14th January 2024

A Spirit of Grace and Mercy in the New Covenant

Passage: Isaiah 44:3-5, Zechariah 2-10
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

In the scriptures we have, we'll put it up on the screen, apart from the Old Testament and often in our morning services we have the Bible quoted from both Old Testament and New Testament. You may be familiar with the language of the Old Covenant and New Covenant. Now those Old Covenant, Old Testament, New Covenant, New Testament are very much connected but they're not exactly the same meanings. The Old Testament contains the Old Covenant but also has many promises of the coming New Covenant which actually happens in the New Testament though there are plenty of prophecies in the Old Testament of those coming days. And up on the screen we have from Joel a prophecy which is a very important prophecy about how there's going to come a change in what God is doing by his spirit. And actually it is the change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. And my talk this morning is about that difference between the Old and the New Covenants and some of the things that we can learn about the fact that we're in the New Covenant in the fulfilment of many of the promises of the Old. But there in this passage in Joel it says, And it shall come to pass afterward. And it's a bit of a puzzle. The people reading things back then wouldn't have quite known how far afterward or how far down the road this was going to happen. But actually it's one of the prophecies in the Old Testament of when the New Covenant arrived and telling about the difference that that shall make. And it goes on to read that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. When you do read in the Bible about the New Covenant, you don't know that it's going to come to pass afterward. So I'm going to quote some statement which you call a universal. And I've been talking a little bit about that in mornings. Something in the Bible that says all for God so loved the world. Well, how much is the world? Which thing is the world? It's the world of humanity. And it means all humanity for God so loved the world. That's the universal. Well, here's another one that says all flesh. And this actual, this prophecy was quoted by the Apostle Peter. Excuse me, Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost as being fulfilled that moment of the Holy Spirit coming on those believing disciples and with his sermon, the opportunity being open for people to get in the door with the promises of the New Covenant. It was actually the beginning of the church at the day of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit was given as Jesus had promised. But it says that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. And you have to qualify what is the old flesh. Because there were some donkeys that were tied up at the town square there or the area. And none of them started braying in tongues. So the Holy Spirit coming on all flesh didn't literally mean all creatures that had skin and flesh and bones. But it was a way of saying not just a minority or not just a smaller group, but on everybody. That's qualified or explained or clear to be the case by the next words. Your sons. And your daughters shall prophesy. And immediately one of the differences here is that some of the strictures of what was in the Old Covenant and the regime that God gave through Moses for his people to be his people. There were specialists who were priests. There were some who were in other had other roles. Generally speaking, the theologians talk about there being prophets and priests and kings. And all three of those groups used to have. The Holy Spirit on them to help them to do their task. But here is a prophecy of the New Testament that the sons and the daughters are going to prophesy. And one of the reasons why we believe that in the Christian community that there is ministry, which is when the spirit leads you to contribute and it's a spiritual thing that you do. It's not just someone who's been through a ceremony and wears special clothes or has a dog collar. Ministry is when you're a Christian. And you're led of God to bless others and to do something that has God's hand in it. That's what ministry is. And it happens here that the sons and the daughters. So immediately we know about the New Covenant time in which we now live is one where there is not a gender section, but only the men have the ministry. Now, if you were to define the ministry as being ordination and having a dog collar, it would be the same thing. It would be the same thing. It would be the same thing. And wearing special clothes, then you'll discover a number of denominations. That's something containing just for the men. But what they mean by ministry is not what the Bible means. God means ministry when his spirit works. And one person in the New Covenant times who's a member of the body of Christ, who's a Christian, is blessing another under the ministry of the Holy Spirit, under the movement and help of the Holy Spirit. And all of us as members of the body of Christ, have some part to play in the ministry. And what was being said to us in the announcements then by Nick, that if there's a contribution that you feel impelled by the Lord to offer, sure enough, we'll decide whether it's appropriate for you. The thing that you think that you're being led to do, we'll have a contribution as to whether that's accurate or not. But nonetheless, it's not this ministry is just done by the people up the front. Or the ones who are the official musicians. There's ministry that we all do as led of the spirit. And that's the first indication of this is a prophecy in the Old Testament, which is quoted in the book of Acts. Later on, we'll get to that. And you'll see as to what has come about this different in the coming of the New Covenant days. For the men, both the sons and the daughters shall prophesy. So the old men shall dream dreams. There is a bit of a difference in how God's spirit works on people. Depending on their age, it happens to be a fact that having prophecies and seeing special revelations is something that happens more to the young, I don't know why, than happens to older people. But older people are not left out of it. For their sense of God leading them can sometimes come in dreams. So do not poo-poo. Do not look down on. Do not believe it doesn't happen. God is not in the business. He is in the business of helping all the people who are Christians to be involved spiritually because