THE MEANING OF COVENANT
A Sermon Given ca. 1991/2
"How do I know that I really love the Lord?" someone once asked me. "I so very rarely feel that burning feeling in my bosom. Does that mean that the Holy Spirit has left me?" Such a question is not too uncommon. Recently I spoke with one of the members who said that he couldn't feel the way he wanted to, or felt that he should, about the Gospel.
If there is one thing that I have discovered in my ministry it is that feelings can be a minefield. For this reason I am convinced that we have received so many revelations on this subject to help us understand the proper place of feelings in our spiritual life.
A Dangerous Mormon Teaching
One of the most popular scriptures in the Mormon Church is to be found in Section 9 of their Doctrine & Covenants and it's one you'll hear quoted often in connection with feelings and the "testimony" of the Holy Spirit. It reads:
I think I would say that this is one of the most dangerous doctrines in the Mormon Church and there are many Mormons who become convinced that a matter is from God simply because they have a warm feeling in their breast. Now I know this is a subject that I have spoken of often but it is so important that it bears repeating, if for no other reason than a misunderstanding of it can lead souls astray. Because if you desire something to be true, then you can be quite sure that you will obtain a "testimony" of it in the form of a burning in the bosom. And the segment of those who are often the most vunerable to this kind of "impressionism", if I can call it that, is the women because female principle is so deeply rooted in feelings.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask Me if it be right, and if it be right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right (D&C 9:8).
The Heart and the Spirit
The heart does, of course, play a vital relationship not only in human relationships but in our relationship with God. One of the fruits of the Gospel is an overflowing joy, a thrill in the heart, a burning even in the bosom. But happiness, thrills, and burning sensations can also come from other kinds of experience that may, indeed, not be particularly godly. You will by now remember the well-worn example I gave you of this when with a missionary from the Mormon Church I was teaching an Italian couple in Oxford. We had taught them about Section 8 in the Doctrine & Covenants to enable them to determine whether or not the Church I was then a member of was true or not. When the missionary asked the husband if he had had a "burning in the bosom" experience before you will recall that he said that he had...whilst watching a pornographic film. To give a more common place example I would say that I have rarely met a man or a woman who was in love who did not receive a "burning in the bosom" testimony that their sweetheart was to be their eternal mate. I myself was once deceived by such an approach. No, the truth of the matter is that whilst deep feelings are very important in arriving at a committment to the Gospel, and whilst the Holy Spirit gives us deep feelings of love, feelings should not be the principle means of arriving at such fundamental judgments as determining whom we should marry or whether a doctrine is true or not.
The Heart Can Be Deceptive
The reverse kind of example is also useful here. There are many in this congregation who, upon first hearing of some of the doctrines of the New Covenant, were deeply suspicious, had negative feelings, and concluded that the Holy Spirit was warning them to beware. Yet now they have had so much contact with the Light of Christ that they feel very differently about these same principles. So what happened? How can we discern whether a matter is from God or not? And I pose this question not just for those who are investigating this work but for the members who will, because this is a Church of revelation, will be faced with deeper principles of the Gospel that may challenge many of the assumptions upon which their present beliefs are built.
There are many ways of approaching this question and today I propose to do so by tackling a very important question, namely, how a person can tell whether or not he is a Christian. Fundamental to all true Christianity is the belief that to receive salvation, in whatever degree, is to enter into a personal relationship with Christ. Since Christ is not physically present with us there is no way that we can use our physical senses to determine the actuality of that relationship or not. Our judgment must be spiritual.
Cow Can I Be Sure?
Perhaps you may have once asked: "How can I be sure that I really have a personal relationship with Christ? I don't feel particularly different." Now the great and grand key to becoming a Christian is not primarily a matter of feelings but a matter of COMMITTMENT. Becoming a Christian is a total committment to a person -- to the Lord Jesus Christ.
