“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9)
One of the greatest moments of my life was when I first discovered the reality of God’s Rest for the believer.
This occurred about 6 years after I first trusted Christ. This was that wonderful moment when I first experienced the joyful reality of Christ as my Sanctification.
In the summer of 1972, I was born again. And in the first few years that followed, I knew many wonderful moments walking with the Lord. And in serving Him in various ways.
But, the time came when things didn’t flow so easily anymore. When the Lord took me into deeper waters — where I could know Him more deeply. Where my life became more than God simply supplying my daily needs and helping me through problems.
In the course of that 6 years, I had reached a point of my Christian experience where I was almost spiritually paralyzed. I was crushed under the burden of rules gathered up from so many different sources — even good sources. None of which brought me any closer to the Lord; but only caused me to realize how much I fell short of His requirements.
Which is a miserable and fearful place to be.
Struggling with Sanctification
I am thinking of these things now because I just finished teaching on the Holy Spirit in our adult Sunday class at church. We chose a book to read and discuss for the summer that caused us all to think more about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does.
Something really hit me as I finished that study. It was the realization that most Christians do not understand the Rest that is theirs in Christ. Not just the rest from works when we are saved. But the rest from trying to earn God’s approval as believers.
This applies to the day-to-day struggle that most Christians go through in order to achieve their sanctification — sanctified meaning to be clean and right before God on a moment-by-moment basis.
Every Christian struggles with the desire to know if we are accepted by God at any given moment. Not that we are going to lose our salvation; but that He is happy with us. That He is pleased with us right now.
This word, Sanctification, is a really powerful word. It is a biblical word. And it is critical that we properly understand what it really means.
And what it doesn’t mean.
I would say that 99% of believers, born-again people, are messed up regarding the meaning of sanctification. In fact, whole denominations are messed up about the concept of Christian holiness.
This is a huge topic; so I will only focus on a small aspect of this. We can deal with more on this topic later.
Our Sanctification is a Person
In fact, Christ is our Sanctification. He is also our Wisdom, our Righteousness and our Redemption. To name only a few of the things He is.
“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1: 30,31)
It doesn’t matter how many times I say this; and I’ve said this many times in these posts. Because most Christians will read these words and walk away with the same thinking they had before.
Meaning they will not understand the rest that is theirs in Christ. Or they will reject it. Or they will think it is too good to be true. Or they will continue to believe that they can do the Christian life without this “Rest” stuff.
This is a great problem when teaching believers. A dedicated, hard-working Christian is the hardest one to bring to an understanding of his liberty in Christ. He just doesn’t see his need. Because he is content with his own strength. He is content with the results he achieves by the strength of his own dedication.
Why Christians Do Not Enter Into Rest
Please, allow me to say as plainly as I can, no one can live this Christian life. Your best is not good enough to please God in this life. It doesn’t even come close.
Once again, I am talking to born-again people here. Those who have the assurance of their salvation. This is about the spiritual fruit the Lord requires of us now that we know we belong to Him.
If you are living your life as a Christian gutting-it-out-for-God, you are missing the point.
This has to do with the life of Christ within us. Not our life for Christ. But His life in and through us. The difference here is in seeing who is doing the work.
The difference is in getting ourselves, and our best efforts, out of the way so that God can reveal Himself.
In other words, am I trusting God to do His work in me and through me? Am I trusting the Holy Spirit to do a spiritual and eternal work through me? — a work that will touch the world around me in ways I may not comprehend this side of Eternity.
And do I really believe that this is what the Holy Spirit will do? Or am I just not able to get my hands off of my own life? Because I think it is my responsibility to do God’s work.
OR, must I continue to do stuff just like all the other religious people of the world do? By doing my best work and then giving God the credit (for something I did not allow Him to actually do)?
Watch What Jesus Does
This is not about doing all kinds of good, humanitarian works for others so that they will see God. It is ALL about God revealing Himself supernaturally by His Spirit in me.
This is about something without method. Without strategy. Without measurement. It isn’t something you can hold in your hand and quantify. This isn’t about getting a group together to go out and do some work for the community, or for your neighbor, or for the church.
It is about a patient, watchful, anticipation that God is going to do a work that I may not actually see happening. I might see the outward results of His working. But again, I might not.
It’s like walking through the Mall or the city and just seeing what God will do. Not in the handing out of Bible tracts or cornering people with clever evangelistic tactics. Not by wearing a Christian T-Shirt or putting a Christian bumper-sticker on my car.
(Although those might be good things to do in some circumstances.)
It is realizing that God, by His indwelling, is working a work just by our being in the midst of other people. Because He dwells in us and will reveal Himself by His own power.
This can happen if we open our spiritual eyes and quiet the busy-ness of our working selves; and wait upon Him to show us what He will do. What the LORD will do.
