Rest from a Conscience of Dead Works

“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14).

The journey of the children of Israel out of Egypt bespeaks the exodus out of the flesh of the Adamic nature into our Promised Land – Christ. This is the promise of God to His children, to enter, inherit and possess this Land. On this wilderness journey a pattern was relayed to Moses through the law on how the people were to live in relation with God and with each other.

One of the first instructions God gave the people was regarding the Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be designated for rest on the seventh year and day. We read that the “Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exo. 20:11). He consecrated and sanctified it to be holy and separated.

To those partaking in the law of the Spirit, the rest that God refers to is not merely a day of recuperation for the flesh. Notice also that the people didn’t just rest, they and their land and livestock were all to rest on the seventh year (Exo. 23:10-11). His rest is all encompassing. God is in an undisrupted state of rest (Gen. 2:2). It is His rest that is hallowed and which we are called to enter into.

The Greek word for rest is ‘Katapauo’. It means to ‘make quiet, to lead to a quiet abode, and to still.’ The Greek word also implies to ‘colonize’ and to cause one who is striving to desist (stop). Note that this signifies a person. The entering into God’s rest is not simply the ceasing of outward works but the end of the one whose tendency is to work. It is an entering into an abode; a condition and state of being where the nature of one who is Rest takes preeminence.

I believe God’s initial priority in our spiritual development is transforming our inward nature and not our outward behavior and conduct. God is not after behavior modification, He is after regeneration. He deals with the root of the matter – man’s heart. We witness the condition of man’s heart of rebellion in the children of Israel who escaped the bondage of Egypt and traveled across the wilderness but never entered into the promised rest of God.

The place of rest that God had promised Israel was Canaan; the land flowing with milk and honey. This land was their inheritance. It was the place of rest from the toil and labor they had been enslaved to in Egypt. For us today, this promised inheritance of the riches of His glory and the divine abundance of His rest are found in Christ. Christ is our inheritance! He is an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away (1 Pet. 1:4). I don’t fancy an inheritance of brick and cement in a distant heaven. Are we not the living stones who are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from God? This holy habitation is the glorious realm of rest found in Him alone. He is our land where we partake of the spirituals milk and honey that is found in His divine nature. Entering into and abiding in the fullness of Christ is the rest ordained for His sons. Our Lord summons us: “come unto Me…and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). This is the promise that God has given His sons by the very seed of the indwelling Christ. For He is the Lord of the Sabbath.

“For in a certain place He has said this about the seventh day: and God rested on the seventh day from all His works” (Heb. 4:4). The seventh day is the Sabbath day of rest in which the creation work was complete and God entered His rest. Seven in biblical numerology indicates completeness and fullness. It is the realm of God’s rest. The Sabbath rest of the seventh day can only be realized as we begin to continuously walk in Him. Only then does He cause us to cease from all the effort and labor of the soul.

What keeps us from entering His rest?

The chronicle of the children of Israel in the wilderness is a lesson of why Israel was kept from entering the promise of His rest. God declares: “I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘they always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘they shall not enter My rest.’ Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:10-12). The King James version states that they could not enter His rest because; “they do always err in their hearts.” To “err” is to be led aside from the right way or truth and to roam about. Israel fell away from the truth and from following the path ordained by God. For us today, anything that we do outside the quickening of the Spirit of Christ who is THE WAY is rebellion which will lead us away from entering His rest. The consequence of departing from THE WAY is a continual circling and toil in the wilderness.

The problem with Israel was that of the heart. They had gone astray due to “an evil heart of unbelief” and therefore could not enter His rest (Heb. 3:19). Their unbelief was a refusal to accept both His rest and the path to His rest. The heart of man– the nature of carnal man is the essence of this evil heart of unbelief. This nature opposes Christ and His finished work and cannot enter into the rest ordained by God for His sons.

Rest from an evil conscience

The Greek word used for ‘evil’ in the passage (Heb. 3:12) is ‘poneros’ which means “full of labors, pressed and harassed by labors.” It signifies not just conduct but that of a ‘bad nature or condition.’ This is the heart continually pressed and stressed by the efforts and works of the flesh.

