We Need a High Priest

Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV) 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Yesterday we looked at the High Priest in the life of Israel. We found that the High Priest was far more important than the King or even the prophet. The High Priest was the main person responsible for maintaining Israel’s covenant relationship with God. Without the Law of Moses, the Aaronic Priesthood and the High Priest in particular, they would not have been able to maintain that relationship.

We all understand the need for good government. As Christians, we want the Word of the Lord to keep us on the right track. The Prophetic voice is certainly important. What we do not understand is the need for the priestly ministry.

There is an interesting period in Israel’s history called the book of Judges. The key phrase of this book is found in the last verse.

Judges 21:25 (NKJV) 25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

This might be the cry of many in our day. “We do not need some religious standard. Each person should just do what is right!” That works out well as long as what I consider right does not interfere with what you consider right. Israel found that each man doing what was right according to his own standard, led to instability, sin and bondage.

It would seem that the lack of a king had to be the problem. However, we find that in the book of First Samuel when they asked for a King, God said that getting one would be the worst thing that could happen to them. He wanted to be their King. He wanted to determine what was right. What was it that caused them to be unable to submit to God as their King?

We find the answer in the beginning of the book of 1 Samuel.

1 Samuel 2:12 (NKJV) 12 Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD.

Why were the sons of Eli corrupt? They were corrupt because Eli, the High Priest, was corrupt. He did not do his job therefore the people of Israel were not able to function with God as their King. They were not in proper standing with the covenant.

Samuel was one of the most powerful figures in the bible because he was both a prophet and the High Priest of Israel. As long as he was in power, the people served God. Even though they got their King, Samuel was the one who caused them to walk right before God and the covenant.

I grew up Catholic. In that system, the role of the priest is more like it was in the days of Israel. In order to be forgiven of sin I had to go to confession. I confessed my sins to a priest who then gave me penance to do. Once I had done my penance, usually a series of repeated prayers, I was granted absolution. My soul was considered clean until I sinned again.

Though I mean no disrespect to the Catholic denomination, I do not believe that is biblical. One of the main differences between Judaism and Christianity is the personal relationship we all enjoy with Jesus. He took away our sins by shedding his blood. When I sin, I need only go to him, confess my sin and he is faithful and just to forgive my sin and cleanse me of unrighteousness. We no longer need a human mediator. (1 Timothy 2:5)

That does not mean that we do not need a High Priest. The Priestly ministry in Israel is what kept them walking right before the Lord. We are also a covenant people. When we are right with the covenant we are right with God and will be able to partake of his benefits. It is the High Priest of our lives that will help us live in right relationship with the New Covenant.

The ministry of any priest is connected with holiness. Holiness is vital to our walk with God because it keeps us in the covenant. He is Holy, and he expects us to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16) The priesthood led by the High Priest was the key to maintaining holiness for Israel. Our High Priest does the same for us.

Who is our High Priest? His name is Jesus. He is a perfect High Priest. He is able to keep us right with God because he is still ministering to the Father for us. Look at Hebrews 7:22-25.

Hebrews 7:22-25 (NKJV) 22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. 23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

The bible says that Jesus is the surety of a better covenant. One of the reasons it is better is that we have a better High priest. He never changes. His reign does not end as did that of the High Priests of Israel. Some of them were good and some were bad. Our High Priest is perfect, and he will remain our High Priest throughout eternity.

Verse 25 is powerful. Because he is an eternal and perfect High Priest, he is able to save us to the uttermost because he is actively making intercession for us. The implication is that without the High Priestly ministry of Jesus, we would not be “saved to the uttermost.” What does being saved to the uttermost mean? Look at verse 25 in the Amplified Bible.

Hebrews 7:25 (AMP) 25 Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.

He is able to save us completely, perfectly and finally or for all eternity because he is our High Priest interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. There are no limits to our salvation. More important, there are no limits to what our salvation can do in us.

We think that our background or even our current weakness limit what God can do in our lives. That is not true. We have an active High Priest who is praying for us and working in us to help us overcome our limitations. We do not have to be limited in our salvation because he is not limited as our High Priest. I do not fully understand this, but that is what the bible says.

We need Jesus’ High Priestly ministry in our lives. We look to many other things as answers to our problems. Like Israel, we may look to politics. They wanted a king. We want a president who fits our agenda. We think that will solve our problems. We may look to economic prosperity, education and social reform to change our culture and our lifestyle.

None of those things will bring the change we need. We need the ministry of our High Priest. Then we will walk right with God and the Covenant. Then we will rise up as the Body of Christ and use his power to change the world.

