The writer of Hebrews gives us the essence of the New Covenant in today’s Bible reading: “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12, quoting from Jeremiah 31:31-34)
The problem with the Old Covenant is that God’s people repeatedly broke the covenant. God knew they would and planned the New Covenant from the beginning. Because of the depth of our lostness, the depth of our depravity, God knew that He would have to keep both ends of the covenant. So under the New Covenant, God puts His Holy Spirit in every believer to empower us to live up to His standards and to even give us the desire to live up to His standards. God did it all!
God knew the hearts of His people. And He knew the ones we inherited from our first parents couldn’t keep the Old Covenant. So He told the Old Testament prophets that He would cut a New Covenant with His people. Not only would He cut a New Covenant, but He would also give circumcised hearts to His people, hearts that would be able to — and desire to — please Him. (Ezekiel 36:26–29)
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. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. (Ezekiel 36:26–29 ESV)
Today’s Bible reading says that if you were saved and backslide, you cannot be restored to faith. (Hebrews 6:4-6) In other words, if you were saved and lose your salvation, you can never get it back!
People don’t like to hear things like this. God is a God of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. There’s nothing that you can do that God won’t forgive you for. Right?!
These are great questions. The problem is that oftentimes, we approach this issue of salvation from a man-centered orientation rather than from a God-centered orientation. The ultimate question comes down to the question of how lost were we before we were saved? How deeply was mankind — and each of us individually — affected by the Fall? The Bible’s answer is that we were all — and individually — affected to the very depths of who we are. (Psalm 14:1-3, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:23)
We wrongly think that our standing is based on our behavior. But it isn’t. Misdeeds can’t make us less righteous and good deeds can’t make us more righteous. If we could just behave ourselves into making God happy with us, then Jesus wasted His life and death. Wasted!
Our standing before God has everything to do with what we’re doing with Jesus’ death. Being justified before God — having a right standing before God — is based on position, not behavior. Sure, behavior is important, but not on the front end of salvation.
Salvation is based on the finished atoning work of Jesus on the cross. Either we are trusting in His payment for our sin-debt, or we’re trusting in our own. Either we’re in an adopted covenant relationship with God or we aren’t. And if we’re not, we’re ultimately in a transactional religion, which God never agreed to be a part of.
Adoption is based on the choice of the adopting parent, not the behavior — or potential behavior — of the adoptee. Every one of my friends who adopted children initiated the adoption with their kids. Not one of their kids initiated the adoption by asking to be adopted, even if they could have.
Jesus’ atoning work on the cross was either sufficient to secure you in an adoptive covenant relationship or it wasn’t. And if you can sin your way out of having a covenant relationship with God, then Jesus’ atoning work on the cross was incomplete, and thus insufficient to hold you in the relationship.
That’s why the writer to the Hebrews says that if it is possible for someone to taste salvation and share in the Holy Spirit, and later to fall away, then it is impossible to restore that person to a covenant relationship with God.
Your behavior cannot get you into an adoptive covenant relationship with God. And your behavior can’t get you out of an adoptive covenant relationship with Him either.
And that’s great news!
So are you in an adoptive covenant relationship with the Creator of the universe? If not, please reach out to me. Let’s talk!
In today’s Bible reading, the writer of the book of Hebrews urges his readers to respond in a positive way to hearing God’s voice. He quotes Psalm 95:7-8 and urges his readers to not harden their hearts if they hear God’s voice.
There is a danger to being familiar with God. The danger is that He becomes so much a “friend” that we no longer find Him awe-inspiring. We no longer see Him with a sense of wonder. Instead, he fits neatly in a box of our creation and choosing.
But the reality is that God will never really fit in a box. God cannot be tamed. God will not be tamed. We must always remember that our God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29) If you get too close, you will be burned.
There is also a danger to being familiar with God’s Word. Unless you guard against it, you can go through the motions of reading and hearing God’s Word without listening to His voice. He urges his readers to encourage each other daily to prevent sin from deceitfully hardening their hearts.
As you spend time in God’s Word, ask Him to speak. As He speaks, ask Him to show His majesty. Ask Him to show you His magnificence. Ask Him to give you a fresh taste of His greatness. Linger in His Word until you get a fresh taste. And worship.
