The Rest that Paul spoke of is Grace and Grace is Christ
Before you get into this remember that it is a bad practice to fight Scripture with Scripture, each letter of Paul’s was dealing with a specific message. Paul was not schizophrenic or contradicting himself, the Gospel is consistent. We should let the message of Grace stand unmolested. It is the one thing Church should have no fear of
Christianity has presented itself as a Challenge, an Escape from Judgement and a Moral Choice. Paul never “sells” the Gospel exactly in this way. The Good News is a report of what God has done for us. If we look at Ephesians we see an impassioned explanation of our true spiritual position and how we came by it.
There is so much Grace in it that it has the power to intoxicate the reader if they are open to it. Verse two explains a facet of Grace
“2 May grace, (God’s unmerited favour and spiritual peace which means peace with God and harmony, unity, and undisturbedness,) be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” AMP
It may appear obvious and not important enough for comment but in this verse, Paul says that Grace means ‘undisturbedness’ for us. We are so used to stress and fear that this seems childish and fanciful even pathetic. When you have tasted this Grace proper, it is sweet as honey and full of rest, it creates Joy and surprises you with the dawning of just how complete the love and the reality of the indwelling Christ is and is meant to be, our All, our repose.
Teaching usually concentrates on things we should have done, or not done, (the charismatic guilt trip), but the first thing Paul wants his reader to know is Grace and what it is. So easily we skip over the essential and tell people their faults and often by default that unless they have a ministry, a project, a “purpose” they are lacking in God. God however just wants us to know Him. From the beginning He wanted us and we were subverted out of our rest and position in the creation.
The Gospel puts us back in relationship, back in Favour.
Two evangelists were recently arrested for saying that Homosexuality is a sin in a street preach. Whilst Sin is identified in Scripture Jesus did not set the precedent for pointing out the sins of the people, but He did take issue with the religious leaders.
Blah, Blah, Blah.
I know the thought passed through my mind too.
It is so easy to skip over the important. Our Spiritual wellbeing however is at stake. If we do not understand the Truth of The Gospel we can never be free, or help others to be free. The Problem is that Christianity has seen itself in the role of telling people they are Sinners, demanding their repentance and then corralling them into an organisation. No wonder the reaction from your average sinner is “get stuffed”
We then whine about how hard the ground is and the hearts of “our Town” (insert your town name here), are very losed.The Gospel is The Good News that; Jesus has dealt with sin so you are reconciled by His Works, His Obedience, His Faithfulness and His Choice. It does not tell us we are Sinners but that Jesus made us Sons.
There is an illusion that we have to do something to get this acceptance but it is groundless, all we do is let the light shine on us, and we are changed by it. “Arise; Shine Your Light has come”
“Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light”.
In Ephesians 1 it says:
“4 Even as in His love He chose us, actually picked us out for Himself as His own, in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love”
We were Chosen by God before the world was founded!
You could no more choose salvation than you chose your Mother and Father. It was not your choice, so you cannot boast of how good you were to choose rightly.
“Ephesians 2: 8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favour) that you are saved delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;
9 Not because of works [not the fulfilment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]”AMP
“7 In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favour,
8 Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence),”
These early chapters of Ephesians are extravagant but they do not exaggerate the nature of Grace or the “intense love of the Father” indeed the suggestion is that it would be impossible to exaggerate this Grace, just as it is impossible to sum it up, as it is boundless and abounding.
The recent obsession with “Hyper Grace” accusations, the idea that you can have too much of it, reveals only the paucity of the understanding of Grace by those who enjoy international visibility as “church leaders”. Jesus did not live and die to give you a modicum of salvation but to lavish His gracious favour upon you! Not because you deserved it but because He knew you needed it. You are not therefore saved because of your choice but because of the love of God. “So rich is He in His Mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense Love, with which He loved us even when we were dead, slain by our own shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in UNION with Christ.” AMP
If Christianity is merely an appeal to keep the law and become right it is a sorry aping of the old covenant.
We are not called to be merely observers of a law and to make choices according to a religious ten point crib sheet. No, we are drawn by the Father into Love, to see Jesus as our righteousness that we may become His righteousness. He is glorified in your trust in Him and He is honoured in Heaven because of You! a redeemed one.
You were dead but now you are a different creature, destined for Union with the Creator at the moment of Creation itself.
Before the sacrifice of the cross we were locked up in sin and law and after without our knowledge, without consultation, and without our choice we were included in Christ and reconciled to God. Faith is a gift that puts us beyond a choice "to be good" a new nature inclines us toward good as the old inclined us to sin.
