Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Can Rest Easy


The year is at is beginning and I'm sure that all of us have high hopes and resolutions to fulfill this year. Yet, in the midst of what should be a peaceful time of renewing and refreshing physically and spiritually, more often than not stress and emotions are at an all-time high. Between the midst of jobs, school, errands, and countless other tedious tasks, tensions are flared, angered is stirred, and through our focus on our current situations, we can damage our relationship with God and those around us. 


It's easy to become this way during this time of the year, but actually this can happen at any time of the year. If we're truly honest with ourselves, our hearts are naturally hardened towards the things of God because of sin. Sin creates for us a facade, a huge deception that wants us to reject the companionship and deep intimacy only given through Jesus. We'll always stray away from God if we don't know His ways. God's ways are definitely higher than ours, but we'll never have full rest - Sabbath rest - if we aren't "holding firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start" (Hebrews 3:14). 


As I've been reading through the book of Hebrews again, I've been reading it much more slowly. In the midst of all the confusion that life has and the many temptations that bombards me daily, it's so easy to read my Bible and pray to God as if it were a check-off of a "to-do" list. God isn't an item on to-do list that can be seen and dismissed as if there was nothing special about Him. God is, and God wants to encounter us today, everyday, with each moment us listening to His voice alone. Only someone that has rested from his works can actually experience rest. The same is with our relationship with God - only the person that has rested from his works - of disobedience, sin, guilt, shame, fear, pride - can really experience the amazing Sabbath Rest of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:9). 


In Matthew 12 (and also referenced in Mark 2 and Luke 6) Jesus and his disciples were called out by the Pharisees (who were religious leaders) for doing what they had considered to be unlawful on the Sabbath by His disciples picking and eating heads of grain in a field. Jesus responds in Matthew 12:3-8 with something remarkable. In essence, Jesus exposed the flaws of the Pharisees - they focused on things that should and shouldn't be done on the Sabbath, having an outer appearance of rest, when internally their minds, hearts and spirits grew restless with the many rituals they had established to ensure that they remained holy in the eyes of God. 

In actuality what they had failed to do was respond to God intimately - their hearts had grown over time from their habits, causing them to lack spiritual and emotional rest in God. It wasn't what they did that was wrong; it was the purpose behind their work that lead to their pride and ultimately sin. What Jesus wanted to get across to the Pharisees (and to us) is that He came to establish something new, something greater - Jesus came to be our Sabbath Rest.


Under the law of the Old Covenant, yearly sacrifices were necessary for the forgiving of sins, having the high priest enter the most holy place of the temple of offer sacrifices for everyone. Because of this, everyone had a constant reminder of their past sins. Jesus has established something more lovely and greater than this. Through His mercy and our repentance, we are able to confess our sins, knowing that through believing in Him we're granted eternal life and the ability to "lay aside every weight and sin that easily ensnares us" (Hebrews 12:1) to run to Him in dependence and rest from our own works - works of trying to earn favor with God. Just as the Sabbath was made for men and laborers to rest and gain energy. Jesus, our Sabbath Rest, grants rest to our worrisome soul that is so naturally confused. Jesus, our only sacrifice for our sins, died once and for all so that we can rest from our works and dwell in the power and control of God. 


That, my friends, is true rest - Sabbath rest. Jesus has it all in control, even when we can't see out our situation clearly. So now, "let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:11). This year may be trying and difficult on anyone and life can be stressful, but having our rest in the power of Jesus will help strengthen us in our times of weakness.


Reflection Questions:
1. What have you been finding hard to do away with to fully rest in God?

2.In what ways are you living life like the Pharisees - so consumed with many of the rituals of trying to do right that you fail to recognize and graze upon the face of God in your situation?
3. How will you choose to focus on God's grace and mercy in the midst of your life's circumstances?