The Oldest Trick in the Book
I came across a Tim Keller sermon this weekend that’s got me thinking like crazy. You can listen to it here. **It’s awesome.** I stumbled upon it on Carolyn McCulley’s blog. The whole theology behind our eternal rest has been an interest of mine lately, so I was eager to hear Keller’s teaching on work and rest. McCulley outlines the main points for you if you want to check out her article here. My next few articles are going to be some reflections that have been growing in my head since I took a listen.
We think of rest as taking a well deserved break. Rest is something we do when we’re tired. Keller rightly discerns in his sermon that our culture is lacking in proper rest. Even when we vacation, get extra sleep, and try to incorporate rest into our lives, we find ourselves restless. We just can’t earn proper rest.
The Genesis account of creation tells us that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Did he need a break? Was God tired? Of course not. Keller was so illuminating in this part of his sermon when he explained that this meant God was utterly satisfied in what was done. That’s true rest. That’s the eternal rest that we seek.
But we keep falling for the oldest trick in the book. Adam and Eve were to follow God’s model. This pointed to what Adam was to earn for his progeny: to sit at the right hand of the Father and rule in true rest. Now there are infralapsarian and supralapsarian theological debates that I am not going to divulge here. But I do want to affirm that God’s eternal plan was for Jesus Christ to be our sufficiency. Even when Adam was to earn eternal life by his own righteous obedience, his satisfaction came from God’s work in creation. The command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has many implications. One is that Adam was to trust in what God says is ultimately good. Adam and Eve were not to have that say. God created man, the heavens, and the earth, and said; It is very good.
Eve, and Adam, lost our rest in God’s work. Now, we rebel against rest, while at the same time working for it. We rebel against being utterly satisfied in God’s work for our salvation. We want to be good on our own. We want to earn eternal life. We want to earn our value; our significance. But Keller explains that only through Jesus Christ can we look at our lives and say it is ultimately satisfying. Through Christ,
the work is complete.
That’s why the Sabbath has been moved to the first day of the week. Christ boldly and bluntly said the He was Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-11). He fulfilled its true meaning. In Christ, God is utterly satisfied with me, apart from my own efforts. But I need to be constantly reminded because the sin that remains in me wants to trust in my own efforts. At the beginning of the week, I worship and
hear the gospel preached.
In Revelation we learn of the number of the beast (Rev. 13:16-18). This number, 666, does seem to be a numerical value for Nero, a dreadful persecutor of believers during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But I think by relating it to Nero, John was also pointing to a symbol of the number of man without God in general. There is no 666 for the Christian. 666 represents man’s constant working without rest. There is
no rest when you trust in your own efforts.
There remains then a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9). Sunday, the first day of the week, points us to the eternal rest that we will have. By that, I am liberated to serve during the week, with the proper perspective and knowledge that it is God who is good. He keeps the world running. I don’t have to enslave myself by the constant quest for importance and significance. The only One who I need to impress has already declared me to be good on the count of his Son. And now, he is working in me through his Spirit.
But just like a baby playing peek-a-boo, I am shocked by this good news every time it is revealed to me. I find myself constantly with my eyes covered, thinking I’m running the world, and getting stressed out that I can never do enough. My meaning and value get caught up in my accomplishments. When God’s face is revealed to me in his gospel every Sunday, I rest in the sufficiency of Christ. And like that vulnerable baby, I want to say, Do it again!