A Living, Loving Organism with Room for You
ENTER HIS REST & LET BROTHERLY LOVE CONTINUE.
Texts: “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9-11, NKJV).
“Let brotherly love continue” (Hebrews 13:1).
God originally designed man to live in and work from His rest. God’s rest was Adam’s first experience on earth as a human being. We are fashioned for God’s rest and only in His rest shall we find true fulfilment. This explains why God created man last in His order of creation. Genesis shows that God did not create man until the sixth day when everything necessary for his survival and flourishing on earth had been put in place (Genesis 1:26-31). The next day after the creation of man was the day of God’s rest.
“Thus, the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).
By this deliberate divine arrangement, the first day man spent on earth was a Sabbath – the day God rested from all His works! It is very significant to note that man’s earthly life began on the day of God’s rest. This is indicative of God’s intent to have man live and operate from His rest. The core interest of God creating human beings is relationship and not performance. Hence man spent his first day on earth resting with God and not working for Him or with Him. This clearly challenges the performance-driven Christianity that holds sway in our days. The performance-driven paradigm has harmed relationships in the church as people are always trying to outperform the others in a bid to earn God's approval and acceptance, and to appear as good Christians in the sight of others. This attitude has forced the church to neglect fostering the love of God among the people of God by building God-honouring relationships. However, we enter the rest of God by grace through faith and never through our performances no matter how great. Thus, entering the rest of God constitutes a great boost to nurturing brotherly love in the church.
The rest of God is the sphere for the nurturing of brotherly love. So long as Adam and Eve remained within that sphere, they enjoyed great relationship with God and relished His love to the max. When they allowed Satan in, they compromised their rest mode and were plunged headlong into chaos. The chaotic condition of the first family culminated in the murder of Abel by Cain, his elder brother (Genesis 4:1-8). When God queried Cain about the whereabout of his brother, he gave this stunning but revealing response:
“Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).
Did you hear that? He fired back the question to God – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The first casualty for the human loss of God’s rest is brotherly love. This has ever since become a relational albatross against true Christian brotherhood. Only in the sphere of God’s rest can humanity experience true brotherly love. The rest of God is accessible only by grace through faith. We can never enter it by the best of human efforts or by trying to outperform others.
Christian living outside the rest of God is the glorification of the flesh. Outside the rest of God, comparison and competition become the new relational paradigm as the flesh is prioritized over the spirit. This is clearly seen in the apparent altercation between Martha and Mary one of the times Jesus was visiting with them.
“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
Notice that the two sisters loved Jesus intensely. However, they responded to His presence in remarkably different ways. While Martha was performance-driven, Mary operated within the sphere of God’s rest. Performance-driven Christianity thrives in comparison, competition, and rivalry. We see that in Martha’s complaint to Christ against Mary:
“Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me.” You can also discern in the complaint a veiled accusation of God for encouraging Mary’s seeming indifference toward the need to serve the guests in the house. Implicit in that complaint also is the supposition that Mary was lazy and layabout. This attitude of comparison and competition among brethren breeds conceit and acts as a devious spell against brotherly love. It was the root cause of the hatred that led Cain to kill his brother.
Paul warned, 12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:1218 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10:18
17 But “he who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” 2 Corinthians 10:17
Entering the rest of God “is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16).
WHAT IS THE REST OF GOD?
“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:2).
The rest of God is the state of His undisturbed and unperturbed peace. God’s rest is not because of exhaustion since He never gets tired. He rested as a result of completion. He finished His work and there was nothing left to be done or to be improved upon. Hence the Bible testified, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So, the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). The rest of God, unlike that of man, is not relaxation for lack of something to do. But as John H. Walton explained in his book, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and The Old Testament: “The concept of divine rest can, in turn, be elucidated by ancient Near Eastern literature, which demonstrates that deity’s rest is achieved in a temple, generally as a result of order having been established. The rest, while it represents disengagement from the process of establishing order, is more importantly, an expression of engagement as the deity takes his place at the helm to maintain an ordered, secure, and stable cosmos.” God, through His creation, produced a well-ordered cosmos out of the chaos of Genesis 1:2. From that time onwards God had not created anything new but has maintained the order He has achieved.
