The Gospel's Promise of Peace, Rest & Contentment
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)
In a broken and busy world, it is impossible to walk through unscathed. Burdens find their way around our necks and the intense pressures of life push on us from all sides. But even in the midst of the heaviness, persecution, accusation, trial or tribulation the gospel provides us a promise of peace, rest and contentment that we can take to the bank.
At the dawn of humanity, Adam was placed in a garden eastward in Eden. That garden was lovingly curated for Adam's pleasure and delight. Trees were pleasant to look at and good for food, every beast of the field and every bird of the air was brought to Adam to name and even a wife was formed to share in the beauty, nourishment, purpose and creative output in that garden.
But we know the ancient story all too well. There were two trees planted in the garden that stood out from all other trees. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of the tree of life, Adam is commanded to eat freely. Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil the Lord commands that Adam shall not eat of this tree. "...for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen. 2:17)
The account in Genesis progresses as chapter 3 lays out how the serpent deceives Eve. She and Adam eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and under deception, they remove themselves out of the resting place.
This story isn't about God being mean and saying they couldn't eat certain fruit. This is a story of humanity being deceived into yearning for something that was not allotted to them. It was not meant to be theirs. When they had everything in perfection, even the ability to walk with God Himself in the garden, they believed a lie that they needed more.
The second we take ourselves out of that place of rest, we begin to fall into the trap of envy. Our hearts begin to greed and lust after that which is not ours. We want that which was not allotted to us.
The story of humanity moves forward from the garden to the New Testament and here is where we see Jesus, the giver of rest, come on to the scene.
In Matthew 9, Jesus is in full swing with His ministry. He heals a paralytic (v.6), heals a woman who has an issue with blood for 12 years (v.22), raises a girl from the dead (v.25), heals two blind men (v.29-30) and delivers a man bound by demonic oppression (v.33). This chapter is highlighting Jesus bringing rest to the poor, weary, broken-hearted and oppressed. *It's important to note that in each instance, the person needing breakthrough believed that Jesus was who He said He was.
"Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Matt. 9:35-36)
The end of Matthew 9 sums up so beautifully the heart of Jesus toward the sick, broken-hearted and oppressed. Jesus has compassion on the weary. He has compassion on us.
Later in Matthew's gospel, Jesus gives an invitation concerning rest,
"Come to 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
In Jesus and only in Jesus, do we find true rest. We were never meant to find rest outside of Jesus.
It was what the Lord wanted in the garden. Adam & Eve were always meant to eat from the tree of Life. They were always meant to find their true rest, fulfillment, enjoyment, fascination, beauty, greatness, intimacy without shame, wholeheartedness and longing to make a deep & lasting impact in Him. No where else. None other satisfies like He satisfies. No well can quench our thirst like He.
It was what He longed for on the crossbeam. He wanted our hearts to be at rest through His sacrifice and justification of our sins. He wanted us to find true rest in Him.
But what about the burdens we carry today?
Jesus didn't sugarcoat the fact that we would have trials and tribulations in this world. He was straightforward with the fact that we would suffer like He suffered. But our rest can be found in the fact the He has overcome this world.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
I started this blog with a scripture from Romans 5:1-2. That passage highlights the fact that we, as believers, have peace with God. This is our foundation of rest. This is the door we must enter before finding the practicals for our current stresses and burdens.
This truth will underpin and give our hearts strength to face every trial, tribulation, accusation and even persecution in the coming decades and storms of life. Without it, we have nothing to stand on. Nothing to grasp hold of. All we will have will be vapors of humanistic, self-help and no real, eternal truth that will transcend through the ages and beyond the shores of the age to come.
Beloved, we have peace with God through Jesus! We have peace with the uncreated God, the One who is from Everlasting to Everlasting, the Ancient of Days and I AM. What the patriarchs couldn't imagine, what the prophets spoke of in types and foreshadows, we now possess through Christ Jesus.
"One of the outrageous benefits of our union to Jesus is our access to Him in ALL THAT HE POSSESSES AND DOES. We have access to that same grace of God that took us out of darkness conveying us to light (that is, the grace in which we now stand). Accessing and partaking of the grace of God in which we stand releases a profound joy and power now and as well as certainty of experiencing the fullness of the glory of God in the future." - David Sliker
The gospel's power is far more potent that we realize - more than delivering us out of our former state into a new relationship with God, it has the power to change our mindsets, emotions and desires in a powerful way that enables us to love differently and deeply. The Holy Spirit wants to empower us in today's culture with real strength that equips us to keep our eyes on the true prize, prioritizing the love, acceptance and affections of Christ.
Jesus offers and invites us now into true rest by His Holy Spirit. All we have to do is say, "yes," to this truth and no to every lie manufactured from the Father of Lies.
Lastly, I want to encourage us to continually align ourselves with the word of God daily. Read it, write it, say it, sing it, pray it. Whatever it takes to get it on the inside, do it! In knowing the truth, we get set free from striving and being choked out from burdens that we were never meant to carry.
Want to go further?
Pray-read through Psalm 139 (dialogue with the Holy Spirit)
Make the Psalmist's words your own, thinking about the care and the love with which the Lord lavishes on you. Notice the Lord's attention to detail toward you in the throws of life and in the mundane. Ask Him to reveal to you what He thinks and feels about you. Ask for His help to rest in these truths!