Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Receiving and Pursuing Faith

Hebrews 4:1 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

A Warning about unbelief
In yesterday's blog we looked at the episode of the nation of Israel's failure to enter into the promised land due to unbelief.   They spied out the land to consider whether or not it was what God said it was.  Then they came back with a conflicting report and made a costly choice against God's promises.  Despite Moses' intercession for them, the people still rebelled and were cursed - resulting in many of them dying. 

The writer of Hebrews recounts that episode in Hebrews 3:16-19.  Why had they failed? Hebrews 4:2 says it all - "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."  The people never received into their lives God's work for them, resulting in them not pursuing the land He had promised both they and their forefathers.  With that warning laid out in Hebrews 3:16-19, we see the exhortation in Hebrews 4 to receive and pursue the following by faith: 

1. Receive Christ's Call.   Hebrews 4:1-8
Whatever you receive into your heart will determine what you pursue.  If you take into your heart unbelief, you will pursue those interests which cater to your unbelief.  However if you receive by faith Christ and His interests - your pursuits in life will revolve about Him.  Ephesians 4:1 states -  "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called".  Colossians 2:6 echoes similarly:  "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him". 

To receive Christ means to "take Him along side of me" or "to walk with Him" as we see presented in Colossians and Ephesians.  Now here in Hebrews 4 we see the emphasis upon "entering into the rest of God".  Hebrews 4:3 describes what takes place at Christian conversion - "For we who have believed have entered that rest".  It is at saving faith I by grace am firmly persuaded to receive, take in Christ by faith. 

As we noted already, whatever I "receive" into my heart, that will I pursue.  Thus you and I need to receive the call of Christ and secondly...

Pursue Christ's Call.   Hebrews 4:9-16
With a slight bit of overlap the writer in Hebrews reiterates the emphasis on entering the "rest of God" at salvation, noting that not everyone has yet entered it. (Hebrews 4:7).  They need to receive the call of Christ by faith.  With that said, the writer states in Hebrews 4:9 "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God."

Notice the shift of thinking: Salvation, entering into God's rest, is not only understood as what takes place at conversion (i.e saving rest),  now it is viewed from another angle - the completion of it in eternity (i.e eternal rest).  Having received and thus begun pursuing Christ, I must also understand that my receiving and pursuit of Christ will continue unto completion in eternity. 

Then we see a third way of understanding our salvation or "entering into God's rest" in Hebrews 4:11 - "Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience."  So we see our receiving and pursuit of Christ as a present ongoing activity (i.e sanctifying rest).  Are you currently pursuing Him whom you claimed you received?  We can summarize the writer of Hebrews usage of this phrase "rest of God" as three stages of salvation:

1). Salvation past (i.e saving rest). In other words, regeneration / conversion / justification by grace through faith. Let me ask you this question: did you receive the call of Christ and thus begin pursuing His call on your life?  Have you "entered His rest" (Hebrews 4:3)?

2). Salvation present (i.e sanctifying rest). In other words sanctification or walking in obedience by faith with God.  Are you now continuing to receive daily the insights of Christ calling you by His Word and prayer, pursuing Him in obedience and worship?  In other words, "are you striving to enter His rest" (Hebrews 4:11)?  If you are continuing to receive and take in the things of Christ, then you will pursue his things in an ongoing fashion.

3). Salvation complete (i.e eternal rest).  The term for this complete stage is "glorification".  According to Hebrews 4:9, there "yet remains a Sabbath rest".  As you and I continue to receive and pursue the call of Christ (as urged in Ephesians 4:1 and Colossians 2:6), we will reach the end of our lives and live on in glory with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6).  In salvation past, or regeneration / conversion / justification, I'm saved from sin's penalty.  In salvation present, or sanctification, I'm being saved from sin's power. In salvation complete, or glorification, I'll be saved from sin's presence. 

In eternity, every Christian will continue receiving and pursuing the call of Christ.  Once with Him, we will eagerly await for Him to go back to earth, knowing that we will receive a glorified resurrection body like His. (1 John 3:1-3).  Our eternal "receiving and pursuing" will have another level, whereby we will have glorified resurrected bodies.  The figure below will summarize these three types of rest in Hebrews 4:

saving rest---------------------sanctifying rest----------------eternal rest

As we close today's blog - have you received, and are you pursuing Christ's call on your life?  Only what you receive into your life will be the pursuit of your life. 

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