Friday, July 29, 2016, 7:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Full Release.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 4:1-13 (ESV).
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
United by Faith
The Israelites of the Old Testament had been miraculously delivered by God out of slavery in Egypt. Then, they spent 40 years in the wilderness, largely due to their continual rebellion against God, I believe. After that they were led by Joshua into the Promised Land, though not all of them. In fact, only a small percentage of them made it into the Promised Land, which was a prefiguring of our eternal rest with God. The reason the people did not enter the Promised Land was because of their unbelief and their disobedience to God. They were not united in faith with those who did believe, i.e. with Joshua and Caleb.
So, a warning is given here to all within the gathering of those who proclaim to know Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives. We are being cautioned to make certain that we have responded to the good news of the gospel of our salvation with genuine faith. Faith has been defined here in the book of Hebrews as obedience to God, not having sinful and unbelieving hearts that turn away from God, not hardening our hearts through sin’s deceitfulness against the things of God and his will for our lives, and holding firmly to the hope and the faith we profess with the confidence we had when we first believed, and to do this to the end.
But, is that consistent with the whole of the New Testament? Yes, it is! Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins), but if we lose our lives (are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). Paul reiterated what Jesus said when he stated that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives (walk) according to the Spirit. He said that if we walk according to the flesh we will die (in our sins without Christ), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (eternally with Christ) (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God but we walk in darkness (live sinful lifestyles) that we are liars and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). In other words, true belief in Jesus results in a transformed life of the Spirit of God.
So, what does it mean to enter his rest? The “rest” being spoken of here is our eternal rest, which is our eternal life with God, i.e. our salvation, yet it is also a promise of our future home with God in heaven. The striving spoken of here to enter that rest is not works-based salvation, though, for this rest involves cessation from works. So, what does this all mean?
When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we surrender our lives to Christ, and the Holy Spirit transforms us away from sin to walking in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. Our lives are no longer our own for we were bought back for God (redeemed) by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins. Now we are filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God to live holy lives, pleasing to God. We rest in Christ, trust in his love, yield to his sovereignty, believe in his promises, and we hold fast to the hope of our future home in heaven with God. There we will be completely at rest, for we will no longer be in these flesh bodies. We will be free from temptation to sin, and free from pain and suffering, which will be glorious. Amen!
How do we enter his rest? We who have believed in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives enter that rest. Believing in Jesus Christ is also equated with obedience to our Lord, not in sinless perfection, but in a consistent walk of faith empowered by the Holy Spirit living within us. Disobedience keeps us from entering his rest. Yet, this is not works-based salvation. This is not about us trying to earn or to deserve our own salvation via good works. This is about trusting in our Lord, resting in him, surrendering our lives to him, and submitting to his will for our lives and to his teachings, that we may not just be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word. When we genuinely believe in Jesus, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Ro. 6:1-23).
The Word of God
God has given us his Word to speak his truths to our hearts so that we might obey what he teaches us. Many study the Word of God for head knowledge or for intellectual stimulation or in order to win arguments with people. But, the Word is not for those purposes. In other words, it is not what we know that matters, but what we do with what we know. Wisdom is applied knowledge. If we don’t apply to our lives what we have learned, what good is all that knowledge? Not much! So, we read and study the Word of God not just so we know what it says but so we DO what it says.
We are also given the Word of God to convict us of sin and to direct us in the path we are to follow. The Word of God cuts right to our hearts, it exposes wrong attitudes and actions, and it reminds us of the right way. If we don’t follow what it teaches us, we quench the Spirit of God and we sear our consciences and pretty soon we don’t even hear the Spirit of God speaking to our hearts anymore. Many people, even many who call themselves Christians, ignore God’s Word or they block it out from their minds or excuse it away so that they don’t feel guilty when they are doing what they know is wrong. Yet, ignoring God and his Word does not mean we are free from guilt. God’s Word discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. We can’t hide from God, although we may fool humans.
One day we are all going to stand before Almighty God and we will have to give an account for what we did with Jesus and with the gospel of our salvation and with the Word given to us. Many will say on that day that they did this or that in his name or for his sake, but he is going to say to them, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” And, it is because they did not combine what they heard with genuine faith, which includes repentance, obedience, surrender and submission to Christ and his teachings and to the cross of Christ in our lives.
Full Release / An Original Work / April 15, 2012
Walking daily with my Savior
brings me joy.
Loving Father; precious Jesus;
He’s my Savior and my Lord.
Gently leads me; follow Him.
I’ve invited Him within.
Now abiding in His presence,
oh, what peace.
From my self-life
He has brought me,
By His mercy, full release.
Hope and comfort,
peace and safety Jesus brings
When I daily bow before Him;
Obey freely; do His will.
Follow Him where’er He leads.
Listen to Him; His words heed.
Now obeying his words fully,
oh, what love
That He gives me
By His Spirit, from above.
Loving Father; precious Jesus,
He’s my friend.
With my Savior, by His Spirit,
I will endure to the end.
Share the gospel, tell what’s true.
Witness daily; His will do.
Tell the world of how their Savior
bled and died.
On a cruel cross He suffered
So that we might be alive.