Happy New Year! Around this time of year, many across the globe make New Year’s “resolutions.” They hope that somehow their own personal past of broken resolutions isn’t a prelude to more broken resolutions in the future. They hope that in some way these resolutions will bring them to live a better lifestyle and enjoy a more fulfilling existence. Whatever resolutions you may have set out to accomplish this year, I want to encourage you in 2018 and beyond to resolve to rest in Jesus.
Encouragement to rest may not sound like much of a resolution, and perhaps resting is something you do quite well already. Or perhaps resting is the last thing you want to do, if your aim is to lose that newly gained holiday weight! Still, when it comes to resting in Jesus, resting is much harder and much more important, for resting in Jesus is unnatural for us and yet is the only antidote to our sin and brokenness.
What does it mean to rest in Jesus? Resting in Jesus means ceasing from your efforts to commend yourself to God on the basis of your good deeds. It means putting away all attempts to barter with God in order to promote yourself before him. It means refusing to find satisfaction and joy in any of the things the world has to offer. It means finding freedom from the need to use others for your own advancement. It means discovering contentment in the things God has given you because you recognize those things can never satisfy. It means believing that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are completely sufficient for our lives and godliness and that belonging to Jesus and being more and more conformed into his image is truly our greatest good.
All of these things that resting in Jesus entails are quite difficult for us to do, for they are the polar opposite of our sinful tendency to look anywhere other than Jesus for the good life. Our sinful tendency is to commend ourselves to God on the basis of our good deeds or to barter with God on the basis of our supposedly being on the “nice list” instead of the “naughty list.” Our sinful tendency is to imagine that the things of this world can satisfy and that God is there to put an end to our joy. Our sinful tendency is to look elsewhere – especially to ourselves and our own strength – to find such joy. Our sinful tendency is to view our family, friends, coworkers and various situations as a means to advance ourselves, or worse, as impediments to our advancement that must be overcome or discarded. In short, our sinful tendency is to doubt the all-sufficiency of Jesus for us.
In light of the difficulty of resting in Jesus, listen to the inviting words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Or again, consider the invitation of God in Isaiah 45:22: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” These verses indicate that there is no one like God; there is no one like Jesus. Only in him is there true, final and ultimate joy, satisfaction, life, righteousness and contentment. We are invited not to provide this for ourselves but to “come” and “turn” to find it in Jesus. So I urge each of you at the outset of 2018 and beyond to resolve to rest in Jesus.
Blessings in Christ, Joshua Greever
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