Laboring to Enter Rest?

Nothing gets me charged up for a new day or a new week than reflecting on the magnificent truth that I am a new being in Jesus Christ!

Everything that once separated me from God was completely removed at the Cross of Christ!  It was there, that God rescued us out of “the dominion of darkness” and placed us “in the kingdom of the Son of His love!” (Col 1:13)

The term that Paul uses, “dominion of darkness,” is not referring to your former sinful life.  It’s referring to a “darkened” understanding of just how complete & personal His work of redemption was.  Darkness “keeps you in the dark” about how completely & absolutely innocent and blameless you are in the sight of God!  In darkness, it makes no sense to us that God could love us; let alone that He would love us as equally as He does Jesus.  Darkness robs us of the reality that you & I are “in Christ!”  Darkness makes us feel we are still lacking.  But in the kingdom of the Son of His love; when you come into the Light– you “see”–“hey, wait a minute….how can I be lacking anything” when the Scriptures shout, “CHRIST IN YOU” and “you are COMPLETE IN HIM.”

The Gospel dispels darkness.  It is the “good news” that God successfully reconciled us to a place of restored oneness & union with Himself.  The Greek word for “reconcile” means we have been “decisively changed from one position to another.”  In other words, we are no longer separated from God, we are joined to Him!

“He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him”  (1 Cor 6:17)

“In that day, you will know that I am in My Father and you are in me & I am in you.” ( Jn 14:20)

You can’t get much closer than that!  You can’t get much closer than being in union!

There is no separation or distance in union.  Dave, are you saying we’re God?  No!  Biblical union is a union with distinction.  Paul illustrates it by marriage in Ephesians 5:31.  He says, paraphrasing, “marriage reflects this union; a man separates himself from his parents to be joined to his wife and two separate people become merged into one new identity.”

So, that being true, why as Christians, do we seem to be spending so much of our time trying to “get closer to God?”  Since we are, in Christ, “joined to Him?”

Do you feel like you spend a lot of your time trying to “get closer to God?”  Or “feel” closer to God?

The Bible says–you don’t need to get closer to God.  You are as close to God as you can get!  You are flesh of His flesh and  bone of His bone. (Eph 5:30)  Nothing you can do can improve your standing before God or help you get closer to Him!  You & I can stop our futile and unnecessary efforts to get closer to God and instead rejoice in the complete and unbreakable union that is ours now because of what our glorious Savior Jesus Christ has done for us & to us.  Hallelujah!

Jesus removed the distance between us and God caused by Adam’s fall.  The union that Adam lost on humanity’s behalf;  Jesus has restored.

You are fully connected to the Vine as a branch.  You are fully connected to the Head as a member of His body. You and Jesus are inseparable.   We’re really confessing our ignorance of the Word when we ask Jesus to “please be with me today” when we do this or that.  He goes everywhere you go!  The Head and the body are joined.  Every day & every moment.

You’ve got to realize, God is not uncomfortable being in union with you. He is totally “at home” in you.   God is totally pleased with you being His dwelling place; His “address.”

God is so pleased–the Bible says, He’s at “rest!”  Another way to say that is–He is satisfied.

C.S. Lewis in his book, The Weight of Glory, said “If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with it’s self.”

John Piper says “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

It reminds me of  Eph. 2:5-6 in the Message translation: “immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us.  He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us!”

In other words, God prefers we wouldn’t dilute the finished work of the cross by adding anything to it.

There’s nothing we can or should do to add to the already perfect and complete work of our union with God through Jesus Christ.

It is not our job to exert any “labor” to get closer to God.

But doesn’t the Bible say that we are to “labor” to enter God’s rest?

“Let us LABOR therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”  Heb. 4:11  KJV
It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  “Labor” in order to “rest?”
The Greek word translated LABOR is “SPOUDAZO” (Strongs’ #4704) from the root word “SPOUDE” (Strongs #4710).  It means, “make haste, move swiftly, as fast as you can, immediately.”
In the Greek,  Heb. 4:11 says:  “Make haste, move quickly, don’t waste another minute– enter into His Rest!”
Read it in the context of verses 9 & 10:
9 “So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their laborsjust as God did after creating the world.”  Heb 4:9-10 NLT
Heb. 4:11 isn’t saying: “LABOR,” but conversely, CEASE from your own labors!
Our own labor cannot add to the absolutely perfect, finished work of Christ.
You cannot add to perfection.
God’s REST celebrates His PERFECT work & FINISHED work in you!

