Monday, November 03, 2014

Only Jesus Transforms

My lesson for Oct. 26 ...

Sunday we talked about the new covenant established by God through Jesus and how it was all promised centuries before.

Our memory verse is an awesome one and why you should live your Christian life as if you are already forgiven. Hebrews 8:12 says "For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins."

FIRST THOUGHTS

Think about any self-improvement plans you might have tried over the years. Lose weight? Manage finances better? Were you able to stick with them?

What do self-improvement plans reveal about our ability to completely change our lives on our own? How much self-improvement would it take in order to get to heaven?

Spiritually, when we leave things up to ourselves there’s no change we can make to get right with God except to trust in Jesus as our Savior.

Let’s understand the context …

*** We’ve been talking about the key points in Hebrews:

--- Jesus is the Eternal High Priest.
--- Jesus is our atoning once-and-for-all sacrifice.
--- And today we’re talking about how Jesus brought the new covenant with God.

THE NEW COVENANT NEEDED (HEB. 8:1-6)

1 Now the main point of what is being said is this: We have this kind of high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that was set up by the Lord and not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; therefore it was necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He wouldn’t be a priest, since there are those offering the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 These serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was warned when he was about to complete the tabernacle. For God said, Be careful that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain. 6 But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.

*** We're talking again about how Jesus is our Great High Priest, our representative in heaven interceding on our behalf. You might think that the author of Hebrews kept harping on the same topics over and over. There is a good reason - Just like the original readers of Hebrews, we are forgetful, or we don't pay attention. Who remembers what we studied last week? Do you remember what Pastor David preached about the first Sunday in July? The writers of the Bible have to include redundancies to remind us of God's promises and our responsibilities as believers.

*** QUESTION - Have you ever searched for a product that was touted to be a new and improved version of the product you already had? How many different iPhone versions have you been through? How many times did you run into trouble?

*** The salvation we have in Christ can never be improved on. During the Old Testament the priests appointed by God were still sinful and imperfect as we were. The people looked for a new covenant, and that came with Jesus. Verse 6 says that Jesus "has now obtained a superior ministry."

THE NEW COVENANT PROMISED (HEB. 8:7-9)

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there
would have been no occasion for a second one. 8 But
finding fault with His people, He says:
Look, the days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah—
9 not like the covenant
that I made with their ancestors
on the day I took them by their hands
to lead them out of the land of Egypt.
I disregarded them, says the Lord,
because they did not continue in My covenant.

*** Are rules meant to be broken?

--- QUESTION - Think about how many rules you have broken over the past five days, at work, at home, laws, Biblical even. Are there such things as little and acceptable rule-breaking?

--- In verse 7 the author of Hebrews is saying is that the people weren't changed. Change must take place from the inside out. While rules are necessary, a changed heart is imperative.

If salvation was based on keeping rules, how many rules would we need to keep in order to be saved? If good works were to be used to offset the rules we break, how many good works would be needed to earn or keep eternal life? Parents, or those who have had parents, what are some of the rules you have or had? Have your children kept all the rules?

If you hope your children will embrace a Christian life on their own, will it take a change of heart or additional rules? If they were to follow your rules completely, does it guarantee they will live the same way when they aren’t at home?

*** In verses 8-12 the writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is a prophecy that takes place 600 years before Jesus.

--- This is a good time to remember that God doesn't work according to our schedule. His plans are deliberate and the timing is perfect. The people Jeremiah talked to had no idea that it would take another 600 years before this new covenant would be revealed.

*** A covenant is an agreement or a contract between two people.

--- God established the first covenant with His people on Mount Sinai. This covenant proved to be inadequate. While he was writing the commandments to Moses, the stiff-necked Israelites were already crafting cow idols of gold for a swinging house party down below.

--- In TV we have what we call "make goods." This is when something happens with an advertiser and we make it up to them with a free placement of their product in another commercial. This could happen if there is breaking news such as a tornado warning.

QUESTION - Was God doing a "make good" with us? Was it God’s fault or the people’s fault that the original covenant was inadequate?

How did God’s people ignore His covenant after it was given to them on Mount Sinai? If you were God, would you have initiated another covenant? Why or why not? We can be thankful that God, through His love for us, provides second, third, fourth chances!

*** This new covenant is not about following the hundreds of rules in Leviticus but in a relationship, something the Pharisees and Saducees couldn’t understand. Through Jesus, this new covenant focuses on transforming the heart, producing much different results.

THE NEW COVENANT DESCRIBED (HEB. 8:10-13)

10 But this is the covenant
that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be My people.
11 And each person will not teach his fellow citizen,
and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know Me,
from the least to the greatest of them.
12 For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing,
and I will never again remember their sins.
13 By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.

How would you describe the difference between keeping rules and a covenant? Rules are often imposed while a covenant is offered and accepted.

Do rules change behavior? This week we saw the doctor in New York. He did heroic work in Liberia for Doctors Without Borders treating Ebola patients. But when he got home, instead of isolating himself for three weeks - the time we're told that Ebola can sit in you before symptoms show up - he went to a bowling alley, rode on the subway and all but licked every doorknob in the city the day before he noticed he had a fever. He knew better, but he didn't want to follow the rules, essentially breaking the contract between doctors and patients to "do no harm."

*** “BUT”

--- In verse 10 there is a very important word that describes God’s grace. The word is “but.” This indicates that God had a plan that was provided through the new covenant. This plan was fulfilled in His Son Jesus Christ. It would not just change behavior but change hearts. Sin is carved deep into our nature, so none of us is righteous enough to spend eternity with God without grace.

Check out the different wording in verses 10 through 13 that show that the new covenant is more than a rule book:

"I will make," "I will put," "I will be their God," "I will be merciful," "I will never again remember their sins." For our part, "They will be my people," "Each person will not," "they will all know Me."

We have a contract with God. He keeps his end, will we keep ours?

*** Memory Verse: Hebrews 8:12 - For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.

--- Well that’s a relief!

Once God forgives our sins, there is no possibility of you being charged with them again!

Have you ever had someone close to you do something wrong, and you know they feel bad about it, and instead of bringing it up and making them feel worse, you act like it never happened? “Did you do something?” “No big deal.” “Whatever.”

All those regrets you have, God is all, “What are you talking about?”

*** Since we are under a new covenant, the old covenant is gone. Within a few years of Hebrews being written, in fact, the city of Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans in A.D. 70 and the temple was destroyed, so the old covenant sacrifices were ended. It was another sign to the Jewish people who weren’t sure of following Jesus that the church building and a guy in robes wasn’t going to save you.

TAKE AWAY POINTS

There’s an old joke that goes:

A man died and approached the Pearly Gates.

St. Peter told him heaven was getting crowded so he had to test people with the point system. If he got to 100 points he could enter.

The man told Saint Peter that he gave to the poor. Peter marked him down for 3 points. The man thought again, then said that he tithed. Peter added one point. The man, desperately searching his memory, finally said that he never cussed. Peter added 1/2 a point.

By now the man got very frustrated and said that at this rate he could only get in by the grace of God.

Peter replied: "Come on in!"

*** In Christ, God transforms our wants. Changed on the inside by God's grace, we live out God's ways on the outside

*** We are unable to keep God’s law on our own. Only through faith in Christ we can be set free from sin to live a life that demonstrates righteousness. As Christians, we know this, yet we still live life as if we are living by rules that must be kept in order for us to get to Heaven instead of a covenant based on the promise of eternal life.

*** Our memory verse, Hebrews 8:12, shows how God has made a covenant with us that He will be show us mercy and never again remember our sins.

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