Our Eternal Rest Home

Sermon Series: JUBILEE!--The Freedom of Sabbath Living

Our Eternal Rest Home

February 19, 2009 - February 22, 2009

Hebrews 4:1-4, 9-11

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Chris Garrison

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When was the last time you were lost—I mean really lost?  That chest pounding, adrenaline coursing, anxiety rising, rash decision-making, unkind word speaking—kind of lost?  Now there are those who go in complete denial at times like these.  They dream their destination will appear by sheer dent of will.  Then there are those who get lost in their own house, at school, or at work, having to rely on others for direction.  Researchers, who have a name for everything, call this: selective developmental topographical disorientation.  It means lost.  I’m not above swallowing my pride and asking for directions.  But over the years, I’ve learned a hard lesson.  Working at a gas station does not make one an expert in local geography.  Generally if you hear the following words, you’re in real trouble, “I’m not from here.”  Even with a GPS, we can be led astray.  Just last month three groups of tourists got lost following their GPS directions—all on the same day.  They typed in Grand Canyon West, and they ended up stranded in different parts of the
Mojave Desert.  That’s not the first time a GPS led people astray in that region.  Just four months previously, a convoy of tourists followed their GPS to the very edge of a sheer cliff.  Getting lost can be hazardous to your health.

 

The Israelites were lost.  They wandered in the wilderness.  It’s not that they were without direction.  They had God’s Spirit to lead them—a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  They put the Lord God to the test.  They doubted his goodness.  They doubted that he would provide for their needs.  They doubted God’s presence and worshiped other gods.  They did not believe he could take them to the Promised Land.  So God left them to the desires of their hearts, and left them wandering in the wilderness.  Because they didn’t believe in God, they did not enter God’s rest.

 

For those who believe, there still remains a Sabbath rest.  This rest is not just once every seventh day.  It is an eternal rest.  Remember what the word Sabbath literally means: cease, desist, stop.  There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God—a rest from our wilderness wanderings.  One day our struggles of living in the wilderness will cease, desist, stop.  There will be the great ‘no mores’—no more death, mourning, crying or pain.  John the Evangelist is granted a vision of this rest:

 

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:1, 3-4)

 

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  At it’s core, the eternal Sabbath is not a rest from our labors.  It is rest from our struggles.  In eternity, all creation returns to God’s original design before the curse.  The curse of sin is not work itself.  The curse is that all labor would be fraught with struggle.  The Sabbath rest that remains is a freedom from all our struggles in the wilderness—this side of
Paradise, East of Eden.  Isaiah the Prophet foretold of this rest:

 

"See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 19 I will rejoice over
Jerusalem
and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them (Isaiah 65:17, 19, 22-23). 

 

A certain pastor of ours once said that work will not cease in heaven.  He makes a pretty good case.  There we return to
Eden
, tending the garden, where all work is fruitful.  Bottom line is: heaven is not freedom from work.  It’s freedom from struggles.  No longer will we labor in vain.  For those who wantto say, “Take this job…please,” there is consolation.  We don’t really know what will fill our days.  We do know one kind of work will be eternal: the praise and worship of our God.  Whenever we worship here on earth, we join the heavenly choirs with a foretaste our eternal Sabbath.  There we will worship in the presence of the Lord.  No more wilderness, no more pain, no more tears.

 

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  Someone once said that all jazz musicians have just one theme.  Every song they play is just a variation of that theme.  My grandmother, Edith, does not play jazz, but she has a theme: the assurance of salvation.  My grandmother grew up in a stream of Christianity that said you could lose your salvation if you did not watch out.  Throughout childhood she lived in constant fear that with one false move, she wouldn’t get to heaven.  When she was a young parent, when my dad was a toddler, she was gripped by fear and anxiety—feeling she could never measure up.  Then a neighbor invited her over, opened the Bible, and showed passage after passage of God’s love and acceptance for those who believe.  My grandmother has not been able to stop talking about it ever since.

 

The passage says, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their [the Israelites] example of disobedience” (Hebrews ).  Someone reading this passage might think it’s implying that we can lose our salvation.  That’s not what it’s saying.  It’s saying the wilderness wanderers did not believe in the first place.  They heard the good news that the Lord would save them.  They did not believe.  Let’s be clear.  For those who believe there is the full assurance of salvation.  That’s different than insurance.  There’s a difference between assurance and insurance.  With insurance we invest in what we hope will never happen—the worst-case scenario, the unthinkable.  With assurance, we invest in the hope of what is sure to happen. The danger is for us to treat our salvation as fire insurance.  Salvation is striving to let our assurance bear fruit now and for all eternity.

