Soul-rest and Practical Christian Living By Jim Fowler

It is a common tendency among Christians to ask, “How do I achieve this soul-rest?” “What must I do to enter that rest?” Geared, as we are, to religious “how to” formulas and “self-help” procedures, we seek “Twelve Steps to Rest.” This only leads to the unrest of self-effort in religious performance activity. The definition of “rest,” you may recall, is ceasing from our performance of doing and striving to get what God has already given to us.

As ironic as this may appear, soul-rest often involves a repudiation of religion. In fact, the entire ecclesiastical system of Christian religion, with its constant inculcations to commitment, church attendance, involvement and tithing, is often one of the greatest trials that Christians face. It is imperative that we distinguish between what is called “Christian religion” and the living reality of Christianity. The English word “religion” is derived from the Latin religio, meaning, “to bind up” or “tie back.” Many religious people seem to take delight in the masochism of being beaten and bound by overbearing preachers, but Jesus did not come to bind us up in rules and regulations or tie us down in rituals and duties of devotion. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32), for Truth is personified in the Son (Jn. 8:36) who is “the Truth” (Jn. 14:6). Jesus did not say, “I came that you might have religion, and practice it more faithfully,” but rather, “I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10).

The abundant freedom of the Truth-Reality of Jesus Christ as our life sets us free from thinking that we must engage in the moral and ethical performance of behavior modification in “dos” and “don’ts” or “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” that are alleged to please God. We no longer have to defend those rigid rules and regulations of religion that are proposed as the strict and inflexible means of achieving holiness. Even the regularity of a “quiet time” of Bible reading and prayer, or any other of the spiritual disciplines, are not an end in themselves that will bring soul-rest, even though they may serve as means by which the Spirit of Christ can bring “revelation” to our spirit and minds. Many Christians long to be freed from the religious pressures to engage in witnessing and evangelism under the false premise of a “great commission” that is interpreted to mean, “Go ye, means you!” Or to be relieved from the false-guilt of not becoming a missionary based on the false pretense that “the need is the call” Or to be released from the burden of the false incentive that they are “saved to serve” in full-time Christian ministry. Paul explained, “God is not served with human hands, as though He needed anything” (Acts 17:25). When we experience soul-rest in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ we recognize that “ministry” is just the overflow of Christ functioning in us, as us, and through us. There need never be any ministry “burn-out” when we live in soul-rest.

Evangelical humanism has brainwashed many genuine Christians into thinking that their effort and performance is the basis of Christian living. Incentives to more commitment and increased “works” never lead to soul-rest, but only to frustration, uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt. Instead of the Avis Rent-a-Car theology that touts, “We try harder,” Christians need a theology of grace that explains the dynamic indwelling of the living Lord Jesus and how He wants to be the Christian life in and through us. Such soul-rest will set us free from the performance striving of religious “works” that are alleged to make us acceptable to God. We can quit trying to change ourselves, internally and externally, into an aligned conformity that will please God, and begin trusting that “He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

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