A New Covenant Given
Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Hebrews 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
God’s new covenant promise was not simply that he would become a God to his people, but that he would also give his people a new heart. With this new heart, they would have the desire and ability to worship him in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24; Php 2:13).
When we speak of the heart we are really talking about all of the inward characteristics of man; his mind, his will and his emotions. All of these must be salvaged from the curse of sin and experience spiritual renewal (Ro 12:2; 2Co 4:16; Eph 4:23; Col 3:10). This is exactly what God has done through the New Covenant. Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God gives the believer a new heart. He writes His law on the heart of man, puts His spirit inside of him and enables him to worship in sincerity. Through the New Covenant, God is creating a host of genuine worshipers.
Salvation – The Renewing of the Heart
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
When a man receives Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord, the Bible teaches that he is made spiritually alive (Eph 2:1,5). He is actually renewed on the inside (Titus 3:5, Col 3:9,10). This is a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the New Covenant.
Titus 3:5-6 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
The fulfillment of God’s new covenant was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Christ rose from the dead, having defeated death, sin and Satan, he sent the Holy Spirit of God to dwell inside of God’s people (John 14:17, John 16:7, 1 Cor 3:16). It is by the Holy Spirit of God that he took away our heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. It is also the Holy Spirit which wrote his law on our hearts and fulfilled every other aspect of the New Covenant (Eze 36:27; Heb 9:14; Titus 3:5-6; Eph 2:5; Eph 3:14-17; Php 2:12)
When a man is saved, there is a real change which happens on the inside. God actually makes a spiritual transformation inside of him. Now, having been made spiritually new, this man has the ability to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, to worship God in sincerity and to please Him through obedience.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
God is very clear. Salvation is not the result of outward works, but of His divine action on the inside of man. He makes us spiritually new and enables us to exercise good works. Our ability to please Him comes only after salvation and is the result of His renewing work in our hearts. This is profoundly different from those religions which teach we must, by our own ability, earn favour with God.
Attitudes of the Heart – The Spirit’s Fruit
Upon salvation, man is made spiritually new. He has been given a new heart, yet he remains in a sinful body, and in a sinful world (Rom 7:24, John 17:15). For this reason, God’s work inside of man begins at the moment of salvation but continues his entire life. There is an immediate spiritual renewal, but a progressive work of conforming him to Christ-likeness. (Eph 4:30)
Galatians 3:2-3 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Not only is it foolish to think that we can be saved by our own efforts, but it is also foolish to think that we can maintain our salvation through our own good works. Anything that we do that is pleasing to God is directly attributal to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. This does not mean however that our effort has nothing to do with it. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit works in tandem with our own diligent effort.
Are we then entirely responsible for our spiritual growth? No. Even though we must discipline ourselves and labour for the glory of God, we can in no way take credit for any of it. If God did not graciously give us his Holy Spirit, transform our hearts and continue to work in us day by day, we would have absolutely no desire to please him, let alone the ability to do so. (Rom 8:29; Php 2:12-13).
Even as the the life of the growing believer begins to change on the outside, we must remember that the Spirit’s work remains in the realm of the heart. He continually works to bring our thoughts, emotions and will under his control. It is his work that begins on the inside and ultimately affects our affections, actions and attitudes on the outside.
Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
The formation of Christ-like character in believers is the chief goal of the church. All the spiritual gifts given to the church are for the purpose of bringing men and women into spiritual maturity, that is, Christ-likeness (Eph 4:11-16). As we have already learned, this work takes place in the heart. Therefore, the focus of the ministry of the church should not be on outward conformity, moral reformation, or rule-keeping but on spiritual transformation. (Rom 12:2)
Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
The word “dwell” here means to “settle down.” To be strengthened by the Spirit means to have Christ settled in our hearts. That is, he is comfortable and at home. This happens as our lives line up with his will through obedience to his commands (John 15:7, John 14:21).
Paul desired that the Ephesians be strengthened on the inside by the Spirit. This was the focus of his ministry. We should also seek to promote the work of the Spirit inwardly. How then should our church go about this? Do we use guilt, gimmicks, programs or pressure to help develop the heart attitudes of faith, hope, and love? Do we devise rules to help people live disciplined lives of unity, humilty, joy and thankfulness? Do we offer incentives and rewards if people exhibit compassion, contentment and self-discipline? Or is there a better way? What is the Biblical way?
Spiritual Fruit by Spiritual Means
John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
Since man’s sanctification (or increasing Christ-likeness) is an internal work produced by the Spirit of God, it only makes sense to use God’s means to encourage that growth. His main method of promoting spiritual growth is the ministry of the word. This is why it is absolutely essential that the Christian avail himself to the word of God (Luke 4:4). This also gives the church a mandate to focus on strong, accurate, Biblical teaching and preaching. If God’s chief work is internal, by the Spirit, through the word of God, than it makes no sense to deemphasize Biblical teaching or to seek new means or methods to produce growth (1 Thess 5:20).
God also does His internal work through the ministry of spiritual gifts. God has given every believer a spiritual gift (Eph 4:11, Rom 12:5-8) for the purpose of edifying or building up the church (1 Cor 12:7). These gifts produce spiritual maturity (Eph 4:13), doctrinal stability (Eph 4:14) and, loving unity (Eph 4:15-16) in the congregation.
The Bottom Line
God desires men and women to worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Man’s sinful heart has prevented him from worshipping God in this way. He continually falls back into sin, self-righteousness, and legalism. But, from the beginning of time God planned on remedying man’s sin problem by providing him with a new heart. This is what he called the new covenant. He accomplished the new covenant through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Upon Christ’s ascension to Heaven he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within believers. It is through the Holy Spirit that God renews the hearts of men and women, reconciling them to himself and enabling them to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
God’s work is an inside job! As the church we must seek to encourage and promote this inner work by using God’s means and methods. Emphasizing outward conformity to rules is not God’s way. He has not told us to manipulate, threaten or guilt people into obedience, but to preach, teach and practice His word in the power of His Holy Spirit.
The faithful teaching of God’s word and the production of spiritual heart attitudes is a long and sometimes difficult process. Paul compared it to labouring in birth! But it is God’s way and we dare not deviate from it. This means that as a church we will continue to make the teaching and preaching of God’s word the centerpiece of our ministry. We will seek to promote inward transformation to Christ-likeness and not outward conformity to rules, preferences or the standards of men. The life of a growing Christian will predominantly be characterized by spiritual heart attitudes. Outward changes will occur in every believer’s life, but this is the evidence of an interal work and not a replacement for it.