It is easy to think that our choices are crucial but we are not quite so self-determining in that way and never really were. We are bought with a price, and set free into favour, forever freed from the burden of choice, into leaning our entire personality on Him and all responsibility for our souls and lives becomes the Shepherds charge, His choice, His obedience, His Grace His plan.
What I am trying to say is that the two states are not characterised by a concept of Freedom from a human perspective.
You were free to be born and you are free to die but your choice is irrelevant to both events. We are slaves to sin before knowing Christ and then slaves to righteousness having been born again, which is a result of His work. A work In which our choice played no part, because of our nature we have in both states. We are controlled by the evil one and condemned to sin before we are aware of the work of Christ and after we are conscious of HIM, and aware of grace, we believe before we can "choose" to believe because we find ourselves talking to a God whose existence we previously would have denied and eventually we concede his presence by default, because we are talking to him and no one talks to anyone they don't believe is there.
Just as our choice is irrelevant to our Birth - we did not choose to be born - so our choice is irrelevant to the event of our being Born again. Ephesians says it was God’s work while we were sinners that he made this choice for all mankind. Just as there is an appearance of freewill when we are slaves to sin, there is also an appearance of freewill when we are born again. We are given a place in the heavens in Christ. Faith is a consequence of this truth, once perceived, and revealed by the Spirit. Just as an open eye does not choose to see, but cannot but see, the enlightened soul believes and cannot but believe.
Only Church and bad doctrine will stop it.
Perspective in these things is everything. Here's a similar non choice "choose to breathe or…… put your hand in a Bear". The "Choose life" admonition in the old covenant is an appeal to common sense more than an invitation to choose between good and bad. (“choose life” wasn't that Frankie goes to Hollywood?). People are not strenuously choosing against death they are simply living.
I was once in a meeting of a Fellowship/ Church where the leadership roasted everyone for their Lukewarm condition and using the “Choose life” challenge demanded that people either “got serious” or “leave now” Nobody left, however we were all manipulated into staying of course.
It’s the spirit of the thing that is important, reducing the gospel to a choice is to take the influence of God out of the picture, He chose us, He draws us, persuades us into agreement by love, if I have seen the truth, then when I behave correctly I am not choosing, I am conforming, to my new identity and the revealed truth.
The whole issue of choice makes us the driver in our life. This is not the Gospel position of rest. Jesus says “be careful for nothing” and “do not worry” but most of us are unable to disengage enough to “find our peace” everything becomes a task and a duty.
Rest is a spiritual reality the New Creature in God is designed for rest! Seated in the heavenly realm with Christ, In Christ, what should be our state? Should we be in anxiety? Obviously not, but a large part of my Christian life has been spent in a state of varying degrees of concern. Fuelled by a legalistic structure and an invasive leadership style, both made possible because of a lack of understanding in the church, that we are in the hands of a God utterly devoted to us, desiring only our benefit.
We are not the ordinary human being our mothers gave birth to, we are a new Creature sharing the same virtue of life as the Christ!!! C’mon GET EXCITED! you children of God.
Ephesians 3: says this is our designated experience.
“18 That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];
19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself”. AMP
The above is more and more my experience.
I am not continuously off my face on Godka but more and more the revelation of Grace invades me and shuts out doubt with Himself (Grace is a person!), and the knowledge of His nature renews my mind. To the point where I can understand the declaration that there is “No Lack” in the Kingdom, No separation between Jew and Gentile or Man and the Father.
We are so joined in Union that as Jesus said I and the Father are One! We can say it too! We are in Christ and in Him there is no darkness at all. As he is so are we. Jesus need not have died or lived, if scripture alone was enough for our salvation. The religious Jews had a lot of Scripture that pointed to Jesus but they still missed him as a people, because they were focused on a righteousness achieved by their flesh – by their performance and ability to keep their religious duties.
They were ignorant of their true condition which is why the Good Shepherd came to gather the lost sheep and change everything. Even their ignorance. The New Covenant of Grace is an experience! A relationship, at least a two way communication, we get to experience Jesus living in us and He gets to delight in us, don’t forget it is all his fault.
The Gospel is truly all win no fee!
Allow it to sink in so you can sink into Him. The Joy available to us is beyond our ability to exhaust or grow bored of. This is the wine that satisfies, it’s not a program, it’s not a mission, it’s not a doctrine devised by man it’s a love letter from the Father and it is impossible to tell you how good it is, believe me when I say You can’t do without the fullest measure of it.
I feel so passionate that the church could be truly glorious if they would drink this and stop trying so hard to achieve what Jesus has already done. Oh taste and see just how good the vats of heaven are, how they overflow for you.
© Agents for Change August 2013 All scripture from the Amplified Bible