“Remember the Sabbath”
Series: I Love Sundays (2/5)
Words in Black: Todd
Words in Red: Rich
Words in Blue: Matt
Take your Bibles and join us this morning in Exodus, chapter 20 (page 52; YouVersion).
Earlier Shelby read from this chapter, chapter 20, where we find the 10 Commandments. Shelby read our text this morning, verses 8-11 where we read of the fourth commandment.
Remember that the 10 Commandments were not given as a way to gain acceptance before God, but rather were given to God’s people as a way for them to live out their lives as His children.
Some say the 4th commandment no longer applies. And strictly speaking, you won’t find in the New Testament a teaching that says something like, “Continue to observe the Sabbath exactly as God’s people did in the Old Testament, namely resting from your labors on the seventh day of the week—Saturday—and gathering together in the Jewish Temple for the express purpose of worshiping the One True God.”
You won’t find that kind of statement in the New Testament and there’s a good reason for that.
While Sabbath was observed by Old Testament believers on the seventh day, Saturday, something happened 2,000 years ago that caused scores of Jews to change their Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday. What was that incredible historic event that caused God’s people to change their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday? It was none other than the resurrection, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on Sunday.
Remember the women at the tomb Friday evening? They saw where Christ’s body was placed in the tomb and the Bible says at the end of Luke’s Gospel, chapter 23, Luke 23:56:
“Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment (according to the 4th Commandment).”
They rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. And that’s the last time we read in the New Testament that followers of Christ observed the Sabbath rest on Saturday strictly as a matter of adherence to the 4th Commandment.
After that first Easter morning, Christians began gathering together for public worship on the first day of the week, on Sunday. For example we read in the New Testament:
Acts 20:7, Luke writes, “Now on the first day of the week…the disciples came together to break bread,”
1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul writes, “On the first day of the week let each of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper,”
We are no longer bound to keep the Sabbath on Saturday as was the practice of Old Testament believers. We gather together now on Sunday, gathering together on the first day of the week, the day our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
And so we want to talk to you about this special day of worship and how the 4th commandment of Sabbath rest continues to bless us today.
So we’re going to be doing some team preaching again today. We enjoy doing this from time to time, team preaching. So you’ve got preacher #1 and (gesturing to Rich) preacher #2—(Matt rises from front pew.)
Actually, Brother Todd, I am preacher #2 this morning. (Matt begins to move into Rich’s position).
Actually, Matt, today you are preacher #3 (Rich moves to middle and Matt takes seat at far right).
Well, the Bible says in Ecclesiastes that two are better than one and three are even better; a three-fold cord is not easily broken.
So the three of us want to share with you today what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath Day. First, the Bible teaches that:
1) It’s a Day to Remember (8)
God says in verse 8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
If God commands us to remember the Sabbath, then we know the Sabbath may be something we’re in danger of forgetting. And we have noted a gradual decline in our country concerning the holiness of this special day and the place of prominence it once held in our culture.
Someone said, “Our great-grandfathers used to call it the “Holy Sabbath.” Our grandfathers just called it the “Sabbath.” Our fathers called it “Sunday.” We call it the “Weekend” and it’s getting “weaker” all the time.”—(Jerry Vines).
Adrian Rogers used to say that many people go to church just three times in their entire lives: At their christening, at their marriage, and at their funeral. When they’re “hatched,” “matched,” and “dispatched.” The first time you through water on them, the second time you through rice on them, and the third time you throw dirt on them.
We all have a tendency to fall away from worshiping the One True God on this special day and for this reason God says, “Remember the Sabbath.” Don’t forget it. Remember the importance of it. It’s a special day of the week. Prepare for it. Look forward to it. It’s a day to remember.
Secondly, this passage teaches that the Sabbath is a day of rest.
2) It’s a Day of Rest (9-11a)
Look at verses 9 and following.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
The very word “Sabbath” conveys the idea of rest, but the rest here in the 4th Commandment is not to be understood as inactivity. The “rest” of the 4th Commandment is not some sort of lazy, sitting around and sleeping all day kind of rest.
The text says in verse 11, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
So here’s a question: When God rested, was God no longer active? Was God’s rest inactivity? Of course not! God continually sustains His creation. He never sleeps. He never gets tired. Isaiah 40:28 says, “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.” God simply ceased what He was doing, namely creating, and then hallowed (or set apart) this seventh day as a special day unto Himself.
So the kind of rest conveyed here in the 4th Commandment is not an aimless rest, but a God-centered rest. We cease from what we normally do in six days, that we may remember this hallowed seventh day as a special day unto the Lord. It is “The Lord’s Day.”
The “rest” of the 4th Commandment is a rest from labor and a rest to God. Again, the 4th Commandment calls for a rest from our usual daily activity and a rest to God. It is a day that is hallowed, sanctified, set apart for special observance unto the Lord.
This is even clearer when the 10 Commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy 5:12, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The abiding principle of the Lord’s Day is a rest from that which we normally do that we may bring a greater focus upon worshiping the one True God, the One who has made Himself known to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. So it is a day of worship, corporate public worship as the church gathers together, as well as private, personal worship throughout the day.
We normally work each day, but on the Lord’s Day we pause from our regular work obligations, which implies our trusting that the Lord will meet all of our needs, including our financial needs.
