Rest

As we’ve all been adapting and changing to this temporarily augmented way of life because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many people will have been working harder, longer, and in stranger ways than ever before.

We set off sprinting into this pandemic, but we seem to have accepted that it isn’t going away anytime soon so we’ve slowed to marathon pace. Along the way, it’s now important that we pause and rest appropriately if we want to keep going.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Hebrews 4.9-10

Our enemy wants to keep us busy, distracted, stressed, and full of thoughts that are ultimately not about things that are good, noble, right, and pure (Philippians 4.8). He wants you bogged-down in the nitty-gritty of the here and now and everything that could go wrong, certainly not resting.

But, we really do need to rest! Lots of folks think about resting as going to the beach, doing nothing, firing up Netflix and kicking back on the couch to find out just how many tigers a man needs to keep. Maybe your idea of rest is different; maybe you rest by exercising, spending time with friends and family, sharing a meal, the list could go on and on…

We can have true rest from stress, anxiety, worries and weariness, and from our great accuser through one place and One person only: through Jesus

Hebrews 3 and 4 develops this idea that Jesus Himself is our rest, and the key to us understanding this is to understand what Jesus Himself said!

Jesus declared Himself as Lord of the sabbath in Matthew 12.8, and in Mark 2.27 said that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. 

In Hebrews we read of how a relationship with Jesus frees us from the works-based righteousness that being under a law demands. Jesus has done all of the work needed to satisfy the righteous requirements of God (John 19.28-30), and because of this, we can rest easy. There is no longer an incessant need to work, to earn, to strive for righteousness, to bear your own burdens and work them away, to occupy our every waking moment with thoughts of being good enough or accepted.

We can rest, we can recharge, and we can regroup and not worry that we are not fulfilling laws and expectations by doing so.

Jesus serves as our Sabbath rest in the sense that He provides freedom from living under the works of the law. Instead, His sacrifice has paid the price for our salvation in full. We accept salvation as His free gift, entering into His rest both now as well as in eternity in His presence. 

No pandemic or earthly circumstances will every change this, so whilst it might be tempting to work a bit longer, a bit harder, or a bit more because your situation has changed, never forget that the rest you have in Jesus is real and ready. The stress, anxiety, and burnout that comes from overworking yourself to try and get on top of your earthly circumstances will only increase the harder you try. 

So today rest, recharge, refocus, and remember that this is all possible through Jesus.

Can I Know God?

Today Zophar the Naamathite answers Job and asks, 

“Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?

Job 11.7-8

There is little compassion coming Job’s way from Zophar, and he even thinks Job deserves worse (11.6). He basically tells Job that he is totally deserving of everything that is happening to him (vv.2-6), and then rebukes Job for boasting in his claim to be innocent. Rather than comforting Job in his affliction, Zophar seems to think that God is so unknowable that there must be some unknown – but real – way that Job has sinned. 

At the core of Zohar’s argument is the idea that we cannot really know God, we cannot find out the deep things of God, we cannot find the limit of the Almighty, that we cannot ever really know God.

So, can we know God?

There are two ways we can know God – His general revelation and His specific revelation. 

General revelation is what can be known of God to each and every human being from simply being observant about the world we live in. Created beauty, the fine tuning of the universe, the cycle of life, and the order of life, for example (Psalm 19.1-4, Romans 1.20). 

Specific, or special, revelation is how God has revealed Himself, His plans, His purposes in specific ways. This is things like dreams, visions, His Word, and through the person and work of Jesus. 

Of these, the Word and the person of Jesus are by far the most revealing, the most thorough, and the most special (2 Timothy 3.16-17, Hebrews 1.1-3). 

Can we know God? Absolutely. We can observe the world He has made, we can read the Word He communicated, and we can be in relationship through faith with His Son, His very likeness in human form, Jesus. 

2 Timothy 3.12-15 – Never Look Past The Word

After discussing his circumstances and example, Paul makes another strong contrast for Timothy.

