Back in 1997 when we first got connected with the Vineyard, it felt like I was learning about the Kingdom of God for the first time. It was, without question life-changing.
I had a similar experience earlier this month. As I mentioned last week, I’ve joined a coaching huddle with 3dm (fun fact, of the 8 of us in the huddle, 5 have a Vineyard connection).
As preparation for the huddle, we’ve all read 2 books. First, Building a Discipling Culture and then Covenant and Kingdom, both by Mike Breen.
In reading Covenant and Kingdom, what Breen taught about the Kingdom of God lined up with what we’d learned in the Vineyard. It was well written and did a great job explaining how to read the bible through the lens of the kingdom.
However, it was while reading about covenant that the ‘penny dropped for me.
While I’ve read about and taught on covenant before, I think for me, as well as for a lot of us, there is that part of us that hears the word covenant, and immediately thinks of it as a tool one person uses to control another.
Even though there is often a ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ person who would enter into a covenant relationship, one of the key benefits was that whatever one party had at their disposal was now available to the covenant partner. [for example, if you have a small army, and a larger army shows up at your city gate, having a covenant partner who is greater than you, but also has a greater army would be a good thing.]
So what does covenant mean for us?
In Breen’s book he describes the 3 essential elements of covenant this way:
“First, the Fatherhood of God. He is our Creator, and we live our lives under his loving and generous gaze. Second, identity. This flows from our relationship with God. Our identity and therefore our sense of security and confidence come from outside ourselves as God tells us that we are his children.
Third, obedience. Although this sounds rather heavy, we will discover that obedience is simply acting in a way that is consistent with our identity.”
There is a lot here…but a couple of thoughts really hit me.
Obedience flows from identity. So often we try to not sin because we know it is wrong. God doesn’t like it…so I shouldn’t do it. Do I “will” myself to do the right thing, or does the capacity to do the right thing come from who I am in Christ?
Will power, (or the gospel of sin management as Dallas Willard would call it) seems to leave identity out of the equation. And that appears to be a crucial error.
A couple of days after reading the book, I was thinking about the temptation of Jesus, and recognized that two of the temptations deal directly with the issue of identity. “if you are the Son of God…” In tempting Jesus, the means of attack was his identity.
Tons of stuff here, and I’m enjoying thinking through it all. Love to hear any thoughts you might have on the topic.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word covenant?
My pastor had our leadership small group read through “Victory Over the Darkness” last year. The basic premise is that our holiness (or obedience, in your language) flows from our identity. If you don’t know who you are, you won’t act/think how God is calling you to act/think. In social work/psychology, we call that cognitive-behavioural therapy 🙂 Correcting “cognitive distortions” (i.e., lack of understanding who we are as children of the kingdom) leads to behavioral changes.
Thanks Rebecca. Helpful thoughts.
The most amazing truths of identity in Christ I’ve found in Ephesians, it’s such an epic couple pages. I think there’s so many defeated mediocre American dream is more important than what the gospel actually says consumer grade “Christians” because we for the most part have no idea of our true identity, our identity found only in union with Christ. We don’t understand so much of spiritual warfare is demonic strategy to make us lose confidence in that identity (Hebrews 3:6, 14, 10:35-36). We don’t understand God’s covenant with us, that we give Him filthy rags and He gives us all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places; that we are co-heirs with Christ, adopted as sons.
If I’m understanding the Greek correctly, when Satan tempted Jesus he said more literally “Since it is a fact that You are Son of God…” which I think is an even more impressive picture of a direct assault on His identity. We read the “if” in English as a question but the Greek was more “If, as is the case”. That means Satan straight up called Jesus out knowing who He was to shake His confidence in the Father- to make Him not obey. I think Satan knows that we obey first and then receive the blessing so if he can make us lose that confidence in our identity, or as he has in the west lose the complete concept of our identity, the church can no longer do any harm to him. When I know my identity in Christ, I’m overwhelmed by such love and gratitude that I’m compelled to obey and it’s joyful even when a struggle. When I don’t know my identity in Christ obedience seems backwards. I could probably write a book about my thoughts on this, lol, but that’s a quick summary.