When I was a boy, my Dad used to turn off my bedroom lights, tuck me in, and pray with me. I remember his sweet, comforting words that my little heart clung to like lifesavers on an emotional lake of uncertainty. He’d say he loved me, walk to the door, smile, and whisper these profound words:
“Rest in Jesus. Goodnight.”
They have changed the way I understand the gospel.
The Gospel We Tell
If someone asked if you can explain the gospel, my guess is you’d be pretty sure you would get it right. And you probably would say it well. But I bet there’s one part you wouldn’t mention. So I’m going to ante up, put my biblical cards on the table, and go all in on the part of the gospel I think might be forgotten.
I’m talking about rest.
The Gospel No One Teaches in Sunday School:
1. God’s Rest
The gospel starts with God.
Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” Isaiah 66.1
What a strange thing for God to say. Most of us have heard this verse so many times it stops the shock we should feel at God implying he wants to chill out and kick around a bit. Yet, that’s exactly what an omnipotent God with limitless energy did directly after we were created, setting up our story.
2. Man’s Rest at Creation
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2.3
This seventh day, as Watchman Nee points out, was man’s first day, since he was created on the sixth: it was the day God invited man into his story. Our story, and the gospel, starts with rest.
But this goes deeper than creation and how God spends his day off. The Bible depicts it cutting to the heart of every part of the gospel. Look at what the punishment from God was for the Israelites’ sin:
They shall not enter into my rest. Hebrews 3.11
The people who doubted God never entered the promised land; they circled for forty years in the wilderness. Only the next generation that believed would receive it.
Yet, it goes even deeper. Have you noticed what the Bible says about hell — the eternal place of punishment for sin?
And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image. Revelation 14.11
Hell is a place of no rest? Where is God going with this?
But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” Isaiah 57.20-21
5. A Savior
The plot races to the climax. There is an answer to the world’s problem of sin. A Savior. And you will be blown away by what the Bible, not some Fool blogger who reads it, but what the Word of God says about him.
Behold, a son shall be born to you who is a man of rest… 1 Chronicles 22.9
This is written about Solomon as a prefigure of Christ. Solomon represents the Kingdom of rest that will come to God’s people after the days of war under King David (the old covenant), foreshadowing Jesus coming as our peace. So, much more than about Solomon, this is written about Jesus. Man of power? Man of heroism? Exciting manifestation? No, simply… rest. Everything else comes with it, but the gospel is much simpler than we’ve made it. To life’s greatest questions, our soul-torn struggles, our most pressing fears, our sin-filled suffering, Jesus offers rest.
Rest in Christ. Like a perfect, ironic bedtime prayer, that is the gospel.
Rest in Jesus. That is the gospel.
Ever wonder why Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath? It isn’t some weird Christian Scrabble word entry. Jesus is Lord of the Rest.
And here is the gospel:
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” Isaiah 30:5
Rest was there all along in our Bibles, often left out because we don’t understand its implications. Yet, if this is what the gospel is all about, think of its impact on your life.
It is intimately tied to you becoming more like Christ in your relationship with him:
Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. Psalm 94.12-13
It’s not a side note or an extra bonus. This is God’s goal.
And here is the best part. The rest God has for you is intimacy with God. Remember Jesus honoring Mary for sitting at his feet instead of getting caught up in the work like Martha? The gospel is, refreshingly, found at this place, even in the Old Testament:
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33.14
God bought rest for you in Christ. It’s essential to every part of the gospel, and when you understand it, it will change your life.
This is what the Bible says will happen,
And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. Isaiah 32.17
Are you ready for this gospel? Not religiosity, hype, duty, or show. What life with Christ is really all about is — “in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength….”
This gospel is the incredible news for everyone who carries guilt, emotional scars, stress, concerns, or doubt. It isn’t yours. Worthiness isn’t achieved through determination, hobbling and thrashing every inch to the finish line to win your prize. The prize is rest.
It’s handed in a cross-shaped box with a tomb-shaped opening. The whole gospel fits inside. And the story invites you to curl up next to God as he turns out the bedroom lights on your sin condition, tucks you in, and quietly affirms how he loves you before whispering the best of what life with him has to offer: not self-assured spiritual perfectionism, but rest.
Rest in Jesus.