Take your Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews 4. This book continues to be one of the greatest challenges that I have ever faced in studying the Word of God. Nonetheless, it has a very pertinent and relevant message for us to be thinking through.
This morning I want to look at how this part of Scripture presents a promise amid a warning. As I was thinking about this particular passage of Scripture, perhaps the slickest temptation that any Christian may be tempted with is the thought that turning to Christianity was a big mistake. Or that when children grow up in a Christian home, they come to the place where they do not believe what their parents taught them. They may be in the church listening to the Word of God year after year and come to the place where they decide it is not for them. Especially when you are promised initial rest in the Scripture, but so far your experience has been nothing but trials and sufferings, resisting the enemy, struggles of the flesh, opposition to the currents of the world, and your family getting more and more distant from you. Your family may even be telling you that you are crazy and your religion has become a crutch to you.
Now if you have not experienced some of these things yet, you will. It is Satan who actually masterminds temptation like this for you, and he specifically designs it to get at you. But here is the encouragement, this is exactly what was going on in the lives of these Jewish Christians. They were beginning to think that turning to Christianity was a big mistake, and that they should possibly turn back to Judaism. Their experience of Christ was not living up to their expectations. Instead of rest, they were in turmoil.
They had given up their ancient religion where they were comfortable. They come into this new faith and are suffering, losing their jobs, and their positions in the community. They were losing everything that they thought was significant all because they came to Christ. To some, it seemed that the initial experience or offer of rest was just a cruel delusion. Satan will want you to think that. Maybe not specifically in this way, but in a way similar to it. That is why it will be very important for us this morning to heed the warning and hold on to the promise.
If you grasp the promise and heed the warning, it should move you forward in the process of being more and more set apart to God, leading to a greater degree of daily trust in Him. This should also move you to a place of resolve where you are made firm in your confession and in your profession of Christ, and stop you from wavering in the truth or believing the lies of the enemy.
When you to come to a place where you can see very clearly what has happened in becoming a Christian, no one will be able to move you from this place. With that in mind, let us examine the promise and get a sense of what it is not, versus what it is.
Look at Hebrews 4:1, which says:
Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.
Here is the promise, the rest of God still remains. I am going to explain what rest this is not talking about. It is not the rest of God after He finished creation. Look at Hebrews 4:3-4 in the middle of the verse:
For we who have believed enter that rest, just 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 said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “and God rested on the seventh day from all His works.”
Now we see here in this passage that it describes God working for six days in Genesis 1 and 2. There was morning and evening for six days and on the seventh day there was no evening. In this sense, it was a picture that God’s rest was being opened up to humanity and to those who would believe, and that there would be no end to God’s rest because on the seventh day He rested. God started and He opened up rest that is His rest that He offers to those who would come and believe in Him.
Something else that happened on the seventh day was the redemption of Christ. It opened another door and an extension of what God had done, but that is not what this passage is specifically talking about here.
A second thing that this is not, is the Sabbath rest given in the law of Moses. Although the rest on the Sabbath was a constant reminder of God’s rest, it always looked forward to a rest God’s people would receive in the Messiah. Remember, the people in the law were given a day where they had to rest.
Why is that? So that they can contemplate what God has done, so that they can think about the greatness of their God. The faithfulness of their God, the love of their God, that is why they had the Sabbath. That is why it was commanded for them because in reality when you do not have those things, the focus goes totally off of the Lord. It is not specifically talking about the Sabbath rest here, but that Sabbath was to look forward to a rest that God was going to have for His people.
Also, it is not a rest of the land of Canaan, which Joshua brought the people into. Look at Hebrews 4:8 which says:
For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.
See, all these things are types and shadows, pictures pointing to the days of the gospel. They point to the days of God’s final revelation in Jesus Christ. It was all pointing to Christ, that God was offering up a promise. Remember when they were going into the land of Canaan under Joshua, they did not just go into that land. But God says, “I am giving you the land, go in and take it.” They had to battle for it in order to take it. And God gave them rest in the land, but it was not complete. It was only a picture of what would come.
So what then is this rest? Firstly, it is a present rest. It is sometimes called “gospel rest.” This is a particular rest that is specific to the gospel. It is a rest that believers have in Christ. Trust in Christ’s sacrificial death is the beginning of our rest. How is that? Well, by giving us rest from the burden of the guilt of our own sin. Giving us rest by knowing that we are forgiven by God completely and totally, and no longer having a gnawing conscious. We know that Christ took our payment completely, we have a rest of the soul.
