Hebrews 4:1-3a,11 ESV
“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest.” “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”
*Recommended reading: Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 4 and 1 Corinthians 10.
God’s rest is his eternal rest, so it is our salvation from sin and it is eternal life with God. But many of God’s people who wandered in the wilderness, during the Israelite’s 40 years in the wilderness, did not enter into God’s eternal rest because of their sinful practices and because of their disobedience against the Lord, which the Lord called “unbelief.” For many of them were those who practiced idolatry, revelry, sinful pleasures, sexual immorality, the putting of Christ to the test, and grumbling against God.
And these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did, and they were written down for us for our instruction so that we don’t fall into the same traps that they did, and for it to end with the same result. For they did not enter into God’s eternal rest because of their disobedience (unbelief), and neither will we if we habitually and deliberately disobey our Lord and make sin our practice. For our salvation is not permission to keep sinning without punishment (1 Corinthians 10:1-22).
So, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of us should seem to have failed to reach it. And this is speaking to believers in Jesus Christ (and/or to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ). And “faith” in Jesus Christ is not of our own doing, so we don’t get to determine what that faith should look like. For the faith to believe in Jesus comes from God and it is gifted to us by God and it is persuaded by God as he persuades us as to his holiness and righteousness, and of our sinfulness, and of our need to repent of our sins and to follow our Lord in obedience to his commands.
[Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2; Jn 6:44; 1 Co 10:1-22; Heb 3:1-19; Heb 4:1-13; Acts 5:32; Tit 2:11-14; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14; Eph 4:17-32; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Lu 9:23-26; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:19-20; 2 Co 5:15,21; Matt 7:21-23]
Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
If we read the whole chapter of Hebrews 4 (and Hebrew 3) we will get a more clear picture of this situation. Basically the lesson here is to not follow the example of the Israelites (most of them) who wandered in the wilderness, for most of them did not have salvation from sin and eternal life with God because of their disobedience and their sinful practices which God calls “unbelief.” So what this means is that “belief” in Jesus is death to sin and living to God and to his righteousness and no longer living in sin.
It does not mean we are absolutely perfect from this point forward, but that sin should no longer be deliberate, and it should no longer be our habit, our practice. We should have died with Christ to sin, and by God’s grace, and in his strength and power, we should now be walking in holiness and in righteousness, in obedience to our Lord and to his commands under the New Covenant. So, we are not to harden our hearts against the Lord in sinful rebellion and presume upon the Lord his grace when we refuse to obey him.
For the word of God does pierce to the division of soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And if we read the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, in full context, we will see that the Word does not grant us permission to continue living in sin without guilt and without punishment. All throughout the New Testament we are warned against living in deliberate and habitual sin against our Lord, that it will not go well for us in the end, and that heaven will not be our eternal destiny.
[Matt 7:21-23; Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-11; 1 Jn 1:5-10; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 10:23-31; 1 Pet 1:17-21; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
So, to “hold fast our confession” doesn’t mean professing the same thing over and over again without evidence that genuine faith exists. It is not about giving lip service to the Lord while we continue in deliberate and habitual sin against our Lord. And that is made clear all throughout Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 4 and 1 Corinthians 10 and the rest of the New Testament Scriptures. Holding fast our confession, thus, has to do with living what we say we believe, putting our faith into daily practice.
And when this says that Jesus sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, this doesn’t mean that he gives us permission to continue on in deliberate and habitual sin just because we may be weak. It means that he lived in a flesh body once and he was tempted to sin as we were, but he didn’t give in to sin. And he died on that cross to put our sin to death so that we would now die with him to sin and live to his righteousness. So, he is not unsympathetic with us about our propensity to sin, but he has made the way of escape.
So, what you must do is take the way of escape that our Lord provided for us rather than to keep making excuses for why you are still living in sin, habitually committing the same sins over and over again. He died to deliver you from your slavery to sin, but you have to yield control of your life over to him, and you must obey him, in his power and strength, and let him live his life through you instead of you retaining control over your own life. And then you will know freedom from slavery to sin and eternal life with God.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:19-20; 2 Co 5:15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; 1 Jn 1:5-9; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2; Jn 6:44; 2 Pet 1:1; 1 Co 15:58; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; 1 Co 10:1-22; Heb 3:1-19; Heb 4:1-13]
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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