Text: Heb 3:7-15; 8:6-13; 9:6-10, 13-14; 10:15-25; 11:1-2, 13, 39-40; 12:1-2
Summary: The author of Hebrews explains the difference between the old and the new covenant. As new covenant believers, repentance and faith in Christ are an inseparable pair.
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Father, as people of the new covenant, we ask for new hearts and new spirits. We pray, not just for any heart, we pray for a soft heart, not a hard heart. We ask for a heart that can repent, a heart that can readily put our faith and our trust in the Lord Jesus no matter what we see. Father, we just ask that you continue to soften our hearts. We ask for a new heart and a new spirit. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
We’re going to cover some verses in Hebrews. The verses that I just read highlight the importance of today. I’m not sure how difficult yesterday was for you, or this past month, or this past year, or even your entire life. I’m not sure how difficult it was for you, but the first encouragement from the Book of Hebrews is that today is the most important day of your life. Today is the most important day. Everything that has happened before today, you can almost throw it away. Today is the most important day.
And if you hear His voice today, do not harden your heart. That means we have a role to play in the state of our heart. Because as people of the new covenant, we have already been given a new heart and a new spirit. And depending on what we do, we can either keep our heart soft before the Lord, or we can allow it to become hardened.
And if I were just to summarize the book of Hebrews in two words, it would be repentance and faith. The pair goes together. There are many things that go together in pairs in the Christian life. You have the sovereignty of God and you have human free will. Which one is it? Christian life doesn’t make sense unless you treat them as a pair. You cannot understand the mystery of salvation and the ways of God, unless you bring the sovereignty of God, His election, His choice together with human free will and our choice.
The same with Jesus. He is full of grace. Yes, he will forgive your sins. He will accept you as you are. But He’s also full of truth. He doesn’t turn away from your sin. And so the pair goes together — grace and truth.
And here in the book of Hebrews, I think another pair that emerges is repentance and faith. This is the bread and butter of Christian life — repentance and faith. And so today if you hear His voice, exercise your free will and repent of whatever comes to mind. Repent of whatever the Lord brings to your attention and put your faith in the Lord Jesus. And that is how we prevent our hearts from getting hardened.
All throughout the Old Testament, in places like Jeremiah, 31 and Ezekiel 36, God promises a new heart and a new spirit. And Ezekiel 36 adds another description. It says, someday, our hearts will be turned from stone to flesh and we’ll be given soft hearts.
And if you repent daily, if you put your faith in Christ daily, that is one way that we can keep our hearts soft before the Lord.
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.
We’ve been learning about the old covenant versus the new covenant, and I’m still asking for more revelation because it is so profound. The transition from the last book of the Old Testament book Malachi to the first book of the New Testament, Matthew, with the coming of Jesus. And Hebrews is a book that explains the transition from old to new.
There’s just so much in here for us to digest and the first thing is the fact that Jesus is the initiator or is the one who ushers in this new covenant, and it is built on better, more excellent promises. Yes, the old covenant had a promise of cleansing, but how deep was that cleansing? With the shedding of animal’s blood and ceremonial washings, how deep did that cleansing go? It was just surface level, just exterior, just the body.
What about the Holy Spirit? How much was the Holy Spirit given? He was poured out, but it’s like there was a glass lid on top of our cup and the Spirit was poured out and just overflowed over. There was no Spirit that came within. But in the new covenant, how far does the cleansing go? And how much is the Holy Spirit made available to us as people of the new covenant? If you go to Hebrews 9, the author begins to explain how different it is in the new covenant.
6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
And so if you think about the old covenant and the new covenant, they are two distinct periods. In the old covenant, there is the tabernacle and the system of shedding animal’s blood and the priest goes into the holy place regularly, while the high priest goes into the most holy place only once a year. This whole system, Jesus says, was part of an age.
But ever since Christ, a new age has come. And what does He call this new age? He calls it the age of reformation. And you might think reformation is Martin Luther in 1517 nailing his 95 Theses on the Catholic Church in Wittenberg. And we think that is the beginning of the reformation. It’s just not true. The age of reformation began with the coming of Jesus Christ, when He shed His blood, and ascended into heaven.
