“A Better Ministry and a Better Covenant” – Hebrews 8:1-13

 
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“A Better Ministry and a Better Covenant” – Hebrews 8:1-13

Listen to the Sermon:

So hear now the word of the Lord Hebrews 8.

8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
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.”

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.
Hebrews 8, ESV

This is the word of the Lord.

Well like a lot of young kids growing up in the United States, when I was in elementary school, and then later in middle school, little league baseball was one of the highlights each summer. Each spring as the summer would draw closer and closer, it was time to pull my baseball bag out of the shed, to put on my cleats, to begin practicing with my dad at one of the local fields, and to wait in anticipation to find out what team colors I’d be able to wear for the next year. As the years dragged on I’ll admit that little league baseball lost its luster for me. Instead it slowly turned into a wearisome endeavor, because despite my best efforts I was horrible at baseball. Much like Pastor Jacob has admitted in the past, we have that in common.

It always seemed year by year like progress was fleeting, it was elusive. Every year I would get out my baseball bag, I would practice with my dad, I’d practice with the team, I’d practice on my own, I’d carefully observe the techniques of others, all with the goal of refining my game. Yet each year I just couldn’t hit the baseball, despite all the baseball I watched and all the time I spent as a fan judging professional athletes from afar. Every time I stepped into the batter’s box and the pitch was delivered, it always seemed like I was just swinging aimlessly into the air hoping to make contact with something and I had no idea how to improve.

Now although youth sports are probably treated far too much in today’s world, whether or not I ultimately improve it didn’t really matter. It might have seemed like everything to me at the time, but I knew that I wasn’t probably going to be making millions off my baseball skills. I eventually came to grips with that as an ambitious young kid.

Yet when we consider more serious matters in our lives, not just little league baseball, but spiritual matters, I argue we often face a similar dilemma in our lives. After all, how often have you poured time and energy into spiritual things, you’ve gone to church every Sunday, you’ve done your best to pay attention to the sermon, maybe you’ve even been a super Christian and you’ve gone to Sunday school and the prayer services. You’ve tried to read your Bible during the week, you’ve invested in the spiritual well-being of your kids. Yet maybe it seems like nothing has really changed.

So what do we need to hear when we pour all the time and energy we have into our discipleship or into the discipleship of our children or into the discipleship of our friends and it all seems to be in vain?

Well in our passage our author reminds us that despite how things might seem, especially when we’re facing the discouragement of supposed spiritual futility, the reality is not what it may appear to be. Why is that? Well it’s because Jesus Christ when he ascended on high and he took his throne, his priestly ministry continued in the heavenly places.

Understand friends that Jesus continues right now to minister for the sake of his people. As our great high priest he continues to rule and defend the church as our king. Because Christ governs all things, including you and me, with a special kind of grace. Because he’s working for us even right now through his Spirit, friends, real spiritual progress is possible. Our discipleship is not in fact in vain.

So our big idea this morning is this Christ continues to minister as a high priest with power.

The hope is that as we work through this passage we’ll draw out the implications of what that means for you and me even today. So just to give you a brief outline with two main points we’re going to be looking.

1. At first we’ll see a powerful high priest in heaven and how Christ reigns even right now in the heavenly places with power. That’ll be verses one through five.
2. Second we’ll look at powerful promises that Christ also gives us from heaven. He reigns as a powerful priest in heaven and then he gives his church powerful promises to take hold of too.

A Powerful Priest in Heaven

So that’s where we’re going but let’s start out first with our first five verses of our passage, a powerful priest in heaven. Now understand that throughout chapters five through seven, as we zoom out just for a moment and consider all of what we’ve talked about in recent weeks. In chapters five through seven of Hebrews we’ve heard quite a bit so far about how Christ is our great high priest. He’s the one who represents the church perfectly before God so that we could be forgiven of our sins and enjoy a blissful eternity with God forever and ever.

Remember a priest, as we talked about in previous weeks, is somebody who’s supposed to represent a people before God and Jesus. Our author has been arguing from start to finish, Jesus does that better than any of the other priests in Israel’s history, better than any of the Levitical priests who came before.

Now, and especially after going through all the weeds of that Jesus and Melchizedek stuff if you remember that from chapter seven, our author zooms out for a moment and he gives us a big idea of his own. Something that summarizes the essence of his entire argument about Christ’s priesthood already. So we read this in verses one through two

8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.
Hebrews 8:1-2, ESV

John Owen paraphrases this as, “‘This is that which my arguments amount unto, the sum of what I have pleaded.” It’s this, we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in heaven. A minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.

