Five Minute Devotions: Hebrews 4
To a persecution-weary audience, the idea of eternal salvation as God’s rest is an appealing concept. The author of Hebrews continues to draw from the Old Covenant to form his argument that God’s rest is not just the Promised Land (Hebrews 4:1-10). He tells us that we should enter that rest with effort, humility, and confidence (Hebrews 4:11-16).
Enter with Effort
At first glance, it would appear that the concept of rest and effort lie at odds. At second glance, you still can’t shake the thought. Third glance, you might begin to embrace the paradox: The rest that you are you enter only comes as a result of effort. It is a well-deserved rest.
The author of Hebrews invites us to examine ourselves to make sure that we have not fallen short of that rest. In this phrase, he or she echoes Paul’s words in Romans that all have fallen short of God’s glory. So if all fall short, then what can we do to ensure we reach that rest? The answer comes in verse 12:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12
This verse is one rarely quoted in context. You probably know it by itself and use it in application of God’s Word, the Bible. But here in its proper place, it teaches us something else: the examination of ourselves is not done with the biting, cutting, Word of God. Our efforts to reach that rest come only through the application of the Word of God with the help of the Spirit of God.
Enter with Humility
Realizing that efforts are only effective through the ministry of the Spirit should create within us a sense of humility. Generations of Jewish people believed that they had been saved through their ethnicity and through their rituals. Neither was true. They became arrogant, believing themselves to be the only ones who could be saved.
The author warns us against this attitude, reminding us that God knows all and judges all. Pride is the original sin. It was pride that led to Satan’s fall from heaven and pride that led to Adam’s fall from grace. It is pride that stands at the root of all sin. Realizing your own inability to save ourselves is the important first step in submitting to the Savior.
Enter with Confidence
It is through that submission that we gain our confidence. Our confidence does lie in ourselves, but in our God. We gain access to that eternal rest through the credentials of Jesus Christ. As our great high priest, he empathizes with us in our human weakness. He represents us before the throne and defends us on basis of his sacrifice.
And that is the key. Humankind has looked inward toward self-salvation. No deity will save us, we must save ourselves. Thus, humankind can have no confidence in that salvation. We live in a world with little regard for the past, little self-esteem in the present, and little hope in the future. Why? Because the look to salvation in themselves and they innately know—even unconsciously—that what they seek to grasp is beyond their reach unless they grasp a hold of the God who stoops to earth.
Father, we want to enter your rest. Help us to learn through your Word and your Spirit to conduct ourselves with humility that we might have confidence that we will enter it.
What role does works play in our Christian journey?
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