A Reader's Digest column "News From The World of Medicine", contained a hypertension drug alert for patients taking a new medication to treat high blood pressure. Although the new medication is excellent and most effective, patients may compromise the effectiveness of this treatment if they are also taking anti- inflamatory drugs or ibuprofens such as Advil or Motrin.
The alert warned about the mixing together of these medications. Such mixing would compromise the new high blood pressure medication and patients would not gain the needed effectiveness from the new medicine. Thus they would have a false sense of security.
As I read the article, I thought of the spiritual parrellels. It was hard for new covenant Jews to resist the temptation to mix in the old covenant which would compromise the ministry of Jesus as the great and eternal High Priest. It is hard for many people, jews and gentiles alike, to not try to mix in some religion, some good works, some self righteousness, etc. into the work of salvation thus compromising the ministry of Jesus in saving us and creating a false sense of security in one's self.
This is probably why some new age books have found their way into some church groups. Books like: "Finding Your Own Spiritual Path", "Jesus: A New Vision", and "Ancient Christian Magic".
Mixing seems to be in vogue. Such mixing is often dangerous in the realm of medicine. In the realm of the spiritual, such mixing has eternal consequences and danger. People are deceived into believing that they can take a little bit of Jesus and mix Him in with the trends, fads, and value systems of our day.
Spiritual mixing of any kind destroys true spirituality because as Paul warned against in I Cor. 1:17; it mixes human wisdom with the gospel and thus makes the cross of Christ of none effect...that is it empties the cross of its power. Mixing compromises the power of the cross!
Hebrews chapter 8, not only teaches us that the new covenant is far better for us, its benefits to us are far greater, its work in us more powerful....but also, the new covenant cannot be mixed with the old because the old is a shadow whereas the new is the reality.
How many of you belive that you are one of God's ministers? How would you like to have an unlimited ministry? A ministry without any limitations?
Well, no matter how effective I am or you are, as a minister...our ministry is limited. I can only be at one place at a time. I've tried scheduling two things for the same time slot, but it doesn't work because this time/space world limits me. I can only keep going for a limited amount of time and then my body demands food, rest, and water.
In many ways, you and I have a limited ministry, but Jesus ministers without human limitations. He has an unlimited ministry for He is seated at the right hand of God and He serves us in the heavenly sanctuary, not in a sanctuary built by human hands.
How sad and limiting if the only place a person could meet Jesus would be in a particular place...some particular building in one particular city. Anyone in the whole world would have to come to this place in order to meet with Jesus. Do you see how limited such a Savior would be? Earthly saviors are gound by earth's time/space limitations.
Some people think that world needs a better savior and they will offer their substitutes...their ten easy steps to a transformed life. They do not look to heaven for a divine Savior, rather they see mankind as being its own savior. But such saviors are limited.
Some people think that the world needs a better savior and so they offer themselves as a "new and improved messiah" for this present age. They lift up self instead of lifting up Jesus. Their hope is in human ability to make a better world. They believe that the best is yet to come and all it will take is a little more tax money, a few billion dollars of politically correct spending, and the right people in the right political offices.
The language of salvation fills our culture. You hear it in TV commercials, you read it in printed advertisements, you listen to it from the lips of politicians and media. Humanity is offered salvation from many sources...all of them human!
I do believe that a better world awaits us and the best is yet to come...for God's people, only! The best is coming down from heaven...a new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. It is not the work of man's hands, it is God's work!
I do believe that we can be saved from destroying ourselves and from destroying one another. However, I believe that it is only the Savior who is seated at the right hand of God who can save us. I believe that the language of salvation and the language of a new birth is supernatural language.
The person who dares to hold up a "Jesus Saves" sign at some sporting event is mocked as a religious radical, while some person with athletic ability is declared by the sports commentator as the man who saved the game...the team's savior. The oft-repeated instant replay of the final seconds of the Chargers and Steelers play-off game show the Charger defender who blocked O'Donnell's final pass into the end zone. That player was declared the Charger's savior.
Pittsburgh fans did not think quite so favorably toward that player. He seemed to us more like a destroyer than a savior. We had plans to make Neil O'Donnell our savior but he was disqualified for the title in that final play.
You see, salvation language is not strange to our culture, however our saviors are earthly, human, and of limited duration. The truth is that humanity cannot save itself! We need a better Savior than the new and improved "made by humans" brand.
