WHAT IS SPIRITUAL REST FROM WAR WITHIN?
By Rev. Ted Pike
10 Jun 13
In mid-May our Truthtellers Bible studies went up on iTunes, and in only three weeks our audience has quadrupled. These new visitors include Christian Zionists, coming to Truthtellers.org and for the first time becoming acquainted with its Biblically oriented Christian anti-Zionist message. At iTunes our Bible studies are accessed under the title “Spiritual Rest from War Within.” With inauguration of this new podcast outreach, it is fitting that I define the war within and spiritual rest.
Created in the image of God, natural man has a free will motivated by physical and spiritual instincts to please self, not God. He wants to come first, to have his own way. This results in sin, which is the conscious moral decision to disobey God. But we are not like animals, at peace with our fleshly nature. We are in conflict because God has also placed within us a spiritual nature, a conscience which accuses us for giving in to our baser instincts. If we are honest, we have to admit we don't meet God's standard of holiness and perfect love. Our failure creates guilt and conflict. We want to be perfect, but we are not. We try to convince ourselves we are worthy and good enough, but our consciences remind us we are failing to please God. This is the war within.
There are three major kinds of "war within."
- The sinner actively engaging in sin but troubled by the fact that he continues in sin and cannot stop. His conscience needles him, but his will is not strong enough to stop willfully committing sin and enjoying it. He is hopeless and will sooner or later use any means to numb his conscience and end the feelings of war and guilt.
- The person who has had a conversion experience but fails to give absolutely all to Christ and thus is double-minded. False doctrines may encourage him to think being a "sinning saint" is normal and expected. Yet his sensitized conscience assaults him even more vividly than when he was a rank sinner. He simply does not know how to have a consistent victorious experience with the Lord. This war is well expressed in Romans 7. Organized religion claims to meet his needs, telling him God wants more study of the Bible, more self-control, including "positive thoughts and words," more law keeping and good works, liturgy and ceremonies, membership in the "true church," and fulfillment of his divine "destiny" as well as ecstatic spiritual experiences, such as speaking in tongues. But none of these in their unending requirements gives us peace that God is now pleased with us.
- The believer who has given all to God but has an incomplete understanding of what God really wants from us and thus is in the shooting gallery of Satan's accusations. He is made miserable because of his fervent desire to make himself pure and please God through self-analysis and moral improvement. This Christian is tormented by perceived sin and failures, even though he is not consciously withholding anything from God. This type of person has been very common in the Wesleyan/Armenian tradition which emphasized death to self as the great event in the Christian's life that is supposed to result in peace with God.
Which description best fits you?
Whichever type of war rages within you, there is one solution for us all. It comes straight from the extended arms of Christ on the cross. The simplicity of His Gospel has been complicated by false doctrines throughout history, but Jesus said what God wants from us is truly simple, so simple a child can give it.
What is the “glorious rest” described by Isaiah 11:10 and Hebrews 3: 18-19 and chapter 4 -- a rest of soul which God has in store for all tormented by war within? Jesus rested on the seventh day of creation, not because He was tired but to signify this rest. He stopped working to anticipate that all who trust and obey are able through the Holy Spirit to find freedom from sin and from any futile self-justifying works, not just on one day of the week, but always.
How do we find such rest? Do we answer the accusation that we have sinned by working hard for Jesus through prayer, Bible study, good works? No. Just the opposite. Everyone who comes to Christ for rest and peace must first repent of all past sins and turn over their lives and futures to the Almighty. We must give God what He really wants and so seldom gets: simple childlike trust from a will dead to self. Without Christ's grace it is impossible to give this trust. We cannot do it on our own, but He also will not do it entirely for us. We must cooperate with God's rescue like a drowning person thrusting out his hand to the one who can save him. All the glory goes to Christ.
Likewise, we must abandon good works as a means to justify ourselves. As Scripture says, all our good works are as filthy rags. "However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." (Rom. 4:5-6) When we continue daily to give all to the best of our ability through trust in Jesus we can know that we are in God’s will and have salvation and hope of eternal life. This is the Gospel's answer to both real and imagined sin.
Trust is not an emotion. It is not mere mental assent to truths about God. It is a conscious moral decision of our free will to surrender all in our present lives and our eternal souls into the hands of our Creator. "For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”” (Rom. 1:17)
The will that is freely choosing to trust and surrender cannot simultaneously choose to sin, which is to will against God.
As the apostle John said in 1 John 3:20, when we are trusting Jesus, God is greater than the accusations of our heart. When we make a deliberate choice to not lean on our own understanding or cling to our own definition of goodness but simply abandon ourselves to Christ's mercy as we give all we know to Him, we are able to resist the lies of Satan or our mind that we are disappointing God and failing as a Christian. Satan wants to use our minds and consciences to keep us in guilt and torment within, so we are not boldly stepping into that promised Canaan land of rest from our own works, resting every day as Jesus did on the seventh day.
Of course, while Jesus wants childlike trust and obedience as His first priority, the spiritual rest He gives does not exclude good works. As a result of our confidence and relaxation of trust in Him, He will move and inspire us to action, but only as He directs and enables. As the Great Communicator, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have no difficulty in showing exactly what works God wants us to perform. He shows us how we can unite faith and works.
God provides to all believers a place of inner calm within the storms of life and accusations and attacks by Satan, a place of rest even in tribulation, giving peace that He says surpasses our understanding. In our human understanding we may think we have sinned because we have spoken sharply, had a sexually immoral desire, or not spoken in loving tones. These are the moments Satan accuses that we are still sinners. But Christ’s “glorious rest” comes to our rescue as we say, “Lord, even if I have sinned, I trust You. I hang on Your mercies.” We might even say, “Lord, if I’m going to hell, I'll do so trusting You!"
God would not be a God of love and justice if He sent such a trusting soul to hell. He never has and never will condemn a soul obediently trusting Him. Instead, as with the thief on the cross who said, “I trust You to remember my soul when you come in your kingdom,” and the publican who said, “Have mercy on me a sinner,” all who put their whole trust in Jesus, imperfect as it may seem, are justified.
The trust we give God daily must not be a mere formula or pablum repeated by rote. We must trust in God and rest in His grace and mercy with at least as much sincerity as the thief on the cross or the publican. If two of the worst sinners, used to a life of theft and fraud, can elicit praise and a promise of eternal life from Jesus, don't you think you can also?
Walking every day in trust to the moment of death, we will be tempted and accused by Satan, “day and night before the Lord,” yet we are able through blind trust to quench those fiery darts. We simply say, “I trust in Him. Even if I have fallen short or even sinned, right now because I give all my life to Jesus and trust in Him, I can’t be lost. He can’t be angry with me. In fact, He must be pleased with me as I defy Satan’s evidence against me and only trust.”
Our boldness to believe that simple trust in Jesus gives us such justification, security, and peace with God is almost as audacious as the children who climbed up into His lap and pulled His beard with their grimy little hands. Jesus' disciples were scandalized at such familiarity, but Jesus was delighted. He said we don't find rest of soul or even get into heaven without going directly to His heart, worshipping and trusting Him in simple spiritual sincerity. Like Peter, sinking beneath the waves, we cry out, "Lord, save me or else I perish!" The promise of spiritual rest within is thus as secure as Jesus' promise, "Those who come to me (in childlike trust) I will in no way cast out." (John 6:37)
Spiritual rest through faith gives the sincere believer something unattainable through any other means: a complete and accurate understanding of the mind of God as He beams down approval. Can anything be more glorious and restful than that?
*Take this link to the audio version of this article, plus discussion by the Truthtellers Bible study group.