Tag Archive | rest

Our Sabbath Rest, Hebrews 4:9

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One reason I have so many photos of Buddy sleeping is because it’s one of the few times he’s not trying to run from the camera. But my point tonight is, that Buddy doesn’t have to do anything to earn our love. He can sleep peacefully and get his needed rest because he knows he is safe in our home and will be taken care of and watched over. He doesn’t need to keep alert out of fear.

Although “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Hebrews 9:4)” most people don’t enter into God’s rest, including many of his people. It’s not because Christians don’t love the Lord or desire to follow Him with all their hearts; rather, it’s because of bad teaching and a misunderstanding of the difference between the Old and New Covenants (Old and New Testaments) between humanity and God.

All of God’s way are for our good. To take time to rest from our labors is not a bad idea. Too much overwork and stress is very damaging to our bodies and souls; we all need time to rest and refresh.

But some Christians, in their zeal to follow the Lord, tell others that they MUST take Sunday or Saturday off as a Sabbath Day or they are being disobedient to God. This isn’t correct. This must’ve been a misunderstanding in the early Church because Apostle Paul clearly addressed this issue twice in his letters to the Colossians and Romans.

“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”–Colossians 2:16-17

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced I’m his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord,…”–Romans 14:5-6

Apostle Paul clearly teaches that what is important is not to judge your brother and sister, but rather, to follow his own conscience in such matters:

“The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself is what he approves…whatever is not from faith is sin.”–Romans 14:22-23

Apostle Paul was very concerned about people bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and the Apostle John in loving our fellow Christians (1 John). Not in Sabbath observances.

If you believe it’s important to take regular time to rest and refresh and reflect on God, that’s fine. But there has been a new push from some quarters to force Christians to formerly observe the Sabbath and to declare those who don’t as unfaithful or heretics.

Nonsense!

Because the book of Hebrews is so little studied, outside of the first and eleventh chapters, the Church has been missing a lot of essential teaching on the difference between the Old and New Covenants.

The Law serves its purpose in our lives by showing our sinfulness and inability to live up to God’s righteous standards and please Him. Not that the Law isn’t good–we benefit by following God’s ways (Proverbs 4:20-23). But it’s impossible to please God by living up to the Law, because He’s perfect and we aren’t.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him…”–Hebrews 11:6

The Old Covenant was a foreshadowing of the New Covenant, pointing us to Christ. “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come…”–Hebrews 10:1  It was vitally important for the Jewish people to abstain from working on the Sabbath Day, as it was a foreshadow of the New Covenant rest for God’s people in Christ, Our Sabbath rest.

The Jewish nation wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because they disobeyed God. They didn’t believe in His goodness and trustworthiness, so they didn’t enter the Promised Land when He commanded them to. “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)” They didn’t have faith in God to obey His commands.

“So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”–Hebrews 4:9-10

‘When the crowd asked Jesus, “What shall we do, so that we may work the words of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”‘–John 6:28-29

The Old Covenant was a covenant of salvation by works: If we did “X”, then God promised to respond with “Y”. The New Covenant, however, is one based upon a covenant of faith, not works.”For when the priesthood is changed of necessity there takes place a change of law, also. (Hebrews 7:12)”

It was vitally important for the Jewish people under the Old Covenant not to work on the Sabbath as it was a foreshadowing of our total reliance on resting from our works righteousness in order to totally embrace the righteousness of Christ for our salvation. No one can go to Heaven by being good but only in having faith in Christ’s work on our behalf.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with with He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…For by grace you have been said through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 4:4-5, 8-9

Under the New Covenant, we’re supposed to want to obey God out of trust and love for Him:

“If you love me, you will keep My commandments (Jesus, John 14:15) 

and not fear of punishment:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfect in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19).

James puts things into perspective by warning that, if we have true faith in Christ, we’ll obey God (James 2:14-17). Or, as Christ pointed out that when the Word is planted in our hearts, we’ll bear fruit for His kingdom (Mark 4:20) to the extent that we abide in Christ, the vine:

“I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING.”–John 15:5 (emphasis mine)

So, if you want to observe a particular day as your Sabbath rest, that’s fine, if that’s your conviction. I’m not supposed to judge you for that. But if you choose to do so and I don’t, you’re not supposed to judge me, either, for observing the Sabbath doesn’t make you ANY MORE HOLY or MORE RIGHTEOUS before God than someone who chooses to consider Christ alone our Sabbath rest. Because, whether we celebrate the Sabbath on a particular day or not, CHRIST ALONE is our righteousness. There is no other way to be in right standing before a perfectly holy God than the shed blood of Christ:

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, and one their mind I will write them,” And then He says, “And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.'”–Hebrews 10:10,14-17

We’re supposed to rest in Christ’s works, not ours.

But do get some regular rest.

And please consider reading the entire book of Hebrews, if you haven’t recently.

*** If you’d like to enter into Christ’s Sabbath rest, please pray: Dear Father, I realize that I’m a sinner and can never be good enough to earn my way into Heaven. Your standards are too perfect for me to live up to. I accept that Jesus died for my sins, having lived the holy life I could never live. Please forgive my sin. May the Holy Spirit enter my heart and make me a new creation in Christ. Please exchange my filthy rags with the holiness of Christ. Thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.