His creation was complete and perfect, needing no amendment or improvement in anyway in all that He created. The sun for instance had never had a need to be repaired or updated. It has not for once faltered in the performance of its assigned functions. So is every other creature. We enter the rest of God by acknowledging and accepting what He has done and relishing the blessings thereof.
In its relation to man, the rest of God is a sphere of harmony between the will of God and the desires of man. According to Vine’s Concise Dictionary, the rest of God “is not a rest from work, but in work, not the rest of activity, but of the harmonious working of all the faculties and affections, of will, heart, imagination, conscience- because each has found in God the ideal sphere of its satisfaction and development.” The rest of God bespeaks of that experience which Paul describes as “God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). When a person wills and does the pleasure of God, such must invariably know the rest of God. The life lived in harmony with the will and purposes of God, in which our acceptance by God is not based on our performance but solely on the merits of Christ, is the core implication of entering His rest. The scripture affirms that “God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day …” Man met God in His rest and realized that there was nothing left for him to do except to accept the provisions God had already made in creation. Similarly in regeneration, the new creation meets Christ seated in rest in the heavenly sanctuary have done everything necessary for our eternal salvation. “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). It is eternal salvation because its validity is perpetual, and its efficacy is constant.
Unfortunately, the failure of Adam greatly disturbed that rest that man is inaugurated into necessitating the coming of Christ to restore it. When He came, He extended this invitation to all and sundry: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). The whole business of the church is to help people come to Christ so He could bring them into the rest God has ordained for them when they believe the gospel.
METAPHORS OF DIVINE REST – THE GARDEN OF EDEN
While in His rest, God planted the Garden of Eden and put man in there to live in and participate in His rest. “The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed” (Genesis 2:8). The garden of Eden is a sphere of divine rest for human beings who were in perfect alignment with God. Man is not physically idle in Eden. He is busy working in harmony with the will of God tending the garden. The Bible affirms this truth saying, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Man was to tend and keep the garden, meaning he was to cultivate it and harness its great potentials. This makes it clear that the rest we are concerned with does not preclude physical exertion. It is rather a state of harmony with God in all our endeavours.
The rest of God and by implication that of man was disturbed by the disobedience of Adam and Eve, when they embraced the counsel of Satan instead of God’s. The bible records that telling tragedy of human’s capitulation to Satan in Genesis 3:1-8. The failure of our first parent earned them expulsion from the oasis of rest God had prepared for them. “Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So, He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24). From that very moment God set in motion a program to bring man back to the place of His rest. This resulted in the calling of Abraham and the promise of a land that flows with milk and honey, otherwise known as the promised land.
THE METAPHORS OF DIVINE REST –THE PROMISED LAND
Centuries down the line the descendants of Abraham, God’s chosen people went down to Egypt where they ended up as slaves. They cried out to God for deliverance and God responded by sending Moses to lead them out of the bondage in Egypt and take them to the Promised Land. “And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So, I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey … Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:7-10). The people proved to be a recalcitrant bunch and hardly cooperated with Moses despite the signs and wonders God used him to perform in their midst to ensure their safe passage from Egypt to the Promised Land. He divided the red sea for them to crossover and drowned the Egyptians who were pursing them. He guided them with the pillar of light in the night and the pillar of cloud in the day to make sure they did not miss their direction. He gave them manna as food and got water from the rock to quench their thirst. He tolerated their rebellions and unprecedented provocations. He brought them to the border of the promised land and got Moses to send spies to see the land and taste the fruits thereof. It was at that point that things fell apart between them and God; because ten out of the twelve spies felt that they were not able to take possession of the land owing to the fighting force they saw in the land.
“We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:31-33).
They did not reckon with the mighty power of God which was demonstrated in Egypt to force Pharaoh to let them go. They forgot the awesome power of God that was in display at the red sea. They did not believe God and therefore refused to enter the promised land. “So, they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt” (Numbers 14:4). There unbelief forced God to swear in His wrath that they would not enter His rest! “Say to them, As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness” (Numbers 14:28-32).
Centuries later, David reflected on this incident and drew a lesson from it to warn against unbelief among the people of his generation saying: “…Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So, I swore in My wrath, ‘they shall not enter My rest’” (Psalms 95:7-11). From this we can deduce that the promised land was meant to be a place of rest for the people of God. The people then could not enter it because of their disobedience and unbelief.
THE REST OF GOD AS GIFT OF GRACE
“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).
