Rest for Your Soul

Thursday, April 27, 2023

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus promised “rest for your souls” (NKJV).

Jesus was not speaking to those who were tired and weary from an exhausting week of working, parenting, and trying their best to make it to the weekend. Nor was Jesus merely offering refreshment and peace.

Though you can certainly apply His statement to physical and emotional exhaustion, Jesus was speaking about the heavy burden of the law and living for God in the power of the soul.

Speaking to a Jewish audience saddled with 613 commandments in the Torah, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He continued, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:29-30).

Jesus offered the Jews of His day—and Christians today—deliverance from living for God, imbedded into the soul of every person through the tree of knowledge.

For centuries, the law of Moses weighed upon the shoulders of the Israelites, burdening them with external commandments impossible to fully obey. Most Israelites were emotionally and mentally scarred by guilt, shame, and condemnation.

They could never do enough to be accepted by God, be holy, or please Him. Their consciences were haunted by the righteous and holy requirements of the law. They were ever striving, in self-effort, to do good and avoid evil.

But Jesus offered them—and by implication us—rest for the soul.

What Is Rest for the Soul?

Rest for the soul means no longer living for God through self-effort in the power of the soul but living from God by relational dependence upon Him.

In essence, Jesus invited you to change the life source from which you live. To exchange living by self-life in the soul for living by His indwelling life in your spirit.

In these three verses (Matt. 11:28-30), Jesus flipped over the tables of old-covenant living, inviting you into a radically different life. Jesus offers you a choice. You can continue living from the tree of knowledge by trying to do good and avoid evil. Watchman Nee referred to this as living by the principle of right and wrong. Or you can live from Him as the tree of life by relational dependence upon the indwelling Spirit.

You can now come to Jesus and experience a deeply personal relationship with Him. Jesus invites you to walk with Him day by day, moment by moment, through your spirit-to-Spirit union with Him.

Knowing Jesus intimately yokes you together with a Person rather than tablets of stone.

A Deeper Obedience

Jesus inaugurated a new era—one of love-based obedience from the spirit by the power of the indwelling Spirit. Those who follow this principle of life will keep the requirements of the moral law, fully obeying God’s righteous standards from the heart (see Rom. 8:4).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His disciples that your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). Many scholars believe that the righteousness that surpasses the scribes and Pharisees refers to internal righteousness—obeying God’s commandments from the heart in thought, motive, and deed.

The era of obedience defined by knowledge accumulation, behavior modification, external compliance, and bodily restraint ended at the cross. Jesus inaugurated a new way of obedience—centered upon an internal, life-based, dependency upon Him through your relationship with the indwelling Spirit.

Obedience under grace is concerned with how you obey—internally not just externally. And the depth at which you obey—from the heart in thought, motive, and deed.

By the Holy Spirit coming to reside within you, you can now experience a relationship with Christ, leading to affection-based obedience in the power of God’s unearned, unmerited enabling grace. Now, as He lives in you and through you, you can obey what only Jesus could ever obey.

Taking On Jesus’ Yoke

For those unfamiliar with a yoke, it was a wooden bar which fastened together two animals, such as oxen, for working together and thus increasing the productivity of the labor. It was heavy and associated with hard work.

Unlike the harsh and heavy yoke of external commandments contained in the law, Jesus’ yoke “is easy” and His “burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). And like two oxen yoked together, taking on Jesus’ yoke places you next to Him, close enough to hear His whispers.

Being yoked to Jesus, therefore, refers to relational dependence upon Him, where you are so close to Him you can hear His gentle voice and sense the faintest pulse of His heart.

Contrary to the harsh and heavy burden of external commandments, where you give it your best teeth-gritting self-effort to live holy and to be accepted by God, Jesus offers you His yoke.

Now, you no longer have to live for God in your own strength. Christ can live in you and through you. The external has been replaced by the internal. You can now live by an experiential and deeply personal relationship with Him.

Being yoked to Jesus is a metaphor, alluding to your spirit-to-Spirit union with Him through the indwelling Spirit. This lifestyle begins when you come to Him in you—in your spirit where you are joined to Him spirit to Spirit. Here, in the holy of holies of the new temple, you come to Him and you “learn from” Him (Matt. 11:29). Or as the KJV translates this, you learn of Him.

Being yoked to Jesus is a new way to live. It’s a new lifestyle of internal, life-based, relational dependence upon Him. This is living from the tree of life.

A New Life of Relational Dependence

Are you tired of always trying to perform for God?

Are you weary from striving in your own strength to meticulously keep every commandment, struggling to be good and do good?

Are you exhausted from all your effort to do right and avoid wrong based upon what you know?

Do you always feel like you must do more for God to like you, love you, and accept you?

If so, then I have good news for you. You can take the harsh and heavy yoke of performance-based Christianity off your shoulders. You can come to Jesus with no agenda, no plans, no prayer list . . . nothing but yourself. And you can experience a deeply personal, experiential relationship with Him through the indwelling Spirit.

You don’t come to Him in heaven. You come to Him where He now dwells on earth—in His earthly temple. You come to Him in the holy of holies of your spirit. You now have access to Christ internally, where you can commune with Him all day every day.

When you come to Him—not to gain head knowledge that enlarges your brain but to receive revelation knowledge that enlarges your heart—you will come to know Him as He is truly is.

Christ Himself, through the indwelling Spirit, will teach you about Himself. He will reveal Himself to you. The indwelling Spirit will bring you into what T. A. Sparks called “the school of Christ,” where the Spirit unveils the true Jesus to you—not the imposter preached in many churches today.

In the school of Christ, you will see Him, know Him, and gain a true and precise knowledge of Him through relational experience (see Eph. 1:17-18). You will become thoroughly acquainted with Him and realize how meek and humble He is.

Jesus is the ultimate servant who enjoys serving you—not just being served by you.

When you take this yoke of intimacy with Christ upon you, your burden will be easy and light. And you will enter into God’s rest. You will find rest for your soul. Meaning you will no longer live from self-life in your soul, but you will live from Christ’s indwelling life in your spirit.

You will experience deliverance from the tree of knowledge and will live instead by the tree of life. You will live from God rather than for God. And you will be empowered to obey all of Jesus’ commandments.

Come to Him in you and experience this new way of living. Come to Him in you and experience the relational dependence of living by Christ’s indwelling life.

To learn more, check out my message called Living for God or Living from God? or read chapter 14 from my book Indwelling Life.

Bryan Kessler