Sunday, November 02, 2008

Salvation as... rest?

In Chaim Potok's The Chosen, David Malter tells his teen-age son that he wants to be worthy of God's rest -- he wants his life to have counted for something when he dies. Such talk of course frightens his son, but I found it interesting that he mentioned the concept of rest in connection with Moses (who of course never entered the Promised Land).

The book of Hebrews also talks about rest, in chapter 3 and also in chapter 4, but for us who believe in Jesus, the rest is not something we must earn through Important Accomplishments (Malter was involved in international politics), but rather through faith, as I have written about before.

But what I want to talk about today is the nature of that rest.

Hebrews chapter 4 begins with the concept of entering God's rest:
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
Hebrews 4:1-2
We can learn more about this rest by looking at the surrounding text. (You can see more if you click here.) Here are a few things that pop out:
  • Some were barred (3:11) from entry because they rebelled (3:8) and persisted (3:10) in rejecting God.
    • Every day (3:7) we have another chance to listen to God rather than rebel and harden (3:8) our hearts.
  • The issue is that of turning away (3:12) from God in disbelief.
    • In contrast (3:13 begins with "But") we are to encourage one another daily.
    • We need the encouragement because sin is deceitful and will tend to "harden" us.
    • Hence the encouragement probably has something to do with correcting sin's deception.
  • The negative model of rebellion is from Exodus 17:1-7 (Hebrews 3:15 is a quote from Psalm 95:7-11, which points there). In this incident, the Israelites embraced fear, panic, and rebellion rather than faith, peace, and obedience. These can keep us from entering God's rest.
  • It's possible to fall short of entering God's rest, simply by not believing the good news.
    • This can lead to panic, which can then make us stupid -- too stupid to obey.
    • The concepts of not obeying and not believing are tied together, both in 3:18-19 and in 4:3-6.
Putting that all together, I think we can see that "entering God's rest" doesn't mean an eternal sleep, but rather that we cease from our own work and instead do God's. As Jesus himself said, "Take my yoke upon you... and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

So what does this look like? What kind of work do we stop doing, and what do we do instead? Well, in some sense we lay down ultimate responsibility for what happens to our lives. We still look both ways before crossing the street, and we still fasten seat belts, but we can relax about it; as Piper wrote, we do all those things as though not doing them -- apropos of our upcoming elections, we vote as though we were not voting.

We lay aside the work of worrying -- of fear, panic, and rebellion -- and instead embrace God's work, which Jesus defined very nicely: "This is the work of God: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:29)

So in whatever we do, the work of God is to believe in Jesus, to tie our hopes, our dreams, our dreams to him only. To work as though we did not! And to entrust ourselves fully to the Lord Jesus.

And having written that, it strikes me that someone who lives like that has been freed from anxiety, from the tyranny of the do-list, from uncertainty, from the unbearable weight of having it "all depend on me."

Someone who lives like that is someone who's been saved.

No comments: