Hebrews 4:1-2 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 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.
Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who had been taught about “entering God’s rest” for thousands of years, starting back in Genesis 1 where we were created to be at rest in God, then through Joshua as they entered the Promised Land and then in David as their powerful King under whom they could “rest”. But throughout it all, they (and we) have been a perpetually un-restful people. We were designed to have full and utter peace without friction. We walked around “naked and unashamed” without any anxiety or sideways glances about what others think. More importantly, we were designed to not have any tension between us and God as we walked together in the cool of the morning in perfect relationship. But sin is our attempt to find hope, peace and rest in something else, in “more”. More information. More stuff. More pleasure. More morality. MORE ME! The ultimate and inevitable product of this pursuit of personal peace is to bring me LESS PEACE because it’s built on a sinking flood plane of this world.
In 2016 a podcast called S-Town came out and has become by far the most downloaded podcast of all time. It is a radio-interview-biography centering around a middle-age atheist genius named John B. McLemore and his home of Woodstock, Alabama, which he angrily refers to as “S-town” (“S” being an expletive). He is constantly angry, critical and restless as we complains about how horrible the world and all it’s inhabitant are. He and his 20-something year old friend Tyler, who also finds himself in the throws of strain and stress, can find no peace. So what they do is start “church”. Church is when Tyler strolls across the road and into John’s into home-based clock-repair workshop to get drunk on Wild Turkey while piercing various parts of John and tattooing him to no end. In order to get relief from the pain of life, John wants to experience some degree of acute “manageable” pain. He even had his back whipped by his friends so that Tyler could then tattoo duplicates of the real-life whip marks.
We are all in the throws of inner turmoil, seeking peace, hope, fullness and rest in the most exhaustive and exhausting ways. Only to be left less peaceful than when we began.
John B. McLemore is by no means unique. Back in 400AD a guy names Augustine spent the early part of his life seeking inner-peace through every conceivable means of pleasure he could find. He knew the Gospel, but wanted, like us, to forge his own path and find a salve for his soul. He would say this about his sin: “I loved my own error – not that for which I erred, but the error itself.” Simply put, he liked the sin. He found pleasure in putting himself over God. He would even pray “Lord give me chastity and continence, but not yet!”
But later in life he would come to the end of himself and realize the futility of his peace-seeking, and pen this: “My heart is restless until it finds it’s rest in Thee.”
This is all of us. We work and work and work in life, looking for it to pay off in ways that only the Finished Work of Christ can. When Jesus was dying on the cross he declared “It is Finished!” He was essentially repeating Genesis 1 where it says that, after 6 days, God was finished with his act of creation. We would then break creation, but Jesus would ultimately finish our Re-Creation so that, though our works in this broken world will continue and bring with it tension, our “works” to satisfy God’s righteous commands have been completed in Jesus and granted into us by His Spirit. Meaning that, when it comes to our relationship with Him, we can finally and perfectly REST. We cannot add to Jesus’ works; we cannot subtract from his works. It’s done. Relax. Rest. Be still and Know.