It was Augustine that often said, “let not God give rest to men until they find rest in Christ.” This is rest for their souls! That is the first part of it, which is a redemptive rest and a rest in salvation. The second part is sanctifying rest, where we trust His character once we become believers. We trust Him as almighty God, as a loving Savior who gives rest to us while we live by faith and cast our burdens on Him. So the rest of our Christian life, what are we doing? We are going through difficulties and trials and temptations on our pilgrimage to the Heavenly city, and we are learning more and more to trust the Lord in the present.
A second thing that this rest is connected with is a future rest. Hebrews 4:9-10 says:
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.
It is a day which we look forward to, and one where we can enjoy all that God has done in Christ for us. God did not need to rest Himself after He created everything. He was not tired, but He rested because He was finished with creation and He found refreshment in all His labor. Remember when God finished creation before sin, He said that everything He created was good.
Therefore, God looked and enjoyed what He did. In some real way, this future rest, this full rest that we are going to receive is a rest in which we are going to sit back and look at all the things God has done. We are even going to see the labors that we were part of, those which God has called us to, and we are going to enjoy them. Right now everything is cloudy, but some day that is what is going to happen.
In fact, Revelation picks this up and talks about the perseverance of the saints. We are going to look at Revelation 14 to get a sense of what God is offering to us in His promise. He offers us a rest in Christ and salvation, and then an eternal rest which lasts forever. He is enjoying that rest right now. We are going to enjoy that rest in its fullness. Look at Revelation 14:12-13 which says:
Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
There is a promised rest for His people. In some real way as I was thinking about this, we are not really fully resting now. We are kind of restless in this life between redemption and our trust and profession in Christ; there is a tension there going on. There is the “already, but not,” something we are looking forward to. What God is doing now is increasing our faith.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 it says:
And to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
The word “relief” there is actually the word anacin which means rest, relaxation, or relief. He gives relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from Heaven with all His mighty angels in flaming fire. This means that right now we do have a sense of being afflicted, but He is going to give us relief. That is where the aspirin drug, Anacin, took on that name. If you take aspirin Anacin then you get relief from your headache or pain.
That is what the Lord is trying to do here, give relief. Look at the next verse in this passage at the people who are not obeying the gospel of Christ. For them, their affliction will turn to greater affliction under God’s judgment. This is the sense of the promise that God offers to us, a rest both now and a rest in its fullness in the future.
Turn back to Hebrews 4:1 where we look at the warning. It says:
Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.
Brethren this is very interesting here in this passage of Scripture. I believe that the people the author is writing to are in fact believers, but among them there are some professed believers that are really leaning towards going back and leaving it all. So the warning is for them and for us. The warning is to fear! This is the word fovia, from which we get the word phobia, which is to be afraid or frightened of something. What are they frightened of? That they will forsake the promise and miss the rest.
But this word fear is not the kind of fear that causes us to run away as believers, but the kind that causes us to face the issue head on. From our text, it is the sober realization that others have fallen, that we are weak, that we have a foe and must persevere in obeying God and that this fear is the kind that causes the believer to reach out with all effort to finish the rest and to reach the goal. To have fallen short is to have been left behind.
Here is a picture from the desert of those loaded down with unbelief, those who lagged behind in their journey, and were left behind in the desert. They perished and failed to enter God’s promised land, which at that time was God’s promised rest to them. Look over at Hebrews 12:15-16 which gives a similar type of passage where it says:
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.
So another thing He is warning them about is not to be the one who comes short of claiming and having the promise by unbelief. The warning is to listen and not fall short in the same way that they did concerning the promise of entering God’s rest by listening to and heeding the good news of Jesus Christ. Why did the people long ago miss it, why did they fail to enter the land of Canaan which was their promised rest. Well Hebrews 4:2 gives a very clear answer, and it is the answer for us as well! It says:
For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
The failure of past generations was that they merely what God said but they did not believe it. You know what that means? It means that hearing is one thing and believing is another thing. You can hear over and over again without believing. This is a great danger, because the Word of God warned them not to harden their hearts. And yet they spurned the good news and the promised rest, and the Bible tells us not to repeat their folly.