So the first thing our author tells us here is that Jesus Christ, in becoming for us our perfect high priest, is again continuing his priestly ministry on our behalf in heaven. Now typically I think when we think of Jesus as person and work, we think about a lot of the events of the incarnation. We think about how Jesus took upon himself human flesh in the fullness of time. We think about his life and ministry on earth and all the miracles that Jesus performed. We then think climatically about Christ’s atoning death, when he shed his blood on the cross for you and for me. Then we think about his resurrection and ascension. To be sure those are critical events in Jesus ministry, those are events that secure our eternal salvation.

Although our salvation has been accomplished in full; there’s no more blood to be spilled that hasn’t been spilled already for our salvation, no more work to be done that’s been left undone. The Bible teaches us, including here, that Jesus Christ is now in heaven continuing his ministry on our behalf.

If you remember, the author of Hebrews told us back in Hebrews 7:25 that Jesus always lives to make intercession for us. Meaning that when Christ was enthroned in heaven, when he sat down at the Father’s right hand in victory, he didn’t wash his hands of us or leave us in any sense to fend for ourselves. Rather he continues to pray for us. Because his prayers are perfectly aligned with the will of God, his prayers are guaranteed to sustain his people, guaranteed to sustain you and me.

Moreover when Christ took his seat in the heavenly places, he also sat down as our king who from heaven rules and defends his church. Then when Jesus ascended on high, who did he send? He sent his Spirit to minister powerfully among us. So understand then that Christ’s present priestly reign, as head in heaven, is a reign of power from heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ sustains us even today.

As we continue in our texts we also learn that Jesus’s present priestly powerful reign in heaven is the pinnacle of power, the pinnacle that all of the previous priesthood, the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament looked forward to in anticipation. Again, as our author often does throughout Hebrews, it’s not enough to say that Jesus Christ, his person and work, is great or that it’s the best or that it’s prominent. Rather at every turn he feels compelled to compare Christ’s person and work to something else. I’d argue that this is a strategy that actually gives his argument some teeth.

Let me give you an example of this, let me say for example. Let’s say that I said to you the state of Nebraska is the best state, Nebraska is the best state. Now maybe you would agree with me on that and maybe you would disagree with me on that, but even if you disagreed with me on that you probably wouldn’t take it too personally. Maybe you roll your eyes and say, “Andrew doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Yet if I said, “Nebraska is far superior to Iowa.” Well I’ve said something, technically I’ve actually made a lesser claim, but now I’ve made the argument more personal to all of our members from Iowa. Now I’ve got your attention and now you’re ready to argue with me, maybe a little bit.

Well this is what our author in essence is doing right here in Hebrews, what he often does in Hebrews. Of course Christ is the best mediator you can imagine, the best priest you could imagine, the best king you could imagine. He also far surpasses that of the Levitical priesthood, the priesthood that his readers were fond of and in danger of turning back to in favor of something other than Jesus Christ.

This raises the question, how exactly is Christ’s high priestly ministry better than that of the Old Testament Levitical priests? Well, the author gives us two reasons for that. The first he says is that Jesus Christ offers a better gift than the priesthood of the Levites. In verse four we read, if you’re looking at your Bible, that the earthly Levitical priests of the Old Testament were responsible for offering gifts and sacrifices according to the law.

So what would some of those gifts be? Well they had to offer bloody sacrifices for sin. Not because God had some kind of crude appetite that could only be satisfied by bloody animals, like maybe some polytheistic religions we can think of, because drawing near to God as unholy sinners required that our sin be covered by the life of something else. So the Levitical priest drew near to God in the place of worship, in the Old Testament the tabernacle of tabernacles and later in the temple. As they did so they had to offer gifts, a lot of gifts, a lot of bloody sacrifices according to what the Law of Moses prescribed. We’ll worry a lot about that in the next chapter that rolls around in Hebrews, Hebrews chapter 9.

What about Jesus then? Well our author then continues and he tells us that if Jesus’s priestly ministry was like the Levitical priests, he wouldn’t be a priest at all because Jesus never once in the Bible enters into the most holy place or the Holy Place of the temple. According to the law, Jesus never offered bloody sacrifices at the temple on the altar like a priest was supposed to do.

