Friday, February 1, 2019 -
This morning, I’ve been blessed by new insight the Holy Spirit has given to me pertaining to Hebrews chapter 4. But you can’t really read chapter 4 without first reading chapter 3, which is no doubt a prelude to chapter 4. In chapter 3, we read about Moses and the people of Israel who were unable to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief and disobedience (3:15-19). Paul tells us instead to “hold fast the beginning of assurance firm, until the end” (3:14). The word used here for “hold fast” is translated to “steadfast” in the King James, and normally is only used for inanimate objects, and things which are secured with a firm, immovable foundation. This is how our faith should be anchored in the cross of Jesus and the redemption He has provided you and me through faith.
But in the first verse of chapter 4, Paul says, “Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it” (4:1). The word here “come short” is the same word Paul uses in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
So apparently there are those who believe they are saved because they have verbally made an acknowledgment of Christ as the Messiah and Redeemer of the world, but still have not obtained God’s favor, in spite of their acknowledgment of Christ dying for their sin. How can this be?
Even Satan himself acknowledged Christ’s deity, yet he did not repent of his sin. A key to this can be found in Romans: “For what does it say? ‘The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart; -- that is the Word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart a man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:8-10).
Paul goes on to explain in Hebrews 4:2 this dilemma of falling short of God’s rest, or salvation from sin and the law he speaks of in verse one. You see, even though we, as the Israelites, heard the good news (it was indeed preached to us), it did no good for them (it did not profit them)! Why? Because it was not “united by faith in those who heard” (Hebrews 4:2). The Greek word for “united,” translated “mixed” in the KJV, is a sugker annymi, which signifies leaving no doubt – a faith that becomes part of us – part of our very being. In other words, it becomes part of our DNA, it is not merely an outward confession, but a change of heart, as indicated in the passage I just quoted to you in Romans 10.
This is why, as one of the inmates here in my unit expressed concern about, there are so many who call themselves Christian, and may even attend church once a week, but live their lives no differently than one who does not confess Christ. It is because they may, like the devil, acknowledge Christ’s role as God’s Son who was sent to redeem mankind, but it never was embraced in their heart – Christ never became Lord (Romans 10:9-10) of their life, or never became part of their DNA (united in faith), as we read here, resulting in a changed heart and life (righteousness as in Romans 10:10).
There is a reason God calls us His bride. Think of a newlywed couple or even many who have been married for many years. That relationship between bride and bridegroom is all-consuming. It consumes our every action, our every thought, and serves as a check for every temptation. Why would one deliberately hurt the one who loves him or her so much? A relationship in marriage, and that with our savior should be one in which we always want to please, honor, and never hurt! That is the relationship God expects of us when we “enter into His rest,” as Paul calls it in Hebrews 4.
That analogy between our salvation and the Sabbath is a very interesting one. Christ is indeed our “Sabbath rest,” for we, when we embrace Christ’s redemption and the Holy Spirit’s power in us, which results in our transformation (Romans 12:2), are no longer bound by the law (Hebrew 4:9-10). We are no longer bound by works. No longer do we need to rely on our own efforts to obtain righteousness, but we are made righteous through Christ, who, through the power of the Holy Spirit naturally begins the work of sanctification in us fueled by a heart change and faith in Christ.
Being “diligent to enter that rest” is accomplished by faith, and the work of the Holy Spirit (4:11-12), whereby we set aside our own works and efforts, and rest solely in the power of God’s redemptive work and the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in our hearts (4:12). It is very clear in verse 12 that our salvation results in a transformation, or sanctification, of the HEART’S thoughts and intentions. The evidence of that filling of the Holy Spirit, or sanctification process, should be evident for all to see. Finally, in verses 14 and 4, we find that Christ is now our “high priest!” It is through Him alone that we can ‘draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” Isn’t it marvelous that we no longer have to put our trust in our own works and our own efforts at righteousness? Instead, we can take our rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross. But, we must “hold first our confession” (profession) (4:14)! This term of confession, or profession, is a term used as an absolute. It is the Greek word homologeo, a confession of “Christ as all we need,” whose redemption we claim by absolute faith. Again, the analogy of a bride and bridegroom is perfect here. For the marriage, confession is a vow, which is absolute and cannot be undone. It is a vow of giving up one’s heart for another, of genuine love, which means being willing to give up one’s life for another. Christ gave Himself freely as a sacrifice for me, and I must be willing to give myself freely as a sacrifice for Him. That is what true love from the heart is all about. Too many today make that commitment, or vow, either in marriage or in our confession of Jesus as the Christ, with your mind, or verbally, but never with the heart. And that is why we must make Christ Lord of our lives, ask Him to enter our hearts, and literally, to be united, or mixed in with, our DNA. It is truly a different perspective of the salvation and redemptive work Christ does in a true Christian.