Turning Toward RestMay 31, 2023
Blog by Alan Fadling
Repentance is receptivity to the refining work of Jesus (Matthew 3:11-12). John the Baptist said that Jesus came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Through our repentance, Jesus can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In his Gospel account, Mark summarizes the message of Jesus:
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
Jesus puts it simply: “The time is now. God’s kingdom is near. Repent. Believe in this good news.” The time is now and the kingdom is near because Jesus came into the world at a specific time and in a specific place. The kingdom is near in him. The good news is personal in him. Repentance is turning to face Jesus. Repentance is turning back to communion with God in Christ.
Jesus is close to us and we are close to him when we are following him and heeding his counsel, abiding in him in loving and humble obedience, and resisting impulses that take us away from him in empty activity. This is the spirit of his invitation to repent. It is both a turning away and a turning toward. It’s not just a matter of morality but of loving allegiance to Jesus.
The good news for us today is that God’s good reign is near us in Jesus. We can allow the good, pleasing, and perfect reign of God to hold sway in our lives now. There is no better life for us than this. The unbridled impulses and desires that reign in so many people’s lives don’t lead to real goodness. The reign of God in our lives enriches and blesses us. The reign of unholy impulses and desires drains and damages us. The way of Jesus’ reign in our lives really is good news. (See A Year of Slowing Down, Day 200)
Repentance is a continual posture of welcoming the many ways that Jesus wishes to transform us by the renewing of our minds, by the simplifying of our hearts to rest at home in him. Repentance doesn’t so much transform us as it puts us in the place where we can be transformed by the mighty hand of God in Christ.
And one of the beautiful fruits of repentance is peace. I’ve found a lot of help in this way in Psalm 116. Read these lines slowly and let them sink in:
Gracious is the Lord and righteous;
indeed, our God is full of compassion.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was in misery, and he helped me.
Turn again to your rest, O my soul,
for the Lord has rewarded you.
(Ps. 116:5-7 BCP 2019)
“Turn again to your rest, O my soul.” Repentance is a return to rest.
- We turn to a gracious, righteous Lord.
- We turn to a God full of compassion.
- We turn to a God who preserves the simple.
- We turn to a God who helps us in our misery.
- We turn to the God who himself is our rest and our reward.
The same prophet Isaiah who foretold the message and ministry of John the Baptist reminds us of this reality:
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.” (Isa. 30:15)
Repentance enables us to find ourselves at home in rest, quietness, and trust.
Let’s allow the Spirit of God into which Jesus has baptized us to continue guiding us away from everything that drains us of life and toward all that would root us deeper into the abundant life we find in him.
In what ways do you see rest as a fruit of repentance? What restlessness in your life so far has repentance helped you overcome?