How good do you believe and know God is? What does Scripture say about his goodness to his people? Are we willing to surrender to him and the rest he offers?
How Good Is Your God?
In his goodness, God grants everyone the opportunity to enter into his rest
“Do you believe in the goodness of God? In other words, what do you believe is God’s predisposition towards me? What do you feel is God’s posture towards you? My guess is that we may fall into one of two camps. On the one hand we are actually indifferent at that question, on the other hand some of us may be despondent at that question.”
Topics & Timestamps
00:00 – Committing to our relationship to the Lord
05:00 – It is decision time
09:10 – Do you believe in the goodness of the Father?
12:24 – How good is your God?
17:48 – You can turn to the Lord even with an unbelieving heart
21:23 – The good news of the Gospel
24:04 – What is the state of your relationship with God?
Top Quotes: How Good Is Your God?
“Sadly, in our culture too many things are made to be more important than our soul before God.”
“Commitment to God isn’t a negotiation of things we don’t necessarily have to do, but it is the joyous shouldering of what must rightly be, weighing on our soul before the living God.”
“In his goodness God grants everyone the opportunity to enter into his rest.”
Other Content On This Topic
Text: Hebrews 4:1-13
Date preached: 17 May 2021
Location: Bryanston Bible Church, Johannesburg, South Africa
Committing To Our Relationship To The Lord
I don’t know about you, but I cannot think of anything in my life that goes well due to my lack of commitment to it. In fact, life just doesn’t work that way, right? Many things in our lives go well precisely because we were committed to them.
And so, think about relationships, for example. I don’t know when lost you heard of a dating or marriage couple claimed that things were going great because one or both partners were actually not committed to making it work.
Or think about work; you’ve just landed that one important client and you managed to do so because that client perceived that your company, or your firm, will lack the commitment needed for the project.
Or perhaps, you’re busy studying and preparing for that one important board exam. I just don’t think you’ll do well because you weren’t committed to studying for the exam.
So, life just doesn’t operate that way and the same happens with our relationship with God. It just will not work if we are not committed to it – leaning in with every bit of effort we have, to make a relationship with God work. And that’s not because God has commitment issues, but the problem is actually with us. We lack, at times, the commitment that’s needed to actually fully experience the goodness of God that he’s offering to us in intimate relationship with him.
Our culture also actually really conditions us, you know, when it comes to our sense of commitment to God. And so, make no mistake: the culture you’re part of actually influences the way that you see and approach certain things.
And so, two negative ways that our culture is currently really conditioning us when it comes to our sense of commitment to God:
Number one: that commitment to God shouldn’t cost you too much. The commitment to God shouldn’t cost you too much. Are you kidding? The Jesus who said, “if anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, pick up the cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
Does he sound like that he believes that commitment to God will come a little cost? And yet, we have domesticated Jesus’s words here. In the busyness of our culture, where there’s little margin left after we have served the agendas of self, our family, and our work. There’s little time, energy, money, happiness, satisfaction, fellowship that we can give towards our pursuit and commitment to God.
And that’s not because we necessarily think that commitment to God should come at little cost. No we’re just allowing our culture to actually condition us functionally to believe that we can commit to God at little cost.
The second way our culture is actually influencing the way we commit to God, our sense of commitment to God, is that commitment to God shouldn’t weigh on you too much. By weigh, I do not mean as a burden, but I mean as a sense of responsibility.
When I am responsible for something, I feel the weight of its importance over me. And so, Jesus will go on to say, “For whoever will choose to save their lives will lose it, but whoever loses their lives for me and the sake of the gospel will save it. For what Good is it for a man to gain the whole world and get lose or forfeit their soul or what can a person give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:35 – 37)
Sadly, in our culture today, too many things are made to be more important than our soul before God. And so, we don’t always carry the right level of weight and responsibility in our commitment to God so that we would experience the fullness that we need, as we prioritize our soul before God.
Also added to that, is the sense or the spirit of a culture of, “I don’t necessarily have to,” which then leads us to actually shirk from responsibility and the sense of accountability.
And so, that spirit can spill over into our walks with God as well. And so, I don’t necessarily have to give a certain percentage of my income or anything for that matter to the church. I don’t necessarily have to share my faith. I don’t necessarily have to attend my church’s Sunday gathering. I don’t necessarily have to serve at that Sunday gathering. I don’t necessarily have to hold this particular doctrine or that particular practice over my sexuality. I don’t necessarily have to… Fill in the blank.
