All right, this morning we are continuing our look through the epistle to the Hebrews. And in case you missed last week, we saw how the writer of Hebrews gave us three exciting differences between the Old Covenant of Moses and the Law, and the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. The first difference we saw was that in the Old Covenant, all priests had the same weakness: they all died. But in the New Covenant, Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and He will be alive for the rest of eternity. The second difference is that the writer of Hebrews said that the Old Covenant was weak and useless, but with the New Covenant, we are able to be saved to the uttermost! The third difference is that before, God’s people had to take a sacrifice into the temple every time they broke one of God’s commands. But in the New Covenant, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross, so that we would never have to bring another animal sacrifice to God. Your faith in Christ’s sacrifice has forever removed the stain of sin from your life. That’s not to say that we don’t sin, it simply means that when God looks at you, He no longer sees your sin; He sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
And in chapter eight of the book of Hebrews, the author moves on to analyze what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. And probably much of what we’re going to see this morning is stuff that even if you haven’t heard before, you know it to be true in your hearts. So my primary objective this morning is not to blow your socks off with something revolutionary. No, my primary objective is to let God’s word speak to you anew about the sheer benefits of knowing Jesus Christ. To see what God’s word has for us this morning, please turn in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter eight, and we’ll be reading all thirteen verses.
“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: we have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is necessary that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the Law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, ‘See,’ He saith, ‘that thou make all things according to the pattern shown to thee in the mount.’ But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, than should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord:” for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.’ In that He saith, “a new covenant,” He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
Let’s pray together.
In the course of this morning’s sermon, I am going to show you the four benefits that the writer of Hebrews gives us of being in the kind of relationship with God he described. As a matter of fact, this morning’s sermon is titled, “Benefits of a New Covenant Relationship.” Catchy, right? And really, all four of the benefits are located in verses ten through twelve of this chapter, but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to neglect the verses before it. In fact, the first nine verses all build up to the dramatic unveiling of the New Covenant in verse ten. So if you’re taking notes this morning (which I hope you are) this first point is entitled…
Made possible by our High Priest
Look again at what verse one says to us. “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: we have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. “ Notice how the author of Hebrews introduces this verse. Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum. Many commentators believe that this verse is the turning point of the entire book. When he says “Now of the things which we have spoken,” he’s talking about everything he’s said up until this point. He says that he is about to sum up all of Hebrews chapter one and seven. And in the following verses, he says many amazing things about Jesus. The first thing he says is that Jesus is our High Priest. And he says that Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of the Majesty (that’s God.)
In the following verses, the writer of Hebrews sums up all of his talk about how the entire Old Testament revolves around Jesus Christ. He says in verses four and five that the old system, which revolves around priests offering sacrifices in a tabernacle, that old way served as an example and a shadow of what Jesus Christ would come to earth and do.
It’s kind of like this: imagine that every event in the entire Bible is situated on a yardstick. You’ve got Creation at the front, and you’ve got the Second Coming at the back. But then, in the middle of the yardstick is one event that stands above all others. Rising out of the middle of the yardstick is the cross. The cross towers so high above every other event, that it casts its shadow on everything else. Church, that is what the Bible is like. That is what the writer of Hebrews is telling us about the Old Testament. Everything that happened, from Creation, to the fall, to the flood, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to Malachi; all of it looks forward to Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, you can’t truly understand the Old Testament until you know Jesus Christ. When you know Jesus Christ, and you understand the kind of relationship you have with Him, all of those events in the Old Testament become so much clearer. Now, when you look at Adam and Eve’s sin, you don’t just see the worst event in human history. Now, you read that chapter and say, “Jesus is going to fix that.” Now, when you read the story of Noah’s ark, you don’t just see a man and his family that were saved from a world-wide flood. Now, you can say, “You know, God is kind of like an ark to me. He saves me from the floods of life.”