So, does that invalidate Jesus’s priesthood because he never acted like a Levitical priest? Well not at all because he still had something to offer. In fact he had something better to offer, he offered himself. He spilled his very own blood and in so doing he offered the only sacrifice that could really do away with sins. He offered the one sacrifice that the millions of dead cut up animals throughout the Old Testament ultimately pointed forward to. So, we learn in this that Christ is superior. He’s better than the Levitical priest because he offers a more perfect gift than any of them could ever hope to offer.

Second we also learned that Christ’s priesthood is much more excellent than that of the Levitical priests, because of where he ministers. Look with me again at your Bibles, specifically at verse 5 where we continue and we read,

They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
Hebrews 8:5, ESV

“They” here it’s referring to the Levitical priests. Now our author here is quoting something, he’s quoting something out of the book of Exodus, specifically Exodus 25:40 where Moses was given on Mount Sinai by God, the instructions for how to build the tabernacle. The tabernacle was this mobile tent in the wilderness where God dwelled among his people, among the camp of the Israelites.

What we find in Exodus and here in Hebrews is that this tabernacle, when God gave the plans for this tabernacle, was actually a blueprint of something else. It was a reflection of something better, it was a reflection of something that already existed in heaven. Understand that when Moses followed the instructions that he was given on the mountain on Mount Sinai and he created, with the help of others, this beautiful tabernacle. Of course this was this beautiful and intricate place of worship, but it wasn’t the real deal. It was still only a copy or a shadow of something else and of someone else.

This helps us understand the second comparison our author draws in this passage. You see, whereas a Levitical priest, together with all of the sacrifices they offered and the tabernacle in which they worked, all of that was a copy and a shadow of something real. Jesus Christ, our author tells us. is the real deal who ministers not in a shadow or a copy but in heaven, the real place, now.

Pulling all of this together it may seem it may have seemed to our author’s readers that real power in worship, remember our author’s readers are by and large tempted to revert to this whole Old Testament sacrificial system, so it may have seemed to them at the time that real power in worship came when you sacrificed all of these animals in the temple.

When you slay an animal, according to the law, and you enter this beautiful building and you’re checking all the boxes, you can understand how all of those external forms of worship could have given someone the illusion of real power. As if you were really doing something that really could give power. Yet according to our author real power comes not through all of these externalities or shadows that Jesus Christ himself fulfilled. In fact it comes through Jesus Christ who fulfilled all of these externalities of temple and bloody sacrifices.

Brothers and sisters, this carries a very real and a very practical implication for how we think about our own worship today. Let me explain, last summer some of you may have watched the SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule make its inaugural flight to the International Space Station. SpaceX in doing so became the first private company to transport astronauts from earth to the ISS. In the lead up to that flight, SpaceX spent years I believe developing all of the equipment that they would eventually use to launch these astronauts into space.

Now one thing that struck me when I was watching and nerding out, as I often do on these space kinds of things, watching this Crew Dragon Capsule, when they showed a shot of the interior I was struck by how simple it all looked. The whole interior looked very sleek but very simple at the same time. There were basically just three flat screen monitors that the astronauts sat behind and they used those flat screen monitors to control all the systems on this capsule.

Now compare that with the control module of the Apollo Missions in the 1960s and 70s, which had 566 switches, 40 indicators, and 71 lights. No, I didn’t have that memorized, I looked it up. The space shuttle had over a thousand switches that dotted the flight deck. Understand that to the casual observer it may have seemed as if this SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule in comparison was something that was far less complex with far fewer capabilities and an overall inferior vehicle. I don’t think anyone would argue that in reality, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule is technologically leaps and bounds over all the various space systems that’s come before and what it’s designed to do, even though it looks so simple by comparison.

Well friends, in the same way it may have seemed to the readers of the author of Hebrews in the first century A.D. that by doing away with all of the complexity of Old Testament worship, by doing away with all the bloody sacrifices and everything that went with it, that they would thereby be settling for a lesser kind of worship with less power to change and sanctify. Yet this assumption is one that our author directly confronts. Namely that because Christ offered the perfect gift for sin, because Christ ascended into the real deal, the heavenly tabernacle, and because Christ intercedes for us from heaven, our simple worship today in the new covenant in the name of Jesus Christ has far more power than the visibly complex system under the old covenant.

Brothers and sisters if you’ve been with us at Harvest for any length of time you know our worship is pretty simple. There’s a lot of Bible in our music, in our liturgy, and our preaching. The most dramatic thing we do is give you gluten-free bread and wine or grape juice. The church isn’t just isn’t like every other institution that has the express mission of entertaining you. You’re just not going to be entertained here because this isn’t a performance and I’m just not that cool.

