Sunday, 9 August 2009

“God’s Eternal Grace Covenant” by Ryan Rufus

This incredible sermon was preached by Ryan Rufus at City Church International in Hong Kong on Sunday 27th October 2008.

“This is what we were created for – to be with You. This was Your grand master plan from the very beginning – to have us close. Father we just love Your Presence. Holy Spirit we thank You for what You are doing here this morning – taking us deeper and taking us further. Lord I don’t feel like I have ever been this far into Your Presence! What an awesome place! We just love it Lord! Let the brilliant bright light of Your shekinah glory shine into our hearts and awaken us and illuminate us to see the greater truth of You Lord. To have a revelation amidst all the lies and the confusions and perversions of Your truth – amidst all of that – let a brilliant bright light pierce us and awaken us this morning.

All week I have been very excited about preaching. I have been looking forward to it! It’s probably been the only time I have really looked forward to preaching! I have really been excited about preaching the Word this week. I don’t know the end and exactly how it will come out but we will see what the Holy Spirit does. I feel to continue about this theme of “God’s Eternal Grace Covenant”. I have just two points to share about this.

1. The first one is that God’s grace covenant does not have a beginning and it does not have an end.

His grace does not have a beginning and it does not have an end! It is eternal – an eternal covenant that God cut even before time began and it was cut between the Trinity. Jesus Christ the Son is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth. We spoke last week about God’s grand master plan.

What is God’s grand master plan? To have a people clothed in His righteousness. His people – with revelation so that they can come before Him in perfect standing based on what He has done in His glory and His pleasure.

God’s grand master plan is that He would have and create a people that would not relate to Him and have relationship with Him on the basis of their righteousness but He would create a people that would relate to God and have relationship with God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness.

That is why Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth because God NEVER intended us to relate to Him through our own righteousness. He always, always, always intended us to relate to Him through Christ’s righteousness. That is why even before He created us He had already planned a way for us to receive that righteousness through Christ and through faith. Not through anything we have ever done – not through works, not through keeping the law, not through trying to please God or by being obedient, not through tithes and offerings or anything but simply on believing what Jesus did for us. That we would become the righteousness of God in Him – perfect access to Him every moment of every day!

Let me read you a Scripture – 2nd Timothy chapter 1:8. “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord or ashamed of me His prisoner but join with me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God who has saved us and called us to a holy life”. Remember that is not a holy life that we try to live. That is a holy life that He has called us to and given us in Christ before the foundation of the world. When He said “Be holy as I am holy” – He never meant try to be as holy as Me. That is impossible for mankind to be as holy as God. God never said be holy with your own holiness. He said “Be holy as I am holy - With MY holiness! (v9); “Who has saved us and called us to a holy life” – that’s His holiness. “Not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. This grace was given us in Christ before time began!

Ephesians chapter 1:4 says; “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world”. When did God choose us in Christ? Before the creation of the world! “To be holy and blameless in His sight”. Is that a holiness of our own? Our own self-holiness and self-blamelessness? No He chose us even before He had created us or done one holy thing and one blameless thing – He chose us to be holy and blameless in Him before creation! “In love He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure to the praise of His glorious grace which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood – the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of His grace that He lavished upon us with wisdom and understanding and He made known to us the mystery of His will”. What is the mystery of His will? That we would relate to Him through Christ’s righteousness and not our own. That is the mystery of God’s will! “According to His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment to bring all things in heaven and on earth under one head even Christ”.

That Scripture about Jesus being the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world is in Revelation 13:8. I just want to read one more Scripture before we move on. That is Romans chapter 8:29. Another awesome Scripture about God’s master plan. When we read the Scriptures we need to see God’s master plan. We must see God’s plan! He predestined us to relate to us on His righteousness and not our own. Many of us look at the doctrine of election and predestination through the wrong lenses and through the wrong angle. We are looking at it thinking “Who has God predestined?”. It is not so much about that! It is more about the fact that before time began God predestined you to relate to Him through His righteousness and His perfection and not your own! That to me is predestination. Romans 8:28:

“And we know that God works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”. (v29); “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brothers – and those He predestined, He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified, He also glorified”.

God predestined you before He created you to be justified by the blood of Jesus! To be made righteous through the sacrifice of Jesus! It is awesome – God’s master plan! I hope you are seeing it. Abraham was chosen! God chose a filthy pagan sinner. We think Abraham was a holy man and that’s why God chose him. He wasn’t. He was a pagan and a filthy sinner – and God chose Him. God came to him one day and said; “Hey Abraham – you don’t deserve it but I am going to bless you”. You don’t deserve it one bit but I am choosing to bless you. To prove to you that I am going to bless you, I am going to make a covenant with you. I am cut a covenant to you and swear by an oath and bind Myself to you through an oath and a promise that says “I will bless you and make you righteous even though you don’t deserve it and I will make you into many nations even though you don’t deserve it”. And you know what? Abraham believed God. It was insane for him to believe God because He didn’t deserve it yet he believed God and that is why Abraham is the Father of our faith because he believed that God would bless him even though he didn’t deserve it. And that is the exact same faith we have. We believe that He makes filthy sinners righteous even though we haven’t merited it and even though we haven’t earned it. That is why grace is called “unmerited favour”.

God’s grace – His covenant does not have a beginning and it does not have an end. It is eternal.

It is His Plan A and Jesus was God’s Plan A! Jesus was not God’s plan B. Mankind didn’t sin and God thought; “Oh no! What am I going to do?”. Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. God knew that mankind could never relate to God through their own righteousness. It was just never going to be good enough. There was only one way that man can relate to God and that is through His righteousness through the grace of God. So God had to teach this to man because there is a time when man thought he could relate to God through his own righteousness and just be good enough to earn His favour and earn His blessings. God blessed Abraham through faith and it wasn’t through anything Abraham had chosen to do or had done. It was through faith and faith alone. Israel forgot the Abrahamic covenant – they forgot the faith of Abraham. They forgot the covenant that God made with Abraham!

So when Moses came down Mount Sinai with the Law to Israel and said “If you want to be blessed then keep the 10 Commandments but if you break even the smallest one then you are going to come under incredible curse”. Israel had to think about it and thought “Yes that doesn’t sound too bad – I reckon we can do that!”. They should have said; “God what on earth are You doing!? You already made a covenant with Abraham who was our Father and You said You will bless him regardless of his performance and You would bless him through faith. God why are You making this new covenant with Israel? Why are You making this Law covenant?”. They should have said; “No God! We reject this law covenant that You are trying to make with us! We don’t want the 10 Commandments and this performance-based covenant! We want Your grace covenant not the law covenant! We want You to give us the Abrahamic covenant!”. But instead they thought “No we can keep the law”. So for 1700 years God showed them how they couldn’t keep the law and how inferior that covenant was and how weak and useless that covenant was. How it was impossible through that covenant to relate to God – God had to show mankind that the law covenant is a weak and useless covenant and the law covenant had a beginning and an end. It was a parenthesis in the eternal grace covenant of God.

The grace covenant is eternal – it goes on for millions and billions of years into the eternity of eternity. The law covenant appears for a fraction of time – a parenthesis in the grand scheme of God. The law appears – why? Why did God bring this law covenant? So much of the church today is struggling under a heavy yoke.

Jesus said “Come to Me those that are heavy burdened, laidened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke”. What was He talking about? He was talking about those that are under the yoke of the Pharisees – the law yoke. The heavy yoke of the law. It weighs you down and crushes you and destroys you – because that’s what it was intended to do. It was intended to break you and to smash you down and show you that you cannot relate to God through your own righteousness. The harder you try – the harder it has got to smash you down. That is why Jesus was angry with the Pharisees.

We look at Jesus’ teachings and think that He was giving this higher ability for us to keep the law! That is the biggest lie – He wasn’t giving us a higher law standard that we can now keep through the Holy Spirit. He was angry with the Pharisees for lowering the law for making it appear as though we can almost keep it. And people would look at them and think; “Wow – look at how holy they are. I wish I could be like them!”. Legalism was a virtue in those days. “I wish I could be that legalistic then I would be close to God”. Up until the time Jesus came, everyone look at the Pharisees and thought; “Wow – those men are so righteous”. But Jesus came and exposed their hypocrisy and they hated Him for it. He said; “Yes on the outside you look like white-washed walls, beautifully decorated and look so holy. But on the inside you are full of death, rubbish – because you think you can be holy through your own righteousness.

You think you can be holy – you think you can earn the right into God’s Presence. On the outside you are keeping the law but on the inside you are breaking every single command and God sees you as filthy, disgusting and dead. That’s how God sees you. You say you shouldn’t commit adultery but I say to you if you have even lusted in your heart then you have committed adultery”. We say “Oh that is the new standard for us”. No – God was showing the Pharisees how extreme the law was! If you lust in your heart then you have broken all the commandments and you deserve judgement. If you want to be so holy then as soon as you begin to lust, then cut your hand off and pluck your eye out!

