Monday, October 19, 2015

Jeremiah 31:31-34 A New and Clean Heart

KEY TEXT: Jer 31:33-34 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

KEY THOT: The two major differences between the old covenant (which Israel broke) and the new covenant inaugurated by Christ are (1) law is written on the hearts: it’s inward transformation (law within) in place of outward formation (law without); (2) sins will be forgiven and forgotten. It will be not only a new start but a clean start. God will grant those under the new covenant a new heart written with God’s law and a clean heart that has been washed clean of all sins. No longer will God deal with us according to our sins, but according to Christ’s righteousness—“I will remember their sin no more.”

The key to unlocking the twin-truth of the new covenant is the Cross and the Spirit. As expanded further in Ezekiel 36:25-27: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” The cleansing of God’s forgiveness is now possible because of Jesus’ work on the Cross. And the law within is possible because God has created within us a new spirit that allows the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The law of God is not something apart from God—it is a reflection of who God is and with His Spirit dwelling within our spirits, we now have the Law-giver himself, not just the Law of God.

The heart of the new covenant is the Cross and the Spirit. The Cross enables our sins to be forgiven and forgotten and the Spirit of God imparts the God’s nature within us, which is always consistent with the Law of God. God’s law is an expression of God’s character. So when we have His Spirit, we have His law—his character—as the fruit of the Spirit. So, we must teach all believers that their sins are forgiven and forgotten—but that is just half the story. The other half of the story is this: now that we have the Lawgiver dwelling within us, we live according to God’s law by walking in steps with the Spirit who is the Lawgiver.

We should never pit Law against grace. Grace does not make obedience to the Law unnecessary. Grace makes obedience to the Law possible, by putting the Law within our hearts through the indwelling Spirit. That is why we need to teach Christians how to walk by the Spirit, not just how to receive forgiveness of sin. If we do not walk by the Spirit, we will always remain outside in the outer court and never enter the inner courts of the Tabernacle where God's presence is found.

Father, what a glorious covenant You have given Israel. We are beneficiaries of this new covenant. Teach us to appropriate the fullness of the power of the new covenant and live like new covenant people who obey God from the heart. Amen.

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