However, don’t think for a moment that what we do when the saints gather together in worship lacks power, because the Bible teaches us that power in worship has nothing to do with complexity. It has nothing to do with aesthetics. It doesn’t come through wowing you with external or material trappings. The Bible teaches us that real power in our worship, power that has the ability to shape your minds and hearts, power the Spirit uses to convert men and women and boys and girls, comes through very simple things like prayer and sacrament and Bible.

Those are the places where the resurrected, ascended, and reigning Christ promises to meet his church in worship. Those are the places he promises to bless. Those are instruments that carry the endorsement of the resurrected and ascended Christ. So if you are a pilgrim looking for God to change you from the inside out, embrace the worship that he’s given for his church. Lean into the word, lean into sacraments, lean into prayer.

Expect that even though we go through periods where it seems like growth is fleeting or worship is more of a drudgery for us. Expect that by long-suffering faithful attendance to those things, with all of your mind and heart engaged, that the Spirit of the resurrected and ascended priest king Jesus Christ really does his work on worshipers in worship like we have here.

So we have a powerful priest in heaven, a powerful priest who powerfully shapes our minds and hearts on earth as we meet with him in the worship that he’s prescribed.

Powerful Promises

Just as we have a superior and powerful high priest in heaven, well so too we have powerful promises from heaven too. This leads us to our second point, powerful promises from heaven. So our author has made this point that Christ’s ministry is powerful, it’s more powerful, it’s it’s the most powerful. It’s also more powerful than the Levitical priesthood and all the complexities that were involved in it. Christ has fulfilled all of those old covenant trappings.

Also, just as Christ far surpasses what precedes him in power and effect, so too the covenant he initiates does the same. He possesses a better ministry and he also inaugurates in his life, death, and resurrection a better covenant too.

Now you’ll notice in our passage that beginning in verse 6 our author begins to talk about this thing called covenant. Then he compares and contrasts the so-called old covenant with what Jesus inaugurated, what we know as the new covenant. So let’s start with a fundamental question, what in the world is a covenant?

Well a covenant is a way of securing a relationship, of binding two parties together. The covenant that we typically think of in our own context is probably the covenant of marriage. When two people enter into marriage they’re committing to each other. Today’s my anniversary, so this is a good time to reflect on this. In marriage there are promises that the bride and groom make with each other. They exchange covenant signs, rings, to symbolize the covenant relationship that for richer or poorer that marriage covenant is supposed to be secure. Unless someone devastatingly breaks that covenant, it’s supposed to be secured until death.

When we talk about the covenant that God makes with his people, we’re also talking about a commitment that’s made. God commits to us, he commits to his church, he makes promises to us. Even when we’re unfaithful, we come to find out in the Bible that God is still faithful towards us. In the Bible we discover all along, all throughout this long drama that is the Old Testament and New Testament, that the Lord constantly is relating to his people by covenant.

So this is the background of the covenant that’s kind of essential for us to get before we move into the second half of the passage. Understand too that our author’s goal here isn’t simply to teach us the basics of covenant. His goal isn’t to teach us necessarily covenant 101, although that’s important. Rather his goal is to compare and contrast two covenants we encounter in the Bible, with the goal of showing us that this new covenant that Jesus inaugurates is far better than that old covenant that came before in the book of Exodus.

So when we ask this question what is the old covenant that our author is referring to, well in the old covenant he’s referring specifically to the relationship that God secured with his people back in the book of Exodus. When God took his people Israel by the hand and entered into a covenant with them.

The Lord led his people, most of us probably know the story in the beginning of Exodus, he led his people out of slavery and captivity in Egypt. He brought them over across the Red Sea or through the Red Sea rather. Then when they arrived at Mount Sinai God instituted a covenant with them. He promised his people Israel, in the book of Exodus, that he would be God to them. He promised blessings in the Land of promised, but he also placed obligations upon them too. The obligations to obey the law that he issued at Sinai, including all the ceremonial laws and cleanliness and sacrificial laws too.

The problem was that over the years Israel was repeatedly faithless towards this covenant. Like a wayward spouse, Israel continued to violate the terms of the covenant. God was faithful but they were continually faithless. This is what our author in Hebrews begins to reflect upon in verse 7 when he tells us that this first covenant wasn’t faultless.