This is not craziness. This is more real than all those who go seeking after some post-salvation experience. Or some Baptism of the Spirit. Or some ecstatic experience to make them feel closer to God. Something they can observe or measure to make themselves feel better about their sanctification.
People are leaving churches because the Lord’s presence is being ignored. Because all the activity, programs, lights, smoke, bells, whistles and attempts to make people feel good cannot replace the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. And it takes more than talking about the Spirit to remedy that.
Our churches today lack a clear dependence on the Spirit of God — on Christ Himself — to do the work that needs to be done. The Eternal work that only He can do.
OK. This is now longer than I wanted to go tonight.
Please, think about it. This is actually earth-shaking stuff. It will bring a wonderful peace to your heart when it finally clicks.
“…To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:” (Colossians 1:19-29)
September 14, 2018 at 3:23 pm
March 20, 2019 at 3:37 pm
Extraordinary post, EA. I think His Rest is three fold: Justification (in His work), Sanctification (by His Spirit), Sabbath (with His people).
Jesus’ justification (rest from sin and guilt; God imparted righteous by faith in His redemptive work, He removed the condemnation set against us)
His Spirit’ sanctification (rest from grief of insufficient self-strength, not being able to understand nor do His will/commands perfectly, yet we have no grief, but are to be content in His grace and His work and His timing, which neither do I hinder His work by grieving His Spirit in disobedience or ignorance, but cease resisting and cooperate)
His Sabbath rest (practical, corporate and godly rest, glory in God, in His Hand, Power, Plans, Wisdom, Knowledge, Love, which can and does even impact the yet pagan/ungodly as we neither have them work for us that day. The impact Christians could make just by resting one day a week, isn’t apparent, but potentially World altering, like the declaration of independence sent shockwaves everywhere, but instead, the declaration of dependence upon God and showing it with proof, a rest to God from our industrialized, 24/7 worldly labours and cares)
March 21, 2019 at 10:15 am
Thanks for your response.
The Rest that Remains spoken of in Hebrews is seldom taught anywhere in any church I have been in. That Christ Himself is our Rest. He is our Righteousness, our Wisdom, our Sanctification, our Redemption, etc. HE is. In His person, we have all that we need to be what He desires us to be. By His work within us. Not anything that we do. I agree that the Sabbath is important. God put it there so that men may rest. As he said, “The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath.” (Please, double -check my accuracy in the quote). I have seen many sites and YouTubes that elevate the observance of the Sabbath day to a place it is not intended to have. Some believe by following the Sabbath we are saved. Some believe that is a component of salvation. Some believe that it is a law we are bound to keep (even as Christians).
But we are dead to the law. We have been crucified with Christ. The law and its Sabbath observance has nothing to say to us today. We have already fulfilled the law in Christ. It is Done. We now live by the Law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus.
In such a case, the observance of the Sabbath is a blessing God gives us; but is not a means of condemnation when we do not. Just stupidity on our parts for not accepting the blessing God provides.
Thanks again for reading.
March 21, 2019 at 10:15 pm
Thr Law of Christ, Jesus says, love God, love man. On these two all the law and the prophets hang. Doesnt that imply a magnification of the law. And not that they have nothing to say. As if two parchments he’s holding, unfurled below them the law and prophets hang. We still call it rightoues to have no other gods, neither make idols, nor worship idols. And we still agree, its truth and ungodly and unrighteous to kill, steal, lie, covet, adultury, dishonor our mother and father. Jesus did say, If you love me, obey my commands.
And it seems to me that the sabbath is like the linchpin between loving god and man. If you love God but dont rest of your working knowing He is God and we’re dependant, worship, learn about Him, and share his truth and love with our fellows, fellowship and disciple, learning to love them, and being knitted tighter as a family as God wants…. That’s what the sabbath is for.
Then ita not just to our disadvantage we dont take it as a blessing, but it’s part of sancirification. Somewhere in old testament God is saying, tjey love me with their lops but their hearts are far from me. All the time, God wanted them to listen and do what He says, and if you do it all, then you will find your sanctification readily moving along. For if someone finding rest each week in the Lord, as he prescribes, and it is moral, and rightoues and healing, it would ever remind them that it is pertinent to consider holiness every day. Not just at certain times, like some men do for Lent, as traditions of men overshadow and obscure and confuse man to God’s will. Just as the sabbath was confused among Jews, and so they didnt recognize Jesus, and said he was working on the sabbath, when in fact he and his disciples were in sanctuary on the sabbath, being with the high priest actually, and they as priests in training with him, and so did no error.
I do consider whether it is sin, not keeping the sabbath, and it seems so, if youre made aware of it. And it also is true that there is no condemnation, for those who love Jesus and abide in Him.
But if we only think we abide in Him, but neither hearing nor doing all that he says, then do we abide instead in man’s laws and traditions, not Him. Certainly, we do still fall short I think, not being able to comprehend all his commands nor do them perfectly, yet we have His grace and forgiveness, we are justified through faith in Jesus, and sanctification is ever worked by His Spirit in us towards the goal of a pure heart. It isnt until the return of the Son that He promises to make us perfect as he is perfect, total clensing. Until that time we’re to walk in all His ways.