An Illustration from Marriage
Often we have read in the scriptures that this committment to Christ is somewhat like a marriage committment. In my relationship with my wife I intellectually respected and admired her and believed that she was "right" for me. Emotionally I loved her with all my heart. But marriage requires more than the intellect and emotions. Occasionally you may get intelectually bored with your spouse, and at other times you may not feel anything special. Do such times mean that the marriage is over? Of course not! Yet isn't it true that many people build marriages on these two foundations -- common interests and deep feelings? And then what happens when the feelings begin to wane, and common interests appear to decline or diverge? As we know these are the most common reasons for the break up of marriages and "love" affairs (and I put love in inverted commas because really it's not love at all).
The Importance of Covenants
No, as we know, there is one more vital ingredient in marriage and that is the act of will called committment, or to use the language of the scriptures, the act of COVENANT or promise. When a minister of the Gospel asks a couple in the Name of Christ if they are willing to enter into life-long or eternal covenants with each other, the moment they say "Yes" or "I do" in His Name and before earthly witnesses, a covenant comes into being that is binding. In other words, they, by the act of promising to be true and faithful to each other, set divine laws and processes in motion that will lead to special dispensations of grace from God if they are true, or lead to divine cursing (in the form of a loss of the Light of Christ) if they are not.
The covenant between a husband and wife is more inportant than any thoughts, feelings, or events. It is this act of moral will which, most importantly, is recognised by the Supreme God of All, that either makes or breaks a marriage. And the depth of that covenant (for as you know there are many marriage covenants in this Church) determines just how binding that marriage really becomes in the eternities.
The concept of promise or covenant is becoming increasingly meaningless as a moral force in our modern world. I read in the newspaper the other day that 73% of Americans consider lying to be normal for them. 73%! That's an appalling figure! Yet that is the extent to which moral values have collapsed in our modern world. And it's because moral values are so under-valued generally that it's so hard to find honorable, trustworthy, faithful and reliable people today. I am sure that you, like I, feel heart-broken over such a condition for it means that really deep and meaningdul relationships, which require mutual trust in order to thrive, are hard to come by.
If there is one thing that brings me joy it is the inner conviction that my loved ones are true to their covenants. I do not doubt for one moment that my wife will not be true to her covenants and it is that, more than any thoughts or feelings she may have toward me, that gives me peace, for I know how fickle thoughts and feelings can be. I exercised the same faith in my first wife and experienced no more devastation in my life than when she broke that sacred covenant of marrital fidelity and ran off with another man. It was the breaking of covenant that was the ultimate heart-break. And so it is with the Lord. He puts infinitely more value on the covenants we make with Him than with our yoyo-like thoughts and feelings. We can, and will, be luke-warm in mind and heart from time-to-time, but so long as we are true to our covenants with Him, He will honour us. That I can truthfully say in the name of the Lord for it is certain knowledge to me.
Our Relationship with God
Therefore the marriage relationship we have with our husband or wife in the Gospel (if we are being true) should be exactly the same as our relationship to God the Father, through Jesus Christ. It is not enough to believe intellectually in Christ, nor is it enough to have an emotional experience in prayer, praise or some other devotional. Though both these are without a doubt valid, one does not become a Christian until, as an act of will, he receives Christ into his life as Saviour as Lord. It is not enough to understand the revelatory keys, it is not enough to feel good about Christ, or to see visions, have prophetic dreams, speak in tongues, or whatever. These things are utterly meaningless unless one enters into covenant and lives the Gospel life.
When we make this total committment to Christ, we can be absolutely sure that Christ has come into our lives, that we are forgiven of our sins and that He has given us power to live the kind of life intended for us. This assurance is based on the authority of the Saviour's promise in the Book of Revelation which says:
But that act of moral will does not exist independently of itself -- we have seen that it is connected to thoughts and feelings as well -- but there is more. And really this is the key to whether or not we have become genuine Christians, which Jesus put in this way, saying:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him (Rev.3:20).
Our words, thoughts, and intentions are nothing unless we do His will. If it's only thoughts and intentions that we have then at the last day, the Lord will say: "I never knew you; depart from Me, you evil-doers" (Matt.7:23, RSV).
