The New Covenant that Changes Everything

Maundy Thursday

The New Covenant that Changes Everything

Text: Hebrews 10:15-25

613.  Jewish tradition teaches that there are 613 commandments in the laws of Moses.  Could you even imagine keeping straight 613 commandments?  Most people I’ve met don’t even know all 10 Commandments.  How could you keep straight 613?  There were laws about cleanliness, laws about family, laws about civil justice, laws about worship and festivals and sacrifices.  613 laws to obey.

These laws served as a sort of hedge for the people of Israel.  They set them apart as being “different” than all the other people of the world.  They were cleaner.  They were more pure.  They were more sanctified in their living.  They were more dedicated to their God.  Thus, God told them that if they obeyed he would be their God and they would be his people.  If they obeyed, that is.

When they didn’t obey, that’s what the system of sacrifices was for.  If you committed this sin, then this sacrifice was required.  And if you committed that sin, then that sacrifice was required.  The message was loud and clear: God is holy.  If there is sin, there must be death and bloodshed to pay for it.

Perhaps the pinnacle of Old Testament life then was the Day of Atonement.  On this one day one time a year the one high priest could go behind the curtain into the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, the symbol of God’s presence among the people.  There he would sprinkle blood on the ark of the covenant for himself and also for the people.  Then the high priest would confess his sins and the sins of the people over a goat called a “scapegoat,” and then that goat with those sins would be sent away out into the wilderness.  What a day!

And what a covenant God made with his people!  He would be their God and they would be his people if they followed all 613 commandments and all the sacrifices that went with them.  If they obeyed, that is.

Those who know even a little bit about the Old Testament would probably know that this covenant did not go so well for the people of Israel.  Slowly but surely they kept fewer and fewer of God’s commands.  Slowly but surely they followed less and less of his sacrifice instructions.  Slowly but surely their hearts strayed from God and his covenant.

We can sympathize.  We today certainly know how difficult it is to keep God’s commands.  Even if you take just the 10 Commandments, we struggle to obey God’s laws.  Perhaps you’ve never murdered or robbed a bank before, but God’s commands are about more than “big” overt sins.  Our thoughts, our words, our actions all ought be in obedience to the Lord.  Whoever hates his brother is a murder.  Whoever looks lustfully his an adulterer.  Whoever is greedy is a thief.  Whoever puts anything in front of the Lord is an idolater.

We certainly couldn’t keep 613 laws of God.  We struggle mightily with 10.  But you could even break it down to one command.  One simple command—Jesus said, “A new command I give you—love one another.”  Yet how we talk about or treat one another, our attitudes, our actions—they are all often far from loving.  Whether you’re talking about 613 commands in a complex system in the laws of Moses, or if you’re talking about the 10 Commandments summarizing God’s most basic moral guidelines, or if you’re just talking about the command to love—we have fallen short in all of these.  We’ve broken God’s commands.  We’ve chiseled a crack in his covenant.  We’ve sinned and ruined our relationship with God.

God knew this.  He knew our poor and wretched state.  He knew the desperation of our damnation.  So in his grace he took action.  He foretold through the prophet Jeremiah how he would fix all of this.  The writer to the Hebrews tells us about it in the second lesson tonight.  The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.  First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’”

First we have a reminder of the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s Word.  The Holy Spirit is the one who spoke through the Bible writers, like Jeremiah whom he quotes here.  God was foretelling a time when there would be a new covenant.  It would not be a covenant with hundreds and hundreds of laws that people would continue to break with sin.  This would be a new covenant of grace.  Instead of demanding through laws, God would not write his laws in people’s hearts and minds.  He would give them a righteousness and holiness that they otherwise couldn’t achieve.  He would give them a heart and a mind that wants to obey God and his commands.

How could this be though?  How could this be for sinners?  How could sinners be considered righteous and holy and have hearts and minds in tune with God?  The prophecy of God through Jeremiah continued:  Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’”  It’s not that God would just try his best to forgive and forget, or to push sin to the back of his mind and try hard not to think about it.  God would completely forgive sin by completely cancelling the debt.  It would be as if the sin never even existed.

Now if you were an astute Israelite, one who truly understood how God worked, then you would wonder, “But how could this be?  How could God forgive sin without a sacrifice?  How could God forgive sin without death and bloodshed?”  Those are precisely perfect questions to ask.  And, those are questions that perfectly point to Jesus.

