Monday, June 8, 2015

Relentless Rest

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! - Psalm 27:14

Here on The Relentless Fight, we often talk of the need for ACTION against our sin. The overall flavor is that of activity and movement and work. But the Scripture also commands us to rest, to wait, to be silent. How do we make sense of this?

First, let's explore the biblical commands to rest and wait:
  • Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! 
  • Exodus 14:13f And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
  • Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
  • Psalm 131:1f O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
  • Hebrews 6:15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
  • Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

We see there are different contexts for rest: In the Psalms we have the daily walk with God through the suffering and anxieties of life. In Jesus' ministry we find rest for our souls. In Hebrews we see Abraham and other heroes of the faith resting and waiting for God to fulfill His promises. In the 10 Commandments we see the command to rest 1 day out of 7 to honor God's Sabbath. But there is another kind of deeper rest, that regarding our spiritual standing with God, in relation to our righteousness. Let us explore that:

  • Romans 4:4f Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness
  • Hebrews 4:3a For we who have believed enter that rest
  • Hebrews 4:9f So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
  • John 6:29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (Note: in Jesus' logic, work = faith)
  • Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

So we see that the deeper rest is the resting of FAITH, of believing and trusting in Christ for our gifted righteousness. This means we cease striving and working to earn our right standing before God. We dismantle all the complicated machinery of human-made religion and self-righteousness. We discard it as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore our primary application from this meditation on rest is that we are called to give up our hard working and receive quietly the GIFT.

But all over the Scripture, we are also commanded to FIGHT (1 Timothy 6:12), to "work out your own salvation" (Phil 2:12) and be active in our sanctification and holiness. Which one is it? Do we fight, or do we rest? How do we make sense of this? As John Piper has said in illuminating simplicity, "It's a fight to rest". Wow. Meaning, we fight hard to rest in the gospel. We fight against substitute saviors, and we fight against the thinking that we just need to try harder. We fight to STAND on Christ the solid rock, remembering that all other ground is sinking sand. And it's only by resting on the Rock of Christ that we are able to fight with any lasting gospel power.

Hebrews 4:11 summarizes this paradox quite well, "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience." We STRIVE to enter REST. We must be diligent, to work at it, to watch out that we do not fail to rest in Christ. As Hebrews goes on in verse 14, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." Hold fast!! And how do we do that? By drawing near often as invited in verse 16, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

How does this practically apply? Consider these 3 areas:
  • Spiritually rest in Christ and war against your self-sufficiency. Remember the gospel. HOLD tightly to the promises of Scripture. This might actually mean NOT asking forgiveness for the 10th time. If you've confessed your sin and asked God for forgiveness, believe that He has given it. REST in His Word in 1 John 1:9. You don't need to pay Him back. You don't need to earn your way into His favor again. You don't need to clean yourself up before you walk into His throne room. What does this mean? Go to church! Sing some worship. Meet up with some Christian friends. Read the Word. Pray. Enjoy the Lord. Do it all out of joy, walking in your standing in Christ. But don't do it out of guilt. Sometimes this may seem like NOT fighting. But it's the most effective strategy TO fight. Remember the gospel. 
  • Physically rest like keeping the Sabbath. There's something that happens spiritually when we live out in parable form the great rest of Hebrews 4. We enter into God's rest by resting our bodies. This reminds us (somewhat like communion) of the gospel. Practically, this helps in the fight against the temptations to workaholism, which can be a form of spiritually earning our standing. 
  • Emotionally rest in a balanced way. There's no need for crazy activity but rather a confident faith in The Lord. Wait for his timing. Be at peace, Christian. Your God reigns supreme and sovereign. He is not wringing His hands wondering how it will all work out. Consider Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

Fighting to rest,
The Relentless Fight