Labor to Enter the Rest: The High Priest

Labor to Enter the Rest: The High Priest
July 27, 2018

Hebrews 4:14-15 (NKJV) 14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

We have been working through Hebrews 3 and 4 for a good part of this year. Recently our focus has been on verse 11. Paul tells us that we must labor or be diligent to enter the rest that God provides for his people. The Israelites never entered that rest. The second generation did finally overcome the unbelief and disobedience of their parents and enter the land of Canaan as the Lord promised they would. However, this section of scripture makes it clear that there was something else God wanted for his people that even Joshua did not provide. There is a rest of faith and the spirit for the people of God.

How do we enter that rest? We have looked at verses 12 and 13 so far. The first thing we see is that the Word of God is a major key to entering the rest. We must give our attention and our time to meditation in the Word. When my wife and I were first starting in the ministry this was the thing that established us. We raised six kids and it was rarely quiet in my house. I did not have an office. I would get in my old van, park somewhere, put in tapes, and listen to the Word being preached for hours. I would study the scriptures and meditate on what I was hearing. That foundation has caused us to be where we are today.

We cannot minimize the need to spend time in the Word. Joshua 1:8 tells us that meditation in the Word of God day and night is the key to prosperity and “good success.” 2 Timothy 2:15 says that study of the Word of God is key to being “approved of God” as a workman or minister of the Gospel. How much time do you and I spend in the Word of God each week? I challenged my people and I challenge you to log what you spend your time on. I expect all of us will find that the percentage of time we spend in the Bible is very low.

Verse 13 refers to the Word as “he” and says we must give account. God and his word are one. He knows you and he knows what you need right now. We will never enter the rest of faith if we are not willing to be accountable. That means we must be willing to accept being wrong as well as being right. When we are wrong, we must be willing to repent and to change. God will help us, but if we are not willing to repent, there is not much he can do for us.

Now we come to verse 14. This verse begins with one of those phrases that connects it to the rest of the chapter. We can be successful in our study and meditation of the word. We can be accountable without fear that we will be hurt by that accountability. Why are these things true? They are true because we have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens. We can “hold fast” to that in which we believe because, that High Priest is at the right hand of God praying for us and helping us (Hebrews 7:25.) We are not left on our own to enter the rest. Our High Priest, Jesus, is always there helping us with the labor.

We cannot understand the significance of this if we do not understand the role of the High Priest in Israel. When we read the great stories of the bible, we tend to focus on the Kings and the Prophets. The one we do not think much about is the priest and especially the High Priest. However, to Israel the High Priest was the most important person in their lives and culture.

The nation of Israel was a nation based upon a covenant with God not on race. Anyone could become part of the heritage of Israel if they agreed to keep the covenant. The genealogy of Jesus contains more than one person who was not an Israelite by birth but was one by accepting the covenant that God made with Abraham.

Every King or Prophet in Israel held their position because of the covenant. The covenant was their power and their right standing with God. If they were right with the covenant, they were right with God. When they kept the covenant, they were always successful in battle. When they did not, they were defeated. When they kept the covenant, they prospered. When they did not they fell on hard times. The story of Israel was the story of their relationship to the covenant.

When the covenant was just between Abraham and God, Abraham could repent of his sins and maintain his covenant relationship that way. When the Israel became a nation, the individual did not have the relationship with God that Abraham had. They needed a way to deal with the inevitable breaking of the covenant that would occur due to their sinful nature. God needed a nation through whom the Messiah could come. Israel was that nation but they had to be able to stay in their covenant relationship.

We do not understand blood covenant the way Israel did. They had received the idea of covenant from God. It was understood that the only penalty or payment for breaking a blood covenant was the shedding of blood. If you broke any blood covenant, you died. How much more this applied to a covenant with almighty God!

God knew that Israel could not keep the covenant so he gave them two things that would enable them to put off the judgment of death until the Messiah could come. Those two things were the Law of Moses and the Levitical Priesthood. The law defined what constituted a breaking of the covenant and the priesthood was the vehicle for the offering of sacrifices that would put off the judgment each year until the Messianic sacrifice would wash away that judgment permanently.

When any Israelite sinned, he would bring a prescribed offering to the priests and they would offer it to God on his behalf. This was true for all Israelites. It did not matter if they were regular people, Kings or prophets; sin required an offering and the priests were the ones who could present them to God. Without the priesthood, Israel could not have maintained its covenant relationship to God. That is why the priesthood in general and the High Priest in particular were the most important people in Israel.

