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!
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Reflections on Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and wow–was I blessed by my family!  I got to preach at a good friend’s church in the morning, and then spend great family time with my wife and kids & grandson–grilling, laughing, sharing gifts.  It got me thinking about our radically wonderful relationship with God, our Father.  We give gifts to our earthly fathers on Father’s Day. Isn’t it amazing that our Heavenly Father has given the perfect gift to each one of us:  the unspeakable gift of His Son, Jesus Christ and His Righteousness!

It’s interesting that there are only about 15 or so references in the entire Old Testament to God as Father.  Yet in John’s Gospel alone, there are over 100 references to God as Father. Over 170 in all four Gospels and more than 250 in the entire New Testament.

When we talk about God being our Father–for many, that can conjure up a distorted view of God.  Either because of some Old Testament verses or because our earthly father might not have been a nice man, or may have never been around, so we have difficulty imagining God as a loving Father.

God is not only loving; He IS Love. (1 Jn 4:8,16)  And His love is above & beyond and unlike any human concept of love or experience we have had with our own earthly father.

Love to us is an emotion; a feeling.  It can certainly be a wonderful feeling to love and to be loved and know you are loved.  Love is much more than merely an emotion to God.  Love is who He is and is expressed by what He does.  The love of God is manifested and demonstrated to us in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and ultimately at the Cross.

James 1:17  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” NKJV

We often think, Jesus came to change God’s mind about man; when in fact, Jesus came to change man’s mind about God!  

Jesus came to reveal the Father!

Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”

He revealed & displayed a relationship with God that was revolutionary. Unparalleled.  Everything He said & did, was to reveal the Father to us:  “This is how you should pray.”  When you pray…..say….”our Father!”  In other words, call God, “your Father!”

The religious leaders wanted to kill Him, for calling God His Father!  That represented a familiarity; a relationship with God that no one would ever presume was even remotely possible for a man & God.  They had no concept that long before the foundation of the world, God the Father has been passionately in love with His Son. It’s almost impossible to describe the nature and character of this love. Love that is far more than just feelings. Love that is Life itself–Divine Substance.  And that love has been eternally focused on the Son.  At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from heaven– “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17)  At that point, Jesus had done nothing to warrant or “earn” God’s love.  He was purely loved as a Son.

There are many verses that describe & illustrate Jesus’ relationship with His Father:

Jn 3:35  “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand”

Jn 8:29  “I always do the things that please my Father.”

Jn 10:30  “I and my Father are one.”

We can say, Hooray for Jesus!!  And view that relationship as a spectator or an outsider.  But Jesus didn’t come so that we would remain spectators–He came to invite us into this very relationship of Father-Son in the Spirit.

Listen to Jesus’ words to us:

Jn 16:27  “For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved Me.”

Jn 20:17  “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

Jesus actually said, in Matt 23:9  “call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in Heaven.”

It’s such an important thing to grasp and it’s so life transforming to know you are loved by the Heavenly Father.  But, it can be really hard to believe it.  Why is that?

Because we look at ourselves and our life and it just seems impossible that God could really feel that way about ME. You might believe the theology of it.  Or you might feel it would be true if you DID something (like read the Bible more, or prayed more, or fasted or witnessed, or if you STOPPED doing something), and you’ve tried that route, but eventually failed, so in your head, you disqualified yourself.

We think we know ourselves too well for us to walk with a conviction that God truly loves ME. So, it stays a doctrine that you say amen to…but in your head, you can’t help but think “how could He love ME like that?”

One of our most basic needs as humans is the need for appreciation.  The need to be loved.  We long for it.  Nothing harms a relationship or self image more than feeling unappreciated or taken for granted.

The word, appreciate means “to recognize full worth.”  It’s a Latin word that literally means “the appraised price” or the full price on the price tag.

It has been said that the value of something is based on the price someone is willing to pay to get it.  God saw enough value in every person to justify the price He paid for humanity’s redemption from sin, guilt, fear, and shame.  He successfully redeemed His image and likeness in us.  God paid the FULL PRICE FOR US!

Matt 13:44  “The kingdom from heaven is like treasure hidden in a field that a man found and hid. In his excitement he went and sold everything he had and bought that field.”  NIV

Your personality (the reflection of God’s image & likeness in you) is the “treasure” hidden in the field, that the Father spent all that He had to purchase you!

