Jesus Is . . .!
July 2, 2017
Has anyone ever warned you that you should not do something? Sometimes when people warn us, we don’t take them seriously. Sometimes we think they are just being over-protective or they don’t want us to have fun, or they’re just being nags. Ever been there?! Especially when you’re younger and our parents get on us . . . or even in the present time . . . for me, it’s the gentle warning Debbie lovingly reminds me not to get hurt when I’m playing some sporting event!
For the past few weeks, really the underlying theme for the writer of Hebrews has been a warning. He’s warning the people not to put Jesus below the angels, or as we saw last week, he quoted from the Old Testament, using Moses and the people of Israel as an example of how it’s possible to miss out on all that God has for us.
He encouraged us to hold fast by looking to Jesus, by keeping our hearts in the right place, and by encouraging one another. If we hold fast to Jesus, we can enter into a special “place of rest” that God has prepared for us. In the end, the warning is to help us do what? Hold fast to Jesus so that we don’t drift from the faith.
This brings us to chapter four.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that the promise of entering into God’s place of rest still stands, but …
1 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. – Hebrews 4:1
The writer is giving us another warning. He’s saying, “Look. This promise from God is good news. It’s too good to miss. Don’t let it pass by.”
Since God’s people in the days of Moses were rebellious, they missed the opportunity to find that rest in God. The hope is that we will find that rest TODAY. Because the promise is still out there. We can’t wait until it’s too late, but today, we find Christ and hold onto His grace and love.
The writer also tells us that this place of rest, this promised land, is not a geographical location; he’s not talking about Israel. He’s talking about a spiritual place, a quality of life in the presence of God. And he says…
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Hebrews 4 is about entering into the rest of God — a special place in the presence of God in which we experience an abundant life, the best possible life that humans can experience.
In Hebrews 4, the writer repeatedly uses the word “rest” referring to three different things.
First, he refers to the Promised Land, the land the people entered after the exodus.
Second, he refers to God’s work of creation, and how God labored six days creating the world and rested on the seventh, the Sabbath.
Third, he refers to a place of spiritual rest in which God invites his people to enter.
He said ~
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,
10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.
So, this special rest that God is inviting you into, can be compared to entering the Promised Land, and it can be compared to a perpetual Sabbath Day — a never-ending day off, so to speak.
You see, God is inviting you into a life of abundance. He’s inviting you into a life of the most powerful peace and joy you can imagine. Jesus said ~
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:11
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. – John 16:33
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10
The goal is to give us a life of fullness. That’s what God promises to His people. God wants you to be joy-filled content and satisfied. He wants you to feel hope about your tomorrows. He wants you to trust and feel secure in the power of His love. He wants you to live the abundant life . . . A life of more than, not a life of less than, not a life filled with regrets. Live life in all of its fullness.
That’s what the place of God’s rest is; it’s like a spiritual Promised Land.
God’s rest is also compared to the Sabbath Day. When God finished creating the world, He stopped working.
God didn’t rest because He was tired. He rested because He was done. He rested in order to bask, so to speak, in His completed creation. There was no more creating to do, so He rested. And it’s a prescription for us through the 10 commandments to take a Sabbath day to rest and remain connected to God.
This word ‘rested’ implies that a person is satisfied with a job well done, a job completely finished.
When Jesus died on the cross, the last words He spoke were, “It is finished.” When He said this, Jesus was talking about His life’s work. He was talking about the forgiveness of our sins.
It means – “I have done all that needs to be done in order to bring men and women into a right relationship with God. My work is done. I have set out to do all I wanted to do. The debt is fully paid! It is finished.”
And then, as we saw in chapter one…
3 After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, – Hebrews 1:3
Jesus rested when His work was done. In the very same way, God is saying you can enter into that Sabbath rest because He has done everything for you, and His work is complete, as the writer said ~
10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. – Hebrews 4:10
God is saying, “You don’t have to work to earn your salvation, because I give it to you freely. You don’t have to strive to find acceptance with me, because I accept you without condition. You don’t have to slave to be worthy of my love, because you will never be worthy of my love, but I love you anyway.”
God’s place of rest is not something you achieve by your own efforts, it’s something you receive by the goodness of God. How do you receive it? You believe it. He said ~
2 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. – Hebrews 4:2
This special place of rest in the presence of God — this place of power, peace and joy, abundance and satisfaction; contentment and happiness and every other spiritual blessing — this place is yours, waiting for your acceptance. However, you don’t work your way in. You faith your way in.
