When the Church Gets All OT on You

Can’t stop thinking about this…

Whenever Church leaders talk about how great it is to be a follower of Jesus, does it ever bother you that they always go back to the Old Testament for props for their teachings and sermons?

In the Old Testament, the reward in this life for faithfulness included the following:

Health

Material prosperity

Freedom from want

Large families

Respect from the community

Long life

But then in the New Testament, something else enters that idyllic picture and seems to replace it. The reward in this life for faithfulness in the New Testament:

Persecution

Separation from family

More persecution

Martyrdom

"The Crucifixion of St. Peter" by Ventura SalimbeniAmid all those sermons on all the great stuff you’ll now get from claiming OT promises, no one seems to talk about the hallmarks of NT faithfulness and what its rewards now look like.

My son and I are reading through the entire NT together, and that thread of persecution for following Jesus is simply unmistakable. Not only this, but Jesus Himself states that much of what was thought to be the hallmark of Old Testament faithfulness and reward would look different in the Kingdom of God that Jesus was instituing and that expectations should change. Something larger was now here, and it eclipsed what was thought to be the be all and end all of faithfulness and reward.

We don’t talk about that though.

What if instead of thinking about the OT reward of long life and material prosperity we instead thought of the blessing of having our head lopped off at age 30 by people who hated us and our Christ?

What does that do to “counting the cost”? Can any of us who have bought into the OT reward mentality truly accept the NT reward reality? Or do we keep retreating to a place that lessens the likelihood that we should ever receive a genuine NT reward—the only kind that truly matters.

Because, hey, someone once called me a bad name on my Christian blog, and I felt all persecuted.  :-(

by Dan Edelen

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3 Comments

  1. Posted July 12, 2013 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    You…you…Christian, you! How dare you point out the flaw in the marketing?

    Seriously – loved it, Dan. Consider the above all the abuse and persecution you’ll get from this corner of Minnesota. Timing couldn’t have been better, either – I’m linking to this from a post I’ve written on faulty God concepts.

  2. Posted July 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    American churches have indeed often preferred the O.T., with its focus on a “godly nation” that is blessed with a promised land, and the fruits of it (health, wealth, and large families). They quickly presume that God’s covenant with Israel was extended later to the U.S. Thus the authority for these churches is the authority of the (whole) bible, putting the O.T. on an equal level, and of course preferring it in practical terms over the N.T. (and its persecution, poverty, and conflict among families, for disciples of Jesus who are blessed with his Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit).

  3. linda
    Posted July 13, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Dan,
    I’ve read your post here and the comments. If we go back to the OT and make our rewards ‘natural’, we leave the ‘spiritual’. Just as… if we leave the Spirit and faith we return to ‘works’ to serve God. Basically, though, God is no longer served by works after the death and resurrection of Christ. We instead serve mankind and our ‘brothers’ by works. ‘Brothers’ meaning other believers who trust in Christ, not the unbelieving people in the whole world.

    The church teaches today that our ‘brothers’ are the unsaved and the wicked as well as the save. This is false. We have nothing in common with the ungodly, other than we all bear the same flesh. Our spirit has left the old way of living and we have been ‘born again’. A new creation. We are not the same person we were when we came out of our mother’s tummy. We have been delivered from sin the Bible says. We need to walk in that freedom from sin. We need to make decisions based on that freedom.

    This brings me to the rewards we have in this life in Christ. There are plenty. Freedom from sin. This is amazing. My former husband walked away from a dependency on liquor (the next day) after delcaring his ‘faith and belief’ in Christ as his Savior. January 1, 1982 he was alcoholic. January 2, 1982 he was saved. January 3,1982 when he got up in the morning he wasn’t alcoholic. All his liquor got poured down the drain that day. This is a benefit, a reward, for his faith and confession of Christ. Material wealth cannot buy this freedom. It is priceless.

    In this natural life we have the fruit of the Spirit, we have wisdom from above, (if we don’t have wisdom from above the Bible says ask for it!), we have light (this is so precious), I walked in darkness before I was saved, as we all did. We also get understanding, we get help from the Holy Spirit, we get our minds renewed into the mind of Christ, we get a solid foundation for life, we get goodness and godliness, and so on and on.

    In the world to come, we get a new name in Christ, we get to live on in Christ eternally, we get a righteous kingdom to live in (no sin, sorrow, war, sickness etc.) We get the perfect government, the perfect judge, the perfect Father, the perfect Love and Mercy etc etc etc. No corruption, no deception. We get honesty, integrity, goodness, love, joy, peace, etc etc.

    We have nothing on this earth or in heaven outside of Christ. Everything comes to us from the Father through Christ, through his Spirit, through his written word. Faith is how we receive from God. Faith and belief in Jesus being who he said he was, is, and is to come. Believing that through the blood of Jesus we were redeemed from the fallen and the dead. We were given new life in Christ. Faith and belief in his word and in his goodness.

    I also know Dan that what you are saying is correct. When we live godly lives we will experience persecution. Some believers experience tremendous persection depending on their circumstances and where they live in the world. The world hates God, therefore, it hates us believers. We condemn the world of sin when we set our life in godly paths, and the world becomes vicious and spiteful.

    Even worldy family members. They feel convicted. They want to be away from the conviction of their sin. They break ties with the believer. They don’t want to think that what they are doing is wrong. As far as their peers or bosses tell them they are doing well. Growing the company, making sales (dishonestly), some may be living immoral sexual lives.

    I’ve gone on enough.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] Continue reading here […]

  2. […] of man should ever be introduced to it. Does God bless us? Yes, but as Dan Edelen points out in his timely essay, that is not what we’re called to – or for. God as wishing well? I can certainly claim […]

  3. […] in public reactions to the recent George Zimmerman trial. Dan also has a good little article on counting the cost of discipleship. Finally, he offers some practical advice on reading the Scriptures as most Christians have done […]

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