Series Title: Jesus is GREATER than…
Message: ‘Today…’ pt.2
Text: Hebrews 3:7-4:11
Introduction: Today… we’ve had a few ‘Spring-like’ todays this past week and they felt great. We know from the past that many of our upcoming todays will get warmer and warmer and I for one will get happier and happier.
Today… that’s been our theme last week and today.
Summary: So, since this message is continued from last week, before we move forward, let’s remember where we’ve traveled to reach this point in our text?
PP: Today… Hear
- The writer is telling us that we need to hear God speak to us… today.
- If we choose not to hear God’s voice, to obey God’s Word, then we risk hardening our hearts towards Him… tomorrow.
PP: Today… Believe
- The new heart that God gives us by His grace, is a heart of faith, a heart to believe in Jesus, to believe in God, to believe in His Word.
PP: Today… Encourage
How often should we encourage one another?
- Every day the other person has a today
Who should we be encouraging?
- One another.
How should we be encouraging the people in those 3 groups in the church?
- Well, in many of the same ways. But specifically, to those who are not yet saved, we encourage them to place their faith in Jesus by letting them see Jesus at work in our lives.
Why should we be encouraging one another?
- Because sin affects all of us, sin distracts all of us, sin wants to destroy all of us and it wants to do that… today, so that we’ll have no tomorrow with Jesus.
PP: This morning we’ll add two more.
- Hebrews 3:14-19 Today… Persevere
- Hebrews 4:1-11 Today… Rest
Transition: OK, that’s where we were last Sunday, let’s take a look at todays text. Open your Bibles to Hebrews 3:14 .
- Hebrews 3:14-19 Today… Persevere
PP: (3 slides) For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
PP: The writers emphasis here, while not being totally obvious, is that God wants us to persevere…today, every today:
- To continue to hear God speak.
- To continue to believe God.
- To continue to encourage one another.
PP: How do I come to that conclusion? Well, by what he has already told us in chapter 3:1-13 and by what he tells us here in verse 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
Again please understand, the writer is not saying:
- IF you hold your confidence firm in Jesus to the end, THEN you will share heaven with Christ.
No, he said:
- You will know you have shared in Christ, IF you hold your confidence firm to the end.
It’s all about assurance.. because by attempting to follow the Law you will never have assurance of your salvation.
Holding our confidence firm to the end, is not the requirement of salvation, but a sign, meant to encourage lest you should doubt, that you’re saved.
PP: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.
Now, speaking to those who are ‘churched’ but not saved, and to those who are interested in Jesus, but have not yet given their lives to Him, the writer is saying examine your life.. today.
He is also warning any in the church who have yet to place their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin… He’s imploring them:
- Don’t leave the church to go back to Judaism, you won’t find God’s rest there, because you won’t find Jesus there.
To his audience today, he’s imploring us:
- Don’t leave the church to go back to your old life in the world, you won’t find God’s rest there, because you won’t find Jesus there.
PP: We see that in verses 16-18
Note the emphasis… who, whom, those. God’s saying:
- They rebelled. They sinned, they disobeyed.
- And… they did not enter My rest.
Because, verse 19 PP: they failed to believe Me.
Look, stay in the church, don’t just go to church, be BE the church by placing your faith in Jesus, by placing your very life, every one of your todays… in His hands.
Believe and obey God…Then… persevere: And the truth is… you will know, you will assured that you will enter God’s rest.
Transition: You see, rest is what chapter 4:1-11 is all about.
- Hebrews 4:1-11 Today… Rest
- Hebrews 4:1-7 Rest in the Good News
PP: (3 slides) 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, as He has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” And again in this passage He said, “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again He appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Ok.. wow, that’s a lot to take in. But beneath all the words, it truly isn’t that hard to understand. Let’s break it down: PP: Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands.
To those who have yet to place their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin, even though you’re disobedient, even though you rebel, even though you are unbelieving… God’s rest is still available to by hearing and obeying the Good News.
- Hold on to that thought.
ILL: C. Phillip Green tell the following story:
A photographer was snapping pictures of first graders at an elementary school, making small talk to put them at ease. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” he asked one little girl. PP: “Tired”, she said.
Evidently, she had been watching all the adults in her life; working long hours, busy with a million things, and running around from place to place, and concluded that she was going to be just like them… tired.
Isn’t that sad? However, I think most of us could relate. If you were to take a look back on the past year… and use one word to describe it, perhaps words like this come to mind:
- PP: Tired, weary, burdened, anxious, fearful, depressed, alone, exhausted, angry, frustrated …lost.
We need rest as a people, as a society who has lived under the pressure and fear of COVID… It’s affected all of our life; our family, friends, work, school, recreation, even the spiritual.
And the same was true for the ancient Israelites who rebelled against God, disobeyed God and failed to believe in God… they wandered restlessly, in the Wilderness for 40 years and died w/o ever experiencing God’s rest… in their todays, as well as in their tomorrow (heaven).
- But… the writer tells us here in verse 1-7 of chapter 4, it didn’t have to be that way.
They heard Good News from God. Let me read just some of that good news to you.
PP: (3 slides) Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared… When My angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out… and He will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send My terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. (Exodus 23:20 ff, ESV)
PP: …Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” (Exodus 34:10ff, ESV)
Listen closely. If you were about to invade another country that looked like it could snuff you out and not draw a sweat… wouldn’t what God promised the ancient Israelites… be Good News? ABSOLUTELY!!
They’ve already seen and experienced God’s mighty power over the Egyptians, certainly God can do what He says.
But… they failed to believe God; they were disobedient to God and rebelled against Him. Listen,
- Rather than believe God and experience victory after victory, experience an abundance of food and drink, have many children, long life and… rest
- Instead, their unbelief in God’s Good News brought 40 years of restlessness, grumbling, anxiety, fear, discipline, weariness and… death.
The writer adds that God has already revealed to us a little of the rest that He was promising them when He Himself rested on the 7th day of His work God creation, the Sabbath. He was saying:
- Look, believe in me, trust in Me, obey Me and you will rest like I did on the Sabbath.. you will cease from your work…
- In the conquest of the Promised land, when you place your faith in Me, when you obey Me, I will do the work and you can rest… in Me.
For them, that was the ultimate Good News. But.. they said no and suffered 40 years of restlessness and agony.
Notice that the writer said: PP: 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,
Question: What Good News did the Jewish Christians receive that they believed and it brought them rest?
- I certainly believed it included that Jesus died for their sin.
- That He was raised to life so that one day they too will be raised to glory in Heaven.
But I don’t think that’s what the context is referring to here.
- In the Book of Exodus we see God’s promise of rest for those who believe and obey.
- In the Book of Matthew we see Jesus’ promise of rest for those who also believe and obey.
PP: Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)
Track with me on this:
The ancient Israelites faced unprecedented hardships, battling armies much greater and numerous as they faced crossing over into the Promised land.
- Yet, God promised them rest from the work of invading the land… rest, God’s rest…
- He, will do the work… for them, and they, will experience God’s rest.
That was Good News!
The immediate audience of the Book of Hebrews also faced great hardship and battling. The Law of Judaism was such a heavy burden that it weighed them down so much so that they couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe… spiritually speaking.
It overwhelmed them, in that they constantly wondered if they ever would get out from under the Law and experience God’s rest.
- Yet, Jesus promised them rest from their striving under the Law to keep what could never be kept. Jesus promised them rest, His rest. He will do the work of Law keeping… for them, and they will experience God’s rest… in and through Him.
That was Good News!
Listen… BOTH, the ancient Israelites in the Book of Exodus and the initial audience of the Book of Hebrews, BOTH had to believe God, to believe Jesus, to believe the Good News.. and then obey… if they wanted to experience God’s rest.
- And the same is true today.
But… you only have TODAY… to believe. So that your heart will not be hardened and you fail to enter God’s rest.
Transition: God wants us to find rest in the God News, but also in His Sabbath rest.
- Hebrews 4:8-11 Rest in God’s Sabbath
PP: For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
What we read here is additional information about the reality of God’s rest still available and how that rest is related to God’s Sabbath. We’re also encouraged to continually seek that rest so that we don’t fail to experience it by disobedience.
- Ok, that’s the general let’s look at the specific.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. The writer was saying that if God had allowed Joshua to provide the kind of rest that God said He would provide in the Book of Exodus, then there would be no need for God to offer His rest later.
- In other words, we know from Israel’s history that the ancient Israelites didn’t find God’s rest in the Promised Land because of their continued rebellion, disobedience and unbelief.
- Yes, God did at times fight for them but that was only when Israel was faithful to God, when they weren’t they fought themselves and they always lost the battle.
To be clear: God is promising us that the ancient Israelites failure to believe and to obey God, did not take away God’s promise of rest for all succeeding generations… IF those succeeding generations believed, and obeyed God.
