Summary: A positive view of the Sabbath, as God's gift to us. It is a) a time to relax, b) a time to worship, and c) a taste of heaven. A balanced view, with a unique perspective on c).
(Children’s Sermon: Show a car Maintenance Schedule. Just as a car needs maintenance, we do too. We do that at church, and other times…)
Which of the 10 commandments is optional? For many Americans, all of them! You can hardly go through a day without hearing Lord’s name misused. Lying, stealing (cheating on taxes), adultery (pornography or flirtation)—as long as it doesn’t get too bad, is accepted. And coveting—coveting keeps the economy humming along.
Most Christians would not routinely steal, lie, murder, commit adultery, or use profanity—at least without feeling guilty and trying to improve their performance! But when we come to the fourth commandment…
Read Exodus 20:8-11. Is keeping the Sabbath optional?
The Jewish Sabbath was from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Christians worshipped on a different day, Sunday, because it was the day of Christ’s resurrection. Since many Christians were slaves, they had to work all day Saturday and Sunday, and they worshipped on Sunday evening. How would Christians keep the Sabbath?
By the fourth century, Christianity had taken root in the Roman Empire, and there was a law against working on Sunday. By the ninth century, Sunday was called the “Lord’s Day,” a sort of Christian Sabbath. The Westminster Confession of 1648, the Presbyterian confession which influenced the Puritans, said of Sunday, “This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up THE WHOLE TIME in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.”
Did they get it right? I grew up in a home that was not quite that strict, although we spent a lot of time at church on Sundays. We couldn’t do homework, and we didn’t shop. Sunday afternoons were sometimes boring, but I read a lot of books, and our family loved to play cards or other games together. It may have been legalistic, but a break from normal activities had its benefits. Should that be the standard for Christians?
Jesus affirmed God’s law, but he was not legalistic about the Sabbath. Jewish leaders were upset when his disciples picked grain as they walked through a field, and when he healed on the Sabbath. His response was, “The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
Are we, then, obligated to observe the Sabbath? A related question is whether we, as followers of Christ, are obligated to obey ANY of the commandments. If we are wondering whether we can rebel against what God says, the Apostle Paul is quite clear in Romans 6:14, “Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? No way!” We are not UNDER LAW. Our obedience is not to a list of rules, but to the will of God for us. In other words, we don’t ask, “What does the law require of me?” but rather, “What does God want for me?” The Ten Commandments help us determine what God wants for us, of course, and as followers of Christ, we are also guided by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 7:6, “We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”
We don’t keep the Sabbath as a legalistic requirement; we keep the Sabbath as the Holy Spirit leads us. At the same time, we take very seriously God’s commandment to observe the Sabbath, because we trust him to have our best interests at heart.
HOW DO WE KEEP the SABBATH HOLY? How can we implement the principle and practice of Sabbath into our lives today?
1. Set aside a regular time to relax from the pressures of everyday life. (Does that sound good to you?)
God built into his creation a rhythm of rest. Exodus 20:11 says, “In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
Did God need rest? Hardly. But we do! At the very beginning of the Scriptures, God gave people a maintenance schedule. (Preacher: If you didn’t do the suggested Children’s Sermon, you might want to work it in now.)
I was once a pastor in a small town where the main employer manufactured parts for trucks and cars. The business was cyclical, and to avoid hiring too many employees the plant went through extended periods of mandatory, 70-hour-a-week overtime. People who worked at the plant told me that when 7-day-a-week overtime lasted for more than a few months, there was more scrap and more accidents at work. Marriages also suffered; stressed employees would not go home after work, as might be expected, but to the bar.