That doesn’t mean “there’s nothing for us to do.”  We still have more maturing &  growing up to do.  Such as growing in our understanding of this wonderful union.  When a branch grows on one of our rose bushes at home; the number of blossoms on that branch grow as well.  Just like that rose bush–our ever growing revelation and understanding of our union with Christ causes a greater diffusion of the wonderful fragrance of Christ to manifest in our lives.

As our understanding grows, love and gratitude grows.  Every time I enjoy fellowship with the Lord by reading the Scriptures or praying or focusing on His indwelling–my understanding of just how great a salvation I have, causes “joy unspeakable” to well up in my heart towards God to where I feel like I’m going to explode with joy on the inside of me!

Do you know what I mean?

Being “complete in Him” does not mean we become idle or lazy.  The fact that in Christ, I am “perfect & lacking nothing” has never been translated in my mind as “I don’t have to read my Bible, I don’t have to pray, I don’t have to go to church, I don’t have to share the gospel…”

I don’t HAVE TO; I WANT TO!!

I want His fullness in me to ooze out of every pore of my being!  I’ve been invited to indulge in a feast of righteousness that He has prepared for me.  He has prepared a table before me and I come every day with an appetite!

Being “complete in Him” doesn’t mean you can live your life any way you please.  YOU don’t have a life any more.  Did you miss Jesus’ disclaimer about being a Christian?  He said, make sure you “count the cost.” (Lk 14:28)  A disciple must “take up his cross” to follow Him. That means you realize that YOU died when & where Jesus died.   Your old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ.  (Rom 6:6)  Grace doesn’t mean “oh well, God’s cool with my life now” —  “I can still smoke pot, I can still sleep with my girlfriend.”  That may be your definition of grace but it’s not God’s!  (read Rom 6:1-2)  Grace is not God looking the other way when you sin.  Sin has negative consequences whether you’re a Christian or not.  God’s Grace is a Person–Jesus Christ living His life in us!

I like what John Crowder said in his book, Mystical Union: “If you are exploiting the grace of God–sinning under the guise of your perfection–please do the rest of us a favor and stop calling yourself a Christian.”

Yes, the Gospel says you are accepted in the beloved, no matter what you’ve done or what you do, but living a totally self centered life proves you are totally ignorant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s no longer about you; it’s all about Him.

Christianity has never been about your life.  Christianity is about HIS LIFE IN YOU; AS YOU!

“It’s no longer I who lives; it’s Christ who lives in me”  (Gal 2:20)

I like the Distilled Bible translation of that verse:  “I consider myself to have died, and now my existence is just Jesus using my body.”

The Father’s every expectation for us was fulfilled in His Son!  You & I can stop “our labors” and “our striving” and simply join the Father, Son & Spirit in their celebration of our perfect redemption and union together with them!!

Being in union with God is a glorious truth.  When you learn to rest and abide in that place of union that is yours in Jesus Christ–your life becomes a constant celebration of your redeemed innocence in you Father’s eyes!
Make today a day of celebrating the success of the cross!  And tell someone why you’re smiling!

The Triumphant Entry (Palm Sunday)

I was supposed to preach at my church yesterday for Palm Sunday, but the service was cancelled because of  a snow storm.  I was going to speak on Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem:

“And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:  “Hosanna to the Son of David!  ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’  Hosanna in the highest!  And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, this is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”   Mt 21:8-11 NKJV

This day certainly marked a “triumphant” breakthrough for the disciples.  Up until this day, they had they been trying to convince Jesus to reveal Himself; to proclaim who He was,  and in all their previous attempts, Jesus kept saying, No!  But today, He says, OK, go get a donkey for me–I’ll into ride into Jerusalem!

The disciples were surely ecstatic and thinking, YES!  It’s time for the people to recognize what we’ve known all along and hail Him as King of the Jews.  He’s gonna do it!  He’s going to reveal Himself as Messiah!

But, Jesus wasn’t looking for that kind of accolade.  In fact, just before His Triumphant Entry He says, “I came not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give My life as a ransom.”  Matt 20:28

I’m sure the disciples thought they had talked Jesus into it, by their initiative, but the initiative to reveal Himself has always been completely the Lord’s:

“I’ve made myself available
to those who haven’t bothered to ask.
I’m here, ready to be found
by those who haven’t bothered to look.
I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’
to a nation that ignored me.
I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me”  Is 65:1  MSG

It occurred to me that at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem,  there were in fact two distinct “views” of what was taking place.  What the disciples and the crowds were witnessing and what the Father saw.