What is belief and faith anyway? There is a belief that emphasizes the content of faith, that is the mental acceptance of certain facts. We all have met people, who if you ask them if they believe if Jesus died and is coming again, they will say they do. There are a certain amount of facts that they adhere to mentally, but it is a belief that does not ultimately save.
It may lead to salvation, but in and of itself it does not save. Profession does not always possession. Someone can make a public profession of Jesus Christ and yet remain unregenerate. The question is, what does it mean when a person who has made a public profession of Christ as Savior, and even has worked effectively in the church suddenly disobeys Christ and then expresses disbelief in Him and go off in a totally different direction?
Now if that particular movement is short-lived and that person repents and comes back, then there is a possibility is working on them, brought them back from a foolish choice, and will now serve Christ with all the gusto they have. Or it could mean that that person never possessed Christ, they only professed Him, and got caught up into some kind of exciting movement. They served Him for a while and seemingly with effectiveness, but they were actually off doing their own thing without paying attention or caring much about Christ.
Some people may even go back to church, but they are not the same anymore and they lack desire. It could be that they were just never regenerate. There is a false kind of believing that only believes content.
But there is also a type of belief that emphasizes the acts of faith. That means that the whole hearted trust in the truth. The person hears the truth and they are moved in their will to act upon the truth. What they hear and then what they desire to do comes from God. See in our text, people wholeheartedly trust God’s promise to enter the rest. It says in the first part of Hebrews 4:3:
For we who have believed enter that rest.
It says here that we have believed. There is a group of people that are definitely believers, but they are being confronted with this temptation. Now why do people not believe? I think people believe for two reasons that I gave back in the book of Acts, and which are also found here in the book of Hebrews.
People do not believe because they do not believe the good news, because they have a heart problem. We saw a heart problem in Hebrews 3:15, where it says:
While it is said, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked me.”
See people have a heart problem and this is that they have hardened hearts. It says it in the book of Acts like this, “you men are stiff-necked and stubborn people.”
The book of Exodus called them people who were obstinate. One of the reasons why is because they had a heart problem. The heart is a deep part of the human nature, but it causes us a lot of trouble. The heart includes feelings and emotions and they are very distracting and very hard to evaluate. We are really governed by something greater than our just our minds or intellect. We are governed by our lusts and desires and passions. That is what gets us into trouble. When you become a believer, you still have those desires and passions and lusts, but God adjusts you in every one of those areas.
In other words, the heart of man is governed by what they like, what they want and what they do not want, and what they want to get, etcetera, etcetera. It is a very confusing place but people do not believe because they have bad hearts.
Another reason people do not believe is because they have a hearing problem. Look back in Hebrews 4:2, where it says:
For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
This right here stresses the hearing! Luke puts its like this in Acts 7:51:
You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit.
What a great sin it is to commit this against the Spirit, to refuse to listen to God. You can say that you are hearing it, but not applying it to yourself and moving to the place where it has to do with you specifically. Of course, I am not communicating at this point all of the things that are going on behind the scenes sovereignly. But here the Bible is saying that they had a hearing problem. They were not hearing.
Jeremiah told us this in Jeremiah 6:10:
To whom shall I speak and give warning That they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed And they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the LORD has become a reproach to them; They have no delight in it.
They stopped listening to God and at the same time, the people in the wilderness had a constant witness of God’s character, provision in the wilderness, the plagues over Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud and fire by day and night. They also were fed by God from Heaven with daily provision of manna. But they had a hearing problem. And they really stopped listening, so they misunderstood just about everything: God and even their own history.
I believe that some things always resonate with people who are spiritually hard of hearing. One of the things is this, that they feel like they do not need anything anymore, that they are doing okay. They feel like someone else might need help, but they do not.
A second thing is that they resent even the implication that there is something wrong with them. They fail to see the gravity of not listening to God, as if they had a choice. They fail to receive the truth and therefore misunderstand its true meaning. But at the same time, on the other hand, when you are a person that truly listens, you will become familiar with God’s voice as He speaks to you in His Word. You will recognize His voice apart from all the other voices that are trying to get your attention. And when you truly listen to God’s voice, you will regularly trust Him and your faith will be strengthened and your hope will increase for the future. And when you truly listen, you will desire to grow in your understanding which leads to a greater faith, a more stable faith.
