Over the last forty years of teaching the Bible, I have learned some interesting things about how Christians determine what they believe. Unfortunately, one of the things I've learned is that many Christians never let the Bible get in the way of what they believe.
A recent Barna Survey reveals that for the first time, most Americans now depend upon their own logic, tradition, or experience to formulate beliefs. Few actually take the Word of God as the basis of their beliefs. The result is what Jesus spoke about in Mark 7:13:
"Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition."
Most Christians today aren't aware that their "old-time religion" is polluted with many traditions that void the power of God's Word. While there are plenty of "man-made" traditions that are harmful, it comes as a complete shock to most believers that there are traditions instituted by God that can make His Word of no effect.
After you pick yourself up off the floor from that statement, let me explain. The Old Testament way of relating to God is not the same as the New Testament way of having a relationship with God. The Old Testament was legalistic and based on your performance. The New Testament, on the other hand, is a covenant of grace based on acceptance of what Jesus did. Because of that, there is a huge difference between the way people approached God under the Old and the way they should now approach Him under the New.
The book of Hebrews was written specifically to contrast this and to show us how to approach God through a new and living way. I have spent decades meditating on this book, and especially Hebrews chapter 10:16-23, which I believe summarizes the whole book of Hebrews.
Those verses read,
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering."
Under the Old Covenant, a sacrifice had to be offered every time a sin was committed. Then, once a year on the day of atonement, a sacrifice was made by the high priest for everyone and everything just in case something was missed. However, all these sacrifices were just types and shadows of the ultimate sacrifice that was to come (Heb. 9:8-12 and 24-28).
Yet today, the Old Covenant thinking is still prevalent in the body of Christ. Average Christians have been taught, and believe, that the sins they committed before they were born again were all forgiven the moment they were saved. But they believe the sins they commit after their salvation all have to come under the blood and be confessed, one by one.
The extreme legalist believes that if a Christian does not confess their sins they will go straight to hell. The less extreme believe that at the very least, the person will lose their fellowship with the Lord, and He will not answer their prayers. Both are wrong. If you have made Jesus your Lord, you've become a new creature, and sin is no longer an issue between you and God.
Hebrews 10:10 says,
"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Verse 14 goes on to say,
"For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
Jesus paid the price for all sin, and there is nothing left to pay! There is no other way to say it: All is forgiven forever (Hebrews 10:10 and 14). Once you understand this, it gives you confidence to enter boldly into the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19).
David didn't have this type of relationship under the Old Covenant. Therefore, when he was repenting over his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, he prayed,
"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit" (Ps. 51:10-12).
However, for us as New Testament believers to pray this same prayer would be an insult to what Christ has done for us. God created a new heart in us when we were born again (2 Cor. 5:17) and sealed it with His Holy Spirit so it would never be polluted again (Eph. 1:13). He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5), and His love, joy, and peace are now a permanent part of our born-again spirits (Gal. 5:22). Yet multitudes of New Testament Christians pray and sing the exact opposite of this.
Therefore, most Christians aren't bold in their relationship with the Lord. They approach the Lord with fear of punishment and rejection. They fear they aren't worthy and that they haven't done enough to earn the right to be in His presence. They still believe their relationship with the Lord depends on their performance, and mixing the Old and the New Covenant makes the Word of God void in their lives.
Let's read what Hebrews 10:22 says: "Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." Our consciences are the part of us that are defiled and keep us from having boldness to enter into the presence of God (Heb. 9:14). And why are our consciences defiled? Because of the Law, the Old Covenant. The Law is what gives us knowledge of sin and takes away our confidence.
Hebrews 10:1-2 says,
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins" (emphasis mine).
The same word that was translated "boldness" in Hebrews 10:19 was translated "confidence" in Hebrews 10:35, which says,
"Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward."
There are not many people who have strong confidence in their relationship with the Lord. Therefore, they have a hard time entering boldly into His presence.
What I am saying here is powerful. If we can understand the promises that have been made to us in these scriptures and quit trying to mix the Old with the New, it will change our lives. This is exactly what Jesus was saying in the parable about the new wine.
Matthew 9:17 reads,
"Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved."
The New Covenant is like new wine. It is meant to be placed in a new container. And you are that new container. In your spirit, when you were born again, you became a totally brand-new creation, created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). First John 4:17 says that you are identical to Jesus in your spirit: "As he is, so are we in this world."
It's your spirit that changed, not your soul or your body. John 4:24 says that God is a Spirit and that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. So when a person says something like "I haven't been praying enough, reading my Bible enough, or I just feel so worthless," they aren't worshiping Him in Spirit and in truth.
Instead, they have allowed an evil conscience, empowered by the Law of the Old Covenant, to condemn them. They are looking through the eyes of the flesh and soul, instead of the spirit. It's time to stop mixing the Old with the New and to enter into the presence of God by a new a living way.
I have just taught a new series called Hebrews Highlights. It was a powerful teaching that visibly impacted the people at this seminar. I believe these truths will also help you get free and enter into the presence of God without condemnation or judgment. And maybe for the first time, you can begin to see yourself free from sin-consciousness.