I know better, but it is so often the case that knowing better doesn’t change how I feel about things. I know that rest is extremely important. I understand that our body is made to need both work, dedication, all out effort and rest. Somewhere along the way it was driven into my thinking that one of the worst of all sins is laziness. The very notion of a person resting that hadn’t been doing anything that should cause them to need rest is detestable to me. Even in those times when I’m worn out physically and emotionally, and I know my body is crying out for rest, I’m afraid I still feel guilty for leaving the work that I know needs to be done, behind to get away and rest for a while. But, I am fully aware of the fact that there is a real danger of our missing the one rest that is most important of all if we don’t do the things that need to be done to have the rest.
In Hebrews 4:1 the Holy Spirit led the writer of this book of the Bible to say, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear, lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” The background on which the writer is making this plea is that God had promised the Nation of Israel when he had Moses to lead them out of the land of Egypt to go to the Promised Land that it would be a rest for them. They were to have rest from the toil, the slavery, the abuse and the living in fear that had haunted them. God delivered them from the slavery and led them out into the wilderness to prepare them to become a Nation and to follow His guide. Over and over again they stumbled and fell and God punished them for their sins. It took forty years for them to travel a distance that should have taken them less than a year to enter the land of God’s promise. Rebellion, pride, immorality and idolatry all invaded their thinking to keep them out of the promised land. Even after they finally crossed the Jordan and escaped the desert to enter the Promised Land, their struggles didn’t end. They entered the rest, but were driven from that land because of their worship of other gods and rebellion against Jehovah. Now these Christians of a Jewish background have escaped the slavery of sin in their own lives and turned to the Lord Jesus Christ to have rest from the sin that now haunted them. They had found rest, but they were doubting the decision they made, wondering if they had made the right choice. They were questioning the decision to turn from Judaism to Christianity. So, God led the preacher to plead with them in this new message, to not make the same mistake that had hurt them so deeply as a Nation before. Don’t fail to enter into God’s resting place and miss His glorious rewards.
Why would we ever turn back from Christ and forgiveness, from being part of God’s family and having the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us all the time so that we can know where He is taking us, to the final reward of heaven itself, to turn back and miss out on the rest?
Two huge points need to rise up for us. One, it should be obvious that one who has turned to the Lord and is headed to the rest, can indeed stop, fail and not enter the final rest with the Lord in glory. No matter how hard we may argue that once a person is saved by God that they can’t turn back and be lost, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit of God was saying we can indeed start down the right road with the Lord and turn back to lose our soul. We can as followers of Christ fail to enter the rest. To argue that the people had never really been saved would be just like arguing that the Israelites who left Egypt didn’t really leave after all, as to argue that these people hadn’t been saved and entered into the Lords’ family. It is to people in God’s family who did start down the road of salvation and were part of God’s family that the whole point was made that we need to be careful to not miss out on the promise God has made to us of entering the rest. Second, it is extremely important that we see that whether we as God’s children enter the rest God has for us, is a personal choice for us. God wants all people to be saved ( 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus died for all people (Hebrews 2:9) and he sent his disciples out to preach the gospel to every creature, to every ethnic group and all kinds of people to give them the opportunity to believe in Christ, turn from their sins to God in repentance and be baptized to have their sins washed away and be right with him (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-48). God has made the way for each of us to be saved and wants the message of salvation to be preached to each of us so we can decide for ourselves whether or not we will accept the offer of God and be saved. But it is still our choice after salvation whether we will continue to walk with the Lord and have the rest with him in glory or will we turn back and lose the very salvation we chose.
In Matthew’s account of the great commission it is worth remembering that he told the disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU AND LO I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE. Salvation is vital. It is a wonderful offer from God and the way was made by Him at the greatest imaginable price of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. But it isn’t just to be saved when our faith leads us to turn from sin in repentance and to God, and then to be baptized based on that faith. Our life for the Lord as one of his disciples is to involve us observing all that he has commanded us. It is out of that challenge that God had the preacher in Hebrews to plead with all those who have given their life to Christ, to enter the rest that still stands and to be afraid that we might fail to reach it. Wouldn’t it be foolish for us to be afraid of losing something that we couldn’t lose even if we wanted to? Notice in verse 6 he explained how one fails to enter the rest. “Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter BECAUSE OF DISOBEDIENCE.”
God’s rest for us in glory is going to be wonderful. Our challenge is not to miss it and it is our challenge to help each other enter the rest. Notice the plea is to “Let us fear, lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” The let us indicates we are to be involved in helping each other reach the final goal with him. Our fear of missing the rest shouldn’t just be for our own failure, but for those we love to miss out on God’s wonderful rest. Each holds a responsibility to both be an obedient servant of the Lord and to be a helper of others to reaching the rest as well. Remember, we help, but we have the greatest helper of all in the Holy Spirit of God who helps us in all our weaknesses (Romans 8:26).