Listen, commitment to God isn’t a negotiation over things we don’t necessarily have to do but it is actually the joyous shouldering of what must rightly be weighing on our soul before the living God.
It Is Decision Time
And so then, it is decision time in Hebrews as to where you will stand in your commitment to God. Will you wholeheartedly pursue what he has to offer to your soul?
Let’s read Hebrews 4 as the writer writes in the first 13 verses,
“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.[a] 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. 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[b] 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.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 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 4:1 – 13)
And so, we’ve been looking at Hebrews 3 and 4, at this question: “Can one lose their salvation?” We saw in Hebrews 3, that since the question involves both are inward disposition of our heart before God and the fruit of our lives, that we ought to hold a tension over the question.
And so, on the one hand, no one can know for sure what only God sees in the heart of somebody, but we can observe for sure what God does in the life of someone. So therefore, we cannot take God’s place in judgment of one another’s salvation, but we must take our place in encouragement of one another to live it out.
So be slow to judge one another on our salvation, but quick to exalt one another to live it out in faithfulness.
Do You Believe In The Goodness Of The Father?
Now having established that from chapter 3, when we come to chapter 4, we are confronted with this question: Do I believe in the goodness of God? Do I believe in the goodness of God?
And so, in other words, what do you believe is God’s predisposition towards me? Or what do I feel is God’s posture towards me?
Now my guess is, for those who are for many of us watching this it does is that we might fall in one of these two camps: that on the one hand, we are actually we are actually indifferent at that question. You don’t pause long enough to actually think about the question hard. And so perhaps you know the answer, and can work it out from the Scriptures, but you don’t allow that answer to you really sit deep into your heart, and then leading to a transformed life as a result.
On the other hand, some of us may actually be despondent at that question. Your predisposed idea of how God acts towards you is one of bankruptcy. And so that somehow, you’re in arrears of your payments to God in order to secure his favour over your life, and so then you live your life trying to catch up on what you owe God which can be so discouraging for your soul. Why? Because you just intuitively know that no amount of payments before God will actually lead you to actually pay enough to actually secure his favour over your life.
And so then, listen, if we are either indifferent or despondent at the question, “What is my fundamental belief of how God is predisposed to act towards me?” Indifference or despondency at that particular question will lead you on your journey of salvation to be riddled with a lack of assurance over your salvation.
Because, you see, it should never be in question that your God is good in how he acts towards you. You should never question that. You should actually have a secure conviction of the goodness of God over your life which then leads to great assurance of his salvation as well, as well.
By the goodness of God, I do not mean that God in his goodness/ the goodness of God will become some form of universalism that saves everyone no matter their commitment before God. No, but that in his goodness, God grants everyone the opportunity to enter his rest.
How Good Is Your God?
You got to see just how good your God is in giving you every opportunity to turn towards him so that, by laying hold of what he is extending to you, you will experience great assurance of your salvation. And so the question is, how good is your God? How good is your God?
This one, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest stills is still stands…” (Hebrews 4:1)
Let’s pause here for a moment. Whose promise is the author referring to? God’s! It is God’s promise. And so what does the author want us to see? He wants us to see this that, though God acts in judgment, and in judgment towards hardened hearts – which he has spoken about in chapter 3 – that in no way means that God has changed his mind as to whether he wants as many people as possible to come to him and be saved through him.
God is not in the business of shutting as many people as he can outside his kingdom. No, instead he extends the opportunity while the promise of entering his rest still stands.
“Let us fear less any of you should seem to have failed to reach it…”
He’s extending the opportunity. Where does the problem lie? The problem doesn’t not lie on the accessibility of God’s promise, but on the committed pursuit of those whom it has been extended to. And so, he is extending in his goodness – hope for redemption – for anyone who will choose or desire to long after it.
And so, verse two: “For good news came to us, just as to them…”
And so the author speaking to the so-called group of Christians and saying to them, “Listen, like Israel, we too have been extended this hope for redemption but the message they heard did not benefit them why because they were not united by faith with those who listen.” Do you see the problem again that they do not will not commit to what God was offering to them.
But here’s the point that the author is trying to make and trying to impress on us, and it is simply this: that you do not have to be like one of them. You do not have to be like one of them. In the face of God’s goodness, as he extends hopeful redemption, you can respond with a different disposition of heart.
And so then, here’s how Hebrews 3 and 4 actually then fit together. Though there is a conditional heart that will prevent you prevent you from accessing what God is offering, but however, in the goodness of God, there is always hope for redemption that he is extending to you, if you will respond in a different disposition of heart.