Experiencing the rest of God is predicated on one’s understanding of God’s unconditional love as the basis of His grace towards man. The love of God for His people is not a mere happenstance, but something that has been there long before the creation of man. The Prophet Jeremiah prophesied, “The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3). No human being can earn God’s love and acceptance on his or her personal merit. God relates with us only on the basis of His grace – His lovingkindness. Grace is God’s benevolence towards the underserving humanity. Grace implies God’s willingness to forgive us and bless us notwithstanding our failure to live righteously (Romans 3:23). The very best of human efforts will fall short of God’s standard for righteousness, therefore our hope lies solely on His grace. Hence, Paul queried those who boast of their religious attainments and pedigrees: “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). To enjoy the rest of God, we must live daily, leaning on His eternal grace. The only person that can earn God's love and acceptance on merit is the person that keeps one hundred percent of all the laws. No such human being had existed, and I wonder if any such will ever exist. James warned us “If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:8-10). What this means in God’s reckoning is that the only option we all have is to run to Jesus both for salvation and for perseverance. He alone was able to keep the laws and overcame every temptation. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). It is only by embracing His grace and accepting the redemption He accomplished for us that we experience His rest.
We receive God’s grace for daily living the same way we received His grace for salvation. We could not truly accept God’s sacrifice as being adequate for our salvation unless we let go of our own goodness and admit our utter sinfulness in desperate need of a saviour. We must come to Him by grace through faith – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We became Christians by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The same way we came to Christ is the same way we remain in Him and enjoy His rest. God did not save us by grace to leave us to compete for His love through our performance. We continue in Him and enjoy His rest also by grace through faith. Paul affirmed this truth saying, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). Don’t let any person deceive you, the Bible is clear on this “For by strength no man shall prevail” (1 Samuel 2:9). The flesh is man’s reliance on willpower to please God without submitting to the leading influence of the Holy Spirit and leveraging the power of grace.
THE GOSPEL – THE INVITATION TO ENTER GOD’S REST
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:1-3).
God promised rest to His people and that promise remains valid till now. The essence of the gospel is to explain this provision of divine rest and to invite people to enter it. The invitation to enter this rest was extended to people in the old covenant but most of them could not take advantage of it, (they fell short of it), because they “did not mix the gospel which they heard with faith,” that is, they could not believe it – “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” The phrase “not being mixed with faith,” implies their failure to believe the good news they heard. One of the important features of the gospel, which incidentally is its own greatest undoing is its simplicity. It has been described as being “too good a news to be true.” For example, God told the people of Israel to kill a ram and apply the blood on doorposts and on the lintel of the houses to ensure their safety from the plague. “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). Just imagine how simple this instruction was. That is the nature of the gospel. Consider another example, the children of Israel complained against God and Moses, and despised the manna God had used to sustain them. In response to this God allowed serpents to attack them. When they cried out to God for mercy, He gave Moses a simple directive – “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8). You see again how simple this is – Look at the molten serpent and be cured of the serpent’s bite. I guess that some did not look because the solution was too simple to be true.
This picture of the molten serpent was employed by Jesus to explain the gospel to Nicodemus. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:13-16). Believing in Christ is comparable to looking at the molten serpent that is lifted on a pole. The inability of believers to believe the good news that God forgives sinners and welcomes them as His children only on the merits of Christ has been the major impediment to the entering the rest of God. “For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” The true gospel insists that simple faith in Christ is all that is needed to be justified. To be justified means to be accepted by God as if we have never sinned, because we believe Jesus. “For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:11,13). Nothing more is required of a sinner to be saved than to believe and call upon the name of Christ.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ENTER GOD’S REST?
“For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:10).
Entering God’s rest means we must end all our labours to please God and begin to accept by faith that the redemptive sacrifice of Christ has earned us the full salvation and total acceptance before God. Knowing and accepting this truth with all its eternal implications, render redundant every effort by the believer to either earn or improve on his salvation. To enter God’s rest is to accept the enduring and unfailing efficacy of the eternal salvation purchased for the believer by Christ through His sufferings, death, and resurrection. The Bible testifies, “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:7-10). Christ earned the right to grant eternal salvation to those who believe Him. We enter God’s rest by accepting the redemption which Christ had accomplished for the believers as complete foreclosing all attempts to earn their salvation or divine acceptance beyond receiving them by faith as God’s gift of grace. The salvation provided by Christ is full and complete, for which reason the scripture affirms that He is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). To save to the uttermost means that He saves us the best way we can be saved, the most complete way we can be saved, and to the highest possible level we can be saved. His salvation is so comprehensive that any attempt to add to it in any way would be tantamount to its utter repudiation.
