Covenant of Hope & Heralds of Hope
The Elephant Gospel Book continued with Chapter 10 & 11
Covenant of Hope
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, …I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.” (Genesis 9:11-17, ESV)
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him and He will shew them His covenant” (Psalm 25:14, KJV).
“Hope,” Beethoven cried, “you forge the heart into steel.” Hope is confidence. Hope is determination. Hope is courage. And faith is the ultimate expression of hope. Belief fortifies the heart.
The only source of true joy and peace is God Himself. The only way by which God can give any man joy and peace is by giving him Himself. A. Maclaren, D. D.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Covenant is God giving man Himself.
In January of 2010, I attended the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. One morning before the conference began, I read about Cain and Abel. I experienced deep despair because I felt unforgiven, like Cain. I had been coming mainly with my works, not through the blood sacrifice, really. Plus at the time, my life story held secret ugly parts that few knew about. I felt hopeless and guilty and overwhelmed with regret. I kept reading the book of Genesis and eventually came to the story of Noah. God made a covenant with Noah, promising that He would never destroy the whole earth with a flood again. The covenant was dependent on God’s faithfulness. As I journaled that morning, I asked the Lord if He would make a covenant with me, too. Immediately after this I went back to the hotel room. The group leader, a friend, had left a book opened to a page for me to read.
When the glory of God touches the ugliest part of your life and uses it, there is no pride. Only awe.
Everything for His Glory
Reading those words was a milestone moment. My foulest skeletons that I’ve kept hidden and my most enormous elephants with their shackles are actually powerful tools in the hands of God. He will use everything for His glory. The next sentence in the book was a Scripture verse, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him and He will shew them His covenant” (Psalm 25:14, KJV).
I was stunned. Minutes before, I had written my request to the Lord to make a covenant with me and now He orchestrated events to show me that He will show me His covenant. I experienced incredible hope in the unconditional love of God. I wanted His covenant to become real in my heart and life.
The key verse of the Passion Conference was Isaiah 26:8, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (NIV). I repented that God’s glory was not my desire. In fact, I was not even sure what God’s glory was! I asked the Lord to make His glory my desire. Since then, I have prayed through this verse often. I made a trivet of Isaiah 26:8 as a reminder and marker of this event. It sits on my kitchen counter where I readily see it.
From that time on, the Lord surely has shown me His covenant. One book, Bible study, and message after another, He has been teaching me! I experienced God in a real way. The sacrifice of Christ fulfills the covenant and offers an experience of incredible hope in the unconditional love of God. I want His covenant to always be more than theology; I need it to be real in my heart and life. The reality of Christ is so much more than religion.
God’s covenant sign to Noah was the rainbow. Noah and his seven family members were saved through the ark (Genesis 6). But the new covenant is a better covenant (Hebrews 8).
Today’s God’s means of rescue for man is the cross of Christ. “Whosoever” will believe in the work of Christ can be saved. At the cross, where Christ took what we deserve, Christ offers new life, a new covenant of hope. God’s promise of a new covenant through the resurrection assures us of His faithfulness.
The essence of the entire Bible is covenant. Man’s sin at the Fall broke the original covenant with God. Even though it was only man’s choice that caused the chasm of betrayal and debt between Creator and Created, God, as the perfect, loving Father, paid all costs to restore His creation to Himself. I think of the New Covenant as what God does for man to be redeemed and restored. God gives His all, all of Himself. He empties Himself for us to be redeemed and restored (Philippians 2).
God intends to transform His creation into what He always meant it (and His children) to be. Further, He offers us rebellious sinners the opportunity to be a part of that transformation and to be members of His family. The issue: our need to be redeemed from sin and its penalty.
Jesus did what mankind could not do. Where man broke covenant, Christ Jesus fulfilled the covenant for man as fully God and fully man. The covenant God made with Abraham to bless the nations has been fulfilled in Christ.
The blood covenant of God is foundational, epic, and eternal: it allows us to know and understand our great salvation. This covenant gives us the greatest hope in the world; sadly, many in the church today often choose to live life rejecting that greatest of gifts. Life without covenant is life that requires fulfillment of the Law: an impossible task.