Just as the writer spoke about the people of Israel hardening their hearts while they were in the desert wilderness between Egypt and Israel, it’s so easy for us to not be united in faith. We can easily drift away from the fellowship, from the family of God. We complain, grumble, slander, gossip, stay angry and bitter . . . and that continues to move us away from the grace and mercy we should be experiencing in Christ.
We no longer find the joy we once experienced. We find ourselves powerless in the face of evil, and we are more prone to succumb to temptation and sinful behavior and attitudes.
And on top of this, too often we find ourselves trying to work our way in, rather than believing our way in to the kingdom of God.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t know enough. I’m not spiritual enough. I don’t pray enough. I’m not holy enough. I still struggle with sin way, way too much. I don’t deserve the fullness of God. I don’t deserve His blessings. I’ve got to do this and that in order to get myself into a position for God to bless me…” If that’s what’s going through your mind, you’re going about this the wrong way. Because in many respects you’re right, none of us are ever good enough . . . but that’s the beauty and the power of God’s grace and mercy. He gives us exactly what we don’t deserve – – – heaven, and he doesn’t give us what we do deserve – – – hell.
As long as you’re thinking, “I can’t have this in my life today,” you will never have all that God wants for you.
If you’re thinking I’m not going to heaven if I don’t volunteer for VBS or if I don’t bring canned goods or donate, I’m condemned . . . it’s really not true.
God wants your heart. He wants a heart which is soft and open and receptive to Him, not hardened and stubborn and willing to tolerate and accept sin. He wants your heart, spirit, mind and entire body to confess He is Lord and Savior of your life. That’s really all He wants, then comes the process of growing in who He is calling you to be.
The writer of Hebrews talks about the importance of today. He says now is the time for you to experience the place of rest. The writer said ~
7 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.”
He’s not saying, “Be good for 40 years, and then God will bless you. Work hard for 40 years, and then God will reward you. Sacrifice everything you have for 40 years, and then God will give you peace and joy and contentment.” He’s not saying that.
Instead, he’s saying – – When you hear God’s voice, do not harden your heart. Do not find ways to reject God’s voice and call in your life, instead, you can enter God’s rest . . . and that can occur today!!
Your holiness and worthiness don’t matter, because on our own, none of us are worthy or holy enough – – – – The only prerequisite is believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Believing that Jesus came into this world to live, suffer and die so that you can have a relationship with God. God now looks at you as righteous, not because you are . . . but because Jesus is.
So, God is saying, “Today is the day.” You don’t have to search any farther, you don’t have to run any further. You don’t have to resist any longer. You can find rest in God, and you can find it today.
You can experience life in the Promised Land, in a spiritual sense, where you live in the abundance of God’s promises.
You don’t have to climb a spiritual ladder. When you say yes to Him, your past is just that . . . it’s in the past. And you can look forward to a future with the King of kings and Lord of lords standing with you, through anything you go through! He promises to be there with you, always!
That doesn’t mean life will always be clean and easy. Life will be messy! God never said, I’ll take away all pain and hardship and temptation and get all those mean and nasty people away from you. I’ll move all the deer from the roads, the bad drivers will disappear and life will be smooth sailing. That’s not what happens!
Instead we have a God who promises He will be with us in all situations, good and bad, celebrations and grief. He will see us through those times if we are willing to allow Him to walk with us. And in the end . . . we will have experienced His rest, in the midst of celebrations and victories . . . and in the midst of grief and defeats.
But . . . you must have your heart open to Him, softened, not hardened.
Finally, to those who have been Christ followers for 1 week or 80 years. We all have our struggles, we all have our bad days. We all need to be reminded that God offers us this promised land rest in this lifetime. We don’t have to wait to die to live. In that backward way Jesus spoke, we need to die to our way of living, in order to really live. We need to let go of all that holds us back from truly experiencing the power and the grace of God.
For those long time believers, it’s turning your hearts toward God once again and saying, “Lord, forgive me, I’ve sinned . . . I’ve hardened my heart toward you and your word. I’ve messed up . . . again. Lord, forgive me, again and create in me a pure heart, a heart which is filled through the power of your love and grace. Strengthen me to run the race, to do it with passion and energy, excitement and to demonstrate your hope to a world desperate for a good word.
That’s what God is calling for in all of us! Just imagine if we really believed this! Can you imagine what the world would look like?!?!