The transformational power of the New Covenant

Here are Southern Calvert Baptist church, we have completed the first year of a three year project of walking through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We have been tracing the promise and fulfillment of Messiah, the Savior of the world. In Exodus, we witnessed the giving of the Law and how Israel entered into the Old Covenant with God. This was another step in the process of bringing the Messiah to the earth. In the book of Jeremiah, we are going to discover that the Messiah is going to bring a New Covenant with Him to the children of Israel. This covenant will also be available for the Gentiles (everyone who is not Jewish by birth). It is a different covenant from the first one because it is going to do something that the first covenant was never intended to do. That is what we are going to discover in this lesson. Our passage for consideration this week is Jeremiah 31:31-40. Take a moment and read it below.

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:
36 “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.”
37 Thus says the LORD, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the LORD.
38 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the city will be rebuilt for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.
39 “The measuring line will go out farther straight ahead to the hill Gareb; then it will turn to Goah.
40 “And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the LORD; it will not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”

I. The “problem” with the Old Covenant

I placed the word problem in quotation marks because the problem does not lie within the Old Covenant. The problem lies within the people. We discovered all the way back in Genesis 3 that mankind has a major problem. We are all born with a sin nature that we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve. We are born as slaves to sin and we cannot break the bondage on our own. We need a Rescuer to reach down where we are and free us. The Old Covenant was given to show the people their need for a Rescuer. It was never given as a set of rules to follow to make us better. As people, we do not need to be made better. We need to be transformed from the inside out. The Old Covenant reveals just how broken we are and in need of someone to rescue us.

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31)

The people proudly proclaimed upon hearing the conditions of the Old Covenant that they would do all that the Lord commanded them. Their response should have been, “oh no, this is impossible and we need help”. As a result, the people tried in their own strength to do something that they could not do. It is impossible to be completely obedient to God on our own because of our sin nature. The harder we try, the more we sin. The hearts of the people were not transformed. God simply set His standard in the Old Covenant to show the people how desperately they needed a Savior. When you look at the Law of God, what is your response? Do you think, “oh no, I’m in trouble because I cannot do it” or, do you think, “I just need to buck up and try harder”? Your answer to that question makes all of the difference and reveals if you understand the Old Covenant or not. Understanding of the purpose of the Old Covenant leads us to the New Covenant. Jeremiah reveals the New Covenant to us about 600 years before the era of Jesus Christ.

II. The benefit of the New Covenant

As we take a look at this next section, I want to point out a phrase used by the prophet. He writes that days are coming. All of the New Covenant was future to Jeremiah. Parts of it are past for us while other parts of it are still future.

33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31)

This covenant is going to be different because God is going to deal with the heart of the problem, the human heart. The New Covenant is not going to make us better. The New Covenant is going to transform us from the inside out. The New Covenant is going to rescue us from our nemesis, our sin nature. The prophet Ezekiel mentions that God is going to remove our heart of stone and place a new heart of flesh in us. Jeremiah describes it differently but, the result is the same. The Law of the Lord is going to be written on these new hearts that we will receive in the New Covenant. We will have a new, intimate knowledge of God, or in other words, we will have a personal relationship with God. God is going to indwell us with His presence in the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant, the presence of God dwelt among the people. Now, He will indwell the people. Jesus explains this to a man named Nicodemus by saying that we will be born again when we enter into the New Covenant by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. This part of the New Covenant has been fulfilled. There is still part of it to come.

38 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the city will be rebuilt for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.
39 “The measuring line will go out farther straight ahead to the hill Gareb; then it will turn to Goah.
40 “And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the LORD; it will not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.” (Jeremiah 31)

This part of the New Covenant is also future for us. The Messiah is going to return to the earth and rule the world in Israel. The Jews will be returned to their land and it will be fully reestablished. The borders will be the original borders that God promised in the Old Covenant. Those who are born again because of being in the New Covenant will also be there to reign with Christ. Have you entered into the New Covenant through faith in Jesus Christ? Have you been born again? Do you have a personal relationship with God? Have you gained victory over your sin nature, not only having the desire to obey God but also the ability to obey God?

III. Jesus’ Explanation

Jesus explains this beautifully with two illustrations that the people of His day would have understood very well. The Gospel writer, Mark, shares these two illustrations with us in Mark 2.

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.
22 “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

Did you notice the two illustrations in the text above? The people of Jesus’ day understood what He meant right away. Jesus was teaching a new way (new to what the scribes and Pharisees were teaching). Jesus’ “new” way was the way of the Gospel from the very beginning in Genesis 3. God had always intended to rescue people from their sin nature with the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The scribes and Pharisees had begun to teach their own way. So, Jesus’ message was old yet new to the hearers. The same is true today. Many have concocted their own way to try and be rescued. None of them work. They are like putting an unshrunk cloth on a garment. The unshrunk patch will shrink and the small hole that was there will be made worse. When new wine is put in old wine skins, as the wine continues to ferment, the old, inflexible wine skin will rip and be destroyed, also spilling the new wine and wasting it. Any teaching that tries to provide rescue from sin nature other than the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will only make things worse. The people were enslaved to their sin nature and the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees was making it worse. We see this clearly in the teaching on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was instituted by God for the good of the people. The religious teachers had turned things around and made the people enslaved to the Sabbath. This is just a glimpse of the over all teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees, any teaching that claims rescue any other way than through the freeing message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every thing in the Law that the scribes and Pharisees claimed to keep and teach pointed to Jesus Christ. They had missed the main point and turned the Law into a burden for the people. Jesus was fulfilling the Law in their presence. The ordinary people accepted it. The religious leaders could not stand it. They rejected the freedom offered by Christ and, tried to get others to reject that freedom as well.

What about you my dear friend, are you ready to accept the message of the Gospel of freedom? Do you see your need for rescue? Have you tried to create your own path to rescue, in essence, creating your own reality, blinding yourself to actual reality? Will you let the message of the Gospel of freedom reveal reality to you, change your mind, forgive you, and set you free from your sin nature so that you can follow Christ? May the Lord help us have our minds opened up to reality as it is so that we can be rescued by the power of Jesus Christ!

One comment on “The transformational power of the New Covenant

  1. Pingback: The Judgment of the Lord | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

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