Posts Tagged ‘New Covenant’

How’s Your Heart?

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Lent 5 B, March 18, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 
92114

Click here for audio of this message

So how’s your heart? Have you been getting regular checkups? Are you eating heart healthy food? Getting regular exercise? Do you take your medications as prescribed by your doctor? Good!

So how’s your spiritual heart? Are you paying even closer attention to it?

You should you know, because that heart will be around a lot longer than your physical one. The physical heart will eventually fail from sickness or old age, but your spiritual heart, the essence of who you are, will last for eternity. Your Great Physician, the one who created your bodies, has prescribed medicine and treatments to care for your spiritual hearts as well. If you follow His care and then rest in His work, well you are absolutely guaranteed to have a blessed eternity. Listen: “For this is the covenant that I will make with (them)… declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.” [Jeremiah 31:33-34]

So there is God’s prescription for you; a new covenant! But why do we need a new covenant? Well, its because the old one can’t save you! Why; is there something wrong with it? Well no; its just that sin-sick people, people like us tend to misuse it; we want to use it in ways God never intended. You see, in our sin-sick condition we don’t want to believe that we have spiritual heart disease.

The people in the prophet Jeremiah’s time didn’t want to believe that either! In fact, every time God tried to treat His people’s disease of sin with His Word, they came up with all kinds of excuses to avoid getting the treatments. And if they didn’t like the message, why they would just attack God’s prophets, who were kind of like His spiritual paramedics. So like a child throwing a tantrum in the doctor’s office before receiving an injection, they refused to listen.

We aren’t much better today really. It’s getting harder and harder to even mention God’s name in public without someone being offended and trying to silence God’s wisdom.

Did you hear about what happened to the Christian fraternity and sorority on the campus of SDSU several years ago? They had a very simple code of conduct based on God’s Law; a set of rules that you must agree with in order to be a member. They required all perspective members to sign a pledge promising to avoid sex outside of marriage and agree that marriage is as God defines it; that is its between a man and a woman. Well, as you may have guessed, the state of California determined that they were discriminatory and not eligible for any of the state’s support that all of the other fraternities or sororities receive. Well both the fraternity and sorority sued in federal court and lost. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to even hear their case. So what does this case tell us? Well, you can’t force people to live God pleasing and moral lives. No, I’m afraid that before God’s forgiveness can be received and followed we need something more than rules and pledges in our lives; we need something new and powerful that doesn’t depend on us.

Like the true and faithful children of Abraham in the prophet Jeremiah’s time, we’ve also discovered that on our own we can’t keep God’s law and rules of conduct. We’ve all learned by experience that the old covenant, can never bring us God’s peace and salvation.

Today, God wants us to admit that try as we might, we will never please Him by being good.

God wants us to see that on our own, we are by nature sinful and unclean. We love to look at the trouble in our neighbor’s life and feel superior, while ignoring the big problems and sin that dominates our own lives. This is why we need a new covenant; a new prescription from God. In truth we need a new heart. So this morning, God is telling us that right now, He’s doing that very thing, and He does this work through the new covenant.

This new covenant is “not like the old covenant (He) made with (our) forefathers.” It contains no laws, rules, or regulations that have to be kept. It has no exclusive priesthood that limits the right of who may approach God. In fact, this new covenant invites everyone, regardless of nationality, to believe in God’s love and presence with each one personally. It sets aside ethnic, racial, and other man-made boundaries. The prescription or invitation of the new covenant is for the entire world. This new covenant invites everyone to worship the Lord in spirit and truth—“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” This is God’s miracle of conversion or new life. How does He deal with our old diseased hearts? He rips them out in baptism and replaces them with new hearts. With these new hearts, we see God’s holy and perfect righteousness and instead of being afraid, we call out to Him through the work and presence of the Holy Spirit, with the words, “Abba, Father.” We no longer look at God as angry and threatening, instead we see His forgiving love! This change in heart is something that the old covenant could never give to us.

So how did God do this mighty work? By showing us Jesus, His own Son upon the cross. In God’s Word, we see Jesus there upon the cross, high and lifted up as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. Through Jesus’ obedience and death we see the once-and-for-all sacrifice that pleases God and removes the guilt of sin from the entire world. He offered Himself freely; He willingly shed His blood so that all of us could be saved from our sins and given a new heart.

