I acknowledge that what I have heard and what I was taught may be two different things. But, for whatever reason, whether it is because I am a poor learner, or because it was never taught to me properly, I have misunderstood this verse during my entire Christian experience.
What I have always heard when I read this verse was an injunction to try harder. I always felt that I needed to work harder at being holy and blameless. I felt as if my sanctification is all up to me and my efforts at being holy.
The end result of this thinking is either unwarranted pride or total despair. If I live in denial of how messed up I really am and maintain a weak standard of holiness, I could end up being prideful of my religious rigor. Or, if I have a proper sense of the holiness of God and how far short I fall from it, even as a believer, then I would end up in paralyzing despair.
From 2 Corinthians 5:21 I know that it is not up to me to become holy. I have already been declared holy through the work of Jesus Christ. This knowledge does not give me liberty to violate Biblical principles, but it does give me hope that when I do violate the principles, God does not write me off as a failure.
The fact that it is not all up to me, allows me to be gracious to myself and others. Yes, I mess up, not because I want to or am careless, but because I am a mess. Jesus has much work to do in me, but I can see that he has brought me a long way from where he started with me.
The main point is that I don’t have to strive to achieve holiness; it is something that has already been granted to me. I don’t have to work to get holiness; I already have it by being in Christ. I had been working to get something that I already have.
So, can I rest now?