There is a great deal of overlap between the Old Testament and the New. But there is a radical distinction to be made between the two – hence the need for a New Testament to supercede the Old Testament of Covenant. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews:
FOR IF THAT FIRST COVENANT HAD BEEN FAULTLESS, THEN SHOULD NO PLACE HAVE BEEN SOUGHT FOR THE SECOND
In the first Covenant period we see a physical nation fighting to preserve its hold on a physical piece of territory, and fighting against other peoples of other nations in order to do so.
In the New Covenant or Testament, the people of God are not called to possess physical territory, nor to wage war of any kind at all against other human beings, be they friend or foe.
No, in the New Covenant which God has established with his chosen people, the battleground lies in the heart of the individual believer. And the battle is within his own individual heart and mind.
The Christian must never behave in a hostile way toward other human beings. The enemy is the hostility the believer finds in their own heart – not in others.
The enemies we find in our own heart are the problem – not other people. The Scripture is clear: we are each to be responsible to God for our own attitudes and actions; we are not to concern our selves with what others may be doing, but with how we react to them.
In the study of Mark’s Gospel, we arrive at chapter 4 and the story of the Sower of the Word of God. Jesus takes the analogy of a farmer going out to sow seed in his field to illustrate a spiritual truth.
In the story Jesus identifies 4 types of soil in which the farmer sows seed:
- Hard, stony soil
- shallow soil
- soil overgrown with weeds and brambles
- deep, rich, weed free soil in which the farmer’s seed can establish itsel and thrive
Now Jesus clearly identifies the soil as representing the hearts and minds of human beings.
- the hard soil represents those with no ability to receive the Gospel of Christ; their hearts do not identify with being sinners, nor with the need to find Christ as their Saviour and Lord
- the shallow soil represents those who like the idea of being Christians and are happy to go to church and socialise and have a good time enjoying the fellowship and the nice atmosphere of people being nice to each other – but they don’t realise how the church really works and why it is that people are ‘nice to each other’. As soon as problems arise like their loss of reputation or even persecution, they are no longer prepared to associate with the church – they were seeking the benefits, and had no time for paying the price of true membership
- then there is the weedy, brambly soil – these people may not be unduly worried about their reputation, or about people outside the church not liking them. They do however take exception to having to change their personal lifestyle from being consumer oriented to being God oriented. They like the good life; they like possessions and money; they like their comforts. They are not prepared to sacrifice their personal comfort or welfare in order to live some new Christian life, or to serve God as he calls them to. They may be members of a church, but their hearts and their lives don’t accord with what God really wants from them
- The good soil represents the true Christian believer. This type of person has found Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour for real; they understand that reputation or personal comfort are incidental to living the Christian life – and that life is one committed to becoming more like Jesus Christ in their nature and behaviour; that they are to serve Christ’s purposes in the church and in this world; they understand the need for dying to self and for living the new life referred to in the New Testament epistles, such as in Romans chapter 6 and verses 2 to 11
HOW SHALL WE THAT ARE DEAD TO SIN LIVE ANY LONGER THEREIN ?
KNOW YE NOT THAT SO MANY OF US AS WERE BAPTISED INTO JESUS CHRIST WERE BAPTISED INTO HIS DEATH ?
THEREFORE WE ARE BURIED WITH HIM BY BAPTISM INTO DEATH: THAT LIKE AS CHRIST WAS RAISED UP FROM THE DEAD BY THE GLORY OF THE FATHER, EVEN SO WE ALSO SHOULD WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.
FOR IF WE HAVE BEEN PLANTED TOGETHER IN THE LIKENESS OF HIS DEATH, WE SHALL BE ALSO IN THE LIKENESS OF HIS RESURRECTION: KNOWING THIS, THAT OUR OLD MAN IS CRUCIFIED WITH HIM, THAT THE BODY OF SIN MIGHT BE DESTROYED, THAT HENCEFORTH WE SHOULD NOT SERVE SIN.
FOR HE THAT IS DEAD IS FREED FROM SIN.
NOW IF WE BE DEAD WITH CHRIST, WE BELIEVE THAT WE SHALL ALSO LIVE WITH HIM: KNOWING THAT CHRIST BEING RAISED FROM THE DEAD DIETH NO MORE; DEATH HATH NO MORE DOMINION OVER HIM. FOR IN THAT HE DIED, HE DIED UNTO SIN ONCE: BUT IN THAT HE LIVETH, HE LIVETH UNTO GOD.
LIKEWISE RECKON YE ALSO YOURSELVES TO BE DEAD INDEED UNTO SIN, BUT ALIVE UNTO GOD ALIVE UNTO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD