confusion, discerning the spirits, doctrine, entering his rest, eternal life, evangelism, experience, fear, freedom, God's guidance, hope, John MacArthur, mind, Old Self, peace, philosophy, Satan, spirit and life, The Great Commission, thought life, worries
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:63-69 ESV)
Jesus told His disciples that the words HE had spoken were spirit and life. How could he claim such a thing? And why is that true? How come that over the centuries so many educated people falsely assumed that the words written in the four gospels would automatically have the same spirit and life in them as they originally possessed when our Lord voiced them? I know that my questions are challenging here. However, it is so important to see how easily confusion can arise when we read for example about the Great Commission.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:18-20 ESV)
We know how many different churches and denominations developed since then, institutions that baptize people, teach them what is written in the Bible, and ‘evangelists’ who try to make converts by preaching what is written in the Bible. What is wrong about this idea? Have you ever thought about this? Basically, it is not wrong, however, why do people still believe that the Spirit of God would be hidden in the Bible? Didn’t Jesus tell the Jews,
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (Jn 5:39-40 ESV)?
Brothers and sisters, if we want to experience the power and authority of Christ’s life in the words we speak or write, we do not necessarily need the Bible. What we need is exclusively Christ’s Spirit and Life IN us. Furthermore, if we want to always speak words of spirit and life (we may doubt whether we will ever reach that point), we need to merely do what we see our Father doing. Listening to God’s perfect guidance as to how and when to speak is crucial. We need to perceive when we should remain silent, too, even if this is an offense to others! This requirement also applies to witnessing and to giving our testimony of what we have experienced with God. If God does not nudge or even urge us to do so, if we are not asked “for a reason for the hope that is in” us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15), then we should not rattle away about precious truths God has shared with us.
Dear reader, what God made alive to you and me, whether in the Bible or elsewhere, is not necessarily alive to others when we decide to speak or write about it. Have you ever experienced a big yawn (maybe, only suppressed, but still observable in the faces of those whom you tried to convince of the gospel) and felt ‘rejected’ by those with whom you wanted to share what was important to you? I have, and I was so often frustrated in my first years with Jesus because I would not know about my old nature’s desire to be ‘someone’ who works for God and I did not know about the importance of permanent Spirit guidance, either. But now I know, and therefore there would be no excuse left for me today if I fell back into such embarrassing mistakes which always arise from the flesh and my own reasoning that says, “Maybe, I should share this? Or should I rather say that…?” etc. This ping-pong game of insecurity can be tormenting! However, we can be sure that God is never the author of our mind’s confusion (see 1 Cor 14:33) and of our own indecisiveness. Satan is. And he loves keeping our minds so busy that we cannot focus on God and rather enjoy His peaceful rest. Or in other words, we need to have entered God’s rest so that He can speak and work through us without our old self always getting in the way. Dear reader, please, bear with me, I just found a long excerpt from one of John MacArthur’s older sermons (April 23, 1972) in which he offered a detailed definition of the implications of having entered into God’s rest [emphasis mine].
“First of all, the dictionary defines rest as ceasing from action or motion. Now these are just different definitions of the word rest, the English word. And the word in the Greek or the Hebrew is identically the same definition.
So, first of all rest means to cease from action or motion, you stop doing what you are doing. The action and the motion is over. It means to stop from labor or exertion. Now applying that to God’s rest it means no more self‑effort. No more trying to please God by your feeble, fleshly works. And the moment you enter into God’s rest works cease as a way to please God, they don’t please Him anyway because you can’t do enough works to be perfect. And so, rest then involves cessation from legalistic activity. It is a rest in free grace.
Then the dictionary secondly defines rest as to be free from whatever worries or disturbs you. Some people can’t rest mentally because they’re always bugged by everything. Every little thing just pounds away in their brain and they can never just rest because they’re always hassled by everything. To rest means to be free from whatever hassles you, from whatever disturbs you or creates worries in your mind. It means, in this sense, to be quiet, to be still, to be peaceful, be free from guilt and the things which drive us to neurosis, psychosis etc. And so, bringing that across to God’s rest we would say that to enter God’s rest simply means to be at peace with God. It means to possess the perfect peace that God gives. It means to free from guilt. It means no need to worry about sin because sin is forgiven and we’re at rest all of a sudden, no more anxiety, no more pressure, no more guilt:
peace. So, God’s rest involves cessation of works and it involves a rest in the total forgiveness of God. Thirdly, rest in the dictionary is defined as to lie down, to be settled or to be fixed. No more flux, no more flow, no more shifting around and we can take this again to God’s rest and say that God’s rest is the kind of rest where a man is positionally established in Christ. No more running from philosophy to philosophy, no more being blown about by every wind of doctrine, no more floating over to this and floating over to that, he is established he is rooted, he is grounded, unmovable. That’s rest. Fourthly, rest in the dictionary is to remain confident, to put your trust in something, in other words, you rest in something in the sense of confidence. And to enter God’s rest logically means to enjoy security, no more fear you have absolute trust and absolute confidence in God’s care and charge of your life. Fifthly and lastly the dictionary says that rest means to lean on and to enter into God’s rest means that for the rest of your life and eternally you can rest on God and you can lean on Him and you can be sure that He will never topple over.”
As a side note, having pasted this excerpt by John MacArthur does not mean that I basically share his views, especially on the church. Nonetheless, I know that God can speak through anyone at any time. We only need to discern when God speaks and through whom.