we're in the days of the New Covenant. One of the keys of what makes the New Covenant different from the old is that the spirit being on people in the old was a pretty rare thing. Samuel the prophet. King Saul for a while and then he got into trouble and God lifted the spirit from him. But in the New Covenant days, the spirit is available to all who become Christians. It's actually a part of the gospel message. First delivered by Peter on the day of Pentecost, although the promise of how Jesus was going to die for our sins has always been talked about, but the first formal occasion where there was an invitation given for people to step in to what the gospel offered and receive all the benefits there and then was that first sermon by Peter who called on folk to come and put their faith in Jesus and know the forgiveness of sins and as a consequence of that would receive, listen, would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And on your becoming a Christian it isn't only getting forgiven and have a ticket to heaven. On your becoming a Christian it isn't only that you get to have God smile on you but it is that he gives you a gift. He gives you a grace gift. And a grace gift is when the power is on. And something happens for God to get through to you. For the grace gift. And the grace gift comes from the person of the Holy Spirit. The person of the Holy Spirit. Now the person of the Holy Spirit, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and that third person of the Trinity comes on behalf of others and brings the power of God into your life. Now some of you may be surprised at this but sometimes we understand becoming a Christian is when you let Jesus into your life. That's a children's way people have used to make the Gospel more simple than it actually is. The truth is when the Bible talks about receiving Christ it's talking about accepting him in the manner that he's been sent. The way that our nation accepts a person who's come from another country to be a diplomat, to be someone that represents the other country. The Prime Minister and some of his henchmen go out to the airport and the whole lot of soldiers hang around and they carry guns and they salute a bit and the person comes out of the airplane and there's a ceremony whereby they're officially accepted as representative of that other nation and then they drive off in big limousines and go to where the embassies will be. And when you receive someone to be a representative of another country like that you receive them in the role that they've been sent. And the Bible uses the word to receive Christ in John's Gospel, the beginning chapters, as in just that usage that Jesus is a very special personage. He is the very second person of the Trinity. He is the one that was in the beginning with the Father. He was the one who was pros is the word used face to face with the Father. And he's also, it says, and he's divine. He's God. And those statements about who Jesus is it says that he's the creator. He's the creator of the world. He was in the beginning with the Father. The Father is the one who authored the creation. He did it through the Son, that whose word all the world sprang into existence. And Jesus is the one who is to be the owner of all things in the final event. And he's the one who took on humanity the original Christmas and became the God-man. And coming into the world for that purpose that he might be the one to redeem us, to save us, to pay for our sins as he died on the cross. He was to be the one who would bring the salvation that the Old Testament had always been harking toward, looking forward to. He was the one who'd execute that salvation that we so badly need. We the race that had fallen away from grace. We the ones who were lost and damned. He came to save us and so he is the savior. He's the owner. He's God. He's a creator. He's the one who comes into the world to bring humanity. And he, in that light, that's how he's been sent. And when you receive Christ it is that you take him to yourself in the manner that he's been sent to be your personal savior. You've heard my stories about the fellow who led me to be really keen on witnessing to others. This African man who used to have a question he'd ask people, came to live at the college where I was a child. But he'd ask people he met, do you love the Lord Jesus? Is your personal savior? And I heard him as he'd go to the university he asked once the German professor, do you love the Lord Jesus as your own personal savior? And what he was asking was, have you received him in the manner that he's been sent into the world that he might save you from your sins? That's what it means to receive Christ. And what the promise of the gospel is that if you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior, God gives you a gift. And the gift is the person of the Holy Spirit. And he comes into your very being. He comes to bring the presence of all that God is including Jesus. So you actually get Jesus into your person being by first of all the Holy Spirit coming and bringing him to be in you. Check up on the first few chapters of Ephesians I've been telling us this where it speaks about the indwelling of Jesus coming because of the Holy Spirit making it possible for our hearts to take the moral impact of the very Son of God coming to live within us. And all of that is a part of the gospel and it's a part of the promise of the days of the new covenant and it's when this moment comes that men, sons and daughters shall prophesy and old men will dream dreams and young men shall see visions. Now some people think, oh that's seeing visions, that's for a special group of people called Pentecostals or it's for some who have got a type of Christianity that's very different from what you might see here. No, the promise of the Holy Spirit and the things that the Spirit can do is for all Christians and it happens amongst all Christians. And wherever this message of the gospel is recovered by the institution of the church the work of the Holy Spirit is suddenly seen happening more and people have things occur to them more and even amongst stayed old Baptist churches as we are in many respects there are things that happen because of the Holy Spirit's doing. Now I'll tell you, repeat again a few little stories of an example. That as a young man when I went to the theological college and I was just a student I had a good friend he's been one of my preachers I brought here and he was a youth leader in the Upper Mount Gravatt Church and as a