“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” (Hebrews 4:9-11)
I’m convinced that most Christians reading this verse believe it is talking about heaven. About the rest waiting for us after we die.
This passage begins with recounting how Moses led the people through the wilderness for 40 years. And how they failed to enter into the promised land.
Only after the death of Moses and the death of all the original Israelites, except Joshua and Caleb, did the people finally cross the Jordan River and enter Canaan. All because they did not believe God would fight for them and protect them in what was, without doubt, a very dangerous place.
From that reference, we are told there is another rest that is ready for Christians to “enter into”. Something that has been provided right now for the believer. Not just something down the road after 70 or 80 years of life.
It’s 100% or Nothing
There is an excellent book, The Saving Life of Christ, that I would have to recommend here. It is written by Major Ian Thomas. In that book, he explains the significance of the wilderness wandering of the Israelites under Moses. Ian Thomas reveals the incredible relevance that their experience has for us today.
Just like those Israelites, we often fail to grasp the true purpose and limitations of the Law.
By limitations, I mean that the Law itself cannot bring us rest. Nor can trying to follow the Law bring us rest.
Actually, the Bible does not speak about our trying to follow the Law. It speaks of our keeping the Law. There are no points given for trying.
Trying is the same as failing. Keeping the Law is based on a complete lifetime of perfect keeping of the Law. Period.
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
Jesus Christ is the only One who has kept the Law perfectly all His life. Every one else has failed in the past, in the present and in the future.
And this isn’t about the power of positive thinking. It isn’t about believing hard enough to make something come true. Like the Force of Star Wars being harnessed by those that believe in it.
That is another religion altogether!
Whose Value are We Relying On?
To go deeper, the Law was never designed so that we could keep it by trying. It was designed to show how sinful we are. Because our souls need to see how deeply depraved they are.
It was designed to bring us to despair. To highlight and display our absolute, moral and spiritual bankruptcy before God.
We are so prone to do something or to not do something in order to have good fellowship with Christ.
We know, as Christians, that the Law cannot save us. But Christians are still prone to dedicate and re-dedicate themselves to following the Law as the method for achieving their “sanctification” or right-standing with God — even after becoming Christians.
In other words, at the start, we believe that faith in the work of Christ saves us. But then, we tend to reject the value of the work of Christ to fulfill the commands and expectations of God.
This is the exact thing that Paul was rebuking the Christians for in Galatians. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you ? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3: 1-5)
The Royal Law Can’t Help Us Either
We’re not talking about Old Testament rituals or ceremonials laws here. This is about the basic moral principle of the Law contained in the commandments. Even the commandments that the Lord Jesus Himself gave us to do which are all thru the New Testament.
This includes the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount and all the other things we are told to do in the New Testament. Even including the Royal Law, as many call it, which is “to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “to love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
Because, we are no more capable of keeping those New Testament commands than the Old Testament ones.
When the modern Evangelical tries to condense the commandments of Christ down to the Royal Commandment of love, he is still totally bankrupt in keeping that one. So chucking all the specific commands and focusing on “love” is just as unattainable as all the other rules. While it is a bogus strategy, it is, nevertheless, a very popular one.
This really needs to be shouted from the pulpits on a regular basis. A lot of stupid thinking has crept into the churches under the “love” banner. Because it seems so simple, so emotionally sound and it allows people to go along with all kinds of stuff in the name of tolerance. And it fits so well with the humanistic indoctrination we have all been saturated with since we were children.
By Will or By Faith?
The true work of God isn’t carried out by the will of man or the dedication of man. God creates His eternal fruit through us as we walk by faith.
Which brings us back to the rest that we seek.
To get more specific, most Christians believe that the blessings of peace, cleansing, holiness, purity, joy, etc. come to us as a result of our trying to please God.
And even though we know that our salvation is settled by grace through faith in Christ, we still tend to cling to the idea that our daily fellowship with God is based on our inner efforts to do right.
This boils down to a kind of “will” issue. Or how I can get my “will” into proper alignment with God.
That is the error we make.
It is not our “will” that ever saved us. And it is not our “will” that sanctifies us. This is what Paul means when he says, “So then it is not of him that willeth , nor of him that runneth, but of God who sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:16)
By “will“, we are talking about will power; or as Colossians 2:23 says, “will-worship“. Yeah, the worship of the will.
That is how most Christians think they can live the Christian life. By the manipulation of their own will to accomplish the eternal works of God. You know, the old mind-over-matter game.
Salvation is based upon a decision that must be made in the depths of our heart. A true, honest, clear decision must be made to trust on the total Sufficiency of Christ for salvation.
The Resting Place
You could say that we decide to rest upon the finished work, the value of the blood, and the Person of Christ. There is no faking that. We trust Him or we don’t.
In the same way, we must learn to rest upon the Lord to do His sanctifying work in us. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)
When a believer grasps that truth — that God Himself is doing the work in him — that is the beginning of rest. Because the believer has “ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:10)
Only in this way, will the pure, living, and eternal work of God be accomplished. Because God’s will is doing it and not us.
But this is a hard thing for most believers to grasp. Especially those who have accomplished some success in this world. Especially for those with great gifts and talents. And for those with resources that they can fall back upon to do a lot of good stuff.
This is one of those things that not all believers are ready to hear. They still have confidence in their own flesh to do good things.
They continue doing things in their own strength and are irritated by those who dare sit down at Jesus’ feet to wait on Him. Just as in the following passage where Mary, the sister of Martha, chose to sit and listen to Jesus while Martha chose to continue working; and complained of such to Jesus.
“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Martha is an example of a working, dedicated Christian who will not learn to rest. She has placed the work above Christ.
Mary is an example of a believer who has learned to rest at Jesus’ feet. And soon, out of that rest, she will do, by His Spirit and in His time, those things that the Lord wants her to do.