Entering into God's RestJanuary 7th and 12th, 2009 ~ by the Generic Christian Mystic
Again, the Lord burdened me with something from His word. I will do my best to share in words that ineffable realm of Spirit revelation and insight.
First off, read all of the letter to the Hebrews, then re-read chapters 3 and 4. Also look at the sections in chapter 10, concentrating on verses 16-25.
Hebrews is one of those books favored by various sects of Christians to prove everything but what it is actually saying. The wording is tricky in places, select phrases cause knee-jerk, gut-level responses of confusion and worry -- many times over what it seems to say but in fact is not talking about. I won't even attempt, here and now ~ to address the typical errors that arise from incorrect readings or faulty proof-texting I see happening related to passages in Hebrews. What I will speak on is but one theme I have seen become clearer to me -- namely -- entering God's rest.
One evening during choir practice announcements I had these flashes of insight pour over me that I had to jot down concerning the phrase, "enter into my rest" from Hebrews. I saw that the phrase can be broken into two halves; "enter into" which is the believer's responsibility to respond to and "my rest" which is the sole work of God. God's rest is His Sabbath from His completed work(s). He also provides for His people a rest that He invites us to be diligent to "enter into" ~ thus His rest is a finished thing, done, existing and open to those who would enter. However, our being able to "enter into" God's rest, involves certain God-ordained conditions we must abide by to reach His rest.
The phrase "enter into" denotes going through something, a portal, across a barrier, a threshold, through perhaps a narrow way to reach a place or a goal. Our responsibility is tied to obedience, to labor, to strive to enter, to maintain a walk of diligence towards "His rest". By faith, instead of unbelief, we must accept that God's rest is indeed a reality. By diligent faith we search and seek an entry, a path, a process and a discipline of ourselves that we may enter into His rest.
So what exactly is this rest? What does God intend for His people who persevere in reaching this rest? Why does He call us to enter, to labor towards reaching His rest, His sabbath?
In a way it seems a paradox that God calls us to labor for rest. So, is this rest, this sabbath of God, an inactive time? Is it service, worship or living a "Promised Land" / Kingdom-oriented life? What is this rest of God's we are called to strive for, to work towards reaching and entering into?
Something deep in me feels that God's rest involves surrender, a letting go, a ceasing from self-rule, an end to self-life and a cessation of our independent striving to be our own "god" ~ a "god" who can NEVER offer us rest. Clearly, our own "godliness" is empty of life, empty of any real sabbath. As our own work(s) to bring about our own kingdom, is(are) an endless work without the power of God ~ we build a foundation on sand that requires endless and pointless repair. In our being so busied with our own empty work(s) we will in essence, completely miss entry into God's rest. His rest is a work of holiness and power and is finished. He calls us away from empty dreams and lifeless goals to enter into His rest. We must journey there, as individuals making a choice by faith. Yet we must also walk within God's cooperate vision of oneness with fellow believers as is urged in Hebrews.
About four days after that first insight, I asked my wife to sit with me and perhaps both of us could look at this issue of rest in Hebrews and perhaps the Lord would open up more light with two or more gathered in His name to seek truth. He did!
Hebrews indicates "entering into His rest" is in fact a lifelong, daily process, involving enduring, hearing mixed with faith, not hardening one's heart and fellowshiping with others on the same journey as ourselves.
Mingled in with this discussion of God's rest provided for His people is an emphasis on "To-day", right now, being the "when" that we must be aware of and so add diligence to seeking that rest. So, a clear indication is revealed that a daily, ongoing committed faith is what God seeks of those wanting to enter into His rest. Unbelief, unconfessed sin, selfish independence, and spiritual sloth will keep us outside the promise of this rest God calls us to enter.
As we seek this rest, it is apparent in Hebrews, that the entry into this rest, is intricately interwoven with a daily approach to the throne of grace and mercy. It is here, in coming face to face with our High Priest Jesus, that we find grace, mercy, cleansing and help for our need. I believe we also receive the truth, while in His presence, that we have to cease our own works. It is while we are within this Holy of Holies, as we boldly approach in faith that Holy One, who is our peace -- we find God's rest! In this loving presence of our sympathetic and healing High Priest Jesus, He can console and care for us, calm us in His love and we are renewed and rested. We then gain His strength to carry on and serve Him and His flock.
The next day, in a small bible study group, a brother shared that he believed we daily are experiencing the believer's "inheritance" -- in the present here and now, as we follow Jesus. This comment came out of nowhere but it gripped me. It rang true with my spirit.
After the day before, the Lord's helping my wife and I see that God's rest is a daily goal, truly made this fellow's comment about enjoying our "inheritance" already, seem to be clearly connected in my mind. Why?
Well, for years, I felt that "God's rest" was for the "sweet by and by" in heaven and all that. Then I came to see this rest as more specifically found in the arrival of the Millennial Kingdom where at last, overcomers reached the place they had endured to the end for, by obedience and such. Now, I see this "inheritance" of the obedient overcomer as NOT only for later but somehow this great goal ahead of us in the Millennial Reign, in the Kingdom coming, as more of a "right now" existence! What do I mean?
As we learn obedience through what we suffer (experience), we must daily come to our High Priest and King Jesus for timely (seasonable) help. This successful securing of grace, mercy and rest IS OUR PORTION or OUR INHERITANCE come to us, into us, around us, and running over, given to us from the invisible King from His Throne. God's coming kingdom reigns NOW among us, within us and that is our portion, for "To-day", of our inheritance that is also a "rest" for us. That "rest" we enter is but a small piece, (peace), an echo of the future kingdom, an oasis we gain entry to, by approaching the throne of the High Priest of Hebrews; Jesus! We thus experience the coming Greater Rest of God's Kingdom, daily, as we bow down before and acknowledge the King. Thus, our weakness brings us into experiencing His portion of strength given to those who diligently seek Him.
May we each seek to "enter into His rest" and find our portion.
E-mail me if you have comments or questions.