Repentance and Rest
"'In repentance and rest you shall be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.'
But you were not willing."
Garlands and Background (c) Angel Artistry Cross (c) New Creation Web Designs
Repentance is a grand and glorious encounter with a grand and glorious God.
Repentance. For years when I heard this word, my mind's eye envisioned a long, boney, accusing finger shaking in my face. Shame and condemnation smothered me like a suffocating cloak. It has taken me years to learn that repentance is not a shaming experience. It is a grand an glorious encounter with a grand and glorious God.
The Christian walk is different from all other religions in the world. Self-reliance, self-determination and personal power have no place in Christianity. These are only stumbling blocks in the path of life. Faith and total dependence upon the grace of God are at its core. Brokenness and humility are the place of repentance and transformation.
Two Kinds of Repentance
There are two kinds of repentance. There is legal repentance and evangelical repentance.
Legal repentance is an intellectual and/or emotional decision, a choice made by the will and power of guilt-driven man. It is rooted in the fear of death and the punishment of God. It can change one's mind and produce regret and even remorse for sin. Or it may not.
Legal repentance is also the result of an intellectual and or emotional decision to do what is right. It may or may not produce a consistent change in behavior, depending on the personal will power of the individual. Legal repentance, however, will never produce a transformed life.
" . . . did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:2-3).
Evangelical repentance is the fruit of the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, and the brokenness and godly sorrow that accompany it.
M. Craig Barnes wrote in his wonderful book, When God Interrupts, "The Greek word for repentance is metanoia. It simply means ‘to turn', ‘to be converted' . . . . Over the centuries, the church endowed the word "repentance" with connotations of judgment and remorse. But the biblical call to repent and be converted still essentially means to turn toward the work God is doing in our lives . . . . Our eternal salvation may be secured by the initial decision to accept Christ's forgiveness, but conversion is the lifelong process of turning away from our plans and turning toward God's maddening, disruptive creativity."
The Bible uses others words for evangelical repentance. To "turn" and "convert" are two. A third is grief, as in godly sorrow. One word for grief in the Hebrew actually means repentance. Many Hebrew words for grieving, weeping and lamentation actually mean "to distill", which means to "separate and change from one substance to another". This word beautifully describes God's renewing work in the midst of our tears. In the life long metamorphosis of our souls, God is continually transforming us from the sin-marred image of Adam into the glorious image of Christ. The tears we pour out at the feet of Jesus, both joyful and sad, are the distillation of God's eternal work in our lives.
All of the words used for repentance in the Bible, to repent, turn, convert, grieve and distill, mean a change from one state to another. In Christian theology these words all signal an inner change, a metamorphosis, a transformation. This process results in the birth and ongoing maturation of the character and image of the Lord Jesus Christ in the repentant believer. Evangelical repentance is the only thing that produces this inner change.
How does it work? 2 Cor. 7:10a says, "For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret" (The Amplified Bible).
To move across from
one sort of person to another
is the essence of repentance:
the liar becomes truthful,
the thief, honest,
the lewd, pure,
the proud, humble.
A. W. Tozer
Repentance is not a choice. It is a fruit or product of godly sorrow (grief, mourning ). This brokenness and grief leads to salvation. The word "salvation" as used here is not just the born-again experience (which is also called redemption). Salvation also means "deliverance, healing, and wholeness". Wholeness also means holiness, restoration, perfection, and completion.
The wholeness achieved by the efforts of self through legal repentance can never attain to the matchless work of the healing, deliverance, wholeness, restoration and holiness produced by the grace and power of God in a surrendered life.
From beginning (godly sorrow) to end (salvation), the entire processs of evangelical repentance is an unbroken thread of ongoing, sanctifying transformation. Drop out godly sorrow and repentance, and it is not evangelical repentance.
Christianity is not some nice little feel-good religion. It is a serious covenantal relationship with the holy Creator of the universe. It is a no-holds-barred commitment to lay down our lives in brokenness and repentance and allow Him to reign over us.
