I am convicted and convinced that a top goal at Oak Crest this year is our unity as a family and as the body of Christ. At Oak Crest, we use the word “Covenant” a lot. It may not be a popular word in the world, but I think it is a crucial word for the church. You have probably heard me say that I think the current lack of commitment in the American Evangelical church is due to a lack of understanding of what covenant is and why it is important. I take it very seriously that I am in covenant relationship with each one of you. I hope you are aware that we have a document that expresses this covenant relationship, appropriately known as the “Church Covenant.” Very simply, the “Covenant” is a written promise of our mutual desire to live according to Scripture. We read a portion of this document when someone joins the church and we read it in its entirety at the beginning of a Members’ Meeting, but aside from that you may be largely unfamiliar with this important statement. We need a renewed awareness of this covenant. We should be familiar with our covenant, so let’s think about it together. Each “block” for the next several weeks I will share a portion of our “Covenant” and make some commentary on it. I am certainly aware that many of you have heard this before, but when your children tell you they love you I doubt you say, “I’ve heard that before!” We can’t be reminded too often of the love relationship God has granted us to one another.
The covenant begins, “Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord and, on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully, enter into this covenant with one another as one body in Christ.”
This opening paragraph of the covenant is absolutely crucial. I think there are three main parts to this paragraph. If we don’t have these, we are not in covenant. The first prerequisite to covenant is faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is the very first part of the covenant. We don’t believe just anything. We believe Jesus is Lord. The Spirit himself has revealed this truth through the Word of God. This is the foundation of our love relationship with one another. We are not joined together because we like the same kind of music or style or preaching or hobbies, all that may be true, but what joins us in covenant is the gospel and our trust in Christ alone for salvation. Isn’t it beautiful that a group of people who otherwise might not even associate with one another are called together by a power and person outside themselves to be joined together.
The second prerequisite is baptism. The baptism we have upon our salvation is our public profession of faith. Baptism is our press release to the world that we have been crucified with Christ, and that one day we will be physically raised by Christ to be with him forever. Baptism is also the testimony of the church that the baptismal candidate has passed through judgment in Christ and has been raised again to new life in Christ. Together these first two parts of the covenant tell us something. There is not to be a mixed multitude in the body of Christ. The church is composed of a regenerate or “born-again” membership. This is not meant to be rude or arrogant, but a person simply cannot consider himself or herself in the covenant body of Christ if he is not redeemed in Christ.
The third and final part of this first paragraph is the active participation in the covenant. Based on the first two, salvation and baptism, we are to “solemnly and joyfully” enter into an amazing God-honoring relationship with each other. Solemnly signifies that this is not something we take lightly. Joyfully means we are anticipating great things in the Lord. So in other words, joining in covenant with a local body of believers is neither like joining Sam’s Club or getting a prison sentence. It is not like Sam’s club because we are not merely affiliating with this group because of the personal benefit it provides, but because we have been bound together by the finished work of Christ. It is not a prison sentence because it is a joyful participation in the abundant life Christ gives his people. Oh, what a blessing to be in the Body of Christ.
As I personally prepare for my upcoming period of sabbatical, be assured the most difficult part will be a brief absence from you. It will not be an “escape.” In fact, my sincere prayer is that you will be the ultimate beneficiary of what will hopefully be a time of spiritual renewal and refreshing in my own walk with Christ. I anticipate pouring out upon you what God will hopefully pour into me. As I attend conferences, study, read, pray, and research, you will be in my thoughts to the glory of God. Why? Is it because you are pretty? Smart? Kind? Well, all that may be true, but it is because we are in covenant with one another.