PRESSING INTO GOD'S REST

 

PRESSING INTO GOD’S REST Copyright Š 2009 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

God made all things, from light all the way through to the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ, in six days. Then He rested. Your life and mine were completed from the beginning of the world. God is resting and observing while His Word is bringing His vision to pass. All we are required to do is cease from our own works and enter God’s rest.

But we are being resisted by many forces that are attempting to lead us away from God’s perfect will for our life.

PRESSING INTO GOD’S REST

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:1,2—NIV)

God made all things, from light all the way through to the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ, in six days. Then He rested. Your life and mine were completed from the beginning of the world. God is resting and observing while His Word is bringing His vision to pass. All we are required to do is cease from our own works and enter God’s rest.

But we are being resisted by many forces that are attempting to lead us away from God’s perfect will for our life.

We do not realize it but we are living in a hovel, bound with many things. We are slaves to the world system, seeking to find security and survival in it.

We are slaves to the compulsions to sin that reside in us and are part of our personality. The compulsions to sin are transgressions against the eternal moral law of God, of which the Ten Commandments are an abridged, covenantal version.

We are slaves to our self-will, our personal ambition, our desire to create our own heaven and earth. We do not trust God. In the beginning Satan planted mistrust of God in the first two people. This mistrust has continued to the present hour, and so we continue in chains, living in our hovel.

God wants to release us into the fullness of life lived in Himself. The world, sin, and self-will must all be removed from us so we may flow with the fullness of resurrection life.

Canaan, our land of promise, is the rest of God. It is life lived in the flowings of the Godhead. We begin our Christian life in chains and finish in total freedom in Christ—not total freedom to do as we please but total freedom in Christ.

The Sabbath-day commandment was that we cease from work on the seventh day, that is, Saturday. But the new-covenant fulfillment of the Sabbath day is the life lived as Jesus lived—in the Presence and will of God. This is to be seven days of the week, each day bringing us more fully into the Presence of God.

When Jesus healed on the Sabbath He was living in the Presence of God. He was fulfilling the Sabbath commandment even though the Pharisees did not understand this to be true.

Let’s look at the heart of the Sabbath commandment, as set forth through Isaiah.

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, Then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13,14—NIV)

The key phrases are as follows:

Call the Sabbath a delight and honorable.

Not going your own way.

Not doing as you please or speaking idle words.

We can see at a glance the difference between what Isaiah stated and the original fourth commandment:

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates." (Exodus 20:8-10—NIV)

The fourth commandment stresses not working, but Isaiah expands this to mean not following our own will but God’s will.

The original fourth commandment served until the Lord Jesus came, for it was not possible for us to obey the words of Isaiah apart from the forming of Christ in us.

The Lord Jesus always lives and has His Being in the eternal Sabbath of God.

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30—NIV)

Don’t you believe I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:10—NIV)

Compare what Isaiah said with the above two verses and you will see the fulfillment of the Sabbath in the Lord Jesus.

Not going your own way.

Not doing as you please or speaking idle words.

The Apostle Paul tells us about his desire to press into God’s rest:

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 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, And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11—NIV)

The believer who desires to press into God’s rest must come to the place where he regards all of his possessions and accomplishments in the present world as rubbish. We are in our hovel, as I said previously. We are bound with many chains. Until we see our true circumstances we are not able to let go of our rags and enter the glorious rest of the King of all kings.

To "gain Christ" is to gain God’s rest.

Paul compares faith with the righteousness obtained by keeping the letter of the Law of Moses ("not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law"). We enter the rest of God through faith. Faith is our unwavering belief that God is good, that He is seeking to bring us to joy, and that He has the power to bring us to joy. When we add courage, hope, persistence, and obedience to unwavering faith we are able to press into the rest of God.

When Paul was desiring to know Christ, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, Paul was desiring to enter the rest of God.

To enter the rest of God is to attain to the resurrection from the dead. If we would participate in the resurrection from the dead, the resurrection of God’s holy priests, we must first attain to the resurrection of our inward nature. The resurrection of our inward nature is accomplished as we let go of all our accomplishments and press into Christ, into God’s rest.

Paul’s goal as a Christian was to attain to the resurrection from the dead, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord appears. This must become our goal also. The Lord has no intention of catching up to Himself Christians who still are living in their adamic nature. Such are not prepared for glorification or for participation in the work of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.

The Book of Hebrews is one long exhortation to experienced Christians to press into God’s rest. These Jewish believers, who had been saved, had received the Holy Spirit, had tasted of God’s Word and the powers of the age to come, were not moving forward to God’s rest, to the fullness of God’s Person and will. They were rebuked severely by the writer of Hebrews and warned they would die in the wilderness of unbelief.