Church, let me say it one more time, “The entire Bible revolves around the cross.” And if the entire Bible revolves around the cross, then shouldn’t our lives revolve around the cross? Shouldn’t our church revolve around the cross? And by the way, I’m not talking about wearing cross necklaces, or about hanging up crosses in your home. I’m talking about making your whole life revolve around the fact that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and He died for others’ sins, as well. And as a church, our entire focus must be on proclaiming the message of the cross to those who haven’t heard, and on praising the God who died on that cross. As soon as we stray from the cross, whether on purpose or by neglect, we will fail. So, it’s as if the writer of Hebrews is saying, “You know all of this stuff I’ve been writing about, it’s all about Jesus! It’s all about what He did for us! It’s all about His sacrifice! It’s all about the cross!”
And in just a few seconds, we’re going to look at those four benefits I told you about, but what we must know beyond the shadow of a doubt is that the benefits of a relationship with God were not brought about by our own good deeds. They didn’t come about by sacrifices. Our relationship wasn’t mediated by a priest. Our relationship with God was made possible by what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. Let us never forget that.
Benefit #1: The Law on our Hearts
Let’s read verses eight through ten again together. “For finding fault with them, he saith, ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”
Something I want you to notice is that essentially all of verses eight through twelve are a quote from the Old Testament. Those verses were first penned by the prophet Jeremiah, approximately 600 years before Jesus Christ was born. Isn’t that amazing? And as a little fun fact, this is the longest Old Testament quote in the entire New Testament. In these verses, Jeremiah described the kind of relationship that we would have with God, even though it’s the kind of relationship he could only dream about. But even though it’s the writer of Hebrews quoting the prophet Jeremiah, we know that the true author of these words is God Himself. This is God saying what the New Covenant would be like one day.
And notice the first benefit of the New Covenant that God mentions in verse ten. The Lord says, “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.” Wow, what is that talking about? Basically, God is describing the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Even people that are not Christians have a conscience. They might have seared it over the years so much that they don’t notice it anymore, but all people have a conscience. But when you accept Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and acts like a super conscience. This is what this verse is talking about. God is saying that with the Holy Spirit inside you, you are going to know what is right, and what is wrong. God’s law is written on your heart!
“But hold on, wait a minute Brother Josh, I think that it’s okay to dance, but so and so thinks that it’s a sin. Are you saying that there’s two different Holy Spirits living in us?” No, that’s not what I’m saying. This is the beautiful concept known as convictions. I’ve never preached about convictions before, so allow me to break it down for you. As Christians, all of our opinions break down into three categories. The first category is preferences. My preference is to not wear a pink suit with a purple tie to church on Sunday mornings. Now, it wouldn’t be a sin if I did, I just don’t think it would look very good.
The second category of opinion is convictions. This is the kind of category something like dancing would fall under. Some people think it’s okay. Some people think it’s sin. And frankly, the Bible does not deal with each and every scenario that presents itself in our lives. So there are some areas where we have to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. What Paul says in Romans 14 is that if you have a problem with one of these areas, it would be a sin for you to do it. If you do not have a problem with it, then it is not sin for you. But, and this is important, if you don’t have a problem with something, but a brother or sister you are around does have a problem with it, then it would be sin for you to do it.
I witnessed a prime example of this principle when I was at Bible College. One time, a preacher stood before us in chapel service, and he asked if anyone in the auditorium had a problem with him preaching from the English Standard Version of the Bible. He said that he would prefer to use the ESV, but he wouldn’t if it meant offending someone else. That preacher handled the situation perfectly.
So first you’ve got preferences. Second you’ve got convictions. And third, you’ve got essentials. I have the opinion that Jesus Christ is the only way to go to Heaven. That is not a preference. It is not just a conviction. It is something I would die for. If I was around someone that did not believe that way, I would not change my words to cater to them. Because there are some essentials out there that you cannot bend on.
So let’s look at this in our church’s life. A preference might be what era you like your songs to be from. Some people like old stuff, some people like new stuff, some people like myself like both. We don’t think ill of people who disagree with us, we just have different tastes. Using the King James Version of the Bible is an example of a conviction. Some people have very strong convictions that it is wrong to use any other version. Personally, I love any version that accurately communicates God’s words. And finally, preaching a Bible-centered message is absolutely essential. While I may love Tolkien, I’m never going to preach a message about the Hobbit. While I love Star Wars, I’m never going to preach a message on Han Solo. Preaching the Bible is absolutely essential, and it’s something we should be willing to fight for.
So those are my thoughts on what Jeremiah was talking about when He said that God’s law would be written on our hearts. One final thing to remember about this is that God’s commands in the Bible are always more important than our preferences and our convictions. If you have convictions that it’s okay to murder someone, then your convictions are wrong, because God’s word is clear on that. Ok, let’s move on.
Benefit #2: The People of God
I promise the rest of these will be brief. Look once more at what verse ten says. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Do you realize this morning, that if you have trusted in Jesus Christ, then you are a part of the people of God? And church, your identity as God’s people is more important than any other identity you have. I am a Provow. I am an American. I am a Free Will Baptist. I’m proud of those identities. But vastly more important than any of those things, I am a Christian. I pray you realize what a blessing that truly is.
Benefit #3: (see, I told you we would move quickly) All Will Know God
What do I mean by that? Look at verse eleven. “And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord:” for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” This verse can be a little confusing, because it makes it seem as if everyone in the world will know God. But that’s not what this verse is talking about. You see, it’s contrasting Old Testament Israel from the New Testament Church. In Israel, there were a whole lot of people. Some of them knew God, some of them didn’t. Just because you were from Israel did not mean you were saved from your sins. But the Church is much different from that. And when I talk about Church, I’m not talking about this building. No, I’m talking about the world-wide church of men, women, and children that have trusted in Jesus as Savior. This Church, with a capital “C,” is absolutely pure. Within the body of Christ, you don’t have to tell another believer to know God, because they already do! Jeremiah looked forward to the day when the people of God would not be a political nation. Instead, it would be world-wide movement of people that truly loved God. Being a part of this movement that we call Christianity is truly a great benefit of knowing Christ. And lastly…
Benefit #4: The Mercy of God
Look at what verse twelve tells us. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Praise the Lord, amen? (tell joke) The Bible tells us that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved. God’s mercy will forgive you of everything wrong you’ve ever done. I’ve heard so many people say that God can’t forgive them, because they’ve just done too many wrong things. Well, they’ve obviously never met the Apostle Paul. Before he accepted Christ, Paul’s job was to arrest other Christians, at least one of which was stoned for his faith in Christ. If God can forgive Paul, God can forgive you. Isn’t it amazing that an all-knowing God can honestly say, “I will remember their sins no more.” God is omniscient, and yet in some way that is too deep for me to fathom, He can’t remember my sins! Praise God!
And church, those of the benefits that God told through Jeremiah who told the writer of Hebrews who told us here this morning. I told you it wouldn’t be something that would blow your socks off, but I could hear the story of God’s grace 1,000,000 times and never grow tired of hearing it. Perhaps the song writer Chris Tomlin said it best in his modern version of Amazing Grace. After the traditional words, Tomlin adds, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood His mercy reigns, unending love, amazing grace.”
And as the pianist and song leader come forward, I ask you this, are you truly a part of the people of God? Whether you’ve come here once, or 1,000 times, just coming to church will not make you a part of the people of God. There’s only one way to God, and that’s through the cross. Like I’ve mentioned already, becoming a Christian fills you with the Holy Spirit, it makes you a part of God’s people, it makes you a part of a community of other believers that is thicker than blood; and best of all, it gives you the mercy of God. But as the writer of Hebrews told us, the entire Bible revolves around Jesus, and He’s the only One who can save you. Yesterday, I read John 14 in my daily Bible reading. In John 14, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father except through Me.” So I ask you one more time, have you trusted in Jesus Christ? And if you have, are you living like it?
So whether you would like to come forward to trust in Christ, to devote yourself to living for Christ, or to pray for a pressing need that’s on your heart, the altars are open. But before we have an invitation, let’s pray.
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