Perhaps the best thing you can do to keep your heart from being hardened is to strive for instant obedience to whatever God says. Remember that God is God and you aren’t.
The salvation message was secured by Jesus. The salvation message was declared by angels and proven to be reliable. God Himself bore witness to the salvation message and validated it with signs and wonders. The question from today’s Bible reading is, “Are you drifting from your salvation? Are you neglecting this great salvation message?”
How would one go about neglecting a great salvation like the one provided by Jesus’ death and resurrection? The Greek word that’s translated neglect means, “to pay no attention to”. (Hebrews 2:2) The writer of the book mentions “drifting away from” the message. (Hebrews 2:1) The word drift has to do with gradually giving up one’s belief. Both of these ideas are related to each other. I don’t know of anyone who woke up one day and decided to shipwreck their faith, to walk away from a deeply-committed faith. It just doesn’t happen.
A long time ago, my dad and sister and I were floating with an inner tube at the beach. We enjoyed playing around a little until we realized that we had drifted much further out than we had planned. In fact, the lifeguards had grown concerned and began blowing their whistles. As we tried to swim back toward shore, we realized that we had been caught in a rip current. Thankfully, it wasn’t a strong one! But getting back to shore required a lot of hard swimming against the current. We didn’t plan to get out so far. But we weren’t paying attention to our surroundings. We had drifted away.
Because of our fallen condition, our natural inclination — our natural bent — is to not be interested in the things of God. It takes work to maintain your faith. It takes a conscious effort to maintain your faith.
It’s like trying to create a garden in the middle of a wild field. Just digging some holes in the ground, dropping in a few seeds, pouring on a little water one time won’t cut it! You have to dig up the weeds by the roots. You have to add the right amount of the right kind of fertilizer. You have to add the right amount of water. And you have to do it in the right temperature for the kind of seeds you’re planting.
Maintaining your salvation takes work. It requires spiritual disciplines like reading your Bible, praying, sharing your faith, worshipping and fellowshipping with other Believers, giving of your time, talent, and treasures to your local church fellowship. If you are not actively pursuing these spiritual disciplines, you will drift away.
Does that mean that you can lose your salvation? The Bible consistently teaches the security of your salvation is guaranteed by God Himself. If you have a legitimate salvation, you cannot lose it. In fact, the likelihood of losing a legitimate salvation is as likely as God the Father walking away from the Holy Spirit, since the Spirit is the downpayment (earnest money) toward your ultimate salvation and glorification. (Ephesians 1:14)
But all of this presupposes a legitimate salvation in the first place. Just because you walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or were baptized doesn’t mean that you have a legitimate salvation. One of the marks of having a legitimate salvation is a desire to maintain it.
If you made a decision for Christ and nothing has changed in your life, you need to go back and see if you were truly saved. What changes should happen? Do you have a desire for the things of God? Do you have a desire to grow closer to God? Do you feel uncomfortable sometimes when you read things in the Bible? Things that go against the way you live and the choices you make?
Note that these are heart questions, not behavior questions. Yes, your behavior will change. But behavior change alone won’t save you. And there’s the rub. Only God can make changes in your heart.
Ask God to do a transforming work in your heart. Ask Him to change your desires and attitudes. As you do this, practice the spiritual disciplines. And watch your heart and behavior change.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul and Silas come to Phillipi. On the Sabbath, they search out a place where people gathered to worship. Evidently, there wasn’t a synagogue there, but they found some women who had gathered to pray. One of the women was Lydia, a local businesswoman who sold purple goods. We know that she worshipped God.
Dr. Luke brings out something interesting that we cannot overlook. “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14) She believes and is baptized, along with her household.
We don’t know if Lydia is a Jew or a God-fearing Gentile. But Dr. Luke seems to indicate that she isn’t saved.
Going to church will not save you. Only believing in Jesus and trusting His sacrificial death as the payment for your sin will save you.
As you talk with people whom you think may not be believers, ask God to open their hearts to pay attention to what He would say through you. Unless God opens their heart, they will not hear, believe, and trust in Christ. And they will not experience God’s transforming power.
When you talk with people about Jesus, remember that praying for God to move in their hearts and minds is more important than saying the right things. Absolutely share your faith with everyone you can. But don’t worry about getting the words right. Trust God to be sovereign over their salvation, just as He was sovereign over yours. And speak the truth in love.