And so therefore, here’s how the goodness of God becomes assurance of salvation. On our journey of salvation, we will all find ourselves at points where our faithfulness to God is actually compromised. But listen, here’s the good news; it is at those precise moments that if you have a resolute conviction of the goodness of God over your life, that is predisposed to acting goodness towards you, you will then perceive just how much there is still hope for redemption for someone like you. Even (for) you, there is still hope for redemption. It is then laying hold of that hyper redemption in the goodness of God, that then the goodness of God starts to become assurance of salvation over your life.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the first time I heard this I could not help but think: could it be that easy? Could it really be that easy?
Because when I think about my own life, and the areas where I still struggle with sin which then exposes the darkness that lies my heart at times, could actually hope for redemption be as easy as just believing and responding to the goodness of God? It seems too easy to be any good, of any good, right?
But listen, the good news of the gospel is that it is because it’s that easy, that it is so good. It’s precisely because it is that easy, that it is so they’re so good.
Perhaps anticipating that some of his audience would respond in a similar fashion, the author of Hebrews wants to convince them that God is so good, that it is that easy to turn from your unbelieving heart by repentance and faith and receive this hope promise rest that he is extending towards us.
You Can Turn To The Lord Even With An Unbelieving Heart
Now I’m not going to get into all the intricacies and details of how he carefully constructs this argument to try to convince us of that, but verses 3 to 10 is precisely the author trying to argue that God is so good, that you can turn to him, even though you have an unbelieving heart.
And so here’s the gist of verses 3 to 7, beginning with verse 3,
“For we who have believed, enter the rest…”
What is the author saying, he’s saying, “Listen, though I have had a go at you in chapter 3, urging you, warning you and warning you not to fall away from the living God like Israel did, but just because I’ve had a go, does not mean that you have to now live your lives being unsure on where you stand, at the promise of God. You can be sure of having entered into it.”
Now, I know some of you may respond and say, “Wait a minute. Didn’t you just compare us to Israel?” It doesn’t seem like Israel entered it, as God said, “I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest.” But the author is saying to his audience, as he argues from verses 4 to verse 7, and he’s saying, listen there’s something you got to understand, however. The fact that, from creation through to the exodus and right up to David later on, the fact that God keeps referring to the promise of his rest that has been extended towards his people means, that not even Israel, rebellious and unbelieving as she was, lacked the opportunity to respond with a different disposition of heart before God.
And so therefore, the call of God’s promised rest, this call of redemption, the redemption that’s offered to anyone will forever be (verse 7) that “today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” Do not harden your heart.
What is your response going to be at the voice of God over your life? That’s what he is arguing for. Then he continues, verse 8 to 10, “For if Joshua had given them rest as they entered the promised land, God would not have spoken of another day later on…”
And so, the fact that psalm 95 of David, that comes centuries later, speaks in the present tense to anyone who will hear it, exhorting them to actually enter, seize this promise of rest that is coming from God – the fact that that exists then must mean (verse 9) that there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. That can be you. You can be someone who belongs, is part of the family of God. That can be you. For whoever has entered God’s rest, has also rested from his works as God did from his.
And so listen, you don’t ever have to wonder whether God is accepting of you. But you can be somebody who partakes in the goodness of the rest that God is offering your soul. Why? Because God himself is at rest, and he wants to be at rest with you.
The Good News Of The Gospel
And so friend, we live in a world where we have to earn our own way, right? But the good news of the Gospel is: this that God is offering us another way, which we don’t deserve but the fact that we do not deserve it, never makes God rescind the offer. No but instead, it leads him to draw even closer and whisper, “Today, if you hear my voice, do not harden your heart towards me…”
So what is God saying? God is saying, “Listen, I am so good, that it is that easy to draw near to me with the repentant and believing heart- no matter where you found yourself today. I am that good.”
And so, it is because it is that easy, that he is so good.
And so then therefore, how would we respond to the goodness of God that still is offering us rest today, no matter where we find ourselves? It is by heeding and responding to the exaltation in verses 11 to 13:
“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest so that no one may fall.”
You do not have to be somebody who falls away. You do not have to be somebody who falls away from the living God. But for that not to happen to you, not to fall away, you’ve got to allow the Word of God, which is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, to pierce to the division of your soul and spirit, just to discern the thoughts and intentions of your heart.
Listen, you are not hidden from God’s sight but you are our spiritually naked and exposed to his eyes and must give an account for what God sees in you. And so therefore, respond! Respond by performing a spiritual audit of your life. Respond by performing a spiritual or audit of your life in in the face of the goodness of God.
