My wife grew up in a very similar church experience as many of us have. She sinned every week and constantly, like so many in the church, had to go down to the altar and “recommit” her life to Jesus each Sunday or take a chance on dying and going to hell. She said that it seemed that Christ had the power to save her, but no power to keep her saved. She had to do it all from that point on by living a pure life and doing good works according to church doctrine and rules that must be kept.
I had a very similar church upbringing as she did, except I was raised a Catholic and had the same sin issue and the same striving against sin with the same necessity of confessing my sins and going down to the altar every Sunday to take “holy communion” that I might get right with God again and then the cycle started all over again the following week. What bondage!
Things became very clear to me that my salvation was not a result of my works, but God’s when I read chapter eight of Hebrews. There I read the difference between the Old Covenant of works and the New Covenant which Jeremiah prophesied of God’s wonderful grace. The writer of Hebrews wrote:
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says 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, says the Lord. For 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 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.” (Heb 8:7-12 KJ2000)
The first covenant (the old covenant) was doomed to failure because it hinged on the obedience of seemingly endless list of commandments that the Hebrews had to keep.by their own strength and as we read her they failed and broke the covenant that they made with God. So God knowing this had a further plan that WOULD work and in this plan it was not dependent on the righteous of the first Adam (fallen man), but the righteousness of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. The first covenant was filled with “thou shalt’s and thow shalt not’s” but the second and more perfect covenant is pronounce with a short list of “I WILL’s” and it is all fulfilled by the working of the will of God in us:
I will make a new covenant
I will put my laws into their minds
I will write my laws in their hearts
I will be to them a God and they shall be my people
They shall not teach every man his neighbor…for all shall know me
I will be merciful to their unrighteousness
I will remember their sins no more
In Ezekiel we read a bit more about this covenant saying,
“And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Eze 36:23-27 KJ2000)
I will sanctify my great name
I will be sanctified in you
I will take you from among the nations
I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean
I will cleanse you
I will give you a new heart
I will put a new spirit within you
I will take away your stoney hearts
I will cause you to walk in my statues and do them
Nope, not a single “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not,” but fifteen “I will…” statements by God. The New Covenant is “good news” because Jesus and the Spirit of God gives those who surrender to Christ the power to obey Him and live upright lives IN Him. We live by God’s power and heart and not our own inability to please Him by our works. So what are all these statutes and commandments He puts on our hearts? In Hebrews again we read,
In that he says, A new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and grows old is ready to vanish away.
(Heb 8:13 KJ2000)
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
(Heb 7:11-12 KJ2000)
Jesus Christ is our great High Priest and with Him and His covenant came in a New and changed law. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35 KJ2000)
Paul wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, self-control: against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23 KJ2000)
And in Romans we read, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Rom 13:8-9 KJ2000)
So, as we abide IN Christ we now find that we have a new heart, a new mind (the mind of Christ), a new Spirit, the Spirit of God, and are able to walk in His New Commandment, the law of love that sums up the whole old covenant law and it is all by the power of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the sending forth of His Holy Spirit to abide in us. THIS is the Good News of the gospel, not a new list of rules and regulations we have to keep by our own strength… a list that we can not keep any more that the Hebrew people could keep the laws of the first covenant. The New Covenant is not about us, but it is all about Him and we who abide IN Him as members of HIS body. Amen, Lord. So be it!