youth leader one day he saw all these young people needing really to learn how to become proper Christians not really understanding you need to receive Christ to get in the door and the full sense of that meaning and he was really keen somehow that those young people would come to Christ and so one day while he was thinking on this I think he was at the church he had a vision and the vision was to see that suddenly a crusade was happening and he saw his young people responding to the call at the end to come and stand down the front to say they wanted to come to Christ and he saw where they stood it was a flash and he saw the different ones with their faces and where they were standing he saw a vision well he was interested one day to become himself in the ministry as being a preacher wanting to be a preacher so eventually he applied to the college but they didn't think his education was good enough to start straight away that he better do some evening courses and as it happened they put on extra evening courses for people such as he to come and my dad being the principal had made me the teacher of one of those and he was in the course and he pulled me up at the end of one night it was evening courses and he says Jim and he told me about his vision and how God was going to work in his church and he says I've been thinking I was going to be the preacher of this crusade we had but God told me tonight listening to the lectures on psychology of religion nothing to do with what you might be thinking I'm talking on now but he said God told me that it's not me to be the preacher but it's you and you have to come with me to see our deacons so we can get a crusade going that crusade happened and on the final Sunday night when the call came for people to make a decision to receive Christ and I don't mean by that just a little emotional decision but the decision of life to let Jesus be your Savior to let his Holy Spirit come and invade your person with his very presence and a call was given and some young people came and the vision that he'd seen where different ones stood in different parts happened they stood in just the same spots that he had seen he was a young man he was younger than me but he'd seen a vision and it happened that's not abnormal it may be rare but it is just what this prophecy in the days of the Old Covenant it shall come to pass afterward because it's referring to a later scenario when the New Covenant came that I'll pour out my Spirit on all flesh that means all the Christians no just not just some they may have different gifts they may be given different purposes they may be at different levels in their sanctification but the Spirit is for all who are genuine Christians and one of the things that you end up knowing that you are a Christian is because your sanctification has been prosecuted by the Holy Spirit who came into your life when you received Christ when you came to Christ whether that be something that you gradually grew into and only happened slowly without your really knowing exactly what triggered it or whether it was a dramatic moment where you cried with tears or whether it was because you were totally outside the church and you had a good friend at work who spoke to you about needing to come and find the Saviour and you let them lead you in a prayer it can happen in a thousand and one different ways God always being someone who doesn't go by formulae He doesn't have to have a set way it has to occur but if that's occurred and you have the Holy Spirit I'm here this morning to alert you to the fact that in the days prophesied we're in them because this prophecy is a prophecy about the coming of the New Covenant this is the days of the Old Covenant saying after these days and now what is of interest I'm going to come back to this passage later because later on it says some interesting things that are a bit of a mystery a bit of a puzzle especially if you've been trying to read the book of Revelation and don't know when all that stuff's going to happen but I'll come back to that a little later on but let's go now to another passage and see how the scriptures speak and if we can do this with the aid of the people at the back if I can go to the next one please we're looking here into the Old Covenant and we're looking at the fact that there are things promised to the people of the Old Covenant which is the Jewish nation and to know when they all happened and got fulfilled or to know whether they're speaking of something in some hidden way that we don't understand just how to apply the promises of the Old Testament to the last days is a very live issue and here we have in Joel and I've just been getting you to hear from Joel from, I think I did or Isaiah, one of the two but in Joel for behold in those days and at that time and this was a common way of speaking and prophecy happening in the Old Covenant days and it's actually talking about the coming of the New Covenant behold in those days and at that time when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem there was some restoring God did in the Old Covenant times after the Babylonian captivity but there's also talk about in the New Covenant times how God is going to really look after Israel and I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat now there's a lot of prophecy prophecies about terrible judgment happening in the valley of Jehoshaphat and I'll enter into judgment with them there on behalf of my people and my heritage, Israel because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land and it's a prophecy that what happened to the Jewish people there got to be a proverb there got to be a byword about the Jewish people they were called the wandering Jews not wondering but wandering Jews meaning that they were scattered among the nations so everywhere you went you could find a Jew here and there they had no homeland they got persecuted the Holocaust happens they were people without a homeland and God was prophesying in those days and at that time when I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem and I'll gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat so the neighboring nations will try and invade Israel and I'll enter into judgment with them on behalf of my people and my heritage, Israel because they've scattered them amongst the nations and have divided up my land you know you always need to remember that God has claimed that land and God gives the land to whom he chooses and no other nation can argue it it's an act of God and he says I'm