The True Sabbath Rest
God saves and His Word sanctifies. John 17:17 Our part in this redemption and renewal is to believe in His Word, truth and promises. When we do (which is faith), we truly rest. Thus faith precedes true rest. You can’t rest without faith, thus the importance of gaining truth, which leads to faith. Romans 8:12
Here is the balance … our good works don’t sanctify us, God does. The true good works testify to our sanctification.
Because most of us struggle with sanctification without works, God designed a potent instruction tool, the Sabbath. God established the law of the Sabbath as a picture and foreshadowing of entering into this ultimate rest. On the Sabbath the Israelites were commanded not to do any work. The consequences of not honoring this day were severe. In Numbers 15:32-36, on the Sabbath, a man was gathering sticks; a seemingly low effort and harmless task. His penalty? Death. The Sabbath law was not to be taken lightly. Exodus 31:14
God established this day to teach and remind us that He sanctifies us and not our works. “Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” (Ezekiel 20:12) If we try even with the smallest effort, like picking up sticks, we are going against the will of God. This requirement of rest pointed to Christ who would be our eternal rest and free us from having to earn our righteousness by the law. He, the Word of God, became our rest and when He dwells in us, we become holy. We are to accept what He has done and rest in grace. We all fall into the performance trap, but the question is in what race are we trying to run, of works or grace? Yet, grace doesn’t negate obedience, it leads to it. If we have the truth we will live by it, but not because we are trying to become righteous. We already are, but because it’s life, unity with God, truth and love. It’s who we are because we are in Christ and have the mind of Christ. True obedience is the result of Christ is in us.
From the severity of the consequences of the Sabbath Law, we can see how important learning and abiding by this truth is to God. It’s critical to our spiritual survival to rest from attempting to earn our righteousness. If we try to live by the law then that is how we will be judged. If we break one iota then we have broken it altogether and we are accountable. The man who picked up sticks was put to death. It’s all or nothing. And no one can fulfill the whole law. We are human and we will fall short. This path, which the majority of the world attempts to walk, has one end, death. If your hope is in being a good person, good luck. Conversely, if we live by grace then we are judged by grace, and we abide in freedom and perfect assurance of our salvation and sanctification.
Most of us trust Christ with saving our souls but when it comes to sanctification we intervene. If the core motivation to our actions is to earn a high ranking in His kingdom or make us more worthy then our trust is in the wrong place. It’s clear by the consequences of breaking the law that God doesn’t tolerate us attempting to sanctify ourselves. Resting means we trust God to sanctify us alone. When we rest, our trust is fully in God, not ourselves.
Before I have to you completely shaking in your flip flops, let me remind you God’s mercy abounds to those who seek to trust Him. God knows that believing is a process because He created it that way. But are you working to believe in His work in you or are you busy earning your worthiness?
Christ fulfilled the Old Testament law, but what about the instructions of the New Testament? The Word tells us love others, pray for others, and use our gifts for the benefit of those around us. Christ fulfills these too by working in and through us. We have tremendous freedom, dear friend. This rest is the simplicity, beauty, and grace of the gospel. These instructions are the work and fruit of His Spirit within us. They are the results of being attached to the vine, Christ. These actions pour out of our souls when the Spirit is in us thus it’s not of our own efforts. A tree doesn’t work to gain fruit. It’s the outcome of the roots being in rich soul. Good works don’t come from our efforts; they are the results of us abiding in Him, stirring the deep, and Him working in us. The instructions of the New Testament are the fruit that we should see sprouting up in our lives because we are in Christ. Our part is to rest in what He will do in us in His timing as we abide in truth. Our work is to believe. John 6:29
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
When we are truly abiding in Christ Jesus, our motives aren’t to earn anything; we do what we do because that is our desire coming from His Spirit within. We do what we do out of love. Dwelling in this truth keeps our motives pure. Pride and haughtiness remain at an arms length because it’s of Him and not us. It’s to our shame if we trade our glory that should be in God for glory in our works. He is our confidence not what we do.
The constant temptation is to prove, earn or work because it appeases our needs to feel worthy and good. Our worth and goodness are defined solely in Christ. Our focus is to be on abiding in His truth, and fruit, sown in love, will be the outcome. Further, we can’t be hung up on some protocol of what a follower of God does because often God wants us doing something else at that moment. We are to follow His Spirit every moment, not what we think He wants, but what He is whispering in our ear.