NEED A LITTLE REST? 

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There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.  (Hebrews 4:9)


All Christian believers know full well the promise of the Sabbath-rest that awaits us on the other side of the grave. But is there any rest for us now? Does the writer of Hebrews have a promise for us concerning our day-to-day lives? Read on and be encouraged!

This Sabbath-rest will find its fulfillment when we are living in the new heavens and the new earth with our God and His people. But before we experience that fulfillment, we are to experience the first installment during our life here on this earth. We have received so great a salvation that we can rest from trying to save ourselves!

When Jesus shows up, He puts an end to our self-salvation projects. When He cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” He meant what He said! The work of salvation has been freely and fully completed. We can cease from trying to earn God’s favor through our good works, which, as Isaiah 64:6 tells us, really aren’t that good at all—they are mere “filthy rags” compared to the glory and goodness of our holy God.

There is no more fatiguing and fruitless a work than to try to earn our way into God’s continued favor and blessing. And there are millions who are burdened under this great weight week after week, month after month, and year after dreary year. The joy of the Lord is as far from them as the east is from the west, because they are buried under the weight of working for a blessing, rather than resting in the ones they have already received from Christ. You see, only by trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ can we experience this Sabbath-rest in a world that is marked by restlessness, turmoil, and discontent.

Remember this truth: Jesus Christ not only earned this perfect rest for us, He is this perfect rest. By resting in Him we begin to experience in part what we will one day experience in full: that Sabbath-rest that remains for the people of God. So if you need a little rest, rest in the shadow of the cross, where your Lord paid the penalty for your sin, satisfying all the demands of God’s justice. Living in the light of this truth will set you free to enjoy the fruits of His work in you, rather than laboring for the fruit that Jesus has already freely given you in love.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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FROM SEEING TO BEING 

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As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. (Psalm 17:15)


Today we have a twofold blessing uttered to us in the Word of God: we have been promised God’s presence in this life right now, and we will be conformed to His likeness in the life to come. Let these blessings be a word of comfort to you today, right where this finds you.

The apostle Paul described our first blessing this way: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). We have been promised the blessing of seeing, through the eyes of faith, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. To be sure, we see only dimly now, but we do see, and in seeing we are given a foretaste of heaven above. But that is only the beginning of the blessing, as we progress from seeing to being.

Throughout this life, God is at work conforming us into the image and likeness of His beloved Son. What we see today, we shall be tomorrow when we cross the Jordan. When we are received into glory, we shall see ourselves as reflections of the beauty and perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I know this promise may seem too good to be true, as we struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil on this side of the grave. But we have been given this promise, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). To rightly rephrase an old bumper sticker, “God said it. That settles it. I believe it.” And so should you!

Are these promised blessings not a cosmic comfort to you today? To go from seeing to being is a promise that you can count on just as surely as David did when, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned our verse for today. Do you see it? Do you believe it? Let that confident assurance be the confession of your life, that what you see now as the glory of God in the face of Jesus, revealed throughout the pages of Sacred Scripture, you will one day be when you breathe your last.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW 

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When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13)


Today’s verse provides us with a great word of instruction for the humbly inquiring mind that desires to know all truth. Is that you today? Let’s take a brief look at three wonderful truths that are contained in these words from our Lord today.

First, let us rejoice that the Spirit of Christ has come to every believer. Earlier in this same Upper Room Discourse, Jesus told His disciples, “I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor [Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Jesus has ascended into heaven and is now sitting in the position of power and authority at the right hand of God the Father, but He has not left us alone. He has sent His Holy Spirit to be with every one of His children.

Second, let us rejoice that the Spirit of Christ has come as our Guide. We all know that we are as prone to wander as we are prone to err, and so we are in great need of our Guide. Operating under our own strength, we will invariably drift away from the truth. We need our Guide to keep our feet on the straight and narrow path, lest we stray to the left or to the right. Jesus has sent His Holy Spirit as our personal Guide and Teacher, and the Spirit will transmit the truth of God’s Word to our hearts and our minds.