PS. I’d like to acknowledge that the above is not my own. I have benefitted from almost 19 years of strong Christian teaching from Pastors Dr. Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, Bob George, Bob Christopher, Blaine Smith, Michael Youssef and Kay Arthur. I give no credit to myself but only that God has enabled me to assimilate their teaching and convey it to others in a way, I hope, is easily understood.

 

 

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Finding Rest: Matthew 11:28-29

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When we visited Ocean Shores last summer, I wore Buddy out, walking along the beach. He found rest amidst the grass. However, it was inadequate to protect him from the strong wind that afternoon.

I don’t know about you, but at times I want to run away from the nastiness that’s being spewed since the last Presidential election. But, unless I want to hide in a cave for the next four years, I have to deal with it. Jesus has been my hiding place to run to and find rest.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.”–Matthew 11:28-29

Preachers claim that Jesus is referring to a team of oxen: A young ox is yoked to the experienced, older ox who plods along, focused on plowing a straight line. When the newer ox stops goofing around, trying to go his own direction, and yields to the older ox, he finds that the yoke becomes easier.

I find anger, fretting, fear and frustration very taxing emotionally. It’s like a slow poison that damages your health and soul. Jesus promises that when we focus on Him, we’ll find rest. When we allow Jesus to direct our lives, we will find we’re happier and our soul feels lighter.

Jesus has a better path for our minds to travel in.

“Do not FRET…”–Psalm 139

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and DO NOT CURSE.”–Romans 12:14

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.”–Romans 12:17

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…”–Romans 12:19

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”–Romans 12:21

“Do not FEAR for I have redeemed you…you are precious in My sight…”–Isaiah 43:1, 4

“Do not WORRY about your life…”–Luke 12:22

“My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”–John 14:27

As you can see in John 14, peace is something God gives to you. You cannot create peace within yourself nor obtain it from the world we live in. Ask Him to give you peace in your heart and by faith trust Him to have given it to you and thank Him for it. When the world and angry people around you start to make you feel stressed out, turn your focus toward Jesus and follow His way: praying for your enemies/opposition and trusting Him to work it out. Focus on His attributes. He’s the great Lord of Hosts, the Omnipotent God. Nothing is too difficult for Him to handle. (Jeremiah 32:17)  He’s in control at all times. He laughs at the nations. They are but dust in His sight. (Psalm 2)

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.”–Isaiah 26:3

 

 

God’s Lovingkindness: Psalm 23:6a

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For some time I’ve been pondering and praying over these words from Psalm 23:6a*:

“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,”

David’s psalm begins with the good Shepherd walking in front of His flock, leading the way, but ends with Him following from behind. Why?

It perplexed me for some time. If God is leading me through dark times to a lush, pleasant highland to rest and refresh myself, why is He suddenly walking from behind?

And then I considered this very famous verse from Apostle Paul, Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,”.

God leads “us in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3b*) The problem is, I don’t always follow Him and wander off the path. Sometimes it’s because of foolishness, or lack of trust in Him, or just simply not knowing what I should be doing. And, I hate to admit it but it’s true, it’s just outright rebellion, thinking I know better than God.

Stupid to think I know better than the omniscient God, isn’t it?

We do have to pay the penalty when we wander off course. Not because God is mean, but consequences teach us to stay on the path. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”–Galatians 6:7 *

However, God is merciful and loving. What I finally realized is: When I mess up, my merciful Father helps me get back on course. He follows behind, helping me to get out of the hole I’ve dug for myself and to fix the mess I got myself into. He doesn’t kick me when I’m down. There are some things that cannot be reversed, for example an abortion, but He brings healing to the suffering woman who’s had one through godly Christian counseling and friendship.

But God isn’t mean: He doesn’t want us to stay down when we slip up. A common metaphor preachers use is: Like a little child that’s learning how to walk and then falls, God has ahold of my hand and lifts me back up again and helps me walk forward. The Christian life is a process. We’re not instantly perfect when we become born-again; learning to be a godly person is a lifetime task.

I think anyone who knows me would certainly agree that I’m far from perfect.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”–Psalm 37:23-24*

It’s comforting to know that the Lord has “enclosed me behind and before,” (Psalm 139:5*). I’m not alone in trying to clean up the mess I’ve made. My merciful Friend is right with me.

*All quotes from the NASB version of the Bible.

(Also, please note that I’ve been influenced by many godly persons and preachers in my lifetime. Not everything I write is 100% original with me; for instance, the metaphor of a child falling down and being lifted up again by the Heavenly Father. But I certainly couldn’t tell you where I first heard it.)

 

If you’re weary: Matthew 11:28

Buddy.Resting.In.Sunlight

Buddy is enjoying some rare sunshine in the Pacific Northwest. He is peaceful and at rest, relaxing near the back door, because he isn’t worried about his safety. He knows he’s living with people who love him.

When we keep our focus on Jesus, we too can be at rest from our anxieties and fears, because He loves His children.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.” (NASB)

Please note that Jesus GIVES you rest if you ask for it. You don’t work for it, don’t earn it. But you must come to HIM. And you learn from Him by reading the Bible.

There’s a reason it’s the most banned book in the world. Because through it we discover how God’s power can operate in our lives.

This Labor Day weekend, I hope you find rest for your souls in Jesus.