What, only a few hours since my last blog? The old brain cell is working overtime again!
Stuck in the middle of what with Jesus?
The middle of the two covenants! The death of the old and the creation of the new. And in my humble opinion most of us get stuck in the middle of the two covenants, not being able to figure out quite which way to go.
Now I know most of us are quite happy about walking away from the old and embracing the new, and for many of us its the most cathartic experience in our lives when we realise that the old is totally and utterly gone and we are now living in complete freedom, in union with God.
BUT... What do we do with the teachings of Jesus?
Most of us are taught that we are to live by his teachings, first and foremost. That the words of Jesus are the most important guide to life we have. But if we take a closer look at them and compare His teachings to Paul's, we start to see a lot of discrepancies! Jesus preached a VERY hard lifestyle. He raised the bar on sin so high that it is impossible to live by those standards. All his parables, allegories and metaphors, paint hard pictures, harsh consequences, and strict judgement. But Paul's gospel is different. Full of God's unconditional love and acceptance of us. The bar on sin was raised so high it just disappeared - Jesus removed it from the equation.
So what do we make of Jesus teachings? It's really simple. He hadn't completed the transition to the New covenant while he walked the earth. He was born under the Old, lived under the Old, preached under the Old and died under the Old. Yes, he often pointed to the New, but nobody understood until the gift of hindsight brought its wisdom! When He was raised from the dead, the New began (some even say it wasn't even until the Holy Spirit came - who knows, the issue is really about what He taught).
Jesus audience was the Jews. He bumped into a few Samaritans and gentiles and spoke to them in quite a different tone. But most of his teachings were to the Jews under the Old covenant. They don't apply to us!
But like it or not, they don't. Even the beatitudes, as good sounding as they are, are all just to show up the failings of the Old. The Lord's prayer, same, with a bit of pointing to the New just to top it off.
Here's a challenge... just try reading the gospels with that in mind, that its sole purpose is to the Jews under the Old covenant, to show how hard it is to live up to the standards they had created. To show them the burden they had created for themselves and the mess they had made of everything. (I'll leave the purpose and validity of the laws with their harsh demands and consequences for another time).
If we are trying to live by Jesus teachings we have completely missed the boat, we have stepped off the wharf and are about to drown with the boat sailing off into the sunset. Paul's gospel is the truth of the life we are to live. He was given a snippet of the depth of what Jesus did and how incredible God's heart for us really is. And dare I say, Paul was only the beginning and it seemed he struggled with coming to terms with cultural values, social applications etc. He even sometimes threw some bits of the Old back into the mix without realising, while trying to sort out misunderstandings and the general mess left by many who just didn't get it!
Reading the New Testament with this lens, it all starts to make sense. It becomes really simple. It unravels a lot of doctrinal mazes and presents us with a clear, understandable, beautiful picture of God's heart.
Yes, this puts the bible into a different light. Suddenly it's not the literal "Word of God", its the record of how God made the way clear for us to live loved. Its His heart spoken through the shakey words of men in awe of what He's done. Men who were still grappling to apply this amazing gospel. And it gives us the keys to do the same. Its not an instruction book on how to be a christian, and neither are Jesus' teachings the way to live.
Our union with God, through Christ, and Holy Spirit, is the source of all our revelation and knowledge of Himself. The bible supports that knowledge and encourages us to relationship. Relationship is what its all about!
Don't get stuck in the middle with Jesus - move on into the fullness and freedom of the gospel!