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.