All of their spiritual accomplishments were regarded by the writer of Hebrews as milk, as elementary principles of salvation. We of today have not as yet arrived spiritually at the level of those Jewish believers. In other words, we still are in kindergarten.

The writer of Hebrews does not content himself with encouraging them to be nice and keep on being good Christians. He warns them of the danger of falling into the hands of a God who has been angered by their unwillingness to press forward in Christ.

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31—NIV)

I understand many Bible scholars will not accept the fact that the above verse applies to believers. They do not reject this interpretation from sound principles of biblical interpretation but because the verse conflicts with their understanding of the role of grace in our salvation. They are incorrect and the moral stature of the Christian churches is suffering as a result.

Hebrews begins by telling us of the high calling that rests on the Son of God and the sons of God, and then sets the tone for the epistle:

How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. (Hebrews 2:3—NIV)

This verse is sometimes preached to the unsaved. It is not addressed to the unsaved but to experienced Christians who were not pressing into God’s rest.

If we, having started out in the Lord, then do not maintain our fervent pursuit of God, we will not escape severe punishment. This is the primary message of the Book of Hebrews.

But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (Hebrews 3:6—NIV)

The above verse could be interpreted to mean if we hold our theological position throughout our lifetime, if we continue to believe in the facts of Christ’s atoning death and triumphant resurrection, we will be Christ’s house even though we have not acted on what we say we believe.

There are three teachings of the Book of Hebrews that prevent the conclusion that all we are to do is keep on believing the accepted facts of theology and that a maintaining of such orthodoxy of belief will insure our place in the house of Christ.

First, the comparison is being made, in the third chapter of Hebrews, to the Jews who died in the wilderness. The issue involving the Israelites was that of true belief and obedience to God in marching toward Canaan, not one of sitting in Egypt while they believed God had given them the land.

Second, the definition of faith given in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews does not mention merely belief in what God said but obedience to the revealed will of God—belief worked out in action. For example, Noah believed what God said, but he was not saved by his belief but by building the Ark.

Third, the bearing of fruit is mentioned in the sixth chapter, indicating that God is looking for the Presence of Christ in us, not mental assent to the facts of theology.

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:7,8)

Can you see that the writer of Hebrews is not dealing only with belief in God’s promise but with behavior? The problem was hardness of heart that manifested itself in grumbling and complaining and hostility toward Moses.

The Christian life is always dynamic. Our faith must be much more than static mental assent to correct doctrine. Our faith must be a daily pressing forward in Christ, as Paul mentioned, until we have attained to life lived in the power of Christ’s resurrection. This is the rest of God.

The problem of the Jewish Christians does not appear to be that of deciding not to believe in the blood atonement but of turning aside and going back into the world. Unbelief in the facts of salvation and turning back into the world undoubtedly are related. But the problem today is that Christian believers believe in the facts of salvation but do not press forward until they gain Christ and attain to the resurrection from the dead, believing that salvation does not depend on their behavior.

Perhaps some will respond with Paul’s quotation from Psalms that the person is blessed to whom God credits righteousness apart from works. The argument then is we should do nothing but believe Christ died for our sins.

In the early chapters of the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul stressed that we are not saved by works but by faith in Christ. But a careful reading of these chapters will reveal that Paul was saying we are not saved by obeying the letter of the Law of Moses but by faith in Christ. We are to look up from the scroll and behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

To then interpret this transfer of our faith from Moses to Christ to mean righteousness is credited to Gentiles who make a profession of belief in Christ and then do the works of Satan is to discount the numerous exhortations of Paul that we live righteously, and his abundant warnings that if we continue to live according to the lusts of our flesh we shall die spiritually; we shall not inherit the Kingdom of God; we shall reap destruction.

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12—NIV)

The problem is that of turning away from God, of not pressing forward to the fullness of salvation, which is perfection, the rest of God.

We see this today as people receive salvation and the baptism with the Holy Spirit, but then do not, as Paul, lay aside everything in order to gain Christ. They suppose that because they have made a profession of Christ they will go to Heaven when they die. Then they become occupied with amassing money, entertainment, sometimes immorality or drugs and drunkenness, and other aspects of the American culture. They do not realize God has warned them in the Book of Hebrews about the destruction that awaits those who have received Christ and then have neglected their great salvation.

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:14—NIV)

Again we see that our place in Christ depends on our holding firmly to Christ until we reach the goal God has set before us. It is he who endures to the end who shall be saved.

And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed (Hebrews 3:18—NIV)

The Jews demonstrated their unbelief and rebellion by disobeying Moses. The result was they died in the wilderness. The writer of Hebrews is telling us that if we do not press forward in Christ every day of our discipleship we will not attain to the position in Christ we are hoping for.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrews 4:1—NIV)

When we are speaking of the rest of God we are not referring to Heaven. Canaan is not a type of Heaven. Canaan is a type of life lived in the fullness of the Person and will of Christ. Paul never spoke of Heaven as his goal. Paul was endeavoring to gain Christ, to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.

