Temperamentally I prefer to deal with Bible passages in large chunks. I want to move on from Hebrews 4 to get into more meat in the coming chapters. But, paradoxically, I got caught up by a single word in my devotions this morning, that I am wrestling with, trying to figure out what is doing. It's the first word of 4:12: "for".
4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
4:12 For the word of God is living and active...
The Spirit-fuelled living word of God pierces, discerns hearts, judges intentions, that much is clear. But the "for", that little joining word, makes the penetrating nature of God's word a motive for the striving in v11. How is it a motive. That's my question this morning.
We have got to remember the whole point of the preceding chapter. The people of God at the Exodus didn't get enter the promised land. Why? Because they heard God's word, his promises, and judged that they were better off without him. They heard great good news but decided they didn't want it. That is the strength of 2:2, 3:7, 3:15, 4:7. It is best summed up in 4:2:
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
They heard the good message, but they didn't listen to it. That is, they didn't receive it, believe it, trust it, bet on it. In fact they disbelieved it. The contention of 4:12 is that far from us judging God's message, it judges us according to our response to it.
So we strive to enter God's rest by believing the good news, and fleeing unbelief. And God knows. Nothing is hidden. The crucial thing in my life today is not whether I look to others like I love Jesus, whether I look like a faithful Christian or leader, or even whether my activities and responsibilities are diligently performed. That is basically irrelevant. The crucial thing is whether I have a believing heart, am I receiving that good news, am I trusting the promises of God?
1. I come to this as a Christian. God has rescued me by grace. My basic situation is not an unbelieving person, but a believing person, a saint not a sinner. (Worth reading Terry Virgo's excellent posts (that I can't quite locate at the moment!) on how Christians so easily believe that our fundamental state is sinner rather than saint, because we know the depths of our hearts and don't believe in the sufficiency of grace as we should)
2. Therefore when I sin (=disbelieve), I do so as Christian. That doesn't make it less terrible, and the writer will go on to tell me that I have to submit myself to the judgement of the word on my sin. But he will also say that I have a high priest who provides both mercy so I am not destroyed, and grace so that I am helped to live for him
3. My living for him consist much more in whether I am trusting him, rejoicing in him, believing him, casting myself on his mercy and grace than it does it visible Christian activity. In fact activity can sometimes be a substitute for me living in him. I know how to wear a good-looking mask that disguises an impoverished and unbelieving heart
These verses strip off the masks. They expose and reveal me, warts and all, before my creator. I am having an unnerving morning so far because of Hebrews, and that's a good thing. Praise God that he is for me, not against me because of my wonderful Lord Jesus.