Children or Friends?
The Old Covenant was rooted in a foundation of fear and performance-based relationship.
The New Covenant is to be rooted in perfect love which dispels all fear and our performance is to be a natural outpouring from a heart in close relationship with God.
The symptoms seen in the life and attitude of people reveal which foundation they are using for their choices and thinking. If their focus is on how good or bad their life is looking compared to those around them, they are living in Old Covenant mentality. If they are afraid and use fear in attempts to motivate or control those around them, they are subscribing to Old Covenant principles.
If a person is introduced to new thoughts, new ways of studying the Bible or new concepts of reality that are unfamiliar, and their reaction is one of criticism, doubt and skepticism of how new conclusions can be drawn from such seemingly small clues, that is because they are fearful in their heart of making a mistake. This is usually because they view God as one who is always looking for mistakes for which to censure people and get them into trouble. This is very typically Old Covenant and childish mentality.
On the other hand, a person who has embraced the New Covenant is not afraid of making mistakes because God might get upset with them. Their concern will be more along the lines of improving God's reputation, not fear of making Him angry. The freedom one enjoys when they see themselves as a child of God is the freedom to experiment which entails the strong likelihood that they are going to make mistakes in the process of growing up just as all healthy children do. But this does not interfere with their trust and loving relationship with their heavenly parent or endanger their status as a child of God.
Living in this kind of freedom to explore, to learn, to experiment, they are also free to grow, to mature, to deepen their perceptions about life and reality and their intimacy with God. They are not stifled through myriads of fears that prevent them from trying or learning anything new but are eager to taste more of the good things God has waiting for them to discover.
The Old Covenant system was all about containment of evil and protecting righteousness using a fortress mentality. It created rules and procedures designed to fence in people from a world full of danger, threats and evil. It was about dealing with immature people who had very little perspective on life and immature views of God. It was a system that was designed to keep God's immature children out of trouble and shielded from evil as much as possible until the time they could be treated as adults and related to on a very different level.
The New Covenant relationship we are to have with God is more like an adult child should have with a good parent. It is also a life where fear is not the motivational factor but an overabundance of blessings are waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. After the conquering event of Jesus' death on the cross, the world is now in a radically different situation in relationship to heaven and to evil than before. Satan is no longer the authority on this planet, Jesus Christ has reclaimed the position of this world's representative. Because of this, instead of death being dispersed throughout the world as the norm, now life – abundant life – is the norm that is to be our view of reality.
If we judge reality by the things and circumstances we view around us from a human standpoint, we are subscribing to the false system of reality proposed and asserted by Satan and present during the years of the Old Covenant. We are actually offering him permission to still be the authority over us even though Jesus took away all legitimacy from his claims.
If we are to live as genuine followers of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we must perceive life and the world around us through radically different lenses – the eyes of heaven. This means that the words and Spirit of Jesus become the standard by which we interpret reality, not the protective, immature, childish mentality that marked the Old Covenant kind of life.
This does not mean of course, that the principles intrinsic in the Old Testament laws are no longer applicable. God's laws are always expressions of fundamental principles of reality. But to relate to those laws like a little child needs to relate to their parents rules after they have become an adult is to reject the life of freedom that every adult should enjoy in a more advanced relationship with their parents.
An adult child who has become close friends with their parents will be willing to question and probe and search out the underlying reasons why their parents act and think the way they do instead of blindly obeying them as was needed when they were younger. An adult is not rebellious just because they want to know more and understand the foundation of their parents beliefs. In fact, as an adult child comes to appreciate and perceive more clearly the real reasons their parents made the rules they had to live under as children, these now grown children will become excited and eager to embrace the deeper truths and principles that inspired those child-governing rules without needing to live under their external applications in the same way they did previously.
An adult child is going to ask different kinds of questions of their parents than a small child will normally do. And the parents of a grown child will also relate quite differently to their offspring than they did when their children were small. Now they will be able to relate more along the line of peers instead of simply needing to dictate guidelines without being able to explain to immature minds the real reasons behind their rules. There will develop a much deeper level of openness and mutual interaction and at a much deeper level both intellectually and emotionally. This is richly fulfilling and bonding both for the children and for the parents. And this is really the goal of every healthy parent who is raising children in preparation for life as an adult.
This is just the same thing in our relationship with God. God does not want us to remain as little, ignorant children needing to be constantly watched, controlled by rules and given artificial punishments to keep us from hurting ourselves or those around us. God wants His children to mature, to grow, to come to the place where He can say what He said to His disciples near the end of their time together on this earth, I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. (John 15:15 NRSV)