The Labor of Rest

July 7, 2015 at 1:56 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 5 Comments
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Lord, as we study and discuss your Word, help us to draw near to You. Help us to see truth, and help us to resolve to do right. Lead us, Father, away from temptation, and deliver us from evil. In the Name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

Hebrews Chapter 4 reveals the second of the five admonitions (encouragements mixed with warnings). The first one was: Don’t let doctrine slip away from you – don’t drift. The second one is: Don’t be suspicious of God’s promises. In other words, don’t doubt or disbelieve His Word.

We show or prove our belief by submitting – by showing our fear – not fear of God’s wrath, but fear of chastening. It’s like when an obedient dog rolls over on command. It’s part ritual, but there’s also a real desire to please, and to avoid displeasing, his master.

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

Hebrews 4:1

The “therefore” in that verse reflects back to the previous chapter:

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:19

If there were some who could not enter in to their rest because of unbelief, doesn’t it stand to reason that we don’t want to copy their mistake? Suspicion concerning God’s promises will lead to unbelief, and will keep a believer from entering in to his rest. I’m not talking about our Heavenly rest; I’m talking about a confident realization of our peace with God that allows us to draw near to Him.

The opposite of letting slip is holding fast (holding tight). Drawing near to God requires total attention – fixation. We’re not going to draw near to God by accidentally backing into Him, or bumping into Him. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like that expression, “Let go and let God.” It sounds good. It’s cute phonetically. It even has an okay-ish application to it, in the sense that holding onto fears and worries and bitterness that I can’t control would not be good, so I need to “give them to God.” Also, holding onto sin is certainly not good; I need to call on the Lord to “deliver” me from sin. But I must not “let go” of my focus on God – of my zealous desire to please Him. This does not mean that I’m supposed to worry that I can never please Him, or that He will kick me out of His family if I fail. It means that, if I’m not sincerely trying, my knowledge of His righteousness and my fear of Him reminds me that He will chasten me in love.

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Hebrews 4:11

“Laboring to rest” sounds contradictory, but the Holy Spirit resolves the tension by showing us how to do it:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

The Bible is alive, and it is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It judges our hearts as we submit to its judgment. Forced judgment is not for the children of God; it’s for the enemies of God. God’s righteous wrath is not for those who are drawing near with a pure heart; it is for those who are far away and who are attacking Him from the outskirts, or who are running away from Him because they despise Him.

For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

Hebrews 4:10

The reason it is possible for us to be free – no, more than just free – even welcomed and beckoned – and to come let the Word of God judge our hearts, is because Christ is superior to Moses and the other prophets in that He finished His work.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

John 19:30

Christ did not die with His work unfinished. He died to pay the sin debt once for all. That’s why many true Christians have such a problem with people trying to add something to salvation: it minimizes or denigrates the work and victory of Christ on the Cross.

Restless Unbelief

June 15, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 5 Comments
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Some Christians are like the children of Israel in the wilderness. They struggle with entering in to the rest of assurance, which was foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the promised land of Canaan.

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:19

True Biblical belief isn’t all about just believing in what God can give you. It’s believing that God is still God – that He’s still in control – when you don’t get what you want. It’s believing that He wants you to do right, and that, if you don’t, He’s going to do something about it, because He loves you.

Many people look at the Old Testament story of Moses in the wilderness, and they think that Canaan is the Old Testament version of Heaven. That’s why some songs talk about crossing over the river Jordan when you die. But Canaan doesn’t represent Heaven. There were battles, and even defeats, over there. Crossing over into Canaan represents the point at which believers – true Christians – by faith receive their spiritual inheritance this side of Heaven. Those who died in the wilderness were still believers and followers of Yahweh, but they kept wandering around in unbelief, and were continually being chastened by their loving Father because they would not “draw near” to God.