Fast forward about 600 years from that prophecy of Jeremiah.  There was Jesus in an upper room with 11 of his disciples on this night now called Maundy Thursday.  Then and there Jesus ushered in a new era for God’s people when he spoke these words that you heard a few minutes ago, This is my body given for you . . . This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Jesus is the one who brought this new covenant of God.  Jesus is the one who brought righteousness and holiness to the table by his own life.  Jesus is the one who was going to win forgiveness by cancelling and erasing the debt of sin.  Jesus is the one who was going to do accomplish this by fulfilling God’s demand for death and bloodshed.  The only difference is that Jesus himself was the High Priest offering the sacrifice, Jesus himself was the scapegoat, the Lamb of God that would take away and remove the sins of the world.  Jesus is the one who brought this new covenant, not dependent on obedience and works but purely on God’s grace and forgiveness.

The results are incredible.  The writer to the Hebrews goes on to explain in the next paragraph.  Now, he says, We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and we have a great priest over the house of God.”  Because of Christ, things are now completely different for us.  We aren’t separated from God by a curtain in a temple.  We aren’t dependent on some priest to communicate to God on our behalf and offer sacrifices for our sin.  Under this new covenant of grace, now we can have confidence to approach God ourselves.  The body and blood of Jesus given and shed for you give you the right, the privilege, and the confidence to draw near to God because you have the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus himself is the High Priest that we directly interact with.

Just think what a difference this new covenant makes which you will experience in just a moment.  Rather than being separated from God by sin and trembling in the fear of death because of your disobedience, in a few minutes you yourself will approach the very altar of God.  God will come to you with his own body and blood, the same body and blood that won your forgiveness, and you will be in full communion, harmony, and peace with God.  Indeed, this is The New Covenant that Changes Everything.

Not only does it change our relationship and interaction with God, this new covenant of God’s grace also changes how we live for God.  The writer here continues by explaining to the Hebrew people the changes this covenant causes.  Since God has done all this for us, verse 22, Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Our first joyous change by God’s grace is that we can and we will draw near to God.  With a sincere heart that is confident by faith and with hearts and minds cleansed by Jesus blood and with bodies washed in him, we can draw near to God.  So do that then.  Draw near to God in worship.  Draw near to God in his Supper.  Draw near to God in his Word.  Draw near to God in prayer.

Here’s another change in verse 23:  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  We have a sure and certain hope for eternal life.  The second joyous change by God’s grace is that we can and we will hold unswervingly to that confession of faith.  So do that then.  No matter what problems surround us, no matter what persecution attacks us, no matter what peril threatens us, we can know with absolute confidence that God is faithful to his promise of eternal life in heaven.

Another life change in verse 24:  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  A third joyous change by God’s grace comes with how we interact with one another.  We can and we will provoke one another in a very good way.  We can and will spur one another on with encouragement to live with love and good deeds.  So do that then.  Stay close to one another.  Worship with one another.  Greet each other warmly and kindly.  Have fellowship and fun with one another.  Share Bible verses and encouraging words and warm hugs with one another.

And one final and related life change in verse 25: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  The final joyous change by God’s grace is that we can and we will encourage each other to continue worshiping together.  There are some, even many, who are in the habit of being irregular in worship.  But we can and we will encourage one another to be in worship because the Last Day is approaching and we need to be ready.

This is quite the change that Jesus brings to us.  Could you even imagine the pressure if you were an Israelite of old?  613 laws to keep!  Endless rules and regulations.  Countless sacrifices that needed to be made to pay for sin with death and bloodshed.  All of that would be required of you to follow perfectly every day.

But Jesus changed it all.  He obeyed perfectly.  He had righteousness and holiness.  He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice.  He paid for sin.  All laws are now kept.  All sin is now paid for.  And a right relationship with God is now not earned, but it’s given fully and freely.  Tonight we have a firsthand look into this upper room at a very special moment.  Treasure it.  Treasure the moment and treasure that you are about to partake of it.  It’s The New Covenant that Changes Everything.

AMEN

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About Pastor Phil Huebner

Pastor. Missionary. Principal. Husband. Father. Serving in love as each. http://www.ctkpalmcoast.com

Posted on March 25, 2016, in Church, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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