Entering Into Rest – The Beauty of the Second Membership Vow

May 14, 2015 5:38 pm

 

rest_here

 

“I’ve got this.”

Those words were a huge relief one evening when a group of people I was working with were due to appear before the city council on a major building project. We were all pretty nervous about the outcome, and more than a little uncertain about whether anything we’d prepared to say would help or hinder our case. In the end our colleague was exactly correct: we could leave behind all the anxieties about our performance because his arguments and ability won the day. We never had to say a word.

The second membership vow, like the first, has to do with the Gospel and addresses the issue the first vow raises, namely our fallenness. In that first vow we confess that we really are broken, sinful, condemned people and apart from God’s mercy would have no hope of any change in that status. The second vow takes looks at that very ‘negative’ truth and responds with an incredibly ‘positive’ affirmation. If in the first vow we acknowledge our great need of the Savior because of our fallenness and sin, with the second vow we acknowledge our great trust in the Savior because of his perfect holiness and love. This is highlighted by three very beautiful words in the vow, ‘believe’, ‘receive’ and ‘rest’.

Here’s the second vow’s question:

Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?

When we say “I do” to this question we affirm that we believe not only in our need for a Savior but that God has provided that Savior in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.

“Believe” is a loaded word though. We sometimes use ‘believe’ to mean that we hold an observation to be authentic and truthful, as in “I believe that fans of the University of Texas wear burnt orange colored shirts to football games”. Sometimes we mean that we accept an historical claim as accurate, as in “Yes, I believe Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2015.” On other occasions we use ‘believe’ in reference to a more abstract philosophical or religious proposition, as in ‘I believe all people are created equal.’ Finally we might use the word in reference to ‘trust’, as in “I believe the doctor’s diagnosis is correct so I’m having the surgery.”

So when a Christian says “I believe in Jesus”, what does he or she mean by this statement? Do they mean that they believe Jesus Christ is the person the Church teaches to be the Savior? Do they mean that they believe Jesus was a real person, historically here, born of Mary, dying, and in between those two events living in such a way that he gathered many followers who claimed he was Israel’s Messiah? Or do they mean that Jesus words were true, and that the words of his followers about him, namely that he rose from the dead and by his death defeated death and forgave sins, are accurate and trustworthy? Well, yes. All of that. But Christians mean more than this as well.

Christian faith, considered at a personal level, certainly includes propositional truths and historical claims, but it also means adherence to and trust in the person of Christ. To ‘believe in’ is not simply to ‘believe about’, but to ‘trust in’, and that means to place the whole weight of one’s existence and destiny in the hands of another, in this case, Jesus Christ.

There is even more, however, and that’s where the little word ‘rest’ comes in. To be at ‘rest’ in this context means that we trust completely and exclusively in Jesus life and death on our behalf. Christ lived the life I was called to live but didn’t; he died the death that should’ve been mine but wasn’t. I can’t add to what he did and I can’t take away from what he did: in his own words, “It is finished” (John 19). Since my standing with God is founded on what he did, and not in any way on anything I have done or could ever do, then all that is left to me in regard to my standing with God is to be at rest. I am at peace because all that must be done to secure my friendship with God has already been done. When I hear the minister announce the promise of the Gospel that Jesus Christ is my Savior and has done all that is necessary to reconcile fallen and broken people to God, my heart rejoices in that news and rests in that assurance. Christian Faith does not begin with a loud and threatening ‘Do!’, but with a resounding and joyful ‘Done!’

Paul put it this way: “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).  The past tense act of complete justification (“having been justified”) leads to the present tense experience of joyful rest (“we have peace”).

There is a wonderful hymn we sing that captures the beauty of this life-transforming Gospel truth.

Chorus: Jesus I am resting, resting

In the joy of what Thou art

I am finding out the greatness

Of Thy loving heart

 

Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee

And Thy beauty fills my soul

For by Thy transforming power

Thou hast made me whole

 

Jesus I am resting, resting

In the joy of what Thou art

I am finding out the greatness

Of Thy loving heart

 

How great Thy loving kindness

Vaster, broader than the sea

How marvelous Thy goodness

Lavished all on me

 

Yes, I rest in Thee beloved

Know what wealth of grace is Thine

Know Thy certainty of promise

And hath made it mine
When we say “I do” to this second covenant vow of membership we are confessing we’ve heard Jesus say to our hearts, “I’ve got this.” What a great cause for joy and peace! Being loved so tenderly, so beautifully, so sacrificially, and so completely leads us to a life of gratitude and deep, lasting contentment in the One who is our Beloved Redeemer.

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