Hopefully, you’re enjoying this reprieve from the frigid weather! Today I'll dispense with the pleasantries and get right into this week's Inbox Inspiration.
Hebrews is where we’re anchoring things in this week’s inbox note.
Scholars haven’t been able to come to a consensus on who wrote Hebrews - a letter to a group of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. However, they do seem to pretty much all agree that The Letter to the Hebrews is the most eloquently written book in all of the New Testament. It was probably written around 63-64 CE, according to most historians.
One thing is clear about the writer of this letter. Whoever they were, they knew all about Jewish history and culture! This writer masterfully ties a bow around the intricacies of narrative in the Old Testament, longstanding Jewish customs and their fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ. It is clear that this author is concerned that his brethren in Jerusalem are missing the point of Christian faith. By chapter 4, the writer of Hebrews is full steam ahead with his eloquent letter, passionately entreating his friends to come back to faith in Christ and warning them against sliding back to works-based religion.
Chapter 4 of Hebrews resounds the same theme over and over again: rest.
The writer exhorts his friends:
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
Now, for me this book of Hebrews hits hard - especially in this chapter. I’ve been around Christian life and culture ever since I can remember. The impression of Christian life that I obtained through the years was apparently a lot like that of these Christians in Jerusalem. My impression was that my salvation hinged on how I acted; what I did.
According to Hebrews 4, that’s fundamentally wrong.
The Bible is pretty clear - our works don’t add up to jack before the inconceivable holiness of God! (see Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23, Titus 3:5, for example.) So, the writer of Hebrews tells his friends to eighty-six the religious posturing through works and rest through faith in Jesus Christ. Put another way, the writer exhorts his buddies to stop putting their faith in their actions and put that faith in the action Jesus took at the cross and at resurrection.
He spells it out to the Hebrew Christians this way:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
The passage tells us to rest. And rest is the perfect word! Let's be straight up about this. Religious posturing is exhausting - mostly because it isn’t usually for God at all. If we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that a lot (if not all) of our posturing is about how other people see us; not God.
I had to come to this conclusion for myself, as a Christian. I had to get rid of some stuff I’d learned growing up. I had to get rid of the “be good or God will get you” mentality. I’ve finally learned how to rest in God’s grace!
It’s a funny thing about resting in His sovereign grace. What I’ve found is this: as I rest more on God’ grace through Jesus and less on my own maneuvering and posturing I find my heart to be more conformed to his ways. As my heart is more conformed, my actions follow suit - not through my effort, but through His work in me. This remarkable rest that God encourages us to enjoy isn’t just a rest that enables salvation. This rest renews us and transforms us!
Not to get all into theological weeds here, but the doctrine of regeneration - the teaching that accepting Jesus Christ fundamentally changes us into new people (check out 2 Corinthians 5:17,) - is often misunderstood in Christianity. A lot of us have come to believe that once we are saved we are supposed to regenerate ourselves! Hebrews 4 flies in the face of this assumption. Hebrews 4 tells us to enter into the rest of God. When we enter into his rest, we come to realize what regeneration really is. We learn that it is a complete transformation - not just of what we do, but who we are in our hearts!
As we set out into this week, let’s take reconsider our religious posturing and try resting in God’s glorious grace - in honesty and earnestness before him. Instead of trying to work to please him, let’s allow him to work his pleasure in us. I’ll bet we find that resting in him is more productive than anything we could ever do on our own!
Here are our questions for the week:
- Do I try to earn God’s favor by my work, behavior, actions, etc?
- If I do, what kinds of things do I do to posture myself before God?
- Being honest with myself: is my posturing really for God or for other people?
- What would “rest” look like in my life?