How the Truth of Simplicity Opens Us to Rest in Christ
It’s been a few weeks, and I pray that your time has been well and restful. In the last year our topics on this Tuesday prayer and worship help have run the gamut from Associate Reformed distinctives, to aliens, to paganism, etc… We’ll get back into some of the latter stuff to be certain, but I wanted to start off the year with a gospel message. Not just, or merely, a call to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. I of course desire that everything I do or say expresses that truth, but rather a deeper consideration of what makes the Christian faith different from the false professions which are growing in popularity today.
In the sermon I preached last Sabbath morning from Ecclesiastes 7 I made the point that our obedience to the word of God is born out not so much in our following a list of rules, but in the way we live, move, and have our being by result of the inward work of the Holy Spirit. For sure there are laws God in His mercy has provided for us to know both in stone and heart. What we mean here in the big picture is the will or desire we have to lovingly seek to conform ourselves to their character. In other words are we interested in the keeping of the law for the law’s sake or out of the new spiritually-born conception of love we have as Paul lays out for us in 1 Corinthians 13?
The more we understand the change of nature that happens in the application of the righteousness purchased by Christ the more we will be freed from the temptations to seek salvation through doing stuff for God. While there is some truth to the idea that God doesn’t need our good works, our neighbor does, that misses the point of what James for instance is interested in his readers to see about the beauty of living for Christ. Resting in the savior means no longer burdening ourselves with the hard labors of law keeping, but in the precious blessing of walking in the comforting grace of the way of truth we are free to enjoy the freedom of the gospel. It’s easier to do right than bad, regardless of what the old man within us says.
In Isaiah 57:15 we read the Lord’s prophet say, “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” All this talk of reviving is grounded in the love the Father has for His covenant people. He desires that none would see perdition, but that all would come to repentance. What this means for us is not that God is not in charge of our election and predestination, we all agree that He is. Our goal here is to better see that as the Holy Spirit works through the word to convict us of our sin and moves us to holiness that we are in light of the majestic love of Jehovah growing in sanctification to the degree that we no longer even think in some sense of our desire to do that which is right and good. We wake up in the morning seeking to do the Lord’s pleasure not because we hope to gain something from God. We live in obedience of our newfound gracious heart which beats for Christ. We cannot imagine doing other than what the word lays out for lifestyle as believers.
Yet, as we read in the passage above that is not a simple matter. The old man which Paul speaks so defeatingly about in Romans 7 is a real problem. What brings the Christian to the seraphic tones of Romans 8 is the knowledge of the God of Romans 5. Notice the order of operations. The first one to speak is the High and Lofty One. He is the prime mover and Isaiah describes Him as one who inhabits eternity. It is well said that those who claim faith in the Lord Jesus live as pilgrims on the way to the Heavenly places, the land in which God dwells. We hope in promise and assurance because eternity is the time and space where the love of the Divine Being emanates from into the daily struggles we face due to the fallen reality of the world in which we live. Our lack of faith in the work that the Lord does in the day-to-day often arises out of our lack of understanding of the simplicity of God. If God is, as He declares Himself to be in Exodus 3:13 and Deuteronomy 6:4 then why should we be anxious when the Bible gives us particular requirements to follow as members of the covenant family? Go back again to the Isaiah verse and remember the place and purpose of the Lord. The High and Lofty One has spoken and therefore as the contrite and humble we are called to see that the way God has established the order of all things is born not out of random decisions of the Divine, but out of His perfect will and person.
It is in that certain confidence of the never changing character of the Lord which then provides for believers the wisdom to know that if God has designed the human body and mind to operate in a particular manner than the circumstances or times do not change that reality. We come then in humility in our creatureliness to the Creator, remembering that the clay has no right to question the potter, not because God is above questioning. It is because the author of life is not the author of confusion, but of peace. To deny Jehovah the privilege of providing the testimony of what is right and wrong is as irrational as jumping off a cliff while being open about the existence of gravity. He establishes what is.
Hence why Isaiah also calls us to a contrite heart. It is not until we recognize our sinfulness, our rebellion against the Lord that we then experience what it means to dwell with the High and Holy One. Any Presbyterian out there will know by heart the answer to the first catechism question, that our chief or main purpose for being alive is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The act of doing so means dwelling with Him on His terms, not ones we make-up in our own wisdom. Until we repent from our seeking salvation through the works of the flesh and rest in the gift and grant of faith provided to us by Christ our Lord we will forever be lost, wandering in darkness unto our eternal destruction. See the free grace of Jesus and seek His mercy not only for your best life now, but your best life in the day to come.
Here’s another word:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church