Saturday, September 20, 2014

"RESTING in Jesus Christ ..."

Day #267:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - September 21st

Scripture Reading:  Hebrews 1 - 4 ...

Rest seems to be elusive ... hard to find and even harder to maintain.  There is physical rest, there is mental rest, there is emotional rest, and then there is spiritual rest.  When the pace of life gets hectic we search for rest, often not knowing what we are even looking for.  When trials come and we become overwhelmed with sorrow or despair we look for rest, yet the rest we desire is the removal of that which is causing us pain, so when it continues, we find no rest.  In hundreds, even thousands of other ways, we as human beings find it impossible to find true spiritual REST ... because we are looking in all the wrong places!  There is only ONE place to find it:  in Jesus Christ.  That is true because the rest we crave is rest from the power of sin and its consequences.

The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:22-25:  "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have we wait for it patiently."  Those without the Spirit of God go on about life believing they can find rest somewhere, somehow, in this world.  They cling to the false hope that we will find the "cure" for what ails mankind.  Others have given up and live for the moment, believing that in seeking self-centered pleasure or satisfaction in other things - even in doing good for others, they will find rest.

The writer of Hebrews, along with the rest of the writers of Scripture, states, "It still remains that some will enter that rest (God's rest)" (4:6).  "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (4:9-11).  GOD's rest is goodness and perfection.  God created everything and said it was good, it was perfect, and man was VERY good, created in the image of God.  Sin did not exist.  All was well.  So God rested from His labors ... until Satan's rebellion in heaven and his temptation of Adam and Eve and their fall into sin and disobedience.

How tragic is the state of mankind.  How hopeless are the lives of those without Jesus and without the Spirit of God.  Once again we find the words of Paul in Romans 8 descriptive of the position of sinful man::  "The sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8).  Spiritual death and unrest plagues mankind like an epidemic.  But GOD has the cure ... the ONLY cure!!

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe" (1:1-2).  Do not pass by the first five words:  "In the past GOD SPOKE!"  We worship and serve a God who SPEAKS!!  God could have left the entire human race in the spiritual darkness of sin, spiritually dead and unable to know God or to enter His rest, but instead, He determined to save some through ... a message ... a message of "good news," the Gospel.  Most think the Gospel was first preached following the resurrection of Jesus, but the writer of Hebrews says here that "We also have had the gospel preached to us, JUST AS THEY DID" ... But the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith" (4:2).

Something happened following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ... something so significant that it changed the course of human history.  Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross and in His resurrection and then, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, He sent forth His Holy Spirit into the world to open the eyes of the blind, to open deaf ears, to renew transform closed minds, to revive dead hearts ... to open the door to God's rest, to eternal salvation, to a new heaven and a new earth where everything will be restored to its original perfection and where we who believe will live in the very presence of God - FOREVER!!

Having explained the uniqueness of Jesus in Chapter 1, we hear God's warning through the words of the writer of Hebrews in Chapter 2:  "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away ... how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (2:1-2).  Paul writes in II Corinthians 6:2 that "this is the day of salvation."  It is this "DAY" that the writer is speaking about here.  There is still time for some to enter into God's rest through faith in Jesus Christ, but the time is short.  It was short two thousand years ago, so what does that mean for us, today?  We must pay attention to what God has revealed through the writers of Scripture concerning Jesus and the way to enter God's rest.

Foolish people today declare that there are multiple ways to enter God's rest, but only one Savior qualifies to open the door into God's presence.  The eternal Son of God became a man "so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (2:14-15).  He goes on to say that it is "Abraham's descendants" (believers - Galatians 3:29) that Jesus came to help.  "He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people" (2:17-18).  The eternal Son of God became a true and sinless man in order to take our place on the cross and suffer God's punishment against OUR sin and so obtain for us the Father's forgiveness.

"Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess" (3:1).  How often do you think about Jesus?  Do hours or days go by without considering what He has done for you, that even now He intercedes for you before the Father, that by His Spirit He empowers you to overcome the sin that remains within you?  Faith in Jesus is not a one time declaration or a momentary moment of guilt that drives you to cry out for a Savior.  Faith in Jesus is entering God's rest ... resting from YOUR work and trusting in HIS (4:10).  The "effort" we put forth (4:11) is in keeping our eyes on Jesus and trusting that "He who began a good work in 'us' will bring it to completion" on that day when we enter into His perfect rest.

God declared that most of those in the past would not enter His rest because they did not trust in His promise of a Savior.  They trusted instead in their own works, as so many do today.  These, too, will not enter God's rest, though they declare their faith in Jesus ... for God knows their hearts.  "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first" (4:12-14).  That confidence is that "Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe ... sin had left a crimson stain, HE washed it white as snow!"  You are washed by the blood of Jesus or you are still in your sin. There is no other way to enter the Father's rest!

"THIS is the DAY the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it!!"   Nothing will be hidden from God's sight.  Everything will be laid bare.  On that day, will you be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of your own, but that which is by faith?  "Since we have a great High Priest ... let us hold firmly to the faith we profess" (4:14).  Do not give in to the temptation to doubt, even for a moment!  "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!" (Acts 16:31).  Jesus IS "the Way and the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6) and ALL who believe in Him HAVE eternal life and will finally enter God's perfect rest.

"There remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God ... Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest" ... fixing our thoughts on Jesus ... our Savior, our Mediator, our Redeemer, our Lord!!!  Rest in Jesus Christ today and you will find rest for your soul!!

"I thank You, Father, for speaking in Your Word and for giving me ears to hear as Your Spirit works within me.  I trust in Jesus for all I need to stand PERFECT in Your holy presence, resting in HIS righteousness, which has been credited to me by faith.  I confess that I HAVE BEEN SAVED by grace through faith - and that this is YOUR gift to me.  Let my life be a testimony to You, my God, as I walk through this life by faith and then enter Your rest, where my faith will be sight!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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