Jesus Is . . .!
August 13, 2017
It’s hard to believe but this is week 11 of our look at the book of Hebrews! This is the longest I’ve preached on one book of the Bible. And today, we’ve come to a very important chapter, not that they aren’t all important, but this chapter can lead us away from holding the Old Testament as vital.
I want to jump right in and look at the last verse of chapter 8. The writer tells us ~
13 In speaking of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Now, the writer is talking about the Old Covenant. It’s a reference to the Old Testament. And we have this tendency in the Christian world to view God as two very different Gods. There’s the God of the O.T. who was mean and angry and retributional; kind of an eye for an eye God. A God who would destroy you if you messed up. A God of judgement and vengeance.
Then when we think of the God of the N.T. we think about a good of peace, love, mercy, grace. A God of power who figured out how to hold it back when He was really angry. Kind of like a super hero finally coming to terms with their supernatural powers. The N.T. God is the One who sent Jesus into the world to destroy the hold death has on us. He’s a God of justice, but now we think of God as a God of second chances as well.
For many people, we have different ways of looking at God. And some would say this passage in Hebrews is all about leaving the old and embracing the new. And they are right . . . but . . . they are also wrong.
So, as we get into this understand that in recent weeks Hebrews has been telling us that Jesus is our high priest — after the order of Melchizedek, a mysterious king and priest from ancient times. He was a priest of a higher order than the OT priests.
Jesus is the perfect high priest. He lives forever so he will be our priest forever. His sacrifice is once and for all, and you will never need another sacrifice to be made on your behalf.
And because Jesus lives forever, He forever intercedes for you — going before the Father on your behalf. In other words, he’s your representative. He takes care of you, He stands up for you, He looks out for you.
Chapter 8 continues this theme. It reminds us that the old system of sacrifices was not a perfect system, it was a shadow of God’s perfect plan for our salvation. The ministry of Jesus surpasses the old Levitical priesthood, because He …
…mediates for us a better covenant with God, based on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)
Then the writer quotes at length a passage from Jeremiah which is a prophecy about the new covenant. Hebrews 8:8-12 is a pretty direct quote of Jeremiah 31:31-34 ~
8 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying,
‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
The plan of salvation that is taught in the New Testament was not developed as an afterthought. It is the fulfillment of promises and prophecies made by Old Testament writers, preachers and prophets. Specifically, in this passage of Jeremiah, God says, “I will make a new covenant with my people, and this is how it will be.”
Now, we need to understand something. Because when we hear the word NEW, our thought process goes to get rid of the old and embrace the new. Which in a sense is true, but not totally. The word new does not mean so much newness as it does the quality.
It’s kind of like this . . . Remember when we had these strange things called floppy disks.
This one is an 8″ disk. The military used these. We used them in our nuclear programs. Can you imagine using these monsters?
Most of us used 5.25″ floppy discs. And many of our computers had 2 disc drives. One for 5.25″ floppy discs and a 3.5″ drive for hard discs. Remember those ancient days.
Then we had CD’s which we could use to record data and even record music on.
Now we have these little flash drives which record more data than anyone ever thought was possible back in those old days of 30 years ago.
I’m going through all of that to show you that’s kind of what the New Covenant is about. It’s not erasing the OT. It’s a new and better way of doing things. The flash drives still record data, as did the floppy discs, but it’s in a much better way.
The new covenant we have in Christ is different than the covenant of the Old Testament. Several times the writer of Hebrews uses the term ‘better’ to describe the new covenant of Christ. Look at verse 6 ~
6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant He mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. – Hebrews 8:6
What he’s getting at is the fact that our relationship with the Old Testament is not the same as our relationship with the New Testament. We don’t toss out the Old Testament, because it teaches us much about the nature of God, the history of His people, and it points the way to the Messiah.
It also presents the law and a covenant. We now learn, we don’t need a priest to kill an animal on your behalf so that your sins will be forgiven. And you’re not defying God when you drink milk with meet or have a slab of ribs, or have some crab. That’s the old covenant, the old law, and that law is obsolete.
We now have a new covenant. New means that it’s not a carbon copy of the one that existed before. It’s different than the old covenant. It’s better than the old covenant. It’s completely new.
It’s a covenant we have with God. Understand this in the word covenant. In a normal covenant, both parties have the power of negotiation. This is more of a will. In a will, there is no negotiation of conditions. The terms are made by one person; the other person only has the power to accept or refuse the offer.
The point is that we don’t bargain with God. We don’t approach God on equal terms. Our right standing with God isn’t something we can work out on our own.
It’s not a work-for-hire contract. It’s more like an inheritance. God says, “This is what I offer you, this is what I’m giving you, this is what you can have — if you will accept it.”
So what is in this new covenant that makes it different from the old covenant, and better than the old covenant?
The foundation of the old covenant was a master-servant relationship requiring the mediation of human priests and the repetition of many sacrifices in order to gain limited access to a distant God. As verse 7 tells us ~
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. – Hebrews 8:6
The new covenant requires no human priest, no human mediator. It’s permanent and it’s absolute.
He’s reminding his readers that the idea of a new covenant is not a new idea. It had been promised centuries before. That promise that was made in the book of Jeremiah had been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. He’s saying, “Now we have a new way of connecting with God, and from now on our relationship with God is defined in a whole new way.”