What Is The State Of Your Relationship With God?
George Guthrie in his commentary on the book of Hebrews actually calls for this as the main application of Hebrews chapter 4. He goes on to write and says this,
“Therefore, as a first level application on Hebrews 4, we must reflect on our spiritual condition. What is the state of my relationship with God? Have I entered into relationship with him and am I living out obedience to his voice? Hebrews 4 invites us first of all to spiritual reflection concerning our relationship to God.”
And so, how is your commitment, your relationship, your soul before the goodness of God? How are you doing in light of that?
I just finished a book on prayer by Timothy Keller, and the book ends on a metaphor calling the reader to perform an assessment, an audit of their own spiritual lives now. The moment I heard it, it made me immediately think that that it can be a great metaphor to actually use with Hebrews 4 to assess the state of our commitment, our relationship with God.
What I want to do, is read you the metaphor and I want to ask you to already pay careful attention, to really listen and use it to assess yourself as to where am I? Where am I in my walk and in my relationship with God today?
Now to do that, I’m actually going to change my posture and I’m going to invite you to change yours as well. Why? Because by changing your posture, by maybe leaning in, sit up if you were crouching, sit up or kneel. Perhaps by changing our posture, we just change our disposition to actually engage the disposition of our hearts to engage what God has to say to us. What we’re about to do is just far too important, asking ourselves where is my commitment? Where is my relationship with God at the moment? It is far too important a thing not to do while the promise of God’s rest still stands.
And so, I want to ask you change your posture and I’m going to change mine as we perform the spiritual audit of our soul today, before the living God.
Tim Keller writes and explains the metaphor: Imagine that your soul is a boat, a boat with both oars and a sail in this case. Here are four questions, four options, in a sense.
Number one, are you sailing? Sailing means you’re living the Christian life with the wind at your back. God is real to your heart. You often feel his love. You see prayers being answered. When studying the Bible, you regularly see remarkable things and you sense him speaking to you. You sense people around you being influenced by the Spirit through you. Are you sailing?
Number two, are you rowing? Rowing means you’re finding prayer and Bible reading to be more a duty than a delight. God often, though not always, seems distant and the sense of his presence is fairly rare. You don’t see many of your prayers being answered. You may be struggling with doubts about God and about yourself. Yet despite all this, you refuse self-pity or the self-righteous pride that assumes you know better than God how your life should go. You continue to read the Bible and pray regularly. You attend worship and reach out and serve people, despite the inner spiritual dryness. Are you rowing?
Three, are you drifting? Drifting means that you are experiencing all the conditions of rowing: spiritual dryness and difficulties in life but in response, instead of rowing, you’re letting yourself drift. You don’t feel like approaching and obeying God, so you don’t pray or read. You give in to the self-centeredness that naturally comes when you feel sorry for yourself and you drift into self-indulgence behaviours to comfort yourself. Whether it be escape eating and sleeping, sexual practices or whatever else. Are you drifting?
And then the last one, are you sinking? Eventually your boat, your soul will drift away from the shipping lanes, as it were, and truly lose any forward motion in the Christian life. The numbness of heart can become hardness because you gave into thoughts of self-pity and resentment. If some major difficulty or trouble were to come into your life, it would be possible to abandon your faith and identity as a Christian all together. Are you sinking?
Keller goes on to write in this metaphor, we see that there are some things we are responsible for, such as using the means of grace, the Bible, prayer and church participation, in a disciplined way. There are many other things we do not have much control over, such as how well the circumstances in our lives are going, as well as our emotions.
If you pray, worship, and obey despite negative circumstances and feelings, you won’t be drifting and when the winds come up again, you will move ahead swiftly. On the other hand, if you do not apply the means of grace, you will, at best, be drifting and if storms come into your life, you might be in danger of sinking. And so friend, sailing, rowing, drifting or sinking – which of those four options best describes the state of your commitment, relationship and soul before the presence of the living God?
I’m going to ask you at this moment, to pause here. Hit the pause button. Spend some time reflecting before the presence of God, asking him to pierce to your soul spirit, to discern where you are with God right now and engage him in prayer, as we as we perform this spiritual audit of our lives, because it’s too an important a thing not to do, while the promise of God’s rest still stands.
Friend, I don’t know what the spiritual audit has revealed about the state of your commitment and soul before the presence of God, but I want to remind you of Jesus’s words that offers as us rest, if we would come to him.
And so, reading from Matthew 11, here’s what Jesus said:
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30)
Nothing is better than Jesus. Will you come to him and find rest for your soul?