The Law Kills
As I studied the concept of covenant, it became apparent that I had been living mostly by the Law instead of by the Spirit. The law kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:4-6). I had rarely depended solely on Christ for redemption and abundant life. I lived as I thought I was taught to live in the church—working for my salvation. The lifestyle failed me. I was living a foolish life of self-glory. I wanted New Covenant change in my living. I want to live true Biblical hope for the world!
Secret Covenant of Hope
In the King James, Psalm 25:14 reads, “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.” Notice that it begins with the phrase “the secret of the LORD”—this is important to consider and understand. First of all, we see that God has a secret. It’s a safe place, a secret place He calls all of us to. In the secret of the Lord, we can openly confess our sin and find His favor; it’s a place of the promise of hope of freedom, healing, and covering. This surely is related to the secret of hope we’ve been discussing.
Secondly, the all-capitals “LORD” is the covenant name for God. The Biblegateway.com dictionary puts it this way: “The word [covenant] is used with reference to God’s revelation of Himself in the way of promise or favour to men.” God identifies Himself with covenant!
Covenant is so much who He is, He has tied it to the core of who we are as His beloved. God sees who He created you to be. Who you are in His Covenant is who you are in Christ. He is fully committed to you and bringing forth the completion of His vision for you.
And in the New Covenant, the requirements are all on Him. It’s unconditional. God fulfills it. In a relationship of covenant, the relationship is more important than the needs of the individuals involved. He gave up His needs to provide for your needs, even when you do not meet the expectation of His standards. He committed Himself to you beforehand while you were still in your sin.
This is how we see the secret of hope at work in the story we’ve been exploring of the Elephant Gospel. The multi-layered secret of hope finds its basis in resurrection. Because in the shackled elephant’s despairing place of brokenness, hopelessness, and emptiness—the valley of the shadow of death—that is the place we see Covenant at work.
John 12:24 says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (KJV). Where the grain of wheat dies, in fields of apparent barrenness, is where the secret of hope can spring forth! It is where the truth of “my powerlessness for His power” leads us past the stampeding elephants to the Kingdom advancement of the ever-growing elephant parade.
Our forgiveness is based on a Covenant understanding of Christ as our King, our Co-Heir, and our Bridegroom. This is the secret or mystery of Christ that the New Testament refers to over and over again. The New Covenant of God—my powerlessness for His power—is the secret of hope.
Just As I Am
From age 14-21 I secretly lived a life of sin and rebellion with no desire to change. I refused His grace and I rejected the idea of repentance. And I rejected the Savior in this sinfulness, even though I said I knew Him and knew He died for me.
His covenant love has always been a reality despite my unfaithfulness. Christ has brought me to a place of understanding His grace and mercy and His sacrifice at the cross that has changed me and brought breakthrough. Instead of wanting our judgment, He died to give us mercy while we were refusing repentance. Amazing grace! Living hope!
Today I am learning to be true to who I really am, just as I am in a small group of committed believers where we all are in authentic fellowship, true koinonia. Being with believers who love me is a gift and encouragement in my life. I am learning to live a 1 John 1 life; one of joy and New Covenant.
It has taken several years to develop deep authentic friendships with a group of likeminded believers. It was and is a difficult and painful process of vulnerability, rejection and at times great grief and pain. We are all just learning to live as 1 John teaches. It is not for the faint hearted. It is costly but worth it. Covenant costs. To love my friends for them, and not for me, costs me. As I love others the way Christ loves me, though, I experience Christ.
Satan is a father of lies. His big target is to try to deceive us about who God is, what God did, and what God says is true so to destroy our faith. We must know God’s Word, His new covenant, and know the love, grace and mercy of the cross. We must be able to defend our faith, speak up and stand firm as those of the truth, to prevail.
Living by the New Covenant is essential to living the reality of His incomparable gift of true love. Covenant brings breakthrough. Instead of being under judgment, we herald God’s mercy, the messages that God is good which He proved at Calvary. To live out of gratitude for what Christ has done instead of living to earn salvation or fulfill obligation changes everything! Jesus died to save us—even while we refused to repent or fully leave a life of compromise, of sin, of wanting our sin more than our Savior.
He loves us above any love on earth and only holds back what will be harmful. The Father is a good, good Father and a generous giver by His nature. We need to live and give the messages of covenant hope.
