Walking with God in Everyday Life
Passage: Hebrews 3:7–4:13
Talking to people is a given in life.
We talk to our parents, our kids, our friends, our spouses, our coworkers, our neighbors, store clerks, waiters and waitresses, technical support over the phone. We’ve talked to countless people over the course of our lives. And some people were more enjoyable to talk with than others. One of the characteristics that makes someone enjoyable to talk with is that they are a good listener. Think about the people in your life that you would say are good listeners. Those are most likely the people that you most enjoy talking to.
With those people in your mind, think about what they do that makes them a good listener. What do they do that makes you feel heard and listened to? What makes someone a good listener?
When the calendar flips over to the new year, it feels like a fresh start. It feels like an opportunity to make changes on what we didn’t like about last year. “New year, new you.” We may want to improve our physical health or our financial health. Some of us I’m sure have considered how to improve our spiritual health. How do we do that? How do we improve our spiritual health?
First it would be good to know what spiritual health actually looks like. We need to know what the end goal is. Our passage in Hebrews 3 and 4 says the goal is “rest.” The goal is to enter into God’s rest. What do you think of when you hear the word “rest”? Rest can come from all the work being done. It can mean you have worked hard all day and now there is nothing left to do so you can put up your feet and relax.
Rest can come from a sense of security and safety. There are certain people that you constantly walk on eggshells around. You are afraid of upsetting them or offending them. You feel as if they are always evaluating you. You don’t feel like you can relax and be yourself. But then around some people you feel that you can rest because you feel safe and secure in their presence. You can let your guard down and be yourself. The relationship is secure.
In the book of Hebrews, “rest” means a bit of both. Rest is available because Jesus has finished the work of making us safe and secure in God’s presence. Rest is available because Jesus has finished the work of making us safe with God. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, he has paid for our forgiveness so we can be right with God. On the cross before he died, Jesus said, “It is finished.” He did the work necessary to bring us back to God.
But while that rest is available to us now, our work is not yet done. We don’t work to make ourselves right with God, but we must do something in order to enter the rest God has made available to us.
We are going to spend this evening exploring the big idea of this passage. This passage tells us the key to entering God’s rest: We enter God’s rest by trusting and obeying God. We enter God’s rest by trusting and obeying God.
This passage is all about being a good listener. It’s teaching us to be a good listener in the most important relationship that we can have: our relationship with God. Listening is key to a good relationship. The question is: are we good listeners to God? When you look at what we wrote about good listeners, does that describe your relationship with God? When God speaks, do you listen? Someone who listens to God trusts what he says and does what he says.
The theme throughout this passage is entering God’s rest by trusting and obeying God. The author gives us four commands that tell us how to trust and obey God. Let’s start in verse 7.
In verse 6, the author said that if we hold fast our confidence and our hope in Jesus, then we belong to him. We are his house. In other words, we must remain faithful to Jesus and not abandon our faith in him. Verse 7 is a follow up to that truth. It says:
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’” (Hebrews 3:7-11)
In chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews, different opportunities in history to enter God’s rest are mentioned and it will be helpful for us to keep track of them. The author of Hebrews is writing in the 1st century. This quotation is from Psalm 95 which was written in about 1,000 BC so it’s 1,000 years old by the time Hebrews is quoting it. The psalm was written by the most famous king of Israel, king David. In it, he gives a warning and a command to the people of Israel. But David himself is looking back a couple hundred years before his time at an event that occured in the history of the nation.
God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. This is famously called the exodus. He brought plagues upon Egypt. He split the Red Sea so that they could walk through it. He spoke to them at Mount Sinai. He was leading them to the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, which he promised to give to them as their very own home. But then, they grumbled and complained that they had no water or food. Later on, they refused to go into the land. Throughout the journey from Egypt to Canaan, the Israelites lacked faith and disobeyed God over and over again.
Because they hardened their hearts, rebelled, and didn’t trust or obey God, God said, “You shall not enter my rest.” “Rest” for them was entrance into the Promised Land - the land of Canaan. Trust and obedience was required and they refused to do it. Their punishment was that they had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years outside of the Promised Land until they all died off so that none in that generation would enter but only their children.
About 400 years later, King David in this psalm is telling his people: “Don’t be like them. If you hear God’s voice, don’t harden your hearts like they did in their rebellion against him. They saw God’s works but went astray in their hearts and didn’t follow God’s ways therefore God judged them. They weren’t able to enter God’s rest.”
Then 1,000 years later, the author of Hebrews is quoting this Psalm to give his readers the same warning and command. [Whiteboard] So there’s the “rest” offered to the Israelites who left Egypt during the Exodus around 1400 BC. Then we have king David around 1,000 BC telling the nation of Israel not to be like their ancestors who weren’t able to enter God’s rest. Then we have the author of Hebrews around 60 AD telling his readers not to be like the ancient Israelites by quoting king David’s psalm.
The Big Idea for this passage is that we enter God’s rest by trusting and obeying God. How do we trust and obey God? The first “how” is in verse 12. Verse 12 tells us: Rest requires responsive hearts. Rest requires responsive hearts.
He says in verse 12,
“12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12).
You need to take care, you need to watch yourselves, you need to pay close attention to your heart. Just like that generation back in Moses’ day hardened their hearts to God’s voice, we can do the same thing today.
What is our heart? We use the word heart today to mean more than just the muscle pumping blood in our chest. We use phrases like “he has a broken heart” or “absence makes the heart grow fonder” or “home is where the heart is.” In the Bible, the heart is the core of a person’s being that drives and controls everything they do.
You can picture the heart like the driver’s seat in a car. Whoever is in the driver’s seat, controls where the car goes and what it does. In the Bible, the heart is the driver’s seat of a person’s life. Someone or something is always in the driver’s seat. Your life is going somewhere and something is driving it there. What is in the driver’s seat? Whatever you value most is in the driver’s seat. Whatever you see as most important, as highest priority, and as your greatest treasure. That is the thing that is in the steering the direction of your life. It controls where you are going in life and what you do.
This is why as a church, we put an emphasis on the heart. In every sermon, I think through three areas of application: Head, Heart, and Hands. Head focuses on what we need to know. What truth about God do we need to take away from this passage? Hands focuses on what we need to do. How would this truth make our lives look different? But in the middle is Heart which focuses on what we need to believe. Knowing truths about God in our Heads is one thing. But actually letting those truths into the driver’s seat of our lives is another. You may know a lot about me, but you still might not let me drive your car. That requires you to give up control, it requires you to trust me, it requires you to put your life into my hands, it requires you to surrender the steering wheel to me.
If we only accumulate knowledge about God in our Heads, we may have the right answers but we won’t have changed lives. We need to have hearts that are responsive to God. The soil of our hearts needs to be soft so that when we hear God, his words penetrate our hearts and grow the fruit in our lives that he wants. If they are hard, what he says will just bounce off. It will go in one ear and out the other and never make a difference.
So how well are you listening to God? Is your heart responsive to him? When you hear God speak in the Bible or in a sermon or through other people, do you respond with trust and obedience? Or do you walk away doing the same as you did before? Write down which one describes your heart: hard, soft, or medium.
The Big Idea for this passage is that we enter God’s rest by trusting and obeying God. The second “how” for trusting and obeying God is in verse 13. Verse 13 tells us: Rest requires relationship with others. Rest requires relationship with others.
Verse 13 say,
“13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
He draws the word “today” from the Psalm: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Each day is an opportunity either to have a hard heart toward God or a responsive heart. To follow God or follow sin.
Over time, the steering on your car can get out of alignment which causes it to pull to either the left or right. If you let go of the wheel, it won’t go straight but will go off course. Then you have to bring it to a mechanic where they will bring them back into alignment. I think there’s an overlooked market out there for bringing shopping carts into alignment. I’m not even sure shopping carts are made with proper alignment. Every single one of them seems to have that one wonky wheel that just does whatever it wants. If you let go of your cart for a second, it takes a ninety degree turn into the shelf full of cans next to you and knocks them all onto the floor.
The author of Hebrews is making the point that our heart is like a shopping cart with a wonky wheel: if you take your hand off it, it is going to go astray from God so you need to take care and keep a handle on it. Then this verse tells us that the deceitfulness of sin is actually working to harden our hearts and lead us astray. Sin is deceitful. In other words, disobeying God promises joy and life and satisfaction but it never delivers. It’s a deception, a lie.
In order to walk with God every day as long as it is called today, we need more than just us. This verse tells us that we need other people. This verse tells us that just our hand on our cart isn’t strong enough to keep our heart from going astray. We need others exhorting us, pointing out sin and unbelief, reminding us of the truths about God, pulling us back on course. That’s why as a church we don’t only gather on Sundays because 1 hour a week isn’t enough to keep us on course the other 167 hours of the week. And during this time we aren’t able to go deep enough in each other’s lives. That’s why we do Gospel Communities and Gospel Fluency Groups. If you aren’t involved in those areas, I want to encourage you to consider going deeper this year.
Why is this so important? Look at verse 14.
14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:14)
It’s important because what matters is whether we are surrendering to Jesus today. What matters is whether we are responding to God with trust and obedience today. It doesn’t matter if we made a decision to follow Jesus 10 years ago if we aren’t following him today. It doesn’t matter if we were baptized at some point in our life if we aren’t trusting and obeying God today. What matters is staying committed to Jesus until the day we die. And to do that, we need other people.
So how well are you listening to God by letting other people into your life? Are you trying to follow God alone? All evidence in the Bible tells us that we cannot do it alone. Maybe you have others helping you, but you don’t go as deep as you know you need to go. Are you letting others into your struggles and doubts? Are you confessing your sins and unbelief to others? Write down where you relationships with others are at: deep, shallow, medium.
The author quotes Psalm 95 again to prove his point for why this is so important. Look at verse 15:
15 As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:12-19)
The people in Moses’ day did not enter God’s rest because of disobedience and unbelief. Even though they heard God’s voice, they did not respond with trust and obedience. That’s why this is so important.
