The Gift of Rest, Part 2

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” – Psalm 23:1-2

As the Good Shepherd gives His precious flock the good gift of rest, we know and have confidence in the safety we have in Him under His wings. Jesus also provides other helpful conditions in which His sheep find rest. One of those is peace and harmony within the fold. As the Shepherd quiets His flock’s fears so they can lie down and rest through the giving of Himself, in like fashion the Good Shepherd deals with our sinful passions, providing and maintaining harmony in the flock through His constant pastoral watch and consistent pastoral care by the sanctifying work of His Spirit in and among us.

We are given a beautiful picture of Christ’s pastoral care in Isaiah 40:11, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” Indeed, Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, is the loving overseer of our souls. He gathers us, especially when we go astray. He carries us close and gently leads us. He is very concerned for His own and looks after us to preserve our souls. As our Heavenly Father knows every hair on our head (Matthew 10:30), so, too, the Son’s gaze is always upon us. In fact, Jesus is concerned with the smallest details of our lives.

Knowing the details, Christ knows that His sinful sheep, though often fearful of what and who is on the outside, can easily turn, nip and bite each other inside the fold. He knows that if left to ourselves, we will devour one another. When harmony is absent, so is rest. Addressing the issue and what underlies it, James asks and answers an important question – “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3). Indeed, pride brings strife! Therefore, the Gospel salve of Christ is brought to bear as Jesus lovingly, wisely, and justly responds, instructs, and leads us in the way that is counter our flesh, in the way and from a heart in which Spirit-wrought grace brings illumination, change, love, and obedience.

Our Shepherd gives us this call ­– “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). He calls us, through the Apostle Paul, to unity of mind and walk in loving humility – “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:1-4). Humility shapes both our esteem for and our looking out for one another. 

It’s with this same mind that we are called to welcome and receive each other. Paul taught the saints in Rome, “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:5-7). See how v. 7 is really “boots on the ground” instruction, considering the like-minded unity divinely granted to us. Whereas in Romans 14, Paul charged the strong to receive the weak, here the weak are to receive the strong. There needs to be a mutual reception and embracing of one another in the body, as Christ has received us. We’re all to have communion and patience with and brotherly love towards one another.  Our practice needs to follow Christ’s pattern of great love towards and forbearing with us ­– all for the pinnacle purpose of God receiving all the glory!

Beloved, the unity of mind and walk in loving humility requires both intention and maintenance with every member in every congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rightly receiving one another does as well. This is why we need regular self examination, daily repentance and turning from sin unto Christ, and a commitment to ongoing fellowship with one another through thick and thin. As we walk in this way, we know and experience the fruit of peace and harmony to be another wonderful condition that Jesus has prescribed in His gift of rest. By His grace, may we daily seek and pursue it together!