*Russian translation not available for this sermon*
- The first rest principle we addressed dealt with those who want to serve God, but struggle with guilt, shame, and condemnation because of their past sins or present failures.
- The symptoms of this first type of unrest include a sense of being under a cloud of shame, guilt, or condemnation resulting in a general sense of unworthiness. This shame hinders them from praying and reading the Bible, and prevents them from being able to rejoice in the salvation they received through Jesus Christ.
- The solution to being set free from this sense of condemnation is faith in God’s Word.
- As believers, we must develop the discipline that every time we fail, fall short of God’s standard, or simply sin, we need to immediately repent by turning to God, confessing our sins, and by faith accepting His forgiveness and cleansing. (1 John 1:9).
- Once we have repented and confessed our sins our hearts should be filled with thanksgiving and joy because our heavenly Father has completely forgiven us. Any impediment to our fellowship with God has been removed.
- The second rest principle builds on the first, so we can more fully enter into God’s rest. As we build a solid foundation, we can learn to be led by the Spirit and live fruitful lives.
- This second rest principle deals with Christians who are troubled by fear and anxiety because of the problems and struggles of life.
- The problems that cause anxiety and fear may take the form of work, family, health, relationships, or any of a number of areas that we are confronted with each day.
- Those plagued by this type of unrest may even be anxious about problems that don’t exist, but which they anticipate might develop. Surveys have shown that 85% of the things people worry about never materialize.
- They may even develop a sense of foreboding about future problems even though there is nothing concrete to suggest such a problem will occur.
- People who struggle with this type of unrest may feel pressured to perform and meet the expectations of others. Because of the consequences of previous poor decisions, they may procrastinate for fear of making more poor decisions.
- They may take on burdens that they were never meant to carry and try to be the saviour of those around them. They may feel responsible for things that are not their responsibility. This can lead to co-dependent relationships where they fail to have proper boundaries and become burned out as they try to meet the needs or expectations of others.
- They unknowingly attempt to usurp God’s place in other’s lives either by trying to shield others from the consequences of their poor choices or try to change them in their own self-effort.
- These people become weary with the responsibilities of family, work, and church, and life in general. At times they may feel overwhelmed just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Life may seem fruitless and unsatisfying. Every effort to make headway feels laborious and hopeless. The joy and peace of the Lord may seem like a concept that is totally unattainable.
- The solution to this type of unrest and anxiety is to learn to cease from self-effort. We must learn to put our problems into the hands of God.
1 Peter 5:7 NKJV
7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 NASB
7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
- We must truly begin to believe that when we give our problems to God, He takes them. He does the caring because He cares for us.
- The Greek word translated in 1 Peter 5:7 in the NASB as “anxiety” and in the NKJV as “cares” means “a feeling of apprehension or distress in view of possible danger or misfortune.” In some languages, this Greek word is translated using idiomatic statements such as “to be killed by one’s mind” or “to be pained by thinking.”
- The Greek word for “anxiety” is derived from a Greek root word meaning, “to divide, to separate into parts, cut into pieces,” thus bringing to the meaning of “anxiety” the idea of distractions. Anxiety and worry bring internal division and double-mindedness resulting in us being unable to focus on God, on His faithfulness, and on His promises.
- Anxiety and worry cause us to magnify our problems while at the same time diminishing the power and majesty of God. When we worry our problems seem to grow bigger and God seems to grow smaller.
- “casting all your anxiety on Him” — Which anxieties, cares, and worries are we to give over to God? ALL of them! Anxiety, cares, and worries are destructive to our emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
- “for He cares for you” — Why are we able to give all our anxieties, cares, and worries to God? Because He loves and cares for us and He will not neglect to take care of anything that we give to Him. He knows what is best for us and He has the very best solutions to every problem we face.
- One of the truths we must wholeheartedly believe and take hold of is that God loves us and that we can fully trust Him to do the very best for us. Worry and anxiety are a result of not trusting God and not believing in His love and faithfulness.
Song of Solomon 2:15 (NKJV)
15 Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.
- The Hebrew word for “foxes” refers to a burrowing type of animal, one who digs and makes underground tunnels.