If Paul, toward the end of his life, was still seeking to make Heaven his home, then not many believers are going to go to Heaven.

In any case, Canaan was filled with the enemies of the Israelites. God led them into Canaan one city at a time, slaughtering the inhabitants as they went. This hardly is a type of dying and going to Heaven!

To fall short of the rest of God means to not press forward to the will of Christ to the point our adamic nature has been overcome and we are living in God’s Presence. To fall short of the rest of God means to not gain victory in Christ but to remain bound by the world, sin, and self-will.

Salvation is our change from Satan to God. We move from the bondage of Satan to rest in the Presence and will of God.

To not enter the rest of God, to fall in the wilderness, means we have been unable to overcome the challenges set before us. We may have started on our journey from Egypt, from the world, but we have not maintained our faith in God to the point of gaining victory over the world, over the lusts of our flesh and soul, and over our self-will and personal ambition. Many Christians of our day have not gained personal victory in Christ, but they are hoping for a "rapture" that will deliver them from trouble and bring them to Heaven in their untransformed state.

They have been deceived. They will not be "raptured" out of trouble. Furthermore they will not go to be with the Lord when He appears because they do not have the inner spiritual life, the "oil" that will draw them up to the Lamb when He appears. They are not living by the strength of the Lord, by the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. They have slain their own resurrection by not following the Spirit in putting to death the sins of the flesh.

Christian teaching is in immense confusion today!

The following passage is critical. It is central to the subject of the present essay.

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. (Hebrews 4:3—NIV)

We see from the above that we are to enter that rest now. So it has nothing to do with going to Heaven when we die.

The expression "his work has been finished since the creation of the world" gives us the basic understanding of God’s rest. It means God finished everything in six days, including our own life and destiny. Our task in life is to cease from thrashing about in our graveclothes and to enter the role for which God has chosen us.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— (Ephesians 1:4,5—NIV)

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.  (Revelation 13:8—NIV)

We of today sometimes find it difficult to accept the many passages of the Bible that speak of God knowing about people from the beginning of the world. This difficulty may arise from two sources. One, it is contrary to the philosophy of democracy that some people should be favored above others. Two, we cannot reconcile the idea of election with free will.

Whatever reasons we may advance to deny the possibility that God has finished all things from the beginning of the world, the fact remains that He did, and that it is required of every human being, especially the members of the royal priesthood, that he or she seek God to find out what His will is, where he or she fits in the unfolding plan.

The fundamental challenge placed before each one of us is, will we seek God’s will in every area of our life, or will we grasp and cling to that which we think is best for us? This was the original temptation of Eden.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:15,16—NIV)

We may rebel against the idea that the days ordained for us were written in God’s book in advance. Personally I rejoice over the concept. How wonderful to realize we do not have to prove or accomplish anything, just rest in God’s will!

I am not endorsing passivity. We have to keep our faculties alert and our mind clear and decisive. We must keep pressing forward even though there are endless frustrations. We must strive to enter the rest of God, not lay on a couch and trust it will happen.

That the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things that have been known for ages.  (Acts 15:17,18—NIV)

Isn’t it actually a comforting thought to realize God knows in advance all that shall take place and carefully prepares each of those who love Him for what the future holds? Or would you rather try to make your circumstances into what you think they should be? You can if you like, but I would rather rest in God!

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29—NIV)

Sometimes people are upset over the above verse because they think it means certain people are destined to be saved and others destined to be lost.

If you will look at the verse, this is not what it is saying. It is not speaking of salvation but of being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. It is referring to the members of the royal priesthood, the brothers of Christ. Each one of them has been predestined to be changed into the image of Christ, not "saved" as we use the term!

Even then, the members of the elect have been warned to be careful that no one take their crown, and to add virtue to their lives to make their calling and election certain.

Every aspect of salvation is always an opportunity.

You may ask, "If every aspect of salvation is an opportunity, and people are free to respond positively or negatively, how then can God predestine certain people to be members of the royal priesthood?"

This is an unanswerable question. It has to do with the infinite abilities of God. All we know is, both aspects are absolutely true. God predestines certain people to be changed into the image of Christ and to be His brothers, and every aspect of salvation depends on our response. The fact that we cannot reconcile these two biblical truths is not important. But it is important that we say Amen to everything God has placed in the Bible. I think you will agree with that.

Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34—NIV)

The Kingdom of God has been prepared since the creation of the world for the members of the saved nations, especially for those members of the nations who have assisted the brothers of Christ as they have borne witness of God.

