After spending over three years with His handpicked disciples, Jesus willingly laid down His life, rose from the dead, and before returning to the Father He spent His last 40 days teaching them about the Kingdom of God.
“He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
(Acts 1:3 NIV)
Why Would This Be “New”?
The Kingdom of God was not a new concept to the Jewish disciples. But a Kingdom where the King would actually rule from inside the hearts and the mortal bodies of His people? Now that was a new concept. But should it have been “new” to them?
This understanding of the “inside out” Kingdom of God, of how the King is going to live and rule within the hearts of believers, should not have been a new idea to the 12. The Old Testament fully explained the coming of the New Covenant and how it would be implemented. (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…just to name a few.)
Even To This Day…A Veil
But, because of their upbringing within the Second Temple Jewish community of the early first century, they had a “veil” over their eyes when they read the Old Testament promises about the “New Way” that was coming. This is Paul’s explanation:
"Was it a pagan holiday? Is it still a pagan holiday, today?"
These are questions sincere believers ask every year around this time. To answer these questions requires an understanding of the ancient world, reading Scripture as it is simply written, and the desire to ask with integrity and then act with consistency.
Let's address the last one, first. Xmas!
There is no doubt that most nonbelievers leave Christ out of Christmas. Not knowing Him as Savoir and Lord makes it perfectly logical that they would. They are simply acting out of what they are. It is also true that some, perhaps many, believers get caught up in the secular idea of Christmas and miss the opportunity to teach their children about the true "reason for the season!" But, to react to the word, "Xmas," as if it was sacrilege is to misunderstand history.
We recently received a question concerning tithing on our AskMark page:
What about tithing? And the use of Malichi in teaching it as a minimum amount of giving...
Is this a reasonable teaching or is it a misuse of Old Testament requirement in teaching giving today?
Thanks for the question! It is one that many people are asking right now. As more people begin to see that the New Covenant is based more on the responding to the Spirit inside of us and not threats or demands, questions about things we've done based on Old Testament practices naturally come up.
What Was The Purpose of Tithing in the Old Testament?
The word "tithe" means 10%. It was the basic principle of giving in the Old Testament. It is important to realize that Israel was a nation with all the expenses a nation of people would incur. The building and upkeep of the Temple, the support of the Levites who had no land to farm for their own support, the huge expense of maintaining a monarchy, king's palace, servants, gifts to honor and maintain relationships with other tribes/countries, armies to defend various parts of the kingdom, and many more costs.
In the New Covenant, we are His temple, we are all priests, and we do not maintain a monarchy, palace or nation. But, we do have poor who need our help, we do need facilities and equipment to make it possible to minister, and we do need qualified full time workers to help feed and care for the sheep.
Is Tithing Taught in the New Testament Epistles?
The word "tithe" is not used or taught in the epistles of the New Testament. And to use the "curse" passage in Malachi 3 is a serious misuse of the verse since Christ has clearly "redeemed us from the curse of the law."
However, we should not completely ignore the biblical idea of giving 10% to the work of the Lord. In writing to the churches in Corinth, Paul does refer to what the Law teaches about giving as an example for us to consider. He does draw a connection between giving in the Old Testament for the support of the ministering Levites and giving for the support of those who are fruitful enough to the church to enable them to be "full time" in the work.
1 Cor 9:7-14- Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9
For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13
Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. NASU
So Where Does That Leave Us?
In the New Covenant:
Galatians 6 tells us the law of sowing and reaping is in the New Covenant and we must grow in our ability to use it correctly and benefit from it. Paul made it simple by stating, "He who plants a little, harvests a little."
Sadly, some manipulate people for selfish, greedy reasons. But that doesn't negate the true purpose of the law of sowing and reaping.
The real reason for this law? To grow our faith and trust in God to take care of us. All the trials we face are designed to enable us to grow our trust in His faithful care. But, we have no control over when and how those trials come. But we do have a real measure of control over our giving. Choosing to give or not give is the only way we can actually choose to challenge our faith and grow it by choosing to give more.