God is Love
In 2006, sitting with my earthly father at the end of his life, I remember asking God if He loved me. Dad had fallen asleep and I was sitting there holding his Bible in my hand. I let it fall open, and the pages parted at Malachi 1.
“Here is the Lord’s message to Israel, given through the prophet Malachi: “I have loved you very deeply,” says the Lord. But you retort, “Really? When was this?” And the Lord replies, “I showed my love for you by loving your father, Jacob.”
My breath caught in wonder and awe. I felt God’s love in that moment! I want this for others - others like me and my niece. There are so many of us who doubt or have in the past doubted God’s love and questioned how to get free of the torment and wondered their purpose.
I remind myself of these truths: Christ overcame the world. He destroyed the work of the enemy. He did all that was needed for us to be reunited with the Father. He showed us the Father. Sin needed to be removed and Christ paid the penalty for our sin and redeems all who believe.
There is no greater love than one laying His life down for us. The two greatest commandments we as believers are to live are: Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves. To love our neighbor, we need to love ourselves. For the first time I see so clearly how relentless God is in His covenant.
Too often, the world does not show love to people like us, the outcast or the addicted. They only see the addiction or burden, and they often don’t see the person anymore. We are often looked down on, condemned, accused, belittled, treated with contempt or worse. This produces a loss of hope and a feeling of a loss of the Gospel. We need a hope renewal, a Gospel explosion. I pray for an understanding of the covenant of God to bless the world through His people.
I had not understood the enormity of my sin and the cost of it and was not living the gift of the forgiveness of my sins. I was ungrateful in my heart. I now see this. I now see this is also what had blocked my love for God! I was not living based on His covenant. God’s response to Jacob pointed to covenant love. We need to live covenant love. It is the heartbeat of the secret of hope.
LORD, we thank you for making an unconditional, everlasting blood covenant available to the whole world through Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Help us, your covenant-sealed people, go and share the greatness of Christ and the New Covenant relationship, the true Gospel as Paul taught it and lived it! Thank you that we believe in Jesus, that He rescued us and offers us a better covenant based on His work, and not mankind’s. In this we can have unwavering hope. May the secret of your New Covenant be lived out by your grateful people who revere you, LORD, through their love, worship, living, and heralding the Gospel. Father, prepare us to be your sanctuary of hope, messengers of your New Covenant Hope to the nations. May many obtain salvation through our LORD Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Heralds of Hope
To me, [though I am] the very least of all the saints (God’s people), this grace [which is undeserved] was graciously given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the good news of the incomprehensible riches of Christ [that spiritual wealth which no one can fully understand] (Ephesians 3:8, AMP).
God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope.
That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:1-4, ESV).
If you are going to walk with Jesus Christ, you are going to be
opposed. In our days, to be a true Christian is
really to become a scandal. ~George Whitfield
I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame (Psalm 119:46, ESV).
After we experience redemption, God calls us to live and extend the true Gospel to ourselves and each other. This is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). I have discovered that only through understanding the New Covenant could I herald the Gospel effectively. May we all be a parade of unshackled saints, showing the nations the path to His throne!
The Full Scope
When we consider Christ’s command to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, we realize that there is much more at stake than we previously knew. The Gospel is established by and rests on our Creator’s life, death, and resurrection and is infinitely valuable to individuals and to entire nations. Fully understanding the Gospel’s eternal value affects our passion for Christ and the passion for souls to know Him.
The hope of the future depends on Jesus. The hope that the world will hear the Good News of Jesus depends on us! (Matthew 28:16-20)
Heralding or Hindering?
Weighty thoughts and questions bombarded me as I thought on these truths. The power of the Gospel is available to be used each and every day. The cost of not taking advantage of that availability may be souls that are separated eternally from God. I especially questioned, “Am I hindering the Gospel, opposing God?” Sadly, I realized I have not heralded the fullness of the great salvation I have been given. I have hindered it and opposed the fullness of God’s greatest gift. Heralding means to proclaim, announce, or publicize. I needed to wake up and fully declare the works of the Lord and live what I believe: the Gospel is the greatest gift and of first importance. The time is short.
Door of Hope
I have devoted time to studying ways to more effectively herald the treasure of Christ and His work to the lost world that needs him.