At the head of the priesthood, stood the High Priest. The first High Priest was Aaron. The high priest determined the nature of the priesthood under him. If he were righteous, they would generally be righteous. If he was corrupt, the rest of the priesthood would be corrupt as well. Any priest is a mediator between God and man. The High Priest was the main mediator under the Old Covenant.

The High Priest carried one more responsibility that elevated him above everyone else in the nation. The covenant was everything to Israel. The Law and the sacrifices gave them a way to maintain the covenant. However, all of that was contingent on one specific sacrifice. That sacrifice was called the Great Day of Atonement.

Once a year an offering was brought to the High Priest. The High Priest laid his hands on that offering and confessed the sins of Israel over it. The offering was slain and the blood was taken into the Holy of Holies in the temple or the tabernacle. The sprinkling of the blood of this offering on the Mercy Seat of the Ark was the thing that validated all the offering brought by the priests during the year. Without the Day of Atonement sacrifice, the rest of the Law and the priesthood were useless. Only one man could bring that offering. He was the High Priest. Without him, Israel was lost.

It is easy to see what God was doing in all of this. There is one offering that was taken to another Holy of Holies: The Heavenly Holy of Holies. Another High Priest carried the blood of the one true sacrifice there. This High Priest did not take the blood of bulls or goats. He took his own blood. This offering did not put judgment off for a year. This blood cleansed all who would come to him paying for sin itself. This High Priest was Jesus and he remains at the right hand of God today.

Labor to Enter the Rest 4

Hebrews 4:11-13 (NKJV) 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

In the last number of posts, we have been dealing with Hebrews 4 and the idea of entering something the bible calls the “rest.” The word rest used in Hebrews 4:11 does not mean inactivity. It is the rest of harmony. When my spirit, guided by the Holy spirit, my soul and my body are all doing what God designed them to do, I am at rest. Faith is not a struggle. Though temptations will always be in the world until the end of the age, resistance to temptation becomes the natural thing to do instead of the struggle it can be. I am at rest.

We have been looking at the King James Version of these verses. It says that we should labor to enter the rest. I think this is important to see. This might seem like an oxymoron. How can we labor to rest? We either do one or the other. In truth, we know that rest comes as a result of the right labor for the right reasons. When a Christian thinks he does not have to do anything to develop in his Christian walk, he is deceived. There is work to do if we want to come to the place of rest. The key is that we understand why we work, how we work and what is the nature of the work required.

We do not work to be accepted or loved by God. That is ours by salvation through grace. We do not work to pay for what was given to us as a gift. We work because we are saved. We work to please him who saved, loved and accepted us. We work to grow in our understanding of him and our covenant with him. We work to learn the principles in the Word of God given to us that we might live in holiness, victory, prosperity and the fullness of salvation.

We work to build up our spirit and renew our minds so that we may partake of all that God has for us. He wants us to grow into adult children that will be co-laborers with him in building the kingdom of God on earth until Jesus comes.

Look at this verse in The Bible in Basic English.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (BBE) 9 So that there is still a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God. 10 For the man who comes into his rest has had rest from his works, as God did from his. 11 Because of this, let us have a strong desire to come into that rest, and let no one go after the example of those who went against God’s orders.

There is something God has always wanted for his children since creation. In the New King James, the translators use the phrase, “be diligent.” Here we see that we should have a “strong desire” to come to this place of rest. The devil is a master of deflection. He always tries to get us to focus on minor things so that the major things will be set aside. There are many important things in the bible. I believe that one of the major things we need to put to work in our lives is to enter the rest of walking in the spirit. When we do that, many of the things that look so important and difficult will become natural parts of our walk with God.

Let me continue with a few things in Hebrews that I think are important keys to the labor we must do to enter the rest. Verse 12 is a verse that is often quoted on its own. It is certainly valid to do so, but I always believe the truth and power of a verse is more clear when understood in context. All of chapter 4 is about how to avoid the dangers that ancient Israel fell into in their journey to their promised land. The writer calls this their rest.

After he tells us that we must be diligent or labor he speaks about the Word of God. He tells us that the Word of God is powerful and alive. What does it have the power to do? He is talking about entering the rest of God. The written Word of God is one of the most important things we need to enter the rest. Without it we will never get there. We may be saved. We may get to heaven. However, we will never tap the fullness of what God made available to us in salvation without an understanding of the Word of God.

The Word is the one thing in our relationship with God that we can touch with our flesh. Although all translations have problems, it is the Holy Spirit who moved on men to write the Bible. Therefore, it is His book not any man’s book. God has the ability to watch over his Word. I do believe we need to study to be sure we are reading the Word correctly. That is part of the labor, but first we need to understand that the Word of God is not a natural book but a supernatural one. As such it has the power to work in us the things that will bring us to the rest.

There is a natural understanding that comes from reading the Bible. That is part of the process. We also see from this section of scripture that there is a supernatural action that the Word of God works in us. It distinguishes between soul and spirit, joints and marrow and knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It has the power to overwrite our attitudes, our hurts and our misconceptions until we begin to see as He sees. That is the first step to entering this rest.

Finally, everyone is an open book to the Word of God. Verse thirteen is interesting in that it is speaking of a person who sees us. Jesus says in John 1:1 that the Word was God. God and his Word are one. He, the Word, sees and knows everything about every one of us. He knows our needs and our strengths. He knows our sin and where we are walking in righteousness. He knows every failure and every victory. He knows where and who you are now, where and who you were all the previous days of your life and where and who you will be for the rest of your life.

One of the labors we must do to enter the rest is to learn the Word. More than just learn it, we must learn how to yield to it. We must learn how to let it change us. We must learn that the never changing Word of God is always applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit, the living and active Word, to bring us to the place of the greatest victory in life. The Word of God will help you become the best version of the person God created in your mother’s womb. That is the rest of Hebrews 4. That is the result of walking in the spirit and not in the flesh.

Labor to Enter the Rest Part 3

Hebrews 4:11-13 (KJV) 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

We are currently learning about how we release the power of grace in our personal walk with God. It is certainly true that salvation is by grace alone. Jesus paid the price for our sin. God’s grace caused him to do that. All we have to do to be saved is accept what grace did. Romans 10 tells us how to do that.

Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV) 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Nothing more is necessary to be saved. I am not discussing here “eternal security” or the possibility of losing salvation. I am speaking of the person who honestly receives Jesus as Lord and savior. All of us find rather quickly that being born again in spirit does not necessarily mean that all the bad habits or ungodly behavior fall off immediately.

We have been trained according to our culture, our background and our society. Some of which is not a problem. Some is directly opposed to Godly living. As we grow in Christ there are things we must do in order to win victory over the flesh. Grace provides the power that makes them affective. Nevertheless, there are things we must do in order to grow in grace. That is our part. The power is God’s part.

What are these things we must do? Why do we do them and what can we expect to happen as we do them? That is what we will try to answer in the weeks to come.

For today, I want to look at the scripture above. It makes it very clear that we must labor in order to enter the rest of harmony. If we do not come to the place where spirit, soul and body are all doing what God intended them to do, this verse makes it clear that we will fail just as Israel did.

Does that failure mean we will not go to heaven? Not necessarily. We are talking about the general flow of life that faces every Christian. One of my main desires in terms of what I want to communicate to the church is that there is more to Christianity than missing hell and making heaven. That is most certainly the most important thing from an eternal perspective. However, God has so much more for us here on earth.

God desires that we be co-laborers with him in building his Kingdom. He has a wonderful purpose and destiny for each of us. Even the generation that did not go into the promised land at all, never stopped being God’s people. They did fail to walk in their destiny. Unbelief, rebellion and disobedience will rob us of the wonderful future and purpose God has for us.

They also brought judgement upon themselves and their families that caused great suffering. I do not believe God brings suffering on us. I believe we have an enemy and when we allow sin and ungodliness to remain in our behavior, we make a way for that enemy to bring destruction to our earthly life. I do not want that.

In my forty years of ministry the problem that I have seen is that people do not understand the nature of the labor. They often do the labor for the wrong reasons. This is generally just as in effective as laziness. The difference is that it leads to more discouragement and a lack of understanding of the nature of the God we serve.

Why must we do certain things. Verse 10 makes it clear. The purpose of our labor is to enter the rest. It is not to earn God’s acceptance. You already have it because you are born again. Jesus purchased your Father’s acceptance in his death, burial and resurrection. When you received salvation, grace made you accepted by and acceptable to God (Ephesians 1:3-11.)

That is one of the biggest problems I see. Most people have had some degree or another of the idea of “measuring up” communicated to them in their lives. By this I mean that they believed, rightly or otherwise, that the only way to be accepted is to attain a certain standard. This standard may be in terms of behavior, performance, looks or any number of other things.

When this comes from a parent it is very difficult to put in perspective. I have dealt with countless people who struggle in their relationship with God because the “measure up” syndrome is so ingrained in them that they simply cannot believe that God can accept them into his family by grace alone. They labor, sometimes harder than others in the church but it is for the wrong reasons. You cannot do enough to earn what you already have. You simply have to take God at his word and believe that he already loves and accepts you.

1 John 4:9-10 (NKJV) 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We do not have to work to earn God’s love. We simply have to believe that God does love us (1 John 4:16.) Our love for God must grow out of response to believing he loves us. When we try to prove to God that we love him by working really hard, we miss the point. He loves me. The more I accept and believe that truth the more my love for him will grow.

We may go to church, read the Word, pray and do Christian work, but if it is to “measure up” to an arbitrary standard that has been imprinted upon us, we will become discouraged and either work harder while having less joy or quit trying altogether falling into the trap of Hebrews 4:11. Neither is the right thing to do.

Let me use a silly illustration. Digging a ditch is hard work. I do not like digging. If I am told I need to dig but have no idea why I am digging, the work quickly becomes intolerable. If, however, I am told that I need to dig a trench in order to protect my home and family from a flood, I will work willingly and gladly. I know why I am working. I know that the result of my work will produce something important. I labor to save my home and family not just to do “busy work” in order to prove my worth to someone.

We are to labor to enter the rest. The goal is not just the work. We do not pray as a spiritual exercise to prove we are acceptable to God. Andrew Murray, a powerful Christian writer from the past, said that Jesus prayed to get answers. We work because God reveals to us that certain practices will help us overcome the flesh, walk in our destiny and find the rest that God always wanted for his people. Any other reason will not do. God says the point of our labor is to enter the rest. It is never to be more loved, more accepted or more saved.

That does not change the fact that the labor must be done. When we know what we are doing and what it will accomplish, we do it with joy. Faithfulness becomes a wonderful thing in our eyes. We know that we are flowing with the one who loved us to build a better and more powerful life here on earth both for us and for others in whose life we have influence.

We do it because we are loved not to be loved. We work because we are accepted not to be accepted. We work to please the one who accepted, loved and saved us. This is very different from trying to measure up to someone’s standard of acceptance.

Labor to Enter the Rest Part 2

Hebrews 4:11-13 (KJV) 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

In our study of how grace works in the life of the believer we have seen that Paul in Romans 7 found himself in a “wretched” condition. In Romans 8 he gives us the solution. If we walk in the spirit and not in the flesh we will not have to deal with the constant struggle between what the flesh pushes us to do and what we know we should do in order to please God.

I believe this is the crux of the dispute that seems to be in the church today. On the one hand there are those who say, “Since God did it all by grace, we do not need to repent of sin. We do not need to be concerned about lifestyle. We just need to know God loves us and love God and it will all be OK.”

There is a great deal of truth in that statement. There is also a great deal of misunderstanding. Salvation is given to us as a gift. There is nothing you can do to earn it. It comes by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus and we obtain it by faith (Ephesians 2:8.) However, that does not absolve us from personal responsibility. In the last few posts we have been looking at Hebrews 4. You also need to read Hebrews 3.

These two chapters speak of Israel’s rebellion. The writer is trying to get the Christians of the day to understand that there is a trap into which God’s people can fall. This trap will rob them of their power to live in victory and their destiny in God. That trap starts with unbelief which progresses into rebellion. Israel did not believe they could overcome the obstacles in the promised land of Canaan. Their unbelief caused them to rebel against God. The result was that a whole generation never experienced what God had for them. Hebrews calls Canaan their rest.

There is still a rest available to the people of God. It is the spiritual fulfillment of what God wanted for natural Israel in The Promised land. It is how we will walk in destiny and victory as Christians. It is how we will walk above the limitations and sin of the flesh. It is how we will access the power of God to overcome our three enemies: The world, the flesh and the devil. Our rest is to walk with our spirit, our soul and our body all doing what they were designed by God to do. This is what Paul calls “walking in the spirit” in Romans 8 and Galatians 5.

The argument today seems to be between grace and law. I believe there are many who have tried to do their best to serve God by living according to His standards and principles and have found themselves in Romans 7. (You may need to go back and read this chapter.) They try really hard to do what is right, but they fail. Their flesh gets the better of them and they fall into some sin. Whether the sin is great or small it does not matter. The result is the same. The devil brings condemnation and the condemnation is affective because we know we have done something wrong.

Sometimes it is not even a matter of sin. We may fail in our own eyes, not God’s. There may be no real failure at all, but we have been conditioned to believe that anything that is not perfection is failure. Nothing could be farther from the truth in God’s eyes.

Psalm 78:39 (NKJV) 39 For He remembered that they were but flesh, A breath that passes away and does not come again.

This Psalm is talking about the same period in Israel’s history as Hebrews 3 and 4. God remembers what we are. As Christians, we have something Israel did not have. We are new creatures because of what Jesus did. They were not. Even so we are still often dominated by flesh. It causes us to fail just as it caused Israel to fail. We need to know that God understands our limitations. He does not cast us away because of failures whether real or perceived. He gives us a way to overcome those weaknesses. It is called walking in the spirit and we do it by grace through faith.

In preaching concerning things like holiness, I have often said that I do not have a problem with people who fail to walk in holiness. I have a problem with people who do not care. When we come to a place where sin is an acceptable part of our Christian walk we have a problem. We all fail. We all sin. The New Testament acknowledges that. However, it is how we react when we fail or sin that is important. When I fail I need to ask God’s forgiveness and get back in the game.

The problem is that many people have never understood that this was what God wanted. They fail and then they just try harder to keep the Law. We learned in Romans 7 that there is nothing wrong with God’s law. The problem is that our flesh cannot keep it. Many Christians have gotten so tired of trying to keep the law, that they just give up. That is exactly what we need to do but the devil can get in and bring deception about what this means.

If we give up and say, “Sin does not matter. I cannot be holy like God, so he must understand that I have to sin. He took care of it. It’s all grace so I don’t have to do anything.” When we get to that point we are defeated. The flesh will dominate us the rest of our lives and we will eventually come to a place the bible calls a seared conscience.

This condition is when sin no longer bothers us. We accept it in our own lives and encourage others to accept it as well. The end is always death. It has been a method the devil has used to cripple the church since the resurrection. The devil dresses the process up in different clothes but in essence it is always the same.

In every era, this devilish plan has caused the church to reject or rationalize the miraculous. Prayer becomes less and less important. When there is prayer it is increasingly cold and formal. Relativism begins to take over the interpretation of the Word of God. The church begins to be conformed to culture instead of opposing human culture. Finally, the church is an irrelevant part of society tucked away in buildings, formalism and powerlessness.

That is what we see in most denominational structures. The devil is trying to do the same thing to the Charismatic/Pentecostal/Evangelical church today. It all begins with the condemnation the devil brings because of our inevitable failure. What a pity this is since God has provided such a powerful alternative. We can walk in the spirit.

I find myself having spent time today where I did not intend to spend it. In doing so we are right back to where I ended last time. Hebrews 4:11 says we must work to enter the rest. Work is exactly what the devil does not want us to do. He wants us to relax into the rest. That sounds more plausible on the surface, does it not? However, God knows what we do not.

Since there is a work we must do to get to the rest, the devil makes sure that all spiritual works are classified as law. His goal is to get us to stop trying and accept that we will sin. The deception is to make us believe that God just does not care about sin since Jesus.

The truth is that sin is just as toxic as it ever was. There is a work done for the right reasons in the right way that will save us. We must labor to get to the place where we finally enter the rest that will cause us to win the victory over the flesh. The world and the devil become far less substantial opponents after that.

Labor to Enter the Rest

Hebrews 4:11 (KJV) 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

We have been looking at how the grace of God enables us to overcome the weakness of the flesh and the temptations of the world. In Romans 7 we find a description of a person who is struggling with these forces. Most honest Christians understand what Paul is talking about. We are Christians, but we live in a world that Romans 8 calls enmity or hatred for God.

In Romans 8, Paul tells us the solution to what he calls the “wretchedness” of Romans 7.

Romans 8:1 (NKJV) 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

There is no condemnation for a person who walks in the Spirit and not in the flesh. In Hebrews 4, we find insights into what it means to walk in the spirit. In Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, we see the people of Israel succumbing to unbelief which leads to rebellion and hardness of the heart. Because of this condition, the first generation never enters the Promised land of Canaan. Hebrews calls this their “rest.”

However, Hebrews is not talking about ancient Israel alone. The book exhorts us not to fall into the same trap. We must not give in to unbelief, rebellion and hardness of heart. Why not? Because there is still a rest available to the people of God. It is a rest Israel never entered even in subsequent generations. Verse 10 tells us to labor to enter the rest available to us in Christ or we will fall just as ancient Israel did.

A major key to understanding what Hebrews is talking about is the word rest. According to Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, this word does not mean inactivity. It means the harmony of all aspects of the human being working together. Man is spirit, soul and body. When all three are fulfilling the function that God intended, Christianity and everything it entails becomes a rest not a struggle.

In this rest, faith flows naturally. Holiness is not an impossibility. Temptation, always there, is no longer the danger it once was. Resistance to sin is almost unnecessary. We simply flow with the nature of God into our destiny. The nature of God becomes the dominant factor in our behavior. This is what God wants for us.

Today, there is an increasingly popular idea that seems to say this condition can be attained simply by believing that God did it all. Sin was paid for, therefore there is no need to worry about it. If we sin, it is “no big deal” because Jesus already died for my sin. I should just relax, enjoy life and eventually heaven will be my home. What happens here and now is almost irrelevant.

Though there is truth in that perspective, how that “rest” comes to us is being lost. We live in an entitlement society. The thought that we do not have to do anything to obtain the “rest” plays into entitlement thinking. It does not agree with the bible.

Hebrews 4:10 tells us that we must labor to enter the rest. It goes on to say that if we do not, we risk the same fate that befell the first generation of Israel. We will fail to enter the real purpose of God for our lives just as they did.

Labor, KJV, and rest seem opposites at first glance. In the natural, we know they are not. How do we come to a place of rest in retirement? Do we simply waste our time through life and expect that when we are older we will be able to quit working and just do what we want for the rest of our lives? If we think that, we find out we are wrong.

If we want to “rest” in retirement we have to work for many years to lay the foundation. We have to discipline ourselves to resist the temptation to spend all we have on temporary pleasure. We must put away some of what we earn for the future. Advertisement today is full of companies exhorting us to make sure we have enough to “rest” for the last part of life.

The “rest” of Hebrews 4 is not an entitlement. It is, however, far more than retirement. It is a rest available for our whole life, not just the end. It is a rest that will consume our work life in peace and joy. It is a rest that will cause us to rise above sin and the enemy all the days of our lives. It is a rest that will take us to our destiny. It is also a rest for which there is a labor to be done.

I am going to take a little “rabbit trail” here. In John 17:3, Jesus says that real life is to know God and the one he sent, Jesus. There is no life greater, more abundant in what makes life worth living than to know God personally. The quest of every believer should be to know him better every day. In a very real sense this is the rest we are talking about.

I have heard some talk a great deal about this relationship. They rightly point out that to know God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the answer to how we can walk in victory. What seems to me to be lacking is any teaching on how to know him. I think Hebrews tells us. We must be diligent to get to know him. In the King James Version, it says we must labor. Knowing God takes a certain amount of work.

We know this is true in any other relationship. We say all the time that a good marriage takes a certain amount and type of work. I raised six children and I love them. Staying in right relationship with them through the various phases of child rearing certainly takes work. Keeping good friends around us takes work. Why do we think that the rest of relationship with God does not?

In our last post, we answered the question of what it means to walk in the spirit. I believe it is the rest of Hebrews 4. Not a rest of inactivity but a rest of harmony. Each part of my being is given to me for a purpose. My body is the part of me with which I relate to the physical world. My soul made up of my intellect, emotions and will, was given to me to relate to the intellectual world. It is a bridge between my body, the outward world and the world of the spirit.

My spirit is the part that was given to me to relate to God. It is where I hear him and feel his presence. It is the part created in his image and likeness. It is that part of me that was made to be in control of my life. The other parts function to be the channel through which the inner man can relate to and affect the outer world.

To walk in the spirit means to actively live with that part of me in control. When I do, the Christian life becomes a rest. When I do not, I find myself in “Romans 7.” The flesh drives me to do what I do not want to do and the spirit cries within me to be what God wants me to be.

How do I get to the rest? I must labor, be diligent or work. We are not at all talking about the works of the law. We are talking about the works of faith.

James 2:17 (NKJV) 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

The real question is, “What kind of works must we do and what is the point of the work?” The problem is not that Christians are working too hard to know God. It is that they are doing the wrong works for the wrong reasons. The solution is not to stop working. That leads to disaster. Just ask Israel. The solution is to learn how to work, what works to do and why we do them.

What does it Mean to Walk in the Spirit

Hebrews 4:8-11 (NKJV) 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

We are looking at the way we overcome the flesh in the New Testament relationship based on Jesus’ sacrifice. In the Old Testament, God gave the law to help Israel control the flesh. This was a manifestation of Grace, unmerited favor, to Israel.

They did not deserve relationship with God, but his mercy caused him to make a covenant with his chosen People. This relationship had to be limited because sin was not yet paid for. That could not happen until Jesus came and died. However, God needed a people through whom he could send the Messiah. He made covenant with Israel to create that people. He gave them the Law and its sacrifices to keep them until Jesus could come (Galatians 3:24.)

There was a problem that was part of the law from the beginning. Romans 3:4 tells us that the law could never accomplish what God wanted because it was weak through the flesh. The law was a mechanism that used the flesh to control the flesh. The law involved rules and regulations that the flesh had to keep. It also involved sacrifices and consequences for when the people failed to keep the rules and regulations. All of this worked on the level of the flesh. It is impossible to control the flesh with the flesh. Paul says to control the flesh we must walk in the spirit.

