Hebrews 4: 1.—Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
Hebrews 4: 11.—Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
I want, in the simplest way possible, to answer the question: “How does a man enter into that rest?” and to point out the simple steps that he takes, all included in the one act of surrender and faith.
And the first step, I think, is this: that a man learns to say, “I believe, heartily, there is rest in a life of faith.” Israel passed through two stages. This is beautifully expressed in the fifth of Deuteronomy: “He brought us out, that He might bring us in”—two parts of God’s work of redemption—“He brought us out from Egypt, that He might bring us into Canaan.” And that is applicable to every believer. At your conversion, God brought you out of Egypt, and the same almighty God is longing to bring you into the Canaan life. You know how God brought the Israelites out, but they would not let Him bring them in and they had to wander for forty years in the wilderness—the type, alas! of so many Christians. God brings them out in conversion, but they will not let Him bring them in into all that He has prepared for them.
To a man who asks me, “How can I enter into the rest?” I say, first of all, speak this word, “I do believe that there is a rest into which Jesus, our Joshua, can bring a trusting soul.”
Note: Jesus’ name in Hebrew is the same as Joshua’s: “Yeshua.” Moses delivered the Israelites from Egypt, and received the commandments of the Law. Joshua brought the people finally into the promised land. In a similar way, “the law was our schoolmaster o bring us to Christ” (Galatians), and it is Jesus who brings us into the spiritual land of promised rest. – MC
And if you would know what the difference is between the two lives—the life you have been leading, and the life you now want to lead, just look at the wilderness and Canaan. What are the points of difference? In the wilderness, wandering for forty years, backward and forward; in Canaan, perfect rest in the land that God gave them. That is the difference between the life of a Christian who has, and one who has not entered into Canaan. In wandering backward and forward; going after the world, and coming back and repenting; led astray by temptation, and returning only to go off again;—a life of ups and downs. In Canaan, on the other hand, a life of rest, because the soul has learned to trust: “God keeps me every hour in His mighty power.”
There is the second difference: the life in the wilderness was a life of want; in Canaan, a life of plenty. In the wilderness there was nothing to eat; there was often no water. God graciously supplied their wants by the manna, and the water from the rock. But, alas! they were not content with this, and their life was one of want and murmurings. But in Canaan God gave them vineyards that they had not planted, and the old corn of the land was there waiting for them; a land flowing with milk and honey; a land that lived by the rain of Heaven and had the very care of God Himself. Oh, Christian, come and say to-day, “I believe there is a possibility of such a change out of that life of spiritual death, and darkness, and sadness, and complaining, that I have often lived, into the land of supply of every want; where the grace of Jesus is proved sufficient every day, every hour.” Say to-day: “I believe in the possibility that there is such a land of rest for me.”
And then, the third difference: In the wilderness there was no victory. When they tried, after they had sinned at Kadesh, to go up against their enemies, they were defeated. In the land they conquered every enemy; from Jericho onward, they went from victory to victory. And so God waits, and Christ waits, and the Holy Spirit waits, to give victory every day; not freedom from temptation; no, not that; but in union with Christ a power that can say, “I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me.” “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” May God help every heart to say that.
Then comes the second step. I want you to say not only, “I believe there is such a life,” but, second, “I have not had it yet.” Say that. “I have never yet got that.” Some may say, “I have sought it;” some may say, “I have never heard about it;” some may say, “At times I thought I had found it, but I lost it again.” Let every one be honest with God.
And now, will all who have never yet found it honestly, begin to say, “Lord, up to this time I have never had it”? And why is it of such consequence to speak thus? Because, dear friends, some people want to glide into this life of rest gradually; and just quietly to steal in; and God won’t have it. Your life in the wilderness has not only been a life of sadness to yourself, but of sin and dishonor to God. Every deeper entrance into salvation must always be by the way of conviction and confession; therefore, let every Christian be willing to say: “Alas! I have not lived that life, and I am guilty; I have dishonored God; I have been like Israel; I have provoked Him to wrath by my unbelief and disobedience. God have mercy upon me!” Oh, let it go up before God—the secret confession: “I haven’t it; alas! I have not glorified God by a life in the land of rest.”
Then comes the third word I want you to speak and that is: “Thank God, that life is for me.” Some say, “I believe there is such a life, but not for me.” There are people who continually say: “Oh, my character is so unstable; my will is naturally very weak; my temperament is nervous and excitable, it is impossible for me always to live without worry, resting in God.” Beloved brother, do not say that. You say so only for one reason: You do not know what your God will do for you. Do begin to look away from self, and to look up to God, Take that precious word: “He brought them out that he might bring them in.” The God who took them through the Red Sea was the God who took them through Jordan into Canaan. The God who converted you is the God who is able to give you every day this blessed life. Oh, begin to say, with the beginnings of a feeble faith, even before you claim it, begin even intellectually to say: “It is for me; I do believe that. God does not disinherit any of His children. What He gives is for every one. I believe that blessed life is waiting for me. It is meant for me. God is waiting to bestow it, and to work it in me. Glory be to His blessed name! My soul says it is for me, too.” Oh, take that little word “me,” and looking up in the very face of God dare to say: “This inestimable treasure—it is for me, the weakest and the unworthiest; it is for me.” Have you said that? Say it now: “This life is possible to me, too.”
And then comes the next step, and that is: “I can never, by any effort of mine, grasp it; it is God must bestow it on me.” I want you to be very bold in saying, “It is for me.” But then I want you to fall down very low and say, “I can not seize it; I can not take it to myself.” And how can you then get it? Praise God, if once He has brought you down in the consciousness of utter helplessness and self-despair, then comes the time that He can draw nigh and ask you, “Will you trust your God to work this in you?” Dearly beloved Christians, say in your heart: “I never, by any effort, can take hold of God, or seize this for myself; it is God must give it.” Cherish this blessed impotence. It is He who brought us out, who Himself must bring us in. It is your greatest happiness to be powerless. Pray God by the Holy Spirit to reveal to you this true powerlessness, and that will open the way for your faith to say, “Lord, Thou must do it, or it will never be done.” God will do it. People wonder, when they hear so many sermons about faith, and such earnest pleading to believe, and ask why it is they can not believe. There is just one answer: It is self. Self is working; is trying; is struggling, and self must fail. But when you come to the end of self and can only cry, “Lord, help me! Lord, help me!”—then the deliverance is nigh; believe that. It was God brought the people in. It is God who will bring you in.
One should be willing, for the sake of this rest, to give up everything. The grace of God is very free. It is given without money and without price. And yet, on the other hand, Jesus said that every man who wants the pearl of great price must sacrifice his all, must sell all that he has to buy that pearl. It is not enough to see the beauty, the attractiveness and the glory, and almost to taste the gladness and the joy of this wonderful life as it has been set before you. You must become the possessor, the owner of the field. The man who found the field with a treasure, and the man who found the great pearl, were both glad; but they had not yet got it. They had found it, seen it, desired it, rejoiced in it; but they had not yet got it. Not until they went and sold all, gave up everything, and bought the ground, and bought the pearl. Ah, friends, there is a great deal that has to be given up: the world, its pleasures, its favor, its good opinion. You are to stand to the world in the same relation as Jesus did. The world rejected Him, and cast Him out, and you are to take up the position of your Lord, to whom you belong, and to follow with the rejected Christ. You have to give up everything. You have to give up all that is good in yourself and to be humbled in the dust of death. And that is not all. Your past religious life and experience and successes—you have to give all up and become nothing, that God alone may have the glory. God has brought you out in conversion; it was God’s own life given you: but you defiled it with disobedience and with unbelief. Give it all up. Give up all your own wisdom, and your own thoughts about God’s work. How hard it is for the minister of the Gospel to give up all his wisdom, and to lay it at the feet of Jesus, to become a fool and to say: “Lord, I know nothing as I should know it. I have been preaching the Gospel, and how little I have seen of the glory of the blessed land, and the blessed life!”
Why is it that the blessed Spirit can not teach us more effectually? No reason but this: the wisdom of man prevents it; the wisdom of man prevents the light of God from shining in. And so we could say of other things; give up all. Some may have an individual sin to give up. There may be a Christian man who is angry with his brother. There may be a Christian woman who has quarreled with her neighbor. There may be friends who are not living as they should. There may be Christians holding fast some little doubtful thing, not willing to surrender and leave behind the whole of the wilderness life and lust. Oh, do take this step and say: “I am ready to give up everything to have this pearl of great price; my time, my attention, my business, I count all subordinate to this rest of God as the first thing in my life; I yield all to walk in perfect fellowship with God.” You can not get that and live every day in perfect fellowship with God, without giving up time to it. You take time for everything. How many hours a day has a young lady spent for years and years that she may become proficient on the piano? How many years does a young man study to fit himself for the profession of the law or medicine? Hours, and days, and weeks, and months, and years, gladly given up to perfect himself for his profession. And do you expect that religion is so cheap that without giving time you can find close fellowship with God? You can not. But, oh, my brothers and sisters, the pearl of great price is worth everything. God is worth everything. Christ is worth everything. Oh, come to-day, and say, “Lord, at any cost help me; I do want to live this life.” And if you find it difficult to say this, and if there is a struggle within the heart, never mind; say to God, “Lord, I thought I was willing, but I see how much unwillingness there is; come and discover what the evil is still in the heart.” By His grace, if you will lie at His feet and trust Him you may depend upon it deliverance will come.
Then comes the next step, and that is to say: “I do now give up myself to the holy and everlasting God, for Him to lead me into this perfect rest.” Ah, friends, we must learn to meet God face to face. My sin has been against God. David felt that when he said, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned.” It is God on the judgment seat whose face you will have to meet personally. It is God Himself, personally, who met you to pardon your sins. Come to-day and put yourself into the hands of the living God. God is love. God is near. God is waiting to give you His blessing. The heart of God is yearning over you. “My child,” God says, “you think you are longing for rest; it is I that am longing for you, because I desire to rest in your heart as My home, as My temple.” You need your God. Yes, but your God needs you, to find the full satisfaction of His Father heart in Christ in you. Come to-day and say: “I do now give up myself to Christ. I have made the choice. I deliberately say, ‘Lord God, I am the purchaser of the pearl of great price. I give up everything for it. In the name of Jesus I accept that life of perfect rest.’“
And then comes my last thought. When you have said that, then add: “And now, I trust God to make it all real to me in my experience. Whether I am to live one year, or thirty years, I have heard it to-day again: ‘God is Jehovah, the great I AM of the everlasting future, the eternal One; and thirty years hence is to Him just the same as now;’ and that God gives Himself to me, not according to my power to hold Him, but according to His almighty power of love to hold me.” Will you trust God to-day for the future? Oh, will you look up to God in Christ Jesus once again? A thousand times you have heard, and thought, and thanked—“God has given us His Son;” but will you not to-day say, “How shall He not with Him give me all things, every moment and every day of my life?” Say that in faith. “How shall God not be willing to keep me in the light of His countenance, in the full experience of Christ’s saving power? Did God make the sun to shine so brightly, and is the light so willing to pour itself into every nook and corner where it can find entrance? And will not my God, who is love, be willing all the day to shine into this heart of mine, from morning to night, from year’s end to year’s end?” God is love, and longs to give Himself to us.
Oh, come, Christians, you have hitherto lived a life in your own strength. Will you not begin to-day? Will you not choose a life in which God shall be all, and in which you rest in Him for all? Will you not choose a life in which you shall say: “Oh, God, I ask, I expect, I trust Thee for it. I enter this day into the rest of God to let God keep me; to let God keep me every hour. I enter into the rest of God.” Are you ready to say that? Be of good courage; fear not, you can trust God. He brings into rest. Listen to God’s word in the Prophets once again: “Take heed, and be quiet. Fear not, neither be faint-hearted.” Joshua brought Israel into the land. God did it through Joshua; and Joshua is Jesus, your Jesus, who washed you in His blood; your Jesus, whom you have learned to know as a precious Saviour. Trust Him to-day afresh: “O my Joshua, take me, bring me in and I will trust Thee, and in Thee the Father.” You may count upon it. He will take you and the work will be done.