The "Let Us" Series From The Book Of Hebrews #1



TEXT:          Hebrews 4:1-13


INTRO:       We live in a very harried world today!  The word "rest" is almost missing from our vocabulary!  I hear all the time people talking about trying to get some "rest."  The frantic lifestyle we live today has crept into the spiritual realm also, we can have frantic activity spiritually and fail to enter into God's rest!  It is possible to acknowledge God and fail to enter into His rest, it happened to Israel in the wilderness, and it can happen to us today too.


The only way to enter God's rest is through faith in His Word and obedience to that Word - failure to obey God's Word will leave us unrested!  We ultimately rest in the person of Jesus Christ who has finished the work of redemption for us, so that if we live in a true relationship with Jesus “rest” is possible!  Even in our modern age this has been noted, listen to the words of J.I. Packer;


ILLUS:       J. I. Packer said, "Certainty about the great issues of the Christian faith and conduct is lacking all along the line.  The outside observer sees us staggering on from gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going.  Preaching is hazy; heads are muddled; hearts fret; doubts drain strength; uncertainty paralyzes action.  Unlike the first Christians who in three centuries won the Roman world, and those later Christians who pioneered the Reformation, and the Puritan awakening and the Evangelical revival, and the great missionary movement of the last century, we lack certainty.  Why is this?  We blame the external pressures of modern secularism, but this is like Eve blaming the serpent.  The real truth is that we have grieved the Spirit ... we stand under divine judgment.  For two generations our churches have suffered from a famine of hearing the words of the Lord."  That's a tragic truth.


We are living in a time when we blame everything around us for our restlessness and losses, but it may be time that we examine the real reason for our lack of rest, our own avoidance of obedience to God's Word!


PROP SENT:       The Bible teaches us that we can fail to enter into God's rest if we fail to accept Christ’s sacrifice for salvation and fail to obey His word, that the lack of obedience is a lack of faith, which leads to a lack of rest!


I.    A RESTFUL LIFE!   Heb. 4:1-10


A.   Rewards     Heb. 4:1

1.   God has always promised a "rest" to those who want it!

a.   Even in the Old Testament there was a rest in God that was possible, unfortunately as the preceding verses indicate, Israel failed to find this "rest" of God's!

b.   How tragic that they missed the most important "rest" God had to offer.

2.   But this "rest" remains for anyone today who might want it!

a.   It is not a physical rest that God is speaking of here, it is a spiritual rest!

b.   This promise has been available for a long time, and will continue to be available until Jesus comes back again.

3.   For those who want "rest," it is available and the writer will describe here how we go about finding it.

a.   God's rest comes from faith in God's Word - which leads to obedience!

b.   Notice in Heb. 3:19 ... "So we see that they (Israel) were not able to enter, because of their unbelief."  (which led to their disobedience - there is a direct connection between REAL faith and obedience!)


ILLUS:       William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony of pilgrims, insisted, "Those who believe in the Holy Scriptures are bound to observe its teachings.  Those who do not are to be bound by its consequences." -- Larry Burkett, What Ever Happened to the American Dream, p. 43.


4.   The rewards are great, the consequences for failure to obey are also great!

a.   Those who call themselves "Christians" but fail to live according to God's Word will not enter God's rest!

b.   Israel's sufferings were the result of their own disobedience and lack of faith in God's Word even though God was present in the very midst of their camp by the fire at night and the cloud by day!

c.   God's rest is available, but only through faith and obedience to His Word!


B.   Reckless!   Heb. 4:2-10

1.   The messages from God can be of no value if they are not received by faith and receiving them by faith implies obedience to that Word!

a.   Disobedience is a form of unbelief!  The things we believe in we tend to express in real ways, so saying we believe in God WILL MEAN living out a life of obedience to God’s Word … if we truly believe it!

b.   This was Israel's constant problem in the desert, they heard God's Word through His servant Moses, but they did not have enough faith in it to obey it, hence the consequences that they never entered into God's rest!

2.   Israel loved the miracles and the displays of God's power, but they did not obey God's Word and thus they forfeited the most important rest God had to offer them!

a.   If they failed to enter God's rest even with God's presence in their midst and the miracles, SO CAN WE!

b.   They were reckless with God and their own lives, they failed to see that disobedience could lead to bad consequences later on!


ILLUS:       If you've ever been to Yellowstone National Park, you were probably given a piece of paper by a ranger at the park entrance.  On it in big letters was the warning "Do Not Feed the Bears."  You no sooner drive into the heart of the park, however, than you see people feeding the bears.  When I first saw this I asked a ranger about it. "Sir," he answered, "you have only a small part of the picture."  He described how the park service personnel in the fall and winter have to carry away the bodies of dead bears -- bears who have lost their ability to fend for food. That's what's happening to us. -- Howard Hendricks


3.   Too many people who call themselves Christians today live this way!

a.   They are reckless with God's Word!

b.   They can raise hands in worship, or praise God for miracles, but they do not live in obedience to God's Word, in some cases they openly mock God's Word and it's teachings!  And then they wonder why their lives are anything but "rested" in God!

c.   We will not experience God’s beautiful rest if it is in church only that we act like believers!    

4.   One cannot say they have faith in God without also having faith in His Word, and one cannot say he has faith in the Word of God if he is not willing to obey it!

a.   When we bypass God's Word it doesn't matter how we feel about God, we are living reckless lives!  Heb. 4:6

b.   To ignore God's Word is to put your spiritual life in jeopardy, it won't matter how many verses of the Bible you know by heart, how many powerful experiences you had at the altar, or how intense you can sing Gospel choruses, you will not find God's rest without obedience to His Word!