- The word for “little” means something that is small, unimportant, or insignificant.
- The word for “spoil” means to “corrupt, ruin.”
- The vine spoken of in the Song of Solomon can be seen as an allusion to our relationship with Christ where He is the vine and we are the branches.
- We are meant to mature in our relationship with Christ to bring forth much fruit. In the Song of Solomon, the fruit refers to tender grapes, not fully ripe fruit, but the stage where the blossoms or grape buds are forming.
- The “tender grapes” emphasize how delicate and intimate our relationship with Jesus is, but also how easily it can be disrupted and hindered when we are neglectful or careless with our spiritual lives.
- Those little areas of worries or anxieties that we have not dealt with and vanquished will plague our spiritual lives and our relationship with Jesus and rob us of the joy of our salvation. Those little foxes may seem insignificant to us. We may fail to recognize that these little worries and anxieties hinder us from abiding in Christ.
- Worry and anxiety drain us of the joy and peace God wants us to enjoy.
- Worry and anxiety hinder us from truly embracing the reality that God cares for us.
- However, our greatest loss is this: worry and anxiety rob us of our ability to abide in Christ. When we have anxious thoughts and are preoccupied with our problems we are not able to abide in Jesus, but instead we abide in our problems.
- Worry and anxiety cause our attention to be focused on our problems instead of being centred on Jesus.
- We can develop a “grasshopper complex” where we see our problems looming larger than God. In the book of Joshua, the ten spies saw their enemies as giants and themselves as grasshoppers. They failed to trust an invisible God to fight a visible war.
Luke 8:14 NKJV
14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
- In the parable of the sower, when Christ refers to the seed that fell among the thorns, the thorns represent three things—worries, the love of riches, and the love of pleasures.
- It is noteworthy that the one mentioned first of all is not the love of riches or pleasures, but worries and cares.
- One may consider covetousness or hedonism as much worse than worry and anxiety, but it is just as destructive. In some ways it is more problematic because many Christians, while recognizing more overt sins, may fail to recognize that worry and anxiety are sinful because they paralyze our faith and cause us to live defeated lives.
- Many Christians have a cloud of worry and anxiety hovering over them like an ominous shadow draining them of the peace, joy, and the freedom that Christ desires for them to continually experience.
- They fail to deal with anxious and worrisome thoughts because they have become so used to them that they mistakenly believe that this is the normal way of living and thinking.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NKJV
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
- These verses describe the greatest form of spiritual warfare—taking control of our thought life. Spiritual warfare is primarily taking control of our own thoughts so they conform to God’s Word. How do we do that? Replace the lies of the enemy with the truth of God’s Word.
- Spiritual warfare involves pulling down strongholds. We must demolish these strongholds to correct our wrong concept of who God is and who we are in Christ. Only then can we live victorious lives. Self-deprecation devalues how much God truly loves and values us.
- Once our thought life is submitted to Christ then demonic forces will not be able to prevail against us. It is through our thoughts that the enemy brings the most havoc and confusion into our lives.
- Once our minds are submitted to the Holy Spirit and conformed to God’s Word the enemy is powerless to control or torment us.
- “casting down arguments” — We need to tear down every reasoning that is contrary to God’s Word. Many times we believe things that are not rooted in Scripture, and are actually contrary to what Scripture teaches.
- “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” — We need to identify every belief we have that distorts our image of God or limits His greatness, His glory, and His power, and reject them and replace them with the truth of God’s Word.
- “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” — We need to come to the place where our every thought is submitted to Christ and is subject to the Holy Spirit.
- We need to take everything we believe and test it by comparing it to God’s Word to determine whether it is true.
- We must take every thought captive and not allow even the smallest worry or anxiety to take root in our hearts and minds. Worrisome and anxious thoughts are contrary to God’s Word and cause our thought life to be in rebellion against the authority of Christ.
Mark 9:28-29 NKJV
28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
- Often, Christians think of spiritual warfare as primarily taking authority over demons. However, until we have come to a point where we submit our thoughts and reasoning to Christ, we will find our authority over the demonic realm very limited.
- Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus’ answer was simple and straightforward. “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” — “You haven’t spent enough time in fellowship with God for your hearts to be united with God’s.”
- Some Christians who think they are doing spiritual warfare spend more time talking to the devil than they spend sharing their hearts with Jesus. They try to take authority over the demonic in self-effort rather than by exercising the authority they have in Christ.
- When Christians stop trying to cast out demons in self-effort and submit to the Holy Spirit and the authority we have in Christ, then God can bring about real results.
- We need to be God-conscious and not demon-conscious; otherwise instead of being Spirit led Christians, we become Christians vexed by superstitions who have an unhealthy preoccupation with the devil.
- As Christians, we need to learn to cease from self-effort so we can be empowered by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
- However, ceasing from self-effort does not mean we do not exert ourselves or put effort into serving God.
Hebrews 4:11 ESV
11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
- Hebrews 4:11 exhorts us to enter that place of rest. However, it says that we must “strive” to enter into that place of rest. The Greek word translated as “strive” means to “exert one’s self, to use speed and make effort, be diligent.”
- Some Christians think that being at rest means to be idle and careless. However, it requires effort, maturity, diligence, and a life that is under the discipline of the Holy Spirit to truly enter into that place of rest.
- Idle Christians are not free from anxiety or worry. They are simply being careless and living lives that will result in fruitlessness and regret.
- The rest that comes from ceasing from self-effort is not because the problems and difficulties we face immediately disappear, but because we are learning to trust God and we are confident that He is working with us and behind the scenes to bring about His solution in His timing.
- If we are only anxiety free when we are problem free, that is not rest. That is just a false rest when we experience a short reprieve from the problems of life. True rest allows us to be free from anxiety in the most severe circumstances.
- The first rest principle established “faith in God’s Word.” The second rest principle builds upon the first where we cease from our own self-efforts as we trust God.
- However, ceasing from self-effort does not mean being idle or unproductive. Ceasing from self-effort means we cease from our works so we can enter into God’s work.
- Jesus was always free from self-effort because He did not do His own works but He was always engaged in His Father’s work.
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38)
“Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34).
“I (Jesus) always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:29).
- When we are in self-effort we are doing our own works. We will be unable to hear from God or move in faith.
- However, when we cease from self-effort we put down our own works, plans, and agendas, and are able to hear from God and walk in faith and obedience and enter into the works that the Father has for us to do.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
- When we cease from self-effort our prayers will be free from anxiety and frustration and instead will be permeated with peace and thanksgiving because we are confident that God is hearing us, answering us, and leading us. We will become prayer warriors and not prayer worriers.
- Jesus’ life, even as a twelve year old boy, was marked by one goal. “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49b).
- Self-effort can result in much more than becoming anxious, worried, and fearful.
- Another sure sign that we are moving in self-effort and engaged in doing our own works is that we will often feel frustrated and upset with our circumstances, with others, and even with God.
- The reason we can feel this frustration is because things are not going the way we would want or expect.
- While producing some temporary seemingly positive results, self-effort can embolden us to rely on ourselves instead of being dependent on God.
- Even Christians in ministry can move in self-effort without realizing it. Self-effort results in one becoming success driven, pursuing selfish ambition, and seeing their ministry as a means of proving their worth to themselves and others.
Luke 10:38-42 NKJV
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
- In the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke, Chapter 10, we see an example of this unrest in Martha, but also a contrasting picture of rest in Mary.
- As the story begins, we see that Martha’s heart and intentions were good. She wholeheartedly and generously opened her home to Jesus. — “a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.”
- Mary, Martha’s sister, responded by immediately being captivated by every word Jesus spoke. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet intent on understanding all that He taught. — “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.”
- Martha, on the other hand, immediately began to busy herself in being a hostess and preparing food, serving refreshments, and all the other things she thought she should be doing. — “But Martha was distracted with much serving”
- The Greek word translated as “distracted” means “to draw away, to drag around.” Martha, in all her busyness and self-effort, was like a mini whirlwind trying to serve everyone and keep everything in her home just right for her honoured guest, Jesus.
