Why do we so often feel torn between sin and righteousness, freedom and bondage, forgiveness and guilt? Why do we struggle if Christ has made us new? Why is our flesh not defeated? Why do I pour out my heart in worship, but still grapple with selfishness, pride, and a host of other sins?
The writer of Hebrews runs across this dichotomy in his salvation pitch to the Jewish people. His discussion of the struggle is particularly fitting for potential Jewish Christians because Israel was the nation of the law. They were the people who had to DO everything to gain restoration. This doesn’t exactly mean that salvation was by works in the Old Testament and is by grace in the New Testament, (it was always by grace) but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Just remember everything the Hebrews were required to do to, and not do, to keep the law.
Instead of naming the requirements for salvation and letting them know what else they must do to be saved, the sender of the letter uses the story of creation as a metaphor for the Hebrews. These people would have known the creation account like the back of their hand. God worked for 6 days and then rested on day 7, the Sabbath. Paul compares the free gift of salvation to the Sabbath. It is rest.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath of 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.” ~ Hebrews 4:9-11
When we are saved, we enter into rest. We can rest from our works as God did from His. We don’t have to do anything. We are made holy. Nothing we can do after this point will make us any more flawless in God’s eyes than we already are.
Yet, the free bestowal of perfection renews our hearts so we do not want to passively “continue sinning that grace may abound.” We strive even in the rest. The fact that we are already at rest sets us free to be able to strive for holiness. What does this look like? The very next verse gives us an idea:
“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.” ~ Hebrews 4:12
The Word of God is the key to seeking holiness in this life! It is important to note that the Word of God is not just scripture, but the person of Jesus, and the Spirit as well. These are the standards by which we pursue holiness. Even in our rest, the Word of God cuts our spirit from our flesh and facilitates the power of God in us so we might practically pursue holiness.
Our lives are caught in the midst of the already, but not yet. We are already justified (put in the right so our sin is dealt with). But we are not yet sanctified (corporeally holy like Christ), or glorified (the perfected reflection of the image of God). We rest in assurance, but continually endeavor to grow through the power of the Word of God in us.
Ok, preaching over. But really, let’s talk about this! I want to know your thoughts!