Both Andrew and my wife pointed out one small detail I failed to mention in my Catch yesterday where I pointed out that the commands of God had all been reduced to a single simple one with two parts: Love God and love each other. That detail is the issue of empowerment. Great, John, but how do we do it? I made it sound easy. Well it’s not. It’s easy to focus on what to do because Jesus summarized ten commandments into one, but doing it is another thing altogether.
That’s why Andrew wisely said in his comment, “No wonder He tells us that transformation is needed. Thanks be to God that He who orders the change provides power to make the change!” Amen.
Herein lies the difference between the old and new covenants — the old one being the law and the commands of God that we are required to fulfill, and the new one being the new arrangement for living made possible by Christ’s blood on the cross: “This is the new covenant in my blood.” The old one is written on cold tablets of stone; the new one is written on our warm, beating hearts. The old one is punishable through failure, the new one is guaranteed through His grace. The old one leaves us powerless; the new one gives us power to do it.
“Do this and live,” the law commands
But gives me neither feet nor hands
A better way His grace doth bring
It bids me fly and gives me wings
The new covenant is driven by the Spirit. It’s a Spirit-driven life we’re after, and that comes through failure and cover-up. We all start out the old way and we always fail, and when we do, we must cover that up. None of us can live very long broadcasting failure in our lives. But the failure of the old covenant is what leads to the discovery of the new. The new covenant produces an inner transformation which is gradual and strong, and it leads to being empowered by the Holy Spirit as we get out of the way and let God show up. It means being vulnerable; it means losing our cover, but it means that God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts. God gives us the thing He asks us to do. This is the key to an honest spiritual life that so many miss. Look at me, I missed it yesterday. To talk about loving God and each other as if it were an easy thing to do without even a mention of how we are going to do that, left you with a dangerous assumption — that you can do this on your own. We can’t love God without being first loved by God; we can’t love others without first receiving God’s love for us. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus said. Only when we realize we are loved by God can we receive in ourselves the love He has for us to give to others. It is, once again, Grace Turned Outward.
So don’t go forth to love God and love others today as if it were in your own power to do so. Go forth in personal weakness and His strength — honest and grateful for God’s love for you and eager to let it spill out of you into the lives of those around you.