God at Work
“For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” (Hebrews 8:7 NIV)
The problem with the Old Covenant was not with God but rather with humanity, which was so ruined by sin that people were unable to keep God’s holy commands no matter how hard they tried. Thus, “it will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers.” There was the need for a whole new arrangement on a totally different basis.
This is far more than a set of schematic drawings on a theological chalkboard. To fully understand the New Covenant, we must understand the Holy Spirit and what he does. The Old Covenant, which was characterized by the Law given to Moses, was a set of external commands. The New Covenant is about Christ’s atoning death and resurrection from the grave, followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit to work inside us in grace and power.
No one disagreed with the content of the old commands; they had been written with the finger of God himself. But no matter how many times people came up to the altar and promised to try to obey, they repeatedly fell short. Thank God that he sent the Holy Spirit at last to bring about real change within us who have received Christ as Savior and Lord.
When God puts his laws in our minds by the Spirit (Hebrews 8:10), he reshapes our very thinking. When he writes them on our hearts, he affects our very springs of desire and longing. This is the only way Christian living goes forward.
Otherwise, we are doomed to keep coming back to God saying, “I messed up again. Run those laws by me once more, if you will, and I’ll promise to get it right this time…” How many Christians today are striving to show their gratitude to Jesus, the one who brought the New Covenant to earth, by living in an Old Covenant way? It is absolutely futile. It is the opposite of Ezekiel 11:19-20, where the Lord promises, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”
The power to be different comes from heaven, not from our own strength. The Holy Spirit was given, as his name implies, so that we can live a holy life for God. Any other source or system, no matter how religious-sounding, is a fraud and leads to defeat due to the fleshly impulses of our sinful nature. The Holy Spirit’s power is not an option for those who desperately want to be like Christ; he is the only answer. We must get delivered from the idea so prevalent around us that Christianity begins with a supernatural new birth, sin is erased, the conscience is cleansed—but then it’s up to us to try real hard to be good and obey God’s commands. No, it is God’s work from beginning to end. Just as forgiveness can only come through Christ’s work on Calvary, daily living for the Lord can only be done through the Spirit.
-Pastor Cymbala (excerpted from Fresh Power)
Read Hebrews 8:7-13.