going to come in judgment on all the nations who took my people and scattered them away from their own land now when that's going to be fulfilled who knows but that's in that chapter 3 of Joel and we'll go to the next one in Joel if I can see it properly verse 12 all the nations will stir themselves up and come to the valley of Jehoshaphat for there I will judge all the surrounding nations now go down to verse 13 in verse 14 in this passage in Joel put in the sickle for the harvest is ripe in Joel chapter 3 for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision in the valley of decision for the sun the valley of decision for the sun and the moon are darkened and the stars withdraw their shining the Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem and the heavens and the earth quake but the Lord is a refuge for his people a stronghold to the people of Israel now as we move into this third chapter some of the talk is obviously not just fulfilled when the day of Pentecost happened and Peter preached at the day of Pentecost and 3000 people pretty well nearly all Jews by the way became Christians a whole bunch of them and the Christian church was formed and the prophecy of the sons and daughters all prophesying came true and that was the day of Pentecost but there's also that in that new covenant period is going to be all these fantastic events happening where the nations around Israel try and attack it and God steps in and judges them and there's a lot of terrible things going on and this statement about there being a valley of decision a valley of decision now if we could go back please to just a couple of verses where it said in Joel 3 about the multitudes multitudes in the valley of decision there in verse 14 this is chapter 3 in verse 14 multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision now there was a gathering of evangelists from around the world they've been having them regularly Billy Graham organization puts them on and Michelle and I have been to several of these the third one I went on my own and at that particular time Billy Graham was giving a talk or was it the second one one of these big gatherings where there were 10,000 itinerant evangelists from around the world present and being taught and encouraged and Billy Graham made a talk and he used this verse multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision and he used those words to describe his crusades his crusades where there's thousands of people that gather to hear the gospel and where a call is given at the end and the Christian church actually has varied opinion as to what they think of that style of evangelism and Billy Graham because of his popularity often gets away with having everybody join in but there's a lot of people who actually don't like putting people on the spot and so they don't like the crusades like so because of the call to make a decision but yet that's exactly what goes on I know because I became a Christian myself the age of nine in one and I know that it was because Christ called me it was a valley of decision and I couldn't disagree that that happens at those big crusades but there are people gathered and I've been involved in counselling folk and they come and say while that person was speaking God spoke to me and they knew they had to make a decision and making a decision is not because decision is the only way to become a Christian decision is what you'll end up having made whether you gradually came into it you can't be a Christian without having arrived at a place where the decision was to put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that's what it is to be a Christian you've come to the place of resting your case with Jesus for God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him and the very nature of how the gospels wrap up this word believe in him by wrapping it up by changing some of the little prepositions used in it normally when you believe in something they put the thing being believed into in what they call the dative case don't worry about the names but in these spots the New Testament writers have put it into the accusative and the accusative is to give the picture of commitment to of movement into of resting your case with it's giving something far more than just mental assent that whosoever believes in him to them he gives the right to become the children of God even to as many as believe in his name and what the decision is that makes you a Christian is that you've come to the place where you rest your case with Jesus to be your saviour and the original question I heard that African young man ask many a person when he says do you love the Lord Jesus as your own personal saviour he's talking about the fact that you've come into a relationship with Jesus because you've rested your case with him you believed in him you trusted him to save you from your sins that's what it means to receive Christ and the big crusades or a little one person speaking to a friend at university is all the same it is to present the gospel that for God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him commit themselves to him trusts in him relies on him makes a decision to rest their case with him whichever way you want to word it but that's the call and every person who does that has the gift of eternal life has the salvation that Jesus died and rose from the dead to make available that's the gospel now Billy Graham was quoting this verse as what happens in his crusades and he gave lots of anecdotal stories of people who come along not expecting to find themselves having to leave as having become a Christian because they got bailed up by God and put on the spot to make a decision and to say yes to Jesus it happened and I was listening to him and I knew what he said was true because I'd been one of them the trouble was I'd just come from being involved as teaching theology at the college and I knew Joel 3 and I knew it seemed to be applying to some future moment in eschatology in the future times and Billy Graham was applying it to me to his crusades so I went back to my room and I looked it up and for a little while I said Billy Graham's wrong what will I do now will I go and tell him that would be very cheeky and I didn't know what to say for a couple of decades I've come to understand it now and I'll tell you what I've come to understand that in the prophecy of Joel it's talking about the new covenant as different from the old covenant and the new covenant times as stretching into the end times to include all