To entre God’s rest, we must cease from our work as God did from His and accept the “grace” to live the Christian life and principles only through faith. It is not our self-righteousness that counts but His, which is accounted to us in Christ who was made sin for our righteousness. When we put our trust in Him, we become righteous through faith, not by struggling to be perfect or holy. You can never be holy or perfect by struggling or trying to achieve them by your will power. It is only when you believe God's word through faith, that you enter God's rest, and cease from your struggles to be perfect through your own self-will. Until you cease from your labours and struggles in your bid to impress God and allow the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life in you, you will not know His rest. The battle to be holy must stop before you can experience true holiness. You are invited to rest while the Holy Spirit fights for you. All you need to do is to believe the word of God about what Christ has achieved for you. Relax and give up your struggles and the fight to be holy, and the Holy Spirit will give you the power to overcome what you could not achieve in your own strength. When you cease from your works, plots, and schemes to earn your right standing with God and be willing to accept the will of God in your life directed by the Holy Spirit, then you enter His rest. The Holy Spirit is God in residence in your heart. His job is to enable you live the Christian life that pleases God. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot make any progress in Christian living.
IT IS A DONE DEAL
“…although the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3).
Our redemption is a done deal. The work is completed, leaving nothing undone. We arise and enter God’s rest which has been prepared for us. The High Priest has ended the sacrifice and has taken His seat at the helm to maintain order and to relish His unbeatable accomplishments. The Bible testifies:
“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:11-14).
The earthly high priests had to repeatedly offer sacrifices for sin daily, but Jesus whose priesthood is eternal needed to offer only one sacrifice for sin which remains valid for all times. In the earthly sanctuary where the human priests minister, there is no provision made for the priest to sit down showing that their work is a continuous one, it is a daily routine. However, Christ’s one sacrifice is sufficient for all people at all times, therefore He sat down signifying the completion of His job. This is a perfect picture of rest. With this one sacrifice, He obtained for us an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12), which guarantees for us “the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15). When we accept the reality of this redemption, we are brought into the state of spiritual rest in which we experience God and enjoy Him in all things. In this state of rest, we cease from every attempt to earn salvation by our self-righteousness or blatant religiosity, but rather accept it as a gift based on God’s unconditional love for us in Christ.
When we enter God’s rest, we rest from our work, just like God rested from His. We rest from the exhausting, futile, unpleasant work of trying to earn our way to heaven. We rest from the desire to prove our righteousness to God over and over again. Belief in Christ as our Lord and Saviour includes the acknowledgement that we are all sinners and can do nothing to earn our own salvation. Entering God’s rest means we can stop trying. True Christianity invites the believer to come and rest in Christ by absolutely depending on Him assured that he is always welcome and accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). Religion, on the other hand, challenges you to constantly try to please God and to prove our righteousness. What an exhausting experience that has proved to be. It is what makes religion boring and defeating. The truth is that God is already well pleased with us in Christ! We absolutely have no need to continue to prove ourselves before Him. He now invites all believers to live “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). This understanding releases us from the unbearable burden of religion and gives us the freedom to focus at bringing Him glory in our lives and endeavours.
THE RIGHT KIND OF EFFORT
“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11, NIV).
Whereas our self-efforts are defective in gaining us salvation and bringing us into the rest of God, God still requires that we make the right kind of efforts, which subsists in our choice to depend solely on God by reposing our implicit trust on Him for salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Scripture reminds us, “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, NLT). Believing this truth requires hard work on our sides “so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”
The only thing that can stop us from entering the rest of God is unbelief – “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Getting people to accept that what Christ did for their salvation is adequate and sufficient is the core business of preaching. Yet majority of believers are yet to come to terms with that truth. The common belief is that what Christ did was good but that one still needs to do his or her part for what Christ did to effectuate. The only part one must do on this is to believe! The glaring truth is simple, we either trust ourselves to save ourselves, or we trust God to do that for us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Believing Christ is “the work of God” the believer is called to do (John 6:28-29). By failing to trust God fully on His promises, we become disobedient and fail to enter His rest, just as the children of Israel became disobedient when they failed to enter the promised land. The Bible therefore exhorts us to fear unbelief – “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1). Unbelief is the deadliest sin of all. It is the only one that can keep one out of the eternal rest of God in heaven.