Now this doesn’t mean that this covenant that God graciously initiated with Israel and with Moses in the Old Testament was somehow bad or evil or sinful. It does mean that this old covenant, as great as it was, didn’t have the power to do what the people of God ultimately needed. God’s people, because they were sinful, couldn’t do anything about it. They needed forgiveness of sins, not just a continual reminder of sins, which is what the author of Hebrews will tell us later is what the old covenant essentially did.

Throughout the old covenant God was also kept at a distance from them, when they would have preferred to draw near. Only the high priest in the old covenant was the one who was permitted, once a year, to draw near to God in the most holy place. Even he could only do it in a haze of smoke. Instead of this old covenant then the people of God needed a better covenant, a new covenant, one that had real power to do what they needed. One in which their sin would not be remembered. One that offered a thorough cleansing of their hearts. One in which their covenant mediator, unlike Moses, could represent them perfectly before God because of God’s relentless pursuit of his people.

Well this is exactly what God provided for his people. So if you’re looking at your passage you’ll notice that beginning in verse 8 our author begins to cite a passage out of the Old Testament. We’ve remarked on this before in Hebrews, that the author is often fond of quoting something from the Old Testament to show us how Jesus fulfills that or is the ultimate realization of something in the Old Testament. That’s exactly what he does here, he’s citing in these last few verses in Hebrews 8 from Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 was a promise that God gave his people in the Old Testament that one day he would right all wrongs by establishing a new covenant. Our author brings in this promise at this point to show that in Christ this new covenant, along with all of the promises that attend to it, has finally been inaugurated.

So what are some of these powerful promises that are part of the new covenant which belong to you and me today? Well look at verses 10 through 12. We come across three powerful promises here. The first powerful promise is that of an internalization of the law. In verse 10 we read this,

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.
Hebrews 8:10, ESV

Now in the Old Testament the law was by and large engraved on tablets of stone. It was an external thing. Yet our author tells us that one day in this so-called new covenant, the law wouldn’t just be engraved externally on tablets of stone, instead it would be engraved by the Spirit on the human heart.

Now let me qualify this briefly, so that we don’t misunderstand what our author is saying here, this relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament which is essentially what this passage isn’t getting at. It is sometimes a complex thing that we have trouble understanding, so let me make two qualifying statements real quickly to help us out.

On the one hand this promise doesn’t mean to imply that in the old covenant the law of God was only ever external and that the Spirit was never at work in the Old Testament, that’s not the case. We know from the Old Testament that there was in fact true heart change among the people of God. Not everybody believed in the Lord among God’s people, but there was still true heart change. This is why King David, in Psalm 40:8 can say,

I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
Psalm 40:8, ESV

On the other hand, this promise also doesn’t mean to imply that because in the new covenant the law is written on our hearts that we’re good, that we can’t in any way break the law. Now after all, though we are indeed a new creation in Jesus Christ, I’m sure all of us know intuitively if not theologically, how often do we sin and fall short of the glory of God. We know that remnants of sin, remnants of the old man still remain. We still think wrongly about God from time to time. We still sin against God and sin against each other. Until God brings us into glory there will always be this weird already not yet tension to these promises. They’re really ours, they’re really true, and yet we won’t experience them in full until Christ comes again and the remnants of sin are no more.

With those important qualifications in mind, this is still a promise to take hold of now. If you know Jesus Christ, we really do have the power of the Holy Spirit and a greater measure of the Holy Spirit than any of the Old Testament saints enjoyed. If you know Jesus Christ, the Spirit really is at work among you.

Have you ever had those nagging moments in your life where you know you did something wrong, you know you sinned against somebody, and you know that you’re you’re the one that’s to blame? Well that’s the Holy Spirit convicting you of your sin. Or have you ever looked back in your life and you see how angry you once were or how lustful your heart was, but now you can see real improvement in your life? Of course not perfection but real improvement. Well friends, that too is the Holy Spirit making the external law more and more a principle of our heart. So don’t think that real change is impossible in our lives, when the power of God through his Spirit is at work in the chambers of your heart. So that’s the first promise.

The second promise is this, we read a powerful promise of immediate access. Look with me in verse 11 where we read,

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.
Hebrews 8:11, ESV

Now what this promise doesn’t mean is that there would no longer be a need for teachers in the new covenant, otherwise I’d be out of a job. There may not be a need for teachers when this promise is consummated, I’ll be out of a job in the new heavens and the new earth I would imagine. However, such is not the case today. It’s also true, sadly, that not everyone in the church who’s part of this new covenant knows the Lord in a saving way. Again that will be the case when this is consummated in the new heavens and the new earth, but it’s not the case today.