And the Holy Spirit says, when the old covenant and the old system was in place, access to the holy places was closed off. Holy places refers to our soul and spirit. Access was not given. That means purification was just external. The washing cleansed only the body. Cleansing in the Holy Place, which corresponds with our soul, and the Most Holy Place, which corresponds with our spirit, was not available since access was closed. The Spirit was available. The Spirit was poured out in power on occasion. The Spirit was upon people. But the Spirit was not yet readily available for the believer for internal cleansing. In the old covenant, the cleansing was external because the Spirit had not yet been sent to dwell internally in the hearts of believers.
And one way the author of Hebrews describes a limitation of the old covenant versus the new is that the old covenant, it says, cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper. And what happens when your conscience has not been perfected and you are dealing with a holy God? You do not feel free to enter His presence. Access has not been given to be in the presence of God.
And that’s why even the prophets in the Old Testament like Isaiah, when they got into the presence of God, they fell on their face. They felt so unworthy. They were undone before the presence of the holy God. Is that the experience of a new covenant, New Testament believer, that we are trembling with fear before a holy God and we’re not sure what He thinks of me and you? Romans 8, describes it rather differently.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
So as people of the new covenant, are we in fear? Are we wondering if God will accept me? Are we under a cloud of condemnation because our conscience tells us that we can’t approach a holy God? No, because our conscience has been perfected. The veil has been torn and the Holy Spirit is now sanctifying us, not just externally. He’s coming inside. He’s cleaning up our soul, our mind, will and emotions. He’s cleaning up the spirit in us, and the spirit in us is agreeing with the Holy Spirit. The new and living way has been opened for us. And because of that, we no longer refer to God as Holy Father, or Holy God. We refer to Him as Daddy. And we approach Him with confidence because He’s my Dad.
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
In the old covenant, the conscience was not purified because it was the blood of an animal that was sacrificed. It is actually incredible that God considered the blood of an animal sufficient to save us. You could almost say it’s fiction. It’s like, how is that even possible? That I kill an animal and I can be be perfected in my flesh and receive salvation? It is almost nonsense, almost nonsensical, but that is because this old covenant was a placeholder for a period of time. And everything there was a pointer to the perfect sacrifice and the perfect blood that was shed by Jesus Christ.
And that perfect blood of Christ doesn’t just wash the outside, the Holy Spirit says now the veil has been torn and the blood of Christ cleanses the inside, too. And we changed from carnal Christians to Christians who can live holy in terms of our body. And then the Holy Spirit has opened the veil of the holy place, our soul. And the blood of Christ now can perfect our soul.
Our mind can be sanctified to a level that the old covenant forefathers of the faith could not even imagine. Now we can be sanctified to to a level that they could only hope for and even our spirit. A new spirit is given that was not available to those in the old. And this new spirit cries out Abba. If you have a purified conscience, it is what allows us as sons and daughters to approach a holy God and say, Daddy. And so if your conscience is telling you, I don’t feel worthy to come into the presence of this holy Father, ask for the blood of Jesus to purify your conscience, your soul, your spirit, your mind, will and emotions so that you can approach with confidence. And that is the next chapter Hebrews 10:15.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The old covenant was written on stone tablets. It was external. The 10 Commandments and then the other 613 commandments that were added. The laws were external and there was no indwelling Holy Spirit. Thus, the people were not sanctified. And due to their unsanctified consciences, they always felt like they were falling short of living up to these commandments. And so there was some level of condemnation. Their conscience was warning them — I cannot freely enter the presence of this Holy God, and if I did, I would be utterly destroyed.
That was the old covenant. But now, in the new covenant, the laws of God are internal. He put His laws on our hearts and wrote them on our minds. To this day, He puts His laws on soft hearts because He gives you a new heart and a new spirit. And He easily can write them on our hearts and minds because they are so tender. In this age, the Holy Spirit has been made available to dwell within believers and we have been given a new heart and a new spirit as well as a purified, sanctified, perfected conscience.