Even though modern day Christians don’t typically think in terms of priests and sacrifices, we have a tendency to approach God on the basis of the old covenant. We try to work for our salvation. We try to earn God’s approval and forgiveness.
We don’t sacrifice an animal to get forgiveness, but we make other types of sacrificial offerings. We give a little extra money hoping God will notice and forgive us. We do a little extra church work to earn forgiveness. We try to be nice, just because we hope God sees us. Of course, giving money and doing good are excellent things — but they don’t get you into heaven.
You don’t earn your salvation with good deeds. Cognitively, we know that is true because we’ve all heard about being saved by grace … but it doesn’t stop us from trying to earn God’s merit anyway. That’s part of the old covenant. The new covenant tells us something very different.
In spite of the fact that God’s people were not faithful to the old covenant, He promised to make a new covenant, a better covenant, one that His people can keep.
Our God is the God of the second chance. And the third chance and the fourth chance. And the four hundredth chance and five thousandth chance. Do we really get that many chances? Yes, because we need them.
In the Old Testament we see how God’s people turned away from Him again and again … and every time they turned back to God, He restored them. He’s a God of grace and mercy. He’s a God of forgiveness. He’s the God of another chance.
When you make the decision to follow Christ, you inevitably discover that you sin more than you want to. You don’t sin intentionally, assuming God is going to forgive you, you trust in who God is calling you to become. As Paul says, you work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You don’t earn salvation, instead because of your salvation, you seek to honor and glorify God.
This isn’t about thumbing your nose at God’s mercy. It’s about living in the security of his love and acceptance. When you fall, He will help pick you up, so you can try again. When you wander away, He wants you to come back. This is the basis of the new covenant.
2. It’s a covenant based on a personal relationship
God said this of the covenant He would make with the house of Israel ~
10 I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
God says He will write His law on our heart. It means we will have a relationship with Him. Not with a book, or with a building, not with a denomination, but with Him personally. Of course, we benefit from the Bible and we benefit from our connection to the local church, but our life is in Christ. The writer adds ~
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
Is God saying we don’t need teachers and preachers? No! He’s saying you don’t need a mediator. There is no one on the planet who has better access to God than – – – – you. He explains we are all equal. Everyone will know God, from the least to the greatest!!
It’s not about how much money you have, or your job, or your looks. None of that matters. The new covenant is about having a relationship with God which supersedes all other relationships. The church doesn’t have the power to provide that relationship or withhold that relationship or control that relationship in any way.
The church exists to help you get the most of out of your relationship with God, to help you grow closer to Him, to provide you with an opportunity to serve Him, but your relationship with God is completely independent of your church membership. No church and no preacher or teacher or pastor can come between you and your relationship with God. And nothing can take the place of your relationship with God.
God wants you to personally know Him. And God has made Himself available to you, again, from the least to the greatest. It doesn’t matter who you are: you belong to Him.
Finally, and this is amazing news for those of you who think you’ve committed the unforgivable sins against God. Look again at verse 12. Because this is a covenant based on a clean slate. God tells us ~
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” – Hebrews 8:12
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who never misses an opportunity to remind you of your past mistakes? Some husbands and wives do this; parents do this, friends do it. We joke about it, yet with truthful and serious undertones. Some people will never forget. Just don’t bring up their misdeeds!
We hang on to the offenses of others, just in case we need a little leverage later on. But, God makes it clear in the new covenant that this is not how He relates to us. He doesn’t count the number of times He forgives you. And when He forgives you, He promises that He will remember it no more.
Stop for a moment. Do you get that?!?! God says I will remember your sins no more! I will cause myself to forget all the bad stuff you’ve done. Once you put your trust and hope in me, I will never hold your stupidity, your sinfulness, your arrogance, your self-centeredness and more against you!
God takes that screen and deletes all the bad stuff. Isn’t that cool! That’s what He does for you and me!! He does not bring up the past in order to slam us. We do that to one another, but God in His grace and mercy, has the power and desire to not hold our sins against us. That’s why He sent Jesus!
Let me tell you, we should be hooting and hollering that the God of all creation does not hold our sinfulness against us, instead He cast it all upon His Son!!
Add to that other scripture which confirms this . . .
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:12
17 But in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. – Isaiah 38:17
19 He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:19
The Bible teaches that when God forgives your sins, He forgets them. He puts them in the trash bin, and then he empties the trash. They’re gone forever.
God wipes the slate clean, and it stays clean. He doesn’t hang on to your sins from the past, and neither should you. Some think, every time that they sin, God is going to get them. It’s not the case. He also says…
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
If you’re hanging on to the guilt of the past, you’re not approaching God on the basis of the new covenant.
If you think God has a big score to settle with you, you’re not approaching God on the basis of the new covenant.
And if you think you’re at risk of using up all God’s mercy, you’re not approaching God on the basis of the new covenant. The basis of the new covenant is permanent, thorough, all-inclusive, absolute forgiveness.
Some of you are thinking, “But I don’t deserve to be forgiven.”
No, you don’t. That’s why it’s called grace and mercy.
Grace means you receive what you don’t deserve! Forgiveness and Jesus.
Mercy means you don’t receive what you do deserve! Condemnation and hell.
Jesus Christ came into this world, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross for our sins — so that we could enjoy this new covenant with God.
It’s a covenant based on second chances. It’s a covenant based a personal relationship. It’s a covenant based on God’s absolute forgiveness.
This is your inheritance. This is God’s offer to you and the best offer you’re ever going to receive!