True rest is where we regularly, intentionally engage in God’s rule and reign in our hearts.
Who rules your heart? Since God’s promise of rest still remains for those who choose to enter it, they should seize the opportunity. The rest that awaits is a spiritual rest that comes only from placing one’s full allegiance in Christ. True rest requires intentional obedience as we engage with God and his Word.
Are you motivated by the flesh or the Holy Spirit?
When we are self-centered, we choose to live our lives for ourselves, resulting in doing things according to our own agenda. We become a product of our idols of the heart (Psalm 119:105, 2 Timothy 3:1-4). The three reasons a Christian will not obey God are a lack of knowledge, a lack of skill, and wrongful will. Essentially, the Christian can fall in three categories: They could lack maturity in the Word and not know any better, they could not have been properly discipled and don’t know how to obey, or they could choose to live in sin, with a hardened heart and refusal to obey. Having knowledge and choosing to live in sin is a result of stubbornness and rebellion.
Our thoughts are motivated by either the flesh or the Holy Spirit. When our thoughts are motivated by the sin in our hearts, we become preoccupied with issues such as whatever brings me short-term pleasure apart from God, independence from authority (not having to answer to anyone), materialism, and entitlement. Wrong thinking only leads to further disobedience to God.
"Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things." - Php 3:17–19.
Who rules your heart?
We falsely seek peace, joy, and rest in foolish attempts to rule our own hearts. Ultimately, this leads to a guilty conscience, a fear of God’s judgment, and fatigue (2 Timothy 3:1-9, Proverbs 28:1). We become servants of our flesh to satisfy desires we have started to worship. Our desires that we treasure and worship above loving God are our idols (James 3-4:3, Philippians 3:17-19, Galatians 5:16-21). Areas of our lives where we become dominated by lies, selfish ambition, materialism, entitlement, and lustful pursuits must be replaced with specific obedience to God if we are to find rest.
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." -Gal 5:16–18.
Are you restless due to sin of unbelief?
God led Israel out of Egypt while promising to lead them into the land of Canaan (Joshua 1:13). While in Egypt they were slaves, but in Canaan they would find rest. Yet because many of them failed to believe God’s promise, they did not enter the Promised Land. They were deprived of the rest in Canaan God had lovingly prepared for them. The sin of unbelief is what the author addresses in Hebrews 4. Unbelief kept the first generation of Israelites coming out of Egypt from finding rest in Canaan.
"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. 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. 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." - Heb 4:1-3
Is there a specific area of your life where you refuse to believe God’s promises? The solution to the problem of unbelief is to believe God, and inherit the eternal rest that Christ grants by faith. Those who confess, repent, and believe the gospel inherit eternal rest; those who turn away from the gospel, or intentionally fall short of receiving God’s grace, will have no rest (Isaiah 57:20). Do you believe? Does God reign in your heart? God’s promises stand alongside God’s gospel of grace.