Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness and delight; come before His presence with joyful singing. Know and fully recognize with gratitude that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His]. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with a song of thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, bless and praise His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy and lovingkindness are everlasting. His faithfulness [endures] to all generations.Psalm 100
Last week, as I began to write about worship, I realized the difficulty that we have today in intentionally worshiping God. Barriers keep us from doing what Psalm 100 suggests – distractions from within and without keep us from even considering living life in such a way. Worship requires a different mindset, shifting from thoughts of ourselves, our troubles, our desires, our responsibilities, our everything to God who has made us, who has redeemed us, and who cares for us. How does that happen?
Remember our position: God is creator. He has made all things. Even though God’s enemy defiled His creation, God continued His plan to provide the possibility of redemption to all humans and to restore His image in those who seek after Him for restoration through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. When we seek after God and accept what He has done for us through Jesus, we are no longer destined to live in the dark kingdom of God’s enemy. We are transferred into His kingdom of light. As we live in this in-between place now, we are learning to live in God’s forever place, and we are learning to practice the reality of God’s forever place.
Respond to God’s invitation: After God created for six days, He rested on the seventh day. God rested, and He has invited, first Israel and now those who have trusted Jesus for His work on our behalf, to enter into His rest. How do we not enter into the Rest God offers? Hebrews 3:19 tells us that Israel was unable to because of unbelief and an unwillingness to trust in God. The writer continues in Hebrews 4 to remind those who have trusted in the work of Jesus, Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still remains and is freely offered today, let us fear, in case any one of you may seem to come short of reaching it or think he has come too late. For indeed we have had the good news [of salvation] preached to us, just as the Israelites also….but the message they heard did not benefit them, because it was not united with faith [in God] by those who heard. For we who believe [that is, we who personally trust and confidently rely on God] enter that rest [so we have His inner peace now because we are confident in our salvation, and assured of His power]….
Really Living in the Rest of God: What does this life look like then? First, because we remember our position, we want to know the One Who made us and the place we live. We want to learn to see things from His perspective. We begin to spend time in the words He has spoken, the ways He has acted throughout all time, His love for us, His purposes for us. We can learn all of this in the Bible. It takes a long time, but as we come to Him each day, we learn to trust Him, to think more like He does. Second, because we are learning to trust Him, we learn to bring all of our concerns to Him. Because we are learning of His character, we know that He hears of our concerns, He cares about us, He has the power to act on our behalf. We can relax or rest into His care. Third, because we are confident in God’s action on our behalf, we no longer need to spend time fretting and scheming, anxious about how we need to fix our reality each day. Fourth, our focus can shift because our minds are free to no longer take care of ourselves. We are resting in God’s care for us, and we are grateful. We can now have the perspective and the reality of rest. We can worship the One who cares, loves, hears, and provides for us.
The Rest… Even as we rest, there is more. Hebrews 12 closes – Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, and offer to God pleasing service and acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for our God is [indeed] a consuming fire. Hebrews 13 launches into a list of things that we do because we are citizens of this new kingdom: love of fellow believers, hospitality to strangers – especially among the family of believers, remember those in prison, hold marriage in honor, have a character free from the love of money. We do these things because “The Lord is my helper [in time of need]. I will not be afraid What will man do to me? (v. 6) Remember your leaders, don’t be carried away by strange teachings. Chapter 13 continues to tell us that Jesus has suffered and died as a sacrifice for us so that He might sanctify and make us holy. We are to bear His contempt and identify with His sufferings because we have no lasting city here, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Again, in Hebrews 13:15, Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.
In closing, the writer of Hebrews gives a benediction and I would like to share that blessing with you:
Now may the God of peace [the source of serenity and spiritual well-being] who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood that sealed and ratified the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing to carry out His will and strengthen you [making you complete and perfect as you ought to be], accomplishing in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Have you entered into God’s rest?