Hebrews, Part 3.

When we were legalists with long lists of rules to keep and actions to avoid, we thought we had it all figured out. Everyone was beneath us, we were told, as we embarked on a whole new way of life. We, yes we, would set a good example. Weren’t we something.

Then, the Lord allowed tragedy followed by disaster followed by tragedy cyclically, year after year, and we began to truly grow.

Being pharisaical was far more damaging to us than being honest sinners ever was. Trial and suffering were the only way God could reach us, for we, as legalists often do, thought we were already doing everything right. And so, God moved us through years of heartache, ripping us away from our new ways. In that process, we discovered what kind of harsh, judgmental, and arrogant people we had become. It was ugly. I shook my fist at God and quit talking to him.

Under the sway of social media and press attention, the current crop of remorseful young legalists, who thought they had all the answers, are publicly deconstructing as they turn from their rigid methods that have hurt so many. In contrast, I recommend private reflection and contemplation, not a public deconstruction which damages others. Had I processed publicly, I could have hurt many as I hurled my anger and my questions at God.

Instead, year by year, at the pace Jesus knew was best, he pulled us close and mended us with his written Word. Solid doctrine opened our minds to real biblical love and truth. We studied. We contemplated. We repented of so many things! We turned toward God, rather than away.

We emerged a more repentant people, heartily aware of our deep and abiding need for Christ, our many weaknesses, and our commonality with every type of sinner. In our solitude, God worked. A hard and arrogant heart requires this type of unearthing. All must be surfaced.

As a bad example, one not to follow, the apostle Paul held up his nation’s hard-hearted actions in the wilderness during their forty years of wandering, and he detailed why.

1 Corinth.10:1 I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. 2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. 3 All of them ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.

9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinth. 10:1-13 NLT).

This is us. We are them. We think we stand strong. They fell. We fall.

Grumbling is often the most telling sign. When we complain, we sit in judgment of God. We must understand this as we examine how to avoid hardening our hearts and how to encourage one another in our faith.

Grumbling about our situation is often the most telling sign. When we complain, we sit in judgment of God. Click To Tweet

We think we stand firm, but we are actually not above committing any type of sin. We ignore God and live a life shaped by our own ideas of godliness, attempted in our own strength. Therefore, we typically wound the ones we love. Today, still, decades later, we continue to mend and repair heartaches we caused our children from that early era of rigid legalism and the enforcement of it. In my mind, this is the worst part.

It’s decades in the past, and yet I think of it every day, wishing I had never gone down that legalistic and hypocritical road and praying for God to mend their hearts. Yes, I know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I’m good with God, but I’m not good with myself.

Deconstructing legalistic, prideful positions that one never should have embraced in the first place can tear us down to the bones. This is right where we need to be. Without Jesus and his work on our behalf on the cross, we don’t stand a chance of receiving God’s grace.

Deconstructing legalistic, prideful positions that one never should have embraced in the first place can tear us down to the bones. This is right where we need to be. Click To Tweet

It’s better for us to come face to face with our nastiness than to have never dealt with it. It’s better not to shove it away and deny it. And, here is why:

Hebrews 4:1 God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. 2 For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. 3 For only we who believe can enter his rest…

6 So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. 7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is TODAY. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“TODAY when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”

8 Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest (when they entered the Promised Land), God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. 9 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable (Hebrews 4:1-3b, 6-13 NLT).

God sees every single thing we think, do, and desire. We’re sinners. In our own strength, we can’t possibly overcome our own sinfulness. We can’t make lists of rules and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It never works. God knows this.

And so, Jesus did the work of overcoming our sin. We rest in his work on the cross, his death, burial, and resurrection. The Sabbath exists to remind us weekly that only God can sustain us, body and soul. We can’t gain our salvation through our own works, nor can we keep it in like fashion.

TODAY is the day of salvation.

Enter into God’s rest by accepting that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law on our behalf. He died for our sins, yours and mine. He paid the penalty, and then he rose victorious. We can place our faith and our confidence in him alone. Rest in that truth.

TODAY is the day. Enter into God's rest by accepting that Jesus fulfilled the requirements. He died for our sins, yours and mine. He paid the penalty, and then he rose victorious. Place your faith in him alone. Click To Tweet

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT).

Lord Jesus, thank you for accomplishing what we could never do, the gaining of our salvation and the keeping of the same until we see you face to face. Please pour out your mercy upon us and give us the grace to rely on you and not on ourselves.

(Image courtesy of Bob Scudder.)