We have probably all seen the impressive picture of the statue of ATLAS – carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. This is the mentality of many people in the world. It is certainly the belief of the humanists around us, but even some Christians live this way. It suggests that our safety, success and progress depend totally on us. Man feels the burden of solving the world’s problems and the problems of our own families with no help from God. What a burden to carry. Carrying the weight of the world makes it easy to live in anxiety and end up with stress, pressure and burnout.
From the beginning God intended that we should learn to rest in Him. If the statue of Atlas is a picture of you, then Hebrews 4 is the chapter for you. We will learn how to rest in God. It is a beautiful lesson that brings peace and joy to our souls. We should be able to sing “It is Well With My Soul” from the heart!
Thus far we have learned about the sufficiency and superiority of Jesus over all else in creation. As SON OF GOD and as SON OF MAN he has won for us all that was lost in Adam. He has become our faithful apostle and faithful high priest.
We are the house He has built, and He is faithful to provide all that we need to live there. But we have a powerful warning in chapter 3 that suggests to us that appropriating all that we have in Christ is often a huge problem.
DAY ONE: BELIEVERS ARE SHOWN THE ROAD TO GOD’S REST.
READ: Hebrews 4:1-3
A. BELIEVERS ARE WARNED OF POTENTIAL LOSS.
Chapter 4 continues with this warning regarding God’s REST. We have much to lose if we don’t mature in our Christian life. We will learn that immaturity is a common problem with God’s people. It is all about learning to trust God.
- The Israelites in Moses’ day had enough faith to leave Egyptian slavery;
But they didn’t have enough faith to enter Canaan.
- The Hebrews in the first century had enough faith to trust Jesus for salvation;
But they didn’t have enough faith to trust Him for living in hard times.
- Today we may have enough faith to trust Jesus in theory;
But often we don’t have enough faith to enter the abundant life in reality.
B. BELIEVERS ARE URGED TO ENTER GOD’S REST.
The author now tells the Hebrew Christians that it is not too late. The promise of rest is still available, but it is possible that this current test of faith will be so severe that they may fail. They are without excuse because they had the message (good news) proclaimed to them just as did the Israelites in Moses’ day.
- The twelve spies examined the land of Canaan. Two spies reported that they could surely conquer the good land with God’s help – despite the size of the enemy. God had already told them He was giving them the land. They heard the report, but they had no faith. (Numbers 14)
- In like manner, the twelve apostles have given the Hebrew believers the message – as beloved children, they have all of the promises of God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the help of Jesus to live their new lives. They can rest (trust) in God for their future. The road is open for all who will listen and make the right choice.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What did Jesus say about lost opportunity? (John 9:4)
- What did Peter say about the beauty of the promises of God that are the special heritage of believers? (II Peter 1:1-3)
- Can you think of a time when you procrastinated and suffered a lost opportunity?
- How does your life show that you are resting in God today?
DAY TWO: BELIEVERS ARE REMINDED OF NEW OFFER – TODAY!
READ: Hebrews 4:4-11
A. GOD ALWAYS OFFERED HIS REST.
God’s offer of rest has been there since the creation. God asked humanity to trust him by believing what He says and living it out. The original command about the Seventh Day of rest was a kind of test. Will these human beings believe that God can provide enough for them if they take a day off? With each new revelation and each new promise, there is a test. Will man have enough faith to believe and obey? Will they rest in God?
- The Israelites failed the test and couldn’t go into the Promised Land. They lost their opportunity even though they repented and tried to reverse their judgment later.
- Yet God is still making an offer of rest. The kind of rest that was offered in Joshua’s day does not compare with the offer that Jesus made. Joshua’s rest was a trusting in God’s promises regarding the conquering of the land. The offer of rest made later through David was of a permanent salvation rest. This kind of rest could only come through the Messiah.
B. HEBREW BELIEVERS HAD ACCEPTED ONE OFFER OF REST.
- After the Messiah had come, there was a new offer of rest that was available. It was a similar kind of rest that was modeled by the Father after creation. Jesus has also ceased from his salvation works as God did from His creation works. The rest offered was the permanent rest from our own works to achieve forgiveness. The Hebrews had believed and received this rest.
C. ALL BELIEVERS HAVE A NEW OFFER TODAY.
- Now there is another kind of rest that is urgent – a rest that comes from spiritual maturity for believers – will God’s children put their faith in His provision for their new life? In one sense we face this new offer each day. Will I rest in God’s new blessings each morning or will I live in a constant state of anxiety – fearful that my life will not be all that I need it to be. Will I commit all needs to prayer or work unceasingly to solve my own problems?
There is an urgency about believing God’s words – in whatever age we live. We can’t know what will happen in our earthly lives in the future. Our only hope is placing our lives in the hand and will of God. Although God may mercifully protect us and fulfill His promises in spite of our faithlessness, the consequences of such behavior will often incur God’s chastisement – in one form or another. As with Israel, lost opportunity may very well be the consequence of one’s choice to disbelieve God’s word or fail to grow up in our spiritual life.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- How do we harden our hearts against God’s word?
- What is one important thing God has given us to help us understand His word? (I Corinthians 2:9-12)
- What is the value of the promises in God’s word? (II Peter 1: 4)
4. How do you remember God’s promises so you can recall them in crises? (journal, memorize scripture, write them on sticky notes, etc)
5. What does the Psalmist say about the value of God’s word? (Psalm 19:7-14)
DAYS THREE & FOUR: BELIEVERS ARE POINTED TO GOD’S LIVING WORD.
