Serving in the New Way of the Spirit (Romans Sermon 43 of 120)
October 14, 2001 | Andrew Davis
Life in the Spirit
Building a Chain of Death
This morning, we are looking at Romans 7, specifically, the end of the section we've looked at now for two weeks, and this is our third week in Romans 7:1-6. Our purpose here, in this section of Romans, is to try to understand the law and how it relates to a justified Christian. What is our relationship to the law? And I heard an illustration that Charles Spurgeon used at the end of one of his sermons, to press the message home, and it spoke to me so clearly, about what it means to serve in the old way of the written code.
And this is what he said, "A certain tyrant sent for one of his subjects and said to him, 'What is your employment?' He answered, 'I am a blacksmith.' 'Go home,' said he, 'And make me a chain of such and such a length.' He went home. The work occupied him several months, and he had no wages at all while he was making the chain, only the trouble and the pains of making it. Then he brought it the monarch and he said, 'Go back and make it twice as long as this.' He gave him nothing to do it with, but sent him away. Again, he worked on, made it twice as long. He brought it up again. The monarch said, 'Go and make it longer still.' Each time he brought it, there was nothing but the command to make it longer still. And when he brought it up at last, the monarch said, 'Take him, bind him hand and foot with it, and cast him into a furnace of fire.' There were his wages for making the chain.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." And Paul says in our text right here, in verse Five, "When we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death." Every day, somebody who's apart from the grace of Jesus Christ… Every day, somebody who is not living in the New Covenant, (that we're going to talk about this morning)… Every day, somebody who has not yet been saved, is making a chain through sin. Every day, they add another link to it. And in the end, justice will demand that that chain be bound around them, that we will be cast with our sins into eternal darkness. And so serving in the old way of the written code, produces only, as it says in our text, "Fruit for death." Is there any liberation from that which binds us? Yes, there is, and it is the New Covenant of faith in Jesus Christ.
Look again to what it says in verse Four, "So my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who is raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we've been released from the law, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."
I. Our Covenant-Keeping God
This morning, our purpose is to understand that phrase, "Serving in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." What does it mean, that we have been moved over into a New Covenant? The word 'covenant' doesn't appear in this text, but that's the foundation of what Paul is saying to us. 'Covenant' is a binding agreement between two or more parties. The clearest example that we have in our everyday life, is that of marriage. A man and a woman stand before God and make a promise to one another. They make a binding agreement and God ratifies that. He hears it and holds the couple to it. And so Paul takes that example here, in Romans 7:1-3, of a married couple, and that we're bound to each other by this covenant, as long as the spouse is alive. What he's saying is that, we also, in one sense, we're bound to the law, and the only way we could be released from the law, is either that the law would die or that we would die. And the beauty of it, the law can never die. Jesus said, "Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." He said, "Until Heaven, and Earth, and not the smallest letter, or the least stroke of a pen will, by any means, disappear from the law, until everything is accomplished." The law cannot die. The law will still stand on Judgment Day, and it will testify against all those who have not been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. The law can stand and it will stand, but what about us?
Well, the beauty of the Gospel is, that we died with Jesus Christ. The moment that Jesus died, we died with Him by faith, and we have been united with Him. He says in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." And so our purpose today, is to understand what that means. Not only that I have died, that I was crucified with Christ, but now, I live by the power of the Spirit, that there's a new life. There's a power in me, which is utterly unlike anything I've experienced before. And that's what He's saying, the covenant, the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Now, God makes covenants. Our God is a covenant-making God. The word appears 275 times in the Bible and it is God's major manner of dealing with the human race. He made a covenant with Noah, for example. He said He would never again destroy the world with a flood, and He set the Sign of the Covenant, the rainbow, up in the clouds to testify to His faithfulness to that Covenant. He made a covenant with Abraham, that to his offspring, He would give the land, and He would be their God, and they would be His people. He made a covenant with Abraham.
He made a covenant with Moses and that's the focus of our study this morning, the Mosaic Covenant, the Promise that He gave to the descendants of Abraham, who are with Moses at the base of the Mount Sinai, that if they obeyed God's commandments, His ordinances, and His regulations, that they would be able to stay in the Promised Land, that they would live there. "If you obey me, you may stay in this land." He also made a covenant with David, that He would place one of his sons on his throne, that David would never lack a lampstand, he would never lack a lamp, and that ultimately, the Son of David would reign forever and ever over the people of God, and that is Jesus Christ. And He made a covenant with Jesus Christ. The Father made a covenant with the Son, "I will save any for whom you die. Any who call on your name, I will save them, and I will welcome them as my own children." And so on the basis of these covenants, we stand before God. Our God is a covenant-making God, but He is also a covenant-keeping God.
It says, in reference to the Mosaic Covenant, that he would keep His covenant to a thousand generations of those who love and obey His commands. A thousand generations. What is that? Between 25 and 40,000 years? Our God is a faithful covenant-keeping God. He never breaks His Word. And on the basis of the New Covenant, and its superior promises, we will stand before God holy and blameless one day. And there is complete protection, security. There is a guarantee for us in this New Covenant, if we only understand it. God keeps His covenants, and our salvation is, therefore, guaranteed by this New Covenant. Paul says in Second Corinthians 3:6, "He has made us competent as ministers of a New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
II. Context: “Not Under Law But Under Grace”
Let's see if we can understand that. The context in Romans here, he's already explained to us the need for justification, Romans 1-3, that both Jew and Gentile alike are all under sin. That expression 'under sin' means under sin's dominion. Sin is the tyrant that causes us to make that chain, with which we would be bound. Sin is a vicious and a cruel tyrant. We're going to talk more about that in Romans 7, as we understand the indwelling sin that we still wrestle with. But sin is a tyrant, and all of us, Jew and Gentile, people from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, all of us understand what sin is. Sin is a vicious tyrant, and we need to be justified, and there's nothing we can do. We were under sin. We were under sin's dominion, and so we needed forgiveness of sins, and we needed liberation from sin.
Jesus said, "Anyone who sins is a slave to sin, but if the Son makes you free, you'll be truly free." And so He's trying to explain how justification came, and it came by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus stood up, and took our wrath, our condemnation, and through His blood shed on the cross, He took away forever the guilt and the punishment that we deserve under the Mosaic Covenant. He took away the curse. He died in our place, and He rose from the dead on the third day, and so He is our propitiation, He's our sacrifice of atonement. And that sacrifice is good for any of us who have trusted in Him, any of us who put our faith in Him. Romans chapter 4, we are justified simply by faith. Just as Abraham looked up at those stars and believed a promise that God gave him, so shall your offspring be. We hear of life through faith in Jesus Christ, and we believe, and we are justified. At that moment, we're declared forever not guilty of all of our sins. The guilt and the condemnation of the law has been removed from us. We died to the law and its condemning power, when we united with Christ through faith.
But then, in Romans Chapters 6-8, he's dealing with the issue of indwelling sin, the struggle we have with sin. Any of you who are honest and you know yourself, you say, "Well, I was justified by faith many years ago, but sin didn't just disappear from my life. I still have sin in my life. How can this be? And what is it?" And also, he deals with it theologically. If we're only justified by grace, apart from works, can't we live any way that we want? And he's dealing with that in Romans Chapter Six, he says, "No, you can't, because if you are a Christian, you are united with Jesus Christ. You died with Him when he died, and so, also, you've been raised in newness of life. You're living a whole new life." That was covered in Romans 6
But in the middle of that, in Romans 6:14, he says, "Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." And so that's a very important thing to say. What does it mean that we're not under law? Did God give a law, and then revoke it through Christ? What is our relationship to the law? And he's dealing with that in Romans chapter 7, and the issue of this Old Covenant and the New Covenant. He uses the illustration of marriage and says that you're bound as long as you're alive, but if one of the spouses dies, that covenant is ended. And so, also, we died to the law through the body of Christ, that we might belong to another, a new marriage. We talked about it last time, that Jesus Christ is our spouse. We died to the law, and we're freed forever from that old bondage, and now, we've come into a whole new way of serving God.
III. Old Covenant: The Old Way of the Written Code
But we need to understand what that Old Covenant was. What was the nature of the Old Covenant? First, the Old Covenant was promised to Abraham. In Genesis 12:7, it was promised to Abraham at the great Tree of Moreh at Shechem, "This land will belong to you and to all your offspring." And then, in Genesis 17, He gave him a Sign of the Covenant, as a precursor to the Mosaic Law. It was circumcision. And He said that, "All your male descendants must be circumcised, and anyone who's not circumcised will be cut off from the covenant." So that's the covenant promised, but it wasn't established, until Moses brought the people of God to the foot of Mount Sinai. And they received the covenant, they received the Mosaic Law coming down off the mountain.
And this is what they said in Exodus 24, "When Moses went and told the people all the Lord's words and laws, they responded with one voice, 'Everything the Lord has said, we will do.'" That sounds like a marriage to me. They made a promise, "Alright, I've heard all of the laws, the rules, and regulations. We'll do it." They made a covenant. They made a promise that they would obey everything that God said. Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said. "Then he took the Book of the Covenant, and read it to the people, and they responded again, 'We will do everything the Lord has said. We will obey, '" they said to God. Moses took the blood of the covenant, the blood of the sacrifice, this covenant was ratified in blood, and he sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words." And so there it is, they made a covenant. They were in a bonded relationship with the law they promised that they would obey.
Now, what is the nature of that covenant? In Deuteronomy, he explains it very clearly. Deuteronomy 11:26 and following, it says, "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse, a blessing if you obey… the curse if you disobey..." That is the nature of the Old Covenant, blessings and curses. Blessings on obedience, curses on disobedience.
Now, what was the essence of the Old Covenant in the life of Israel? How did it function? We're going to look at it in four ways. First, in terms of law, the relationship to God's Word. Second, in terms of salvation, relationship to God's Holiness. Thirdly, in terms of worship, relationship to God's throne. And fourthly, in terms of service, relationship to God's world.
Law: Relationship to God’s Word
Let's look at the first one, law, relationship to God's Word. It says in verse Six of the passage we're looking at, we served "in the old way of the written code." What does this mean, 'written code?' It means that the law was written down on things physical. At first, it was written by the finger of God on the tablets of stone, do you remember that? The finger of God wrote down the Ten Commandments. God inscribed His Word down. He wanted it written. That was the first of the Bible. God was the first, literally, physically, the first author of Scripture, when He inscribed the Ten Commandments with His finger on those tablets of stone. He began the whole written Word. It was His Word written, and He wanted it obeyed, but it was physical, and it was also external.
Later, the Word was written on stone pillars and Joshua brought them in the Promised Land. They wrote it down, so that everyone could read it. It was there for future generations. They also copied it on parchments, on scrolls, and other things, and it was copied, but it was always physical. It was something you could read with your eyes, but it was not internal, it was external. It was something you would read. It would stand outside of you, and it would talk to you, and it would tell you which way to live, and which way not to live, but it was external. And ultimately, because of that, it was powerless. It made no change in the human heart. It ultimately was rendered powerless by our sin nature.
Look again at Verse Five, "From when we were controlled by the sinful nature or the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death." Paul is going to talk about that more in Romans 7. The law comes and actually arouses sin. You're kind of moving along just fine, until you hear what God will and will not permit, and then, suddenly, there's a desire to do that very thing. It's just a phenomenon. We see it around us. We see it in our own hearts. There it is, the law comes and says, "You must not do this," or, "You must do that," and then there's just, immediately, a desire to disobey. It's what the law does, and he's going to talk about that, he said, "Once I was alive, apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died." It's always been the same. It's the same today.
"When we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies." So that we made another link for that chain. Day, after day, after day, we bore fruit for death. It never produced righteousness. Look at Romans 8:3, "For what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did, by sending His own Son." Isn't that beautiful? The law could never get you saved, and so God did it, by sending His Son. The law was powerless. The Book of Hebrews calls it 'useless.' It could affect no genuine change in you. It stands outside and cannot save you. And we prove it every day, don't we? By just readings, "I see it, but I just can't do it." That's the second half of Romans 7, we'll get there. But that's what the law does, it stands on the shore, and calls out to you, and tells you how to save yourself, but you can't.
Salvation: Relationship to God’s Holiness
The New Covenant is Jesus Christ gets in there. And you got the second half so beautifully right. Jesus literally gets in, and saves us, and therefore, our salvation is guaranteed, because He is never ineffective. He accomplishes what He came to do. Jesus never dives in, and swims out to save somebody, and they end up drowned. It's impossible. He saves us and that's the New Covenant. And so the law was powerless, it was useless, it could save us, not at all. And so in relation to salvation, in relation to God's Holiness, what the law did, is it told you, "Be holy, because I am holy." That's what the law said. Leviticus 19:2, "Speak to the entire Assembly of Israel and say to them, "Be holy, because, I, the Lord, your God, am holy." That's what the law told you, but could you do it? Could you be holy the way God is Holy?
In the message of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:48, Jesus said the same thing, "Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." I witness to people and I say, "Do you understand what the standards are for fellowship with God? Do you understand what it takes to go to Heaven? God will allow no darkness in His presence. He is perfectly holy and righteous. And therefore, you, also, must be perfect to be in the presence of God." And so in relation to God's Holiness, it speaks to us of holiness. The law screams to us of holiness, but it cannot make us holy. Hebrews 7:19 says, "For the law made nothing perfect." Do you hear that? The law makes nothing perfect and we must be perfect to be in God's presence. Actually, the law only brings curse on us. Galatians 3:10, "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Everything, you've got to obey the whole thing.
The illustration I've used before is of the aquarium tank. Imagine a huge big aquarium, where all these sharks, and manta rays, and all that is swimming around, and it's only got one little hole in it. That's all, just one hole down toward the bottom. Would you feel safe near that? As you watch the hole progressively get larger and larger? I'd run out of that building. One transgression is enough to condemn us forever, but we don't just have one transgression, do you? We have a whole lifetime of them. We have a very long chain. We've been fashioning it day after day. "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'" Isn't it beautiful, that Jesus stood and took our curse for us? He came and took our curse. He was hung on a tree. "Cursed is everyone who's hung on a tree." Jesus took our curse. If you're in Christ, you're not under the law anymore. You're not under the law's curse. It's been taken away forever.
Praise God for that. Now, within the law, there were priestly sacrifices for sin, weren't there? There was provision, if you broke the law. You would bring a sacrifice, but could the sacrifice do anything for you? Was it not merely a symbol of the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ? How do we know that? beause they had to be repeated, day, after day, after day, week after week, and for the same sinners. Hebrews 9:9-10 says, "The gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper." They're not able to do it. You could not have your conscience cleared by blood animal sacrifice. It couldn't be done. And so the law made no provision, genuinely, for sin.
Now, the righteousness that came by the law would be demonstrated by perfect obedience. Romans 10:5, "Moses describes in this way, 'The righteousness that is by law, the man who does these things will live by them.'" In context, he means live eternally. You will get your eternal life by perfect obedience to the commands of God. Perfect obedience. And eternal life comes as a result of this accomplished righteousness. "The man who does these things will live [eternally] by them." But all of this is impossible, isn't it true? Because Paul says in Romans 7, "As soon as you hear the law, the sinful nature kicks in and you rebel." And we've all done it. And once you rebel once, it's over. The law will never again be a path of righteousness for you. It's impossible. It only speaks a curse on you. And only in Jesus Christ, is that curse removed.
"Therefore," says Paul in Romans 3:20, "No one will be declared righteous by observing the law, rather, through the law, we become conscious of sin." You're never going to stand before God and say, "Well, I came that path. I came up the path of the law." No, you didn't. Nobody but one person has walked that path perfectly, and that's Jesus Christ.
Worship: Relationship to God’s Throne
What about in relation to worship, worship in relation to God's throne? God's holy throne is the center of all worship, is it not? "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a…" what? "On a throne high and lifted up. And the train of His robe filled the temple." And there were seraphs crying, 'Holy, holy, holy.' It's the center of Heaven. It's the throne of God, the eternal God. It's the center of Heaven should be the center of your life too. And so, in the Book of Revelation Chapter Four, the apostle says, "At once, I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in Heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow resembling an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. Before the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God." The throne is the center of it all. It's the center of worship, the throne of God.
And so, when Bill comes here, and we go to worship, what are we doing, but spiritually establishing the throne of God, right in the center of this room? That's what worship is. But the fact of the matter is, God's throne is unapproachable. 1 Timothy 6:15-16 says, "God the blessed and only ruler." What chair does a ruler sit on? A throne. "The King of Kings and Lord of Lords." He's going to sit on the ultimate throne. "Who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light." You can't get to Him. He lives in unapproachable light. He is holy and pure. Therefore, Old Covenant worship is never going to get you to the throne of God. It's only a shadow, not the reality, as it says in the Book of Hebrews. It's just a shadow, it's an image. It's never going to get you right to the throne of God. Therefore, Old Covenant worship is all about what you can't do, and not what you can. It's all about barriers and oppositions, not coming very close to the throne of grace.
Exodus 24:1-2, "Then God said to Moses, 'Come up to the Lord, you, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance." Underline that one. "Worship at a distance," is Old Covenant worship, isn't it? "Worship at a distance." What do I mean by, "Worship at a distance"? Separation between you and God. Why the separation? Because of your sin. And there was nothing in the Old Covenant that could take care of it. There was a fence around the base of Mount Sinai saying, "You can't come up this mountain." There was a thousand yard distance between the people of God and the ark, as they went into the Promised Land. There was a curtain in the temple, which separated the Holy of Holies from the priest, and then other curtains would separate the rest of it from the regular people, who couldn't come in. What is that telling you? Barrier. Obstruction. "Worship at a distance." You can't come close.
After striking Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu dead, because they offered unauthorized sacrifice, Leviticus 10:3, God said this, "Among those who approach me, I will show myself holy. In the sight of all people, I will be honored." That's the Old Covenant. "Among those who approach me, I'm going to demonstrate my holiness to you. I will show you how holy I am." And the Old Covenant did that, but you were not welcomed into the throne of God. You couldn't come. That's the essence of Old Covenant worship.
Service: Relationship to God’s World
And finally, service, relationship to God's world. How did you serve in the old way of the written code? What was the nature of old code service? Well, first of all, it was about duty, wasn't it? What you had to do. If it's external to you, it means you don't want to do it. It hasn't come inside your heart, and so that it's a matter of duty. The worst expression of that was in Malachi 1:12-13. They're talking about the sacrificial system. They're talking about the Lord's table. They're talking about the actual blood sacrifices that God had provided, and Malachi says this, "You profane it, by saying of the Lord's temple, 'It is defiled,' and of the food, 'It is contemptible.' And you say, 'What a burden,' and you sniff at it contemptuously,' says the Lord Almighty. "
There's some people that serve in the Christian way this way, what a burden they feel. It's a sense of duty and obligation. A sense of 'got to' and 'have to,' not a sense of 'want to.' That's a service in the old way of the written code. "What a burden." It's also based on fear. You're afraid. If you don't do it, what will happen to you? You'll be judged, you'll be condemned. There's a sense of fear. Fear has to do, in First John 4:18, with punishment. That's the essence of Old Covenant service. You serve out of duty, you serve out of fear. Ultimately, it could lead to hatred, hatred for God. You say, "How is that possible?" Romans 8:7-8 says, "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those committed by the sinful nature cannot please God."
Perfect illustration of this in Martin Luther's life. Before Luther came to understand justification by faith alone, he was serving in the old way of the written code, wasn't he? A bunch of rules and regulations. A bunch of laws, and duties, and obligations. A bunch of fasting, and prayer, and tithe offering, and a bunch of all these works. And nothing could take away his sense of guilt before God, nothing. And it got more and more frustrating to him. And he, as a Roman Catholic, would go to his father confessor, Father Johann Staupitz, and he would confess sin after sin, inclinations of the heart, slight temptations, anything he could to try to cleanse himself, and it never worked. Finally, just out of frustration, he came, and he started to confess something that he had forgotten from the last time, and Staupitz said, "You're making it too hard. All you need to do is love God." And Luther said, "Love God? I hate Him." And Staupitz was shocked. This was blasphemy. But that's what old written code service is all about. It's not about love for God. It's about duty, and fear, and obligation, not about being a son or a daughter of God.
And what is the end result of all that? Well, verse 5, "When we're controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our body, so that we bore fruit for death." We bore fruit for death by serving the law? Yes, because here it is. It's either one or the other. Either you will feel that you are being successful in serving by that way, or you will feel unsuccessful. If you feel successful by that way, you will be proud and boastful, because you did it on your own. Or you'll say, "I could never do that," and you openly rebel. Either way, the law condemns. There is no way that you can come to God that way. To the generally obedient, there's the white devil of pride. To the generally disobedient, the black devil of rebellion. Either way, it comes.
So that's the old way of the written code. Relationship to God's Word: It was written externally, not in your heart. Relationship to God's holiness: The law commanded you to be holy, but made no provision for it. Relationship to God's throne and worship: Law had made it very clear, that you were not welcome to the throne of God. And service relationship to God's Word: It came from duty, and pride, and obligation, and fear. Ultimately, it bore fruit for death. That's the Old Covenant. Aren't you glad we're free from all that?
IV. New Covenant: The New Way of the Spirit
Praise God. We're waiting for the good news. Well, the good news is in verse 6. Look at the first two words, "But now." What does that tell you? Something new, something fresh, something wonderful. And Jesus said, "It had to be this way. It had to be new." Why? Because of the Parable of the Wine-skins. Remember, He said, "You can't put new wine into old wine-skins. We've got to have a whole new thing. We've got to have a New Covenant." And the beauty is, the New Covenant was promised in the Old. Jeremiah came and promised it.
New Covenant Established
Look at Jeremiah 31, it's printed there, part of it anyway. Oh, you got to read the whole thing. You got to read the whole thing, but I'm just going to zero in on a couple things. "'The time is coming,' declares the Lord, 'When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.'" There it is in the Old Testament. There's going to be a New Covenant, something new. And we will not serve in that old way anymore, we'll serve in a new way. There's going to be a New Covenant. He said, "'It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers, when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, even though I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel, after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and I'll write them on their hearts. They will be my people and I will be their God. No longer will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brothers, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." Oh, boy. That brings goosebumps. I'm just getting excited talking about it.
What are the two aspects of the New Covenant the Old Covenant could never give us? It could not give us forgiveness of sins, and it could not write the law of God on our hearts... But the New Covenant can. Isn't that beautiful? This is a replacement covenant. "By calling this covenant new," Hebrews 8:13, "By calling this covenant new, he's made the old one obsolete. And what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." It's gone. We're not under it anymore. We've got a New Covenant now. It's an unbreakable covenant, not like the former one. It's not dependent on your obedience. He's going to work obedience in you. It's an internal covenant within your own heart. It's a universal covenant. "The will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." Everyone included in the covenant will all know me personally. "I will be their God and they will be my people." And it's a cleansing covenant, "I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more."
Well, that's the promise. Was it fulfilled? Is there now, in fact, a New Covenant? It was promised, did it come? Yes, it did, through Jesus Christ. Do you remember the night before Jesus died? He took that cup, the wine, and what did He say, remember? He took the cup, He gave thanks, and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the New Covenant." There it is. Jesus said it. There's a New Covenant. Now, the wine only represents it. We know that the real blood was the blood Jesus shed on the cross, "Which is poured out for many," Jesus said, "For the forgiveness of sins." The New Covenant is in effect. It's here. It's been here for 2,000 years. We're not in the Old Covenant any longer. It's here.
Law: Relationship to God’s Word
Now, how does it work in relation to God's Word? Look at verse 6, "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we've been released from the law, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." It is a spiritual thing. The indwelling Holy Spirit comes in and changes you from inside. It's written on the heart by the Spirit. And it is powerful. It actually transforms you. It makes you different than you were before. You love what you used to hate and you hate what you used to love. It has changed you. You're different now, as a result. It is effective. The law is no longer external, it's now written on your heart. He says in this verse, Jeremiah 31:33, "I'll put my law in their minds and I will write it on their hearts." Do you realize the whole Bible is written on your heart? Now, you're wondering why you can't recite the whole thing.
I didn't say it was written in your brain, so that you could recite it. I'm saying it's there, and what happens is, if you're a child of God, when it gets preached or taught accurately, you know it. You just can tell. "My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life." You just know, even if you're in Obadiah or some other place you'd never been, you say, "Yes, this is right." And why? Because He already wrote the law in your heart. It's already there. Now, I still think you should memorize it. I really do.
But it's already there. The truth of it is there and why? Because the Spirit wrote it there. Oh, look at blessed Ezekiel 36. It's printed in your bulletin. Look at it. I would urge you to take that home. I know you're thinking about, perhaps, you're thinking about what you're going to eat for lunch.
This is sweeter than anything you're going to eat for lunch. Ezekiel 36:26-27, take it home and chew on it, before you put any food in your mouth, or after. Maybe during, maybe during your lunchtime, talk about Ezekiel 36:26-27, "I will give you a new heart, and then put a new Spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit in you, and move you to follow my decrees, and be careful to keep my laws." That is New Covenant stuff, folks. Has that happened to you? Has your heart of stone been taken out and your heart of flesh put in? Are you receptive to the moving of the Spirit, and do you have the indwelling Spirit moving you to obey God's commandments? That's the relation of the law. It's written on your heart.
Salvation: Relationship to God’s Holiness
Secondly, relation to salvation, relation to God's holiness. Do you realize that we stand in Christ's perfect obedience? Remember, I told you there was one man who walked the law perfectly, and it was Jesus Christ? He is the end of the law, it says in Romans 10. He is the completion, the perfection of the law. He did it. He is our champion. He is our victor. And He walked that way perfectly for 33 years, some odd years. Perfectly walked, moment by moment, in obedience to His Father's commands. He said, "I always do what pleases Him."
And do you realize, if you're a Christian, His righteousness, that He won fairly in 33 years of obedience in this, it's cloaked on you by faith? Isn't that beautiful? And you're going to stand before Him on Judgment Day, not with any righteousness of your own. You have none. We've proven that. None of us. I don't have any. You all, we don't have any, but there is a robe available. Jesus Christ's righteousness. He earned it, He won it fair and squarely, it's His. And He's offering it to you by faith. Holiness, perfect righteousness that you can cloak yourself with, complete forgiveness of sins. Oh, my goodness. "I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." What is that worth to you? What is it worth to you, to have all your sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ, and He will never remember them again? Wow... You get nothing else out of this, two aspects of the New Covenant: Total forgiveness of sins and indwelling Holy Spirit writing the law in your heart. That Old Covenant doesn't have anything like it, but if you're a Christian, you get them both.
Worship: Relationship to God’s Throne
What about worship, relationship to God's throne? We came in here to worship today. I hope you did. I hope you came in here to worship. Do you realize that, if you're a Christian, God has said, "Come right to my throne, right to the center." "Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence," it says. Isn't that beautiful? Right to the throne. There's no barrier anymore. The moment that Jesus died, that curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. From top to bottom, what does that tell you? Who tore it? God did. If it had been torn from bottom to top, they'd repair it, but it's torn from top to bottom. God did it. Maybe they did repair it. I don't think they should've. I think they should've come into the New Covenant that day. God is saying, "Come and welcome to the feast." He's saying, "Come and welcome to my very throne, through the blood of Jesus Christ, right to my throne."
