“Entering into God’s Rest!”
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, February 12, 2023)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Entering into God’s Rest!”
Psalm 116:7-14; Hebrews 4:1-11
I believe by now all of us know that the book of Hebrews is all about how great Jesus is. The entire letter speaks of the awesomeness, the supremacy, the greatness, and the glories of Christ, who has no equal. So far, the author of Hebrews argued that Jesus Christ is greater than the prophets, greater than the angels, and greater than Moses. I truly believe the message of Hebrews still speaks to us today and it’s a timely message because unless we realize that Jesus is the treasure hidden in a field, the peal of great price, we won’t fully commit to seeking and pursuing Him. Unless we get to the point where we realize that Jesus is indeed our all in all, we won’t hold fast to Him.
As we get to Hebrews chapter 4 this morning, we encounter one of Christ’s wonderful blessings. It’s the blessing of entering God’s rest. In Psalm 116:7-9, the Psalmist says, “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” Life is a tough journey, and we are to always seek an oasis, a safe place, a refuge, in the face of the unknown.
The good news is that God has already provided this oasis. He has already made the provision. He has already invited us to enter into His rest. The “rest” being spoken of in Hebrews chapter 4 has to do with the completion of God’s work for our ultimate salvation in Christ—and of our entering, by faith, into a full satisfaction in and appropriation of that complete work on our behalf. God has done all that is needed, and there is nothing more for us to do but to trust in it and believe on it.
So as we reflect on God’s promised rest in Christ this morning, I would like to underscore two short observations. In order to enter into God’s rest, we have to, first, fight unbelief, and second, to diligently seek it.
First: Let’s Fight Unbelief
Unbelief shuts off the gates of heaven. In Matthew 13:58, we read that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in his hometown of Nazareth because of their lack of faith. Let’s beware of unbelief. God has always better plans for us and the only way to attain and to acquire them is through faith.
In order to understand Hebrews chapter 4, we need to go back to Hebrews 3 and the writer’s reference to Psalm 95. The author quoted this psalm in Hebrews 3:7-11, “So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” Hebrews 3:7-11.
Back in the days of Moses, the people of Israel refused to enter into the promised land with confident trust in God’s promises. They didn’t believe that God can lead them to the promised land. They didn’t believe God was able to make it happen. How is going to feed us in the wilderness? How are we going to fight the nations ahead of us? They wanted to go back to the land of Egypt. As a result, they did not enter into the “rest” that God had prepared for them. That whole generation, the Exodus generation, perished in the wilderness. Disbelief was the problem of the people of Israel. The people of Israel got crippled by their lack of trust. They got paralyzed by their fears. “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it,” says Hebrews 4:1.
Second: Let’s Be Diligent to Enter God’s Rest
Entering into God’s rest, grasping the promises of God, should be a priority of God’s children and we should diligently seek it. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 4:2-3, “For indeed the 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, just as God has said.”
It's true that we access God’s rest through faith, not through the labors of our hand, not through our performance, yet, we are to be diligent in seeking God’s ways in our lives. God provided our rest and our refuge, and we are to be diligent in entering it.
In Hebrews 4:11 we read, “Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.” Just as the entry into the promised land in the Old Testament under Joshua required diligence—even though the land was promised to the people—we also need to apply diligence. It’s not a diligence of warfare and conquest. Rather, it’s a diligence of faith and persistence, trust and obedience.
Friends, there is a rest open to you and me today. God offers this rest. The door is not shut. The time is not past. You have not missed your last opportunity. Brothers and sisters in Christ, today if you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts. There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. The door is open. The time is now. Let’s beware of unbelief. Let’s be diligent to enter and to enjoy God’s rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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