In other words, we need to learn how to allow God’s pursuing and sustaining power to renew us every day so as to incline our hearts to follow Jesus. We therefore must return repeatedly to the Servant to receive ongoing empowerment to follow the King.
And it is in this context that we will experience the ministry of the Spirit, the vivifying presence of the kingdom era. Even while he waited in Babylon for God’s vindication after the exile, Ezekiel describes God’s empowering work in the people who live in the postexilic era—the era in which we live: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:26–27; cf. Joel 2:28–29).
It is this expectation that has found fulfillment in the new-covenant era, as Paul repeatedly affirms: “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6; see all of vv. 1–18; cf. also Rom. 7:6; 8:1–17, 26–27; Gal. 5:16–18,22–25; and many others).
Life in this covenant is one that is to be lived in the power of the Spirit. That much is clear. But what exactly does this mean? It is here that I frequently find myself a bit flummoxed. How is it that the Spirit’s work is received, accommodated, or otherwise actualized? And how is the Spirit’s work connected to Jesus?
Though Paul seems often to assume that his readers know the answers to these questions, Jesus gives us a bit more clarity in his upper-room comments about the Spirit. Significantly he affirms that the Spirit’s ministry will be all about Jesus! He will remind the disciples of what Jesus taught (John 14:26), he will testify to them about Jesus (15:26), and he will make the riches of Jesus known to his followers (16:15). Though the focus of the Spirit’s work in this context may be on the communication of propositional truth, Jesus’ riches are much more dynamic than merely his teachings, for Jesus not only taught—he acted! And it is in these actions that we find most clearly the grace of the new covenant.
Inserting these insights into our discipleship diagram, it is clear that a new arrow must be added—one that captures the frequent return to the Servant Jesus for the grace needed to continue following him as King. And all through this, the Spirit makes present the empowering riches of Jesus!
So what is it that disciples need to remember and receive from Jesus so as to enable them to respond more faithfully each day to Jesus’ discipleship summons? Certainly the multifaceted ways in which Jesus fulfills the grace of the Old Testament covenants would be the general context in which to answer this question. But we can sharpen this even further by pondering the grace that comes to us through Jesus’ specific ministry actions, and then intentionally receiving that grace daily through the Spirit’s work in our hearts and minds. In this regard, we can speak of Jesus in his roles of Representative, Redeemer, Restorer, and reigning King.
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