Sermon: Strive to Enter God’s Rest (Hebrews 4:11-13)

Strive to Enter God’s Rest

Hebrews 4:11-13 (ESV)

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.  [12] For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  [13] And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

So far through this section of Hebrews, we’ve learned that there were those who, because of unbelief, could not enter into God’s rest.  This is an eternal rest, one that is a symbolic reference to heaven.  The writer of Hebrews wants the church to be aware of the danger that exists in coming up short.  Only true Christians will enter into God’s rest.  A true Christian, as described in Scripture, is one who knows Jesus Christ and obeys His Word.  The knowing is proven by the obedience to His Word.

Jesus spoke about those who thought they were right with God but the reality of their situation was different.

He told the parable of the sower, the dragnet, the unforgiving servant, the wedding garments, the wise and foolish virgins, and the sheep and the goats.

The danger of being a false disciple is real and it’s important we take a look at it today.  Because the Holy Spirit believes it to be important, so should we.

Doctrine-

God’s Word searches and reveals our hearts. Failure to listen, believe and act on what is revealed will result in judgment.

1. Strive to Enter (Hebrews 4:11)

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

Here, we are reminded that we must be very careful not to reject God’s promises.  As we continue the theme that’s run through the last few weeks, Israel rejected God’s promises and died in their unbelief.  We are reminded that we must take care so we don’t fall into the same trap.  The writer is making sure we see that rejecting God’s promises might be easier than we think.  We can reject them by neglecting them.

In order to better understand what the writer means by striving to enter, we should look at another text as an illustration.

2 Peter 1:3-11 (ESV)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  [5] For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  [6] and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  [7] and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  [8] For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  [9] For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.  [10] Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  [11] For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Lord has granted to us everything needed to grow in godliness.  The Lord has given us promises that will come to pass for His people.  While all this is true, we are also told that we must make every effort to supplement your faith with…

[8] For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  [9] For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.  [10] Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  [11] For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In striving to add all these godly characteristics to our faith, we are making our calling and election sure.  We have it already and these qualities that we seek to add make this calling surer.  Our assurance can happen when we are striving in godliness.

As long as we as believers are growing in the faith and bear the fruit of righteousness we can have assurance that our salvation is genuine.

What’s even more remarkable about verse 11 is when seen in context it is teaching us as the church that we together should not allow anyone to fall without the church’s interceding for them.  This we do in prayer and in exhortation and if needed in discipline.

That’s why it’s so important that we have a proper understanding of the church’s role in the salvation of each member.  The church working together with the Holy Spirit brings about sanctification of its members.

That’s why I asked Jeff to read our church covenant.  This is step one in someone coming under the protection of the church.  When we begin to have an official membership, we will present this covenant to each potential member prior to membership.  Membership is for folks who wish to have the church’s help in caring for their soul.

Sanctification is a community project.  America overall has lost the idea of the importance of the local church in this.  My sanctification depends a lot on you and yours on me.

The two-fold process of striving to enter the holy rest…

For the individual

Hebrews 10:19-23 (ESV)

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,  [20] by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  [21] and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  [22] let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

For the community

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

What is the means by which all this takes place?  If I want to make progress in godliness what should I do?  Peter tells us we have everything we need for godliness.  What is it exactly that promotes godliness in our lives?

2. Strive to Enter Through the Word (Hebrews 4:12-13)

[12] For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  [13] And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Now the writer explains how it is we, in fact, enter the rest.  He builds this from the verse,

Hebrews 4:2 (ESV)

For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

What the writer is communicating to us is that God’s Word cannot be taken lightly and everyone will give an account.  God does not tolerate neglect or indifference to His Word.

The Word of God is living-

1 Peter 1:23 (ESV)

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

The Word of God was not just written by men who are dead and gone now and really couldn’t relate to us here in the 21st Century.  It is written by God Himself.  The Holy Spirit moved on the writers and they wrote what He wanted them to write.  The Holy Spirit is alive and well today.  He is living and that’s why the Word is called the living Word.

The Word of God is active-

It is powerful and effective to accomplish what God wants.

Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

[11] so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

The Word of God is like an angel in the sense that it speeds along to accomplish its mission.  Every time the Word is read, heard, preached, or sung it accomplishes its purpose.

For some the Word hardens and for others it softens but in either case it is accomplishing God’s purposes.

1 Cor. 1:18 (ESV)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

To deny the Word of God is to rebel against the very power that can save us.  Those who say they can enter into God’s presence based on their good works forfeit all possibilities for doing this because they deny the very thing that has the power to change them.

The Word cuts us open and exposes the reality of our hearts.

For those who fell in the desert, the Word revealed their unbelief.  They were perishing.  For those who are being saved, the Word reveals faith.

The Word of God Exposes-

[13] And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

When I was a kid I loved turning over rocks.  Sometimes you’d turn over a rock and see nothing.  Other times you’d see worms, spiders, bugs, and centipedes.

Sometimes we might think sin is hidden from God, like the hidden bugs you can’t see. God’s Word exposes our innermost hidden thoughts and sins.  It’s like the Word turns over the rock we’re trying to hide our sin under and it becomes open for God to see.

The Word of God also exposes our hearts to our self.

There are times when we like to hide our sin from ourself.  We have a high opinion of our own righteousness.  Sometimes we deceive ourselves in thinking we are a whole lot better than we really are.  God’s Word exposes the reality of our spiritual condition.

It probes our inmost being.  It cuts and pierces into the depths of the heart.  Calvin and some of the early church fathers used to call our hearts “labyrinths.”  They are a maze.  Even when you look at them, you can’t quite figure them out.  You can’t quite figure out the complex of motives that led you to do certain things.  No matter how long you think about it.  The heart is a labyrinth.  You can’t figure it out.  But God’s word can sort it out.  It can penetrate and understand and analyze.  It cuts and pierces the depths of our hearts and it unravels mystery.  The word of God is sharp, it is able to penetrate, analyze and discern.—Ligon Duncan

Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

For the lost, the Word of God is what is held up as the minimum requirement that they must line up with perfectly.  They will be judged accordingly.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrews who failed to believe were all judged in the wilderness and destroyed.  For believers today, we also fail to line up perfectly to God’s Word.  We miss the mark as well.  The difference is Christ.  We can stand before God because of the work of Christ on our behalf.  He keeps God’s Word perfectly and we are accepted into God’s family because of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

We celebrate our standing before God through the work of Christ as we partake together of the Lord’s Supper.  Part of the Lord’s Supper is accountability as a member of the Body of Christ.  We must take of it in a worthy manner.

I’ve asked Jeff to read our church covenant this morning as we think through what the Lord expects from His church.

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