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Contrary to prosperity teaching or word of faith teaching, Paul here writes that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. This may look different in all of our lives, but the objective truth remains, that those who make a stand for Jesus, His will, His words, and His ways will find push-back and persecution from the world at large. Paul writes that there are, basically, two kinds of places this will come from, evil people and impostors. This is those who are flat-out against Jesus, and those who think they are for Him, but there is no evidence of this. One group deceives, the other is being deceived

The contrast comes when Timothy, and we, are told but as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed…Interesting that learning comes first, we really do need to know what we are believing, so that when push-back and persecution come, we know on what we are relying, we know on what we are believing, and we know in Whom we are trusting.

Timothy has been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. This is what we would refer to as the Old Testament, and Paul says that it is able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Friends, we must never look past the Word of God to make us wise for salvation. It all points us in the direction of Jesus, it all whispers His name, it all urges and encourages us to put hope, faith, and trust in Him for salvation

Maybe you have started the new year with a reading plan arranged in this way or that way, but the best reading plan you can start is one where you read the Word every day. So, let us continue in what we have learned and firmly believed, let us turn to the sacred writings, and let us look to Christ alone for salvation, as the Word of God urges us to do. 

2 Timothy 3.1 – People Are Difficult

Someone once told me that the ‘best and worst thing about pastoring a church will be the people’. From what he writes here, it would seem that Paul agrees.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

Paul will go on to say that these times of difficulty will come from people (v.2), but for the new minister Timothy this is what he needed to know first;

that as time progresses the times will get progressively more difficult.

This should not be a surprise to us, that as time goes on time gets tougher. Time of difficulty carries the meaning of stressful times, times of trial, times of tribulation…think of trying to swim in a sea that is wild, windy, and wavy. No matter which way Timothy turns, there will be difficult people to minister to.

It seems like Paul wanted to communicate this to Timothy so that he was going forward in his task with his eyes open, so to speak, knowing that people are difficult.

People are difficult, people are broken, and people are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

If we are honest, so are we.

We are difficult to love, we are broken past the point of self-repair, and we are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

Pastor, these are your people; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

Friends, this is all of us; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

The answer for both is the same – the free gift of grace available to us through faith in Jesus. Paul will go on to remind Timothy that the Word of God makes us wise for salvation (v.15), and it is on this solid foundation that we must stand as we seek to navigate these times of difficulty. People are broken, you are broken, and without the Word of God to stand on and soak in, this will never change.

Turn to the Word today!

Never Been A Moment

This week I’ve been thinking about the line between feelings and faith, and how this influences who we are and how we are.

During our Spiritual Depression Miniseries we said that we ought to interpret our lives based on the Bible, not interpret the Bible based on our lives. The problem with the latter is that our lives then become the ultimate test and truth of reality, rather than the Word of God. When this is the case, our lives can change, our feelings can change, and we end up being blown here and there by every wind of change, often multiple times a day. This then has the potential to change who we are, and how we are. 

Think of the person interpreting their life independently, all alone, not in relation to something that never changes.

What happens when they feel abandoned and their circumstances seem to support that feeling?

What happens when they feel lost and their circumstances seem to support that feeling?

What happens when they deal with loss?

What happens when they deal with tragedy?

If we rely on feelings over faith, it’s only a matter of time before we end up in a dark place.

There’s a part of this song that speaks to this so well,

There’s never been a moment
I was not held inside Your arms
There’s never been a day when You were not who You say You are

Despite what is going on around us, God never changes (Malachi 3.6, Hebrews 13.8). Because God never changes, His Word to us is solid, true, and lasting (Luke 21.33). So, when we might feel abandoned, lost, alone, or down, we can turn to the Word of God and know, for sure, that He is always there, always true, and always ready with an all consuming, heart pursuing, grace extending, never ending love.

This should define who we are, and how we are.