John Shen’s testimony:
Text: Heb 4:1-13
- I’ve heard from a number of you now that my sermons are a bit “heavy,” some have used the word “dense”
- I prefer “profound” or “substantial” or “thought-provoking”
- But instead, I get heavy and dense
- Sounds like a Ruth Chris steak covered with mashed potatoes drenched in gravy with shoestring fries on top
- Today, I hope to give you an appetizer – quinoa salad
- Looking over my notes, I am not sure if I succeeded
Visited Jackie’s sister’s family
- Getting lost in San Jose for about an hour in their neighborhood
- Went for a prayer walk without my cell phone
- I’m directionally challenged, but this time wasn’t my fault
- I wanted to go in a square around the block but I realized soon enough that their streets do not connect
- So I was lost
- Eyes started to play tricks on me – little child kneeling down – freaky, too many horror movies growing up
- Dark, disoriented – panic
- All these questions bombarded me: what if I have to sleep on the grass, what if I have to go to the bathroom, what if Jackie gets worried, how is she going to find me?
- I was starting to get tired because by then it was 1:30am
Don’t we sometimes feel like we’re lost?
- We work hard and we don’t even know why we are working so hard
- Is it to make our parents proud, or to fulfill our potential, or to raise our standard of living so that we can keep buying the things we want to buy, or to provide for our kids opportunities that we couldn’t enjoy?
- We work hard, but I think often times we don’t even know why
- Do you know why you work so hard?
- I would wager that most of us have no clue
- We just do it because we’ve always done it
- We put in 60+ hours a week as a student and then as an employee we do the same, maybe working even more because now with technology, the workforce is mobile
- At any moment, you can easily open your laptop or smartphone and continue to work long after you’ve left the office
- We work hard on things that are immediate and pressing
Then there are the tasks that just pop up
- Oil change, laundry, haircut, exercise, where to go eat because you’re sick of eating at the same old restaurants
- Dentist – I went for some cleaning, I have a couple of cavities, now I have to go back
- Factor in kids and there is never any rest it seems
The solution to our fatigue and being overworked is rather simple, isn’t it?
- Just stop working
- Cut back hours
- Let things slide a bit
- Let things slip past their deadline
- Turn in your homework set a day late
- Does that work? No
- You’ll flunk your class or lose your job
- So we keep working
I think we have a hard time resting
- At least I have a hard time resting – always feel a need to be productive
- I used to be able to hang out for hours
- As I get older, I realize that I’m after about 15 minutes, I’m looking at my watch
- I’ll hang out but only if there is a deep purpose
- Like someone is questioning the meaning of life
- Or is struggling to know God
- Or has questions about His Word
- I can talk about these for hours
- But I can’t chit chat for long
- After a while, I start thinking, is this conversation going somewhere?
We have a hard time resting
- Rest is not something you can bottle up and dispense whenever you need it
- If you sleep 10 hours on one day and sleep a couple of hours the next night, you’re going to wake up dead tired on Day 3
- Even if you go on a vacation, don’t you feel more tired after a vacation than before you went on the vacation?
- The night before your vacation you were up until 3am packing
- Then you had to wake up at 5am to get to the airport on time
- Once you got there, you had to carry 5 luggages and a baby car seat and a stroller and a few boogie boards
- Then you have to endure a 15 hour flight with a couple of transfers in between
- Then you arrive after midnight having not slept at all on the plane because the baby in the seat next to you was crying all night
- You get the rental car, and finally you check into the hotel and your “restful” vacation begins
- All this work just to enjoy a few days at the beach
- Then, we have to do everything in reverse just to get back home
- And by the time you make it back, a few hundred or a few thousand dollars in the hole, you say, home sweet home, finally I get to sleep in my own bed, and you wonder, maybe next time, we should just stay at home
- You conclude, I’ll never do that again because home is more restful
- You could have stayed home and driven less than a hour to Manhattan Beach and seen roughly the same thing
We don’t know how to rest
- We have a picture of paradise in our imagination–a white, sandy beach on some remote island in the Caribbean but it’s a mirage
- Why is it a mirage?
- Because as soon as we enter that peaceful paradise, peace disappears
- We bring our own unrest and our own worries and our own burdens and what was once a pristine, peaceful paradise disappears
- And it becomes just another place where we think we will be able to rest, but the rest is so short-lived
- It’s like the morning dew
- We have peace in the morning but by mid-morning, it evaporates
Even as believers, we came to Jesus when we heard his voice
- Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and what does Jesus promise to give to us? Rest
- Of all the things that Jesus could give to us first–love, forgiveness, hope, purpose–he decides to give us rest
- We need to think about that more
Rest is a big theme in the Bible
- Heb 4:4
- In creation, God worked for 6 days and rested on the 7th day
- Why did God have to include rest in the creation?
- Did you ever think about that?
- Even to this day, we observe the Sabbath and we put our entire lives on hold and re-arrange our schedules to make sure that we can worship God on a Sunday morning
- Why did God decide it was important to mention needing to keep the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments?
- My answer is not very theological
- I think the reason why God keeps reminding us to keep the Sabbath is because He knows that we DON’T KNOW how to rest properly
Biblically, rest is not the cessation of work
- Anyone can stop working
- You can procrastinate at school or work, or lounge by the pool, but this is not the same thing as the biblical definition of rest
- Biblical rest is a person who can say, even if the Lord takes everything good away from me, like Job, still, It is Well With My Soul
- There is a rest, a peace that transcends understanding
- It doesn’t make sense to the world that such a person whose world is crashing down around them can still be at rest
- It transcends understanding, you can’t understand it, you can’t make sense of it
Heb 4 begins rather strangely
- The offer of entering into God’s rest sounds great
- Who wouldn’t want to enter into God’s rest?
- Heb 4:1
- Instead of being comforted by the invitation to enter God’s rest, there is a warning
- Let us FEAR (strong word) that none of you should miss it
- Miss what? Miss the promise of entering His rest
- There is only one thing to be afraid of in life
- And it is to fear faithlessness or unbelief
- “None of you should miss it” – more nuanced than that
- In Greek, it reads, let us fear lest any of you should SEEM TO HAVE FAILED to reach it
- Problem with unbelief is that you fall into it gradually
Who is this author talking about? Who’s in danger of missing this future eternal rest?
- Heb 4:2-3
- The author explains more in the previous chapter – please turn there
- Who could not enter in God’s rest?
- The entire generation of Israelites whom God rescued from slavery in Egypt
- These are the people who witnessed the 10 Plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and a cloud and daily manna falling from heaven
- God was SO active
- His glory was physically manifest
- He was speaking through signs and wonder and miracles, He was speaking directly to Moses and through Moses to the people
- The shocking thing to read is that this very generation who witnessed God in these spectacular ways could not hear the voice of God
Why couldn’t they hear God’s voice?
- Because their hearts were hardened
- And why were their hearts hardened?
- Heb 3:13 – because of sin’s deception
- And what was the result of hardened hearts?
- Heb 3:18 – disobedience
- And what was at the core of their disobedience?
- Heb 3:19 – unbelief
Let’s pause and consider what is happening here
- The entire generation who witnessed God’s miraculous deliverance and saw His glory manifest before their very eyes and heard the voice of God thundering from atop Mt Sinai could not hear the voice of God
- This entire generation died in the wilderness and failed to enter the eternal rest of God
- At bottom, this failure to enter into God’s rest was the result of unbelief
- They seemed to get it at first, but the fact that they did not hold firmly until the end reveals that they didn’t really get it
- The only proof of my salvation decision that I first professed in Nov 1993 is the fact that in June 2014, 21 years later, I am still firmly holding onto Jesus like I did on Day 1 of my spiritual journey
- The Israelites in the days of Moses proved that they never really heard the voice of God because of the fact that they didn’t hold on until the end, despite God giving them chance after chance
The Israelites did not hear the voice of God due to unbelief and as a result they were unable to enter into His eternal rest
- If you are a parent, you speak all the time to your kids, but half the time, they are not really listening
- To get their attention, we have to repeat ourselves, each time raising the volume
- For the Israelites, it wasn’t a mic problem
- God could not have spoken any louder
- He performed many signs and wonders
- The issue wasn’t the volume of God’s voice
- The problem was that they didn’t really believe in God
- It was a belief problem
- Due to unbelief, the promise of eternal rest was not granted to the Israelites in Moses’ generation
- They missed eternal rest due to their unbelief
Why do I say this is an issue of eternal rest, or eternity?
- Heb 4:8
- For the Israelites, the point of the journey was not to leave the wilderness, cross the Jordan River and end up in the physical Promised Land
- Even in the Promised Land, there would be moments of rest and enjoyment and celebration, but even there, as we read about in the days of Joshua, there were enemies and constant fighting
- The Promised Land was not the final destination, it was just a shadow of the future new heaven and new earth where there would be complete, unending rest
If the entire generation in Moses’ day was lost, who can be saved and enter into God’s eternal rest?
- The answer is in Heb 4:6-7
- What’s the most important day in your spiritual life?
- Is it when you first bowed the knee and made Jesus your personal Lord and Savior 10 years ago?
- No, the most important day in your spiritual journey is today
- Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts
The physical journey of the Israelites in Exodus maps out our present day, spiritual journey
- From slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness and eventually to the Promised Land–this physical journey outlines our journey, spiritual speaking, from slavery to sin, to initial rest when we encountered Jesus, and enter a Spirit-filled promised land of sorts, but these moments of rest here are mere pointers to the eternal rest in the new heaven and the new earth that awaits
- As believers, we experience glimpses of rest here on earth as believers, we enjoy pockets or seasons of rest, but we are ultimately looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise of an eternal rest
- This is the ultimate goal
- How do we enter that future rest? The means of entering that future rest is faith, believing, trusting
- What are we to believe?
