We hear people say that we must "Rest in the Lord" but what does that really mean. We cannot do nothing surely and just expect Jesus to do everything for us? We have to work; hold down a job; pick up the kids from school, etc. What do you mean rest?
When people say "Rest in the Lord" they are usually paraphrasing Mat 11:28-30.
Mat 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."
And, because it talks of labour and being heavy laden you might at first think that Jesus was talking about physical work, but He's using a metaphor. He's actually referring to the works we do attempting to be righteous with God, which are a heaven burden on our souls that no one can bear! We'll find rest for our souls rather than just the body as under the old covenant.
We must come to Jesus as our "Rest", who will give us rest from the yoke we are trying to bear to be righteous before God. The law set in stone could not be kept; the ceremonial law was a burden and reminder of guilt and condemnation; and the Pharisees loaded other burdens onto the people of God in a vain attempt to enforce compliance with law through tradition.
Luk 11:46 And he said, "Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
So the "Rest" that Jesus is referring to is living by His yoke, not the yoke of the Pharisees. It's not referring to the work one does to earn a living, or things like that, it's regarding ones conduct and thought life in terms of righteousness.
Jesus is talking about lifting the burden of our guilt and stopping
us from being laden down by the power of sin in our lives; for...
This is the "Rest" that the writer of Hebrews, was referring to when he said that Joshua did not lead the Children of Israel into the rest, and :-
Heb 4:9-11 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
The sabbath rest that remains for us today is not a resting from physical labour on one day of the week. The Sabbath to us is a lifestyle - 24/7.
It's not just one day of rest from work. Joshua and the Children of Israel had that, and yet did not have rest!
It's not entering the promised land either - Joshua and the Children of Israel did that!
It's resting from works of the law; works of the flesh! By resting in Christ and coming under His yoke He lives His life in and through us and His yoke is easy and His burden light.
If we try to do what is right in our own strength we will fail, for to do so is not in our power or in our soul nature carried over from our life before conversion. Paul points this out in the book of Romans Chapter 7, verse 18.
Rom 7:18-19 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
This is the burden we were under. If we are aware of it (and trying to be 'good') we will labour at it, though not be able to lift it or cast it away. But come to Jesus and He will lift that burden from you and give you His yoke and give you rest.
We cannot of ourselves live righteously. The righteousness that God is looking for is that which only Jesus Christ can supply.
It's the righteousness of God, which we cannot achieve by ourselves.
Rom 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
This is the 'almost too good to be true news' of the gospel. If you realise that you need to be saved from the penalty of sin; that you need power to overcome sin because living up to the criteria needed to deserve eternal life is a burden you cannot bear; then come to Jesus and He will give you life and rest for your soul.
By His statement in the book of Matthew, Chapter 11, verse 28, Jesus was pointing us towards the goodnews; "Jesus Christ and faith in Him".
In other words, it's the gospel that has the power to bring people to realise their need for salvation and to be reconciled to God; it reveals what true righteousness really is; and that if you live by faith (in Jesus) you will be righteous. You will live holy lives.
This is the standard we need in us and the only way to do so is to have Jesus' righteousness imputed to us by accepting his sacrifice for our sinful lives. He has taken our sins and exchanges that for his righteousness. We are given His righteousness on accepting Him as our Lord and saviour.
2Co 5:21 Him who knew no sin he made to be a sin offering on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Notice that we are not righteous because of what WE have done.
Joh 1:16 For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace.
If we have accepted Jesus as saviour HE has given us His fullness. We have ALL received this fullness, which includes Jesus' righteousness, so when God sees us he sees a people who have right standing with Him. Not because of our righteousnesses, but because of Jesus's righteousness having been imputed to us.
When we accepted Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary on our behalf we were changed. We are no longer what we were before the exchange took place. First we are cleansed of our sins, so we are no longer sinners.
Col 1:13-14 He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Through resting in Jesus Christ we have been forgiven of all our sins and have been put into the kingdom of the Son of God.
Then we are given a new spirit which is perfect and in perfect communication with God. In right standing with God,in other words. In our spirit we ARE the righteousnes of God in Jesus.
Eph 4:24 The new man is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Next that spirit is sealed by the Holy Spirit so that our spirits will stay sin-free. In our spirits it's just not our nature to sin.
Eph 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
And then we are cloaked with Jesus - clothed in Righteousness. So looking on the inside or looking on the outside God sees righteousness when He looks at His children.
Gal 3:27 Indeed, all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
The net result of all this is that we are completely new creatures compared to ourselves before or to someone who has not accepted Jesus.
2 Cor 5:17 You are a new creature in Jesus Christ.
And also in Hebrews the writer points out to us that...
Heb 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,.
You are completely different on the inside; in your spirit. Now you still have to renew your mind and bring your body into submission to the new spirit life that you have through Jesus - that's certainly true.
You have to put this new Spirit/Life into a new body/mind by renewing your mind. You have to put the new life into a new lifestyle, not one day a week but 24/7 and with Jesus living His life through you have the power to do this. That's why Romans 6:14 tells us...
Rom 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Because you are in Jesus and Jesus is in you He will do His works of righteousness through you. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Now, as James points out, you are in a position to do the works of faith that go along with putting faith in Jesus, or 'resting' in him.
Jas 2:14-18 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Notice that the 'works' that James is talking about is not "Keeping the Law". Rather it's all about being sensitive to what Jesus in you sees to do and being led by Him to do them. Resting in Jesus; putting your trust and faith in Him and living by his grace empowers you to live a changed lifestyle. It's all about Jesus in you doing 'works' of faith just like He did when he walked the roads of Galilee.
Tit 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
Through his grace God teaches/trains us in godly, righteous living. What this is saying is that God's love and grace, which is the gospel, is what will lead us to live holy lives. Concentrating on what WE can do ourselves will only show us what failure is like, unless we are so full of ourselves we actually think that we are keeping the law where no-one else in history, BESIDES JESUS, ever has! But, looking to Jesus and resting in Him will bring us to holiness and righteousness.
1Jn 3:3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
We just naturally start living up to the standard God requires as we put faith in Jesus to live his life through us and He provides the power both to 'will' and to 'do' what is right.
Thus we will understand how it is that "As He (Jesus) is, so are we in this world".
We will also understand that it's not we who do it but Jesus who does it through us.
Php 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
If we accept Jesus and his rest our old self dies as it is crucified with Christ and as Paul tells us in Gal 2:20....
Then it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us and the life we live now in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.
We are truly blessed now and into the future when we "Rest in the Lord"!