The New Covenant Is Not Just a Theology, It's a Way of Life
His question was very sincere, and I wished to answer him in a respectful, helpful manner. I began by acknowledging I could be wrong in what I was about to tell him, but I believed so strongly in what he was about to hear that I would resign from my ministry if it could be satisfactorily proven to me from Scripture that I was wrong.
I told him that I could not recall anything I had ever done in my life for the Lord that was not somehow, in someway, tainted with sin. Whether it be visiting the hospitals, preaching a message, conducting a funeral, or any other activity normally associated with "ministry," I told him I didn't think I had ever experienced a moment when I had been fully committed or fully devoted to God. In addition, I could not envision a time in my life where I could ever be one hundred percent sold out to Christ. He seemed surprised by what I told him, but then he was shocked by what I said next. I told him that I did not believe God was bothered by my lack of commitment to Him or the presence of selfishness or pride in my life, nor was I, because Christ had removed all the just anger and wrath of God due me for my sins. God would never withhold His blessings, His goodness, or His love from me because of my poor performance or unfaithfulness to Him because Christ guaranteed I would only and always receive blessings and goodness from God. I then explained to him the basis for my belief and how it differed from the way he believed and lived his life.
I told the young man I felt he had been living his Christian life based upon the principles God built into the old agreement between the nation of Israel and Himself. This agreement is called "the old covenant" in Scripture. It revolved around the law of God and Israel's corresponding faithfulness and obedience to that law. If Israel obeyed, God would bless. If Israel disobeyed, the judgment and wrath of God would be poured out on God's people through affliction and other enemies God brought into Israel's path to chasten them for their sins. For example, Israel was conquered by the Babylonians because Israel had violated God's Sabbath commandment. Their captivity in Babylon corresponded to the number of years the Sabbath commandment was not kept by Israel (70). The Old Covenent was an agreement based upon God's law and Israel's agreement to keep it and be blessed or break it and experience God's wrath.
However, in the new agreement between God and man called "The New Covenant," Jesus Christ, sent by God Himself, came to fulfill the law in the sinner's place. Whether it be the law of conscience, natural law, or the covenantal law of Israel, Jesus Christ perfectly obeyed God's law in my stead. Likewise, in His death Jesus fulfilled the law by bearing the just punishment and righteous wrath of a holy God due my unfaithfulness and sin. My trust in the person and work of Christ has brought to me "the great exchange." God has given to His Son all my sins and the consequences of them (God's wrath) and He has given to me all the righteousness of Christ earned by Christ's perfect and complete obedience to God's law and the consequences of that perfect obedience (God's blessing).
For this reason the mercies, grace and blessings of God are mine forever because of Christ and His performance on my behalf. God treats me as if I was perfectly righteous because He sees the righteousness of His Son in me. I don't have to worry about being "completely sold out" to God in order to earn His favor, but rather, I daily rest in the person and performance of Jesus Christ on my behalf and continually receive His favor. I have "peace" with God because I rest in Christ. This leads me to live according to the following principles:
(1). I don't have to shout at God to get His attention, or have multiple people pray to get God to "do something" on my behalf; the Lord is near, and He is good to me at all times (Phil. 4:5-7; Romans 8:28).
(2). I don't ever think of God's goodness to me in terms of my obedience to God through obeying His law; rather, I see God's continual delight in being everlastingly good to me because of Christ's obedience on my behalf.
(3). I never barter or bargain with God by asking Him to do something for me and then promising Him something in return; rather, I trust God's faithfulness to me even in periods of my own unfaithfulness because of Jesus Christ's personal obedience in my stead.
(4). I never avoid sin out of "fear" of God's wrath; I avoid sin because my understanding of God's love and goodness to me in Jesus Christ deepens.
(5). I am able to acknowledge my own sins to others--including my pride and my selfishness--because I know I am accepted by God the way I am, and He is in the business of making me into the person I will become.
When I finished visiting with this young man I could tell he had been given some things to think about. I don't know whether or not he will ultimately agree with me, but I hope the summary of our conversation gives you a glimpse into my belief that the New Covenant is not just a theology, it is a way of life.