If you read our blog on what the Gospel is, you’ll know that we started a series focusing on the words “Gospel”, “Grace”, “Community”, and “Church”. The next week we then we sought to look at grace, and while we all know what that means, we endeavored to see how it impacts our lives, and how God can pour it over us.
This time we studied Jeremiah 31:31-34. There, Jeremiah records the words of God Himself, who says that He is bringing a new covenant that will mean full forgiveness of our sins, and a heart that naturally seeks Him. Of course, there are some words in there that may give us pause, and to understand what this all means, we have to understand a few things.
First, to state simply, a covenant is essentially a bond between two people. It is like a marriage, where the husband and wife vow their lives to each other. Therefore, a covenant between God and people is like a marriage covenant: He promises and vows one thing, and we promise and vow another. Second, calling the coming covenant between God and people “new” must mean that there is an “old” one.
This Old Covenant is found in the commonly known 10 Commandments. There, God took the Ancient nation of Israel and said, “I will love you, protect you, guide you, and save you, but in return you must keep the 10 Commandments”. However, Israel did not do this. You see, the whole point of the law is not to make sure you do everything right all the time, but rather to inspire love for the Lord. The Pharisees of the New Testament took the 10 Commandments and expanded them to over 600, saying, “Okay, we’re supposed to keep the Sabbath holy by doing no work? – Then we’ll limit the number of steps we can take while walking, limit this and that, etc. etc. and before you know it, boom – we’ve kept the 4th command!”. But while the Pharisees expanded the law, Jesus summed it up: love God, and love your neighbor (Mark 12:30-31).
Instead of caring about outward obedience, God cares about inward love. That’s why Jesus says cleaning the outside of a cup is relatively useless; it’s about cleaning the inside! The Pharisees tried for external living, but Jesus focused on the internal. And so what the law of the 10 Commandments was meant to do was to cause Israel to see that God was holy and perfect, they were not, and that they needed His grace and mercy. Instead, Israel decided to hardly follow Him at all, and so the Old Covenant failed because mankind failed their end of the deal. The truth of the matter, too, is that we fail, constantly. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and if we’re honest, we can see that we’re like Israel: do we always put God first? – Of course not. We’re sinful, and as such, are liable to His judgment.
So when we come to our passage, the Lord is saying, “I could just burn this whole thing to the ground and be fine, but I want you”, and therefore He brings the New Covenant. What this New Covenant means is that God will enter back into that marriage covenant, but this time He will uphold our end, and that’s what happens on the cross. The Father sent the Son, Jesus, in order to take our punishment. All the curses from breaking the covenant, and all the guilt of sin were laid upon Jesus, and all those who believe in him as their savior are showered in grace. What this grace means is that before the Lord we have clean conscience, and a guilt-free record. It means that God can’t remove or revoke His love, but rather that we are His for all eternity. Grace means no more living in fear, no condemnation, no punishment from God, no wondering what the next life will bring, but pure assurance that we are as safe in His love as He is strong.
Of course, this does not mean we’re free to live in sin, for grace is a restraint against unGodly living, and we must seek to live according to His standard. Likewise, it doesn’t mean that we won’t stumble and fall, or see hard times, but it is the promise that even if we walk through the darkest valleys, He is still our God. It’s the news that while at times our souls may be parched, and we treat Him with disdain, His arms are always open, and He is waiting with living, refreshing water.
That’s why grace is in our Church’s name, because while the gospel is the good news that your God reigns (proving that and saving us through the cross), grace is the outpouring of this, the very strength and courage to move through each day, and the guarantee of eternal life with the Lord. However, this grace is available only to those who hold to Jesus as their savior. So come to him, and feel the downpour of His mercy, His love, and His grace; it will change your life forever.