Longing for Rest – August 2015

SilenceIs it just me, or is life really demanding in the world we live in right now? It seems like no matter where I turn, there is some new conflict occurring within my little realm of the world. Whether at work or church, among relatives or friends, there seems to be a lot of disagreements, creating hard feelings and disrupted relationships. So many people I know are struggling with illness, cancer, and loss of loved ones. People are experiencing financial difficulties, loss of jobs, and loss of relationships. And let’s not forget the world at large, with extreme cruelty abounding; with people being beheaded, burned alive, senseless torture and murder of hundreds if not thousands of people. There seems to be constant political conflict, with each party trying to gain some sort of advantage over the other, being more concerned about being in control than trying to do something constructive for our nation. One person explained it to me this way the other day: “There is just so much noise, I can’t take it anymore. I just want get away from all the drama and conflict and go somewhere where I can experience quiet and rest.”

Do you ever feel that way? Wanting to get away from it all and just rest? Do you know that God has a place of rest? Paul, in Hebrews 4:4, says, “For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.” This is God, resting on the Sabbath to celebrate the work that he had finished in creating the world. “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, who shall stand as an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his place of rest shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).

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Throughout the Old Testament God promised Israel that they would enter into His rest. “Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.” (1_Kings 8:56). But this promise was conditional. “The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us: That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.” (1 Kings 8:57, 58).

Unfortunately, much of Hebrews chapter 3 tells the story of God’s rejection of Israel, and of Israel not being allowed to enter into His rest. Why? Paul, in Hebrews, tells us: “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:7-13).

It seems that to receive God’s rest, we must have a faith in God that leads to obeying his commandments. Is it no wonder that there is no rest in most of the world today!

Ahhh, but there is that one word that we don’t like to hear… It’s called obedience. Now you say, “Come on Ed, get real. Do you have any idea how hard I have tried to obey God? But I always end up failing. How can I ever come to the point where I can be obedient to God?” You see, that is the beauty of God’s love for us, He has provided a way!

Look with me at Romans 5, verses 5 through 10; one of my favorite portions of scripture: “For we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Being without strength refers to our lack of strength to obey God and follow His commandments because of our sinful nature.

“For one will with difficulty die for a righteous one, yet perhaps one would even dare to die for a good one. But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7,_8). Do you see what the Bible is saying here? That God, knowing our lack of strength to obey his commandments because of sin, loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for yours and my sins; to bear all the guilt, embarrassment, and shame that we should have endured instead, and to die in our place.

Have you ever taken the time to look to see what is inside your heart? Just you and God looking at all those not-so-good thoughts and feelings, and those things that you would do if you knew that you wouldn’t get caught doing them; the embarrassment and shame you would feel if anyone ever found out about what is really inside your heart. You see, God already knows all about what is in our hearts, and yet He still loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die in our place.

But do you notice what it doesn’t say? It doesn’t say that when you are able to obey eight of the ten commandments, or two of the ten, or even one of the ten, that Jesus’ blood would cover your sins. You see, Jesus didn’t come to save us when we were at our best, but when we were at our worst, when we were still sinners. And best of all, salvation is a free gift that only requires us to accept it through faith. It is a gift that we cannot earn or pay back God for. It is simply free for all those who will accept it.

But you know what? This is just the beginning. It even gets better in the next few verses. “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9, 10).

I understand what it means to be saved by His death, but how are we saved by His life? Let’s look at what Paul says in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Let’s look further into what Paul says: “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:6-10).

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-25).

When Christ died for us, He covered our sins with His blood and bore our punishment in our place of us. When we invite Christ to live in our hearts, He changes us by His presence. It is the Spirit of Christ, living and working in us, that produces the fruit of the Spirit, against such there is no law (Galatians 5:23). Thus we are saved by Christ’s righteousness working in us, through faith that brings about obedience to God’s law.

Look at what else Paul says: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

This is what Jesus offers us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Are you tired of all the “noise” in your life? Invite Jesus into your life. Accept His gift of salvation, offered freely to everyone. Daily invite Him into your heart to change you, and to produce the fruit of His Spirit in you.

And you will find rest for your souls!