An essential aspect of Christian rest is rest from sinning. We’re able to be victorious over the task master of sin (the “sin nature”) through the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In Romans 7:14–20, Paul describes his life before being filled with the Holy Spirit. The life he describes is one of struggle, frustration, and defeat because no matter how hard he tries, he just cannot stop sinning. Like everyone, Paul was born with a sin nature. He calls this being “enslaved to sin.” The experience is comparable to slavery in the sense that he isn’t his own master. It was like someone was forcing him to do something that he didn’t want to. No matter how tired, frustrated, or exhausted Paul was from doing what he didn’t want to do, the task master just keeps cracking the whip. This is a human struggle.
Thankfully, as we turn the page to Romans chapter 8, Paul gives us the solution to this struggle: the Holy Spirit. Rest from the slave master of sin and sinning comes with the sustaining and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit not only convicts the world of sin (John 16:8), but also helps believers to overcome that sin and thereby enter into rest.
Jesus describes this dynamic a different way. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit…” (John 7:38). What’s Jesus taking about?
God made us to thirst for righteousness. He made us with an innate desire to please him as our Creator. This is just like kids who have an innate desire to please their parents. Because of our sin nature, however, that thirst can never be quenched. No matter how hard we try, we always fail, even if we don’t want to fail.
Jesus is saying that this thirst can be quenched with the help of the Holy Spirit. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can actually do that which pleases God! When this happens, we can finally rest from the slave master of sin. The slave master can yell at us, scream at us, and even beat us, but because of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to say, “No!”.
This is one of the most essential aspects of rest in the Christina life—rest from sinning and the troublesome burden of the sin nature.
Paul says in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1–2).”
He also says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (Rom. 8:15–16).
He brings this wonderful segment of scripture to a climax with this:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37–39).
Have you entered this rest? Are you filled with the liberating, sustaining, empowering, and comforting presence of the Holy Spirit? If not, I give you Jesus’s words: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30).