by alice clarke
Praying for a stranger with a broken arm
Prophesying God’s love and life into a friend in hopeless circumstances
Making time for the down-and-out man on your city street corner
Sharing the gospel with a work colleague
Risking your life so that Christians in a closed country get a copy of the Bible
Telling the bus driver that God loves her
Paying for everyone’s dinner on your table
Giving 20 years of your life to rescue children from the sex trade
These are all really cool things. Some of them might be normal life for you. Some of them might be risky, scary, or too overwhelming to think about.
This week, some friends and I looked at Jeremiah 31 together:
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people 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.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
Jeremiah was prophesying about a time that we’re living in now - the new covenant, after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The new covenant is pretty marvellous, and I’m so thankful for it. The more I think it through, the more I realise what a good deal we get.
WE GET TO LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
The switch from old covenant to new covenant brought some radical changes*. Instead of us living by the commandments written in stone for God’s people, Jeremiah talks about the law being written on our hearts and our minds. We get to live in relationship with God where he wants to connect directly to our hearts, and teach us the way to live.
In the old covenant, God’s people sacrificed animals to make things right with him. There are lists and lists of instructions laid out in Leviticus, which get pretty gory. Lots of blood and guts and burning fat. But because we’re in the new covenant, we don’t have to do all that to get back to good relationship with the Father because Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice for us. The world would be a messy place if we were still all chopping up goats every time we sinned.
Another one of the big changes is that in the old covenant, people had to hear from God through prophets like Jeremiah. The ‘Man of God’ who knows exactly what to do because none of the rest of them can hear God or really know him. But Jeremiah tells us that now we can all know God, all of us. We all have the chance to hear him, to live life as little priests alongside Jesus who is the great high priest interceding for us.
That’s pretty cool. It means that I can do all the stuff. The stuff that I listed at the top of this article that lots of Christians talk about. The stuff that Jesus did and that God really loves us to do too.
there’s this gap between what we know we can do, and what we actually do.
A lot of us know this in theory. We know that we can heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, see captives set free... but there are times we don’t actually do it. Times we think “That preacher/pastor/leader/priest/vicar/friend-of-mine-with-great-hair will be way better at [insert Jesus-inspired activity]. I’ll leave it up to them.” Sometimes there’s this gap between what we know we can do, and what we actually do.
This week, I sat with my friends in my living room (on my very comfy sofa) and we talked about that gap; the blockages that stop us from walking around town like a mini-Jesus. We each asked God what causes those blockages, and one-by-one we shared:
“It’s fear. I’m scared of what people will think of me.”
“I don’t want to fail again. I hate the embarrassment.”
“My past has been filled with trauma. It feels like it holds me back.”
“Sometimes I hear God ask me to do something, but I’m not obedient. I let myself second guess it until the moment has passed.”
“I get busy and focused on my own agenda - anything from my career to just getting dinner cooked. And I forget to take time to ask.”
“I forget to look through spiritual eyes. It’s easy to see the situation naturally, but I know God’s reminding me to ask him how he sees things.”
I allow it to stay as a theory and set of rules rather than letting it come alive.
I relate to a lot of these things. While I was journalling, God showed me that I focus on the rules too much (What’s the right way to pray for healing? Should I interrupt this person right now or will it be socially awkward?). I’ve spent a lot of time listening to great teachings on living life with God, but sometimes I allow it to stay as a theory and set of rules rather than letting it come alive. Like performing live music, what I do for God probably won’t be perfect every time, but if I don’t start to play, then there will be nothing to listen to.
One of the girls in our group had a picture from God which made us all smile. She had shared that her past still presents big challenges for day to day living, and that she saw herself in a graveyard with a shovel, ready to keep digging up the past, looking at it, and spending time with it. Instead, God asked her to dance on the grave of her past. To party where there had been pain. To laugh past the blockages. To live like she is in the new covenant and she can know God and his goodness through it all.
And that’s my invitation to you.
What blocks you from knowing God and living the life he has for you?
And what is he calling you to instead? What are the graves he’s asking you do dance on?
*I haven’t listed all the effects of moving from Old to New Covenant here... but it’s so worth thinking about, studying and celebrating.