What does it really mean to “walk in the spirit?” There are those who seem to believe that to walk in the spirit means to live in a state just short of a trance. They think we are only “in the spirit when” our senses are so focused on the invisible that we barely function in the visible world. Any disturbance breaks the “anointing” and we are no longer in the spirit.

Jesus walked in the spirit. I do not think anyone would argue that. However, Jesus was not spooky or otherworldly in the way he related to people. He talked to people. He laughed and wept with them. I know that his lifestyle could not have been “spooky spiritual” because children were drawn to him. I do not know about you, but my children would not have flocked to someone who acted like they were not really here.

Children did flock to Jesus and he welcomed them. Somehow, I cannot see him relating to them with his eyes half closed uttering, “Ooh, Ahh, Hallelujah” in a stage whisper. No, I think he talked to them, laughed with them and even played with them. Yet all the while he was walking in the spirit.

What does it mean to walk in the spirit and not the flesh? I believe that today’s scripture gives us a good explanation. In chapter 3 the writer is speaking of something that was available to the people of Israel. He quotes Psalm 95:7-11. In this Psalm, the Lord is speaking of the generation of Israelites who did not go into the promised land. They complained against God. They complained against Moses. They could not trust God enough to cross the river Jordon and enter the destiny God had for them.

In this Psalm, that destiny is called their “rest.” It was the will of God that they come to a place of peace from the struggles of the wilderness. In later generations, we find that they would have to fight to possess the Land of Promise.” However, once they conquered the enemies in Canaan, the will of God was that they live in peace until the coming of the Messiah.

The second generation of Israelites had enough faith to enter the land. They conquered most of the inhabitants and lived in relative peace. Nevertheless, they left some of the inhabitants of Canaan alive. God warned them that this would lead to compromise. After the death of Joshua, the Israelites failed to keep God’s ways and fell into captivity again and again. That was never what God intended for them, but their flesh was too strong for them to continue in God’s perfect rest.

God knew that would be the case. In chapter 4 he tells us that there is still a rest that the people of Israel never walked in. He says we should not harden our heart as they did. How did they harden their heart? They refused to believe that what God said was true. God promised them Canaan. God promised to drive out the enemy before them. They simply could not accept that this was possible in light of what they saw.

In later generations, they had seen God do what he said he would do, but they chose to yield to the flesh. They mingled with those who did not know God. They worshipped other gods and committed sins and engaged in practices that went against the will of God. This eventually led to them falling into captivity and being taken away from the “rest” God had promised them.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the rest God wanted for Israel is still available to those who love God. Israel never fully walked in what God wanted for his people, but he promised that someone would. That people who can and will walk in the fullness of God’s rest is the church.

Verses 10 and 11 give us some insights as to what this rest is. Verse10 tells us that someone who has entered this rest “ceases from his own works as God did from his.” He is talking about the seventh day of creation. God rested on the seventh day because all that had to be done was done. Creation was complete.

I believe the rest God wants for us is to realize that the work of salvation is already complete. There is nothing more we can do to earn salvation. Jesus did it all. Salvation is already ours. We do not need to work to earn God’s acceptance. It is already ours. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us that if we are in Christ we are new creations. We do not work to become new creations. Praise God!

This is a powerful truth, but in the next verse he seems to contradict what he said in verse 10. In verse 11 in the King James Version he says that we must “labor to enter the rest.” NKJV uses the term to be diligent. Diligent means to be hard working or conscientious in one’s work.

The meaning is the same. If we are going to enter the rest God has always desired for his people, there is a work to do. This is not a work to earn what is already ours. It is a work to cause what we are in Christ to dominate our outward life.

The word rest here is important. According to Vines Expository Dictionary, it does not mean the rest of inactivity. Instead it is “the harmonious working of all the faculties and affections, of will, heart, imagination, conscience, because each has found in God the ideal sphere for its satisfaction and development”

The rest God wants for us is that every part of our being do what it is supposed to do naturally. The body doing what God intended it to do. The soul consisting of the intellect, emotions and will doing what God intended it to do. Finally, the inner man, the spirit of man doing what God intended that part to do.

The spirit was to be the controlling part of man. Man was created in the image of God. John 4:4 tells us that God is a spirit. We are created to be spirit beings with a soul living in a body. To walk in the spirit is simply to walk with the spirit in control. If we can do that, we will walk according to God’s will and his ways. We will flow with his purpose. Sin will not be nearly the struggle it is when the flesh is in control.

How can we come to this rest? To quote Paul in Romans 7, “Thank God, we can do it by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Nevertheless, there is a labor or work involved. What is this work and what is its nature. That is what we must come to understand.