How to identify a New-Covenant Church
How to identify a New-Covenant Church
Zac Poonen | 6 May 2018
Nowadays many believers are fed up with their own denominations, and are leaving them in search of a new-covenant church. There are also many groups that claim to be "New-covenant churches".
But how are we to identify a new-covenant church? - Certainly not by the pattern of its meetings. It is possible to imitate many things in the pattern that we see in a powerful church, and yet never become a powerful church ourselves.
It would have been possible for the Philistines to build a tabernacle exactly like the one that Moses built, because the details were all clearly given in the book of Exodus. But there was one thing about that tabernacle that no-one would have been able to imitate - and that was the fire of the glory of God that rested upon the tabernacle. That was the one distinctive mark by which the true dwelling place of God was identified in the wilderness. Without that, the tabernacle was an empty shell. When the tabernacle was later replaced by the temple in Solomon's time, the glory of God filled it. But later, when Israel backslid, that glory slowly moved out (Ezekiel 10:4, 18, 19). That temple then became an empty shell. It is the same with many churches today.
The one identifying mark of a new-covenant church is the presence of God in its midst. When the spirit of prophecy is powerfully present in a church-meeting, those coming to that meeting will fall on their faces and "acknowledge that God is there" (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25). When Jesus speaks prophetically in the church, our hearts will burn, just like the hearts of the two disciples burned on the way to Emmaus, when Jesus spoke to them (Luke 24:32).
God is a consuming fire. When God came down into the bush through which He spoke to Moses, and the bush burned, no worm could survive in that bush. In exactly the same way, no sin can remain hidden or unexposed where the powerful, burning presence of God is found today. Such a church alone is a new-covenant church. The eyes of Jesus are like a flame of fire (Revelation 1:14) and He is constantly searching and exposing sin and human traditions and Phariseeism in all the churches which He is building.
The master key to the kingdom of heaven is poverty of spirit (Matthew 5:3). Without this, we will not be able to build a new-covenant church. To be poor in spirit is to be broken before God constantly with a sense of our own need, because we have a great and intense longing to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect. "The Lord is near to the broken hearted" (Psalms 34:18). And when He is near, His presence brings the fire of heaven into our hearts and through us to others wherever we go.
Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) made a serious mistake when they joined the powerful new-covenant church at Jerusalem where the presence of God burned like a fire. If they had been in the church at Corinth (in later years) they would have lived long lives. Ananias might even have become an elder there - because the church at Corinth was a carnal, dead church. But in the fiery new-covenant church at Jerusalem, this couple just could not survive. God will expose and remove those who live in hypocrisy in any new-covenant church.
If there is anything that dishonours God in our life at home or work place, we are in great danger if we remain as members of a truly new-covenant church. If your basic aim in life is not to seek the glory of God, but something for yourself or your family, it is far better that you leave a new-covenant church where God is powerfully present and His Word powerfully proclaimed. It would be better for you to join a dead church. At least you may then live long - unlike Ananias and Sapphira!
There are many churches today that call themselves "new-covenant churches". But they are as dead as the dodo bird!! The name means nothing. The question is whether Pharisees and hypocrites can live comfortably there or whether they are exposed and get offended and leave. In a new-covenant church, many will get offended with the preaching of the Word and leave the church. It is written of the church at Jerusalem, that "many people didn't dare join them" (Acts 5:13).
If our desire as elders is to increase our numbers rather than to make disciples for Jesus, we will gather Pharisees and hypocrites in our churches. We will never build a new-covenant church. When the presence of Jesus is powerfully present in a church, the disciples therein will be taken up with seeing His glory. The proof that we have indeed seen the glory of the risen Lord will be that the things of earth (like comfort and honour and wealth) will have become dim in our eyes, and will no longer have the attraction that they once had for us.
In a new-covenant church, there won't be just powerful preaching of the Word but powerful, living examples of the Word too. It is not new doctrines that make an impact on others for God, but holy lives. New-covenant servants don't just preach to others, they invite others to follow their example too (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We should weep when our example is not a worthy one. We should hang our heads in shame when we bore people with dry, un-anointed messages. It is impossible to become cold or Pharisaical if we follow Jesus. We are far away from Jesus if we have only dreams and visions to talk about, but no word from the Lord to feed the people with. It is impossible to bore people, when we ourselves are on fire for the Lord.
Jesus was raised from the dead so that He might have the first place in everything (Colossians 1:18). God fully backs all those who have this as their ambition. What this means is that we give up our own plans and rights and let Jesus tell us what we are to do, how we are to spend our money and time etc. If this is your only ambition in life, you can be certain that God will use you to build a new-covenant church in your locality.
Many claim that Jesus is in their midst just because they quote His Name (Matthew 18:20). But they are deceiving themselves. If He is really present in their midst, then why are the meetings so boring? Why is it that lives are not being transformed? Even a short time spent in the company of a truly godly man makes a deep impact upon us such that, it even changes the course of our lives. How much more of an impact there should be upon our lives if we have spent even a short time with Jesus Himself? So if lives are not being transformed through the church-meetings, then we have to admit that the Lord's presence is not there in our meetings. Then we are NOT a new-covenant church.
We will never be able to build a perfect church here on this earth. Even in the first church that Jesus built - His twelve disciples - there was one traitor. So we cannot expect anything better. But where Jesus builds His church today, there will be a core at the centre of that church, of people who have seen His glory and who have been gripped by it. Their hearts will be aflame with a fire that the Devil cannot quench. Through them the Lord will build a new covenant church for the glory of God.