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Our Scripture lesson this morning comes from Hebrews 4:1-11.
In an effort to find his royal artist, a wise king once commissioned two painters to paint a picture that captured the essence of rest.
The first painter chose for his scene a still, lone lake nestled among beautiful snow capped mountains.
The second painter threw on his canvas a thundering waterfall, with a fragile birch tree bending over the foam; at a fork of a branch, almost wet with the cataract’s spray, a robin sat on its nest.
The day arrived for the finished works to be presented to the king.
The paintings were set upon easels before the king’s throne and all who saw the paintings admired the first one and mocked the second.
Finally, the king entered and walked up to each painting to inspect them.
After some time he called the first painter forward and said to him, “You have not painted a picture of rest, but of stagnation.
You may take your painting and go home.”
Then he called the second painter forward.
“You shall be my royal artist!” the king declared, “For you have captured the essence of true rest.
For in true rest there are two elements—tranquillity and energy.”
I open my message today with this story because it illustrates that true rest is not the product of laziness, but labor.
This is seen in verses 10-11 of our text.
This is especially true of the Sabbath Rest of God.
To understand this fully we must ask and answer three questions:
What is God’s Rest?
How do I Enter God’s Rest?
When do I Enter God’s Rest?
Let us begin with the first question:
What is God’s Rest?
God’s Rest is first found in Genesis 2.
This theme of Rest and Sabbath runs through the bible from Genesis to Revelation.
As we read in our Advent Scripture Lesson today from Isaiah 65, God has begun work on a new creation—a New Heaven and New Earth.
As Redemptive History has progressed we learned that this new creation act is centered around the work of God’s Son, the Messiah.
At Advent we celebrate the Two Comings of Jesus.
At His first coming, Jesus came to establish Rest from our bondage to sin.
At His second coming, Jesus will consummate the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth.
Because so few people read and study the Old Testament today, the only “Sabbath” as rest they are familiar with is the weekly Sabbath day celebrated as the end of seven days of labor.
But this was not the only Old Covenant sabbath, nor was it the most important.
The most important “Sabbath” of the Old Covenant was the Day of Atonement.
On the day of Atonement, the High Priest labored intensely—offering sacrifices for the sins of God’s people.
It was a day of Sabbath Rest for God’s people, purchased by the blood of sacrifices and the labor of the High Priest.
In chapter 2, the author of Hebrews introduces Jesus as our Great High Priest.
In just a few more verses starting in Hebrews 4:14 the author begins his longest and most important teaching section in the book of Hebrews.
In this section, he will demonstrate how Jesus’ High Priestly ministry is superior to that of the Old Covenant high priest and how His once and for all Sacrifice of Atonement is superior to the ones offered by the Old Covenant priests.
What this means is that Jesus was able to Rest from His atoning work.
Jesus now offers that Rest to us.
By faith in His atoning work, we can enjoy Peace with God.
This is why the weekly Sabbath day has been moved from Saturday to Sunday.
In the Old Covenant, the people of God celebrated God’s Rest from His creation of the First Heavens and First Earth.
In the New Covenant, the people of God celebrate Christ’s Rest from His atoning work.
But as Hebrews 4:9 teaches us, “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
This is the Sabbath Rest we will enjoy when Christ comes back at His second Advent.
This is the celebration of the creation of the New Heavens and New Earth.
This Sabbath Rest will be a day of celebration and joy that will never end!
With such a great salvation and rest before us, we need to ask and answer the second question...
How Can I Enter God’s Rest?
Throughout chapter 4 we find repeated warnings about failing to enter into God’s rest.
Actually these warnings begin in chapter 3.
You will notice that the author of Hebrews is essentially saying the same thing, but using two different words.
In verse 18, the reason the people failed to enter into God’s rest was disobedience.
In verse 19, the reason is unbelief.
Biblical faith is not just believing certain facts about God are true, but it is a personal trust in that person.
If we truly believe what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture, then we will naturally trust and obey Him.
Again the story of the rebellion at the border of Promise Land is so helpful in illustrating this.
Why according to Hebrews 4:2, was the “good news” that was preached to the Exodus generation no “benefit” to them?
It was because “they were not united by faith with those who listened.”
They said, “Can God?” rather than, “God can!”
They thought of their enemies as large as giants and themselves as small as grasshoppers!
But what of those who listened?
Because they believed, Joshua and Caleb became like giants in the eyes of their enemies and their enemies fell like grasshopper before their swords!
Faith makes all the difference.
The only way to enter into God’s Rest is by faith and we know we have true saving faith by the fruit of obedience.
Now we are ready for the third and final question...
When Will I Enter God’s Rest?
If we are talking about God’s eternal rest, then obviously it will not be until we either die or are raptured into heaven.
That day is in the future, however, as we learned there is another way of speaking of God’s rest—enjoying the forgiveness of our sins.
This rest you can enjoy right now!
In fact, if you have any hope of ever enjoying God’s eternal rest you must first enjoy in this life the rest and peace with God that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
It is quite common to see on a grave maker or in a Facebook post these three initials—RIP—Rest in Peace.
Almost everyone in our society assume they and those they care about will go to heaven.
But the bible sees things differently.
The author of Hebrews warns us repeatedly in chapters 3-4, that without faith we will fail to enter into God’s Rest.
I would be remiss as a pastor if I did not ask each and everyone of you Today, “Are you enjoying enjoying peace and rest with God through Jesus Christ?”
The Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath, is given to us to remind us of the importance of being in the Present Rest Jesus offers us through His atoning death in order that we may enjoy the Future Rest of the New Heavens and New Earth.
Conclusion: Let Us Strive to Enter God’s Rest
The word translated “strive” in verse 11 speaks of zealous, diligent effort.
In other words, you can’t enter God’s rest with lazy faith.
The Apostle Paul teaches us that we must examine ourselves, to see whether or not we are in the faith.
So let us be active, not stagnate in our faith.
Let us pray.
Lord add your blessing to the Word which we have heard Today.
By your Spirit unite our hearing with faith so that we might benefit from it and enjoy your Rest.
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