Following on from our reflections on the amazing mystery of Christ in me, and the indwelling Holy Spirit and His fruit, today I want to reflect on an incredible truth which is at the heart of the gospel –an offer and promise of a life of rest. As I see that more clearly, and embrace it, and thank the Lord for it, something significant changes in my life. Many religions the world over are busy trying to placate their God(s) and serve and do things to keep them happy and gain favour. It is works and hard work if you take it seriously. What about us and our faith and salvation and walking with God?
In the early chapters of Hebrews we find that in the Christian life we are invited to a life of rest, drawing on the Old Testament lesson of God’s promise of rest in the Promised Land to the children of Israel coming out of Egypt, as well as God resting on the seventh day in creation. “There remains then a sabbath rest for the people of God , for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience”. Hebrews 4: 9-11. It seems that the Lord wanted us to know that this matter of rest is very important to understand, and to live out in life.
What does this mean in practice and how do we live like this? Well, first I suggest that a review of some previous blogs (for example No. 143) may cast more light on this as we reflect on what it means to be seated now with Christ in heavenly places, Ephesians 2:6. Already we can allow ourselves a further outbreak of thanksgiving for this amazing current truth.
Today I think we can add to that with an illustration that came to me after reading the famous verses in Ephesians 2: 8-10 “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith…” We easily relate that to the message of salvation when we became Christians, but maybe it is a life principle for our ongoing Christian walk. What are the practical implications of ‘by grace’ and ‘through faith’? How do they mesh? Now looking at the woman who had been bleeding 12 years, who pressed through the crowd to touch Jesus – Luke 8: 42-48 – was she healed by grace or by faith? Jesus said “your faith has healed you” But wasn’t it the grace power that came from Jesus that healed her? If she had said to herself ‘I have faith that if I touch that lamppost I will be healed’ would that have worked? Alot of people talk about faith today but faith in whom or in what? No wonder Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
The illustration that (however imperfectly) connects this to the ‘life of rest’ for me is that of a tractor with a trailer. The Trailer (me) has no power on its own (“apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:5) but hitched up to the tractor it can go anywhere the tractor goes. The Tractor (Jesus) has all the power – hence grace –its all about what He does and gives, not my effort (Ephesians 2:9.). However the trailer needs to be hitched to the tractor to go anywhere – that is our faith, The woman knew she needed to touch – hitch up –to Jesus, and Jesus made it clear that that determination and action to touch – hitch up – her faith – brought the power of God to play in her body and life. Unhitched the trailer goes nowhere. But think about it – hitched and going through the field, that trailer is living the life of rest, all the power is in and done by the tractor, the trailer just bounces along behind, making sure it keeps hitched – Faith. Hence in Hebrews faith, like Caleb and Joshua had, is so vital to enter and stay in our rest. By the way, all farmers know that although trailers may bounce along behind their powerful tractors, nevertheless hitched up they are then very useful –so no surprise that Ephesians 2: 8 and 9 is followed by verse 10 “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us” The trailer when attached by faith to the all powerful tractor is at rest, but very useful to, and fruitful for, God. (John 15 again)
Why the picture of the baler? Well for me as a lad, this picture makes it even better. As you watch a tractor pulling a baler round the field of cut hay and you see the machine making the hay bales and then spitting them out when the bales are well made and full size, you say ‘what a clever machine’. But look at it alone in farmyard and there is no power there. Why? Because the power for the lovely baler to make and bind bales (“created to do works”) all comes from the drive shaft from the tractor, once it is connected up. I love it, not only is the tractor pulling the baler round the field, it is also providing the power into, and so within the baler to do its good works as it goes round. Christ in you and the Holy Spirit flowing in life and power. And still the baler is at rest in itself drawing both its movement and its power to do its stuff because it is hitched and connected (by faith) to the tractor.
Does it all seem too much to understand? Well perhaps it is to our finite, logical minds, but then that is God. Truth is truth. Perhaps that’s why Paul describes ‘Christ in me’ as a mystery revealed in Colossians 1:27, and Christ and His bride and body in Ephesians 5:32 as a ‘profound mystery’.
But surely it is something to be thrilled and so very grateful for. I am seated with Christ, by faith I am intimately connected to him and because all the power, grace and promises are in Him and connected into me through faith, I can be at rest even when I am busy like the baler! And as we have reflected before, thanksgiving for this thrilling truth, etches it deeper and deeper in my heart and builds my faith in Jesus and his grace and power towards and within me day by day.