June 15, 2011
We wear that phrase like a badge of honor.
“I worked really hard today”.
“I logged 50 hours this week at work”.
“Man, I’m exhausted I’ve worked so hard”.
And I know you can come up with many more. After all, we have said something like that so many times and been very proud of that very fact.
But what I’ve been learning over the past year is that the only labor commanded of us under the New Covenant is that we labor to enter into his rest.
11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
That sounds contradictory.
Labor to Rest??
What can that possibly mean?
One major clue can be found in the title of this book of the Bible – Hebrews. From the beginning, the Hebrews were God’s chosen people. Centuries before He had given them the Law. A set of rules so impossible to keep that intervention was a necessity.
And if those Levitical rules were not enough, through the years the Rabbi’s or Pharisees and Sadducees, had developed even more rules or Rabbinical rules. At the time this book of the Bible was written, the Hebrews knew no life outside of legalistic rules. It was their nature; it permeated every thought, action and deed.
In the Bible there have been two ways to be in right standing with God. The first was the Law. To be right with God through the Law, you had to keep EVERY law, and there were thousands! To gain atonement for your sin you had to get a spotless sacrifice such as a lamb and once sacrificed, its blood covered your sins temporarily.
But Jesus came to give us a higher and more perfect way to be in right standing with God. This higher form is called grace. Grace is so much higher than the law, that it took the entire New Testament to share the wonders of all that it meant.
The writer of Hebrews had a tough task ahead. They wanted to help the Hebrews understand that they no longer had to follow rules to be in right standing with God. Many got it and lived by it, but for others it was easy to fall back into their old habit of living by the law.
I am sure it felt comfortable to them like bathing themselves in a warm bath. But the truth is that the law brings about the punishment of death.
15 For the Law inflicts punishment; but where no Law exists, there can be no violation of Law.
It was imperative for the writer of the book of Hebrews to caution them to not fall away, or fall back into living by the law.
4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
The highest form of life is living by the the grace provided by God through Jesus Christ. To live by the law is substandard. To live by laws which provide certain punishment of death because they are impossible to keep, is far below the life God had planned for mankind. In verse 6 above, the writer is urging them to not fall from grace back into the law where death is a certainty.
Grace is a FREE gift from God. We cannot earn it and to try to do so puts us in a fallen state; a state of disobedience and faithlessness. To perpetually work to earn favor keeps us in an unrepentant state.
If this seems odd to you, think of it like this. When you are working for favor the focus is on you and what you have done. This is sinful pride.
But to ignore works and to focus on THE work that was done at the cross by Jesus Christ we can receive the fulfillment of His love and good deeds will manifest naturally, apart from our own works or effort.
Our own works or efforts to ‘be good’ or ‘do right’ are like filthy rags to the Lord. But freely receiving grace, allowing His blood to cleanse your sins, once and for all is true freedom. The freedom that Jesus died to give us!
Beware that you to do not fall from grace back into living by the law. Not Rabbinical or Levitical Law, but the laws of man, that have continued to be made, in an effort to achieve that right state with God.
Yes, even we gentiles can fall from grace into law. Check yourself daily, not to see if you have done right or been good, but that you have maintained total dependence on the grace of God to do all things and not of your own hard work.