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.