Third, let us rejoice that the Spirit of Christ has come to guide us into all the truth. We do not want a portion of truth, which would lead to living a life that is out of balance. Without the whole counsel of God, we would grow only into a fraction of the person He is calling us to be. Only when we are guided into all truth will we be prepared to weather any storm wind that blows our way. Those who receive only a portion of the truth will find themselves consumed by the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth, and will fail to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:22).

Do you have an inquiring mind that wants to know all truth? You have the perfect Guide who has promised to guide you into all the truth, creating in you a joy and a fruitfulness that will exceed all understanding. And all you need to do to receive this truth is ask . . . seek . . . and knock (Matthew 7:7).

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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THE WISDOM OF FORREST GUMP 

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And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. (1 John 4:16)


Tom Hanks uttered a line in the movie Forrest Gump that surely resonates with all of us: “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” Is this not true of each and every one of us? Do we not all know, regardless of our age or station in life, what love is? And why do we all know this? Because God is love, and the entire story line of the Bible is God’s unfolding plan of redemption—in a word, His love for us!

This love is unlike any other kind of love. God’s love is a saving love. God’s love is a sacrificial love. God’s love is a supernatural love. And there is no better picture of this love than the one we find in our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Is this not what our Lord did for you and me? Did He not come into this world to lay down His life so that we could have eternal life in Him?

Here is something we must remember regarding the love God has for His people: it is a love that is ready, willing, and able to afflict both the One who is demonstrating the love and the object of its affection in order to work a greater good that could be accomplished in no other way. We should draw great comfort from this truth. God does indeed love us just the way He found us (dead in our trespasses and sins), but He loves us too much to leave us in that condition. God is at work, both in and through us, to make us alive in Christ and to change and conform us into the image of His beloved Son, and He will stop at nothing to complete the good work He has begun in us.

So regardless of where this message finds you today, remember the wisdom of Forrest Gump and keep the love your Savior has for you in constant view. He bore the unimaginable cosmic punishment for your sin in order to have a personal relationship with you forever and ever. He took your condemnation. He took your scourging. He took your crown of thorns. He took your nine-inch nails. He took your cross. And He took your death. Why? Because He loves you enough to die for you! He knows what love is.

Perhaps committing the following verse to memory will prove profitable during those times that will inevitably come when you feel a bit unloved or unlovable:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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THE PATH TO GREAT PEACE

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Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)


The truth contained in today’s verse may come as a surprise to some, but it is as certain as the sunrise: Those who love the Word of God have great peace, and the path to great peace is found in the place God’s Word holds in our hearts.

If you have not read Psalm 119 lately, let me encourage you to do so today. Psalm 119 celebrates the Word of God—its comfort, its challenge, its correction, and its commandments—and rejoices in the covenant promise made to all of God’s people. It is the longest psalm in the Bible, longer than many of the books of the Bible, and only a handful of its 176 verses do not explicitly mention the Word of God. It opens with, “Blessed are those who walk in the law of the Lord,” and closes with, “I do not forget your commandments.” And all the verses in between paint a glorious picture of the path to great peace.

Look at the promise in today’s verse for those who love the Law of God: nothing can make them stumble. The reason for this promise is not found in our faithfulness to God, but in His faithfulness to us. God has given us a power that is greater than any power that can come against us; when we stay connected to that power, we experience that peace that passes all understanding.

Think about it this way: When you love someone, you want to spend time with that someone, do you not? If we truly love God’s law, we will want to spend time in it each day. We will read it through from beginning to end. We will meditate on it and marinate in it. When we do, we can rest assured that we will truly experience great peace.

Even when we do not understand what is going on around us, we can still have peace deep within us, because we know our God is in control of all things. When chaos comes knocking at our door, a crisis that makes others cry out in fear, “Lord, we’re going to drown” (Matthew 8:25), those who love the Word of God trust in His promises and pass through the storm with confidence and peace. Remember, if you are lacking this promised peace in any way, you probably need to spend more time in God’s Word, knowing that God will graciously give you His love and peace all the way into glory.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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FROM DUTY TO DELIGHT 

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This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)


When you read today’s verse, do you wonder why John added the words “his commands are not burdensome”? I’m sure we all remember times when God’s commands seemed like an incredible burden. Forgiving someone who has wronged us . . . loving someone who is unlovable . . . serving someone who is never satisfied . . . saying “No” to sin when our flesh is urging us to say “Yes” . . . all these things are difficult! They certainly feel “burdensome,” if not impossible.