The heart of the matter of giving is this:
New Covenant Grace will always lead us to do more than Law ever could.
DON'T HELP!!! What strange advice.
Every lifeguard knows the best advice to give when attempting to rescue a drowning person-
"Don't help, don't try to swim, just go limp,
relax completely in my arms,
and we will both make it safely to shore."
A drowning person must exhaust themselves as quickly as possible. Better yet, just go limp, relax completely, don’t fight their lifesaver, and let the expert do their job. But, that goes against the natural, powerful instinct to do anything in order to survive. And "doing anything in order to survive," causes the drowning person to unwitting fight against the very one who can save them.
What Activates True Grace?
And so it is with the mystery and miracle of New Covenant Grace. The simple, most power truth about how New Covenant grace is activated within us can be found in Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5-
"God must oppose the proud, but He freely gives His transforming grace to the humble."
So, how does this proud/humble idea work?
Throughout Scripture, yeast is used to describe puffed up arrogance, human pride that’s void of power, hot air instead of true substance. At Passover, Jewish families would search the house and get rid of all leaven, all yeast. Jesus warned the disciples to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” because their pride twisted their view of Scripture and made their teaching arrogant and powerless. (Matt 16:11-12)
Yeast: Powerful, Infecting and Life-Changing
But here Jesus uses the metaphor of how yeast affects dough in a completely new and positive way. “Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." (Luke 13:20-21 NIV)
Here, Jesus uses yeast as a metaphor to describe how the power of His Kingdom spreads from one person to another, infecting and transforming them in the process. When a little yeast is mixed into a large amount of dough, given enough time, the entire lump becomes affected, or “infected”, by the yeast. When the message of His Kingdom is mixed into the human heart it has the power to change lives!
We have been asking you to submit questions for Mark to answer as part of the new AskMark section of our site, and a few of them we are featuring here in the blog. Here is a recent question I think many Christians struggle with.
I wonder why Jesus spoke some "law oriented" verses in NT. For example, John 14:15 "If you love me, keep my commandments." I assume the answer is Jesus was alive at that time or he was talking to his "law oriented" disciples or Paul was not there yet to start the Grace gospel. Can you help? Jim from PA
Thanks for helping other people who are wondering the same thing.
Your question about why Jesus made so many statements that seem to not only be reinforcing the Law, but raising the bar far higher than Moses did, is very common. In fact, it's one of the most asked questions in our pastors equipping seminars in nations around the world.
I realize you were writing from memory, but it's important to note that what Jesus actually said was, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." I point this out because, as we will see later, this is actually a promise rather than a demand. Think of it as a doctor saying, "If you will take your medicine, you will get well." It's all about cause and effect. So let's wade in.
Jesus Was Born Under the Law
First, we need to see that Jesus was deliberately "born under the Law."
I deeply desire to be a believer who "thinks, meditates, and rolls His Word over and over in my mind." So I was surprised when I first realized that nowhere in the New Testament is the Church referred to as God's Army...never. We are called the Body, family, His building, Church, Bride, etc. But never His army. The angels are called His army but not us. He is the Lord of hosts (angelic armies).
The battle that eternally matters has been won. Jesus declared "It is finish" and embarrassed our adversary by complete defeat through His death and resurrection.
The Eph 6 reference to armor talks about our "struggle" against spiritual powers but it concludes with the purpose of our armor "...so you can stand." Stand, not fight. Each piece of armor refers to what we must believe about Him and what He has done for and in us.
When Paul wrote that the "weapons of our warfare are not carnal" for the "pulling down strongholds", the context shows he is referring to wrong beliefs built in our minds by our adversary.
Paul uses the metaphor of a soldier to show how committed we should be and how others should give so some can "go." Reading Acts, we know he was regularly "run out of town" when riots broke out but he never referred to it as a failure or said, "The devil won." I find it very interesting that when Paul said satan "hindered, blocked our way," he didn't fight but just went on rejoicing!