The Gospel is the revelation of how God paid the highest price for us.   God knows you, and has always “known you”  (Jer 1:5a “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”).  He’s known you & loved you, before you had any opportunity to impress Him OR disappoint Him.  He knew you before He formed you and what He knew about you then, is still His only reference about who you are!  Nothing that you have done, that you thought would impress Him or disappoint Him has changed His mind about you!  He knows your original “value” and He has paid the highest price to redeem ownership of your life in order to persuade you and convince you, of what He believes about you!  How much He loves and values you!

God sees the value of each one of us!  And always has.

From all eternity, God has never been alone and solitary, but lives as Father, Son, and Spirit in a glorious relationship of absolute Oneness. There is no judgement in this circle. The Trinity’s life is like a ‘dance’ of communion and intimacy.  That life is passionate, self-giving, other-centered and delightful. This life is good.  It is unique, it is “holy” which means “apartness; there’s nothing like it”.  It’s full of joy, blessing and peace. Such love, and fellowship is the womb of the universe and of humanity.

The stunning truth is that the triune God, in amazing and extravagant love, determined to open the circle and share their inner life with us. This is the one reason for the creation of the universe and of human life.   Before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son, and Spirit set their love upon us and planned for us to share and know and experience their life.

For this reason they spoke the universe into being, and the human race was created. Adam and Eve were given a place in the coming of Jesus Christ, in and through whom the dream of our being included would be accomplished.

Before creation, it was decided that the Son would cross every gulf between the triune God and humanity and establish a real and abiding relationship with us–one of union. Jesus was predestined to be the Mediator, the One through whom the very life of the triune God would enter our life, and we would be lifted up to share in their’s.

When Adam and Eve fell, darkness and misery entered into God’s creation, but the Father, Son, and Spirit did not abandon their dream; instead, they incorporated our darkness and sin into their plan of inclusion. The Son became human.  He submitted himself to our anger and blindness and suffered a murderous death at our hands.  Jesus established a real and abiding relationship with fallen humanity at our very worst—and He brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with Him. It was in Jesus, and in His death at our hands, that the Trinity tabernacled in our hell on earth, in our brokenness, shame, and sin, and in so doing included us into their life.

In the life, death, resurrection & ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit made His way into human pain & blindness and brought deliverance & healing. Now the Spirit works to reveal Jesus in us so that we can each personally meet Him, and know His Father with Him. The Holy Spirit helps us know and experience Jesus’ own relationship with his Father and live with Jesus in the Father’s embrace.

We’ve made being a Christian a lifestyle of rules & doctrines,

when being a Christian is being brought into a

relationship that has existed for all eternity.

You & I have been brought into the One who is the eternal object of affection in the Father’s heart!

You & I have become a partaker of the eternal, indescribable, unspeakable love that flows from God the Father…… to God the Son……. by God the Holy Spirit.  You & I are floating in the middle of that River of Love!

There is not anything that you could ever do to either earn or to disqualify you from the Father’s love.  Paul says, “NOTHING can separate us from the love of God!”  (Rom 8:39)

Before you or I could ever do anything to earn or disqualify ourselves…..Christ died for us!

God says, “Son or daughter, I created you in my image & likeness!  I am the One that gave you life and sustains it every moment of every day!  It’s in Me that you live and move & have your being!”

We each create & hold on to a self-imposed identity or image of ourselves.  We’re like the prodigal son, “But Father, I’ve done all these bad things.  I’m not worthy.”  There is a greater reality about your life than your opinion of it; than your behavior or the life you’ve lived so far.

It’s about your IDENTITY as a Son or Daughter.

The Father’s image of you in Christ is more relevant than anything that has ever happened in your past, is happening to you now, or will happen in the future.  If anything has happened in your life that has caused pain, shame, fear, anger, resentment, self pity or regret—it is now past tense and history.

Whoever you thought you were; or someone made you become…..Paul says, Behold, in Christ, “all things have been made new!”  It’s time to stop focusing on the old and focus on the new.

Your true and original value has been redeemed in Jesus Christ.  

Your identity or value is not based on what you do or don’t do; it’s based on what Jesus has already done!  

Giving us the very life of the Son as our own life is the revelation of what being a Christian is all about.

YOU & I HAVE BEEN SWEPT INTO A TIDAL WAVE OF ETERNAL LOVE BETWEEN THE TRINITY BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN BROUGHT INTO THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST.

What an amazing Father’s Day gift!

It’s your’s today and everyday!