Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at The New Covenant P31 (08-03-21)
What Does it Mean to Enter God’s Rest?
All of us will face burdens or go weary in this fallen world we live in. Entering God’s rest does not mean we will not face hardships or difficulties in life. It does not mean we will live a completely sinless life, for we still have this struggle with our sin-indwelling flesh that is in conflict with the Spirit, who lives in us now. But it does mean that we have someone to go to, who loves and accepts us unconditionally and wants to give us abundant life. Jesus says He will never leave me nor forsake me and that He remembers my sins no more. That means, as a child of God, I am no longer under the law, under an Old Covenant, but under a New Covenant of grace, and I can boldly go to the throne of grace for help in time of need.
The curtain to the Holy of Holies, where, under an Old Covenant, only the high priest could enter, and that without the shedding of blood, has been torn in two, and that not by man but by God Himself. God was showing us that the way now to come into the presence of God has been made open to us through faith in what Jesus did by shedding His blood on a cross, where He took away the sins of the whole world (which includes each of us), once and for all, and He will never shed His blood again. He said, “It is finished” and He meant what He said. Living a life of faith means: I do not add to what He has done. I do not ask God to forgive me when I sin for that has already been completed. I did not need to perform certain religious activities to make myself acceptable to God. Jesus did it all so I simply thank Him for what He has already done. I rest in His finished work for me and so I can rest from my works as well. There is nothing I can do or need to do to earn God’s love or obtain His acceptance. I am both completely loved and accepted by God. This is true faith in Him and His finished work on the cross.
We all start out as infants in Christ and we have to grow to maturity in Christ. Jesus explains to us that He is our Counselor, through the Holy Spirit living in us. What do we need a Counselor for? We need our minds renewed so we can come to understand what He has freely given us. We go to Him as our Counselor to get instructions in how to live by faith, from first to last and to get our minds renewed with truth that will set us free. We come to understand what the Christian life is and how He lives it through us. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for you so that raised from the dead He can give His life to you, so that now living in you He can live His life through you. That is the Christian life. It is all Jesus and none of us!
Jesus gave an illustration to his disciples, familiar with farming in their day, in how we can depend on Christ for our every need ( Matthew 11:28-30). He tells us about oxen yoked together and that Jesus is likened to the mature ox and all the other oxen are yoked to Him. Jesus is pulling the load, and the other oxen are yoked to Him. So the burden is light and easy for the other oxen, and when they have the tendency to look around and get off track, there is a gentle tapping that gets them back in focus. God is gentle and humble of heart and He is treating us as children of God, who are learning how to walk in faith. He is encouraging us and looking out for our very best. If you grew up in a loving home, it is like that of an encouraging father who loves you and cares for you. Or like a loving mother, that when you are hurting, you can rest in her lap and be comforted. We can now go boldly to the throne of God for help in time of need. The Holy Spirit, living in us, is also called our Comforter. We can rest in His loving arms, and call Him “Abba, Father”.
What happens to steer us away from a dynamic relationship with the living God is when we think we have to do something. We think we have to either go to a priest or directly to God to get our sins forgiven or that we have to do all the things the church pastor or leader tells us we should be doing. We get suckered in by a lie. So we get all burdened down with things God never instructed us to do or even expects us to do. He certainly does not want us to be asking Him to forgive us of our sins, for that is insulting the Spirit of grace and calling Jesus a liar, saying His shed blood was not sufficient to forgive us of all our sins. It is treating as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified us. We are to be set apart in our thinking from that of the world. If you are in Christ, born again, you have the Spirit of God living in you, and so you are to be led internally by the Spirit living in you. Rejoice in Him and His righteousness, not our own!
We are not to be led by rules and regulations in whatever religion you are in. Religion is what man does and thinks he needs to do in order to be accepted by God or to earn God’s love. No, we are recipients of God’s love and God has done everything for us. We rest in His love and we allow His love to change our attitudes of heart and then in turn that change in attitude results in bearing the fruit of God’s love into the lives of others. Resting in Christ, entering God’s rest, is like Jesus told us in John 15, where a branch is resting on the vine and the vine is doing all the work so we can bear fruit. We are relying on Christ to live His life in us and through us. But religious activities steer us away from the pure and simple devotion to Christ. So do not put yourselves back under the law for that only weighs us down. The letter of the law kills but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).
As a new creature in Christ, your former life may have been marked by an insatiable desire for acceptance. Before coming to Christ, you found that acceptance when you went to the bars with your drinking buddies who laughed at your jokes. But once you came to Christ, you stopped drinking and found out that none of your buddies wanted to be with you anymore. You were only accepted as long as you were sinning together with them. In the process of having your mind renewed, you still have his insatiable desire for acceptance, but not fully grasping God’s complete acceptance of you, you formed new friends, and since they were evangelical types, always talking about sharing Jesus and going out witnessing, so that is what you did to find acceptance.
But you did things often in the flesh, not what God directed you to do. Eventually that came to the point that you shed tears, being weighed down, and finding that what you are doing is not fulfilling and you are not experiencing peace in your heart. Realizing that you cannot even change yourself, you were then in a position to rely on God for what you could never do. God has your attention now. You were learning how to grow in grace. So you got in His word and little by little you allowed God to renew your mind with truth. You came across a passage of scripture where God revealed to you through circumstances in your life that you are already accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6 KJV). You came to realize that God is working in you and that He has promised to complete the work He began in you (Philippians 1:6). So you are encouraged in your heart, and begin to relax and enjoy the journey God has for you. You can rest in the fact that God will not allow you to be tempted more than what you are able to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). God has got you securely in His arms (John 10:28). And even the trials are there to grow you in maturity, so you may learn perseverance and character which never disappoints (Romans 5:3-5), which comes from a confidence in God’s amazing grace (Hebrews 10:19-21). You learn to rest in God’s grace.
Listen also as Bob George provides several illustrations to help us understand what it means to enter God’s rest, or to rest in Christ’s finished work. One illustration was of a trapeze artist, where you have to let go of the bar that was swinging from one side to grab a hold of another bar on another swing. You have to let go of one bar in order to grab a hold of a bar on the other swing that allows you to swing to the other side. This is an example of letting go of our efforts to make ourselves acceptable in God’s sight to grab a hold of all that God has provided for us. God has given us His righteousness, His holiness, His forgiveness and His redemption. Let go of the Old Covenant of law to grab a hold of the New Covenant of grace.
Another illustration was that of a painting done by Michelangelo. If I think I can improve upon the finished work of probably the greatest artist that ever lived by touching up the face of the Mona Lisa, then that is like me trying to improve upon God’s perfect work He secured for me by His life lived in perfect love, as if I can do that in the energy of my flesh, His death to take my sins away as if I could die for my own sins or someone else’s, and to improve upon His resurrection as if I can raise myself from the dead. It is just ludicrous to think about. But that is often what we humans tend to do.
You are never going to rejoice in the resurrection if you are not rejoicing in the finality of the cross. Unless you are ready to live in the finality of the cross, you are not going to live in the reality of the resurrection. If you can live and walk by faith in what Christ came to do, to take your sins away from the eyes of God never to see them again, by being a thankful person, being able to thank Him when you sin, then you can experience the abundant life God promised to give you. You can start walking in the reality of the resurrection today. Rejoice in the New Covenant today!
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.