1 Thessalonians 2:18-20 TNIV
 "For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way."
Now imagine how we might react to that situation. It certainly "sounds" like the devil won. But the next verse shows that it simply didn't matter to Paul because he lived in rest believing that God would make it all work together for his good. Here's the next verse-
 "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy."
And why does this matter?
I suggest that the more we see ourselves as God's army, the more we fall prey to a "works mentality." We feel we must fight and then we view victory and failure through the lens of immediate circumstances. We begin to "lean to our own understanding" about the purpose for suffering and trials.
We start viewing suffering as direct attacks of the enemy and somehow a failure on our part. But James and Peter said we should rejoice in suffering and trials, not fight anything. Then we starting looking at Old Testament verses to explain our view of warfare. War was real for them because they were setting up a literal nation and because Jesus had not yet "disarmed" all spiritual enemies.
Col 2:15 should be our foundational belief. "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
1 Peter 3:21-22 TNIV
 "… It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand —with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."
We are called to a life (not a day) of Sabbath rest, not warfare.
I want to grow in my understanding of the Sabbath-Rest referred to in Heb 4:1- "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it."
Hebrews 4:9-10 TNIV
 "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;  for those who enter God’s rest also rest from their own work, just as God did from his."
The war is in our minds where we must constantly be renewed so we believe the right things.
Jesus gave us a promise about the life He wants to give us.
Matthew 11:28-30 TNIV
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light .”
Let's pursue joy in trials, peace in suffering and the eternal reward of enjoying His complete victory! How? By fixing our eyes on Him, all He has done and all His Spirit of grace is doing inside of us right now!
"...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Heb 12:2
This is not intended to be criticism of anyone who has used this phrase. It is simply something to think about.
There is a common theme that runs through a lot of teaching about holiness and sanctification. This theme is based on faulty human logic and shows an important misunderstanding of the difference in the Old and New Covenants. And the inevitable result is confidence-stealing condemnation.
I saw this logic recently in a very sincere social media post:
“If you put a drop of sewage in bottled water, would you still drink it? No, of course not! In the same way, one drop of compromise contaminates the ENTIRE vessel of our lives. So we must completely sanctify ourselves so He can fill us.”
Really? Is this true? Is this a New Covenant truth intended to “Set Us Free”?
To arrive at the right conclusion, we must start at the right starting point. But this kind of thinking, even though it is so prevalent in current teaching, is just plain wrong and very damaging. It is the conclusion of faulty human logic that starts at the wrong starting point and inevitably takes us to the wrong place.
The logic used in the quote above begins with a question.
“If you put one drop of sewage in a bottle of water, would you still drink it?”
The obvious answer is, “Ick! I wouldn’t drink something that has sewage in it!” The logical conclusion is that God wouldn’t drink it either. And if that bottle of water is supposed to be us, then we conclude God would never want to “drink us” if we have “even a drop of sewage in us”. But this kind of thinking is wrong and leads us into condemnation because we are using human logic instead of thinking with a New Covenant mindset.
There is a huge hole in this logic. We began the example thinking about water being used for drinking.
But God doesn’t drink us! We drink Him. And as we do, His water cleanses us.
Heb 10:22- “…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” NIV
Eph 5:25-26- “…just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…” NIV
God does indeed pour the pure water of the Holy Spirit into our “dirty vessels”! That’s how He cleanses us so we become more and more sanctified in our minds, our motivations and our behavior. We do not contaminate God’s holiness with our unholiness. His holiness cleanses our unholiness. His holiness is medicinal and it heals our weaknesses.
God is not afraid that somehow we will infect Him with our weaknesses. Our sin and weakness doesn’t infect Him; His grace infects us with His transforming power.
Matt 13:33- "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." NIV
Just a little bit of yeast left in a loaf of dough will eventually “infect” the whole loaf. That is the promise of the New Covenant; Him, in us, changing us from the inside out! This is the right place to start.
New Covenant grace is the infection of transforming power
that spreads through human contact when we simply talk about Him.