And He makes this very clear, saying, Do not suppose I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, but I have fullfilled them. Not one jot or iota will be removed from the law until all is completed.
Is all yet complete? Is His heavenly kingdom reining on earth as it is in heaven yet? Not yet. His work is finished, on the cross. And yet he, by His Spirit, still works in our souls. What is the Law of Christ, and the law of the spirit? All that are His keep themselves spotless, so that when He returns they will not be found wonton, not sinning, and be blameless. So i consider it still a working of His Spirit in me, clensing me of sin, trying to understand and apply His Word and do what He says.
Otherwise, what do you see happening? Do you yet have sin? Are you believe, have faith, that is agreeing or cooperaring with His Spirit, to be further released of that sin? If you look at some in the Church, they rest assured of salvation, and yet also rest in their sin saying it doesnt matter, and so keep on sinning rather than striving against sin. So it was Paul who said, some people use the faith as a license to sin. And these are not truly God’s people. In Jude it says, the false people are grumblers, and fault finders, dividers of the faithful, deny christ came in the flesh, and blaspheme angels.
And Jesus further said, these people will not inherit the Kingdom: drunks, liars, cowards, fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, and so on. But many people believe in the church that though they yet do these things, nevertheless they are justified by faith in Jesus. They deceive themselves.
If you haven’t done a personal study of sabbath in the old and new testament yourself, with of course leaning on the Spirit for understanding, it can be, as it was for me, you are only taking the word of the authorities and traditions of men.
When was the sabbath changed to sunday? By whom? Was it the Word, or was it man? And for what reason?
God does call the sabbath eternal, and as a sign among Him and his people. Jesus said, you will know that they are my people by their love. I have been in many churches, many of which seem to have some love, and yet dont come and ask, what is Jesus doing in your life today? Nor is there true discipleship, they dont struggle together against sin. So some sit there, still exposed, unfed, unclensed, naked in their sin. What love is this that a man comes into a church, and yet his sin not delt with in truth and with love? Nor do we wholly consider that sin is like yeast and corrupts. I would think, if a people of God are doing all that he commands, having full truth and love, then the problem of tares among the wheat would be at best few, because they likely would be offended and leave on their own.
What surprised me was seeing what was in the ark of the covenant, which is described in the Word. There is both the tablets of Gods law, written by his hand, and “in the side of the ark” the law and curse against the people written by the hand of Moses. One seems permanent, the 10, the other inpermanent, awaiting the curse lifted by fulfillment of the messiah. So it’s important to learn that these two are not the same thing. We believe God and Jesus and the Spirit are one God. Jesus does only what God instructs. So the Law of Christ, Christ being God, cannot be an altogether different plan than The Law of God.
March 21, 2019 at 10:37 pm
I think the key to seeing it may be – [There remains] for the people of God a rest. We can not logically say this pertaines to justification, because prior to Jesus’ sacrifice, and justification by faith… It, rest in Christ, wasn’t present before, and now is. Something that “remains”, implies it was already present.
March 22, 2019 at 6:18 pm
I will answer both of your comments here to save some time. You are covering a lot of territory here. So this may be a subject that I will have to go deeper into with a full post or series of posts. So I am just going to hit a couple key points here right now.
I believe that the Lord Jesus Himself is our Rest.
The people in the wilderness did not enter into rest (as Hebrews discusses) because of “unbelief”. They did not believe that the Lord would protect them. Those who are born again have been cleansed and sealed by the Spirit of God at the core of their being. So, in that sense, we do not sin. But all believers sin in the flesh. There is no excuse for it; yet, it is the reality that Paul spoke of in Romans chapters 5,6,and 7. It is a struggle that we will continue to have all of our lives. He did not reach a state of sinless perfection. But he understood that we would be continually changed to be more and more like Christ as we moved our gaze away from our own performance and put our gaze on Christ. Corinthians speaks of this. “But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The key to rest is understanding what Paul meant in Colossians when he spoke of “Christ in you”. I referred to a pamphlet written by AB Simpson way back in one of my first Posts. It is called, Himself. About the Lord Himself. It is amazing and wonderful in its freeing message.
The unbeliever is still under the Law, But the Law has been fulfilled for the believer. It is finished. It is done. We are dead to the Law. That does not make the Law bad; it just no longer has any authority over us. We have already fulfilled the law IN CHRIST. Not by picking and choosing laws we think we should still follow like a diner at a buffet. “If any man shall keep the whole law and offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect through the flesh?” Your devotion and desire is good. But our flesh is not just the sensual and lustful. Flesh is also our attempts to live the Christian life by our own strength, our own will, or our own discipline. That does not result in the fruit of the Spirit. It is the fruit of the Christian.