We enter God’s rest by first understanding our total inability to enter God’s rest on our own terms. Next, we enter God’s rest by our total faith in the sacrifice of Christ and complete obedience to God and His will – “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:18-19). Unlike the Israelites whose unbelief prevented them from entering the Promised Land, we are to enter God’s rest by faith in Him, faith which is a gift from Him by grace – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Rest is that steady assurance that God is present with me and satisfied with me at all times because of what Christ has accomplished for me. God’s rest is a sense of peace and tranquillity that comes with the awareness that God had done everything necessary for our salvation, requiring nothing from us but faith in that which He has accomplished in Christ. He beckons on us to trust Him in this and repose our total confidence in Him. Our forbearers failed to enter the rest He extended to them due to unbelief. Let us not follow their example. Rather let us mix God’s promise with faith and thus enter His rest in Jesus’ name.
“God’s Precious Love”
One of the deepest needs of our hearts is to be loved. Not only do we want to be loved, but we want to see a demonstration of that love. We want to hear others say something or do something that lets us know they love us. We want our family and friends to be concerned about us, to act in our best interest, and to interact with us in a compassionate way.
Many people recognize this need for love and readily accept it the best they can. On the other hand, there are those who despair of ever being loved. They find it difficult to love others because they, quite frankly, have never learned to love themselves. Perhaps they grew up in a loveless environment and was shown little to no love.
Then there is an even deeper need, which is to be loved by the Lord and to see a demonstration of His love. Believers correctly express that they desire to experience the Lord’s love. Then, without any merit on our part the Lord demonstrated His love for us. He overcame the bad news with the good news of the gift of His Son who paid the penalty for our sins demonstrating to us a love that is incomprehensible.
The Father and Son, love us greatly and their love is made known to us through the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 declares, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” The Holy Spirit is the agent of Jesus to apply spiritual truth to our hearts. We do not just learn words; we actually get to experience the fullness of the Lord. All the yearnings of our hearts to be loved by Him are met through the Spirit.
Certainly, love is an especially important attribute of our Heavenly Father. We are told in 1 John 4:16 that God is love, some believe that this statement is a defining quality of the Lord. However, this is far from the truth because when we say (as I have heard people say) that God is love, we must interpret all of the Lord’s other attributes in light of His love. We experience an error in judgement by imposing our limited understanding of love onto the Lord and then recreate Him into an image that we can grasp. By all means, we should rejoice in God’s mercy and love. But we must also recognize that His other attributes are important as well. In truth, the universe exists not for Love’s glory, but for God’s glory.
The words “God is love” declares that love is a central attribute of Father. However, labeling Him as love minimizes His greatness, love is something true of the Lord, but it is not Him in totality. It expresses the way the Lord is as do the words holy, just, merciful, faithful, and true do. Because the Lord is immutable, He always acts like Himself as He is unchangeable, and because He is unity personified, He never eliminates one of His attributes in order to exercise another.
A.W. Tozer declares, “From God’s other known attributes, we may learn much about His love. We can know, for instance, that because God is self-existent, His love has no beginning; because He is eternal, His love can have no end; because He is infinite, love has no limit; because He is holy, love is the embodiment of all spotless purity; because He is immense, His love is an incomprehensibly a vast bottomless shoreless sea. Love wills the good of all and never wills harm or evil to any. This explains the words of the apostle John: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” …To know that love is of God and to enter into the secret place leaning upon the arm of the Beloved—this and only this can cast out fear.”
Yes, the Lord is love, but He is also Sovereign, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Immutable. He created this vast universe in all of its mystery, splendor, and beauty. He could have created us as submissive people without a moral choice.