READ: Hebrews 4:12-13
A. BELIEVERS LEARN A NEW WAY TO LIVE.
Once we become believers, our next great assignment is to learn to live by the word of God. Just as the human Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52), we also begin to grow in Christlikeness. As we rest in God, the indwelling Spirit begins His work of sanctification to perfect us for the Kingdom.
- God rested on the seventh day from His work of creation and began his work of providence to care for and bring to perfection what He had created.
- Jesus rested from his salvation work after He put away sin and rent the veil. He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Then He began His work in heaven as our high priest.
- Believers rest in God after we have received the Holy Spirit in our hearts to make us partakers of the glorified Christ. Then the Holy Spirit begins the work of transforming our minds and shaping us into Christ’s image. We begin the work of living the new life and serving in the body of believers.
B. BELIEVERS HAVE THE POWER OF THE WORD OF GOD.
Without divine help, we can easily fall into unbelief and move on into disobedience – just as the Israelites of Moses’ day did. But God has said that His rest is fully available today. He has given us the wonderful gift of the LIVING WORD. It is (1) living, (2) active, (3) sharp, (4) penetrating, and (5) convicting.
- LIVING – God’s word is unlike any other piece of writing. It has an internal life powered by the Holy Spirit. He makes the word of God come alive to believers. As we take the word into our hearts, it becomes a seed that grows into a living and strong force in our lives. The aliveness of the word makes it always new and exciting and takes us to ever-deeper depths into the mind of God. We never master it, but it can increasingly master us.
- ACTIVE – The word of God is a strong motivating force to change lives and even cultures. When it is obeyed and allowed to transform our minds, it has a remarkable influence in every sphere of society and in every part of our individual lives.
- SHARP – God’s word is used to cut or divide the things of the flesh from the things of the spirit. We are a confusing mixture of the natural man and the spiritual man as we begin our Christian walk. The Bible helps us to distinguish between the two. It helps us to know when our hearts are hardened and when they are responsive to the things of God.
- PENETRATING – God’s word goes deep within our inner being into places that are hidden even to ourselves. As we dwell upon the words of God we are opened to areas that are clouding and controlling our behavior in ungodly ways.
- CONVICTING – God’s word moves from knowledge to wisdom in our lives. It shows us how the learning applies to our lives. He is faithful to show us what needs to be done as we serve God and interact with people. Nothing is hidden from God. He can look deep within our hearts and reveal to us what is there. One day we will be called to account for what He has revealed in the remarkably complete word.
C. THE WORD OF GOD ENABLES US TO REST.
God gives us His word to help us remain in His rest. Our rest will never be a reality if we ignore this word.
- By the word we see God as He really is.
- By the word we see how God sees us.
- By the word we see ourselves as we really are.
- By the word we can be daily guided in righteous living.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- One of the benefits of studying the word is knowing God as He really is. How does God describe himself? (Exodus 34:6-8)
- What does Proverbs 6:22-23 say about the word?
- How do you let the word “expose” your heart?
- What does Paul say about the use of the word? (Ephesians 6:17)
5. Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6 and claim it when you need it this week.
6. What does it mean to you to “meditate” on the word?
7. Write down the attributes of God mentioned in Exodus 34:6-8 and notice how each one is displayed in your life in coming weeks.
DAY FIVE: BELIEVERS ARE INSTRUCTED TO REMEMBER THEIR CONFESSION.
READ: Hebrews 4:14-16
A. BELIEVERS HAVE A PERFECT HIGH PRIEST.
Another resource that Hebrew believers have is a different kind of high priest who understands them completely and is compassionate with their humanity. He is always available to help them grow up well. The author of Hebrews is now inviting believers to offer themselves to Him. God has spoken to believers through Jesus, and Jesus has taught and modeled God’s truths. This is the major theme of this epistle. We have what we need to be healed and live well.
The most amazing fact that Jesus revealed was that although He is a man, He is the very Son of God. The Jewish leaders accused him of blasphemy for this revelation. It was a most difficult concept to grasp for the Greeks. It is still a bit of a stretch for believers today to understand the perfect God/Man, but his life and death and resurrection proved it beyond a doubt.
B. BELIEVERS HAVE A CONTINUAL ACCESS TO GRACE.
The Hebrew believers had made the good confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Messiah who was planned for and prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Because of who He is these believers can come boldly to the throne of grace in order to appropriate the grace they need to stand during the severe trials they are facing.
It is always comforting to know that He is our representative in heaven interceding for us. He lived in a purely human body and experienced the same temptations we face, yet without sin. So, He understands our weaknesses and our needs. Don’t harden your heart; rest in Him.
- How did Jesus overcome temptation without sinning? (Matthew 4:1-11)
- What does John 10:30 tell you about the identity of the human Jesus?
- What does spiritual rest mean to you personally from the following scriptures?
- Romans 5:1-2
- Romans 8:37
- I John 5:4
- Describe a time when you have “pleaded your case before your sympathetic high priest.”
The author of Hebrews is speaking with great urgency in Chapter 4. The Christians are on the verge of making a bad mistake. Four times they are given specific advice:
- LET US be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of God’s rest. (4:1)
- LET US make every effort to enter that rest. (4:11)
- LET US hold firmly to the faith we profess. (4:14)
- LET US approach the throne of grace with confidence, so we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (4:16)
We don’t have to play the role of Atlas and carry the weight of the world on our shoulders alone. Jesus is ready and willing to have us “cast your cares on the Lord.” (Psalm 55:22) He wants us to rest in Him.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
We gain great power when we give God’s word its proper place in our lives.
Read a passage of Scripture in your quiet time this week and ask God for one new insight to give you a new peace or a quiet confidence.
When you become anxious this week, consciously stop and ask God to give you rest and peace and guidance. Step out in the joy of His sufficiency.
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