Now there is nothing that can prevent anyone, including you from knowing the forgiving love of Jesus Christ. When Jesus shouted from the cross “It is finished” he said those words for you.

This new covenant Word of God was sealed upon your very flesh in the waters of your baptism.

It really does not matter whether you can remember the day you were washed clean or not, because it was God’s work and not yours or any other person. In your baptism God took the sacrifice of Jesus blood, blood shed for the entire world as payment of their sins and He made it your personal payment. In your baptism God sealed you and gave to you His very Spirit and the forgiveness for all of your sins. But that is not all… He also gave to you the gift of faith to believe in this new covenant. In your baptism, the Words God spoke by the prophet Jeremiah come true: “No longer will a man teach his neighbor… saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me.”
We know Him through both the gift of faith and the promise of forgiveness that was given to us in our baptism. In both the cross and the baptismal waters, you hear God’s continuing Word of promise for each of you: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

But the work of the new covenant does not stop at the baptismal font. Every day God feeds us with His Word; a word that can be read, spoken, and declared. He calls us to His table and shares the meal of the new covenant within Holy Communion. In this meal He draws us to Himself and feeds us His supreme gift; with the bread, we receive His body given on the cross; with the wine He gives us His own blood poured out upon that same cross.

Within each of these sacred gifts, God gives us complete forgiveness, and He removes all doubts about His love for us. With these gifts He comes to us personally and works within us, strengthening our new hearts; hearts that beat to please Him. When we keep God’s law and do what is right, we glorify and please Him!

When we fail, when we sin He wants us to confess these failures and turn to Him for forgiveness.

This is the rhythm of living in God’s Kingdom of Grace; this is the rhythm of our new hearts beating within us. It is a life that God wants us to demonstrate to others.

Now, it might seem dangerous following Jesus and sharing God’s forgiving love with your neighbor; it might make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable to shame and ridicule. But if you will follow Jesus and the path of sacrificial love that He walked, after a while you will begin to grow in faith and learn to rest in the protecting presence of the Holy Spirit.

Before we close our message this morning, I want you to look up; look up at the ceiling of this church. Do you see how high those lights are? I would say that they are about 45 feet at the highest point. How do you think those bulbs get changed? That’s right; someone has to climb up there on a ladder, and that someone will probably be Dennis and me. The first time I went up there, I was pretty afraid. Each rung of the ladder created more fear, but I went up because it had to be done. Once I got up to the top, I felt every wiggle and jiggle of the ladder. But something happened as I began to work; I became comfortable with the height because I was comfortable with the strength of the ladder, so comfortable in fact that I had to be reminded to be careful because it’s a long way down!

Well, that’s sort of like our walk of faith. God has given us a new heart and a new covenant to live out and to share. He’s assured us that if we trust in His strong presence and work within us, then we will be alright. It might seem a little scary at first as you begin to share God’s forgiving love and Word with your neighbor. But once you start walking with God and letting Him work within you, your fear will leave and God’s peace will take its place and you will be amazed at the good He can do through you!

Just as Jesus obediently walked to Jerusalem, He wants us to allow Him to lead our new hearts governed by a new covenant. He wants us to go out into this world of sin and share His forgiving love and Word with others. It can seem intimidating and even a bit threatening, but remember you have a new heart beating within you… and that heart is saying, “You’re not alone… not alone… not alone… not alone!”

The Blood of the New Covenant

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

Ash Wednesday is a first night of 40 nights that we seriously reflect on three things.  First we consider our frailty.  We are but flesh.  We come from the earth and to the earth we shall return; Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Second we consider our sinfulness; our complete lack of excuse before God for the sinful things we have done and the good and holy things we fail to do.  And finally, we consider God’s righteousness and His gifts to us and for us, which are ours through Christ Jesus.

Tonight we will look at two covenants or promises that God has provided to save His people.  Both involve the shedding of blood.  One was temporary and the other eternal.

Modern men and women within our society are repulsed by the Old Testament sacrifice of animals, so much so, that many people want to close their eyes to the truths in those portions of Scripture which demand a sacrifice.  They want to close their eyes because it shows how horrid our sins are.  Oh they’ll gladly agree that the Old Testament points to the promised Savior of the New Testament, but the bloody stories of a God who punishes seems to have no place in a civilized society.

