This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on Hebrews 4 preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday May 19-20, 2012.
What is one of the least emphasized descriptions of Hell? I think it comes from Hebrews 4 when it twice quotes Psalm 95:11, “They shall not enter my rest.” I’m not sure that is how I have thought of eternal torment, but I am also not sure I can think of anything more painful.
Imagine always striving but never arriving. Put yourself in the position of always being measured, but never accepted. Picture aiming at a perpetually moving target as if your life depended upon it. I don’t think it is that hard for most of us to let our imaginations go there, because this is how most of us live.
God offers a solution for this – Sabbath (Heb. 4:9-10). But too often we think of Sabbath as a legalistic obligation rather than a gracious gift. We want to know what we can’t do instead of resting in what Christ has already done to purchase our rest.
In order to understand the significance of Sabbath I think we need to look at the fourth of the Ten Commandments where God said, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy… You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath (Deut. 5: 12 and 15).”
God was making a direct connection between being delivered from slavery and keeping the Sabbath. Next to freedom, what does a slave want most? Rest. A slave is driven by his/her master. A slave is a commodity who is owned and his/her worth is measured by productivity. A slave is expendable. These realities mean a slave is beaten for or threatened against resting.
God is saying that His deliverance from slavery (whether that be from Egypt, sin at salvation, or idolatry in our sanctification) changes our identity from slave to son. What is one of the chief privileges of a son? Rest. A son is loved by his father. A son is an image bearer who carries the family name. A son is irreplaceable. These facets of identity allow a son to rest.
This rest is more than a vacation or a day off. When the son of a good father works he is not looking over his shoulder to see if his work is “good enough.” The son of a good father works to perpetuate the good name he has been given. The son of a good father is not defined by his work. The son of a good father finds his security in the love he receives on his best and worst days.
This is why our hope is not in rest, but in the God who purchased our rest at the cost of His Son. We are not refreshed by a day of restricted labor. We are enlivened by the love of a God who commands rest so that we do not forget what He has done for us. Our rest is a celebration of Christ’s work.
How does this change the way we approach Sabbath?
We recognize Sabbath as a gift not a restriction.
We engage Sabbath as a celebration of the gospel.
We allow Sabbath (sonship) to invade even our “work days.”
We recognize fear and insecurity as more anti-Sabbath than activity.
We view our stillness as an act of faith in God’s being a loving, good Father.
We recognize our driven-ness is mistaking Hell for Heaven.