Resting in Christ

Deanna J. Reynolds M.D. (ret.) – January 17-19, 2016

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).

Many Christians erroneously believe this Scripture pertains only to the unsaved; we do not understand how it fits with our great commission to make disciples of all the nations. After all, the Book of Acts details the young Church turn[ing] the world upside down as they spread the gospel, continuously endangering their lives in doing so (Acts 17:6 ESV) – that doesn’t appear to be resting! And in all his great exploits and sufferings, the Apostle Paul does not appear to be resting in Christ, does he? Yet we know in our spirit that is one with the Lord that he did… How do we reconcile this in our minds?

waterScotlandRecall from the Gospel of Luke that Mary of Bethany sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said while her sister Martha was distracted… worried and upset about many things (10:38-42). Jesus emphasized only one thing is needed: Mary’s position of soul-rest. Note that Jesus did not discount all the preparations that had to be made (emphasis added).

Indeed, much work must be done for God’s Kingdom to come to earth, but it must be entirely of God’s will and empowerment, not ours. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6).

The crux of the matter is that God’s purposes are accomplished through us, the members of His Body, only from a position of soul-rest. Understand that this is key! May God enlighten the eyes of our hearts to apprehend such profound truth!

Behold what our Lord modeled for us: By myself I can do nothing… I seek not to please myself but him who sent me (John 5:30); it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work (John 14:10b). Continuously submitting to God’s will, doing nothing of His own human volition, Jesus entered into God’s rest on behalf of all descendants of Adam.

By grace through faith in Christ, our Obedience, we are likewise anointed and empowered to enter into God’s rest. His glory and resurrection power are ever ready to be expressed through our earthen vessels; this occurs to the extent that we let the death of Jesus work in us, individually and corporately (see 2 Cor. 4:7, 11).

Which leads us back to our awe-inspiring brother Paul. This is how he accomplished such great exploits: Paul rested his soul in Christ – not only upon his spectacular conversion, but throughout his entire Spirit-empowered life. Not continuously, as Jesus did, but predominantly so.

The arduous process whereby Christians are transformed into heroes of the faith who do great exploits for the Kingdom of God is described in the first few chapters of Second Corinthians. In these key chapters Paul describes that his new true self rests in the eternal glory of Christ because God graciously takes him through the sufferings of death to his natural and temporary old self. He teaches that our new true self in Christ (5:17) which is unseen [and] eternal (4:18) is revealed in our mortal body as our natural self is given over to death via the sufferings brought our way (4:8-11).

He starts this epistle praising the God of all comfort (1:3), and explaining For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows (1:5). The comfort is soul-rest in Christ. He expounds: the hardships we suffered… happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. (1:8, 9b-10).

Forwarding to chapter 4: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (4:16-17)

The reason for this paradoxical death-life of highly effectual Christians is described poignantly a few verses before: God… made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (4:6-7).

1clouds1There is the point: others see God doing His mighty works through the flesh of redeemed sinners who CHOOSE to die to their selves for His glory!

Paul continues: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Then the reason again: For we who are alive are always given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (4:8-9; 11-12).

Verses 5:4b-5 disclose that God made us for this very purpose (v.5): so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by what is life (v.4b). Oh, that we would apprehend this glorious truth! We were crucified with Christ 2,000 years ago, yet it is encumbent upon us to bless all of creation by allowing the death of Jesus to continue working in us so that His life is increasingly revealed in and through us! The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed… (Rom. 8:19).

So in Christ it was finished on the cross – we have already been reconciled to God and restored to His image in Christ. Yet WE must work out our salvation by actively denying self, picking up our cross, and following Him so that Jesus may increasingly live His eternal life through the members of His Body presently on earth. God Himself lives and accomplishes great exploits here and now in the mortal bodies of all who believe, deny self, and follow Christ! Let us worship Him together…

The Epistle to the Hebrews takes up this theme of rest coming through death as well. The key point is made that Jesus destroyed death and the devil by suffering death to our sinful nature; the all-powerful death of Christ overcame the devil and death itself (see 2:14-17). We now live eternal life and do not fear death: God Himself lives His eternal life in our mortal bodies!

True rest is available to all who believe in and obey Christ, unlike the generation of Hebrews who never entered the promised land because of their unbelief (3:19). Then follows this very important word in the fourth chapter:

Now we who have believed enter that rest… There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience (4:3, 9-11).

photo: Hark Lee Photography

A Sabbath-rest of grace awaits in which we are no longer burdened with self-preservation. Our part is to allow the death of Jesus to work in us in order to receive the blessed liberation! Simple, but not easy…

Our already-crucified outer selves must be let go, relinquished; we are to let them be broken down as we continue along the narrow Way. We are to receive the humbling lovingly brought by our Heavenly Father through the daily circumstances and trials for this blessed purpose of sanctification.

When we feel weary and burdened with trying to preserve our outer selves during our sufferings, we must reckon [ourselves] dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Ro. 6:11); we must choose to receive the humbling and enter into God’s rest.

We can, like our awe-inspiring brother Paul, make every effort not to fix our eyes on the momentary troubles and sufferings that are seen and temporary, but to fix our eyes (and hopes) on what is unseen and eternal – our new true selves united with God in Christ Jesus (see 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 5:17-18). Yes, the hardships we suffered… happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead (2 Cor.1:8, 9b).

It is the Life and experience of Jesus Christ that we live by, for He is now our life! We take off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:9-10). The astounding truth is that all Christ’s experiences are now ours, including but not limited to His crucifixion (we were there with Him!) and His ascension: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).

Praise God for giving us such an identity! May He graciously cause all His beloved children to apprehend and walk it out it now in accordance with the measure of faith He has given us!

To bring these reflections on Christ our Sabbath-rest to an end, let us pause to meditate on these important words of rest from Revelation 14:12-13. Know that “the dead” refers to all who have been crucified with Christ and are hence dead to sin (e.g. Romans 6:6, 11), and that the next phrase, “who die in the Lord from now on” refers to those who choose to let the death of Jesus work in them:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on… they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them. (Revelation 14:13).

Praise God for delivering us from the devil and from the fear of death by the omnipotent death and resurrection of His Son! We are new creations in Christ, and in Him we rest! Eternal life! Free indeed!

Receiving and rejoicing in the grace of Christ our Sabbath-rest with you, your sister deanna