In fact, when you stop listening what happens is that they you become ignorant of what is good and evil. You will not be able to distinguish between the two. He is going to pick this up in Hebrews 5:11-14 where it says:
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. or though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
When you stop listening, that ability to discern between good and evil goes away. When you stop listening, you lose hope in God’s promise and you take too much security in the present and temporal. You stop looking forward in faith when you stop listening. You end up losing sight of the glory of God, the greatness of God, the vastness of God, and you shrink God down to a manageable size. Just like it says in Psalm 115:8 about idols:
Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.
Whatever you worship, whatever you lust after, whatever is your passion, and whatever you give a lot of your time to, that is what you will become like. And when you stop listening, you actually disdain God’s spokesman. Because you can no longer enter and endure and listen to God’s Word, so you stop looking for sound preaching and you start preaching for talks that you suit you better, that sooth your conscious and make you feel good. Not that we do not need that once in a while, but from the Word of God!
See in this sense here, he is telling us and communicating to us as the people of God that there was a promise offered, and it is still opened to us. That promise has a warning to it, do not miss it! Do not give in to the lies and to the temptation that is pounding against you right now. We will next look at something else, because not only is there the promise and the warning, but also the oath that God took against this persistent, ongoing disbelief. It says this in Hebrews 4:3:
For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest.”
And it says down in Hebrews 4:5:
And again in this passage, “They shall not enter my rest.”
So God is making this oath, this proclamation that a consistent and persistent hearing without believing will end up under God’s wrath and judgment and they will not claim, enter in, and experience the promise. Now, around about 1400 BC an event took place during the day of trial in the wilderness. It started on the border of the Promise Land and it continued for forty years. As the people were led by God and were provided by God in the wilderness, they still disobeyed over and over again. So what was it that angered God so much? It was this, that God spoke to the people good news that God would give them a promise land.
In fact look at verse 2 again, it says:
For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also.
What is the good news? It is the gospel! They had the gospel preached to them too. People got saved no matter what time in history, by Christ alone. We are on the other side of Christ whereas they were before Him. But it was all pointing to Him. Therefore, they had the good news preached to them over and over again for forty years. But remember the people came back with a bad report when they went to spy out the land. God told them to take the land, and they say they could not do it. Why? Because the obstacles are too great and it is insuperable, they could not do it. And yet it was only Joshua and Caleb who came back and wanted to go, because God told them to go get it, it was theirs! They came back with a good report, and the whole rest of the nation came back with an evil report.
In fact, those spies that came back influenced the rest of the nation to constantly disobey God’s Word for forty years. Let us turn in our Bibles and turn to Numbers 14:28-37 because it gives us God’s response to their unbelief in the wilderness. Notice what it says, I want to point out the bad report. When someone says God cannot do it, it is an evil report, not one of faith. It is a report that is contrary to what God says.
“Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. ‘Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. ‘Your children, however, whom you said would become a preyÑI will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. ‘But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. ‘Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness. ‘According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition. ‘I, the LORD, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.’” As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land, even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the Lord.
This means that God had an oath against who persistently and consistently disobeyed, but also got other people to disobey. There is an infection going on when people are unfaithful to the Lord, when people give a bad report about what God can and cannot do. We cannot say that He is not going to do something when He is.
Christian pilgrims in this contemporary world must realize that in the light of a passage like this in Hebrews, it will not do to confess a merely nominal allegiance to Christian truth and to Christ. Or even to pay occasional lip service in meetings and services to faith in Christ. Our commitment must be sincere, it must be genuine and it must be continual until the day we die. It is not just a profession of faith, but an ongoing profession every day. In the midst of trials, tribulations, troubles, and struggling with the flesh, I will still persevere.
What is God saying to these people presently in this church? What is He saying to us today in Hebrews 4:6-7:
Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience. He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before.
Just for your information, David wrote 400 years after they went into the land and were finally settled in the land, so God uses David in the Psalms to remind the people again that over here they are going to have the good news of rest preached to them. It has always been open to them since God finished creation. Therefore, it is opened up to all who believe. Look at Hebrews 4:7-10 again:
He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.