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord', shall enter the kingdom of heaven, BUT HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN" (Matt.7:21, RSV).
Note the language that Jesus uses: "Depart from Me, you evil-doers." I repeat, He calls such people "EVIL-DOERS". Are you surprised? Really you ought not to be for by now you, who have been blessed with so many keys in the revelations, will understand just how the Lord looks upon hypocricy.
Love, Feelings and Commandment-Keeping
That is what He says about those who have good intentions and profess God with their mouths yet do nothing. Let us now go over to feelings and see what Jesus said about those. He said:
That love, though it encompasses moral will, also includes the feelings of the heart. He then went on to promise those who love Him the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to be with them forever (v.16), which is the spirit of truth. If, therefore, we do not have the Holy Spirit because we have not been true to covenant, it means that the truth is not in us, no matter how much we understand intellectually or however we may occasionally feel good in our hearts. It means that not only are we strangers to the truth but that we are evil-doers also! Mark that well! And if anyone is disposed to challenge that then the scriptures will condemn him as a liar.
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
The prophet Isaiah said to the Israelites:
God's Promise to Us
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebell, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isa.1:19-20, RSV).
If we put that passage into a modern context, into the spirit of the New Covenant, then what the Lord is saying is that if we are willing and obedient servants, we shall partake of every fruit of the Holy Spirit. But if we, having come to a testimony of God, His Christ, and His Gospel, then refuse to obey and rebell, then the Scriptures will devour us, and His Word will condemn us. And you can be quite sure that such a person will have little or no inclination to return to the scriptures thereafter until he has repented, for every time he does he will find condemmation instead of blessing.
There are some who believe that the revelations are harsh and they would far rather follow human reasoning and our frail, human feelings than the very plain Word of God. But you will plainly understand, I hope, that what has come forth in the revelations to this Church is no different in substance to what God has already revealed in the Bible and the revelations. And what it really boils down to is this:
For if you believe and do not obey, then you will be cursed and are, in the eyes of God, an evil-doer. And by the by you will lose that faith, for that you must if you do not act.
- (1) Do you believe in what God has revealed? and
- (2) Having believed, will you obey?
A recent revelation says:
Because a Christian marriage is so similar to our relationship to the Lord we should not be surprised to find that a good Christian is also a good husband or wife, and that a true and faithful huband or wife makes a good Christian. Therefore has the Lord said, again recently:
For verily, verily, I say unto thee, I desire thy steadfastness. For steadfastness is as a righteous judge who meeteth out the law of the Lord in justice and mercy, deviating not to the right nor the left. And if a saint hath not steadfastness, starting a work and not finishing it -- though he hath love, compassion and every good desire for the kingdom -- then he will fall...Blessed is he who is true unto his word, for this is the honour of Zion's priests and priestesses (NC&C 309:29-31,36).
Are You a Christian?
And when My people Israel have disobeyed they have reaped terrible consequences for their families (NC&C 282:5).
Beloved brethren and sisters, I stand before you today and ask you in all soberness: Are you Christians? Are you true and faithful to your Lord or are you evil-doers? Are you full of His joy or are you oppresed in your spirit? The Lord has also said:
For three years the Lord has been at work in this Church. And we all know what He has achieved and brought forth. Nevertheless there are few who are truly converted because they will not be fully obedient. In three years we have seen the coming forth of over 500 modern revelations, part of the inspired version of the Gospel of Thomas, two more Books of Abraham, and others. And have we not thrilled at these things? Have our hearts and minds not truly rejoiced? Have we not had our understandings expanded a hundred-fold compared with what we had before? Yet what does all this mean without covenant? Nothing. Without committment that leads to action, it all means absolutely...nothing. And we might just as well just go back to the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine & Covenants. Indeed, we might just as well go back to just the Bible, for truly few of the covenants in the Covenants & Commandments (Olive Branch) are being lived! We are being true to those things we like but we resit and doubt those things we do not, preferring to trust our own fallible feelings rather than the Word of God. Therefore has the Lord sent us a fire and is burning us.