But the old covenant demonstrates unashamedly our God who is holy, disciplined, exacting, loving and trustworthy.   In fact, the entire Old Testament reveals the depth of humankind’s depravity, the seriousness of our sin, the extent of God’s anger, the depth of His love, and the need for a redeeming Savior.

Moses understood these issues. Speaking for God, he told the Israelites that to cover human sin, blood must be shed. The power of the blood must accompany any approach to the Father. And as the blood of the old covenant was spilled onto the altar and was sprinkled on the people, God revealed His redeeming grace and the forgiving power of His mercy.

Why blood? Well, as Moses explained, again speaking for God, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 17:11). All of the Old Testament rituals involving the spilling of blood made it clear that God takes sin seriously. Lifeblood must be shed to pay for sin. Someone, or something, must give its life. God’s wrath needed satisfaction. So, instead of requiring the death of the sinner, God offered grace by allowing the sacrifice of animals in their place.

But within God’s heart, His delight was not in blood sacrifice but in the yielding and surrendering of His people’s lives in dedication to Him. God desired a new relationship of faith with His children.  As Samuel said to Saul, “Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). David also said, “For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps 51:16–17).

Tonight, we approach God with broken spirits and contrite hearts.  And we know, He will not despise those things.  Why?  Because of the blood!

The blood in the Old Covenant, was used to foreshadow the sacrifice of Christ, and it pointed to something far deeper. Remember, God desires a right relationship of faith with His children.  He yearns for reconciliation and fellowship—something blood sacrifices could only point to. He knew the blood spilled on the altar and sprinkled on the people was temporary. What was needed was a blood sacrifice greater than the blood of rams and goats.  He needed to take His children’s eyes and hearts off of the Law and instead place their hope in His incomprehensible mercy. But to accomplish this God must provide One final blood sacrifice upon an altar made of wood.

Moses built an altar as his first sign of the covenant relationship to consecrate the people to God (Ex 24:4–5). To the Israelites and other ancient peoples, an altar meant a place for putting something to death, not only physically but also in their hearts. For the people of God, the altar also represented God’s real presence in their lives.

The blood sprinkled on the altar represented a life offered, or poured out, to the One true God in sacrifice. Sacrifices were not wasteful or extravagant acts of worship, in fact after the sacrifice, most of them required that the meat be eaten. So, the altar of God was the place where the people, the priests, and God held a meal together to show that they were in a relationship of peace and fellowship with each other.

As a place of fellowship, consecration, and sacrifice, the altar had to be made holy through the shedding and application of blood. The sanctified altar, then, became holy ground on which to lay the sin offerings of the people. The throwing of blood on the altar signified access to God; the blood of a chosen substitute replaced their lives, lives now committed and dedicated to Him.

Jesus’ disciples understood the blood of the old covenant, but how could they possibly comprehend the depth of Christ’s words on Maundy Thursday when He lifted a cup and spoke of the blood of the new covenant (Mt 26:27–28)? Christ often foretold His suffering and death, yet no words could prepare the disciples for the events that followed.

On Good Friday, another altar rose above the earth towering far above all other altars, and it was wooden and roughly cut. It would hold the Sacrifice, the One whose blood would redeem all people for all eternity. And From heaven, the Father observed His Son Jesus’ obedient death upon the cross and accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. From that time forward, in the heavenly tabernacle, an everlasting covenant—a new covenant—was made (Hebrews 9:11–14). By the cross, Jesus’ disciples, you and me, became partakers in His life and possessors of the heavenly inheritance (Hebrews 9:16–22).

This evening, we have witnessed a baptism.  We have seen two young children snatched from the kingdom of the devil and transferred into the Kingdom of Heaven.  It was the blood of the very King of Heaven that was sprinkled upon them in the washing of the water and the Word.  A blood far superior to that of animals, for it’s washing is eternal.

You dear parents are now called to model a life of repentance and faith.  You must agree with God that He is right and you are wrong.  You must turn to the Author and Perfecter of your faith every day for forgiveness and then you must teach your children to do the same.  You must instruct them of the importance of hearing and studying the Word of God, and when they are older, you must ensure that they and you approach the table of the Lord together for His Holy meal of forgiveness.

Just as a meal followed the sacrifices of the old covenant, so God’s people commune with Him today at the Lord’s Table. When you receive the body and blood of Christ, His fullness fills you. His mercy forgives you. His grace redeems you. You rest assured in the blotting out of all your sins (1John 1:7). With immediate deliverance and total justification, you know that God’s wrath has been removed, and that He no longer sees your sins but the covering of Christ’s blood sprinkled upon you and your children on your behalf.