Such a Savior lives. He is powerful against sin and powerful against the destroyer of human lives. He is seated at God's right hand in glory...high and lifted up...but He has a heart that beats for us and is willing to save all who call upon Him. His Name is the Lord Jesus Christ and He is the only real Savior!
The scriptures tell us that all other priests, all other gifts brought as a sacrifice for sins, and all other sanctuarys are only a shadow. They are temporary and inadequate...but they lack substance. In Christ we have reality, not the shadow!
Let's imagine that I have been away for a few days, and as I pull up in front of our house, my wife comes out to greet me with a warm hug. The sun is behind her and her shadow reaches me before she does. How many of you know that I am not going to hug her shadow. I want substance. I want reality!
Reality is what Jesus offers in a world filled with shadow-huggers. Our world runs from one shadow to another hugging each briefly...but finding no warmth and only short-lived satisfaction, they search for the next promising shadow.
People do this with religion. Many folks pride themselves on being religious. They hug close their religious symbols, their religious achievements, and their religious deeds. They love religion, but they can't stand Jesus!
Why do shadows exist? Shadows function as a witness to reality. My wife's shadow can be seen only because she exists.
The shadows in our world that people chase looking for meaning and satisfaction function as a witness to reality. The reality is that meaning and satisfaction can be found. It is found in the Creator-God who is also the Savior-God.
Religious shadows function as a witness to reality. You see, sacrifice, offerings, and good works do save people! The reality is found in Christ our Savior. It is His sacrifice, His offering of Himself and His body/blood, and His good work on calvary that saves us. Anything else is a shadow!
The new covenant is a better covenant. It is better for us, better for Israel, better for God...and it contains better promises.
This covenant is described as superior or more excellent. It is described as faultless, without defect.
Have you ever bought a new car/vehicle? Sometimes people are surprised or angry when they find some defects in this all new and improved car. Maybe, that's because we believed the commercials and believed this car would do for us what the advertisers claimed. Then we discovered that this thing on wheels, which is designed to get you from point "A" to point "B", was made by humans not by angels. It has faults and defects! How shocking that the best that we can do is imperfect!?
It's true that we have some ocassional flashes of brilliance and near-perfection, but an everlasting "superior rating" goes to only one....Jesus, the Superior Minister! Jesus is the superior minister who is the mediator of this new and superior covenant which has better or superior promises.
Verses 8-12 are a quote from Jeremiah 31:31-34, where God promised this new covenant to Israel.
PROMISED TO ISRAEL
Let's take a pause here and understand something about who this new covenant is promised to. This new covenant is not made with the church, as some think. It is made with the same people the Old Covenant was made with: Israel. Gentile believers are included in this covenant and become beneficiaries of this new covenant by grace and faith.
This new covenant began at Calvary and continues through eternity. The mystery of the church is that we gentile believers have been grafted in, we have been made partakers of the covenant.
Jesus said in John 4:22 that "Salvation is from the Jews". When we gentiles are saved, we become spiritual descendants of Abraham. (Gal. 3:7-8) This happens when we accept the single requirement of the New Covenant - faith in Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:29)
At this moment in time, we gentiles are sharing more in the benefits of the new covenant, than are the Jews. But that will change one day...and salvation will come to Israel. Ro. 11:17-26
Until then, let us be faithful to pray for Israel, to bless Israel, to love the Jewish people, and to be witnesses of Jesus to them. NEW COVENANT BENEFITS
Three distinct characteristics of this new covenant are taught in these scriptures. These benefits meet the deepest desires designed into the heart of all humanity by the creative act of God Himself.
God created us for Himself, and He fulfills that designed relationship through this new covenant.
1. First, this new covenant will be written upon their minds and hearts.
The Old Covenant dealt more with the external. The New focuses on the internal. On God changing our hearts, changing our attitudes, changing our minds, and as a result changing our behavior.
Internalizing truth has to do with development of godly character in our lives. It is not enough to just be able to repeat the ten commandments or to recite the fundamental truths of our faith. It is also important that these truths get into our hearts and become a part of us thus changing our character....controlling our behavior...and providing godly direction for our lives.
We may be able to work hard and change some externals. But then we become proud and commend ourselves on our improvements. Yet in our hearts we know the truth. We know that we have been working on our public image, but our true heart condition has not changed. We know that we need to be made new in our inner person. The New Covenant meets the need for a new you. Not a new image, but new in substance. Not a new shadow created with smoke, mirrors and special lighting, but a new reality.
