRS audit? What about even this blog post? I certainly thought twice about whether to write it as I fear it might contain too many KEYWORDS and attract Lois Lerner’s beady eyes. Or the NSA’s.

The land of the free?
I’ve never thought these thoughts in my life before. And I’m thinking them in “the land of the FREE!” I’m just stunned that Americans are giving up so much of their nation and of themselves with barely a whimper. I expected this of Europe, but not of America.

The nation that sacrificed 400,000 American lives (plus 600,000 injured) to free Europe seems unwilling to give up even one life to secure personal freedom at home.

There’s no question that if we ever manage to roll back the omnipresent surveillance beast, and regain our right to privacy, that, yes, terrorists will succeed more than before. Precious lives will be lost in more regular terrorist atrocities. Many civilian lives. Many children’s lives. Maybe my children’s lives. How many lives would be too many to ensure the right to privacy? How many a year? 1,000? 10,000? 100,000?

If you’ve got nothing to hide…
When I used to hear about the increasing invasions of our privacy, my view was, “No big deal, I’ve got nothing to hide, so nothing to lose.” But I now agree with Noonan; even if we have nothing to hide, we are losing too much with the loss of privacy. It’s a slow loss, a subtle loss, a seemingly painless loss, but it’s a radically transformative loss. It’s changing us all, and not for the better.

And so I come back to this hard question, “How many lives is our privacy worth?”

If none, prepare to change fundamentally as a people and as a nation.

In fact, if you answer “None!” you’ve already changed.


Digital Poster: Welcome to Jesus in the Old Testament

This is the first in a series of digital posters that summarize in graphical form some of the content in Jesus on Every Page. If you buy the book before August 31, you can get all nine posters as part of a package of $100 of Old Testament freebies.

Huge thanks to Dave VanBrugge and especially to Cameron Morgan for their work on these posters.

RSS/Email readers may have to click here to view the poster.

JOEP 1 Road to Emmaus


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