“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” Hebrews 4:1-2 (NASB95)
In this world, there are many things that can cause fear in our hearts. There are those things that we can voluntarily subject ourselves to that will produce a response of fear which we call entertainment – rollercoasters, mountain climbing, scary movies, etc. Then there are those things outside of our control that we can feel powerless against that aren’t entertaining at all – violence, cancer, irreconcilable differences leading to division, etc. But the one cause of serious fear that should be at the top of the list for us as humans created in the image of God is what the book of Hebrews talks about in the verse above – that while God through His promise has offered to us the invitation of rest, we would come short of acquiring it.
I can remember as a young teenager watching the movie, Children of the Corn (on VHS no less) on a warm summer afternoon all alone in our rural farmhouse. While it is hard to say whether my parents allowed me to watch this or I watched it without their knowledge, I can remember the horror after seeing this movie of being a young person all alone on a small farm in rural Iowa that was completely surrounded by cornfields. I can remember hoping that my fears inspired by that movie would not be realized, as in my mind I envisioned Malachi and his twisted associates pouring out of the sea of corn plants, chasing down all who opposed “he who walks behind the rows.”
As an adult, that all seems pretty silly now but maybe you can relate to a similar experience that caused terror in your heart (yes I sheepishly admit that “terror” is the right word for my experience). Maybe for you it wasn’t an entertaining movie, but a very real experience that left an indelible mark in your life because you found your life was in danger. Whether it was self-induced or possibly outside of your control, maybe you can relate.
But the verse quoted above talks about another cause for us to experience sobering fear in our hearts – missing out on the Lord’s rest. The rest that scripture is referring to here is not a reference to the weekly Sabbath rest that God provided for in His Law. It is not talking about the rest that God gave to the Israelites when He brought Joshua into the promised land. It is not talking about the rest that we have at the end of a hard day of work or even the peaceful sleep we experience at night after a long day. The rest that scripture is referring to here is the eternal rest from the conflict of sin, brought about through the weakness of the flesh, made evident by the Law, and resolved ONLY through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This conflict is clearly painted for us in Romans:
“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:14-25 (NASB95)
I so appreciate this passage of scripture that puts into words the inner turmoil that is boiling over within the human heart. The good that I know to do, I find myself not doing, no matter how badly I want to do it because sin dwells in me. And the bad thing I don’t want to do, I realize I am absolutely powerless to stop myself from doing! This conflict is so frustrating that it causes the writer of Romans to cry out, “I am a wretched man!” Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, even physically, we find ourselves in the middle of this losing battle being miserable, distressed, and pathetic creatures trying to do what we cannot do because of the principle of evil being present within us. What then (or rather Who), is the answer? Jesus Christ our Lord, the propitiation and redemption that God has provided for us. Thanks be to God!
As liberating as the solution of the Son of God is to mankind’s universal inner conflict, Hebrews points out that we should fear that while this promise of rest is available to us, we may come short of obtaining it. Scripture goes on to show us how this can happen. The dilemma presented here is that some upon hearing the good news receive entrance into the Lord’s rest, but for others, they come up short. Why? The key is faith in Jesus Christ; our believing, our complete trust, our boastful confidence, our single-minded devotion in what we have heard preached, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all through His selfless sacrifice. Some unite their faith with the good news, others, for many reasons, choose to ignore it and instead, place their faith in other things. I am of the firm conviction that everyone is given a measure of faith, as the bible explains, and we are given the freedom by God Almighty to place that faith in whatever we desire. The faith is a gift of God. The choice is ours. The Spirit draws us. The grace of God proclaims to us that the best, most logical choice is to place it in Christ. But some won’t and as a result, will find themselves coming up short from finding rest from the conflict of their sin. This is cause for deep, deep fear because this conflict cannot be resolved in any other way or by any other means, leaving those who reject His rest in eternal torment and dark despair. For scripture says:
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (NASB95)
If rest for your life is what you are seeking; if you are in conflict with the evil passions of your life; if you are in fear of missing the eternal rest that God is offering, then look no further for the answer. His name is Jesus Christ and all who confess with their mouth that He is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the grave will be saved. He will give you rest and you will need to fear no longer. It’s His promise.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Jesus, the Son of God