Through Jesus I can be new!
2. Secondly, the new covenant introduces and establishes an intimacy with God as the motivation for these changes. It is a covenant of sacrificial love. "I will be their God, and they will be my people."
This is family in its deepest sense.
In human families, when a child is convinced of a parent's love, a sense of security fills that young life, preparing it for the difficult tasks of the future.
You and I can face life, can face the future, can face temptation, can face trials and heartaches...with this confidence: "I belong to God, I am His child, I know that He loves me, I know I can run into His arms and be safe, and I know that in the end everything will be OK, no matter what is happening to me right now...because I know who my Father is."
That's intimacy! It's my grandson looking into my eyes and saying: "You know what, Papa?" "No, what" "You're my best friend." What papa can resist that?!
Abba, Father. My Father. I am yours and you are mine.
"Know" is the word describing this intimacy.
Verse 11 - "they will know me".
The greek word is the same word used to describe the intense and personal form of knowing found in the sexual love-making between a husband and wife.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to witness to us and make Jesus known to us in a personal and intimate way. God longs to have us know him in spiritual intimacy. In His Word, in prayer, in worship, God is calling us to know Him. In times spent in His presence, God is teaching us to know Him.
These are moments when His love is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
They are moments when we are face to face with Him and we say: "Lord Jesus, your're my best friend."
The New Covenant in Jesus meets my heart's need for intimacy. A lasting intimacy. My deep desire to be know, accepted, and loved is met; not with the shadows of pretend intimacy, not with "here today, gone tomorrow" lovers, but with a lasting reality.
I can be God's friend. I can experience God's love.
3. Thirdly, this new covenant is marked by a complete and lasting forgiveness. It is a covenant that provides and full and final answer to the sin problem through the blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross.
In II Cor. 5:19, Paul tells us that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, NOT COUNTING MEN'S SINS AGAINST THEM..."
"I forgive you." - beautiful words.
Even though we have hurt the Lord with our sins against His holiness....with tenderness and strength He embraces us with forgiveness.
He holds us to Himself, not letting the memory of forgiven sins cause distance between us. He forgives and remembers no more in the sense that the past will never be held against us...never thrown up into our face....never used to blackmail us...never counted against us! Hallelujah!!!
Have you ever met a person who remembered you when you were a child or teen...OR...before you came to Jesus (B.C.)? It can be embarrassing. Maybe they take great delight in telling a story that you wish was forgotten, buried, gone, removed, erased from the memory banks. God is not in the embarrassing people business. God is the the forgiving people business and freeing us from the past and its shame and regrets so that the new can come.
This promise to the human heart satisfies like nothing else can. I need not hide. I need not blame others. I need not live in guilt or shame. I need not cover up. I need not do penance.
I can be forgiven! I can be forgiven!
The hymnwriter proclaims it: "Calvary covers it all. My past with its sin and shame. All my guilt and despair, Jesus took on Him there, and Calvary covers it all."
"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
Verse 13 -- Here's a great word: "OBSOLETE".
Do you own anything that is obsolete? Appliances, 8 tracks, beta VCR or camera, old commordore computer, rotary phones, hi-fi's, tube T.V.'s or radios, etc.
A friend told me that if I buy a home computer that I should be sure to purchase one with the new pentium chip because this is the latest technology. But some day it will be obsolete also. The new has made the first obsolete; the first is growing older.
The old is not only growing older, but it is requiring more maintanance and repair. Obsolescence will some day make museum pieces of our present equipment.
Some day this planet will be obsolete...it is growing old.
But something far better awaits us...a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Some day this body will be obsolete...it is growing old.
But something far better awaits me, for this body shall be changed from corruptible to incorruptible and when He appears we shall be like Him.
The old covenant is a shadow. It has become obsolete and old. You can live in the shadow land of the old or you can set aside that which is obsolete and embrace the new...the reality. The old met some needs temporarily, but it did not satisfy. The world we live in meets some of our needs temporarily, but it does not satisfy. Only the new found in Jesus really satisfies! Everything else is a shadow pointing to a reality. Jesus is the reality! Jesus is up-to-date with what He offers the human heart. Everything else is obsolete. Jesus is always new! OUTSIDERS
Other sermons by Pastor John.