Those who live under the new covenant, what does this mean for us? It gives us confidence to enter the holy places, and we’re not talking about the tabernacle anymore. We’re not even talking about our own holy places — the soul and the spirit. We’re talking about Jesus entering the true holy places, which is a reference to heaven itself. Hebrew is telling us that the fact that Jesus entered heaven give us the privilege to live in the presence of God 24x7x365 without fear.
We’re not a slave. We’re not a servant who does his work and then goes home. We’re sons and daughters living in the presence of God. This is what the new covenant does. We have a new heart and a new spirit. And our spirit agrees with the Holy Spirit that is now inside of us, that we are children of God. This gives us confidence. I am not an illegitimate son. I have been adopted. And now I can address my Father, not as Holy Father — that is not His title. He is Alba Father, Daddy.
The author of Hebrews is explaining the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. Two covenants. One covenant ended. And with Christ going up to heaven, a new covenant, a new age of reformation began.
I used to read Hebrews 11 in a wrong way. I did not understand the argument that the author was making in the past.
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.
We have to understand that when the author is talking about faith, he’s talking about the faith of old. He’s talking about the faith of the people in the old covenant. Because if you look at this list of names, you notice there’s no mention of anybody in the new covenant. It’s all old covenant. And that’s why, he says, the people of old.
These old covenant believers received a commendation for their faith defined as an assurance of things hoped for. What are they hoping for? They’re hoping for the Messiah. Are we hoping for the Messiah the same way that the people in the old covenant were hoping for their Messiah? No, it’s quite different. We know who the Messiah is. And so our faith is built on top of everything we read in Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11 is not the ceiling of faith. This is the floor. Do you see how the old covenant is the floor of the new covenant because the new is built on top of the old?
Hebrews 11 is explaining how the faith of old was the floor and now we are building up from there. They never had the Messiah. They couldn’t even see the Messiah. They didn’t even know who He was. They never heard His voice except through some visions here and there given to prophets of old.
But we as people of the new covenant, we know who the Messiah is. We’ve heard His voice. Some of us have seen Him in dreams and visions. We know Him. And so we are already far past every person that we read about in Hebrews 11.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
The people of old saw the Messiah from a distance. They knew He was coming, but He did not come for them. But we have received the promise. We know who the Messiah is, and we know this Messiah is coming again. It’s a totally different understanding of faith. It’s so much deeper. It is a level two faith compared to the level one faith that is described in Hebrews 11.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
God has provided something better. And we are people who have received that which is better. Jesus Christ has come and the new covenant He brought is built on better promises. It is no longer just cleansing on the outside. A perfection is possible on the inside. No longer external laws, but now the laws written on a soft heart and mind. We’re given a new heart and new spirit.
Also, we are no longer trembling before a Holy God, as if we’re slaves or servants, never sure if we are accepted in God’s presence. Now a new and living way has been opened because Jesus opened the doors to heaven. And now we’re in the presence of God through the sacrifice of Jesus and the purification by His blood.
This new covenant is so remarkable, and I still feel like God is dragging me out of the old covenant mindset. He’s telling me, stay in the new covenant. There are still parts of my thinking that gravitate toward the old covenant. God is pulling me out. He’s saying, here is the new covenant. You don’t even realize what Jesus came to do, how much better it is because it is built on better promises. If even the blood of an animal could allow for faith in the old, how much more the perfect blood of Jesus can allow for even a greater faith for a New Testament believer. And then one of the concluding verses of the book of Hebrews in Hebrews 12.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
I found it so interesting that Jesus says, He founded the faith. Who is the father of the faith? We think it’s Abraham. No, Jesus says, I am the founder. He’s showing a new level of faith. We’re not people of Abraham, or people of the old covenant — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We’re not stuck in the old covenant and trying to do a version better now. It’s not like slight tweaking of the old covenant as laid out by our forefathers is sufficient.
Jesus is saying, I leveled up from everything that you saw in the old covenant. I’ve leveled up and here now, I’m showing you a new faith. And now Jesus says, follow me. This is different, yet it is the same. So different from everything that went before. Jesus is a founder of this new faith and His blood was shed and it perfects our conscience. And the Spirit is now made available to sanctify everything — our body, soul, spirit, mind, will, emotions.
And now we can actually progress toward perfection. And we have such confidence because of what Jesus did. As we practice the bread and butter of Christian life — repentance and faith — we have confidence, full faith to enter heaven, the very presence of God, knowing that our Father will accept us.
Jesus, He is the perfecter of our faith. He finished the faith and He lived His life from beginning to end in faith for 33.5 years. And we’re supposed to learn how to do life like Jesus. The way He humbled Himself for 30 years, the way He came not to do His will, but the Father’s will. The way He was tempted in every way like we are tempted, but He overcame them — He’s showing us what is possible in the Christian life.
Now that the new covenant has come and the Holy Spirit is now, not external, not upon us, but within. The laws are within. The conscience has been perfected. Thus, we can approach the throne of God with confidence.
Jesus is the founder of this faith. He is the perfecter of this faith. Look at how He lived for 33.5 years. Now follow Me. Now walk in the way that He walked. That is the invitation of the new covenant. The same way that Jesus, as a beloved Son of God, is so confident to approach heaven, what He’s saying to new covenant believers is that you and I can have the same confidence.
We can have the same confidence to live in the presence of God 24x7x365. You don’t have to go through all these rituals. Access is not just for a high priest once a year. No, 24x7x365 access. A new and living way has been opened. We can live in the presence of God because we have a purified conscience.
How do we keep a heart that is soft and stay in the presence of God? Practice two things every day. Repent. Whatever the Lord shows you, maybe at the end of the day, you want to take a quick inventory. What sins have I committed, that perhaps I wasn’t even conscious of when I was doing it? Take stock at the end of the day and repent.
And the second is to exercise our faith. And it’s not just a very general, generic, vague faith that the old covenant people had. They knew the Messiah is coming. I’m not sure who He is, but I bet He’s going to be a good Messiah. We are people of the new covenant. We know exactly who He is.
And so when we say I exercise my faith, we have a person to turn to. When we repent, we’re actually turning to Somebody in faith. The two have to go together. If you just repent without faith in Jesus, that’s legalism. You’re under the old covenant. You’re still condemned if you repent without turning to Jesus.
And if you have faith without repentance, I don’t even know what to call that. That is fire insurance. You just want to go to heaven. But you don’t think there is a process of sanctification. You don’t know that there are things that need to be repented of.
The two have to go together — repentance and faith. And so at the end of the day when you are repenting of your sins, quickly turn to Jesus. That’s what it means to put our faith in Christ.
Father, thank you so much for showing us through the author of Hebrews how remarkable is is that we’re people of the new covenant. We admit that in some ways that we think, we are still stuck in the old covenant. We still feel ashamed. We still feel condemned. Many times, we still wonder, will you accept me, Daddy?
Father, we just pray that you give us a new heart, a new spirit. We pray that you inscribe your very laws on the soft surface of a new heart, a heart of flesh. I pray that the Holy Spirit would come so that we would have the spirit of adoption and our own spirit would be in agreement with the Holy Spirit, that we won’t call you Holy Father, but we would call you Daddy.
We thank you that Jesus opened the door to heaven. And now we have access 24x7x365 to the throne room of God. And each day as we repent and put our faith in Jesus and our conscience is sanctified and perfected, we can stay in your presence.
Father, we pray that you show us our sins and teaches how to turn in repentance. Every time we confess our sins and turn to Jesus and plead His blood over that sin, that area is covered and cleansed and perfected.
Father, as we come to your Table, we remember your sacrifice, your Body that was broken, your Blood that was shed. Sanctify us, our body, soul, spirit, mind, will, emotion. We pray that this would not be just an act we go through every Sunday, but that this would be an invitation to come to the very throne room of God. And we pray, Daddy, I’m in your presence.
Thank you for sending your Son. You love me exactly in the same manner as you do your Son. There is no difference between your love for Jesus and your love for us. Help us to have that type of confidence. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen