Rest for the People of God

The place of Internal Harmony

Recently as my wife and I were talking through some personal struggles, we found ourselves talking about the growth path to spiritual maturity.  I had come to the realization that many of my past decisions had been rooted in fear and anxiety about the future. During our conversation, I asked the question, “How can I know when I am making decisions out of fear versus being led by the Spirit of the Lord?” To expand the question a bit, I might frame it as: How do I know when I am making decisions by being led by my soul versus my spirit?” In other words, is my spirit motivating and inspiring my life or is my spirit disengaged while my soul is charging ahead?  I believe part of the answer is that I must know myself well enough to allow me to discern my natural inclinations. But there is another more powerful tool available to the believer, the word of the Lord.  

Hebrews 3 and 4  have always been difficult for me because although I understood that God has a rest available, I could never quite grasp how to enter into it.  I understand the individual scriptures and portions of the text, but when it comes to comprehending the overall meaning and life application of these two chapters – I just don’t get it, at least not until recently.  

Let’s break these two chapters down and see if we might learn something that will help us enter into rest and move on to maturity in the faith.  But before we begin, we need to unlearn our definition of the “rest of God”.  Rest in this context is not the absence of activity, a needed vacation, or lack of responsibilities. To understand this rest of God, please take a few minutes and slowly read Hebrews chapters 3 and 4.

In chapter three God is using the nation of Israel as an example for us.  He actually became so angry that he swore with an oath that the people would not enter his rest.  What caused this strong reaction?  Were these not the chosen people, brought out of Egyptian slavery, delivered through the sea and fed in the wilderness?  Yes they were, but in spite of these manifestations of God’s power, their hearts were not converted.  The majesty of Yahweh had been displayed before their very eyes for forty years and yet their hearts remained hard, stubborn and rebellious.  

The rest of God was certainly available to the Hebrew people.  In fact, every time God spoke or manifested his glory,  it was an invitation into that rest.

“ Today if you hear his voice”

So why could the people not enter the Lord’s provision?  You might respond that it was because of their lack of faith or their rebellious hearts…yes that’s true, but it’s a bit more complicated.  Where do faith, rebellion, and hardness of heart come from?  Do they not originate within our souls?  The voice of the Lord is heard in our spirit, but the soul of man (mind, will and emotions) is not automatically sanctified or made righteous when we are “delivered from Egypt”.  In other words, the path to spiritual adulthood is a partnership with the Spirit of God.  Our spirits are indeed born again when we are saved, but the sanctifying work of the soul is a lifelong pursuit in cooperation with the spirit of grace and the ministry of our high priest. 

We now come to that pivotal verse which provides the glue connecting Israel as our example to Jesus as our high priest.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
Hebrews 4:12

When we hear the word of God (rhema or logos) it cuts, divides or separates between our soul and spirit.  Just as the Israelites hardened their hearts for forty years, their souls were resisting the work God had begun in their spirits.  Do we not act the same way following our carnal, fleshly patterns of behavior resisting what God is saying in our spirits.  We might even justify our soulish behavior by claiming our souls are made completely new just like our spirits at the time of salvation. But this understanding is the result of poor theology.  

God’s word speaking to us is the word that brings life to our spirit, but it is also a word which exposes our soulish tendencies. The marrow is that part of the bone from which our very life emanates.  It produces stem cells, produces the blood cells which carry oxygen and fight infection.  The marrow gives life to the bones and joints which animate our lives.  

The point of this whole post is what do I do when my motives, hidden agendas and dark places in my soul are now made visible by the word of God? Or for me personally, what do I do with the personal struggle I introduced at the beginning of this article – realizing the role that fear and anxiety have played in my life. If I sincerely take time to understand my habitual patterns of rebellion and hardheartedness, allowing the word of God to expose them I am left naked and exposed (see vs. 13). This can be a wonderful place to be! (Although it doesn’t feel wonderful!)

Nevertheless, it is a blessed condition to find ourselves in this place of transparent vulnerability because we now have a high priest who understands our weaknesses.  If we are willing, we can come to him with our nakedness and shame to find mercy and grace to help in our time of need.  As the word of God exposes our souls, we find ourselves in a place of inner turmoil.  Why is this?  Perhaps we are experiencing disharmony between our soul and the Spirit of God who is at work in us.  This is why we need Jesus as our high priest.  As he leads us to deal with our souls, the end result is harmony between soul and spirit and this is the “rest of God” an Internal harmony between soul and spirit.  

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:14-16

Thank you Lord Jesus for being my high priest, for understanding all the broken pieces of my life and graciously leading me on toward inner harmony and spiritual maturity.

If you are interested in learning more about self discovery and Christian growth please see my wife, Rhonda’s website at She has some excellent resources and valuable personal and professional experience

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