 

Our striving then is to live into that salvation.  To live as the people God called us to be.  So we can hear the Master say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”  We need God’s help.  As the great hymn proclaims:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

 

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  In this new reality we have our greatest hope—the hope of the resurrection.  In the midst of pain and suffering, we draw strength from our hope in the promise of a better day. 

 

Here’s the problem.  Heaven is at once our greatest hope and our greatest embarrassment.    If heaven is our great hope of entering into the joy and bliss of eternal glory, then why don’t we ever talk about it?  If we take the Bible seriously that a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God, then we have to seriously that some will not enter that rest.  Why don’t we talk about it?  No matter how old we are, peer pressure still has its hold.  We really do care how others see us.  We don’t want others to think we’re the loony, wacko, follower of Christ.  Perhaps we don’t feel like we are well-spoken, or have anything to say, or know how to answer questions on faith.  But if we believe there remains a Sabbath rest, let’s strive so that everyone will know how to enter that rest.

 

Brunswick Church, this is our bicentennial year.  The ultimate bicentennial gift would be reaching more people with the good news of Jesus.  We’re just now beginning to figure out that reaching people with the good news takes more than one conversation.  It takes a relationship.  People will be moved by one friendship more than they ever will by one conversation.   That takes the pressure off.  We can mess up one conversation, say the wrong things, and have a chance make it right when we have a relationship with people. 

Reaching people with the good news takes a relationship.  It doesn’t happen all at once—especially in today’s culture.  In the book, “I Once Was Lost,” the authors interviewed 2000 people who recently came to faith in Jesus Christ.  They discovered a common pattern they labeled the five thresholds on the path to faith. 

 

Trusting a Christian: it starts with a relationship in which someone finds a Christian trustworthy, their actions line up with their beliefs, they care about others.

Becoming Curious:  this is usually when Christians get into trouble.  Someone who’s curious is going to ask challenging questions.  The mistake is for us to try to fill a thimble of curiosity with a bucket of Christianity.

Opening Up to Change: is the hardest threshold to cross—for all of us.

Seeking After God: means an active pursuit to find out more about this relationship and what it means for their life.

Entering the Kingdom: is trusting in Christ, confessing him as Lord, and engaging in kingdom living is the final threshold.

 

Crossing the five thresholds takes time.  It takes some patience and persistence.  It takes a trusted friend to walk the path in a caring way.  Let us strive to share Christ in a winsome way—not a winsome / lose some way.  Ultimately it’s not up to us to save people.  That’s God’s job.  It is up to us to share Jesus—over the long haul—with words, and action, and relationship.  Let us strive so that everyone will know how to enter that rest—the eternal Sabbath.

 

This is the last week that Sabbath will be the focus of our worship. We started this sermon series hearing that Jesus is our Jubilee: setting all things right with justice, mercy and extravagant worship.  We faced the basic call of the Sabbath—to be still and know that he is God—we are not.  We walked the tightrope with the Lord of the Sabbath—seeking together to balance our own efforts by God’s grace.  We contended with Sabbath Shalom, or wholeness—that weekly Jubilee of acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.  We feasted on Sabbath worship—and thought how to take the celebration outside these walls.  Through it all, Jesus remains the center of every Sabbath.  Honoring Jesus and keeping the Sabbath is not simple.  It takes work.  It takes effort to enter that rest. 

 

One day that kind of Sabbath living will be an all pervasive reality.  One day that sanctuary in time will extend for all eternity.  We’ll gather together for a great heavenly banquet, and see people from every tribe, nation, from every generation.  We’ll see people with whom we’ve walked through the thresholds of faith.  Our faith will become sight.  People have tried to paint that picture throughout the ages.  No one this side of eternity will ever be able to capture the splendor, wonder, and majesty.  Some have come close.  My favorite picture is from a children’s book with the simple title: Jubilee.

 

They’ll hug and they’ll holler,

They’ll backslap and joke,

The old and young and brand new.

They’ll be loud and excited,

they’ve waited so long

all glad to be gathered—

Jubilee.

They’ll have corn on the cob and barbecue,

They’ll have ice cream, biscuits, and pies

So much for so many piled high as the eye

All ready for tasting—

Jubilee

They’ll have potato sack races

And games of all kinds.

With shouting and singing

They’ll all harmonize,

With instruments playing along.

They’ve saved you an ice cream.

They’ve saved you a dance.

They say there’s room for more.

So come on along,

 all joy is to be—

Jubilee

There is the Sabbath rest for the people of God.  There is our sanctuary beyond walls and time.  I’m ready.  Are you ready?  Who are we bringing with us?

To contact Chris Garrison about this sermon, please email or write to: Brunswick Presbyterian Church, 42 White Church Lane, Troy, NY 12180