I came to faith at the College and Career study at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. The pastor was sharing an overview of the Book of Hebrews and highlighting how Jesus is greater than every aspect of ritual Judaism. I was raised in an observant Jewish home, and this theme struck a chord as God’s Spirit plucked my heartstrings. That was the night I recognized Jesus as my people’s Messiah and received Him as my Lord and Savior.
I recognize that each person’s subjective experience when they are saved is varied. Yet, I also vividly recall how I felt. The feeling is remarkably simple to define, but perhaps so nuanced that I could never describe the fullness of the experience—like being in love. So, bear with me as I try. For the first time in my life, I felt whole, complete, content, at peace, and what my people describe as shalom.
I had gone through life trying to experience that feeling through various failed efforts. The usual suspects were all part of the pursuit. Achievement, accolades, success, drugs, alcohol, money, sex, and pleasure. Nevertheless, it was like trying to fill a bathtub while the drain is unplugged. No matter how much you pour in the tub, it is never full.
The underlying theme of Hebrews is encouragement to Jewish Christians not to drift from Christ and their faith despite hardship, scorn, and ridicule. The author is systematically showing Christ’s superiority to any claimed substitute. The relevance to a first century audience is equally applicable to a twenty-first century person contemplating deconstructing their faith.
What I hope to reveal is your greatest need, a need that you are likely unaware of. I say this with a relatively high degree of confidence. For example, at the church where I serve, we gather hundreds of prayer requests weekly. Through the decades, I have reviewed more than a quarter million prayer requests, and I have never seen the one I am going to disclose.
Your greatest need is rest for your soul!
The night that I received Jesus, I experienced for the first time rest for my soul. The result of being reconciled to God, and receiving spiritual life, produced an awareness of wholeness, indescribable peace, and contentment.
The essence of a person is their soul. In effect, you are a soul with a body, rather than a body with a soul. We may be keenly aware when our bodies are exhausted, our emotions are frayed, or our minds are spinning and we cannot continue with the weight. Nevertheless, most of us do not tend to contemplate that the primary issue may be a restless soul. We are a restless people—with restless souls.
I seek to describe some of the obstacles to this rest, and Jesus’ remedy to receive His rest later, but for the purpose of this article, I want to focus on the idea that Jesus offers a greater rest.
Beginning in Hebrews 3, the author observes that the Jews did not enter God’s rest (11, 18, 19). The term rest has several references associated with it such as God resting on the seventh day of the Creation account, Sabbath rest from labor, and the Promised Land (Deut. 12:9). Hebrews 3:7-4:13 contain eleven references to the term rest. The author’s argument is that God has a better rest available for His people in Christ through the New Covenant Gospel of grace.
Let us contemplate four reasons why it is a greater promise of rest:
1. The blessings depend on the Person of Christ (Eph. 1:3).
The blessings transcend material place, prosperity, and moral performance. The message of the Gospel reminds us that our access to God and His blessings, including rest for our souls, is based on Christ’s work.
2. The promise of life with God (spiritual life) is better (1Jn. 2:25).
The material blessings associated with the Promised Land are significant and should be appreciated as a tremendous gift from God. Nevertheless, the promise of spiritual life is greater. The Apostle John writes, “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1Jn. 2:25, emphasis mine). John is describing spiritual life with God. More than duration, it is a reference to nature and quality, and John is placing this promise at the apex. God was with the Jews in the Promised Land, but He is in believers providing life (and rest for souls).
3. Jesus gives His kingdom.
Jesus reverses the land-exile cycle. First, man is given the Garden and Creation, but rebellion leads to exile. Then the land promised to the Patriarchs is given to the Jews, but rebellion leads to exile. Jesus reverses the cycle and fulfills God’s redemptive purpose through the cross where He became an exile, and offers His kingdom which is greater than the land of promise. Citizens of His kingdom shall not be exiled and thus rest in the presence of the king and kingdom.
4. Jesus provides unique rest for souls (Matt. 11:28-30).
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30, emphasis mine).
This is Jesus’ only autobiographical declaration. Thus, if you scour all the “red letters,” this is the only autobiographical statement. Accordingly, it is likely significant. It is an invitation to come to Jesus addressed to all of humanity—we are the burdened, weighed-down, weary. He is not offering just a rest, but a greater rest. A rest that we are generally unaware, rest for the soul.
We may be hesitant, reluctant, or even intimidated at the prospect of what it might cost to experience this rest. So, He assures us of His gentle nature and that He is lowly of heart—He puts our interests before His own. Our greatest need is for our souls, the essence of who we are, to be at rest with God and in Christ.
The key to experiencing this rest is trust in Jesus.
As a concept, rest for your soul is directly proportional to trust in Christ. As noted, for the purpose of this article, I want to focus on why it is a greater promise and will seek to explain in subsequent articles some of the dynamics of obstacles and the remedy to receive.