Chapter 4 verse 1 gives us our third “how” for trusting and obeying God. How do we trust and obey God? Verse 1 of chapter 4 tells us: Rest requires real concern about responding to God. Rest requires real concern about responding to God.
Let’s read starting in verse 1 chapter 4:
1 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. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:1-3)
The command we are given is to “fear,” meaning we should take this seriously. It should be a top priority and concern of ours. Why? Because, he says, good news has come to us just as it came to those people way back then but it didn’t benefit them. They were told God’s message. They were told good news. God spoke to them. But it did them no good because they did not listen. They did not respond with trust and obedience. And because of that, they did not enter God’s rest.
In life, the concerns can be endless. There are many things we can concern ourselves with: paying the bills, problems at work, problems at home, how we look, what people think of us, sports, retirement, our next vacation. Some of the things we concern ourselves with are good and important and others are really quite meaningless and empty in the long run. The problem is that we can put the most important things on the back burner. We can put matters of eternal importance on hold because we are too wrapped up with lesser things.
This passage is telling us that our relationship with God is not something that we can put on autopilot. You can’t put any relationship on autopilot if you want it to be a good one. The mere fact that we would ever put our relationship with the God who made us and saved us on the backburner only proves how wayward we are and how easily we can be led astray. The author warns us that hearing a sermon on Sunday is not enough if we walk away unchanged.
So where is God on your priority list? Is he on the back burner? Is your relationship with him on autopilot? Or are you pursuing him? Write down where your relationship with God is on your priority list: high, medium, low. Not where you think it should be. Where it actually is based on your actions.
Verses 4 through 10 tell us of another opportunity in history to enter God’s “rest” for our timeline. Backing up to verse 3, it says:
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:4-10)
This takes us all the way back to Genesis 2:2 when God created the world in six days then on the seventh day he rested. From the beginning, God has invited us to enter into the rest of his finished work. God promised rest in the land of Canaan to the people of Israel leaving Egypt but that first generation failed to enter it because of unbelief and disobedience. But the next generation did enter it. They were led by Joshua into it. But if Joshua gave them rest, why did King David write about entering God’s rest hundreds of years later? The author’s conclusion is that we have the opportunity to enter God’s rest today that has existed since he created the world. It’s a rest that has been there from the beginning and the rest in the Promised Land was only a picture pointing to it.
Chapter 4 verse 11 gives us our fourth “how” for trusting and obeying God. How do we trust and obey God? Verse 11 tells us: Rest requires daily effort. Rest requires daily effort.
Verse 11 says:
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11)
We need to strive to enter the rest God has made available to us. “Strive” could “be eager” or “make every effort.” In other words, take entering God’s rest seriously, be attentive to what is going on in your heart and life, get people around you who are going to exhort you and encourage you every day, don’t take this lightly. It’s not about making ourselves good enough to enter. That work is complete. Jesus finished it. What we focus on is our faith - keeping it strong and enduring. We focus on trusting and obeying God.
Why? Verse 12 says:
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
This passage has focused on being a good listener to God - God’s voice, God’s message, God’s good news, God’s word. God’s word can either transform us or be the thing that condemns because nothing is hidden from God. He sees all things. We can’t pull a fast one over on him. We can’t fake it with him.
We are all invited to enter God’s rest today. There is an eternal rest we look forward to when we rest with God in his heavenly presence. But there is a rest available today: a rest in the finished work of Jesus on our behalf, a rest in the good news about who God is and what he has done through Jesus. We can enter that rest here and now.
God invites us to enter his rest by trusting and obeying him. Rest is found in a relationship with God. And God defines what a relationship with him looks like: it looks like trusting him and obeying him. That’s how we enter the rest of relationship with him.
The problem is that our hearts can be hard and sin is deceitful. We need to fight unbelief and sin. That’s why as we were going through the book of Genesis last year, we focused on the 4Gs. These are four truths about God that help us rest in God. These four truths also show us what our lives would look like if we let God in the driver’s seat. We stop trying to control. We stop fearing others. We stop looking for satisfaction in lesser things. We stop working to prove ourselves to God and others. Once we start resting in God, we can stop scrambling about doing those things with stress, anxiety, and fear.
In order to walk with God in your everyday life this year, I want to suggest two actions. First, memorize the 4Gs. As a church, our gift to you is a magnet to help you with that.
Second, take one step this month to enter. To enter something requires taking steps. To enter a house, you have to step into it. We have gone over four steps you can take to walk closer with God this year.
Your life is perfectly designed to bring you the rest you are currently getting. Along the way, we have taken inventory for where your relationship with God is. We’ve hit four requirements for entering God’s rests. Which one do you need to pay attention to? How are you going to implement that?
In the first months of the year, gyms are more full and Bibles are more open. But then we aren’t seeing the results. You may see some immediate results by putting these into practice, but like working out you have take a long-term perspective. We often stop working out for the same reasons we stop pursuing God. The reasons coincide with the four points we have talked about. We might know it’s good for us in our Heads but aren’t letting it change our life. We might try to do it alone and become discouraged. We might let other concerns become a greater priority. Or we might not willing to put in the effort.
If we want to see change in our lives, we must pursue God.