He was ANGRY with the Pharisees and He heightened the law to show how NO ONE can keep the law because NO ONE was intended to keep the law because NO ONE would able to be righteous enough to earn God’s favour and love and grace on us. There is only ONE covenant that is good enough and that is the grace covenant – the law covenant is not good enough. It is a self-righteous covenant and a flesh based covenant. Grace is a spiritually based covenant, an eternal covenant, the ONLY covenant by which man can draw near to God!

Abraham was not under the law. The faith of Abraham is not a law-based faith! He had a grace-based faith. What is a law-based faith? A law-based faith says; “I believe that I can be righteous enough to earn God’s blessings and God’s Presence and favour with God”. That is the faith of the law – faith in my ability. It is a useless faith because the object of your faith is useless! You don’t have the ability! Grace-based faith says; “My faith is in heaven and Him alone! It is in Jesus, the finished work of the Cross and in His ability to take My sin and give me His righteousness and His ability to make me 100% righteous before God!”. THAT’S what my faith is in! Nothing else! Absolutely nothing else! It is crazy to put my faith in anything else!

Hebrews 8:7. The lights are going to come on for some of you and it is going to change you forever and you are not going to be the same. And your relationship with God will not be the same. From when you see this – your relationship with God is never going to be the same! This morning when I was praying I saw this – I really saw this towards the end of my preparation and suddenly the lights went on and instantly the glory of God fell on me and I was weeping, laughing and it was so awesome!

Hebrews 8:7 says; “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant” (talking about the law covenant) “no place would have been sought for another”. There was something wrong with that first covenant. That’s why another covenant had to come. The grace covenant that had already been established in eternity! (v8); “For God found fault with the people”. The law covenant is a faultfinding covenant. It is based on you and your performance and so God scrutinises your performance through the law. There is no way you can please God because we are always falling short and always messing up. God always must find fault with us through the law. That covenant is a terrible covenant and that is why Jesus said; “Come to Me those that are heavy-laden, weighed down and crushed”. Why? Because they were living under a faultfinding covenant.

Imagine every day you live your life with someone who says; “Oh you did that wrong, that wrong and you should have done that, oh what are you doing? Oh you are pathetic! You are useless, why did you do that? You are a failure! You shouldn’t have done that! You did that badly! God is not happy with that! God can’t stand that!”. That is a faultfinding covenant – that is the law covenant.

Then after all that you think; “Praise God I am just going to go and worship God and get in His Presence”. Goodness gracious – good luck!

And all you can do is say; “Oh I am so sorry, I’m so pathetic and so useless!”. Even the best thing and most righteous thing you can do for God wouldn’t matter because of all the unrighteous things you have done against God. You know why it is a faultfinding covenant? Because God made the covenant with man. Now listen to this and try to get it alright? The law covenant which is a blip in time and eternity and a paranthesis in the grace covenant is a useless and weak covenant because it is a covenant that God made with man. You will see this! So the covenant is when two people come together and they make promises to each other. “I will do this if you do that – I will do that if you do this”. They bind themselves to each other through signatures and through swearing and through oaths and it is a legal contract, a covenant contract that binds you together and if you fail under your end then you are liable in a court of law.

So God makes a covenant with man and says “I will fulfil my end if you will fulfil your end. I will bless you if you keep the law. If you break the law or even the smallest part of the law then I will curse you”. That is the covenant that man signed with God. But the grace covenant – how many of you realise this? You do not have a covenant with God. God didn’t make a covenant with you. He made it with His Son. He made it with Jesus. And then He brought you into it because you are in Jesus. Jesus will never ever break His end of the covenant – He fulfils it perfectly. He is eternal! He is a perfect sacrifice. He offered a perfect sacrifice, which perfectly removes your sins and perfectly makes you righteous. He was raised from the dead and entered into the highest heavens and offered His own blood. The earthly tabernacle could never ever remove your sins; it could only cover your sins. The heavenly tabernacle can remove all your sins. He went into heaven with resurrection life and we have a high priest that mediates between God and man and He offered His blood and He has an indestructible life. He will never ever die and Hebrews chapter 7 says “Jesus ever intercedes for us”.

This is when the lights came on for me this morning. He EVER lives to intercede for you and I! That means in the eternity of eternities if we ever sin then we are STILL righteous! We will never ever get kicked out of His Presence and the oath God makes with us – the way it works is that God binds Himself to the New Covenant – the grace covenant – and says;

I will bind Myself and promise that I will never, ever relate to man through his righteousness but I swear by an oath to always and ever relate to man through Christ’s righteousness and on man’s behalf!”.