We have received extravagant grace, and our failure to herald it is scandalous. Each Christian makes a choice whether or not to truly walk with Jesus and share His Gospel of grace—knowing they will be opposed by the world, some in the church, and some in the dark kingdom of Satan. To receive Christ’s salvation but not be willing to share His Gospel message is selfish. Sharing the Gospel message is the most loving, valuable, and blessed gift we can give to others—it’s living proof that we understand the greatness of our own salvation. We are called to follow Christ’s example. Our responsibility is to give the complete Gospel message of sin, repentance, and salvation. His sacrifice leads the way to the door of hope.
In His Word, God does warn us about the costs and the warfare that come with sharing the Gospel message. The more we share God’s Gospel the more our lives will be attacked by the enemy because we are bringing God’s Kingdom to enemy territory. Paul’s life was attacked repeatedly. He was left for dead more than once. He was considered a fraud by the religious people of the day. Many wanted to destroy him. Jesus Himself was also attacked by the Pharisees who were filled with hate though He had done no wrong (Matthew 12).
Handling Criticism and Accusation
We learn a lot about handling criticism and accusation by observing Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees.
As we endeavor to let the Holy Spirit govern our lives, we will face some, even in the church, who behave much as the Pharisees did. We will be attacked. Those who are interested in defaming and harming us will not respond to our reasoning. We may need to confront them with the truth from the word itself, but ultimately we must recognize that hatred is a heart issue that arguments alone can’t change. Our job is to be prepared with the truth of salvation and the love of Christ. When we are secure in Christ we can face any attack. God will defend us. Our part is to be faithful as He leads and proclaim His name and message with truth, love, and grace.
Mary Magdalene and the woman at the well were outcasts of society, but each one was accepted by Jesus, who saved and transformed each of their lives. As I think of these two women, I realize I am in good company. Maybe you are too. Jesus loves us no matter what our history. There is hope. In fact, hope surges from a closer relationship with our heavenly Father. These women were part of changing the world. Mary Magdalene walked closely with Christ and testified to His power and salvation. The woman at the well told her entire town about the Messiah she met at the well. They each received God’s grace and heralded the Gospel to their world.
We cannot herald the Gospel without first living it ourselves, and we cannot live it if we are not in a personal relationship with Jesus—relying on the power of Christ alone to cleanse us and transform us. If we are timid about the blood of Christ, we will never be the overcomers John wrote about in Revelation 12:11. I have known Christ personally for many years, but I have not, until recent times, been relying solely on the power of the blood of Christ alone. Thus I was hindering the Gospel in my own life and hindering it in those around me.
I have given testimony of my sins that Christ died to forgive, so others can know they too can be forgiven. I was snatched from the pit, and I want to make myself available to the Lord as He works to save others from their pits and shackles. I was saved by His death. I am saved by His Life and will be saved by His Sovereignty.
Throughout the New Testament, we read Paul’s testimony. He told his story and lived the Gospel to groups large and small as a way to glorify Christ and advance the Kingdom. Scripture instructs us to give testimony—to herald the Gospel. Paul declared the enormous Gospel change in people who knew Christ.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, ESV)
When Paul met Jesus, he immediately began living his new life as a believer following Christ. He spoke and wrote his clear testimony in Jerusalem and beyond. We are to follow his example by giving testimony where we live and beyond. If God handpicked a religious zealot, murderer, and persecutor of believers, God is also willing to save anyone and work through them—including me. None of us are worthy—we just need to be willing. We must go out with this good news and herald the secret of hope to the world.
True believers of Jesus Christ must unite to more effectively impact the world, not allowing the lies of the world to impact the church. Jesus wants us to love people as He loves them and connect them to His generous, merciful heart. He wants to assure them of His full forgiveness so that all guilt and shame is extinguished and His transformations happen. Heralding the Gospel in truth and grace is God’s idea and command, for He wants none to perish.
The Christian life is a life of resurrection. My old life of hopelessness and sin was full of mistakes and pain. When I received Jesus’ gift of grace and salvation, I died to that life. Jesus then began the process of sanctification. My new resurrected life is even better than a clean slate, because not only are my sins removed, but I also now have a perfect slate (Christ’s slate of righteousness). God has forgiven and wiped away my sin, my past, my mistakes, my rebellion, my pain. In its place I have the righteousness of Christ and therefore I have hope. Resurrection is the pinnacle of the secret of hope. To live is Christ.
