Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on 6/30/02
"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God" (Heb. 4:9).
We had a lot of e-mail response from last week's writing, "Entering into rest without dying." (See End Note "A"). It struck a chord with numerous readers, who shared their struggles to give up their own efforts, and follow the Holy Spirit's leading. Most of us have heard sermons all our lives by preachers who urged us to try harder to be a good Christian, to quickly obey God's commandments, to avoid the broad path and follow the narrow way, but never in my life have I heard a preacher urge the flock to enter into rest. Rest? Are you kidding? That's too scary for the preacher who wants to keep the flock laboring in the vineyard, for if he encourages them to rest, they might quit coming to church, quit teaching Sunday School, and worst of all, quit giving. This is where the temptation comes to lay a little guilt on the folks attending the funeral of a Christian, by saying that she was a worker for the Lord; she was never weary in well doing; she was a diligent do-gooder, and NOW, she gets to rest. The bible is enigmatic and even humorous, at times. For example, the first ten verses of Hebrews, Chapter Four are devoted to telling us about the rest of God, ending with verse 10 which says, "whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his" (Heb. 4:10). That's really plain, don't you think? If we enter into God's rest, we cease from our own labors, but check out the next verse: "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:11, KJV). Let us labor to rest???
We have a New Testament with 26 translations and here are some of them for Heb. 4:11: "Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest," ASV. "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter..." TCNT; "Let us then exert ourselves to enter" Ber; "So let us do our best to be admitted to that rest," Wms. The one I liked is Phillips: "Let us then be eager to know this rest for ourselves, and let us beware that no one misses it through falling into the same kind of unbelief as those we have mentioned" (Heb. 4:11, Phil). I resonate to this translation because I have come to see that all we can do is be eager to know what it is God has for us. We cannot do anything in our own strength, as the scriptures make very plain. We have been crucified with Christ, and dead men cannot do anything but rest. Here is Gal. 2:20-21, in the Phillips translation: "I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old "I", but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live, I live believing in the Son of God who loved me and sacrificed himself for me. I refuse to make nonsense of the grace of God! For if righteousness were possible under the Law then Christ died for nothing" (Gal. 2:20,21, Phil). If righteousness were possible because of our attempts to obey God, then CHRIST DIED FOR NOTHING!!
Here, we see that nothing about our life qualifies us for the kingdom of God. Nothing we have ever done or ever could do, will earn us salvation, justification, glorification, and Sonship. So, what did the Hebrew writer mean when he said, "Labor to enter into the rest?" I think the answer comes in the next verse. The Phillips translation reads, "For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man's being: it examines the very thoughts and motives of a man's heart" (Heb. 4:12, Phil).
It is clear from this translation that the "Word of God" does NOT refer to the bible, but to Jesus Himself, the Logos of God. Here are a few other translations for verse 12: "For the word of God is living, and active" ASV; "For the word of God is full of life and power" Wey; "For the Logos of God is a living thing, active" Mof; "For whatever God says to us is full of living power," Tay. These translations leave no doubt that the word of God is power, might, glory, and ACTION! This is NOT the same deal as sitting quietly reading your bible by some formula which lets you get through it in a year. I used to do that, by the way, and sometimes I would read whole chapters without having a clue what I had read.
No, this, THIS WORD OF GOD mentioned by the Hebrew writer is the Holy Spirit's unction in our lives. The King James version reads, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12, KJV). The WORD, a two-edged sword, sharp as a razor, divides the soul and spirit. Theologians have debated for centuries about the difference between soul and spirit, but they have not brought clarity, but only more confusion. Yet, this verse declares that the word that God speaks will divide asunder the soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. You won't get this understanding from reading a book, but you will get it as the Holy Spirit shines the light of truth in your lives.
These verses are a marvel of mystical truth wrapped in words. As I was meditating on it, the Lord brought to mind a passage in the Psalms, which reads, "Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4, RSV). The Word of Faith people say that this means if you do it right, the Lord will give you what you want. What it says is that the Lord actually puts the desires He has for you in your heart. He gives you the desires of your heart. Have you ever been passionate about something, giving yourself totally to it until you succeeded in whatever it was? I have, and lest I take any glory out of it, the Lord always showed me that it was He who put doing it on my heart in the first place. Since Adam's sin, human nature has been a mess of conflicting desires. A part of us wants to worship God, but another part wants what we want when we want it. So, religion evolved to help man worship God AND get what he wants. Deuteronomy, Chapter 28, is a perfect example of this. Obey God, and the list of blessings is overwhelming. Disobey Him, and the list of curses will eat your lunch.
Let's move on to the next verse in Hebrews, Chapter 4: "No creature has any cover from the sight of God; everything lies naked and exposed before the eyes of him with whom we have to deal" (Heb. 4:13, Phil). This is why the Holy Spirit is the only one who can discern between the soul and the spirit. Our souls are laid bare before Him, and like Adam and Eve, before they partook of the forbidden fruit, we are naked and not ashamed. The soul has to do with the mind, the will and the emotions. The Apostle Paul said that the human intellect (the soul) cannot understand the things of God, but only the Spirit of God can make spiritual things plain to us. This is why Jesus told us that when the Counselor comes, He will lead us into all truth (John 16:13). Here is Paul's statement to the Corinthians: "But the unspiritual man simply cannot accept the matters which the Spirit deals with, they just don't make sense to him, for, after all, you must be spiritual to see spiritual things. The spiritual man, on the other hand, has an insight into the meaning of everything, though his insight may baffle the man of the world. This is because the former is sharing in God's wisdom, and Who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him? Nevertheless, we who are spiritual have the very thoughts of Christ!" (I Cor. 2:14-16, Phil). When the two edged sword pierces asunder the soul and spirit, we will have the very mind of Christ.
I want to go back to Paul's words regarding building on the foundation of Christ. We've had several interesting e-mails from readers who were contemplating their own works and wondering which, if any, will stand the test of fire. Here's the passage: "But any man who builds on the foundation using as his material gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or straw must know that each man's work will one day be shown for what it is. (The problem with these materials is NOT that they are evil, but simply, that they are NOT Christ.) The day will show it plainly enough, for the day will arise in a blaze of fire, and that fire will prove the value of each man's work. If the work which a man has built upon the foundation stands this test, he will be rewarded. But if his work is burnt down, he loses it all. He personally will be safe, though rather like a man rescued from a fire" (I Cor. 3:12-15, Phil). What kind of reward is it and when do we receive it?
Lenny and I were successful real estate brokers in the "fast lane" of Southern California, which meant we understood how the world thinks. The fuel which powers the engine of competition is greed for the reward, usually money, because money is power in this world. So, we saw people working day and night to have more of this world's goods: a faster car, a bigger house on a higher hill, more toys, which can be defined as whatever you think is fun, be it a yacht, or a Ferrari, or a pool and spa in your back yard, a race horse, or "whatever floats your boat," as they say there. Money was the motivation which drove people in the world. We attended seminars on how to succeed, how to set goals, how to achieve those goals, and how to become masters of our own fate, get control over our lives. At first, it seemed more silly than sinister, but my spirit rose up in horror when I realized that the world was trying to succeed by copying spiritual principals! One of the most successful lecturers was a Baptist preacher turned motivational speaker. He pounded the lectern as he admonished us to give to others so we could receive.
Then there were New Age gurus who said the Universe longs to give us its bounty, but we have to abide by the rules, which by the way, sounded quite a bit like some I had heard in church. After a few seminars like this, I was ready to run screaming into the night. But worse than that, when we got to Neosho, I heard the Pastor of a large church telling the congregation how to set goals for getting folks to attend the upcoming Vacation Bible School. They were given 3" x 5" cards with names of prospects on them and told to "man the phones." They were "cold calling," in other words, only instead of selling real estate or life insurance, they were selling attendance in VBS. It was all a ploy, of course, to get the kids in there so they could pounce on the parents. They had taken the world's methods of success to enlarge the borders of the kingdom of God. They were using tried and true sales techniques to get folks into church. This is soulish effort to please God, and has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with life in the Spirit. Such addictive pursuits will keep you off the street and out of bars, but not much else. Not until the word of God pierces asunder the soul and spirit, is it possible to see the difference between soul power and spirit power.
Regarding the reward mentioned in this passage, Christians seem to think that they are in competition to get a bigger mansion in heaven, more power on the other side, and more glory from God. Doesn't that remind you of the mother of James and John who had the nerve to ask Jesus if her sons could sit on either side of Him when He came into His kingdom? (Matt. 20:20-23). OK, so if the reward is not a bigger mansion on this side of Jordan or the other side, what is it? Again, the Lord brought me back to Abraham, who was the first man in whom God began to manifest His plan. Abraham was enormously wealthy with "flocks and herds, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, camels and asses" (Gen. 13:2; 24:35,53). Nevertheless, God said to Him, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your very great reward" (Gen. 15:1, NIV). God Himself was Abraham's reward, and dear ones, He is ours as well. Do not look for a bigger house on earth, nor a larger tent in glory, but look to the Lord, for His presence alone is your reward. Some Christians cannot rest for the same reason they get upset when you tell them that God will eventually save everyone. They have been working to insure their eternal salvation, and they are intensely resentful to think that anyone who has not worked like they have will be entitled to salvation. The truth is that NO ONE is entitled to salvation, for "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Paul affirmed that salvation is a free gift of God, not wages paid for work done (Rom. 4:4). Maybe they think that their works will fill in the gap left by their many failures and when the time comes, will persuade God to let them in heaven by the skin of their teeth. Clearly, they do not understand the concept of a GIFT. It is NOT our choice to give or withhold the gift of salvation. That belongs to God alone. "For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32, RSV). Paul declared in this verse that God is the author and prime cause of disobedience, for ALL MEN! This would be heinous except for the statement, "That He may have mercy upon all."
Still, it bothers many Christians to think that God will have mercy upon the rotten pukes of this world. Perhaps they think that our only reward comes in heaven, after we die, yet, Abraham did not have to wait until after he died to get his reward. It came to him in the presence of God, in his relationship with God, in his fellowship with God, on the earth! IF you begrudge the sinner his eternal fellowship with God, remember that he will have to wait until after he dies to get peace, love, compassion, forgiveness and rest. Beloved, we have all these wonderful blessings available to us right now. In the presence of the Father, there is peace, love, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and rest. Because the sinner does not have that, he is in hell right now. We are really in heaven, right now, another way to say, we walk in the Spirit with God (Rom. 8:14). Jesus said to the multitudes following Him, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal" (John 6:27, RSV). Jesus is the giver of eternal life and rest. "Let us then be eager to know this rest for ourselves, and let us beware that no one misses it through falling into the same kind of unbelief as those we have mentioned" (Heb. 4:11, Phil). Father, deliver us from our unbelief so that we may enter the rest and enjoy our reward with you right now. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
End Note "A": "Entering into rest without dying"
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 6/29/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/29/08.