Mickey Starling: Greene Publishing, Inc.
Anyone who has been grocery shopping recently can attest to all of the self-help articles that abound on popular magazine covers. Most of them center on the many ways you can think, live and eat better through changing your habits or behavior. That's great if you need to shed a few pounds or learn to complain less. However, things don't operate in exactly the same manner within the kingdom of God.
With issues relating to God, our methods and efforts for improvement are virtually useless. It's not that we shouldn't put forth serious effort in obtaining a better relationship with God, because we should. We can only arrive at destinations we are traveling towards. However, we are not instructed to work harder to be more pleasing to God. God often acts in reverse to our order of things. We are instructed to "make every effort to enter that rest (of God)," and to know and experience it for ourselves. (see Hebrews 4: 11)
Certainly, the idea of making effort to enter rest seems strange. I believe the verse is instructing us about holding to our position in Christ and resisting the urge to perform to earn our salvation. This chapter has a lengthy discussion of entering a Sabbath rest and compares that to us, as we cease from our own efforts to be made right with God.
Christians have a tendency to get off to a good start in this area as new believers, perhaps because they know they are pretty clueless in the beginning. However, many seem to slowly start thinking that their attention to rights and wrongs is more crucial than it really is. I am not suggesting that you should live a loose and careless life and expect no consequences. Instead, I want us to arrive at the right place in the right way.
That is important because the right way is attractive to everyone who sees it lived out before them. This was obvious in Jesus' day, because only religious leaders were uncomfortable around Him. Lost people found hope and freedom in his presence and sinners seemed to enjoy Him. Jesus does more than give us a fresh start; He gives us a new spirit that desires to follow Him (see Ezekiel 36: 16). The passage in Ezekiel is a foretelling of what Christ would accomplish in us. Having been given a new heart and having received the forgiveness for our transgressions, we now have access to our Father, without fear of punishment. Romans 5:17 boldly describes grace and righteousness as gifts from God, while Galatians 2:21 even states that for you and I to try to be righteous by way of observing the law (doing the right and not doing the wrong), we would be nullifying the work of Jesus on the cross. To that, I say, "No, thank you!"
One thing is for certain, God wants you to be at peace when your final hour approaches and you take that first step into eternity. Don't muddy the waters and bring confusion to what is meant to be simple. The blood of Jesus took care of everything that was always out of your reach. Our obedience is important, but it will never be flawless. Jesus has perfected our obedience through His suffering on Calvary and we now can bring every thought, action and argument that would assert itself against His provision into that obedience, thus having peace. (See 2 Cor. 10:5)