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8:30am & 11am Services

A New Promise

October 8, 2017 Pastor: Matt Wilcox Series: God's Promises

Topic: Salvation & Rebirth Scripture: Hebrews 9:11–9:15

 

Fireworks are a classic staple of summertime. We’ve come into the Fall season but I’m sure there aren’t many of us here who didn’t see or hear a display of fireworks over the summer. Now, I have to admit, since having kids, my opinion of fireworks has changed dramatically. All it really takes is a scared toddler and an interrupted sleep cycle to put me squarely on the team that would be fine if fireworks were banned entirely. But before kids, I loved fireworks. As a kid, my family actually hosted what we called a Fire Works Party.

In my hometown of Harleysville, PA, we had an annual summer fair. Carnival rides, fair foods, games, the whole deal. And Friday night was always fireworks night. My house, growing up, was just down the road from the fair, so we always had a great view of the fireworks, without having to drive and park. So my parents would throw a party for our neighbors, friends, and family. I remember it being a great time. We would have fun all evening and then we’d sit back and watch every moment of the fireworks. But the best part, like every other fireworks display, was the finale.

Each display is beautiful in its own right, unique in some way. The classic blossoming fireworks. The sort of dazzling poppers the crackles in the sky. But the finale is where it all comes together. Every type of firework we had seen before joins together in a unique and spectacular symphony for both the ears and the eyes. And the way they come together, the way each element is folded in with the others, it ends up creating something entirely new and magnificent. Something we had maybe considered as a possibility but could never have planned out within our minds.

 

For the past four weeks, we have been exploring the promises of God. We’ve looked at what is known as the four major covenants of the Old Testament. We were brought to the dry land following a global deluge where God made a promise that never again would the entirety of the world be flooded. But more important, it marked the moment that God placed grace at the center of the relationship between humanity and the person of God. Then we witnessed God speak to an old man named Abram and ask him to leave all that he knew to go into a new land. God made a promise of legacy. That not only would Abram bear sons and daughters but that Abram’s name would be remembered from that day. God gave Abram a blessing so that Abram might become a blessing. And then we stood with Moses following the events of the great exodus out of Egypt. We heard God open a conditional promise to the people that if they would obey and heed the voice of God that they would be God’s treasured possession, a people with both identity and purpose. And then last week Larry reminded us of how God made a promise to David, a king in a failing kingdom. It was a promise of an everlasting kingdom and a perfect King. And we know that perfect King was actually a descendant of David, Jesus Christ.

This morning we finish our series on the Promises of God by looking at the final covenant, a new promise. In many ways, it is the finale to an already specular display. It’s foreshadowed in our text from the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 31 we hear the Lord declare that He will make a new promise. It’s a promise distinct from the ones made before it like the promise made to Moses. This new promise involves God directly entering and transforming the hearts of the people. It is a promise of presence and identity. And it’s a promise of forgiveness and the removal of darkness and sin. The fascinating thing about this covenant is that God doesn’t reveal how it is going to be accomplished. And I think that’s because “how?” is the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking “who?” And for that answer, we turn to our text in Hebrews. We’re in Hebrews 9:11-15.

The answer to the who question of how God is going to perform this miraculous finale of a promise is Jesus Christ. In and through the person of Jesus something divine and immense took place in regards to us and our standing with God. The text tells us that Jesus came as the high priest. I said this when we looked at God’s covenant with Moses but we have to remember that the primary and central function of a priest is to be the mediator, the go-between, between God and humanity. Christ accepts the role of being our advocate before God. And Christ’s authority, his credentials as a priest, don’t come from an earthly temple but rather a heavenly one. We’re told that Christ doesn’t advocate for us before God with the sacrifice and blood of bulls and goats, like what was common in the Old Testament. Instead, He becomes our advocate and our Savior through the spilling of His own precious blood. Where once the sacrifice of animals meant a temporary and exterior cleansing, we find that through the blood of Christ we experience a total, holistic, and everlasting purification of our hearts.

The author of Hebrews was not shy or coy when trying to help readers understand how Jesus accomplished what He did. Jesus Christ accomplished our salvation. He formed the means for a brand new, entirely unique relationship between God and humanity. He set us free from the chains of sin and death. He brought intimacy between humanity and the Almighty where once there was only animosity. Jesus was a preacher, but he spoke more than words. He was a healer, but he cured more than disease. Jesus was an agent of justice, but it was a justice that went far beyond the streets of this world.