That is why the Holy Spirit is also our Counsellor. He doesn’t come alongside and say; “Hey man, you are doing a good job”. He is our Counsellor – our legal defence. So when Satan is in heaven accusing the brethren saying; “God they broke this law or this law” – the Holy Spirit says; “Father! Remember You swore and promised to not relate to them through their performance, their righteousness or their shortcomings. You swore to relate to them through Christ’s righteousness”. Case dismissed! That is good!

Jesus ever lives to intercede because He also stands up and says; “Father You said You would always relate to them through My righteousness and I have given them My righteousness, I have made them righteous – I have removed their sins and they don’t even have their sins! He is talking rubbish! It is hot air – he’s talking lies, he is accusing! They are not found on substantial evidence – he cannot present any evidence because God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west and they did do this”. But can you prove that they did this? I am looking but it has got no evidence!

The New Covenant is not a fault-finding covenant.

You have to get that – you have to see that. It can never be a fault-finding covenant because God is not relating to you through your performance. He is relating to you through Christ’s performance. God will never find fault with Christ – He is perfect. He is absolutely perfect! For you to break covenant with God or to lose your covenant with God would mean that Jesus would have to be made unperfect. It would mean that Jesus would have to backslide. It is absolutely impossible for Jesus to backslide – He is absolutely perfect in all description. He is indestructibly perfect. He is immutable and unchangeable and we are perfect with Him and He has made us perfect forever. This is the good news! This unlocks Scripture! Hebrews 6 says that the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which He is mediator and is superior to the old one. It is founded on better promises. That is God’s promise – to relate to you through His righteousness and not your own.

The Old Covenant was bad promises – it was full of promises you made to God. You broke your promise to God. But the New Covenant is founded on better promises because it is Jesus’ promises on our behalf. Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly on our behalf.

You know what it comes down to? It comes down to the fact that God promises to bless you regardless of your performance! How much of the Church is teaching performance-based blessings? The Church today preaches performance-based blessings and it is Old Covenant!

The covenant God made with Abraham said; “I will bless you regardless of what you have done!”. I don’t know if you have read Genesis 12 to 15, 22. Every time God came to Abraham, He said; “I will bless you!”. “But God what have I done to deserve this?”. “Exactly! That is the point! I choose to bless you. I will bless you and make your name great. I will make you a blessing to nations”. So much of the Church teaches that God will bless you so you can be a blessing to the nations. God says, “I will bless you AND you will be a blessing to the nations”. We have turned that thing around that says if you want God to bless you then you need to be a blessing to the nations. You need to bless the nations and then God will bless you. Rubbish! The covenant is based on better promises. God says “I will bless you even when you don’t deserve it”. Why? Because I am not blessing you on your performance but I am blessing you on Christ’s performance on your behalf. This cleans up our motives for why we serve God.

We don’t do – in order to get. We do because He has transformed us. He has blessed us already. It is an overflow of what He has done to us. It is not trying to get something from God.

I believe in tithing and I believe in generous giving. I believe in sowing and reaping as a lower principle, but I believe there is a higher principle. That Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law so that the blessings of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through faith. Righteousness of God comes through faith and wealth comes through faith and health comes through faith – not from what you have done but from what He has done on your behalf. It is not law-based faith in yourself but grace-based faith in the finished work of Jesus. I love to give! I believe in tithing! I believe tithing is right there in Hebrews chapter 7. God makes a big deal about it! I believe all the glory belongs to God. I believe worship and honour belong to God and 10% of our income belongs to God – you don’t have to see it that way. But that is the way I see it currently – that is my conviction. That is the way I see it.

God is expanding and going broad with our convictions. He is redeeming New Covenant truth and bringing His word back into the New Covenant. He is redeeming New Covenant truth and He is going deep on some things we have been looking at for the last 3 and a half years like justification by faith, the gift of righteousness, those things – we are unchanging on those things and will not budge on those things! But God has us going broader on things like tithing and offering and all those things we have been taught under law such as Malachi 3 and have done them under law but God is redeeming them out of law and bringing them into grace. And we are seeing what makes it through into grace.

He is going broad now so we mustn’t let these things divide us. We are all heading to the same direction and all are at different paces and we love each other. Why don’t you stand? God is awesome and I hope you saw something today! We just want God to turn His light on so we see that it is not about our righteousness but His".