Tree of Life – Part 10
Holiness, Character & The Tree of Life
I have no doubt some will have trouble with the idea of resting in the Spirit of Jesus as taught in our earlier chapters. The flesh has a real problem with the totally free expression of Father’s grace. In fact, our flesh wars against it. We want to do, to achieve, to overcome, to say “I did it!”
Some will say, yes, but, what about holiness and building Godly character? Isn’t that important? Shouldn’t we be striving to do those things? No!
True holiness, not just a form of church culture, should be a product produced by allowing the Holy Spirit to flow and do his work in us unhindered by us. When we rest in the Spirit as Jesus states in Matt. 11:28, we are getting out of the way and allowing the one who said he was going to give us a new heart and a renewed mind – do his work. Remember how strong his statement is in Jer. 31:33-34?
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”(Jer. 31:33-34, NIV)
These wonderful changes are the work of God, not the flesh. Our job or role is to fully cooperate. To get out of the way and allow the Spirit of Jesus to do his work. Each time we jump in and do our thing we are slowing down the whole process and creating circumstances that can contribute to burnout. A good example is the very idea of the Tree of Life. After people who have worshipped God in the Tree of Good and Evil learn about the Tree of Life they often get very excited and rush out with the idea of being a Tree of Lifer from that moment on. The more they try to live in the Tree of Life, the more they find themselves living and reacting out of the Tree of Good and Evil.
There is only one way to fully jump into the Tree of Life and stay there most of the time. Give up your striving, and let the Spirit take over and guide your life, thoughts, actions and reactions. The Holy Spirit will empower you to live in one tree only and that will be the Tree of Life.
In all areas of holiness and character building, we are speaking of a wonderful work of the Spirit, and our role is to rest in him, and cooperate with him. I think in many of our conversations we will always speak about such matters as if it were something we were to be accomplishing, but we need to remember that is not the case. We play our part by surrendering to the Spirit’s lead, and these profound changes are God’s handiwork.
“But, you’re washing away everything that Christianity seems to be. You’re watering down everything into a cute cliche’ – “rest in the Spirit!”
Please remember Matt. 11:28-30. This is not a cute cliche’. This is the reality of the New Covenant in His blood. In Gal. 4 we are told Jesus came at the fullness of time. He came when the religion of the Old Testament had been perverted to its maximum legalism. People were weary and burdened. The New Covenant Jesus was introducing was radically new. It was not just the next covenant in the series. It was new in its very nature. When we read Jer. 31:33-34 and contemplate the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we begin to see the New Covenant is all about God approaching us and saying, “Look my children, what I have done for you!” The New Covenant has nothing to do with how we can please or impress him so that he will bless us. The New Covenant has nothing to do with our performance, hair style, worship style or warm smile. The New Covenant is all about the redeeming work of Jesus in saving mankind. The reason Jesus gets the glory is because Jesus does it all!
To rest in the Spirit is anything but a cliche’. It is a bold act of faith. When life crashes down around us and we feel the need to act or react, resting in the Spirit and placing all of our trust in him is one of the challenges of this life. Cliche’? Not a chance.