- It is important to note that Jesus never asked Martha to do any of the activities she was engaged in, and she never asked Jesus what He wanted her to do.
- If Martha had simply asked Jesus what He wanted her to do, He would likely have said, “Sit down and let Me share with you things of the Kingdom of God.”
- However, in her self-effort she was not at rest. Her countenance changed from being a hospitable hostess to becoming a frustrated and resentful woman. — “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
- Martha failed to see that she was operating in self-effort because if anyone asked her what she was doing, she would have immediately responded, “I am serving the Lord.” However, her service to Jesus was in self-effort as noted by her level of frustration and complaining.
- Becoming weary in ministry is a sure sign that the person is in self-effort and either not doing what God called them to do or is trying to do it in their own strength.
- Notice that Martha’s complaint was directed at Jesus—“Lord, do You not care …”
- Martha in her self-effort was disappointed with Jesus for not noticing how hard she was working to serve Him, and that His attention was on Mary, who sat at His feet.
- In contrast to Martha, who was both frustrated and agitated, Mary was not the least bit disturbed by Martha’s accusations against her. As she sat at Jesus’ feet her attention focused on Him and the words He spoke.
- When we cease from self-effort and are resting at the feet of Jesus, then no one and no circumstance can steal our peace and joy.
- Jesus’ response to Martha’s accusation against Him took the form of a gentle rebuke. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”
- Jesus simply looked at Martha with compassion and explained to her that Mary was not idle, but was actively engaged in the very thing He had come to do—to teach them of the things of God. “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
- In the years to come, all Mary learned and received by fellowshipping with Jesus that day would not be lost, but would continue to grow and develop and produce abundant fruit as she applied those truths to her life.
- Jesus didn’t come to Martha’s home because He wanted a meal. He wanted to impart something to Mary and Martha—truths that would last a lifetime.
- However, in all her busyness and self-effort, Martha had not heard even one word of what Jesus had been teaching.
- Jesus purposely ignored all of Martha’s busyness and focused on her sister Mary, who sat at His feet. Jesus was trying to get Martha’s attention so she would realize that she was missing a very important opportunity.
Exodus 20:8-9 NKJV
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
- The Lord gave the Sabbath to Israel as a sign they were His special treasure and to distinguish them from all other peoples.
- Jesus is our Sabbath rest and we are to cease from our labours so we can abide in Christ and enter into His works.
- As we study the instructions given to the Old Testament priests in their service to God we can glean some prophetic insights on how we are to serve God from a place of rest, free from self-effort.
Exodus 20:25-26 NKJV
25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.
26 Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’
- “you shall not build it of hewn stone” — An altar of stone was not to be built of hewn stone but from uncut stones. If the priest built the altar in self-effort using tools to shape the stones it would be profaned. The priests were to collect the stones and use them just as God made them without altering them.
- If we try to serve God in our self-effort and strength, relying on our abilities instead of God’s grace, no matter how noble we may think our efforts are, our ministry will end up being profaned.
- “Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar” — The altar was not to have steps. Climbing up steps would speak about coming to God in our own strength. We do not approach God because of anything we have achieved or any good works we have done, but simply by the grace of God because of Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary.
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19).
- “that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.” — If the altar had steps, when the priests lifted their feet to step up, the flesh of their legs would be seen. Our worship and service to God must be completely initiated and generated by the Spirit and not employ any aspect of the flesh or self-effort.
- Worship is to be ignited by our love for Jesus. Rock concerts employ hype to create an atmosphere of excitement but worship is to be ignited by the Holy Spirit as our hearts are captivated by His love, His glory, and His awesome presence.
- If we try to hype up people to respond to God by fleshly techniques all we are doing is stirring up a fleshly response which will quickly fade. It will produce nothing of eternal value and, in fact, it reinforces carnality and leaves the worshippers empty.
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24).
Ezekiel 44:16-18 NKJV
16 “They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge.
17 And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court or within the house.
18 They shall have linen turbans on their heads and linen trousers on their bodies; they shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat.
- In Ezekiel, God commanded the priests to wear only linen garments when they came before the Lord to minister to Him. The Lord continued by explaining why the priests were to wear only linen garments and nothing made with wool. — “they shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat.”