"For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heaert, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:16-17).
Commitment is a much diluted word in today's world. This dilution has filtered into the Christian community as well. Commitment to Jesus Christ costs our lives, spirit, soul and body. It always has and always will. The early Christians understood this very well. Today, many of us do not. Like the world, many of us look for the loopholes in the contract.
Christianity is not some
nice little feel-good religion.
Once we respond to God's drawing of us to Himself, our life belongs to Him. We are positionally dead to the world and to ourselves. It is God's intention that we rest in our position. Dying to self, however, is an ongoing reality. The more we die to ourselves the more the life and character of Jesus shines forth from us.
Christianity is NOT a feel-good religion. Things will not always go the way we want. As we grow in the rest of faith, we will have joy and peace no matter what happens to us.
We are here to enter into a relationship with the Lord, and through this relationship to be transformed into His image. It is through dying to ourselves and living for Jesus that He is revealed IN AND THROUGH US to a lost and dying world.
Acts 1:8 says, " . . . you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses
. . ." .
The word "witness" means martyr. Whether we are martyred physically or by the suffering of death to self, martyrdom is the only way to be a witness of Jesus Christ.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour" (John 12:24-26).
Trial is God's alchemy by which the dross is left in the crucible,
the baser metals are transmuted,
and the character is enriched
William Morley Punshon
Jas. 4:6-10 tell us that brokenness and repentance are the fertile soil for the corn of wheat. Death to self and transformation take place there.
"But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you."
The above passage describes the same process of repentance found throughout the Bible. Misery, mourning, weeping and gloom, the lowest point of brokenness, create the purging environment of repentance for cleansing our hands, purifying our hearts and healing our wounds. This intimate womblike space is described by James as humbling ourselves. It is in this condition of great brokenness that the greater grace promised to the humble finds its sweet resting place (v. 6). It is here we begin and continue the process of bowing low before the Lord and dying to ourselves. The gentle hands of mercy and grace, defined as "the divine action in the heart that reflects itself in the life", reach down from heaven to mold and shape us into His own image and likeness.
IF we are a sincere, committed believer, we cannot escape this process. When we resist it, God brings great pressure to bear.
"And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Mt. 21:44).
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the Lord.
(Song of Solomon 8:6)
Is God cruel or is it that we don't understand love? The answer is obvious. A loving parent who catches a child in sin takes immediate and appropriate action. Why? To teach them there are consequences for wrong actions. Why is this necessary? Because this is the way we learn.
As an adult we may learn too late that there are inevitable consequences to our actions and serious consequences to serious violations. Good parents are jealous for their child's ultimate well-being. The same is true of God and His children. If we don't throw ourselves on the rock and repent in brokenness, the rock will fall on us and crush us to dust until we do. The jealous love of God for His children can do nothing less.
"Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised" (Song of Sol. 8:6-7).
Repentance from the Works of the Law
Whether it is rigid adherance to doctrines, traditions, personal laws of men or God's laws, legalism is man's natural propensity.
For the most part, Paul's ministry and the Pauline books of the New Testament were devoted to the apologetics of grace versus law. He understood legalism. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Regarding the law he was a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5). After his conversion he spent many years under the tutelage of the Spirit of the Lord (Gal. 1:15-2:15). It was during those years that he was given a divine revelation of grace (Gal. 1:12).
Putting two of Paul's scriptures together, we learn that the works of the law are to be repented of, because legalism is sin.
Legalism is sin.
"And the law is not of faith . . . and whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Gal 3:12, Rom 14:23).
Few of us think of our "good" works, born out of our personal desire, strength and will to prove our love for God or to earn His love, as something to be repented of. This is because we do not fully comprehend the works of the law.
In the book of Galatians Paul equated the flesh and its works with legalism. He used Hagar and Sarah as examples of law and grace (Gal. 4:21-31).