In this new life of faith, I pray that each of you will dedicate yourselves in service to Jesus.  I also pray that as we pass through these 40 days of Lent, you will prepare yourself to be engulfed by all that is Holy Week.  Allow God to create a great hunger within you to dine at the Lord’s table on Maundy Thursday.  Ask Him to prepare your entire soul to enter into the grief of sins, even your own sins on Good Friday, and then prepare your self for the wonderful resurrection joy, which is the experience of Easter morning.  And through it all, I pray for you that God will continue to reveal His redeeming grace, His unlimited love, and the forgiving power of His mercy by the blood of the new covenant. The blood of Jesus Christ spilled on the altar of the cross, which now saves you.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

How’s Your Heart?

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Lent 5 B, March 25, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

So how’s your heart?  Have you been getting regular checkups?  Are you eating heart healthy food?  Getting regular exercise?  Do you  take your medications as prescribed by your doctor?  Good!

So how’s your spiritual heart?  Are you paying even closer attention to it?  You should you know; that heart will be around a lot longer  than your physical one.  The physical heart will eventually fail from sickness or old age, but your spiritual heart, the essence of who  you are, will last for eternity.  Your Great Physician, the one who created your bodies, has prescribed medicine and treatments to care  for your spiritual hearts as well.  If you follow His care and rest in His work, then you are absolutely guaranteed to have a blessed  eternity.  Listen: “For this is the covenant that I will make with (them)… declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will  write it on their hearts.  And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each  his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.  For I will  forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.” [Jeremiah 31:33-34]

So there is God’s prescription for you; a new covenant!  But why do we need a new covenant?  Well, its because the old one can’t save  you!  Why; is there something wrong with it?  Well no; its just that sin-sick people, people like us tend to misuse it; we want to use it in  ways God never intended.  You see, in our sin-sick condition we don’t want to believe that we have spiritual heart disease.  The people  in the prophet Jeremiah’s time didn’t want to believe that either!  In fact, every time God tried to treat His people’s disease of sin with His Word, they came up with all kinds of excuses to avoid getting the treatments.  And if they didn’t like the message, why they would just attack God’s prophets, who were kind of like His spiritual paramedics.  So like a child throwing a tantrum in the doctor’s office before receiving an injection, they refused to listen.

We aren’t much better today really.  It’s getting harder and harder to even mention God’s name in public without someone being offended and trying to silence God’s wisdom.

Did you hear about what happened to the Christian fraternity and sorority on the campus of SDSU?  They had a very simple code of conduct based on God’s Law; a set of rules that you must agree with in order to be a member.  They required all perspective members to sign a pledge promising to avoid sex outside of marriage and agree that marriage as God defines it is between a man and a woman.  Well, as you may have guessed, the state of California determined that they were discriminatory and not eligible for any of the state’s support that all of the other fraternities or sororities receive.  Well both the fraternity and sorority sued in federal court and lost.  The U.S. Supreme Court refused to even hear their case.  So what does this case tell us?  Well, you can’t force people to live God pleasing and moral lives.  No, I’m afraid that before God’s can be received and follow we need something more than rules and pledges in our lives; we need something new and powerful that doesn’t depend on us.

Like the true and faithful children of Abraham in the prophet Jeremiah’s time, we’ve also discovered that on our own we can’t keep God’s law and rules of conduct.  We’ve all learned by experience that the old covenant, can never bring us God’s peace and salvation.

So this morning God wants us to admit that try as we might, we will never please Him by being good.  He wants us to see that on our own, we are by nature sinful and unclean.  We love to look at the trouble in our neighbor’s life and feel superior, while ignoring the big problems and sin that dominates our own lives.  This is why we need a new covenant; a new prescription from God.  In truth we need a new heart.  So this morning, God is telling us that right now, He’s doing that very thing, and He does this work through the new covenant.

