We can only truly experience rest when there is a solid basis for it.
It’s hard to be at rest when there’s something incomplete or owing, like when you have a debt that is not fully paid or when you’re still owing your boss or teacher some assignments.
Even when we stop checking our accounts or take a break from work or school or whatever it may be, the thing we are owing still sits at the back of our mind, silently gnawing and nibbling at us.
That’s the reason why so many of us, from the time we leave the innocence of childhood, grow into restless adolescents and adults.
We try our best to pursue a worthy purpose, striving for ever greater excellence. We invest our spare time and money in community and humanitarian causes. And if we get bored of sticking to a mould or happen to make a mess of things early in life, we find ourselves continuing in a downward spiral, allowing ourselves to lose control, partying hard and repeatedly doing those things that got us into the mess in the first place.
We try our best to be good and do good, or to drown our conscience and act like we don’t care, because we’re ultimately seeking to be at rest within.
Every one of us starts out in a position of debt and unrest – which we realise once we begin to know the difference between good and evil – because that’s our standing from birth.
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners… (Romans 5:19)
We aren’t sinners because we commit sin. Rather, it was by one man’s disobedience – the sin of Adam, the very first man – that all mankind fell under the status of sin and thereby all were born as sinners. We inevitably commit sin, because we are sinners.
We are never truly at rest because deep in the innermost recesses of our soul we know we owe a sin debt, to God. We keep trying to satisfy this sense of lack and debt by trying our best to do well and to do better, or to smother it by trying to lose sight of God and ourselves in ever increasing darkness and apathy, but the debt remains. Unpaid, unquenched, unsatiated.
It might seem rather unfair that our identity as sinners boils down to a mistake of some guy who lived thousands of years ago, who we know very little about and doesn’t seem remotely related to us.
But whether we know about our ancestors and forefathers of old, it remains that what they did can and often has an effect on our lives. And our constant efforts to justify ourselves only serves to expose our innate lack of and need for complete justification.
No matter what we try to do, the fact remains that the sin debt we owe God lies uncleared, and nothing we can do by our own human effort will ever be good enough to repay it fully. That’s the reality of it.
But while we are on the topic of fairness, here’s the good news – Someone came to clear our debt to God for us. And not just cleared it, but overpaid it to such an extent that there’s plenty leftover to God. Without our asking. Without our pleading. Without, even, our knowledge.
[For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,] so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)
That Someone is Jesus – God Himself who came in the flesh as a Man.
How? By taking upon Himself all our sins and suffering God’s punishment and judgement for them on our behalf. He literally became as us at the cross, taking our place for us and in exchange, giving His place to us.
Jesus came, died, and rose again for us, “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24).
He cried, “Finished!” at the cross, which in Hebrew/Aramaic means ‘complete’, and in Greek denotes ‘full payment of a debt’. Jesus wanted it known and recorded to all that all of man’s sin debt to God was fully paid at the cross.
He rose from the grave after 3 days and ascended to heaven as a resurrected live Man, proving that He – the payment – was greater than the debt of our sins, and death had no hold on Him.
He sat down at the right hand of God, because He had finished the work necessary for our salvation and to justify us in His righteousness forever before God.
Once a debt is paid, it is paid for good. There is no need for us to pay for ourselves before God again.
Once a sin has been judged and punished, it is judged and dealt with for good. We won’t be punished or need to punish ourselves for any of our sins ever again.
It is done, completed, and finished – Jesus’s one sacrifice on the cross has cleared all our sin debt to God, once and for all, and permanently made us righteous and qualified in Him. There is no more barrier that separates us from God and His blessings and favour. We finally find rest in His finished work for us.
There’s nothing we need to do except to receive His awesome gift and His unbeatable work for us. That’s unfairness on a whole other level – except this time it’s tipped in our favour.
God didn’t sweep our sins under the carpet or just decide to write them off on a whim because He is love and He is merciful and compassionate. No, He counted, judged, and punished every single one of our sins of our entire life – but in the body of His beloved Son Jesus – whom He sent out of love for us.
Today, God offers each of us 2 choices: To accept the gift of what His Son Jesus did for us and rest His finished work, or to disbelieve and ignore it and continue to approach Him and life on our own terms.
One leads to permanent rest, limitless supply and free favour, on a solid and righteous foundation. The other stays on in unrest, toil and continual pursuit, with a guarantee of failure and insufficiency at the end of it.
God will never force a choice on you. But He’s made it incredibly plain and simple.
Don’t be afraid – choose rest. Choose to rest in Jesus.
Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.