If you are a regular reader of this blog then you may have noticed one of many threads that have frequently run through my posts this past year; that is, spiritual rest comes from focusing on our identity in Christ. As one who fights an ongoing battle against anxiety, negative thinking, and depressive tendencies; the Lord has been teaching me the importance of deliberately setting my mind on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good reputation, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). “Importance” is perhaps even too weak. For me, deliberately thinking on what God says about who I am in Christ is spiritual oxygen. My soul simply cannot survive without it.
However, there is another element to Christ that I must deliberately meditate upon, which helps me in the daily war against performance-driven Christian living. This focal point for meditation is the finished work of Jesus on the cross for the full accomplishment of my redemption. Every aspect of my salvation is dependent upon what the Lord Jesus did on my behalf as He endured the Father’s wrath against my sin. It is all of grace. When I deliberately think upon this truth then I will be confidently living in the acceptance that is already mine in Jesus, rather than anxiously striving after an imaginary acceptance that seems to elude my heart of unbelief.
This morning, I got to thinking about this priority again while reading another chapter in Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans, by Joel Beeke and Terry Slachter. Here, while affirming the practical nature of Puritan preaching, the authors provide illustration from one of John Flavel’s sermons on the cross, specifically Jesus’ declaration that “It is finished” (John 19:30). After Flavel preached the doctrine derived from the text, the authors point out that the other half of the sermon then “offers these practical inferences drawn from the doctrine.” There are six mentioned.
- Comfort: believers need not fear condemnation for all the imperfections of our works for God;
- Warning: trusting anything besides Christ for our justification is dangerous to us and dishonoring to Christ;
- Hope: if Christ finished His work for us, then He will finish His work in us;
- Exultation: rejoice in this finished work and the way of justification by faith in Christ alone;
- Imitation: if Christ worked, then all Christians must labor to glorify God by hard work; and
- Exhortation: strive to finish the work God gives you before death closes your life.
When we intentionally focus on the finished work of Jesus on our behalf then we enter the realm of spiritual rest that God intended for us. Truly, Jesus is our Sabbath. Let us choose to enter His rest (Hebrews 4:1-11).