- The priests were not to perspire when they came before the Lord to serve Him. We are not to serve God in our own strength but from a place of rest empowered by the Holy Spirit to minister by the grace of God.
Genesis 3:17 NKJV
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
- Sweat symbolizes self-effort and was the result of the curse because of the fall of man.
- Jesus came to save us and deliver us from all the curses of sin. Jesus wants to set His children free from the bondage of self-effort and the torment of anxiety, worry, and fear that self-effort produces.
Exodus 6:6 (NKJV)
6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
- Three times in Exodus 6:6, God reinforced that it was the Lord who would deliver them and not their own strength or self-effort — “I will bring you out … I will rescue you … I will redeem you…”
- In Exodus 6:6, God told the children of Israel that He would free them from all the burdens of Egypt. God wants to free us from all the burdens and torments of this life.
- As the Israelites were hemmed in between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army waiting to pounce on them, God spoke these words, “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14).
- God promised Israel that if they would just rest in Him, He would deliver them from all their enemies. As believers, we too may be faced with many problems and many fears and wonder how will this ever work out for good. But God is there saying, “Trust Me and look to Me and I will lead you and deliver you from all your enemies and problems.
1 John 2:16 NKJV
16 For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
- Self-effort not only produces anxiety, worry, and fear in our hearts, but it is also one of the sources of the three main categories of sin. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
- Self-effort is motivated by a desire for the temporal pleasures and momentary successes of this life at the expense of eternal ones.
- Ceasing from self-effort allows us to move in faith and enter into God’s work and be motivated by the eternal purposes of God.
- Self-effort stirs up the lust of the flesh in the form of fornication.
- The root of fornication is not sexual, but demanding what we seek without going through the process God has ordained for us to go through to receive them.
- Fornication, in terms of sex, bypasses God’s ordained process by not entering into the covenant of marriage.
- The most infamous fornicator in the Bible is Esau, although Esau was not guilty of any sexual sin. However, he chose the temporal over the eternal, and in self-effort sold his birthright so he could eat a bowl of stew.
Hebrews 12:16 NKJV
16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
- Self-effort stirs up the lust of the eyes in the form of covetousness.
- Covetousness is a materialistic form of self-effort where we love things more than people or God. Covetousness is seeking what we want without reference to God’s desire and purpose for our lives.
- Self-effort seeks to find contentment in things rather than God, resulting in the never-ending pursuit of material wealth. Self-effort will keep a person perpetually on the “hamster wheel” of life without ever arriving at the final destination.
- Self-effort stirs up the pride of life by seeking the affirmation and approval of people.
- Even those in ministry are not immune to self-effort. When someone is ministering out of self-effort it will produce selfish ambition and competitiveness.
- The key to ministering from a place free from self-effort is to simply enter into that place of rest by choosing that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:16).
- Self-effort, whether in the form of fornication, covetousness, or pride never satisfies or produces rest but always results in constantly seeking that elusive carrot at the end of the stick dangling just in front of the person.
- “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). If one’s heart pursues earthly success then one will never find true and lasting satisfaction from those accomplishments.
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
- A few keys to be free from anxiety and worry are:
- First, we need to recognize that our Father in Heaven knows our needs, and cares about us. “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
- Second, we need to cease from self-effort and put Christ and His priorities first in our lives. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
- Third, we can be confident that when we cease from our works and begin to do His works, He will provide for our needs. “and all these things shall be added to you.”
- Fourth, don’t speculate or anticipate future problems, but trust God to help us today and put tomorrow into God’s hands.
- “If you fear God you will fear nothing else but if you do not fear God you will fear everything else.”
- “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom
- “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” George Muller
- “A little faith will bring your soul to Heaven, but a lot of faith will bring Heaven to your soul.” Dwight Moody
- “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom
- “Don’t lose in the darkness what you have gained in the light.” — Don’t allow times of darkness to cause you to lose sight of what God has already taught you.
Psalm 37:4 NKJV
4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
- What a wonderful promise for those who are learning to cease from self-effort. God will reward us by richly filling our hearts with joy and contentment.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download