Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Hearts

“The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant (agreement) with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant (agreement) will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to My covenant (agreement), so I turned My back (turned away) on them, says the Lord. But this is the new covenant (agreement) I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put My laws (teaching) in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know Me already. And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Hebrews 8:8-12 (NLT).

This New Testament Scripture passage Hebrews 8:8-12 is a quotation of the Old Testament Scripture passage Jeremiah 31:31-34. The Prophet Jeremiah predicted God would replace the old covenant law between God and Israel with a new and better covenant of grace ─ Jesus’ offer to forgive our sins and reconcile us to God through His sacrificial death on the Cross (see also 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). With His sacrificial death on the Cross, Jesus established this new covenant between God and those who respond in faith.

In the Old Testament, God made a covenant or agreement with Abraham and promised to give Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan (later known as the land of Israel) and to multiply his children greatly (Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:2-21). God repeated and expanded this covenant at Mount Sinai with the entire people of Israel (Exodus 19:1-8; Exodus 24:7-8; Exodus 34:27-28; Deuteronomy 4:13) and promised to be their God and commanding them to be obedient to Him. However, Israel often broke this covenant with God and they failed to keep the covenant (also called the Law) (see Exodus 32; Numbers 14:1-38; Jeremiah 11:10; Jeremiah 34:18; Malachi 2:8). The old covenant did not to change Israel’s inner weaknesses, inner hearts, or inner attitudes. 

So, God promised through the Old Testament prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel to provide a new covenant. This new covenant would change God’s people from the inside out by writing His covenant (Law) onto people hearts and minds by faith in Jesus through God’s Holy Spirit (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; Ezekiel 37:1-14; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18).  Thus, this new covenant would be based upon an inner, spiritual change.

Through God’s Holy Spirit, believers now have the power, strength and desire to obey God’s covenant law from within their hearts. The Holy Spirit gives believers of Jesus Christ new motivations and a willing heart to obey God (see Philippians 2:12-13). With new hearts, believers find joy in worshiping and serving God. Even more, the Holy Spirit reminds believers to obey God’s teaching and leads their moralities and desires to obey God with all their heart and mind.

This new covenant not only includes Israel but all people from every nation.  This new covenant is not written on stone tables like the old covenant but on our hearts and in our minds by God’s Holy Spirit. With the new covenant, God’s laws are placed in believer’s minds and on their hearts. Thus, believers have renewed hearts and minds, with God’s covenant as a central, internal motivation. A final feature of the new covenant is that God would forgive people’s sins and wickedness. A believer’s genuine faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus cleanses their hearts of sin and gives them a heart of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:13-15; Hebrews 10:14-18, 22; 1 John 1:7).

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