Sunday, 11 May 2014

HEBREWS 4:1-11 - 'ENTERING GOD'S REST'

'ENTERING GOD'S REST'
Our passage is Hebrews 4:1-11
Towards the end of his life the apostle Paul was able to say: 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
He had not surrendered or been knocked out of the fight; nor had he pulled up, or retired from the race; and he had not given up, abandoned or denied the faith.
He was going to make it to the end. He had endured. He had kept going. He had persevered.
Here he was near the end of his life: still fighting, still running; still believing.
So he was able to say with confidence: v8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
The writer to the Hebrews was concerned that some of those to whom he was writing we in danger of giving up the fight; pulling out of the race and turning away from the faith. Or as he puts it in Hebrews 3v12 Falling away from the living God.
So he writes five WARNING passages in his letter. We are looking at the second of those warnings.
Hebrews 3:7-4v13 - expounds Psalm 95
1st half - 3v7-19 emphasis is on WARNING!
3v11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
3v12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
These are warnings that we must take seriously.
[a] The Bible teaches that God does not let his children fall away from salvation.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 I and the Father are one.”
Jesus and the Father are one in keeping the child of God.
[b] The bible also teaches that those who profess faith in Jesus Christ must persevere to the end to be saved.
Mt 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
It is not enough just to talk about believing. Some people once professed faith. They know how to 'talk the faith'. They can say the right things. But they are no longer doing the right things! They are not living as a Christian should. They are not in fellowship with the Lord's people.
James:2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
James 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
It is not enough to profess faith, we must live the faith. There must be the fruit of faith in our lives.
God keeps his people & his people keep going!
Hebrews tells us: 3v14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
These warnings are part of the means God uses to keep us from hardening our hearts and falling away from the living God.
We are all familiar with road signs in red triangles.
These are the hazard road signs for the pilgrims of faith that keep us on the narrow way that leads to life.
Another means is the fellowship of the Lord's people. Our ministry to one an other: v13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Chapter 3 closes with the picture of the wilderness as a cemetery! Every mile marked by burials - 3v17-19.
Now in chapter 4 his emphasis falls much more on the side of PROMISE. The promise of entering God's rest - v1. This he says in v2 is GOOD NEWS.
1. HOW DO WE GET FROM THE PROMISE GIVEN TO THE ISRAELITES OF ENTERING REST TO THE PROMISE OF REST FOR BELIEVERS TODAY?
[1] The promise to the Israelites:
Ex 33:14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
De 12:9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you.
De 12:10 But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety,
Jos 21:44 And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands.
Then we come to Judges. We see the rest was not permanent. It did not last.
Jud 3:11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
Jud 3:30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.
The rest that Joshua lead the people into was not a full or final rest.
Hebrews 4v8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
The writer is quoting from Psalm 95. In the time of David the people lived in the land. But David is warning them that they, like the earlier Israelites may fail to know the promised rest - Hebrews 4:7
So he must be talking about something more than possession of the land.
v3 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.
4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
It was not just rest from their enemies that God was promising. We see that REST is spoken of in the 4th Commandment:
Ex 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
This is taken from Genesis 2.
The rest that God promises is to share in his rest; the rest he entered into when he finished his work of creating. A rest he built into the law regarding the Sabbath day.
The writer makes this plain:
v9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, v10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
What is this rest?
[1] A rest from working to gain salvation?
Eph 2v8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, v9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
This is true, the Christian is no longer doing good works to earn salvation, to save themselves. They are resting in the gift of God, the finished work of Christ. But this rest doesn't fit with the point the writer to the Hebrews is making here.
[2] The promised rest that is to come?
Heb 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Heb 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
This rest that is to come must be at least a part of what he means by rest.
[3] The gospel includes this promise of rest: Jesus said:
Mt 11:28 Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The Christian is now experiencing rest for their soul.
Rest we know now in part, and will know fully when we die and when Jesus returns:
Re 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!”
REST is a part of the gospel promises.
The writer to the Hebrews is saying it was not just rest from their journey through the wilderness, and rest from their enemies that God promised the Israelites. It was HIS REST. The rest he entered into on the 7th day when he had finished his work of creating.
A rest represented by the 4th Commandments' Sabbath rest'. A rest that was a part of the life God was offering his people; part of their salvation.
This rest applied to the people in David's time as he teaches them through Psalm 95. In David's time they already occupied the land. Clearly David is saying there is more to this promised rest than this.
This rest was still available when he wrote Hebrews, and is still God's promise today. The promise still stands.
2. HOW DOES THIS REST BECOME OURS?
[1] Negatively: We may fail to reach this rest he warns:
4v2 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.
The Israelites did not believe the promise!
Faith is more than just words! Faith acts. The Israelites did not obey, they refused to go up into the promised land when God told them to do so. Then they tried to go when he told them not to do so!
v6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,
v11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
We may fail to obtain this rest if when we hear the gospel we do not combine it with faith. We must believe the gospel.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
[2] Positively: We can enter his rest by faith.

You must believe in Jesus Christ and act on that belief. Martin Luther on faith in his introduction to Romans - John Wesley

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