Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 4

 The Fourth Commandment
The Sabbath- how quaint. 

In our 100 miles per hour world, in which we have more “time saving” gadgets than ever before -but seem to still be busier than ever before- the idea of a Sabbath sounds so 1950s. I mean, who has time to rest, sit down, sleep, etc? As we continue our series on the importance of the Ten Commandments for the believer today, I think we’re going to find that the Sabbath is just as much a part of the moral law of God as not murdering or taking the Lord’s name in vain. Exodus 20:8-11 reads. 

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant,
or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea,
and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.
Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (ESV).

                  Oftentimes, reading this passage evokes thoughts of scenes from The Fiddler on the Roof, a Hollywood-ized version of the Jewish Sabbath, shown with all of its seriousness and reverence. But in the real world, and in the real church, what do we do with a command to in essence “stop and smell the roses” for one day a week?

                  First, we need to understand that God commands us to rest. We need to understand that there is a very practical side to God’s command that Israel keep a Sabbath. He set a precedent for it in Genesis, when He created the world. For six days, God created, and on the seventh He rested. This became the model for us (God really didn’t need a break). See, the human body breaks down when it is overworked and overstressed. The tendency today is to go full speed seven days a week. As a result of this, certain occupations are experiencing burnout at a rapid rate. The human body needs a break, and that means stopping, resting, spending time with God and family, and setting aside the normal stresses of daily life. The Sabbath was given as a time of recuperation, recovery, and revitalization for man, and it is commanded, so to not take a Sabbath is to disobey a law that comes from the moral nature of God!

                  Second, we need to be cautious about not getting wrapped up in debating over which day we are to take as our Sabbath. In the Old Testament, Saturday was set aside as the Sabbath, and it was a day of rest and worship dedicated to God. As we move into the New Testament and the church age, we see the Sabbath (now becoming known as “The Lord’s Day”) being moved to the first day of the week (or the eighth day as it was called by some of the early church fathers), or Sunday. This transition took place because of the significance given to Sunday as the day that Jesus rose from the dead, among various other things. Scripture refers to the church holding Sunday as their significant day at various points (Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16, Rev. 1:10). The early church recognized this as a day to gather with other believers, worship, and rest from the labors of the week. It truly was a day dedicated to God.

                  Third, we need to renew our commitment to keeping a Sabbath in obedience to God’s command. Unfortunately, Christians often get so wrapped up in the whens and wherefores of the Sabbath that they forget to think about why God gave us the Sabbath and why it is so urgently needed today. At the end of the day, we can come up all kinds of excuses as to why we cannot set aside Sunday as a day to worship, honor God, and rest for the week to come: 
  •       Some say, "It's the only time we get to spend as a family". There are two major reasons why this is not valid. First, there is no better place than church to spend time with the family. Second, if Sunday morning and evening are the only times you have to set aside for your family, you need to reorder your priorities. Your family should be more important to you than that. 

  •       The fact is, we could list dozens of excuses for not resting and worshiping on the Lord’s Day, but at the end of the day they all fall flat. It is past time for Christians to take back the Sabbath, find rest, and honor God with that day!
  •        At the end of the day, we are only given a limited amount of time. We get 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week. What we do with that time, contrary to popular opinion, WILL affect all eternity! Rather than the rat race that we so often find ourselves in, it is time for Christians to treat the Lord’s Day as a chance to STOP, LOOK AWAY from all of the things of this earth, GAIN spiritual perspective from focusing on God, and REALIZE that His purposes are more important than the lesser things with which we fill our days. When this happens, believers will start to bring sanity and godliness back into the management of their lives. J.C. Penney once said, “If a man’s business requires so much of his time that he cannot attend the Sunday morning and evening services, and Wednesday night prayer meeting, then that man has more business than God intended him to have.” This from a man who still had time to build one of the world’s largest department store chains while maintaining a faithful respect for the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s House.[1] One has to wonder if more Christians would experience the blessing of God in their lives if they made a commitment to giving God first place in their lives regardless of what they thought it might cost them!
                  Fourth, keeping the Sabbath shows the world our faith. When believers make the hard commitment to keep a Sabbath by spending time in the Lord’s house and taking time to rest as a family, it shows their friends and neighbors the great emphasis that they place on honoring their Lord. It shows that they are serious about their faith and the Master that they serve. Think about it. When our neighbors see us Sunday after Sunday getting up early, getting ready, and going to church as a family, it says something to them that sleeping in every Sunday or jumping at the chance to work on that day does not. While there are some jobs that must be done every day, even Sunday (police, nursing, firefighters, etc), we should make taking a Sabbath a priority as much as is humanly possible.

                  Finally, keeping the Sabbath brings the joy of obedience and fellowship to the home of the believer. This is the best reason of all! When believers set aside Sunday as a special day to worship and rest, they are spending time in the Scriptures, prayer, and in fellowship with God’s people. They are also spending time obeying our Lord’s moral Law. This is an avenue of great blessing in the lives of God’s people, and one that we should be taking advantage of! In reality, those who refuse to take the Sabbath seriously are not “getting ahead,” but are living in disobedience to their God, and are pushing their bodies and families in ways they were not designed to endure! May God give us strength and grace to obey His command and take back the Sabbath as a day truly dedicated to Him and the pattern that He created us to follow!

[1] Material from this previous paragraph taken from D. James Kennedy’s book, Why the Ten Commandments Matter, p. 79-80.

I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: pastorbrian@hughes.net. God Bless!!!

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