The Holy Spirit forceth no man to do anything contrary to his will, nor oppresseth him when he is not obedient, but departeth from him that he may struggle with his own light (NC&C 283:17).
Oftentimes a man knoweth not that he is able to walk until he hath lifted up his foot and begun to walk; and thus the revelation and the testimony may not come until he hath begun to walk. Yea, and even I, your Lord, shrank before the Cross, but I was obedient and drank that cup. And behold, because I drank, I drank not only bitterness and gall -- which is the atonement -- but also joy, which is the resurrection of all matter, from the highest to the lowest. Thus I set the example for you, ye saints of the New Covenant, calling you to be imitators of your Saviour, even He who speaketh unto you now, as I imitated My Father (NC&C 136:27-31).
I have often chastised you, and I shall chastise you again, until you learn obedience, saith the Lord, for no man or woman can stand fully independent until he hath learned total obedience; and obedience cometh because of discipline, and discipline because of love, and love because of faith, and faith because ye were converted (NC&C 142:18-19).
The Kingdom will not wait for the saints. The New Covenant Church has commissions to fulfil and will not wait for the lukewarm and faithless. Those who are obedient now will flourish and will see the beginnings of Zion very soon but those who will not will not know these things.
For three years the Lord has spoken almost continuously but for three years He has only partly been obeyed. Therefore a separation will occur very soon. In a matter of weeks the foundation of a firstborn community will be laid and the Lord will call in the faithful to begin to gather . Who will be prepared? Who will respond in obedience to the gathering? This gathering will not be sudden and unorganised as was the gathering to Independence, Missouri, a century and a half ago, which ended up in chaos. It has been preceeded by much careful planning, much unfolding of spiritual light. The Lord's temple has never been closed -- it has been operating continuously for three years, but few have come up to it because they made excuses. Many were waylaid by disobedience, lukewarmness, and crises that would not have happened if they had been obedient. Zion cannot operate upon such a foundation. This Temple ministry was, as is, the first step towards gathering. It's covenants were, and are, binding. Yet many have excused themselves, allowing the tempter to rob them of precious endowments because of trivial things. The Lord said:
Finally, I quote part of a revelation received at about this time last year:
When a man is troubled and perplexed he must either take the path that leadeth unto enlightenment or the path that leadeth unto chaos and disorganisation. He who is enlightened shall be amazed and rejoice greatly for he hath crossed the veil of the Firstborn. But he who is not enlightened shall grow bitter and disappointed, and the veil shall be as brass unto him. He who hath crossed the veil and is enlightened by the Father is the Master of his own life, having arrived at the unity of the Godhead (Thomas 2g-j).
I do most solemnly testify that the Lord is at work in a marvelous way and that He is calling His people to gather now. That gathering must first be to the Church of Christ, and as they gather here, so shall He then begin to gradually gather them into the Church of the Firstborn. The Church of Christ is, and always will be, a stepping stone only to the Chevra B'Qor. One day the Church of Christ will suddenly cease to exist. Suddenly there will be no Branches, no Stakes, no General Church. It will all be gone. Those who were true and faithful, who were about their Father's busines, will have gathered to Zion, and those who were not -- who did not keep their lamps trimmed and burning, will suddenly find themselves outside. That is already happening level by level. As each Priesthood holder is measured, he either finds himself inside or outside a quorum. Likewise is each member weighed as to his or her faithfulness. And so it has always been whenever the Lord has organised Zion. But even before the outer Church disappears as a whole, individual Branches and Missions will disappear as the majority of its members are called into the Holy City, to Kadesh-Ephraim in the land of the north, into this the land of the Ten Tribes of Israel. And those who are left behind will have to struggle on the light that they have, the light they chose to live by whilst they fed off the light of others operating under higher covenants. So I ask you, what would you do if tomorrow half this Branch suddenly disappeared? Are you living on the assumption that those who are here now will always be here? Don't, because they won't be. Are you living on the promises made in the revelations that a Branch will be established here or there? Don't, because that is dependent upon your personal obedience, for so many of these promises are conditional. As the Lord said in a recent revelation:
Blessed are those who will listen and learn pure doctrine from the mouths of the prophets, for they shall be enlarged and rejoice daily in Christ their Saviour. Blessed is he who is humble and full of love, for all things shall be possible for him. Blessed are those who are faithful, for they shall never be alone, but the children of the Kingdom shall be their companions forever. Blessed are those who do not doubt, for they shall not be overturned, but shall abide in Me. Blessed are those who come unto Me and make no man their god, for they shall be safe always and shall be with Me in the Kingdom of My Father. Go your way in peace, beloved ones, and return in peace, and then the Kingdom shall always remain in you. Amen. (NC&C 150:30-35).