You know Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman. Remember, they had a debate about what's the proper place for worship? Remember that? Is it on this mountain or on that mountain? He's like, Let me tell you something, "a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
He's saying that it's not going to be about location. It's going to be about worshipping, and Spirit, and truth. The indwelling Spirit brings you right to the throne Of God, and therefore, you can worship Him. You have freedom of access. Ephesians 3:12 says, "In Christ and through faith in Christ, we may approach God with freedom and confidence." Is that how you approach God everyday? Freedom and confidence, like a forgiven sinner? Or do you feel like you need to earn your way back in? Freedom and confidence.
Service: Relationship to God’s World
And then, finally, service in relationship to God's Word. Not duty, but delight. Not what you have to do, but what you get to do. I love to read the laws now, and the prohibitions, "Thou shalt not," I'd say, "I don't need to do that anymore." And the commands, "Thou shalt," "I get to do that by the power of the Spirit." Isn't that wonderful? It's a whole different thing. It's not duty anymore, it's delight. The law has become my birthright. It's what I get to do. It's said of Jesus in Psalm 40:8, "Here am I. I delight to do your will, oh, God. Your law is hidden within my heart." "This is what I love to do," said Jesus." Now, that same Spirit's in us. That's what I want to do, what I love to do. Not duty, but delight. Not fear, but confidence in Him. And through faith in Him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence. You can be confident before God. Not hatred, but love. We serve as a son or a daughter of God. We cry out, "Abba Father," and we follow the Spirit, moment by moment, serving Him. That's not hatred, that's love. We do it, because we love. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. We're not under that anymore, are we? We're dead to that. We're free from what bound us, and now, we serve with love, and not fruit for death, but fruit for eternal life.
Romans 6:22. Yes, there is a Romans 6:22. I know you've heard of Romans 6:23, but 6:22 says this, "But now that you've been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the harvest or the fruits you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." You live this kind of life, you'll end up in Heaven. But if what I'm talking to you about right now seems strange, unfamiliar, you don't know what I'm talking about, I don't know that you've come into the New Covenant. I don't know that you understand the life of the Spirit. I'm not talking about perfect people. I'm talking about people who understand what I'm talking about, about worship, and about forgiveness of sins, and about serving God, moment by moment, by the power of the Spirit.
I want to speak to you Christians. First of all, rejoice that your sins are forgiven. Rejoice that your sins are forgiven. What is that worth to you? What would you trade for it? Your sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. He will remember your sins no more. And delight in a whole new way of serving God, not like a slave, but like a son or daughter of God, a child of God. Delight in serving God daily, using your spiritual gifts. Tonight, we're going to talk more about that. God has given you a ministry, each one of us a priestly duty of serving God. Use that gift, that service. Delight in God's service. Offer up, everyday, a service to God, an aroma pleasing to Him. And delight in God's Word. Realize, it's already written in your heart. Delight in it, chew on it, and delight in God's family.
Realize, look around here, this room and around the world, there are people all over the world that God is doing that thing to. And we're all going to be gathered into one place someday, and we're all goanna be made perfect, and isn't that going to be awesome, and wonderful? How beautiful is the family of God, when perfected, and cleansed, and finished.
But for the non-Christian, I guess I just want to make you jealous. I want you to wish you had all that. I want you to wish you knew your sins were forgiven. I want you to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and I want you to realize that that chain that you're making, day, after day, after day, it will condemn you, unless through Jesus Christ, and through His blood, you have complete forgiveness of sins. Come to Him today.
Why don't you close with me in prayer? Father, as we bow before you, we thank you for the truths of your Word. We thank you for the new wine put into new wine-skins, both are preserved that way. And we thank you for your goodness in giving it to us. Thank you for the New Covenant, and for its promises that you will forgive our wickedness, and remember our sins no more, and you will write the law in our hearts, by your Holy Spirit. Father, I pray for any who are here, who have never come to faith in Christ, that today would be, for them, the day of salvation. If today, you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, but come. I pray that they would come in welcome to Jesus Christ. We pray in His name, Amen.