Hebrews 8:13. 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.
The other day my daughter wanted to watch the home movies of her as a baby. But there was a problem. All those movies are on VHS tapes and we don’t own a VCR. Why not? Because VCRs are obsolete. We’ve replaced the VCR in our home with something better – a blu-ray player. Because VCRs failed to be good enough, they vanished away from my house.
The writer of Hebrews is writing to Jewish Christians that obviously had a long relationship with the Old Sinai Covenant. Their entire history as a nation has been lived under this covenant. Moses himself mediated it. It was written atop a smoking mountain by the hand of God himself. This covenant made the Hebrews God’s chosen people. His own possession and priesthood. And let’s not forget that they were severely punished as a nation whenever they set aside this covenant.
And now they’re being told to set it all aside? To see it as obsolete, old, and vanishing away? We can only imagine how difficult a message this must have been for these Jewish Christians to receive.
And so in Hebrews 9, the author will explain why the Old Covenant was never actually good enough. First, because, with the tabernacle, it actually established a barrier between God and people (9:7) – a necessary barrier because of sin. And second, with animal sacrifices, it never actually dealt with those sins or cleansed the consciences of the people (9:9).
But praise God there is a new covenant. With a better mediator, Jesus, with his better sacrifice, and with his better promises. And this new covenant didn’t just appear out of nowhere. The Jewish prophet Jeremiah prophesied it 600 years before Jesus. And so in Hebrews 8 we find the longest Old Testament quote in the New Testament – the quoting of the New Covenant promises from Jeremiah 31. The dual promises of every sin forgiven and a new heart of love for God.
Hebrews 8:10-12. 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.”
So what is the writer of Hebrews trying to accomplish? He’s trying to accomplish the same thing we try to accomplish in To Live is Christ every day. He’s trying to accomplish what every preacher of the true gospel is trying to accomplish. He’s trying to accomplish what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in your heart in every moment. He’s trying to prevent these dear believers from mixing the old covenant with the new. He’s trying to get them to embrace Jesus as enough. No add-ons. No returning to the old rituals and laws that only take away from the finished work of Christ. He’s trying to show them that being in Christ is all we need.
Why run back to a system that is old, obsolete, and vanishing? Why run back to a religious system that never really worked in the first place, and was only a shadow of a greater reality?
And yet that is what Christians do every single day. They add-on to Jesus.
Jesus + ___.
What do you fill in the blank with?
Jesus + confession of sin.
Jesus + dedicating my life to Christ.
Jesus + spiritual renewal.
Jesus + trying harder.
Jesus + doing more.
Jesus + praying.
Jesus + Bible study.
Jesus + resolution.
Jesus + being like Jesus.
Jesus + “I will.”
Jesus + love and gratitude.
Jesus + moral goodness.
And this is the “good” list. We didn’t even fill in the blank with the obvious idols like comfort, power, sex, materialism, or the hundreds of ways we numb our pain every day.
Virtually every Christian I know (including myself) is constantly adding something on to their faith in Jesus. Like the Hebrews, our hearts are drawn backwards to an add-on that we can use to control our own spiritual growth and blessing, rather than trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross, and his unconditional New Covenant promises.
You see, the problem with everything in those blanks above is that, although they all might sound good, they all, like the Old Covenant tabernacle and sacrifices, only create barriers between you and God, and fail to cleanse the conscience.
Only Jesus + ___ (nothing) can remove all barriers and completely cleanse the conscience. Everything else will leave us wondering if we’ve done enough. If we’re sincere enough. If we did enough. If we meant it enough.
“To live is Christ” is living in the full assurance of the New Covenant promises of God in Christ – every sin graciously forgiven and God’s law of love emblazoned upon our minds and hearts. It is living with Jesus + nothing as our hope. And finding him to be enough.
What do you add-on to Jesus?
You in Christ
How do the promises of the New Covenant allow you to trust Christ alone?
Christ in you
Where does Christ need to be “enough” for you today?
Playlist: Better Promises.