DID YOU KNOW (5)
…That Jesus offers us rest, not religion.
People, and especially ignorant people, often speak of Christianity as one of the world’s great religions. That is simply not true. Christianity is not a religion; it is a restoration of God’s estranged sons and daughters to fellowship with Himself.
If Jesus came to set up a new religion, then what He did would be nothing more than a figment of His imagination. He would be the world’s worst liar since He would be no more than another human being perpetrating deception on the human race. The entire history of the Christian church would be based on a hoax and millions of adherents would have put their faith in someone who died like everyone else.
Firstly, was Jesus a real person? Did He live on earth or was He a make-believe character of fiction to satisfy the craving of some highly imaginative person? Are the Biblical narratives true?
Jesus not only exists as a historical figure in secular writings outside of the Bible but His resurrection has never been disproved, even by the finest legal minds. He lived, died and rose again in Israel just over 2000 years ago.
But what of His message and His promises? His words could have been misleading even though He was a real person. The truth of His words rests on one indisputable fact; He said He would die and rise again on the third day and He did. If it is impossible for a human being to bring himself back to life, this would have been an empty promise and a lie if God had not raised Him from the dead. God would not have confirmed the words of a liar or a dreamer by raising Him from the dead if He were not telling the truth.
Let’s settle this. If Jesus told the truth about His death and resurrection, then we can be confident that everything else He said was also true. He said that the Father sent Him. For what purpose? To reveal the Father to His people. For what reason? Their religious teachers had obscured the nature of God by their innumerable additions to God’s word. They saw Him, not as a Father who loved them and desired to have fellowship with them but the strict disciplinarian God who punished every deviation from His commandments.
Jesus was the face of the Father to His people. He used every opportunity to show the compassion and mercy of His Father and the religious leaders hated Him for it. They killed Him because He showed them the true nature of God. Blasphemy was their charge and guilty their verdict without looking at the evidence. He proved to them beyond a reasonable doubt that He was the Son of God but they found Him guilty before He was tried and condemned Him to death, innocent though He was, because of prejudice.
Religion can offer no more than a set of rules and rituals to appease a god whose demands are never satisfied. Why? Religion is based on a god or gods who are the product of human minds. No one can conceive of a being higher of greater than himself. Gods represent the worst of human characteristics, holding those who believe in them by fear of failure. Those who worship them are locked into an endless round of doing whatever they can to ensure that they do not offend their god.
God called the children of Israel into fellowship with Him as His sons and daughters but, instead of loving Him as their Father and obeying Him out of reverence, they turned their relationship with Him into a religion.
It was Jesus’ mission to reveal the truth about His Father, to deal once-for-all with the sin that separated His people from God and to call them back into God’s family as His beloved sons and daughters. The Holy Spirit would come and live within them, God residing once again in the His true temple, their bodies so that they could have freedom and rest in fellowship with Him.
Jesus knew what religion did to people. Practising religion was trying to satisfy the never-ending demands of an unpredictable god without ever knowing when enough was enough. It was all self-effort with no guarantee that they would eventually be acceptable to their God. Religion has no goal except what the creator of that religion envisages.
The greatest tragedy of all is that the people who have opted for religion over rest would rather work for their salvation regardless of the futility of trying to live up to God’s standards than trust Jesus and enjoy His rest.
If Jesus is real and His words are true, His offer still stands and whoever believes Him and receives what He has promised, experiences the most amazing supernatural peace, the outcome of the forgiveness of their sin and reconciliation with the Father.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened (from trying to please God by keeping rules), and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matt.11: 28-30).
There remains, therefore, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his works just as God did from His (Heb. 4:9).
The rest Jesus offers us is rest from working to please God to trusting the words of Jesus; that He pleased God for us, died in our place to pay the debt for our sin and gives us, as a free gift, His perfect righteousness. We are now complete in Him – nothing more to do than to believe and receive what He did for us. When He cried out, “It is finished,” He ended the rule of law and ushered in the time of grace.
We have been fully accepted in Jesus and can rest in what He did.
God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them… (2 Cor. 5: 19a).
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3: 1).
Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters of God, free to love Him and live in fellowship with Him as our Father. No religion! No rules! No fear!
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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