The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old Testament and New Testament. Another word for ‘testament’ is ‘covenant’, and the Bible tells of these two covenants, made by God with people. There are two main words used to describe these, the first meaning an arrangement between equals with either party able to change terms of arrangement (such as is understood by marriage, for example.) The second word is used of the covenant between God and mankind, which is a formal arrangements to administer something, set by one party and not negotiated. This kind of covenant cannot be annulled; it is a simple fact.
In the New Testament, we see that God wants to be in relationship with people. Some people don’t want anything to do with God or even believe He exists (atheists). Others believe God may well exist but are not interested in a relationship with Him; others define their relationship with God on their own terms (we usually call these people ‘religious’!) God, however, is the one who defines this covenant and we see several fundamental points in His assessment of the situation.
1. People’s relationship with God has been broken (by people’s sinfulness, not by God) and therefore needs repairing. Acts 17:29-31 reminds us of the need for acknowledgment of this brokenness and the need for us to repent.
2. God has provided the way for our relationship with Him to be restored, but it must be on His terms, through His Son. (John 14:1-6, 1 Tim 2:1-6) These terms are non-negotiable. There are many religions seeking to find God, but only way to find Him.
3. In order to take hold of this offer of a new relationship, we have to have faith. (Heb 11:1-6, Rom 10:8-13) It’s crucial we believe God exists and that we trust Him to do all He has said He has done and will do.
We then become Christ’s disciples. (Matt 28:18-20) This involves learning, obeying and living out His teachings. Matt 10:32-42 outlines the need for us to acknowledge Christ and put Him first. Our open confession of Christ will cause division and problems, but will also lead to blessing as we set our priorities in alignment with His and surrender our ways, thinking and behaviour to Him.
The new agreement God has made is a way to come into relationship with Him, on His terms. We can believe and be brought into this relationship: we can become a believer. God, however, wants us to go further, to come closer and to know Him in a deeper way. He wants us to become disciples. This is the challenge to every one of us: are we willing to explore this arrangement, this agreement, this covenant and be, not just a believer, but a disciple?