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

Hebrews 3:7-11

Let’s draw near to God when times are good – and when times are bad. Let’s not be bold in the sense of demanding, but let’s be bold in the sense of openness and confidence. Entering into our rest doesn’t mean lying around on a cloud all day, playing your harp. It’s not early retirement from the pilgrimage to the Heavenly home. It’s certainly not – despite what you might have heard from the flavor-of-the-month TV preacher – getting a mansion, a Rolls Royce, a bunch of jewelry, and the best plastic surgery. No, entering into your rest is being able to confide in God – because you have drawn near to Him – and you know that He is working things out for your good.

Lord, thank You for those in our lives that we love, and for those that love us. Thank You that You are love. Help our love to bypass the stage of feeling and emotion, and to become active. Help us to be a people that shows love, and make us conscious of opportunities to show love to others. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

Close Enough to Whisper in God’s Ear

May 26, 2015 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 6 Comments
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Christ is greater than the prophets. He is greater than the angels. He is greater than any spiritual leader – even Moses, who had a special place in the hearts of Jewish believers.

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Hebrews 3:1

“Partakers” means that all Christians are in this together. The Holy Ghost reminded the Hebrew believers that they were partakers of the heavenly calling when He began to talk about Moses, their most beloved spiritual leader, because drawing nigh to God needs to be real. The Holy Ghost doesn’t want us to deceive ourselves by drawing close to a spiritual leader when we can go directly to God. Remember, Jesus isn’t just a faraway principle or an idea or a symbol. Jesus is also a “partaker” with us.

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

Hebrews 3:14

It is not that our salvation is dependent upon us holding on until the end with our own strength. No, the whole chapter is written explicitly to believers. Moses should be studied. For the most part, he’s a good example – a man of faith – greatly used of God.

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;

Hebrews 3:5

But we are to “consider” Jesus – to study Him more carefully and closely than Moses. If you really want to consider something – to study it carefully – you get close to it. Moses was a prophet and a priest, but:

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Hebrews 3:6

“Confidence” means surety, hope, knowledge of how things are going to work out. If I tell someone something in “confidence,” it’s because I trust that person not to tell anyone else. I trust them with the information, and therefore, I can be bold.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

We use that verse many times to encourage folks to be bold with God during prayer time, but remember, to speak with boldness, to speak with confidence, I must draw near. Coming boldly, with confidence, does not equal loud or proud. Can you imagine a petitioner shouting at a king from a distance?

Rest / Repentance

October 2, 2014 at 11:17 am | Posted in Hebrews, Two Sides to Every Comfort | 7 Comments
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Rest

“Rest” can have different meanings. It can mean to take it easy – sort of the opposite of hard work. It can also mean to cease from activity. On the seventh day God “rested” – not because He was tired, but because He was finished with the original work of creation. When a lawyer has finished putting on all his evidence and calling all his witnesses, he says, “I rest my case.” But in this lesson I am talking about a specialized kind of “rest” that we find in the Bible.

For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.

Hebrews 3:16

To set the scene, Hebrews Chapter 3 is discussing the exodus out of Egypt, when God’s people were on their way to the Promised Land and they provoked God with their lack of faith.

But with whom was he grieved forty years? [was it] not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

Hebrews 3:17

The people left Egypt, but they did not reach their “rest” at that time because of their disobedience and lack of faith.

And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

Hebrews 3:18

Notice the Holy Spirit’s logic here. God responded to their unbelief by giving them the logical outworking of failing to trust the God Who had miraculously set them free pursuant to prior fulfilled promises.

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:19

If you are truly a Christian, then you were saved by grace through faith, but you also receive the assurance of salvation by faith.

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left [us] of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

Hebrews 4:1 (emphasis added)

This is the kind of rest I’m talking about it in this lesson – the kind of rest that is truly “comforting” now – but not the precise kind of rest that we’re going to have when we reach Heaven.

A mistake that many Bible teachers have made – even some of the hymn writers – is equating the crossing of the Jordan River (the crossing over into Canaan, the Promised Land) with going to Heaven. The entering into Canaan is not an Old Testament picture of believers entering into Heaven, because in Canaan there were still enemies to fight, still giants to drive out, still mountains to conquer, still idol-worshipers and sinful tribes all around to tempt God’s people. None of that will be in Heaven.