The rest to which the Scriptures speak has a present again and a future aspect to it. It must be entered presently in any generation that this is spoken here on earth. It is only entered by faith, that is called gospel rest. But it must also be pursued presently, every single day here on earth. That is by faith and known as gospel obedience, or what we call the perseverance of the saints. Every day, we persevere in the faith. It is a struggle and must be entered in fully in the future because the people of God have a heavenly life and a heavenly destiny. So when faith turns to sight, the people of God will have full possession of all that has been prepared for them.
2 Corinthians 6:1-2, he again says something similar to this where he tells them:
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vainÑfor He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “The acceptable time,” behold, now is “The day of salvation”Ñ
He is saying the same thing here, it is opened! The rest of God is open through the gospel of Jesus Christ and must be received presently, pursued daily. Not that we work for salvation, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that salvation has been completed and done for us, but sanctification is the human responsibility that God has given to us to interact and pursue what He has put before us. He puts before us an eternal rest to be with God forever in heaven and rest with the Lord.
Today means while you are alive! While there is yet time right now, give God the trust and obedience that He must have. Give it to Him while you have a chance. Give Him the submission you ought to give Him before the days that you have come to a close because you do not know when it will be.
I received a phone call at 6am this morning. A young man that I knew in the past had died, and he had just turned 40 years old. He died unexpectedly. He felt pain in his arm, went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and died. You do not know when it will happen.
Where does this message bring you today? It brings you somewhere. It leads you to a particular point and the Scripture points out where that is. Look at Hebrews 4:11, this is the main point here. What do we do with all of this? Where does this prod us to go? It says:
Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
It brings us here to be diligent, to make every effort and to believe and obey every single day of our life. And if you do not want to fall into the same unbelief and destruction, then labor by faith in obedience to enter into the fullness of Christ’s rest. I am not saying here that you can lose your salvation, but the person that drops out is a person who never had it in the first place.
These Hebrew Christians are being assured that they do have the rest, but they need to persevere in it until they reach the rest that is still to come. There is a rest in heaven with the Lord that is before us. It is again in the passages of Scripture that we come to in Hebrews 11. He leads us up to that and sets us up for what it says in Hebrews 11:8-10, which says:
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Remember that passage of Scripture? Well it says this at the end of that chapter in Hebrews 11:39:
And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised.
In other words, they did not have the promise of rest in its fullness, but it says this because God has provided something better for us so that apart from us, they would not be made perfect. In other words, God lays before us an eternal rest that ours. He offers it to us, we have it in Christ Jesus already but we have to live every day by faith. We do not have the sight of it yet, it is before us. But you must trust if you are to have it, you must trust whole-heartedly and you must trust on-goingly. Is that not the Christian life? I trust on-goingly. Tomorrow you have to get up and trust to God. I am finding more and more that I do not trust Him like I ought to. I really do.
I do not know if you find that in your daily walk as well, that you do not trust God every day. We try to figure out all of these things ourselves and neglect to bring them before the Lord in prayer. We have not soaked it before the Lord and cast our cares on God. We only do that when we are frazzled and burnt out and laying on the floor, and then we say, “Lord, help me.”
Instead, we should be every day growing in our faith to learn to trust God and lay it out all before Him before it even starts. So these are the things that will confront us today, we need to bring them before Him. We need to ask for strength, wisdom, to be kept faithful and wholeheartedly serve God. We know that our Christian lives are ongoing, God has saved us and our salvation is secure, but we need to persevere in it.
Joshua and Caleb and none over twenty years of age would enter the promised land in the Old Testament. All the rest of them died in the wilderness. Do you realize that all Moses did was have funerals? Millions of people died in the wilderness and that is why Psalm 90 was written. He poured out his life by saying that life is short, all he had been doing was funerals. Moses probably did more funerals than any man who ever lived. Every day before them, death was on their eyeballs.
After forty years of wandering in the desert, the people who did believe God knew how faithful God was to His Word and promise. They knew God fed them every day, that God clothed them every day and took care of their physical needs with manna and durable clothing. The Lord took care of their physical and spiritual needs and made sure that He even designed a system of approaching so unholy people could come before a holy God. He set up the Tabernacle and the priesthood and gave them laws and statutes and testimonies and guided them and protected them.