Jesus Himself says in Luke’s account, ”If you’d only known that today is your day, but you don’t see it!” Lk 19:42

For example, the fact that Jesus came riding on a donkey.  All of the Gospels mention He did;  Matthew & John make it a point that Jesus did this fulfilling the prophesy of Zech. 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” ESV   But John says in his Gospel, the disciples didn’t remember that at the time!  They didn’t have a clue, they were a part of fulfilling prophesy!  They probably thought, He’s just tired of walking, since it was about 19 miles from Jericho to Jerusalem.  John says it wasn’t until after the Cross that it dawned on them.

The only thing on the disciples mind was Jesus is about to make things “right!”  Whereas the Father knew Jesus was about to make all things “NEW.”

The disciples looked at Jesus as the Messiah of their own dreams and wishful thinking. “Who is this?”  Jesus, our Conqueror!!  The shouting and placing of palm branches in His path were typical expressions of honor given to military conquerors arriving back from a successful conquest.   Surely they were thinking, we are celebrating the soon to come conquest of the pagan Roman empire.   To them it was only a matter of time before Israel would conquer Rome and every enemy to the Jewish nation.  “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee,” the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!  They saw Jesus as their immediate political deliverer; “they thought that the kingdom of God was on the verge of appearing.”  Lk 19:11

But the Father saw a Spiritual Deliverer. The Father saw, not the dawning of a new political order, but a NEW COVENANT!  Jesus–not as a Lion, but as THE LAMB OF GOD.

Could it be that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem just before the Passover, was the Father bringing His Lamb for a symbolic “inspection”, fulfilling the requirement at Passover of having a perfect Passover Lamb?  You remember, about 3 years earlier, John the Baptist rightfully identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God Who came to take way the sin of the world.”  Jn 1:29

Sitting on a donkey, prophetically speaking of when “having made purification for sins, He sat down!” Heb 1:3

“Who is this?”  “The one you’ve all heard about, the one that raised Lazarus from the dead!” John points out that many that came to Jerusalem for this Passover, had heard about the miracle and they wanted to see Jesus and see Lazarus for themselves.

But if they saw what the Father saw—they would have realized they were looking at the unthinkable.  They were LOOKING at the Invisible God!  The very I AM–the Life that was with the Father from the beginning!  In the Incarnation, the Invisible God, for the first time in history, made Himself VISIBLE.  The Word that always was; Incarnate BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES!

I can’t help but think of Job 42:5–“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now MY EYES SEE THEE.”

Had they been able to see what the Father sees.

The same Jesus, but seen through different eyes!

Two Views.

Man’s understanding; God’s understanding. Our knowledge; God’s knowledge.  Two views of reality.  Two defining views; Two different Views.

I find it interesting, that as Jesus & the disciples are walking from Jericho to Jerusalem, on their way to His Triumphant Entry, Matthew’s Gospel points out, Jesus was confronted by two blind men. “What do you want for Me to do for you?”  “Lord, that our eyes might be opened.”

And Jesus healed them.  Those blind men experienced a serious breakthrough.

The Triumphant Entry, Palm Sunday was a breakthrough day.  No doubt about that.  Although in the mind of the disciples,  they envisioned their “breakthrough” playing out in a different way than it did in the next week.

Did you know there are two different definitions for the word, breakthrough? 

“BREAKTHROUGH”  1.  an act or instance of breaking through an obstacle   2. a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.  ( I really like that one!)

One of the greatest breakthroughs you can have in your life is allow God to change how you view things….from YOUR perspective to HIS perspective.  Because living from His perspective will forever, change the way you think about yourself, think about God, think about other people and the world around you.  Discovering what the Father knows to be true about you!  As Paul says, 1 Cor 13:12–TO KNOW, AS YOU ARE KNOWN.


One last point.

Of course, it was “right”–to hail Him and worship Him as King!  Jesus Himself said, that if the multitudes did not worship Him, the rocks would cry out!

What the Father did not deem “right” was, on that day, everyone in the crowd were merely spectators.  God is not interested in just drawing a crowd, He’s looking for participants. He is not satisfied with people staying on the side lines in their commitment to Him.  The Father is looking for partakers of Christ; partakers of His Life.

God is not pleased with, nor the least bit interested in distance or separation. That’s why Jesus came!

Jesus came not just as the promised Messiah, but as the mediator to draw all men into the very eternal union between the Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus came to reconcile (“reunite; to bring back together”) God and man; therefore abolishing any distance, every excuse they or we could have to keep us separated from God.

THAT is worthy of our celebration!

He owns the applause displayed in the church and confirmed in Christ Jesus.  The encore continues throughout every generation, not only of this age, but also of the countless ages to come.” Eph 3:21 Mirror