God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son of their own, though they were old at the time. As the years passed without a son, they lost faith in God to keep His promise. They finally decided to help Him out. Abraham conceived a son through a surrogate mother. Hagar, the maid.
Paul wrote by the inspiration and enlightenment of the Spirit of God that Hagar and Ishamael represented the dead works of the flesh and the law, which are bondage to the law (Gal. 4:25). Sarah and Isaac represented the promise of God and freedom from the law (Gal. 4:26).
Man cannot accomplish the eternal purposes of God through the works of the law. His every attempt is in vain. And it is sin.
"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Rom. 9:16).
" . . . ‘This is the word of the Lord . . . saying, "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the Lord of Hosts'" (Zech. 4:6).
an ongoing process . . .
True repentance affects the whole man and alters the entire lifestyle.
Richard Owen Roberts
The Works of the Law
The only currency in God's kingdom is faith. The works of the law, even a faith borne out of our own efforts, are a counterfeit currency and are in direct opposition to faith. Paul wrote about the works of the law in Galatians, Romans and Hebrews.
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal 2:16).
"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith" (Gal. 3:2-11).
The works of the law
are the works of self
in concert with
the letter of the law.
Repentance from dead works is paired with faith toward God, the first principles taught in the Gospel of the New Testament (Heb. 6:1). Why? According to The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary, man cannot forsake the works of the law without faith.
Without faith it is impossible to please God. It is not something we can choose or stand on in our own strength and desire. It is a supernatural gift of God.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
Rom. 10:17 says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. This hearing is not a natural hearing of the ears but a supernatural hearing of the heart and spirit. Without this supernatural gift of faith all works, good or evil, are dead works that need to be repented of.
The greatest temptation of every man is to walk in a faith of his own will and determination, yet such a faith is no faith at all. Even when proclaimed in the Name of Jesus, if faith is not born of God and matured by God, it is no faith at all. It is another religion altogether.
Providence and The Good Works of God
The works of the law are the works of self in concert with the letter of the law. So what are good works? In Eph. 2:10 Paul writes about them.
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
Matthew Henry says God prepares the good works before us "by blessing us with the knowledge of His will, and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit" to do them.
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says God both prepares us for good works and makes us ready for their performance by His providence.
By His providence
God both alerts us
to His good works for us
makes us ready to perform them.
I agree with both of the above comments and would add one thing more. Good works are birthed out of faith and rest in God. As both commentaries said, by His providence, God both alerts us to His good works for us and makes us ready to perform them.
The Providence of God in Joseph's Life
When Joseph dreamed twice his family bowed at his feet, he had no idea it was God's call on his life. At the tender age of seventeen, he was in no way prepared for it. It took 23 years to bring God's plan to fruition.
Joseph was foreordained by God to go before his family into Egypt to save their lives in the famine that was to come. His even greater purpose was to be used by God to fulfill His promise to Abraham to give his seed the promised land.
"And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them [Egypt]; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance . . . In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites [the land of Canaan -- the promised land]." (Gen 15:13-14, 18-21).
Before God could take them out of Egypt, He had to bring them in. Here is how he did it.
Joseph continually rose like cream to the top of every heartache, disappointment and broken dream.
Joseph's brothers flew into a jealous rage against him when he recounted his dreams to them. He was already his father's favorite son. He was heir to headship of the family. Now he flaunted his dreams before them. They would never bow at his feet! Never! Or so they thought.
The brothers plotted Joseph's death but backed down from such drastic action. Instead they sold him to slave traders who carried him off to Egypt. Over the next twenty-three years, he was sold into slavery, falsely accused of the attempted rape of Potiphar's wife, and served time in prison, where he was forgotten for years.
What must Joseph have thought over those difficult years? Scripture doesn't say a lot about this. What it does tell us is that Joseph grew in the likeness and character of His God. He rose like cream to the top of every heartache, disappointment and broken dream. Over twenty years later he finally understood his dreams and the plan of God.
While Joseph was in prison, God warned of worldwide famine through the dreams of Pharoah. Joseph was called upon to interpret the dreams when no one else could. God not only warned of famine in Pharoah's dreams. He also provided for it and told how to prepare for it.
As a result of Joseph's character and wisdom, born out of what appeared to be the irreparable loss and waste of a young life, Pharoah appointed him ruler over Egypt. Joseph immediately set about to follow God's instructions.
The famine eventually brought Joseph's family to Egypt in search of food. When they finally realized that the ruler of Egypt was their brother Joseph, they bowed at his feet. Twice (Gen. 42:6, 43:26-28).
The future of the nation of Israel was not all that was at stake.
The destiny of God's eternal plan was that Jesus Christ would be born into the lineage of Israel.
Joseph's dreams came to pass. He was notonly head of his family but ruler of the world. It had been a long, difficult journey of trials and tribulations. His dreams did not come to pass in the grand and glorious way he thought they would, but the result was far grander and more glorious than he could ever have imagined.
As Joseph was dragged off, dejected and rejected to Egypt twenty-three years earlier, he could not have known the awesome destiny of his call. God used him to save his family's life and to save the lives of the Egyptian kingdom. Listen to the wisdom in Joseph's humble response to his brothers.
"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God . . . " (Gen. 45:5-8).
As Joseph was dragged off,
rejected and dejected to Egypt
twenty-three years earlier, he could not have known
the awesome destiny of his call.
God's call on Joseph's life was an enormous three-in-one call. They were part and parcel of one eternal plan. The most obvious of the three was to preserve the nation of Israel. The second was to fulfill His promise to Abraham. Joseph clearly understood this in his later years.
"And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here" (Gen. 50:24-25).
Joseph's faith was great. He had seen the Lord do mighty things. He wanted to go with Israel when they went into the promised land. And he went by faith. Heb. 11:22 says, "By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones".
Finally, the ultimate destiny of God's eternal plan through Joseph was that Jesus Christ would be born into the lineage of Israel. Israel had to be preserved.
When Joseph said to his brothers, "And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance", He could not know that he was speaking for more than his family and the existing inhabitants of the world at that time. He was speaking of the eternal preservation of life that would come centuries later through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What we need
is an eternal perspective.
We don't have hindsight. We have limited foresight. What we can have is an eternal perspective. Few men in the Bible have ever been called to so great a destiny as Joseph. Our works, however, still make an impact on our families and our world for good or for evil. They ripple down throughout the generations of the future.
Joseph had a very bumpy ride over those twenty-plus years. His dreams foretold of the providential plan of God. His trials prepared and matured him into the leader he had to be -- for the good works he was ordained to perform.
The Providence of God in David's Life
David is another powerful example of the providence of God. He was chosen by God to be king of Israel eight years before he was born (approximately 1063 B.C.).
"And Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him [past tense] as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you'" (1 Sam. 13:13-14).
Almost thirty years after Samuel made this statement to Saul, he anointed David to be King of Israel (approximately 1030 B.C.). He was crowned King of Judah five years later (approximately 1025 B.C.). It was another seven years (approximately 1018 B.C.) before Saul died and David actually became King over all of Israel.
It was forty-five years from the time God spoke of the man after His own heart who would be King until He brought it to pass. Over a thousand years later, the author of Acts said of David, "And after [God] had removed [Saul], He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22 NAS).
We cannot despair
of God's promises and timing.
When we do
we give birth to an Ishmael.
Esther said, "If I perish, I perish" (Esth. 4:16). This is the real test. Are we willing to trust God even unto death (Rev. 12:11)? We cannot despair of God's promises and timing. When we do, we give birth to an Ishmael. The works of the law insist on having God's promises in our timing and our comfort zone and reject anything less. Our good works are to believe, repent and rest!
"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:28-29) .
