Welcome back to part three of our discussion about perceptions; where we are exploring how the lenses that we see ourselves and the world around us by, can have a powerful and dramatic effect on our entire life. And not surprisingly, the scriptures have quite a bit to teach us about our lenses.
Last week, we paused after seeing how the Israelites failed to enter the Promise Land, by allowing their circumstances and their skewed lenses speak louder to them than the multiple promises of God that they had already been given. This is a scenario that plays out today as well, in the lives of a great number of believers, and it keeps people wandering in the “spiritual wilderness”, continually lost, weak and defeated, when in fact they have countless unclaimed promises of victory right in-front of them.
I also mentioned last week, at the end of our study right before we paused, that even if that picture resembles you today, that there was no need to despair, because there is a way out of the wilderness, thee is an answer, and we will find out what that answer is today in this study. So join me now, as we continue our discussion about changing our lenses, and changing our life.
So by now, you are probably very curious as to what the answer out of the wilderness actually is – and if you are familiar with any of my previous studies, the answer will not be that much of a surprise, but that doesn’t take away any of the potency of hearing it: The answer of course is Jesus Christ. He is both the Way, and the Land. Check out Hebrews 4, starting at verse 1 and reading through verse 11:
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
For to us was the gospel preached, as well as to them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
For he spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
Seeing therefore it remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
Again, he limits a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
There remains therefore a rest to the people of God.
For he that is entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
Take some time to truly consider what this is saying… we have a promise of entering God’s rest, and just as with the Israelites, we have had the gospel, the “good news” preached to us.
Also, just as with the Israelites, we have circumstances that appear contrary to the promises that we have.
And just as with the Israelites, we have a choice to make. Are we going to trust God’s promises to us in the face of what we perceive with our senses?
We can see in verse 2 that the Gospel was preached to us as well as to them, but it didn’t profit them, because it wasn’t mixed with faith.
Now if you’re anything like me, this verse is probably very annoying, because it places an unknown criteria on how to have the Gospel be profitable.
It annoyed me greatly for this verse to say that the Gospel must be “mixed with faith” in order to be profitable, but to find that I had no real definition of what “faith” was, nor how it “mix it with the Gospel”.
Looking for the answer only led me to even greater frustration because I discovered that there were many people all copying each-other’s homework, so-to-speak – sometimes very blatant plagiarism, all giving the same uninspired answers to what they think faith is, but never offering any clear proof or definition beyond the superficial answers that had existed before.
It seemed to me that something so important could not be left up to a “gee, I hope this is what it means” kind of attitude, and so I went straight to the source and asked God for the answer and studied the scripture and meditated a great while on the topic of faith (and later wrote about it here), so that if someone ever needed to know, or asked me what faith was, I could give them a real answer beyond all of the canned-responses that are already out there – and of-course I would have the peace-of-mind to know what it was for myself.
While I would encourage you to read the full article that I linked to so that you can have all of the details… the short-answer is that faith is information, but not just any kind of information – it is specifically information about God, what He has accomplished, what His character is, and what your identity and relationship is with Him.
That specific information, is what is called “faith” in the scripture. And armed with this definition, we can begin to see what Hebrews 4 is speaking of… The Gospel was preached to the Israelites, but the reason that it did not profit them, was because it was not mixed with the information about God, who He is, and what their identity and relationship to Him was!
You see, the Gospel, the good news of God and what Jesus Christ has done, really doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t carry any weight, if we do not understand who God actually is, what He has accomplished personally for us, and what our status and identity are in Him! The Gospel is robbed of its power, without the faith to back it up… and that’s exactly what we see happen with the Israelites in the wilderness. Sadly, it’s also what happens to many people today, just as it did with me for many years.
Notice that in the next verse, 3, it says for we which have believed do enter into rest.
Now, what rest is this referring to? It’s not the rest of absolute idleness – not the rest of being lazy… but it is the rest of divine peace; and that’s why a specific event is mentioned in verse 3 and verse 4: the works were finished from the foundation of the world. And in verse 4 that God rested on the seventh day from all His works. It is speaking of the original creation, because this gives us a picture of the rest which we have today in Christ Jesus.
The rest that we have in Christ, is not a rest that comes by the Law of Moses, not the Old Covenant with its many rules, regulations and traditions, and the heavy burden of guilt that comes from the remembrance of sin.
Rather it is quite the opposite. It is a rest that comes from receiving the Gospel of Christ, mixing it with the faith; the information about God, who He is, what He has done, and your place and identity in Christ. It is then that you will truly be able to enter into God’s rest, and thee true Promise Land of Jesus Christ, and live your new identity in Him.
The divine rest of God is the ultimate rest that can only come from Jesus Christ and your new identity in Him. It cannot come from the Law, or by any other means, or person. We see this clearly in verses 9 and 10.
Verse 9 says that There remains a rest for the people of God. And I want us to truly consider this fact of a permanent remaining rest. This is not like the Old Covenant Sabbatical days or years. This is not speaking of the Sabbath under Old Covenant Law.
The rest of Christ is a rest that is permanent, it remains constant. It doesn’t come and go with a specific day, or hour, or year. It is a rest that stays forever with you.
Notice verse 10…
In verse 10, it says that whoever has entered into His rest, has also ceased from his own works, as God did for His.
Again, truly consider this verse, and you will see how amazing (and better) the divine rest of God really is.
In Creation, God did not simply “take a break” from creating for one day and then resume His work. No.
God looked at all of His completed work, saw that it was very good, because it was complete, and He rested in His finished work.
Do you see the picture here?
Likewise, we are to cease for our own works… not that we are to be lazy or idle; but to cease from our own efforts, trying to please God, earn blessings or earn righteousness, stop trying to be new creations, and simply be new creations – because we already are. He has completed the work, He has made the sacrifice which has cleansed us and given us rebirth into Christ.
Now it is time for us to cease from our own works, and simply rest in His finished work! And thereby we enter His Promise Land – Jesus Christ!
The final verse is both a warning and an encouragement. Let us labor to enter His rest, lest we fall after the same example of unbelief.
We saw that the Israelites never inherited their Promise Land because they failed to belief the promises!
Our “labor” here, is not to work by our efforts, but to stand against all of the “evil reports” of the world.
Just as the ten spies that we saw last week, brought back an evil report against the promise of God, likewise there are many evil reports in the world today (and even inside church buildings) that try to sabotage our belief in the promises of God.
Our “labor” is to stand firm, belief the promises of God, because they are ours, and our victory is already assured!
Join me again next week, as we continue our discussion about changing our lenses, and changing our life. We are going to be looking at some skewed lenses regarding God Himself, and it will be very interesting and eye-opening.