Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Knowing God Under the New Covenant

My kids are staying with their Grandma and Papa for a few days so I get to enjoy lots of quiet time to read, write, listen, and well, hopefully clean and do some painting in the house. I was just reading in Hebrews a bit ago and this passage really struck a chord with me.

Hebrews 8:10-12, quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34

"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. 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. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."

It just struck me almost my whole life in the church I have been taught "Know the Lord". I've experienced all kinds of methods, techniques, plans, motivational preaching, challenges to commit to this or that--all with one goal in view: That I know God. I tried to implement many things I've heard or read to the same purpose. Sadly, I have to say that they all pretty much failed. And for all my effort I managed to turn prayer, Bible reading, church, fellowship, loving others (even my own family) into great mountains of duty and obligation that I could never possibly fulfill. And this great mountain planted itself directly in the middle of the path to God. I was farther from him than ever.

When I read this today, I suddenly saw it. All those who teach "Know the Lord" are teaching Old Covenant, you know, the old obsolete broken inadequate way of coming to God-- the way that never lets you into the Holy of Holies where His presence is, the way that leaves us down at the bottom of his Holy mountain trembling in fear of death and judgement (Hebrews 12:20), the way that never cleanses us from our sin so completely that we can come boldly to the throne of grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We have a new and living way! (Hebrews 10:20)

Under the Old Covenant, people have to be taught "Know the Lord". They must be pushed and bullied and forced to come near to God. Why? Because they are afraid. Their conscience is not clean, they are still fearfully conscious of their sin.

"For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Hebrews 10:1-4)

In Israel people longed to be in near God on one hand, but not toonear, because to enter into God's presence was a terrifying experience. It was so dangerous the high priest had to have a rope tied around his leg in case God struck him dead while in the Holy of Holies. Why? Because of sin.

And how many of us are still living and teaching others to live as if still under that Old Covenant? If we are still saying to ourselves and others "Know the Lord" then we have an Old Covenant mindset. Under the New, we already know him! We come to him all the time because nothing stands in our way! All our sin is not only forgiven but completely taken away! Christ has done such a thorough job that we aren't even conscious of sin anymore. Think about that. The Old Covenant sacrifices served to remind people of their sins even more , to bring condemnation but the sacrifice of Jesus did just the opposite. He did not come to condemn us for our sin but to remove our sin completely so that we are never again subject to any condemnation. (Romans 8:1)

When we remember the cross, we remember that our sins are taken away. We should NEVER NEVER NEVER look at the cross and mourn our sins and feel shame and guilt. If we do that, we are looking at the cross saying "it wasn't enough for my sin". It doesn't impress God and it isn't humility, it is a rejection of the Perfect Sacrifice and evil unbelief.

So from Hebrews, here are two signs of a legalistic,Old Covenant mindset:

1. A need for "Know the Lord" type teaching.

2. Having a consciousness of sin.

If we see either of these in our lives, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of the Cross to us. And let us enter into His presence with joy and peace, no longer being held back by fear of judgement or consciousness of sin.


Daelon said...

What an amazing post!!! Wow. I hope you don't mind if I share this with a few people? Thank you so much for showing us what God revealed to you.

jul said...

Thanks! Share away.

SLW said...

Interesting. I wonder if your insight casts any light for you on the violent men passage (Matt 11:12)?

I've tended to teach the "hang around with Jesus" approach to knowing the Lord. How else does anyone get to know anyone? There's no method to it, just the gracious promise of Christ to be with us, and the faith to act like it's true.

Joel Brueseke - Grace Roots said...

Lots of great stuff here. One thing that sticks out to me is that the priests never knew if entering the holy of holies would result in death because of sin. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world... that we may boldly enter the Holy Place!

Gregg said...

Brilliant post.

We don't need to hang around Jesus, we are hidden in Jesus (Col 1v26-27). This is mentioned (in Christ and Christ in us) 142 times in the New Testament.

Jul this is wonderful. I pray the Holy Spirit seals this in our lives.

SLW said...

That really is the gist of my clumsy comment. We have an intimate fellowship with Christ that our faith can embrace.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Very much impressed with the understanding Lord has given you about the New Covenant. Unless we settle the finality of the cross (God resolving the sin issue for ever) it is almost impossible to experience the reality of the resurrection.If we keep on asking what we already have, it is not faith. Great post!