However, the Lord in His wisdom chose to create us in His image. We can interact in intelligent and creative ways with Father. We can build a relationship with Him, but that interactive relationship requires the giving and receiving of love. His love positions Himself to desire our everlasting welfare and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it. Martin Luther declared that God’s love tells us that He is friendly, and the Bible assures us that He is our friend and wants us to be His friends. No man with a trace of humility would first think that he is a friend of God; but the idea did not originate with men. Father Himself said that Abraham was His friend. The disciples might well have hesitated to claim friendship with Christ, but Jesus said to them, “You are my friends.” Modesty may object at so rash a thought, but audacious faith dares to believe Scripture and, therefore, claim friendship with the Lord.
The first characteristic of love is that it has an emotional identification. It considers nothing its own but gives freely to the object of its affection. Acts of self-sacrifice are common to love. Christ said of Himself, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It is a strange and a peculiar characteristic of the Lord to be identified with man. Self-sufficient as He is, He desires our love and will pursue us with focused intensity. Free as He is, He has let His heart be bound to us forever. Herein is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loves us.
The second characteristic of love is that it takes pleasure in the object of its affection. It may be hard for us to grasp, but the Lord enjoys being with you and me. The Apostle John says frankly that the Lord’s purpose in creation was for His own pleasure, and He is happy in His love for all that He has created. We cannot miss the feeling of pleasure in the Lord’s delighted references to His handiwork.
Psalm one-hundred four (104) is a divinely inspired poem almost rapturous in its happiness, and the delight of the Lord is felt throughout it, verses like “The glory of the Lord shall endure forever: The Lord shall rejoice in his works.”
The Lord takes distinct pleasure in His loved ones. Many people think of the Lord as far removed, gloomy and very displeased with everything regarding our lives. They see Him gazing down in a lack of concern upon a world in which He has long ago lost interest. To think this is preposterous and even unbiblical. It is true, the Lord loathes sin and can never look with pleasure upon iniquity, but when His people seek to do His will He responds in genuine affection. Jesus Christ in His atonement has removed the separation to divine fellowship. Now in Jesus all believing souls are objects of His delight. Zephaniah 3:17 proclaims, “The Lord your God is with you, the mighty warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.” According to the Book of Job chapter thirty-eight the Lord’s work of creation was done to musical accompaniment. “Where were you,” God asks, “when I laid the foundations of the earth. . . when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
Quite frankly, we were all born with a tendency to sin. Because of our sinful nature, we lack the desire to enjoy the Lord’s love. However, as we begin thinking about His love, we have to admit that we are not claiming the right to be loved, but we are calling upon Father in His mercy to love us.
Allow me to make this even more personal. Jesus Christ loves us fully and He loves us individually. St. Augustine said, “He loves each one of us, as if there were only one of us.” He died for you. If you had been the only sinner, He still would have died for you. The most important thing we can do as Christians is love God and love the Lord’s people.
But before we can love anyone, we have to receive the Lord’s love, because we cannot give away something we do not have. So, do we really know that God loves us? It is one thing to understand that God is love but it is another to know and experience His love personally. What we believe begins as a thought, and as Proverbs 23:7 says in the amplified version, "As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he." I like to say it this way: Where the mind goes, the man follows. If we need to settle down our minds about how the Lord feels about us a good place to start is that "God loves me (us) unconditionally!"
Romans 8:37 (NKJV) proclaims "we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." When we really know the love of God, we do not have to be afraid of making a mistake; we can step out boldly in faith to do whatever He's calling us to do. We know who we are in Christ and we have confidence that we can do whatever we need to do in life through Him. Jesus loves us on purpose. He did not get stuck with us – He chose us! Ephesians 1:4 AMP version says that "[in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love." When we know that Jesus loves us, we feel valuable, accepted, and purposeful. We know our sins are forgiven and we are free from guilt and condemnation. And no matter what we have done, we can have a new beginning in Christ Jesus.
I want to encourage us all to be determined to know and receive God's love. Study scriptures about God's love and make it a personal confession we can live by every day. Look at ourselves in the mirror and say out loud, "God loves me! He chose me, actually picked me out for Himself to have a personal relationship with Him. I am more than a conqueror in Christ because He loves me, and His perfect love casts fear out of my life."
Apostle Vance D. Russel and his wife Apostle Debbie of Austin, Texas were used of the Lord to begin Arise Ministries International which became International Ministers Fellowship in 2004 when the Lord asked them to hand over. The seed planted in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria in May 2001 is now a mighty global oak!
© 2018 International Ministers Fellowship