The reason John could say that the commands of God are not burdensome is provided in the front end of the verse, where John tells us that we are to express our love for God by obedience to Him. When we keep our focus firmly fixed on our love for God, obedience is no longer burdensome. This is how we move from obedience feeling like a duty to becoming a delight.

In the parable of the prodigal son, we see just how odious obedience had become to the elder brother. When his younger brother returned home after squandering his inheritance and their father welcomed him with open arms, the elder brother was furious. “Look!” he fumed at his father. “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders” (Luke 15:29). Do you see it? He was perfect in his obedience to his father, but his obedience gave him no sense of satisfaction, much less joy. It was simply a burdensome duty that had descended into drudgery. He was not obeying his father out of love; he was obeying out of self-love and a desire for what he hoped to get from the father.

So let me ask you: Is your obedience to God a delight? Have you found the path of righteousness and holy living to be not burdensome? Are you able to say along with the psalmist, “I delight to do your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8)? Only to the extent that your heart beats for Jesus will your answer to those questions be a resounding “Yes!”

Our Lord Jesus provided us the most magnificent model of delighted obedience, saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Think about it this way: Jesus forgave those who treated Him terribly; He loved those who were unlovable (sinners like you and me); He served those who were never satisfied; and He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). And He said that obedience was His very sustenance! He delighted in doing good for the glory of His Father in heaven. Obedience is never a burden for those who love God, because one of the primary blessings God gives to His children is a heart that turns the duty of obedience—a duty that we all owe to the One who gives us life and breath and everything else—into an unimaginable delight. May that delight be the confession of all our lives!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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REPENT, DON’T REHEARSE 

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Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say . . . “The accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:10-11)


As a child of the Most High God, it is right and required for us to repent of our sins, but it is wrong to rehearse our sins over and over again. This is one of the great goals of the accuser. Satan wants us to repeatedly rehearse our sins, because when we do, we take our eyes off our Redeemer and fix them on ourselves.

Rehearsing our sins again and again is not of God, who sent His Son into the world so that you and I can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that those sins are freely and fully forgiven. Repentance of our sins is of God; rehearsing our sins is of the devil, who takes perverse pleasure in shifting our focus away from our Savior and onto ourselves. Satan delights in reminding us of our failures; the more he can keep us focused on our failures, the less we stay focused on our Lord, who has redeemed us from all our sins. Life at that dreary level becomes all about us, and that focus on self, as I’ve said here many times before, keeps us from growing into the person God is calling us to be.

I speak with far too many Christians who are locked in a rhythm of rehearsing and revisiting past sins. The malevolent enemy of the saints has convinced them that mulling over past sins and repenting again and again is a sign of maturing in the faith, as if wallowing in the depths of despair over past failures will convince God that we are truly sorry. This, interestingly enough, was once the mindset of the great Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, who went to extraordinary lengths in castigating himself for his sins, until the day that God opened Luther’s eyes to the glorious truth of Romans 1:17 – “The just shall live by faith.”

The sign of truly maturing in our faith is taking God as His word. He has promised us that He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12); He has hurled all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19); and He has cast all our sins behind His back (Isaiah 38:17). Oh, what an encouragement this is to be to all of us! God is plainly saying to you and me, “Why would you continue to rehearse your past sins when I have promised you that I will remember them no more?” (Hebrews 10:17).

Remember, self-condemnation is one of Satan’s sharpest arrows, one designed to weaken our faith and water down our witness in every way. What we must keep in view is another promise from God: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) When we sin, we are to repent and rejoice, because in Christ we have conquered the attacks of the accuser, who has been hurled down for all eternity by the blood of the Lamb.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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