In fact, He gave a visible manifestation of His presence among them day and night through the pillar of fire and cloud. He made them feel safe. He also put fear in the hearts of the nations around them who saw that. And because they saw that, they did not attack the people of Israel, because they knew that God’s presence was in the middle.
See this generation, Joshua and Caleb’s generation, the generation of faith, entered the land. They were sufficiently prepared to obey God and trust His Word, because they saw all around them people who did not and what happens to them. That is the motivation for you and I, that God is making us sufficiently prepared every day to obey Him and trust His Word. God really desires His people to enter His rest and here is a few summarizing thoughts.
The invitation is still open, once you receive the invitation you must realize that a pursuit of this rest in the course of our pilgrimage might very well be costly. It might be very costly, more so that you had experienced up until this point on being a Christian.
Also we must strive to apply ourselves diligently to the journey ahead of us and give ourselves to the means of grace. We need to give ourselves to the hearing, application, and implementation of God’s Word every day of our lives. But do not make the mistake that it is attained by works because it is not. It is God’s rich gift to the faithful and obedient pilgrim at the end of his days when he ceases from his labors. God will give him full and complete and total rest, the same rest that God enjoys right now.
Mark this down, that the very desire that you have to live to the best of your ability for Christ is an ambition that our Lord has planted in our minds and hearts. It is not something that Satan will introduce to you, or something that the flesh conjures up for you or even something that you will learn from the world. It is something that is given to you by God’s Spirit, just to continue on in Christ and know that this is truth and that we are heading home to the celestial city. We are going to make it, not based on willpower but based on God’s Spirit. He is going to energize me every day with the ambition to serve Christ. I think one thing that you will feel more than anything is how weak you are, how unable you are to live the Christian life. Do you not feel that way? Exactly! I get my strength from the Lord, and in your weakness He will be strong and in these earthen vessels He will display His glory. When I am the weakest, He is the strongest. He is going to display His Name through your life when you are vulnerable, and God will protect us just like He did for the faithful in the wilderness right to the end and bring us to our promised rest because God does not break His promises like we do. He is faithful. And He expects us to be faithful.
But you know it cannot happen alone. It has to be the body of believers that prod each other on with love and good works. We have to keep going forward and put one foot in front of the other, pray, seek God’s face, do God’s work and use our spiritual gifts in the body. And when we do that, He uses us. He brings us to the end of the race where we see the goal line and we have a bunch of people that went on before us. Just like it says in Hebrews 11 and 12. They surround us through that great cloud of witnesses, we know they have made it through all these tribulations and trials, and worse than we have ever probably experienced. And they have made it! They went into the city whose Builder and Maker is God! He is the Architect. We will be there and enjoy that, and that is the promise but the warning is make sure that you believe Christ Jesus alone and pursue your salvation every single day. It is not a one time profession and then you can do what you want.
It is an every day struggle with the Spirit of God living in you, and the Word of God as our compass and guide. God will bring you through year after year. There is nothing as pleasant to look at as someone who has gone as many years through their Christian life and at the end of their life are still praising and trusting God. There is no greater picture than that, that is a great encouragement. Older folk trust in the Lord, and it is just as great to see younger folk pursuing and trusting Christ.
So if we heed the warning then we will be assured that this rest is ours and God will carry out all these promises on behalf of His people. And that is what encourages us and keeps us going, nothing else.
Let’s pray. Lord, I pray again as we finish the application of the warning that You would impress on all of our hearts and give us an intense desire, as the Bible says, to fear so that we would with all of our energy make a sober realization that others have fallen, others have dropped out, and that we are weak, that we have an enemy against us, but Lord, we want to persevere in obedience to You every day of our lives. We cannot do that without Your Spirit and Your Word. So enable us today, Lord, that we would press on, as the Scripture tells us, that we would pursue with all our might to reach the goal. Knowing Lord that You are with us all along the way, and that we will be diligent to enter that rest that You promised for us and that we have in Christ now and know in its fulness in Your presence and see you by sight. That is going to be a glorious day, Lord. And I thank You that You have done that for us and have offered that to us. I pray, Lord, that those who do not know it yet would come to know You as Lord and Savior and hold You to that truth and by Your Spirit cause us to persevere in faith through trials and tribulations, struggles and keep our eyes upon You knowing what we have before us. Lord, we praise You and give You the glory for all that we have and will accomplish in our lives. And I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.