2 Cor 3:18- “And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” NLT
And just to set the record straight, there is at least a drop, a miniscule amount of sewage, in nearly all drinking water. But our immune system usually counterattacks and neutralizes the impurities. As God’s children, we have a spiritual immune system to fight off impurities; Christ in us, the hope of Glory!
I just finished reading an article in Charisma magazine entitled, "What Audacious Prayers Can Do". Just reading the title, I could allow myself to feel a bit condemned since I'm not even sure I know what "Audacious Prayer" is. So I'm pretty sure I don't do much of it.
The author proceeded to cite stories from the Bible where God did amazing things in amazing ways, and then attempted to prove that He only did those amazing things because a human dared to pray an "audacious prayer".
But when I read those same Bible stories, it seems to me that most of those people were just blessed to be included in the plan God had for them; and, though they all seemed to mess up several times along the way, they had just enough faith in His faithfulness to hang on until they reached the end of their story.
Their faith was not in audaciously telling God what to do. Their faith didn’t come from confessing when, where or how God would help them. They seemed to have just barely enough faith to think that if they could hang on, somehow, somewhere, some way their God would be faithful and help them. That doesn't seem to be all that "audacious". It actually looks a lot more like me and my journey; or you and yours.
Abraham and Sarah had real struggles with their faith and actually laughed at God's promise, more than once. Abraham lied out of fear, more than once. They forced their servant girl to bear a child and kept running out of the "promised land" because they were afraid. And yet, God saw something in their hearts that was not evident by looking at most of their actions; which were certainly not “audacious in faith”. They had just enough faith in His faithfulness to hang on until they reached the end of their story.
And that's what it’s really all about- getting to the end of our story. The main reason we love the stories in the Bible is because they are all over (Whew!). Their battles are over; their victories have all been won. Their fear, worry and anxiety are over and the good will of God has been done for them.
We didn't have to stand with David in the face of Goliath, or with Daniel in the face of lions, or with Moses stranded between the Red Sea and the armies of Pharaoh. We love these stories because they are over and we didn't have to go through them. But we are able to look back on these stories and gain some understanding of when, where and how God helped them.
But our stories are still being written. Our battles are still being fought. The when, where and how God is going to help us are still unknown to us. But our faith is not built by telling God what to do or audaciously confessing into existence things we can't possibly know. Our faith is built as we keep reminding ourselves of the 2 undeniable facts that we can know-
1) WHO is going to help us? Our faithful Father-
Heb. 11:11- "...because he (Abraham) considered Him faithful who had made the promise." NIV
2) WHY will God help us? Because He loves us more than any other created things.
Matt. 6:26- "...and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" NIV
You don't have to be "audacious" in prayer to please God. You don’t have to be able to “confess things into existence” to please God; we can’t do that, anyway. You just need to keep renewing your mind with these two plain truths. Our God is forever faithful to us and He will help us because He loves us with an everlasting love and considers us to be more valuable than any other created thing!
And remember, we have a family secret; a secret that only works for the family of God-
Rom. 8:28- "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." NIV
Read Part 1 of This Series Here
Prayer can sometimes seem very complicated. And if we are not careful in who we listen to, we may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed about how to pray. But in Ephesians 3, the two most simple, and most powerful, aspects of prayer come clear.
Paul said we should pray for ourselves, and for each other, in at least these two simple ways:
1) That the Spirit will strengthen our "inner man" by making us more and more aware that Christ is indeed living in us and through us every moment of every day.
2) And that we would be rooted and grounded (unshakable) in the ever increasing knowledge of how wide, how long, how high and how deep His great love is for us, now; not some day when we become more "holy", but He loves us fully, right now!
"I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God." Eph 3:17-19- NLT
We are deeply and fully loved by God right now. And may we all grow together in the ever increasing knowledge of that great love and the good works it produces through us!
Mark Drake is an internationally known author, teacher and leader. He focuses on equipping leaders around the world in New Covenant Grace.