that's in the book of Revelation and all the difficulties there and the coming judgement of Christ and the end of the new covenant times is the fact that you come to the judgement and the point that Billy Graham made was that there's a connection between what happens to people in the crowds as he brings them the gospel and the decision that they're put on the spot to make put on the spot by the Holy Spirit that decision to them and a later decision at the end of the new covenant times when the sun will be darkened the moon not give its light the stars will fall from heaven and Jesus Christ shall return and the judgement will be set and the same people will be in the valley of decision the decision that's not theirs to make is the decision that they'll discover is made by God on the basis of what they did with the call of the gospel and there's a connection between the valley of decision that people who are listening to Jesus and his call end up having to make and the decision that he will make on the day when they stand before him in judgement and it's that connection you actually find it in lots of spots in the bible if you're here this morning and you've never actually sealed the deal with Jesus to be one of his if you've not come to the place whatever be the way that you're coming slow or quick knowing what's going on or barely being aware of it all but just knowing God's getting at you whatever it is this moment the decision you make today may well be the decision that he will make on that day and the reason why the prophecies of Joel seem to flow together to be picked up by the book of Acts I'll turn this to there in a minute as being what happened when the new covenant day started and the day of Pentecost and also in all future prophecies of the coming of Jesus in heaven in the second advent when he will come to judge the world in righteousness the decision of today may well be the decision of somebody on that day that Jesus makes and you have the opportunity to come by the way being given the opportunity like such is a very good description of what is grace are you aware that one of the differences between the old covenant and the new covenant is the new covenant is called the covenant of grace what is grace? grace is that God is giving an undeserved opportunity grace is that God's not requiring you to have the power to do it he will enable you to do it he will help you to come he will help you to live it out grace is God's overflowing of love to let you come undeserving because there was one who was deserving and he qualified to be a sinless saviour and bore your sins and paid for them that the debt is paid he was risen from the dead as an act of the father to show the acceptance of his payment for our sins and to take that Jesus to make him king of kings and lord of lords he is the saviour in so many ways he's the one who died for you he's the one who's coming for you if you put your trust in him and that coming and what happens to you is connected somehow to this moment as to what you do multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision the day of the lord is near in the valley of decision the bible says the heavens and the earth quake the lord is refuge for his people a stronghold for the people of Israel he rights all the wrongs that have been done he's going to see that righteousness rules in his world but the valley of decision is to let you by grace be a part of on the good side of God to be accepted by God not because you deserved it but simply because he offered it and you said I'm coming I'm coming the human decision is a human way of us handling having to deal with that some people gradually make a decision some people are impulsive suddenly see it in a flash they say I'm coming I don't know your scenario or whether this is something you've ever really gotten clear for the end of this service I'm going to give you an opportunity to be like those crowds in a big meeting in our little meeting most of our congregation have already come to this decision and so you might be the only one for whom this is designed or there might be others but as we come to the close of the meeting you need in the valley of decision to let Jesus be your saviour and to tell him that that as we have our final music and I trust we've got another beautiful song that will be let in as that's being led I'm going to ask you to come and come and stand next to me I'll be standing down the front and by so making a move in the service make a decision to finalise where you've rested your faith it's in Jesus and his free grace that's why the new covenant's called the covenant of grace it's not dependent on your deserving it it's dependent merely on the success of his mission to die for your sins and rise again and now to offer you a free forgiveness and he will give you the Holy Spirit to live within you forever and to begin that process of sanctification that helps you become more and more holy and get you ready for heaven so when that great day comes and Jesus returns after all the things that are happening the book of Revelation talks about on that great day and we end up in glory he'll have us there as tokens as trophies of his great salvation not our doings but of how he saved us and you'll know that you're secure that that salvation is secure because in the valley of decision now you decided to trust totally in Jesus as your saviour if you'll do that today come and stand by me sometimes I do this and no one comes that day then someone tells me later on they wanted to or sometimes someone comes and sits down and they tell me their circumstances you may be very different from other people doesn't matter but if God has spoken in your heart today multitudes multitudes in the valley of decision that decision is both now and then and you can change how then is by what you do today it's not a work that you earn anything it's a work it's a response to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ I'm going to pray and we'll hand over to our musicians Heavenly Father we thank you this morning for these Joel verses we thank you for the new covenant how it is a covenant of grace the offer of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and his forgiveness we give you praise Lord Jesus for your gracious forgiveness you offer to us may there be some even one who today takes the opportunity in the valley of decision to be ready for that great day of judgment that is to come we pray this in Jesus name Amen.

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