Simplicity Series #39

Entering into His Rest

“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls …” Matthew 11:28–29

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand … And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance …” Romans 5:1–3

This Fallen World

This world in which we live is so often a dark and forbidding place. I have traveled the world since 1967, and I have seen the sorrow and sufferings of multitudes of people. Nan’s pictures often capture the hopelessness, the crushing weight of care, the lines of pain, and the eyes emptied of all hopes, dreams, and joys.

The Lord Jesus saw this world as no other man ever saw it. He came from the Kingdom of God—the place of eternal spring and sunshine and singing. From the throne of the Father, in obedience to the cry of all the human hearts of history, the Prince of Men stepped into this world of sin and shame. He came on a rescue mission. He saw the world as it is, but He also saw in it what it was intended to be.

As He walked the dusty roads of the land the Romans dubbed “Palestine,” He saw the ruin of a land and people who had been called through Abraham to become “Israel”—the land of the “Prince of God.” Nothing remained of the original dream but a broken and subservient people. But, in the shambles of religious façade and pretense, Jesus still saw the flickering flame of genuine and humble faith, that what God had promised He would fulfill. To these burdened souls, He made His momentous promise.

True Spiritual Rest

The great epic story of the Exodus out of Egypt, by the blood of the Lamb and the mighty arm of God, had ended in Israel’s failure to “enter into His rest” (Psalm 95:7–11; Heb. 3:7–11). From that point on, with few, rare exceptions, the history of Israel was one long slide into ever-deepening sin, sorrow, and shame. To those living in the time of Jesus, it must have seemed as if their storied history was little more than a fairy tale.

Looking not only into the eyes but also into the hearts of the people, Jesus saw the flagging spirit that struggled on in keeping with the promise, yet they battled with the unspoken thought, “Is it all in vain?”

Standing before crowds of indigenous and tribal people, often crushed not only by poverty and grinding daily labor, but also by persecution and oppression, I think I understand something of what our Lord saw as He looked with compassion on the multitudes (Matt. 9:35–38). His offer still stands, and its validity is confirmed by those who work with us, whose joy in the midst of great trials is a thing of power and beauty. Their stories are chronicles of triumph of the small and the weak over forces of darkness in high places. They are the true knights of the army of God; and often when I look at them, I stand in wonder as if I can see—beyond the shabby clothes, the undernourished forms, and the sometimes-broken bodies—the shining of robes of glory and crowns of righteousness they will one day wear.

The Promise Claimed

Probably no man ever entered into the heart and mind of Jesus more than the Apostle Paul. Nor was there ever a truer example of one who had lost everything to gain the rest that Jesus offered. Saul, the Pharisee, was a burdened and miserable man. He was rich, powerful, honored … and empty. Yet his Damascus experience and years of discipleship had shown him the fundamental truth that true gain comes when one “loses his own life,” to gain life in Christ.

In the great Roman epistle, Paul expounds the Gospel of Christ in all its many facets. While he does not shy away from the gloom of this fallen world (Romans 1–3), he transcends it with the glorious heritage of the children of God. Moving from “all have sinned,” as the condition of fallen man, he jumps immediately to “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23–24). The abruptness of the transition represents the “moment-in-time” when a lost soul has grasped the truth and claimed the promise, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life” (1 John 5:11–12).

It is the burden of Paul that every believer understand that the “rest” promised by the Lord Jesus Christ is our eternal possession from the moment of faith in Christ. Note the connection: “Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1, emphasis added). This is not, as we so often hear today, a gospel of “maybe,” “hope so,” and “ought to be.” This is the Gospel of assurance and security, not based on what we do, but rather resting on the eternal foundation of what Jesus Christ has done (1 Cor. 3:11).

All spiritual growth that follows the mighty work of regeneration (Rom. 5:3–8:17) is the “house [built] on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). Its security is not found in its great skill of construction, but rather on its immoveable foundation. We find “rest” in Him who is “The rock of [our] salvation” (Psalm 89:26).

The Apostle Paul captures the security and assurance of the “rest” which Christ offered in a masterful way. Jesus offered rest to those who “take My yoke, and learn from Me …” (Matt. 11:29). All that follows Romans 5:3–8:30 has to do with the taking up of the “yoke” of the disciple, and the fruit that comes from resting in faith. How far this approach is from our modern “preachers of insecurity,” who seek to use fear and doubt as motivators of Christian growth and service!

In “this grace in which we stand …” (Rom. 5:2) and his triumphant victory cry, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:35, 37), Paul captures the exhilarating truth that spiritual growth is the natural fruit of the assurance of Christ’s finished work and the confident hope of ultimate victory. This is the “rest” that comes from security, and the assurance that leads to the “faith-rest life” of obedience and effective service! The preaching of doubt and insecurity leads only to futile attempts in the energy of the flesh to “imitate” genuine growth and productivity.

Tell any child he is bad, and that is how he will act. Tell a child she is dumb, and she will never excel in school. But if you tell a child of their heritage and history, if you remind them they have heroes in their lineage and that they are the product of valiant men and women, they will strive to live up to that story. So it is with believers.

What a joy it is to tell the long and glorious story of the men and women of the faith to the downtrodden people of the Third World. What a thrill to see them grasp the heritage of their faith, see the light begin to shine in their eyes as they begin to realize that they also are part of this great lineage of heroes, and understand that they too have a vital part to play.

To see young men and women take up the yoke of the Savior and enter into the rest of the soul that compels them forward in the love of Christ as ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:14–21)—this is the joy that is ours! My efforts to describe it to you fall so far short.

What more can I say? I can only close my computer and go now to meet just such a group and seek—somehow—by the grace of God and the ministry of His Spirit, to make it real to them.

In this grace in which we stand,

Somewhere in Asia
May 5, 2019

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