Hebrews 4:10-11 (NKJV) 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.
As we have studied the role of grace in the life of the believer, there can be no doubt that salvation is a gift of God given by his unmerited favor which is, by definition, grace. We access this grace by faith to receive salvation. If faith were not necessary, everyone would automatically be saved and go to heaven. The Bible is clear that only those who receive the saving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice by faith are redeemed.
The question that seems to be in some confusion today is whether that means grace covers all sins, past, present and future or if we still must walk according to the character of God in this world. I do not think there should be any question. The same Bible that teaches grace as the vehicle for salvation, teaches that we cannot be like the world. We are called to a lifestyle that reflects Jesus’ character and God’s morality as we live before them.
We have wonderful promises concerning forgiveness of sin, eternal life and relationship with God through Christ Jesus. What should be our response to these promises?
2 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV) 1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The question is not if we must be different from the world in our behavior, it is how we accomplish that. I have said a number of times, and will probably say many more times, that the problem is we do the right things for the wrong reason. We read in Galatians 5:16-18 that if we walk in the spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Yet most Christians who honestly desire to walk right with God try not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh thinking this means they will be walking in the spirit. That is backwards.
You will fall to the lusts of the flesh unless you walk in the spirit. To try to live right first always produces bondage and failure. I truly believe this is why some today have given up on trying to live according to Biblical standards. They tried to do the right thing but failed.
Let me use another verse to show you what I mean. We spent some time in Hebrews 4. I want to look again at verses 10 and 11. We have defined walking in the spirit using this verse. The word “rest” does not mean the rest of inactivity. It means the rest of harmony. It points to all parts of our being, spirit, soul and body, doing what they were designed to do in the original creation. There are two truths contained in these two verses that will help us accomplish this.
The first is the fact that entering the rest requires we cease from our own works as God ceased from his work in creation. This occurred on the seventh day of creation which is where we get the idea of the sabbath. To cease from our own works can mean that we must occupy ourselves with God’s will, working to build his kingdom. In this case, I think it is more accurate to interpret this to mean that we stop trying to be godly in the flesh. Our work is when we just try really hard to resist sin. It is when we try really hard to be in God’s will.
We certainly must resist sin, flow in the will of God and make building his kingdom a priority. It is “our works” when we try and do those things in our abilities. When we are trying hard to do right by controlling our flesh, that is law. It will not work.
Verse 11 says we should labor to enter the rest. What this means is that we must labor, or work, to accomplish the right job. If I am told to dig a ditch for no good reason I may do the work, but I will have no incentive because I will not understand why I should dig. I will not dig correctly because I do not know what I am supposed to accomplish.
If I am told to dig a ditch to divert flood waters that are going to destroy my home, I will be diligent to dig. I will learn how deep to dig and where to dig. Why? I will do it because I understand that I am doing a job that must be done so my home can be saved. The same is true with walking in the spirit.
If we accept that the rest he is talking about in Hebrews 3 and 4 is walking in the spirit, we must understand that there is a labor we must do to get there. However, we do not just labor. We labor to get to the place where we are walking with our inner man, the part created in the image of God and where God dwells, in control. To do that I must do some work. I must deal with my body. I must renew my mind. I must build up my spirit.
Most Christians know they should not sin. They know they have to resist temptation but sometimes they just resist because they know they are supposed to. We must resist temptation but not just so we will not sin. We resist temptation and control our flesh to help us walk in the spirit. The goal is walking in the spirit, not just staying away from sin.
We know that we must read and study the bible. We know we need to pray and be in the presence of God. We know that we should be in church. The question is why do we do these works. We do them because they are what we must do to walk in the spirit. If we do not understand that this is the goal, we will do them but not really know why. We will do the work but not for the right reasons. We will think doing the work is the point.
In our illustration, digging was not the point. It is only a means to an end. Reading the Bible, praying, going to church and even doing good works is not the point. They are some of the things we do to walk in the spirit. If we walk in the spirit, all of these things will become part of our life naturally.
It often does not start out that way. Most times we must just start doing the work. If we understand what the work is accomplishing, we find over time that the work is not really work anymore. It is just our life. We find that prayer is what it should be. It was meant to be fellowship with God and a process whereby we bring the cares and needs of life to a loving Father.
The Word of God is no longer something we have to read because it is what Christians do. It becomes food to our spirit and the way we begin to learn how God thinks and how we can think like him. It is a book of promises written to us by our covenant God. It is one of the primary ways we learn who he is and how to relate to him by faith.
Christian fellowship and Christian work are no longer tedious things but celebrations of our relationship with God and his people. They become the ways we introduce our wonderful Jesus to the world. When we come to the rest of walking in the spirit, what we should do becomes what we want to do.
This is not automatic. We still live in the world and in physical bodies that are still part of the curse that came upon creation because of the fall. We are under the influence of culture and societies that were born from the same curse and have developed ways and ideas that are contrary to God. Just as an airplane must continue to apply fuel to stay in the air, we must continue to do the things that enable us to walk in the spirit or we will gradually come back to a relationship of labor and law.
If we do continue to do the right work for the right reasons, we can live a life of the harmony of rest. Our spirit will continue to lead us into the right way of life. Our soul will be a place where understanding of God flows from his word into our minds. Our bodies will be the channel in which we will walk in the will of God and experience joy, peace, love and victory. until we find ourselves free of this world and enjoying the next.
What exactly is the labor that leads to the rest of walking in the spirit. That is what we will explore next in this space.