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Well, what kind of tree are you? Great thoughts from my good friend, Don.

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“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9-11).  

Five years ago this Labor Day my father entered into his rest. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? The children of God will eventually enter into the full and perfect rest found in the eternal presence of their Savior. This always reminds me of the Parable of the Talents. Jesus, speaking about one who had served God faithfully, said, “And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more. ‘His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matthew 25:20-21). 

Now I believe this hope is part of the context of Hebrews 4 and the passage above. There does remain a permanent rest for the people of God foreshadowed by God’s rest on the 7th day of creation and Christ’s rest from His finished earthly work. Jesus, the Messiah, has been in view from Hebrews 3:1 and especially in 4:14. He is the High Priest who has entered heaven. And, by faith, we follow Him who has opened the way for us to also enter into the rest of heaven. Additionally, the true believer may have spiritual rest in this life as we look forward to our eternal rest in heaven. The comforting message – God gives His rest to believers. 

Here we see one of the most important concepts of biblical interpretation. The idea of “now and not yet.” We are promised eternal rest in the future but we can also have a semblance and portion of this in the here and now. In other words, we can have a taste (they hymn writer called it “a foretaste of glory divine”) of our perfect and eternal rest by finding Christ as our strength and source now. To cease from prideful and carnal self-effort and abide in Him (see John 15:15). This is why Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). 

Back to the challenging language of Hebrews 4:11. Here we are called to strive (or to make every effort, or labor) to enter into God’s rest. Here we also see one of the most profound scriptural paradoxes of following Christ in a way that glorifies Him, in a way where He is doing the work and we are resting from exhausting and empty works of the flesh. Strive to enter rest? Or work at ceasing your own works? How so? Tim Keller said, “Even after you are converted by the gospel, your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.”  Mark Driscoll further elaborates: “The gospel bids us strive to stop striving because it takes conscious effort to orient our stubborn selves around the gospel. Our flesh yearns for works, for the merits of self-righteousness, so it’s hard work to make ourselves rest in the finished work of Christ. It is a daily work, the labor of crucifying the flesh, taking up the cross, and faithfully following he who has finished the labor.” 

The writer of Hebrews admonishes these believers to “be diligent” to cease from their own works and enter into God’s rest, which He offers freely by His grace. Here are some thoughts from our focal passage about this mysterious principle. I pray these help us better understand and access the peace and power that God provides us so that we might rest in Him. 

  • Our primary effort/work/striving is to trust and have a firm faith in Him – “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:28-29). 
  • “Works” that honor Christ are a result of faith. “Our works” do not justify us before God or glorify Him – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). 
  • We are not to cease from working but are to cease from “our works” – “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13, HCSB). 
  • Our ultimate rest comes after our “work” of faith is completed (as in God’s resting on the 7th day after 6 days of labor) – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

So this Labor Day (I never understood why it wasn’t named Non-Labor Day) I pray that we can catch a glimpse of what God has in store for us in Heaven by laboring to rest in Christ. May we cease our works and worries and abide, “in Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).


“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:9-14).

As Paul writes to the Colossian church, although he didn’t know them all that well, he had heard of their faith and love (Colossians 1:3-8). This compelled him to pray nonstop for them. He desired spiritual maturity for these fellow believers and this is my prayer for all of us for 2010. I beseech God that we:

  • are “filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v. 9). The Greek word for “knowledge” in this passage is epignosis and it signifies practical, personal and experiential understanding and not just academic or intellectual knowledge. I desire that we all become imitators of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1-2) and thus spread the sweet fragrance of His beauty (2 Corinthians 2:14). How do we do this? “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
  • live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way (v. 10). The  Lord we serve, and the calling we have received, is certainly a worthy one! In Ephesians 4:1 Paul considers himself to be a slave to the Lord and this worthy calling. In a similar vein, Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
  • are bearing fruit in every good work (v. 10). Not just “one” or “some”, but “every” good work.  What sort of good works? Empowered by the Holy Spirit we demonstrate His fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25). These attitudes and attributes should permeate our every effort to please God.
  • are growing in the knowledge of God (v, 10). We need to grow in the knowledge of God Himself, not just His will. Knowing Him is man’s highest pursuit and the essence of seeking after Him as our greatest treasure. Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death(Philippians 3:10). These are the desires of those so in love with their Lord that they are obsessed with knowing Him (in the most intimate sense) and all about Him. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
  • are being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might (v. 11). It is God’s desire that we demonstrate His strength in our living for Him. There is indescribable supernatural power available to the Christian. By trusting in Him and reliance upon the Holy Spirit Paul says we can “…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10).
  • may have great endurance and patience, with joy (v. 11)  Paul captures the essence of joy and patience in enduring for Christ when he says “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:45-6). Endurance with patience and joy is the mark of those that are “in Christ”.
  • are joyfully giving thanks to the Father (v.12). The Psalmist captures this so beautifully: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).

And why can we receive all of these marvelous requests? Because God “has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (v. 12). Because our Savior “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (v. 13). And, most importantly, because “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14).  Furthermore, how can we have the full experience of this New Year’s prayer?  Abiding in Him and His Word – “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

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