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

Hebrews 4:9 (emphasis added)

The Greek word translated as “rest” in Hebrews 4:10 has a connotation of the calming of the wind after a storm. It reminds us of Jesus commanding the wind and the waves and telling the storm, “Peace, be still.

Biblical rest comes with inner peace. It is the comforting peace of God that goes beyond even knowing that our sins are forgiven. God could have saved us and locked us away in a dark place other than hell. He could have made us servants like the angels. But instead, God has given us His presence, so we do not have to wait to get to Heaven to experience the peaceful soul-calming rest of knowing God. You can abide in His presence right now – by faith. You are not a slave to sin – and you are not a slave to any laws or rules – if you are in Christ Jesus. You are a child of the Father.

But remember, I said that this rest is not the opposite of work. In fact, if we turn this comfort over and we examine the other side, some of us will be completely surprised with what we find there. Others will not be surprised at all. When you turn over the comfort of “rest,” you see:

Repentance

Repentance is an ongoing part of resting in Christ, and it is not – as some might imagine – antithetical to rest. It is the other side of the same pancake along with rest. In Psalm 38 we can see an extreme example. David was a man who went after God with wild abandon, and he was a man who, when he turned from God and went after sin, he went after it with the same wild abandon.

[There is] no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither [is there any] rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink [and] are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome [disease]: and [there is] no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.

Psalm 38:3-8 (emphasis added)

The first step in repentance is admitting that I have sinned and that my sin is against God. Have you ever felt like David in these verses? So distraught and devastated and downcast that you thought couldn’t stand it? Perhaps when you lost your job? When one of your kids got into serious trouble? When the medical tests came back positive? When somebody close to you betrayed you or ignored you or mistreated you?

But what about when we sin? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that sin has separated you from God’s two-sided comforts. David didn’t.

For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.

Psalm 38:15

For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.

Pslam 38:18

Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.

Psalm 38:21-22

David was resting in God, but his rest was the flip side of his repentance. They were inextricably linked together. David knew the paradox of the rest/repentance principle. He knew that the man of God, and God’s people, must labor to enter into rest.

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Hebrews 4:11

That’s why, so often at the end of a “hard sermon” on sin, you will see the older saints weeping in repentance: not because they are doubting God’s assurance, but because they find rest in Godly repentance.

How to Read the Bible (and Get Something out of It): Part 2

November 8, 2013 at 11:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Last time I addressed the misconception that the Bible is boring. Here are three types of excitement in the Bible:

1. The danger in it

In many places the Holy Spirit employees a style of writing which we might describe as a “cliffhanger.” In other words, a narrative will build up to a moment of suspense, then there will be a pause in the action before it is resolved. In Genesis 22, for example, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac – and at the last instant tells him to stop. Then He provides a ram (which itself is another cliffhanger that does not get resolved until the sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament). The end of Genesis Chapter 2 is another example. The Bible makes an ominous statement about Adam and Eve being naked and not ashamed… right before the serpent shows up in Chapter 3.

There is another danger in the Bible, though, too: a danger for us. For when we read it, we can obey it or reject it.

While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

Hebrews 3:15

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22

There are great blessings in reading your Bible – if you practice what you read. But there is great danger in reading it and then ignoring its commands.

2. The mystery in it

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him:

Ephesians 1:9-10 (emphasis added)

Bible mysteries are really not mysterious in the way we normally think of that term, because, if you read it, they are revealed. It is obvious there is a Creator just from looking at everything around us, and we can learn much about Him just by observing His creation, but to really know Him – and to be partakers of the mystery of His Gospel and His will – even for our own lives – we must dig into the Bible.

3. The fascination in it

The Bible is a page-turner, and not just because of its suspenseful passages, but because it is so intensely interesting – in a supernatural way. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God to make us want to understand it and to want more and more of it.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Honey is not something you eat quickly. You chew slowly and savor it.

Next time I will give some practical tips for getting more out of your Bible-reading.


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