Summary: Hebrews 4 calls us to work to rest. We do well when we do our work within the context of God’s rest.
We gather together on Sunday mornings in church for worship… so really we shouldn’t start by thinking of us and what we want or need from church. We start all this with the goal of worshiping God… of expressing our thanks and devotion to Him.
But with that said, I do want people to receive something at my church each Sunday morning.
- Hope for those who can’t see a way out of their present troubles
- Answers for those who are struggling with life’s biggest questions
- Peace for those who are tormented
- Encouragement for those who are getting beat up by life’s blows
- Joy for those who are low
- Safety for those who don’t know where to turn
- Rest for those who are striving to make life better
We come to worship God, and when we meet Him in times and places like these, we are not left the same.
I have colleagues, pastors like me, who think primarily in terms of what a sermon will mean to those in the congregation… that the main way anybody gets anything out of a Sunday morning is through the preaching. They structure the service in such a way that everything leads up to the focal point, which is the message they’ve prepared. I’ve even heard them speak of everything else as ancillary or preliminary to main event… the preaching.
I don’t really have any big problems with that line of thinking. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that preaching is a vital part of church life as we proclaim the Gospel and build up believers. We take preaching seriously.
But my experience teaches me that there are all sorts of ways that our needs are met on any given Sunday morning. Many from my congregation tell me from time to time how important the sermon was, but there are other times when other parts of the service pack the punch. On a given Sunday, the sermon may have been just fine for any of us, but what really made the difference was something else (singing, words shared by others, choir, something that someone said over coffee and treats after the service). Sometimes we just sort of endure one part of our service because another part is just that good.
For me, what is often the most meaningful isn’t any one thing, but the confluence of several things. I love it when a plan comes together. Sometimes it is the result of our careful planning; we are intentional about how the various elements of our worship services focus on a theme. Other times the confluence is outside of our plans and appears to be the Holy Spirit’s work as God moves people and ideas and events and circumstances into place in powerfully meaningful ways.
I think we may have experienced one of those wonderful confluences on 1/7/07 at my church, with the confluence of:
Christian Lindbeck’s sermon last week
Hebrews 4 – This passage scheduled in our series
Communion – Remembering Christ’s work on our behalf
Epiphany – The historical celebration of the revelation of Jesus
o To the Magi or Wise Men
o Through His miracles
o Up through His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. That moment when Jesus commenced His ministry, submitting Himself to baptism, where the Trinity was revealed as the Son was identified by the Father in an audible voice, and the Holy Spirit came down, as a dove according to the Gospels, and remained on Him.
Even though I was there the previous Sunday, and paying attention, I went back and listened to Christian’s sermon again. It was one of those that I knew would be good to review. As I listened again I was able to deepen my understanding of the solid Truth Christian delivered. He spoke to the ever present and frustrating problem of sin. He reminded us that we are broken and that we face real, spiritual opposition. And He also reminded us that God knows us, cares for us, Has provided for us, and that we can continue on. Although this is one of those that we didn’t intentionally plan, I think Christian’s sermon provides a great lead in to this passage that comes to us via our series in Hebrews.
Let’s run through this passage.
We can recall that the main theme of Hebrews is that Christ is superior. Reading the three chapters that have gone before reminds us that Christ is superior to angels and Moses, and that Christ offers superior salvation and superior atonement.
Since the Book of Hebrews was written first for the benefit of Jewish believers in Jesus, it is natural that the writer of Hebrews would differentiate Christianity with the ways of the Old Covenant. And not just the ways or beliefs of the Old Covenant, but the Book of Hebrews also calls to mind the history of the Hebrew people, calling these Jewish believers to proceed differently than there own ancestors. In this case, we are specifically called to remember that wilderness generation… our own ancestors in the faith that were called by God out of slavery, delivered from their enemies… yet would not move in to the fullness of God’s promises and the rest He prepared for them in Canaan, the land of promise.