God the promise keeper
Abiding in Jesus begins at the moment of salvation, when the Holy Spirit indwells your heart and grafts you into all the promises of God. This relationship is incomparable to any other relationship you will ever have. It is sure, it is trustworthy, it is unwavering.
Abiding in Jesus is a life-long journey that can be described in five distinct parts:
It is essential to understand each part, so that you can confidently, consistently and freely abide in Jesus as He abides in you. Remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Galatians 5:1). Over the next several weeks, we will explore what God's Word says about each distinction of abiding.
In this post, we’ll study abiding as a covenant between God and His followers. I pray as you read, ponder and pray, you will experience an intimate encounter with the living God that forever changes you and grows you to be more like Him.
Abiding as a covenant
A covenant is a binding agreement, a mutual obligation deliberately contracted between two parties. In biblical context, however, the triune God is the covenant-Creator and the covenant-Keeper. In the covenant, God sets the terms and, ultimately, He keeps the terms as the only One who is perfectly faithful.
While you have probably experienced someone you know - even someone you love and trust - break a promise to you, God never breaks a promise to us. When God makes a promise, and He makes many in Scripture, they always come to pass. He is the ultimate promise keeper.
The covenant between God and His children is not transactional or even equitable but relational in nature. God makes promises and asks us to participate, but He knows at some point we will violate our part of the commitment with sin.
Yet, God in His great mercy continues to pursue us. He declares His covenant with us permanent and based on His faithfulness, not our performance. More than moral obligation, God wants our hearts to follow Him in faith and trust.
More than an agreement, the covenant between God and us is a relationship based on the Father's perfect heart. This covenant isn’t bound by legalism but unconditional love.
When my daughters asked me why their father and I had them if we knew they were going to keep us up at night, give us gray hair and wrinkles, and frustrate us with forgetfulness and sometimes blatant backtalk and attitude, we responded that we loved them before we even knew them.
Our love, albeit imperfect, is an image of the Father's perfect love for us. As parents, we provide shelter for our girls and want to be their shelter from physical, emotional, mental and spiritual storms. We would die to save them.
God wants to be our shelter and stronghold in life. To show us how serious He is about relationship with us, He formed covenants with His children all throughout Scripture. Through Jesus, He literally died to save us.
The First Covenant
In the Garden of Eden, God walked with Adam and Eve, not as a distant dictator but as a present Parent - caring, generous and accessible. God entrusted them with a spacious and beautiful place to live where all their needs were met. In that perfect place, God made the first divine-human covenant recorded in Scripture.
"You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die" (Genesis 2:17).
The covenant was clear. Eternal life was promised as long as they were obedient. God's will to us is also very clear through Scripture. He's not playing some heavenly version of hide-and-seek.
Of course, Adam and Eve could not keep their end of the agreement with God. They sinned and ate the forbidden fruit, choosing their way over God's way. Their disobedience brought dire consequences, most grievously, death for all humanity.
Just as Adam's disobedience brought sin and death into all the world, Jesus' obedience brings holiness and eternal life for those who believe in Him.
"As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men" (Romans 5:18).
As new creations in Christ, we are made holy before God. This is what it means to be justified, made just as if you've never sinned. We are white as snow and our sins are removed, as far as the east is from the west.
But from our new and changed hearts, we will ache to follow Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our greatest joy will no longer come from choosing our way but by following the Way.
Because God is relational in nature and doesn’t keep a record of wrongs once we are hidden in Christ, He always provides a way to ensure the covenant is kept (Hebrews 8:12, Romans 8:1). Jesus is the way, the truth and the life that fulfilled the old covenant and keeps the new covenant for us (John 14:6).
Jesus is our covenant mediator.
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).
"God demanded obedience of Adam, and He demands obedience of us. However, our obedience as sinners is not what secures for us the new covenant blessing of eternal life. Instead, the obedience of Christ on our behalf is why we will live forever when we believe in Him. We are still called to obey, but now it is in order to thank the Lord for eternal life, not to earn it," said Dr. R.C. Sproul.
Obedience to God brings blessing to us and others, and disobedience brings the natural consequences of losing God's provision and protection (Deuteronomy 28). But the new covenant, once sealed by the Holy Spirit, is unbreakable (Ephesians 1:13).
We can lose blessings as believers and we can experience the consequences of sin, but we can never lose our salvation.
With God’s chosen people, the Israelites, God created and confirmed covenants over time. Through the ages, God has proven Himself as the covenant-Creator and covenant-Keeper. With Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and finally through Jesus, God instituted covenants that promised to purify, protect and procreate His people.
With Noah, God promised to never flood the earth again, and the sign of that covenant was a warrior's bow hung in the sky. Grace over wrath. The rainbow reminds us of God's compassion and steadfast Spirit towards His image bearers.
The biblical account of Noah is a foreshadowing of Jesus as the ark for those who abide in Him. Jesus is the safe dwelling place in a corrupt world flooded by sin. Just as God called Noah and his family out of the ark onto a purified earth, God calls us out of sin to fellowship with Him as new creations washed clean by the blood of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:1-3).
This pledge would have been incredible even if Abraham was a strapping young lad, but it's absolutely inconceivable considering Abraham and his bride, Sarah, were well into their twilight years. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90 years old when God finally activated the promise made some 25 years before with the birth of their son, Isaac.
"For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, He swore by Himself" (Hebrews 6:13).
God, in His faithful, limitless love did and does this for us as well through Jesus. It is as if God's "I will" statements are flashing neon signs for the ages to remind us that the covenant was initiated by Him and the fulfillment of it depends on Him.
So on the days you are starkly aware of your flaws and failures, abide in Jesus and let the good news of the gospel ground you in His unconditional love. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ as Savior, the covenant between God and you is permanent. Trust in Him.
And on the days you are pleased with your performance, abide in Jesus and guard against self-righteousness, self-sufficiency or any self-centered pride. Pray for humility and a desperate dependence on the perfect, faithful Father. Remember that obedience to the Lord brings blessing, provision and protection. Celebrate and give God the glory.
And don't give up hope. Remember Noah and Abraham, who waited in faith for God to fulfill His promises. God hasn't forgotten you. He is the covenant-Creator and the covenant-Keeper.