Man by his very nature desires to work. Similarly, the religious man too desires to bear fruit by plowing his Adamic ground. Accordingly, there are many in the Church system today who feel idle, fruitless and even unworthy if they don’t work for God. God calls this unbelief. Their faith is in their Christian effort and not God’s finished work in Christ. They don’t believe nor trust God with the work. The scriptures also refer to this as DEAD WORKS. Dead works are not obvious sins like adultery, covetousness, drunkenness etc. They refer to the empty rituals and activities of religion. These are called DEAD because they emanate out of the conscience of man and not the life flowing from the eternal Spirit of Christ.

“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14).

How we need our conscience cleansed from every dead work by the blood (life flow) of Christ. Man’s conscience is that which distinguishes right from wrong, good from evil. This knowledge was obtained by Adam and Eve only after the fall. Man, who was initially created in the image and likeness of God, was not created with this knowledge. Thus the conscience is the fruit of carnality. Its moral compass or standard is not based on the righteousness of God but is framed by its environment and by what it has been taught. Thus, for the Muslim, his conscious would condemn him if he ate pork. The Catholic will freely pray to Mary but the Pentecostal would feel condemned if he did. The Muslim conscience, the Catholic conscience, and yes the Pentecostal conscience are one and the same. They are referred to as an “evil conscience”. They are mere rituals of the flesh, dos and don’ts, outward observances – dead works that are of no value to producing the Christ life. To be under the bondage of dead works is to be defiled with that which is dead and lifeless. Our Lord summons us: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an EVIL CONSCIENCE” (Heb. 10:22).

It is from everything we strive to do and accomplish from our soulish realm that God desires us to rest from. We are to rest from the fruitless efforts of the flesh, from the traditions of men and the man-driven programs, visions, and efforts of religion. All these are counted as labor, mere dead works. God is not satisfied with the toil of religious men. He is looking for sons who have come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Religion doesn’t produce sons but slaves; those with the propensity to labor for the Lord. And the Pharisees of our day encourage the saints week in and week out to pursue the way of Cain. As Cain toiled and labored to till the ground in order to produce fruit and with it communed with God, so do the religionists our day. Every Sabbath meeting they pile on the load. Every sermon it seems ends with homework where spiritual truths are reduced to a list of ‘to dos’. They summon those whose trust is in that house to till their Adamic ground to present to God the harvest of their dead works. This is futility.

Many who labor in the name of the Lord today labor in soulish prayer and fasting, they labor is spiritual warfare, they labor in building buildings, they labor is self-imposed religion and will-worship, they labor in exorcism, they labor in various programs and conferences, they labor as bodyguards of Babylon’s doctrines, they labor in building the kingdom with man’s means. Remove all their religious activities and they will feel inadequate, fruitless, and backslidden and the burden of guilt and condemnation of their Pentecostal conscience will quickly overwhelm them. Their pride and foundation is their Christian labor. These follow after the dictates of their denominationally-framed conscience and not the quickening of the Spirit.

It is only the blood of Christ that cleanses and purges our conscience from dead works (Heb. 9:13-14). This is the quickening power of Christ’s life flowing from the depth our inward being to direct every motive, every word and every action. His life as our compass and standard is the essence of His rest. For “he that is entered into His rest, he also has ceased from his own works” (Heb. 4:10). Only that which springs forth from the life of Christ pleases the Father. In this is rest: trusting in God’s ability, power, and continual working in us. Our faithful Father assures us that He who began a good work in us will carry it out to completion (Phil. 1:6). Indeed He will perfect that which concerns us. Thus, the only labor God has called us to, is the labor of entering His rest – Christ (Heb. 4:11). Paul declares: “my little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Yet this was not self-imposed labor but that which was quickened by Christ in Paul’s life.

Those who are pressing on to maturity are now experiencing the glorious rest of God from the all the condemnations and dead works of an evil conscience. His life and rest is our portion for “the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Heb. 4:3). The Christ in us is whole, in Him we lack nothing and all the works are complete, “for in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him” (Col. 2:9-10). It is in living out of His perfect and complete life that we cease from our works and allow Him to work through us. It is His life that saves us. This is His rest; His life operating in us both to will and to do according to His pleasure. To those who are weary and heavy laden from striving today, the call and provision remains to enter into Him who is the true rest.

May the living Spirit of Christ establish you in His rest!

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