For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:10—NIV)

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just rest from our own works and enter God’s rest. But there are so many forces, so many enemies that resist us.

First of all, there is Satan who is furiously determined we will never cease from our own strivings and seek to find the will of God and rest in it.

Why would Satan resist our attempts to please God?

Did you ever notice how evangelistic wicked people are? They try to encourage everyone to do as they are doing. I suppose their idea is that the more people there are who practice wickedness the more acceptable it becomes.

I think Satan is hoping to get as many people as he can to live in his spirit and behave as he does. Then he can reproach God and point out that the humans God loves are just as wicked as he. I can’t think of any other reason why he would work night and day to prevent people from entering God’s goodness. This is really wickedness, isn’t it?

Then there is the world. The world scorns anyone who departs from its enticements and attempts to just do God’s will. The idea that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments is an abomination to the world.

Then there are the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul. The siren call sounds in our flesh and we are carried off to romantic heights or down to the gutter of drugs and alcohol. In either case we make ourselves the slave of sin rather than the servant of God.

Finally there is self-will. The desire of the adamic nature to retain its own way is phenomenal to say the least. Someone said we would rather rule in the cardboard shacks of Hell than serve in the glorious courts of Heaven.

The truth is, we have not been created in such a manner that we can pursue our own path successfully. Life and eternity are complex issues. We do not know even our own name, having been assigned a name arbitrarily by our father and mother who knew nothing of our personality or destiny.

But God knows our name that really is our name!

Since God has planned our life from the beginning, knowing what alone will bring us eternal joy and peace, we are wise to drop our endless clutching of relationships and things and seek the mind of Christ. But then Satan, the world, our flesh and soul, and our self-seeking rise up and howl in unbelief.

We know nothing at all. Yet we adopt this plan or that plan in order to gain joy, not knowing God’s plan for us. We do not gain the joy and peace we are looking for even if we succeed in becoming wealthy. But we still are determined to go our own way.

Being saved through the blood and born again by the Spirit of God is only the beginning of salvation. These two blessings mark our departure from Egypt.

After we leave Egypt we plod wearily through countless problems and pains.

Then Canaan looms before us. Will we surrender all that we are to Christ, counting our achievements as nothing more than rubbish, or will we cling to our adamic life, hoping God will carry us to Heaven in our untransformed state?

Many today are trying to follow what the Bible says without listening to the Spirit of God. Many others are trying to direct the Spirit of God by singing to the Spirit, invoking the Spirit, commanding the Spirit to come in power so what these leaders desire will come to pass.

It is never right to try to direct the Spirit of God. Directing the Spirit of God is the responsibility of Jesus Christ. We always are to pray to the Lord for more of His Spirit but we never are to command the Spirit ourselves. This is not scriptural. God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him. It is religious man seeking to maintain control of his destiny who is attempting to direct the Spirit of God.

We remain in chains in our hovel. We have no idea how bound we are. Truly, as the Lord said, we are "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked." Yet we cling fiercely to our rags, hoping that God will not disturb us too much.

If we could only see ourselves! Here we are in our tarpaper shack. We have a pig and two goats in the house with us. A few scrawny chickens are pecking in the yard. We are clothed in rags, sharing a few cobs of corn with the animals.

This is how the wealthiest of us looks in the sight of Heaven.

The King sends His ambassador to our door. The purple rug is unrolled. The trumpeters announce the presence of the royal messenger. The ambassador knocks on the door of our house and invites us to come to the palace as a son and heir of the King. The angels watch hopefully to see what our response will be.

But we look at our cracked windows, our pig, goats, and chickens, our sagging front door, and we think, "How can I leave all of this? This is what I am used to. This is my home. I do not trust this ambassador. Maybe I will lose my shack and my animals."

This is a true picture of the person who is trying to decide whether or not to abandon his or her own life and trust Christ for all things—wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.

I knew a man who had a sewer business. The call of God was strong on him. I encouraged him to launch out and do what God was requesting. His response was, "What will I do with my shovels?"

We do not stop and reason that all we possess, every relationship, thing, and circumstance was given to us by the Lord. He can remove any part of them at any time with or without our permission. But He prefers that for our sake we gladly return to God that which really belongs to God and not to us, including our own life!

God’s desire is to set us free in the only way in which we can be set free—that is, by encouraging us to cease from our own works that we might enter His rest.

The Lord Jesus Christ always delights to do God’s will. The greatest good that will ever come to us, the highest height we will ever reach, is that place in Christ where our will has become one with God’s will, where we delight to do His will.

God is working in us both to will and to do what pleases Him. We will have a much more enjoyable existence if we cease from our own works and look to the Lord for every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we perform.