In the outer Church, brethren and sisters, the Lord pleads with us, but in the inner Church He does not. In the Chavurah Bekorot you are either obedient or you are not, for the Church of the Firstborn is not a house of disobedience. Therefore if you are called by the Chavurah Bekorot, be obedient to her, or as the Lord said recently in a revelation:
The redemption of Zion dependeth upon the willingness of the saints to strive for Zion with all their might, mind and strength; and whether ye do more or less, or go unto this place or that place, shall determine how widely and strongly I shall propser My work. Ye are the labourers, and ye are few; the degree of sifting ye must pass through will be determined by the quality of your work, whether ye judge strictly as ye bring souls in through the gate, or whether ye are lax and allow local Colonies to rise of your own making and not Mine. Therefore these things are as water; but as ye become purer and more obedient, so shall the path become straighter and ye shall behold the emerging pattern of the Twelve [Firstborn] Colonies of Zion. Ye have yet to comprehend the greater picture, beloved ones, which comprehension cometh only with obedience and experience. I am working, and though it seemeth that the path is full of twists and turns, on account of your own sins, nevertheless the Church moveth forward toward her destination, as a ship that saileth by the stars. Even so. Amen (NC&C 308).
If you are called to a Temple session, or to a covenant therein, or even (eventually) to the Holy City, if you do not come at once, you may not be called again. If you are called, it is up to you to respond, for the Chavurah Bekorot will not pester you as the outer Church does. Therefore if you have been called to a temple degree but have not come, and have wondered why you have not been called again, it is because you were not obedient, because your excuse was not a matter of life and death, which is the only excuse that is acceptable in the Firstborn House. If you miss a temple degree you will have to wait a minimum of one year; or you may not be called again. And you will certainly never be called more than three times.
Therefore a commandment I give unto you: uphold the Church of the Firstborn in all things like a faithful wife and I will bless you richly (NC&C 305:57).
If you want to know the kind of obedience Christ demands of His disciples, go back to the New Testament for you will find His doctrine plainly taught. It is all there. And as I have said many times, the revelations we have received are but footnotes to what has already been stated plainly for those who want to know the truth. Therefore it doesn't really matter or not if you believe in the revelations or the prophets for the New Testament will still stand there to bless or curse you. Indeed, it doesn't really matter whether you believe in the New Testament or not, or anything that any preacher says in this Church, because the Light is within you, the Light given to every man born into the world, to bless or curse according to the way you respond to its call. Therefore noone has any excuse..noone has any defense structure to fall back on, for in Christ all is laid bare, and we can choose either to be true or untrue to Him, to obey or disobey. The Gospel is that black-and-white.
The obedient always come to love the strictness of the Gospel because they learn that that is the only way to contain and dispense true love, the sort that never runs out. Jesus said:
Eternal life lies before us. Let us choose it today. Amen.
He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has a judge; the Word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life" (John 12:44-50, RSV).
 The preparatory colony called Little Kadesh, located in Eastern Norway (closed down in 1996). It was the forerunner of Kadesh-biyqah in Sweden, established in 1997.
This page was created on 6 June 1998
Last updated on 6 June 1998
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved