Tag Archives: Letter to the Hebrews

A New Covenant—Neglected

Appallingly, today, we see a denial of much of the glorious features of the New Covenant—New Testament life. Instead of God’s laws poured by the Holy Spirit into their minds and written on their hearts, many are content to get their spiritual input not from the Lord Himself, but from middlemen with agendas—spiritual directors, priests, pastors. Instead of being the people of God, many see their identity as Baptist or Catholic or Evangelical and so on. The two-tier (clergy-laity) mentality persists.

Does not the Living God find fault with us in our unbiblical practices of assembly and hierarchy which we continue to hang onto?

Instead of all God’s people being in unbroken fellowship with the living God—knowing Him in their personal experience—they are dependent on professional Christians as mediators. The whole concept given to us by S. Paul—that of the one body with many active functioning members, each with gifts of the Holy Spirit—is ignored, seen as irrelevant or even mysteriously withdrawn. Millions even attend rituals in which it is believed Jesus is re-sacrificed again and again by a priest, clearly at great odds with the message of the New Testament—this sacrifice was made once for all and all time and is unrepeatable.

The key to much understanding of the New Covenant is that we are each born into a Body—the Body of Christ. Individualism is contrary to the New Covenant and to our organic, community life in the Body of Christ. We are many members and one body. God makes covenant with a people, not with individuals, but with the body of Christ, in Jesus.

When the Lord talks about a new agreement (covenant), he means that the first one is out of date. And anything that is old and useless will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)

All kinds of spirituality that are inadequate or out of date have now been made obsolete by God’s flawless design; and what is obsolete and outdated soon disappears. And now what is not planted by the Father will be rooted up (Matthew 15:13). What is built, even if on a good foundation, if not with God’s specified materials, will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

This New Covenant is made with Christ and we get under the New Covenant by being hid in Christ together. So it can never be broken! You cannot break it—it was not made with you!

So what are you going to do about this?

You have the wonderful power of choice. To change your mind and heart and actions.

Must we keep disobeying the Lord who gave Himself for us?

A New Covenant—Ignored?

God’s first agreement (covenant) with His people, Israel, was defective, wrote the author of the New Testament book The Letter to the Hebrews (8:7-8) so a better was needed. This author shows how much more serious is our attitude and response to the New Covenant (how shall we escape if we ignore its implications, Hebrews 2:1-4).

The new must not be ignored. God’s design practices for corporate worship revealed in the New Covenant/New Testament must be followed. We must not lose His words or replace them by worldly or pagan ideas and practices like clergy—laity, pastor—people.

In this better covenant Jesus is not prevented by death and we are ALL called into the experience of the Lord Jesus in the power of his endless, indestructible life in which he works in us who draw near. He promises to energise within us, in our own life, breathing his life in us, so that it becomes our new nature to love him, delight to do his will—his own life in us.

Have believers gone backwards since Judaism with corporate matters?  In many ways our practices in churches as Christ’s people today are often more bound and institutional and domineering to that of many devout Jews in Jesus’ own day. Jews did not have a pastor or priest ruling over them. Nor did they meet in ‘house-of-the-Lord’ type buildings. Nor was the sharing of the word of God jealously guarded by one (or two) leaders.  The synagogue was a place of discussion and sharing of scriptures by the several.  Common meals were frequently shared together. Plus each synagogue was independently managed. They did not have to toe the line of any outside superintendent, C.E.O., denomination, statement of faith, or any head office!

These churchy practices plainly ignore the New Covenant.

How far we have drifted from the apostles’ teaching and practice! They were liberated from the practices of Judaism, yes, of religion and the Holy Spirit was living in each one! Yet today Christendom is weak, divided up into competing denominations, living “in the flesh” and generally not experiencing the New Covenant. It seems we have a similar situation today to that which our Hebrews author was addressing  (Heb 8:7-8) . . . .

 If the first covenant with God had been all right, there would not have been any need for another one. But the Lord found fault with them and said . . . . . .  (quoting Jer 31:31-34)

I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’

Can we just go on and on ignoring the New Covenant made at the most tremendous cost to the Father by Jesus?

“If you love me you will keep my commands”  John 14:15

To be continued

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One thing that never fails

Here follows a wonderful encouragement penned to me by my friend Carol . . . .

There has been much focus on healing among us for a while now. We have benefited much from attending seminars and putting it into practice, discussing, praying and experimenting with healing. Some have seen wonderful results, others have not. Some have been healed, others have not and some have even died.

What should be our attitude in the face of seemingly “unanswered prayer”?

We read “do not throw away our confidence; it will be richly rewarded. We need to persevere so that when we have done the will of God, we will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while: “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Heb 10:35-39

Therefore:

We do not throw away our confidence. We do not despair. We do not listen to the Liar and give in to discouragement. God is faithful. God is good. He will reward our obedience.

We stand firm in the faith. We help each other to stand firm and faithful. We encourage one another to stand firm and faithful.

We live by faith and not by sight. We are not carnal people living according to sensuality. We are seated in heavenly places, believing the Word, obeying Him, being alive in the spirit and dead to the flesh and sin.

We love. We love. We love. We love Him. We love one another. We pray for each other to be healed because we love one another and because we obey His Word to do so. When we are healed, it is wonderful. When we are not healed, we do not lose faith or give in to despair or discouragement, because we have loved and obeyed and we will be rewarded.

We remember that love trumps faith and hope:

Reading from 1 Cor 12:31: And now I will show you the most excellent way: LOVE…    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  . . . . .  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

We remember that Jesus said (John 13:34-35):

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We don’t let ourselves be persuaded that everyone will know we are disciples of Jesus by the performance of miracles. We do not forget that in spite of the thousands of miracles that Jesus performed, most abandoned Him.

We meditate on our reward of eternal life that comes by faith and not by performance: Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.'”

We build one another up and exhort each other to know Jesus before all else and to persevere in the face of disappointment. Everything we do must hinge on love and LOVE NEVER FAILS!

Eagerly desire the gifts! Yes!

Pray for people to be healed! Yes!

Cast out demons! Yes!

Prophesy! Speak in tongues! Move mountains with a word! Yes! Yes! Yes!

And more than anything else: LOVE! Yes!

Thank you Carol

 

THE VANITY OF WORSHIP

“In vain do they worship me – their teachings are merely human rules”  (Jesus’ words in Mark 7:6—7 of the church leaders who opposed him.)

Such manifest vanities are today practised and displayed daily by millions of church goers. Jesus could well say of today : they worship me after their own traditions instead of obeying my words.

Consider : Jesus never asked his disciples to worship him!

Imagine this absurd scenario:  The first disciples come together to worship Jesus. So they put him up on a throne and lift up their hands or they prostrate themselves! They say they love him, adore him, bowing down and singing before him, sure that their devotion, their religious acts will please him. They devise a form of service and trot it out ….. and they ignore his expressed words in the gospels.

Or, just imagine the first disciples post-Pentecost composing or going through a liturgy or holding services or dedicating buildings to Jesus! Of course, such scenarios do not fit. Human constructs.

Instead they show the worth of Jesus by obeying his Holy Spirit, sharing goods, experiencing apostolic teaching, eating together, praying, receiving the Holy Spirit.

Are we using “worship” as a substitute for plain obedience to Jesus? Faithfulness unto Jesus means we  follow him to the end.

Many ignore his commands to believe, to pray, to persevere, to go make disciples, to teach all peoples all his commands, to receive the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to him.

He has unequivocally and expressly stated that his disciples are to put his movement, his kingdom, before their interests and agendas, to put him first, to seek the Father’s will and heart, to sit at his feet, to abide in him, his words abide in them, to love one another as he has loved them.

Have we forgotten he asks us to lose our lives for his sake, to be fishers of men, to give freely, to rejoice in suffering ….. ?

Did Jesus start “worship” classes? Did he teach about how to do “services of worship”? Did he appoint worship leaders? The whole idea is absurd. So many human inventions.

“Do whatever he tells you said Mary, his mother to the servants at the wedding (John 2)—the best advice ever given. The last recorded words of Mary. How spot on! “Do whatever he tells you.

Now that’s worship: Do whatever he tells you.

Listen as he teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. His Father’s will not just listened to, but actually done.

The writings of the whole Bible are all about pleasing God, doing his will, living under his wonderful rule (that’s worth-ship—acknowledging God’s amazing and eternal worth). Isn’t that what Jesus’ parables are all about? The house built on the rock is the person who not only hears but does the will of God.

Following Jesus is to worship him, obey him, doing whatever he says. It’s obedience to God, not sacrifice that counts, declared the prophets.

Where is worship in the Letter to the Hebrews, that most Jewish of all the New Testament writings? It’s being provocative, “stirring up one another to love and good works”.  It’s drawing near to God with faith, it’s seriously listening to your leaders, it’s enduring suffering. It is in rendering a sacrifice of praise by our lips which bear witness to his name—that is, being a witness to Jesus. It’s being mature and teaching others.

Prayer is worship. A notable example is in Acts 4 prayer with shouts of praise to God in the context of persecution.  Study of scriptures is worship.

Worship is not just a sing-song.

Worship in Acts? What about Paul and Silas in that Philippi jail in the most uncomfortable circumstances; or with Lydda at place of prayer.  Pauls’ teaching and arguing, and urging, writing letters, always on the go. Frequently imprisoned. Always acknowledging Jesus’ worth.

For Paul the apostle “acceptable worship” is service to others and witness to Jesus (Romans 12).

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 it’s building one another up when you meet together with the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit—that’s worth-ship of Jesus.

In Ephesians 5 it’s “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” … to one another! Edification of the brothers and sisters is worth-ship along with making melody in the heart to the Lord.

Entertainments are common in many churches today and they call it worship! More like having an indulgent fun time—a substitute for the solid joys of doing what he asks.

The heart of God is the saving of the lost, that’s worship. Reaching outsiders.

What did Peter teach? What did John teach? James? And the others? It’s all about serving one another and doing the work of the Lord, being lights in a dark world. Worship in spirit and in truth.

Though the Israel cultus is gone, yet people feel the need to be religious, to offer up something other than “ourselves, our souls, our bodies as a living sacrifice”.

The Father “seeks those who will worship in spirit and in truth”.

Holiness for the many

Continuing looking at the Letter to the Hebrews, in chapter 10, verses 1 to 3, the writer drives home again that the Jewish law is a mere shadow with great limitations. Those same sacrifices were continuing—they did not stop because they were ineffectual, he said. They did not bring holiness.

In religious circles today, what offerings or worship do people make that needs continual repetition? Do these make them holy? Do these remove the feelings of guilt? We are often reminded that feelings are untrustworthy. Sure, only God is trustworthy! Yet, if we feel guilty, it may be because we have not entered into the true life in the Spirit, promised for us for us in the New Covenant to give us great hope for what is to come.

Much of today’s public expressions of Christianity carry continual reminders of sins to the hearer. In many places the order of service (not a New Testament idea) obliges people to confess sins in a vague, non-specific sense and they are expected to feel contrition. Then there are often sermons preached ‘six feet above reproach’ which are designed to induce guilt feelings but not real guilt. (Actually amongst the primitive believers in Jesus, there were no sermons, no preaching, no clergy, just encouragement and exhortation by one another.)

Real sense of guilt comes from God, from the Holy Spirit, a result of the reality that we have offended God and friendship with him has been severed as a result. It is a precondition for true holiness.

Hebrews 10 goes on to show that Jesus understood these famous words from Ps 40:6-8 to apply to him,

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;  with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll —I have come to do your will, my God.’”

Jesus accepted the central mission on which God had sent him—to offer himself in a human body, in his own human body, to do the will of God. Remember the scene in the garden, Gethsemane? And this perfect offering has replaced all other! This once for all obedience makes us holy, an emphatic statement much repeated. We do not understand this cosmic event, but we are amazed at its wonderful depth and sure of its benefits.

Jesus was no puppet, no mechanical man dictated to by God. No. Jesus had a will of his own. He chose to make his will conform to the Father’s will. It was the will of the LORD to bruise him, we read in that amazing servant song of Isaiah 53. At Heb 10:10,  our author maintains

by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all

Holiness is a gift from another to be received by turning to Him and believing—can’t be achieved any other way.

Do you get it?

THE BEST OF ALL

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote that the Holy Spirit shows (the Holy Spirit must be a real person! He shows, speaks, can be grieved, etc)showsthat the way into the true Most Holy Place of the Lord was hidden. In fact, only once a year could just one man enter the temporary copy standing on earth! (Hebrews 9:8)

But now a different tabernacle now stands! It is a person, a human like us, yet unlike any of us, the one-and-only Son of God.  He has tabernacled –pitched his tent— among us by coming in human flesh. Now he lives forever in God’s presence to carry on his work for us who abound in his work, participants in his movement. In him we find all our needs met, all our dreams fulfilled, all our weaknesses helped, all our sins forgotten.

We have seen how the conscience of the individual remained clouded and confused and rose up to condemn him under the Old. Only the outward was included, the inner person remained untouched. A better “tent” was needed to touch the inner person. It is here. And it’s no leaky tent.

So our author reminds us yet again He offered himself, which deals with our guilty conscience, but more than that: that we may serve the living God!

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and came to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

To be ransomed means a price was paid for our freedom. What an astronomically great price! And now our great privilege is to serve the living God.To serve is to worship—to acknowledge his tremendous worth. Worshipping God means working in his service. It does not mean sitting in a church pew being entertained –or bored to sleep.

To serve the living God—how good is that!

As John Wesley shouted : THE BEST OF ALL IS GOD IS WITH US.

Instead of rules and regulations

The first covenant had regulations—lots, as well as the amazing earthly sanctuary, says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, (chapter 9, verses 1 to 5). The spectacular tent with its out-of-this world design, specially crafted furniture, consecrated unrefrigerated food, the Most Holy Place, incense, the gold covered covenant box, not to mention the hundreds of rules governing the ceremonial work of the priests.

So, what are the regulations of the New Covenant? The setting up of numerous different kind of earthly sanctuaries called “churches”? A worldwide institution “the Church”? Pulpits, pews and altars? Mystical foods? A new order of priesthood? Transcendent sacrifices?  Better smelling incense? A priestcraft elite? Excited audiences and religious entertainment?

None of the above. Definitely. Absolutely not. Full stop.

But as you know, tragically, all too soon, men set up such things which were not even a shadow of the real. These survive today after a long history of slowly evolving forms: Catholicism, Anglicanism, sacramentalism, mysticism, countless other isms, formality, liturgy, clergy driven—old, superseded models but without any of the glory of God, no cherubim, no stone tablets written with the finger of God, no budding rod, and no true sacrifice for our atonement, and without any mandate whatsoever from the Lord of Hosts for the shabby substitutes men instituted. Empty. God has left this kind of house.

Under the Old Covenant, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.  But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance, as it says in Heb 9:6-7.

But today in so many earthly temples, earthly priests regularly enter their sanctuaries to carry on their ministry and without any Aaronic authority, imagining they re-crucify the Lord of glory on some pathetic copy of an altar. In a mockery of the real, the true, they imagine wine is magically changed to blood by their mumbo-jumbo mantra instead of directing needy souls to see that Jesus has finished his work once for all and ensure the people of receive their inheritance, now.

In the old Jewish order, sins committed in ignorance were atoned—wonderful grace assuring worshippers that it did not depend on them dotting every ‘i’.  But the so-called sacrifice of the mass keeps people in perpetual dependence on a mediatorial priesthood, for they must come continually to maintain the believed benefits of forgiveness.

But what can really cleanse from sin? And what about sin not done in ignorance–deliberate?  What can cleanse my conscience? –nothing in the old covenant arrangement, glorious though it is. A better deal awaited God’s people, now come in the Christ and his offering for us.

So again you may ask, what are the regulations of the New Covenant?

Well there are none. There are patterns to guide us and above all the example of the Lord Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. The habits, practices and attitudes he demonstrated to his little band of followers are there for us to practice towards one another : love, forgiveness, joy, patience, service, cooperation, togetherness, thanksgiving. Here we are not remotely on the same planet as Law, rules and regulations.

Jesus has gone from us to a place where he is constantly at work for us.

And there is the glorious gift of his Spirit! In his place he sends the Holy Spirit! People in the NT era knew they had received the Spirit from Jesus. They knew because they could abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:26). They knew because they were members of a functioning body all joined together, each with manifestations of the Holy Spirit to encourage one another. They knew because the Word of God flowed from their hearts and through their lips. They were bold, courageous.

Yes. There is also the eternal Word of God by which we continually hear His voice. What marvellous resources!

Surely we have such abundance in this great design plan that Jesus has inaugurated! What need then do we have of formalised institutions and commercialised religion? Of priestcraft and liturgical magic?

To hang on to such substitutions instead of God’s creative, revealed ways is to dishonour Him. To hear and put into practice His ways is to honour Him, to hallow His name.

Hear!