Joseph, Moses, Paul, JESUS! God was in no hurry to move any of the great men and women of the Bible into their ministries. But we're in a hurry! We don't know how to wait on God. God may well have given us a rhema word. When we move on it before God's time, we are like Abraham and Sarah. These are not good works. These are the works of the law, and they are sin. We cannot rush God.
We view the delays, trials and tribulations in our lives as something unnatural. But they are not. They are for the growth and development of our souls.
" . . . And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom 5:3-5).
"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots" (Jas. 1:2-4 The Phillips Version).
The words "waiting", "patience", "perseverance" and "endurance" all mean pain and suffering (with hope). Instead of allowing the waiting times to develop character in us and prepare us for the good works He has ordained for us, we miss God. Instead of allowing the labor pains to give birth to our destiny, we have a spiritual abortion.
It is not always easy or possible
to know what God is up to.
Joseph obviously missed God's timing when he flaunted his dreams in the faces of his family. It is not easy to rest in God or to know exactly what He's up to. Nevertheless, as God teaches and molds us, like Joseph, He also matures us. Nothing is wasted in God's economy for those who walk in the rest of faith.
Joseph's arrogance did not deter the destiny of God for his life. The Lord was not caught by surprise by anything in Joseph's life, neither is He surprised by any of our missteps. We are on God's training ground. He will see that we learn from our mistakes and sins, just as He did Joseph.
Fear of death is the driving force behind legalism (Heb. 2:14-15). As we grow in our understanding of the works of the law and come to repentance, we lose our fear of death and are able to surrender to the work of the cross in our lives. Only then are we able to enter into the rest of God.
There's a learning curve to all of this and God understands. He is longsuffering toward us. His grace is sufficient when we miss the mark. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom. 8:1-2). We need to learn to wait upon Him and rest in His promises.
"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).
In repentance and rest we are saved (Is. 30:15). We have looked at repentance. Now let's look at rest.
Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt. 11:28-30).
Jesus offered his grace and rest to those who labored and were heavily laden with the tiresome yoke of the law. He used the word picture of the yoke of animals pulling a load to describe the difference between law and grace. Paul called the law a yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1). The law is a heavy burden to bear. It wearies and loads us up with bondage.
Paul called the law
a yoke of bondage.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves" (Mt. 23:15).
Jesus said His yoke was easy and his burden was light. The word "easy" does not mean simple. It means "useful" or "beneficial" and conducive to well-being.
The word "light" means "easier" or "less". Have you ever noticed how the addition of the suffix "-er" does not always imply more but less? Grace is not easy. It is easier. It is far easier and less burdensome than the letter of the law.
The letter of the law is beneficial for the training the immature (Gal. 4). It is not beneficial to any believer long-term. Grace is always beneficial. It is under this yoke of beneficial grace that we find rest for our souls.
In Chapter 2 of the book of Genesis, God describes rest.
"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (vv. 1-3)
Rest is ceasing from one's own works as God did from His. Though the Sabbath is still a day of rest, the Sabbath rest is every day for people of faith (Heb. 4:10). We know we have entered the rest and ceased from our own works when we enter into a relationship with the Living God on His terms, not ours. We will then work His providential works as He orchestrates them in our lives by His Holy Spirit.
Though the Sabbath
is still a day of rest,
the Sabbath rest is every day.
"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Gal 5:16-18).
The Wilderness Journey
The wilderness journey of Israel out of Egypt into the promised land was about entering the rest of God. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 10 that their journey was for our learning.
Israel's sojourn through the wilderness to the Promised land was ordained by God as a place of deliverance from the bondage of the works of the law as they learned to walk in the Spirit by faith. The promised land was the land of promise -- the land of the Spirit. It was the place of rest.
Quoting from the Psalms, Paul, probably the author of the book of Hebrews, tells us more about this journey into rest.
For he that entered into his rest,
he also hath ceased
from his own works,
as God did from his.
"Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will heareth his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came of out Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into his rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 3:7-4:11).
Israel did not enter into the rest because they refused
to hear God's voice.
Several words or phrases stand out in the above passage.
1) The words "Hear my voice" appear five times in the above reference. Three times the writer of Hebrews tells us we enter the rest of God by hearing the voice of God. Jesus said four times in John 10, "My sheep hear my voice" (vv. 3, 4, 16, 27).
To hear also means to obey. When we ask someone to do something and then they don't do it, we usually ask, "Did you hear me?". If we don't obey the voice of God, it doesn't mean we haven't heard. It means we don't want to hear or we don't want to obey. "Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb.3:7, 15, 4:7).
Romans 4:17 says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the (revealed, quickened, living, rhema) word of God. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament, the rhema word does not refer to the whole Bible. That would be the logos word. The rhema word is a reference to an individual scripture or passage which the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need. I believe the rhema word is also the primary way God speaks to and teaches us. So Rom. 4:17 says faith comes from hearing God speak to us personally and individually through quickening scripture to us. I would not have made it through many a trial and tribulation without the Lord quickening His redemptive word to me.
My sheep hear my voice.
(Jn. 10:3, 4, 16, 27)
"But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law . . . " (Rom. 9:31-32).
Israel ended up with the law as their standard of righteousness because they refused to hear God's voice. We can end up the same way and often do.
"These (the ten commandments) are the words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders, And ye said, Behold the Lord our God hath showed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do it" (Dt. 5:22-27).
There it is. Fear of death. The works of the law are rooted in the fear of death and punishment. "He speaks from the midst of the fire. If we draw near enough to hear His voice we will die!" Right! We will die. To self. If we don't draw near to hear the voice of God, there will be no life.
The works of the law
are rooted in the fear
of death and punishment.
If we want to hang out with God we cannot escape His consuming, refining fires. He IS the fire. Living in the presence of His fire brings death to self. It also brings fulness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). The only things consumed in His fires are wood, hay, stubble and chaff -- those things that are not of Him -- those things that are not eternal.
Living by the letter of the law brings death too. But there is no joy nor pleasure in this death. And we are stuck with everything about ourselves that make us miserable.
2) The word "today" appears five times in this passage. God is saying it is never too late to hear his voice as long as it is today.
3) Belief and unbelief show up seven times in this passage. Rest appears ten times.
Without faith it is is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Without faith we cannot enter the rest of God (Heb. 3:18-19). Remember, faith comes by a supernatural hearing of the word or voice of God (Rom 10:17).
4) Four times God warned Israel not to harden their hearts. When we do not hear and obey the voice of God through His Holy Spirit, the consequence is hardness of heart. Then we have no place to turn but to the works of the law.
Faith and rest are trusting the Lord through good times and bad. Faith and rest are believing that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Faith and rest are believing that through it all we are being conformed to the image of His Son. Faith and rest are believing that He who has begun a good work in me will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ.
In Repentance and Rest We Will be Saved
In repentance and rest we will be saved (Is. 30:15). The Hebrew word "saved" used in this verse means "set free". Jesus said the truth would set us free (Jn. 8:32). The Greek word used here for "free" means "unrestrained, to go at one's pleasure, i.e. NOT A SLAVE".
Jesus came to make a way to enter into relationship with Him, the triune God of the universe. The letter of the law kills (2 Cor. 3: 6). What it kills is relationship with God and everyone else. It is slavery to the law and no one can serve two masters (Mt. 6: 24).
And the commandment,
which was ordained to life,
I found to be unto death.
Paul called legalism bondage and slavery (Gal. 5:1, Rom. 8:1-15). In repentance and rest we will be saved and set free from the bondage of the law of sin and death. We are then free to enter into intimate relationship with the Lord.
Rest is not complacency. Heb. 4:11 says, "Let us labour therefore to enter the rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief". The word "labour" means to be diligent and sincere in the pursuit of the rest of faith. This is a far cry from the works of the law.
Rest in the Greek means peace, quietness, prosperity and one (wholeness). We cannot possess these things when we are constantly fretting and checking ourselves to make sure we are doing and saying eveything just right. Neither can we possess these things when we are constantly fretting and checking others to make sure they are doing and saying eveything just right. This is what legalism does to us. It makes us self-conscious and sin-conscious.
Rest in Him. Rest in His presence. His plans for us are plans for good and not for evil, plans with a future and a hope (Jer. 29:10). Through repentance and rest we will be able to walk in faith, listening for His voice in our hearts today and everyday. Through repentance and rest we will be able to endure and behold the consuming fire of His presence. Through repentance and rest we will die to self and be transformed into His image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 2:18).
There is no better illustration of transformation than the metamorphosis of the butterfly.
Before it becomes the lovely insect flitting from flower to flower in our garden, it is a caterpillar. A lowly worm.
Before it becomes
a lovely butterfly,
it is first a lowly worm.
The caterpillar, or worm, has the capability of complete regeneration from all wounds. It is essentially ageless. Likewise, the human soul is essentially ageless and when entrusted to the grace of God also has the capability of complete regeneration from all wounds.
The Bible refers to man several places as a worm.
"Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" (Is. 41:14).
"How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?" (Job 25:4-6).
Even the prophetic words spoken in Ps. 22 which foreshad- owed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, identifies Him as a worm.
"But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people" (Ps 22:6).
The Four Stages of Metamorphosis
There are four stages in the process of metamorphosis. The first is the egg left by the butterfly to be fertilized. Once fertilized, the egg develops to the second stage: the larva, or the caterpillar. The worm.
The caterpillar then weaves itself into the chrysalis, or cocoon. The larva in the chrysalis is called the pupa. The pupa remains there until the imago is completely formed and ready to emerge from the chrysalis. The imago is the mature adult stage of the butterfly.
Death is the beginning,
not the end.
Death in the flower,
sets the perfume free,
in the chrysalis, the butterfly.
Death to self frees the soul.
The word meanings of these stages are profound. Larva means "specter", or "mask", in the Latin. "Specter" also means "appearance". In the larva, or worm stage, we hide behind our masks and trust in outward appearance (conformity) rather than inward purity (transformation).
Webster's says the pupa is an insect in that state which resembles an infant in swaddling clothes. The pupa is a perfect picture of the infant Jesus. When we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus, He fertilizes us with His seed. We become babes in Christ, babes in swaddling clothes, wrapped in the chrysalis.
Swaddling clothes are burial garments. Hidden in the pupa, the swaddling clothes, is the call to death and transformation.
Chrysalis is a Latin word meaning "gold". The chrysalis is an excellent analogy for the imputed, positional righteousness of every believer. It is also a type of tomb. It is in the death and burial of the worm nature, the "self-hood", that we are transformed from babes to mature Christians. When we emerge from the cocoon, we are no longer walking in the imputed gold of Christ's righteousness. We walk in resurrection life. We come forth AS gold. His righteousness is woven into every fiber of our being by His loving hand.
Imago means "image" in Latin. The butterfly, the imago, the transformed caterpillar, the transformed worm, is the mature adult stage of the butterfly. This is comparable to the believer's transformation into the image of Jesus and his or her refinement as gold. This transformation is an ongoing process as long as we live. We grow from glory to glory.
We mount to heaven mostly on the ruins of our cherished schemes, finding our failures
were our successes.
Amos Branson Alcott
According to The Encyclopedia Britannica, it is as if the organism of the butterfly has two life histories, one built on the ruins of the other. This is transformation. We are transformed from the image of a worm into the image of Christ. When we surrender our lives to the Lordship of Jesus, we become new creatures in Christ. Old things are passed away. All things become new (2 Cor. 5:16).
"Thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob (the worm) And have compassion on his dwelling places' (the chrysalis); 'And the city shall be rebuilt on its ruins'" (Jer. 30:18).
And the butterfly takes flight. This is regeneration. This is transformation and resurrection. The metamorphosis from worm to butterfly is a near-perfect metaphor for what happens to the Christian when he or she surrenders to God in repentance and rest. A change of heart and disposition takes place. The obstinacy of the will to do good or to do evil is subdued. Wilfulness is displaced by a transformed life. Fear and suspicion are replaced by a supreme love for God and those He loves. In the words of Eugenie de Guerin, "When the soul has laid down its faults at the feet of God, it feels as though it has wings".
When the soul has laid down its faults at the feet of God,
it feels as though it has wings.
Eugenie de Guerin
Let us close with the always eloquent words of Charles Spurgeon.
"We should follow our Lord as unhesitatingly as sheep follow their shepherd, for He has a right to lead us wherever He pleases. We are not own, we are bought with a price—let us recognize the rights of the redeeming blood. The soldier follows his captain, the servant obeys his master, much more must we follow our Redeemer, to whom we are a purchased possession. We are not true to our profession of being Christians, if we question the bidding of our Leader and Commander. Submission is our duty, cavilling is our folly. Often might our Lord say to us as to Peter, 'What is that to thee? Follow thou Me.' Wherever Jesus may lead us, He goes before us. If we know not where we go, we know with whom we go. With such a companion, who will dread the perils of the road? The journey may be long, but His everlasting arms will carry us to the end.
"The presence of Jesus is the assurance of eternal salvation, because He lives, we shall live also. We should follow Christ in simplicity and faith, because the paths in which He leads us all end in glory and immortality. It is true they may not be smooth paths—they may be covered with sharp flinty trials, but they lead to the 'city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.' 'All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant.' Let us put full trust in our Leader, since we know that, come prosperity or adversity, sickness or health, popularity or contempt, His purpose shall be worked out, and that purpose shall be pure, unmingled good to every heir of mercy. We shall find it sweet to go up the bleak side of the hill with Christ; and when rain and snow blow into our faces, His dear love will make us far more blest than those who sit at home and warm their hands at the world's fire. To the top of Amana, to the dens of lions, or to the hills of leopards, we will follow our Beloved. Precious Jesus, draw us, and we will run after Thee."
Lord Jesus, I embrace Your call on my life and take it seriously. I know I need to repent of dead works. I realize I am not resting in you. It's difficult to separate my areas of legalism from the areas I am led by Your Spirit. If I'm not careful, I will get legalistic about my legalism and the legalism of others. Instead I surrender it to You and ask that You Who have begun a good work in me would continue it until the day of Jesus Christ. I commit to intercede in these matters in behalf of your kingdom. Make me aware of my sins and any self-righteousness and rigid adherance to rules, doctrines, traditions and laws. Convict me where I am judgmental of others because others don't agree with me or abide my opinions and beliefs. I pray as David did. Renew a right spirit within me. Help me to sort out what is legalism and what is legitimate concern on behalf of your kingdom. When the inevitable trials of life come my way, keep your eternal perspective before me. Pour out an extra measure of grace at these times that I might endure to the end. Help me to allow my heartaches, disappointments and broken dreams to conform me to your will and likeness. Enable me to say to you and mean it, not my will but thine and die to myself. Remind me of Joseph's faith and faithfulness. Remind me that I have a destiny too. Enable me, by your grace, to leave a godly heritage for my family and my world as You did for Yours and as he did for his. Help me run the race and finish the course you have ordained for me. An no price do I desire to fall short of your destiny for my life. Help me to rest in you. You are the teacher, Lord. Teach me. You are the leader. Lead me. You are the transformer. Transform me. In your Name, Jesus, I most fervently pray. Amen.
In repentance and rest
you shall be saved..
Repentance and Rest (c) 1997 by Anne Murchison
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