Saturday, August 14, 2010

When Strivings Cease

I wasn't sure when would be the best time to begin using this blog, until it became rather clear that tonight would be appropriate. I spent some time in the Word at the prayer chapel here at Liberty. It was in this quiet and undisturbed environment that I stumbled upon, perhaps, the most authoritative, life-altering, powerful and incomprehensible words of the Bible:

"It is finished."

I wonder brothers and sisters,  if we have taken the time to rejoice at these words in recent times. Perhaps we have never taken the time to celebrate the glorious truth that we find here in John 19:30. That's what I hope to do tonight in this post.

Here is what I am learning about myself. As the precious hymn describes it, my heart is, "prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love." In the face of such a disheartening law, my reaction is swift. I seek to strive. In an attempt to avoid this terrible reality, I find myself time and time again seeking to stay in fellowship with the Father by my own effort. Somewhere along the way, I have redefined repentance to an act of cleaning myself up so that I might be pure enough for my Master. While I have little trouble accepting the reality that I have been justified apart from my works, I find myself abandoning the sovereign love of God when I am faced with the impossible task of sanctification.

There are several places we could look to see the biblical solution to these ideas, but being that I am currently studying through the book of Hebrews, I thought one verse in particular might be appropriate. In Hebrews 2:11 the author writes that, "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." Notice the emphasis on who brings about holiness, and who receives this precious gift. God makes us holy. We are made holy only through the overwhelming power and grace of the Creator King. Oh that my heart may bow before the words of my savior: "It is finished!" For he did not say, "it is partially finished," or "it is finished until you wander," or "it is finished unless you make me angry," but rather, that sin is altogether conquered for the adopted child of the Most High God. Charles Spurgeon masterfully authored it this way:

"Oh! it is not my remembering God, it is God remembering me which is the ground of my safety; it is not my laying hold of His covenant, but His covenant's laying hold on me."

In Hebrews 4 tonight, I stumbled upon a freeing truth. While I've always taken note of verses 12-16, I realized that I had largely abandoned the first 11 verses. Here is what the Word taught my tired heart tonight. The author begins by alluding to Psalm 95 where God justly pronounces His punishment for the particular people of Israel who walked away in disobedience. "They shall never enter my rest," He declares. And the author continues by telling us the valuable but simple truth of how we may avoid such a fate. For at the beginning of all things, after God powerfully created the universe by His very Word, Genesis records that God rested, a rest which God still resides in today. God in turn offers this sabbath-rest, this peaceful sanctuary to His children now. So in the beginning God did a magnificent work, and then rested. But, could this work at the beginning of all things be a prelude to an even greater work of God thousands of years later in human history? Its in the Gospels that we see the full story. We learn that God the Son did, perhaps, an even greater work at Calvary. The work of reconciliation. The work of becoming sin for the sinful. The work of wrath-absorbing. The work of full and total redemption for His ill-deserving children. The work of creating, not galaxies and mammals, but pure hearts for those whose hearts were stone. When Jesus completed this work, He shouted, "it is finished!" And just as God rested after His work of creation in the beginning, we now enter that glorious rest too. But oh how I hope we see the truth here! We are entering into--- rest! No work of ours can maintain this precious rest. For the author wisely records for us: "for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his." The only way to keep in this rest, the only way to have peace with an everlasting Father, is to surrender your work. So, cease your striving, you weary brother! Lay down your filthy rags at the cross of Jesus, you downcast sister! He who did the great work of salvation in you will continue to mold you into the clay He has designed you to be. Yes, daily repent! But by turning from your sin and falling at the feet of Jesus, that He might clean you.

So rest. For: "It is finished!"