So what then is the essence of this promise? Well keep in mind that in the old covenant it was expressly the job of a Levitical priest to teach the people of God and to mediate their access before God. The Levitical priests were the ones who knew God the best and were known by God in a special kind of way. Yet now that Jesus Christ became for us our great high priest, now that Christ has entered into the heavenly tabernacle and opened up access for all of God’s people in a way that just wasn’t true under the old covenant, there will no longer be any distinctions among God’s people.

Understand that in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament these words that we read, the least of them and the greatest, don’t typically refer to every single person without exception, but they do refer to every person without distinction. In other words when our author tells us through Jeremiah that they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest, he’s telling us that children can have direct access to God. Jesus says in the gospels, “Let the children come to me”, children can have direct access to God. Pastors can have direct access to God, college students can have direct access to God, men can have direct access to God, women can have direct access to God, the rich can have direct access to God, and the poor can have direct access to God in the name of Jesus Christ.

So kids do you know Jesus Christ? Do you love Jesus Christ? Kids understand that you can bring all of your fears, all of your desires, and all of your hurts before God, right now in the name of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to go through a spiritual guru, you don’t have to go through one of your parents, if you love Jesus Christ you can come to him right now in prayer.

So this is the second promise, that we have for us immediate direct access for all kinds of people who trust in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter your background, if you love Jesus Christ you have a listening ear in heaven right now.

Then the third powerful promise we come across is that our sins are remembered no more. Now let me ask you this, how often do we experience a breakdown in our relationships when one party remembers our sin against us? You just can’t move forward with reconciliation when one party is constantly hanging your sin over your head.

As an aside, I’m always amazed when I watch how my kids play and how short of a memory they seem to have with each other. One of my kids will do something to the other, they’ll steal a toy or something. Then the other will come crying to me about the grave injustice that was just inflicted upon them. Somehow two minutes later they’re happily playing together once again. Yet how often are our memories so enduring when it comes to reminding people how they’ve sinned against us and how they’ve hurt us? The fact of the matter is that we have far too often. We have trouble letting go of the sins of others.

The starting point for being the kind of people who learn how to richly forgive one another is by recalling that in Christ the God of the universe remembers our most heinous sins against him no more. He remembers our rebellion against him no more. He doesn’t count our sin against us, he’s not bitter towards us because of our sin. He doesn’t assume a passive aggressive, “Nebraska nice”, stance against us, even though our sin truly does grieve him. Instead he continues to welcome us into his presence in the name of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, understand that there is real power then in these new covenant promises that are yours and that are mine in Jesus Christ.

Application

So as we prepare to close let me leave us with just one very short takeaway and that is, fight discouragement with the power and the promises of the gospel.

Now I’m sure that most of us, if not all of us, have at one time or another asked ourselves whether anything is really changing in our lives. Spiritually speaking, maybe we face the same sin that continues to come up in our hearts or people in the church continue to let us down. We wonder in those situations, is the gospel really the power of God? If so, why does it seem like nothing is really changing?

Yet from start to finish our passage also reminds us that there’s real power here, there is real power in the new covenant. Of course in this fallen world it’s far from perfect. Remember we live in this tension of the already not yet, but there is nevertheless real power and real assurance to take hold of. Not because of anything we’ve done, but because of the powerful reign of our priest king Jesus Christ.

So, it begins with a reminder that God is committed to wayward people like you and me. He’s committed to us, he’s faithful towards us even when we are faithless. Know that he intercedes for us in the heavenly places. He opens up access for us so that we can come to God through the name of Jesus Christ, with all of our discouragement, knowing that God listens to us. Then we have assurance that even as we continue our sojourn on earth, we have the power of the Holy Spirit who writes God’s law upon our hearts so that real change, although it so often seems fleeting, is really possible.

Brothers and sisters, take heart, the gospel is real. The gospel is the power of God and we have a real priesthood in the heavenly places who represents us perfectly and who will one day welcome us home.

Pray with me. Gracious Heavenly Father, we need these reminders, especially in our discouragement, that you are a God who listens to us and you are a God who has the power to change hearts and minds. You are a God who is bringing these new covenant promises to their consummated fulfillment one day. You are a God who, in the meantime, gives us these promises to lay hold of in the not yet. Lord, we thank you for your character, for your goodness and for your faithfulness towards wayward people like you and me. We pray that we would remember these things in our discouragement and that you would use promises like this to be our tools to fight discouragement. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.

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