Striving to Rest
9There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. 11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
That’s Hebrews 4.9-14. In these verses, I see at least four principles to guide our lives as believers in Jesus. I hope they’re encouraging to you.
#1 – Believers in Jesus cannot rely on their own strength.
In verses 9-10, the writer of Hebrews compares the way believers ought to live to the way God rested on the seventh day of creation. God did not create anything on the seventh day; He took a break from the work that He did in the previous six days. Apparently, that’s how believers are supposed to live. At rest. At peace. Not building a righteousness of our own. But this is not the complete picture of the gospel; we know that God calls us to be holy as He is holy. That’s where the second principle of this passage comes into play.
#2 – Righteousness comes not from ourselves, but from Jesus.
Verse 11 talks about “striving to enter the Sabbath rest.” Verse 13 says that we have to give an account to God for our lives. Verse 14 tells us to “hold fast our confession.” Verse 15 mentions our weaknesses and how we are prone to temptation (implying that there is some standard by which sin and moral strength is defined – namely God’s standard – and that we ought to reach that standard, but we are incapable of doing so). Verse 16 says that we need mercy and grace. So, it’s crystal clear that we’re called to live in righteousness.
And if principle #1 stands (that is, that we are not to build a righteousness of our own), then the clear implication is that we need a righteousness from someone else. Verse 16 of our passage says that we can come confidently to Jesus for grace and help, so that’s how I support principle #2 from this text (not to mention that the whole counsel of Scripture backs up this concept). But what does coming to Jesus look like? How do we practically receive help from Him to live in righteousness? Enter principle #3.
#3 – Jesus changes us as we meet Him through His living and active Word.
How is the Bible “living and active” as verse 12 says? The Bible is just a book. Mere words are dead. I’m hearing undertones of John 1 in this verse. Remember when John told us in John 1.1 that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God? He was trying to transform our perception of what Scripture is. He was trying to say that Jesus Himself is the fulfillment, the ultimate obedience, of everything that God calls people to do in the Bible. So, when we examine the life of Jesus, we can see a perfect picture of what obedience to God looks like. And, we are not just reading words on a page when we come to the Bible. We come to Scripture to meet the person of Jesus Christ, the Living Word. These are words that He spoke, after all (2 Timothy 3.16-17).
When we understand that Christianity is about a relationship, not rituals (such as reading the Bible because it seems like “the Christian thing to do”), then our lives will truly begin to change. As we meet the Living Word through the Bible, He pierces our souls and exposes the true intentions of our hearts. Then we can see our sin and fight it with passion and strength. We will become increasingly like Jesus, as we behold His character perfectly portrayed in Scripture (1 John 3.2).
#4 – We will be judged based upon our confession that Jesus is our righteousness.
This can be inferred from principles 1-3. If we are to rest from our works as God rested from His on the seventh day of creation, and yet we must be righteous as He is righteous, and if that righteousness is found solely in Jesus, and if we are made more righteous as we meet Jesus Himself through Scripture, then it follows that when we stand before God on judgment day, He will judge us based upon the evidence that Jesus’ righteousness is in us. In other words, we will be accepted by God on the basis of the righteousness that Jesus has given to us and that He works through us (Galatians 2.20). We dare not appeal to Him on the basis of our own efforts.
In conclusion: we ought to be people of the Word, yes. That’s the means that God has ordained to transform our lives. But if being a person of the Word becomes all about rituals for you and I, then we’ve missed the point. The point of the gospel is that Jesus fulfilled every requirement of the law on our behalf, and He has given us the privilege of knowing Him more through the Bible. We don’t read the Word because we have to, we read it because we get to. Let’s fight this mentality that we can please God by ourselves. If we were required to pull ourselves up by the boot straps and please God, we would all be in hell at this moment. But because Jesus satisfied God’s wrath, we can come to Him with boldness and confidence, because He has promised to help us grow in godliness. And we can rest in Him all the while, because our salvation is not dependent on what we are doing, but what He has done.
And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.