This new covenant is “not like the old covenant (He) made with (our) forefathers.”  It contains no laws, rules, or regulations that have to be kept.  It has no priesthood that limits the right of who may approach God.  In fact, this new covenant invites everyone, regardless of nationality, to believe in God’s love and presence with them personally.  It sets aside ethnic, racial, and other man-made boundaries.  The prescription or invitation of the new covenant is for the entire world.  This new covenant invites everyone to worship the Lord in spirit and truth—“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”  This is God’s miracle of conversion or new life.  How does He deal with our old diseased hearts?  He rips them out in baptism and replaces them with new hearts.  With these new hearts, we see God’s holy and perfect righteousness and instead of being afraid, we call out to Him through the work and presence of the Holy Spirit, with the words,  “Abba, Father.”  We no longer look at God as angry and threatening, instead we see His forgiving love!  This change in heart is something that the old covenant could never give to us.

So how did God do this mighty work?  By showing us Jesus, His own Son upon the cross.  In God’s Word, we see  Jesus there upon the cross, high and lifted up as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Through Jesus’ obedience and death we see the once-and-for-all sacrifice that pleases God and removes the guilt of sin from the entire world.  He offered Himself freely; He willingly shed His blood so that all could be saved from their sins and be given a new heart.  Now there is nothing that can prevent anyone, including you from knowing the forgiving love of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus shouted from the cross “It is finished” he said those words for you.

This new covenant is sealed upon your very flesh in your baptism.  It really does not matter whether you can remember the day you were washed clean or not, because it was God’s work and not yours or any other man.  In your baptism God took the sacrifice of Jesus blood, blood shed for the entire world as payment of their sins and He made it your personal payment.  In your baptism God sealed you and gave to you His very Spirit and the forgiveness for all of your sins.  But that is not all… He also gave to you the gift of faith to believe in this new covenant.  In our baptisms, the Words God spoke by the prophet Jeremiah come true: “No longer will a man teach his neighbor… saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me.”  We know Him through both the gift of faith and the promise of forgiveness that was given to us in our baptism.  In both the cross and the baptismal waters, you hear God’s continuing promise to each of you: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

But the work of the new covenant does not stop at the baptismal font.  Every day God feeds us with His Word; a word that can be read, spoken, and declared.  He calls us to His table and shares the meal of the new covenant within Holy Communion.  In this meal He draws us to Himself and feeds us His supreme gift; with the bread, we receive His body given on the cross; with the wine He gives us His own blood poured out upon that same cross.

Within each of these sacred gifts, God gives us complete forgiveness, and He removes all doubts about His love for us.  With these gifts He comes to us personally and works within us, strengthening our new hearts; hearts that beat to please Him.  When we keep God’s law and do what is right, we glorify and please Him!   When we fail, when we sin He wants us to confess these failures and turn to Him for forgiveness.  This is the rhythm of living in God’s Kingdom of Grace; this is the rhythm of our new hearts beating within us.  It is a life that God wants us to demonstrate to others.

Now, it might seem dangerous following Jesus and sharing God’s forgiving love with your neighbor; it might make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable to shame and ridicule.  But if you will follow Jesus and the path of sacrificial love that He walked, after a while you will begin to grow in faith and learn to rest in the protecting presence of the Holy Spirit.

Before we close our message this morning, I want you to look up; look up at the ceiling of this church.  Do you see how high those lights are?  I would say that they are about 45 feet at the highest point.  How do you think those bulbs get changed?  That’s right; someone has to climb up there on a ladder, and that someone in usually Dwain and me.  The first time we went up there, we were pretty afraid.  Each rung of the ladder created more fear, but we went up because it had to be done.  Once we got up to the top, we felt every wiggle and jiggle of the ladder.  But something happened as we began to work; we became comfortable with the height because we were comfortable with the strength of the ladder, so comfortable in fact that we had to remind each other to be careful because it’s a long way down!

Well, that’s sort of like our walk of faith.  God has given us a new heart and a new covenant to live out and to share.  He’s assured us that if we trust in His presence and work within us, then we will be alright.  It might seem a little scary at first as you begin to share God’s forgiving love and Word with your neighbor.  But once you start walking with God and letting Him work within you, your fear will leave and God’s peace will take its place and you will be amazed at the good He can do through you!

Just as Jesus obediently walked to Jerusalem, He wants us to allow Him to lead our new hearts governed by a new covenant.  He wants us to go out into this world of sin and share His forgiving love and Word with others.  It can seem intimidating and even a bit threatening, but remember you have a new heart beating within you… and that heart is saying, “You’re not alone… not alone… not alone… not alone!”