He is, as the text says, the mediator of a new covenant, a new promise. We squandered and willingly abandoned that which was first offered to us in the garden of Eden as our inheritance and identity. Jesus, through this new promise, restores our ability to receive that gift and the ability to reclaim our identity as God’s precious and chosen people. Thomas Long is one of the most gifted preachers in our denomination. He says this, “Jesus is called the mediator of the new covenant. This new covenant is a rainbow sign of the generosity of God, the eternal kindness of a God who will not leave humanity weary and spent and without hope, the divine kindness that rolls back through time to refresh all of God’s children in every age.”

What we’re talking about here is salvation. The author of Hebrews makes it clear at the end of verse 15: “now that he [Jesus] has died as a ransom to set them free from their sins.” The first covenant mentioned here is a reference to the imperfect system used in the Old Testament of adhering to the law and rules and using sacrifices over and over to try and escape the consequences of our sin. In the old way, we sought temporary fixes and make-shift solutions. In this new promise, we are given complete and lasting restoration. One commentator describes it this way: “This cleansing penetrates to the inner recesses of our personhood. Since His work is once for all, its consequence is an eternal redemption. The superiority of Christ’s accomplishment is thus both intrinsic and time-transcending.”

This is nothing less than absolute, complete, perfect salvation. And it is accomplished only through the willing sacrifice of Christ and His death. Our text tells us, in verse 12, that it is “for once and for all by His own blood” that eternal redemption was obtained. Verse 14: the blood of Christ cleanses us. Verse 15: “he has died as a ransom” to set them free from sin.

Robert Lowry knew this truth and was lead, in 1876, to pen one of the more timeless hymns we know:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O precious is the flow
that makes me white as snow;
no other fount I know;
nothing but the blood of Jesus.
For my pardon this I see:
nothing but the blood of Jesus.
For my cleansing this my plea:
nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Nothing can for sin atone:
nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Naught of good that I have done:
nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is all my hope and peace:
nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is all my righteousness:
nothing but the blood of Jesus.

As the people of God and followers of Christ, we can never stray away from this truth. Every mission effort we do is rooted first in this effort of Christ. Every song of praise we sing is given its first note in this truth. Every relationship we treasure as a member of this church family is possible because of the relationship we have with God through Christ. No truth of our faith is more important, more central, more transformative than that of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we wander from it, we wander from that which gives us identity and that which offers the only lasting hope for this world. We willing abandon the promise of God.

This new promise made in the person and blood of Christ is something unique and spectacular all on its own. But just as with the grand finale of a fireworks display, we see the inclusion and the pinnacle of all the individual and previous promises. With Noah, God spoke a promise that replaced violence with grace as the core of the human-divine relationship. At the cross of Christ that grace is made perfect and absolute. Abram was given a promise of identity and purpose. Through the blood of Christ, we become a chosen and redeemed people who now bear a message of hope. Through Moses, God offered a conditional promise. If we drew close to God and obeyed His direction than we would be a treasured people and a beacon of light in a world saturated with darkness.  Romans 10:9 tells us that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, that we will be saved. And to David, there was the promise of an everlasting kingdom. The same kingdom we beg for every time we say “Thy will be done. Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

In and through Christ and His work on the cross we have the opportunity to take hold of and be the embodiment of each of these promises. In a world obsessed with one-upping each other, always having the upper hand, and making sure that our needs are met first and foremost; we can be an example of selfless grace. In a world where there are so many people drifting lost and without purpose; we can reveal the legacy and identity humanity was created for. In a world where from a young age we are conditioned to question our value to the point of nearly one-half of teens have engaged in some form of self-harm; we can deliver the truth that every person is valuable and precious and is called to a purpose. In a world where we are perpetually exhausted and disheartened by the kingdoms of this world and are constantly longing for a new way, a new leader, a new world; we can share the Gospel truth of God’s kingdom which is already but not yet.

This new covenant, the new promise, in and through Christ is the grand finale and the most excellent display of God’s mercy and love. Jesus provides the power and efficacy of this promise through his work on the cross and the spilling of his blood. Jesus enacts and mediates this promise on our behalf to the Father and becomes our friend and advocate. In Christ alone, we are given grace and identity and purpose and freedom and hope. In Christ, we receive something lasting and enduring, something beautiful and personal, something for us and for all. We receive a new promise.

Let’s pray.

More in God's Promises

October 1, 2017

God’s Covenant with David

September 24, 2017

God’s Covenant with Moses (8:30am)

September 24, 2017

God’s Promise, Our Response (11am)