A resurrected lie is an awakened life. It is new life which leaves behind my old way of life—believing God’s Word more than what I feel or what I can see or understand. My new life of hope trusts the resurrection of Christ, the power of God. To live this resurrected life in God’s grace is to have a great awakening, to live true New Covenant.
The Great Awakening
A friend’s term paper about the Great Awakening began with this thesis statement, “Certain people of the Great Awakening inspired the seed of American independence.” When I read that statement, it occurred to me that when God works through people by His Spirit, and as His people depend on Him, freedom results. In American history, freedom came as our founders declared their independence from the dead religion of England. Today, we find freedom if we separate ourselves from the dead religion found in some churches. This separation is what I believe God has been doing in me. Removing “me” and pushing the “Galatians-gospel mentality” out of the way, frees me from bondage and shame and brings me to an awakening of God’s Spirit. The verse that comes to mind is “Not by might, not by power but by God’s Spirit,” Zechariah 4:6)
What surprises and scares me, though, is how quickly I can forget the freedom that Christ provides. I can so quickly forget the power and majesty of the Gospel, and the awe that it should produce in me. I confess that, I once had the thought, I am tired of hearing that Jesus died and rose. It is the same message over and over. I had begun thinking, I am pretty good now; I don’t need Jesus as much. It is hard to admit that I allowed these thoughts to enter my mind. The Bible often tells us to remember and reflect on what God has done for us. Jesus helped me renounce those thoughts and the bondage they would produce. By the Holy Spirit, I put those thoughts to death and reminded my heart of the truth of God’s Word and the work of Christ. Satan wants us to rely on self and not rely on Christ’s work. Satan’s strategy for man to be self-reliant has made the church powerless. Dependence on self and not God’s Spirit is a power-stealing strategy.
We read often in Scripture of idolaters. Though we hesitate to identify ourselves with worshippers of false gods, since golden calves are pretty uncommon these days, we aren’t much different. We don’t set up altars to gods who parade as such; rather, we set up temples to our own selves. Our altars might be our own little worlds or our own idea of perfection or idolatry- ones that might include sports, sex, alcohol, fame, materialism, beauty, education, careers, or even ministries, whatever displaces our Lord!
If we herald the Gospel as we are called to do, our stories spark the awakening to life as we declare our independence from the shackles and idolatries that have held us back.
You and I must be vigilant to stay awake, slaying any thought that would try to diminish Christ or the cross. I have spent hours thinking about what Jesus suffered, the agony Christ endured for the forgiveness of my sin. Our focus must be on Christ and Christ’s love and atonement. We have been given much grace. The more we focus on Christ and His Work for us, the more we will love Christ, herald the Gospel, and live in His truth and victory.
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is
the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes (Romans 1:16, NLT).
Jesus is our Savior. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One. He alone can bring us eternal life and reveal truth. Nobody can go to the Father except through Jesus the Son. Our message is His truths and our job is to exalt Christ and His cross and show the way to Christ through repentance at His cross and resurrection. Paul’s greatest boast was Christ crucified.
According to my friend’s term paper, “the true definition of spiritual awakening is the sovereign moving of the Spirit of God untouched by anything except God’s grace and mercy. Spiritual awakenings change society through the work of the Holy Spirit and the unrelenting prayers of believers.” George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards were not the reason for the Great Awakening, but each of them had experienced a great personal great awakening. As each man followed Christ, God’s Spirit and His grace and mercy worked through them mightily to bring the truth and herald the Gospel to the people. These men prayed an outpouring of prayers, and the Holy Spirit moved.
How I want the Spirit to move in me more fully, to the level of the Great Awakening revivalists! May God bring us all to live the New Covenant and experience a Great Awakening and revival! God alone can produce this, but we are to herald His message and live the New Covenant!
Aliens and Strangers
At salvation, we are made citizens of God’s Holy people, members of God’s holy family.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19, KJV).
We will be hated by the world and not be of the world any longer, but chosen out of the world.
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you (John 15:18-19, NASB).
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:16, NASB).
Paul had a very deep experience of the indwelling and the work of the Holy Spirit, when he accepted