“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
These words of Jesus are meant to be very personal but personal is different than private. This is the year in which my husband of nearly 63 years was killed in a tragic accident, and life continues despite the confusion of learning all the things I must now do alone, AND, life is still impacted by a relentless pandemic. The temptation has been to let grief lure me into believing that isolation must be like rest, right? Not so! Over this last year I have learned a “new” thing about the reality of grace. The less private I’ve allowed my awareness of grace at work in my life to become, the more personal it has become to me.
In this “New” Year of my life I am not relying on a New Year’s resolution, but on the revolution of recovery that Jesus offers me keeping company with Him and other people of faith. We can learn to live the “unforced rhythms of grace,” together, walking and working with Jesus, watching how He does life so we can make living “freely and lightly” both personal and possible. I hope you will join me in this New Year’s Revolution to “recover your life” and to “take a real rest.” Love, Shirle
I Peter 1:17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you… 21a who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. [ [I Peter 1:17-21 ESV]
“Call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile…” My vague understanding of “exile” and it’s connection to fear has become more real as the days of coronavirus have turned into weeks and now months. Days have been filled with images and circumstances that must not be wasted. These days of isolation have not been meant as punishment but as protection to provide physical distance from the reality of death our eyes and ears have experienced. Distance doesn’t help much with emotional relief. Emotional relief requires more than man alone can accomplish.
“19 But he [God] paid for [ransomed] you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him for this purpose [emotional relief] long before the world began, but only recently was he brought into public view, in these last days, as a blessing to you. 21aBecause of this, your trust can be in God who raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. Now your faith and hope can rest in him alone.” [I Peter 1:19-21 TLB]
New Year’s Eve
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” [The Message]
This contemporary paraphrasing of the words of Jesus from The Message was the first version I read. Then I read the same verses in the NIV and the NASB. I feel the need to compare versions partly out of curiosity, looking for a kind of unity of thought between them and often because they make me think in new ways about familiar verses. Any of the three versions are a really good beginning place for a brand new year but two sentences from The Message really spoke to me. “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
The familiar desire of most Christians is to know God’s will. That phrase “unforced rhythms of grace” made me think of that in a new way. God’s will is a big part of daily life, more than you might imagine. Our effort to live within that will can be part of the struggle these verses are addressing. Tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Weary and burdened? Exhausted?
We are fooled into believing the will of God is something to be learned. We study the Bible for helpful hints from the the prophets, the Old & New Testament heroes and historical records. We listen to sermons and we pray for “thy” will to be done. It’s no wonder Matthew had to address weariness and our need for rest. Trust me, no matter how brilliant your brain is, no amount of mental gymnastics can accomplish what God already has already done in you.
Here is a radical idea that I’d like you to ponder: If you have placed your life in Christ, you are “living” the will of God. Here is the assurance of your repentance and acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ as your complete restoration to God.
• “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:” 2 Corinthians 5:17
• “We have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16
• “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;” – Galatians 2:20
• “You are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in…” – 1 Corinthians 3:16
• “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13
• ”All things that I [Jesus] have heard from My Father I have made known to you” – John 15:15
• Nothing…”will be able to separate [you] from the love of God” – Romans 8:38
These Scriptures ARE the will of God and they’re built right into you. There is not a moment, a thought, an action or choice – right or wrong, at the most elemental cellular level of your being that the will of God is not at work within you. You won’t always make the right decision or the right choice but you can depend on this truth; your life in Christ has placed you in the will of God. Now take Jesus at his word. “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn to live “freely and lightly” in “the unforced rhythms of grace.” Rest.
“A miracle has happened. You are new. You are a new creation in Christ. And on that glorious, confident basis, rooted in Christ and his saving work for us, now we have some work to do. And we do it with joy and with confidence [of] children of God. We are not trying to be children of God or get into God’s favor, we are in his favor rock solid through faith in Christ.” [read more from John Piper at https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/how-to-know-the-will-of-god
Monday: Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:20-21
• The first two phrases in that Verse of the Day are important but that little conjunction, “and” is critical. The real wisdom for those of us who suffer bouts of “know it all” and “control” issues may come down to this: Your life in Christ will still happen even while you’re busy making many plans. Finding that little connection between listening “and” accepting what the Lord has to say though his Word and his people is the challenge. That’s what will prove” at the end you will be counted among the wise.” I wish it didn’t take that long.
Tuesday: Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1
• If you’ve ever been restless you know it feels like sitting in a running car that’s in neutral gear, and flooring the accelerator. There’s a lot of noise but no matter how hard you push you don’t go anywhere. The Psalmist has found the answer for a restless soul. It’s getting out of neutral and – “in God.”
Wednesday: Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9
• I read the same verse in The Living Bible. “Only fools refuse to be taught. Listen to your father and mother. What you learn from them will stand you in good stead; it will gain you many honors.”
I not sure how this works if you get bad instruction and teaching. I guess one way or another you are learning something that can be of value to you; either what to imitate or what to avoid.
Hebrews 4:9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
It’s interesting to me that sometimes just adding a dictionary definition to the study of the Word can enhance it’s meaning.
• re·mains – the parts left over after other parts have been removed, used, or destroyed.
What if God is reminding us that Sabbath-rest is an untapped resource that still remains after we’ve read, studied, prayed, taught and served in his name? Those are all good and essential things to do but I think Sabbath-rest is more complicated.
I know how difficult it is to get a handle on rest. Rest in my daily life often becomes the leftover time to do things I don’t have time to do when I’m busy working on something else.
I wonder if the Mystery of Rest is that God defines my work as that which keeps me too busy to dedicate my primary time to him? I do know this “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest…” It’s available. I don’t want to miss entering God’s rest by giving him only the leftovers after I’ve done everything else.