- The gospel–what Jesus did for us on the cross when he died and rose again
- You place your faith in Christ and you say, I trust you and I will do whatever you say to do and go wherever you tell me to go
- How do we have faith? The means of faith or believing is hearing the voice of God
Final question–how do we hear the voice of God?
- Hebrews 4:12-13 gives us the answer
- These are famous verses that are often quoted regarding the importance of the Word of God
- But notice the first word of Heb 4:12 – the word “For”
- Whenever you see the conjunction “for,” you have to read the verse that contains the conjunction together with the verse that immediately precedes it
- It’s a unit – Heb 4:11-13
- Heb 4:11
Let’s put the pieces together from Heb 3-4
- For two chapters, the author has been talking about rest
- How do we enter that future rest? The means of entering that future rest is faith, believing, trusting
- What are we to believe?
- The gospel
- How do we have faith? The means of believing is hearing the voice of God
- How do we hear the voice of God?
- Through His Word
- God can speak through dreams, visions, through modern day prophets, He can speak through our prayers and divine impressions and whispers…
- But what is the primary way that God speaks?
- Heb 4:12-13 – through His Word
- God is speaking right now as His Word is preached
With what attitude are we to approach His Word?
- Heb 4:11 – “Let us then make every effort to enter that rest…”
- Observing a Sabbath is helpful, gathering on a Sunday is good – God is giving you His rest and refreshing your hope of the future rest right now
- But the moment you walk out THAT door, thoughts bombard us
- You think about the problem set that is due tomorrow
- Or the deadline at work
- You might be enjoying His rest right now, but the moment we leave this service, our peace is in jeopardy
That’s why we need to make EVERY EFFORT to enter His rest by means of the Word
- Meaning, we need to be a people who strain to hear the voice of God as He speaks through His Word
- One Sunday service is insufficient to remain rested in the Lord for the remainder of the week
- A 15 min daily devotional and prayer time is insufficient to maintain our rest in the Lord even for a single day
- You need to make every effort to be in His Word
When you are reading His Word, you are straining to hear the voice of the Lord
- And what does the Lord speak through His Word?
- He says, Come to Jesus
- Cast your cares upon Jesus
- Unload your burdens to Jesus
- Confess your sins before Jesus
- He cares for you
- He wants to carry your burdens so that you don’t have to be so heavy-laden
- He wants to forgive you of your sins so that you can be free to enjoy Him
- We need to make every effort to believe in the gospel
- And keep believing in the gospel
Some people have a wrong notion of Christian life
- They think, I repented of my sins and placed my faith in Christ in junior high so I am set
- God saved me so I don’t have to do anything
- They think that Christian life is like floating on an inflatable raft of God’s grace
- God does it all
- This is not Christianity
- God saves us by His grace
- In that sense, God did all the work to save us
- But now that we’ve been saved, we have to get to work
What is our work?
- Simple – Heb 4:11 – make every effort to enter His rest
- Jerry Bridges, author and minister, refers to this as “dependent effort”
- We are not working on our own
- God supplies His Spirit to empower us as we strive to make every effort to enter His rest
- Even in our pursuit of God, God supplies the energy
- We are dependent on God even in our effort to pursue Him
- As we fall short in our efforts to enter His rest, the gospel gives us assurance
- We have indeed died to the guilt of sin
- There is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus
- The gospel motivates us to keep going even when it feels like our efforts to enter His rest fall short
Moment by moment, be in His Word
- When you feel the rest evaporating, run back to His Word
- Hear His voice anew
- Come to Jesus
- He will give you rest, enough rest to handle whatever life throws at you
Yesterday, a day after I got lost in my sister-in-law’s San Jose neighborhood, I was out prayer walking in the morning and again I got lost
- But this time I didn’t panic
- Because I had my Samsung Galaxy in my pocket
- I just turned on Google Maps and my GPS kicked in and I knew exactly where I was and where I needed to go
- Brothers and sisters, Jesus is our GPS – He is God Positioning System
- Whenever you’re lost, you can go to Him
- He will show you the way to the Father
- He is the WAY, the truth, the life
Fight for your rest in Jesus
- Use the Word to hear His voice so that you can stay close to Jesus
- Abide in Him, fellowship with Him, stay near to Him
- And if you do this moment by moment over the course of your lifetime, one day you’ll realize that you’ve entered into His perfect rest
- When faith becomes sight and you’re in His presence
- Until that day, let’s fight for our rest in Jesus by being a people who love His Word.