(1.   This is what Israel's example teaches us here!

(2.   They ran toward miracles, but away from God's Word and the result was that they self-destructed!


ILLUS:       Several years ago, newspapers told how a new Navy jet fighter shot itself down.  Flying at supersonic speed, it ran into cannon shells it had fired only a few seconds before.  The jet was traveling too fast!  You are also traveling too fast, if you don't have time to worship God in regular church services, if you don't have time to read the Bible, if you don't have time to pray.  If you're neglecting any of these, you're probably traveling too fast to hear the sound of God's voice.  You can't tell whether you are in the center of His will.  Better slow down before,like the jet, you shoot yourself down.


5.   There are too many reckless people who call themselves "Christians" today in the church.  We can make the same mistake as Israel did, hence the warning in Heb. 4:1 is real!


II.   A RESTFUL LABOR    Heb. 4:11-13


A.   Requirements!   Heb. 4:11

1.   The language here is strange and ironic in a sense:  "Let us LABOR therefore to enter that rest."  (KJV)

a.   Ironic in the sense that we must "make every effort" (NIV) or "labor" (KJV) to enter into this rest!

b.   The idea here means simply that we do have choices:  to obey the Word of God by faith, or disobey it through unbelief!

c.   Obedience to God's Word can bring us into God's rest, disobedience will leave us outside without rest!

d.   There has to be more to our faith than knowing doctrine, we must live it!

2.   It is simply not enough to just be willing to get saved but then not live by the Word of God!


ILLUS:       It is not difficult in our world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest.  Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate.  Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim.  In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap.  There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness. -- A Long Obedience In the Same Direction


3.   The Christian life does not consist in just the altar call experience, it is also the lifestyle of obedience to the Word of God by faith that matters!

a.   Too many people are willing to embrace Jesus so they can get to heaven, but they don't want to hear what the Bible teaches about their sinful lifestyle that requires changes!

b.   Obedience however is a requirement or there can be no rest for the wicked!

4.   It is this "LABORING" to obey God's Word that brings us into spiritual health and restfulness!

a.   This is a daily task

b.   If we truly have faith in God's Word we will follow it!

c.   Just as there are no shortcuts to good physical health, there can be none to good spiritual health!


ILLUS:        According to a researcher at the University of Michigan, a program of good exercise may help a person fight off colds and infection.  The theory is that a good workout puts the body in a condition similar to what happens at the onset of a fever. That's not all bad.  Most biologists are of the opinion that a fever is the body's way of fighting back when micro intruders get into the system.  Increased body temperature seems to aid the white-cell defense system while slowing down the action of bacteria and viruses.  Exercise, it is now thought, does the same thing.  It releases chemicals into the blood that stimulate the brain to make our temperature rise.

   The Bible teaches that a regular course of good spiritual exercise is highly beneficial to the health of our soul.  It shows us that sin is effectively warded off in a person who is walking in the light, one who is obeying Jesus each day.  On the other hand, disobedience or following the path of least resistance, cools down a person's spiritual temperature. Fellowship is neglected.  Sin is neither confessed nor forsaken. The result is a lukewarm or cold Christian who is not taking advantage of the kind of defenses necessary to fight spiritual infection where it exists.


5.   There was only Joshua and Caleb that had entered into God's rest, the only two to believe God's Word and obey it, the rest of that generation died in the wilderness having failed to ever enter God's rest although they had God's presence in their camp and His miracles on their journey!

a.   The only difference was obedience!

b.   Many times this is still the only difference of why one Christian does well and another is always struggling and void of rest!  The “rested” one is actively serving God and living a life of obedience to the Word, the one who feels spiritually “tired” all the time is the one who has neglected those same disciplines.

c.   This is God's requirement for His rest ... exercise the Word of God daily!


B.   Revelation     Heb. 4:12-13

1.   Notice how this paragraph ends - with the Word of God again in the focus!

a.   It is that Word of God that ultimately impacts the quality of our spiritual life in the here and now as well as the then and there!

b.   The Word of God is foundational to our spiritual health, it must have priority in our life, this is done by obedience to its teachings!

2.   There is nothing else on Earth that can do what the Word of God can do!

a.   It is alive and active, it can pierce through anything!

b.   All attempts to disregard God's Word will end up in failure and we cannot hide our sins which is nothing more than disobedience to His Word!

c.   The Word of God has the power to change everything and only it can bring rest!


ILLUS:        There is an interesting development in Hungary. Government radio produced a six-part series of the first five books of the Old Testament.  Each broadcast was 60 to 70 minutes in length with the best actors in Hungary participating in the dramatization.  The series was repeated again several months later under the title, "The Book That Karl Marx Read."  Also, a dramatized adaptation of the four Gospels was broadcast in the fall on the same station.  The Government hopes that these broadcasts may contribute to the solution of the drug and alcohol problems among its youth. -- The Trans-World Radio Report


3.   How tragic that an entire generation wandered through a desert simply because they failed to enter into God's rest by faith and obedience to His Word!

a.   Yet, we could have an entire generation do the same thing today, or an individual!

b.   We must be people of the Word, not people of the World!

c.   If we are to really know God's rest in our souls, we must have faith in God and His Word and obey it!

4.   How rested are you?


CONCLUSION:    Though Israel was called "God's people" and though they had seen miracles and God's great power, they failed to enter God's rest!  Failure to enter was because of their failure to believe God's Word, which led to disobedience, the result:  NO REST!  The same can happen today too, obedience is the evidence of faith which leads to rest!  How restful is your life?