So the Good News continues… God’s rest is still available for all who cease from their own works and seek God’s Sabbath rest….
A little more context: For the Jewish person, rest in the OT is connected to living in…God’s kingdom.
So for the writer of Hebrews to talk so much here about rest, one major point is God’s kingdom… and how you get to live there.
- The writer asserts that the way we enter God’s Kingdom is by living out God’s Sabbath rest here on earth.
We might say it this way: The way to enter heaven is by understanding how God’s Sabbath rest works and following it.
Got that? OK, here’s the problem the writer is attempting to answer.
Under the Law, there is no rest for those who wish to enter God’s kingdom.
- By its very nature, it’s works oriented. You have to work hard, constantly doing all that the Law says, never making a mistake, in order to earn or enter God’s Kingdom.
Today, all the worlds religions have done much of the same thing.
- To get into heaven you need to do… and each religion has its own set of requirements, that must be fulfilled in order to appease its god and find rest in whatever heaven is to them.
PP: We have heard often that if our good works out weigh our bad, God will let us in heaven when we die.
Listen closely… that’s NOT in the Bible. The Bible says For the wages of sin is death. There is NO scale. All we have is sin, and even the good things we do are tainted by our sin and don’t count. In Isaiah 64:6 we read: We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Filthy rags.. nothing nothing!
So, rest for those who are trying to earn heaven by keeping the Law by doing good works, are doomed to a life of restlessness and … will be kept from God’s kingdom when they die…
So, what’s the answer?
- Grace…………… as seen in God’s Sabbath.
So, I had to step back from this text a few times to see what God wanted us to know. And when I kept reading God’s Sabbath rest, I kept thinking about Jesus’s last words on the cross… PP: it is finished.
Let me put this as succinctly as I can.
- God, after His work of creation, rested from His work (Sabbath) because He had completed, finished what He set out to do.
- Jesus, after His work of salvation, of forgiveness for sin through faith in Him, rested from His work (death) because He had completed, finished what He set out to do.
Both are an act of God’s grace:
- We had nothing to do, no works to complete, in order to live in the world God created.
- We have nothing to do, no works to complete, in order to live in the Kingdom God has prepared.
PP: for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.
We’re saved, we enter God’s rest, by resting from our own works in order to please God.
Instead, we believe that God did all the work of salvation by sending Jesus to do the work of the Law for us…
- We just believe, we have faith. And listen, even our faith is given to us by God, so we can’t boast that we did anything to deserve or earn heaven. PP: (Ephesian 2:8-10)
Get it? Grace… demonstrated to the writers original audience by God’s Sabbath and to us today through Jesus’ work on the cross.. It is finished.
Ok, one last thing before I close. The text says PP:
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
It’s here that we return to the idea of perseverance.
- Look, you’ve been saved by God’s grace…
- don’t think that’s the end of the Christian life.
Remember the number of times the author reminds us of TODAY…
- Today, continue to hear God speak.
- Today, continue to believe God.
- Today, continue to encourage one another.
- Today, continue to persevere.
- Today, continue to rest.
Not in order to be saved or to keep your salvation… But to continue to experience God’s rest… while it is still today.
Conclusion: Why is this all so important? Because we may fool ourselves into thinking we’re forgiven and saved because of what we do.
ILL: In 1735, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, left England as a missionary to the colony of Georgia. He came to be a pastor to the settlers and to preach the Gospel to the Native Americans, but he returned to England as a miserable failure.
Later, he confessed that he went to save his own soul. He was looking for salvation in religious activity, but it didn’t work. Then, on the evening of May 24, 1738, Wesley went to a society that met on Aldersgate Street in London. There, someone was reading Martin Luther’s preface to his commentary on Romans, where Luther describes how one finds righteousness not in religious activity, but through faith in Christ.
As John Wesley listened, he felt his own “heart strangely warmed.” He realized that he was trying to get to heaven by his own efforts; and for the first time, He put his trust in Christ alone for his salvation. (C Philip Green)
If John Wesley had died on his way back to England, from what he writes, he would have spent eternity in Hell… But God gave him another…. today… and he used that today… to place his faith in Jesus.
You don’t know how many todays you have left. But… You can be certain your sins are forgiven, you can be certain you are saved, a forever child of God.
PP: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13, ESV)
When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, He asked Martha, Lazarus’ sister, this question and I will ask it of you today:
PP: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” (John 11:25–26, ESV)
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