Now, we don’t want to get into hairsplitting about who can work and who cannot work on the Lord’s Day. It is always helpful to understand that works of necessity and works of mercy are certainly permissible on the Lord’s Day. This is what Jesus continually taught when He found Himself having to straighten out the Pharisees who had made a hangman’s noose of the Sabbath. They had drafted so many laws about what could not be done on the Sabbath, like the one that said a person could not even save a drowning man on the Sabbath because that would be considered “work.”
Works of necessity include paramedics, firefighters, and policemen. Works of mercy include visiting a shut-in, working as a nurse, preaching the Gospel, and so forth. We are not to get hung up on whether this is permissible or this is not permissible. Jesus taught in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
This is a day for you to enjoy, a day of complete reflection upon God and dedication to God and worship of God. 1 John 5:3 says that God’s commands are not burdensome!
So you may rob yourself of the joy of worship if you block off Sunday as a day merely to earn more money, voluntarily working so you can earn “time and a half.” You may well rob yourself of the joy of worship if you go about doing those things you normally do on every other day of the week.
Sunday is intended to be a rest from our regular labors and a rest to the Lord God. Just as God worked six days and then stopped what He was doing to say, “It is very good,” so should we stop from what we normally do in six days, to spend one day in seven to say to God, “It is very good!”
The Bible teaches that the Sabbath is a day to remember and a day of rest. Thirdly, and finally, the Sabbath is a day for reverence.
3) It’s a Day for Reverence (11b)
Very last part of verse 11:
11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
That word “hallow” there at the end of verse 11 is a word that conveys holiness. Literally it means, “Set apart as holy.” The Sabbath day was to be a day fully consecrated and set apart as a special day of holiness unto the Lord.
Do Christians today think of this day as a special day of holiness, a day set apart unto the Lord? Our culture certainly has changed over the years with its growing focus upon sports, leisure, and recreation.
When we hear or read about how the Sabbath used to be observed in our country we can hardly believe it.
For example, Stonewall Jackson is a popular historical figure, the Confederate General during the American Civil War; probably the best known Confederate commander after General Robert E. Lee. While Jackson may have held some opinions we may not agree with, he had a strong and godly conviction about the Sabbath. Writing her husband’s biography Jackson’s widow says:
Certainly he was not less scrupulous in obeying the divine command to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” than he was in any other rule of his life. Since the Creator had set apart this day for his own, and commanded it to be kept holy, he believed that it was as wrong for him to desecrate it by worldly pleasure, idleness, or secular employment, as to break any other commandment of the Decalogue. Sunday was his busiest day of the week, as he always attended church twice a day and taught in two (Sunday) schools. He refrained as much as possible from all worldly conversation, and in his family, if secular topics were introduced, he would say with a kindly smile, “We will talk about that tomorrow.” He never traveled on Sunday, never took his mail from the post office, nor permitted a letter of his own to travel on that day, always before posting it calculating the time it required to reach its destination.—(Alistair Begg; sermon: “Holy Day or Holiday? Part One”).
I feel sure many of us today feel that this behavior is a bit odd. We may say that Jackson was overly concerned with laws, a bit too legalistic. But could it not also be argued that he was merely following the 4th commandment, remembering it, consecrating it as a special day of worship?
Conviction about the 4th commandment is what also stirred many of us who either read or saw the movie about Eric Lidell in “Chariots of Fire.”
Eric Liddell had a conviction about not running on a Sunday in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Remember the big race was to be held on a Sunday, The Lord’s Day. And he would not run. And there’s that scene in the movie where Liddell is being interrogated by British officials, including the Prince of Wales, all of them doing their very best to get Lidell to put aside his silly notions about the Lord’s Day. Lidell’s reply is moving. He says, “God made countries, God makes kings, and the rules by which they govern. And those rules say that the Sabbath is His. And I for one intend to keep it that way.”
You don’t say something like that unless you have a deep conviction about the Lord’s Day being a day of reverence.
And it is a day of reverence, not just a church activity, but a day of worship. The Lord’s Day is not something you do for an hour in a worship service. It is The Lord’s Day. How long is a day?
Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writing on this topic says, “In many of our churches, we are now following a logic that betrays the Lord’s Day by suggesting that if you will just come for this activity, you are then complete in terms of your responsibility for this day.” Just come to this activity. Just come Sunday morning to this service. Just attend this Bible study. Just do this thing and you are complete.
Mohler continues by reflecting on his own experience, growing up in a home of faithful Sabbath observance. He writes:
We were there for Sunday school in the morning, and then we were there for morning worship, and after morning worship, we shared a family meal, often with the larger family and extended family. And then, almost as quickly as we had left, we were back for Training Union and choir practice and evening worship, and after that fellowship with God’s people at the church. It was an all-consuming day—and I am so thankful for it. I do not know who I would be if not for being with God’s people on that day as much as I was, by God’s grace and mercy in my life.—Words from the Fire.
On this same topic a few years ago, Mohler wrote about the archbishop of New York, who created quite a stir when he spoke out against Little League games being played on Sunday. Mohler sided with the conviction of the archbishop and wrote, “The erosion of Sunday observance is the inevitable result of a decline of Christian conviction. A loss of faith preceded the encroachment of Little League. If enough Christian parents refused to let their children play on Sundays, the league would have to adjust.”—“The Briefing” and accompanying article; July 14, 2009.
That is true and yet it seems that the encroachments of sports, leisure, and recreation upon the Lord’s day are here to stay. So what can we do about it? What can you do about it?
We all likely have differing views about what is permissible and what is not permissible on the Lord’s day. So without judging another person’s conviction on this matter, could you work to reclaim the Lord’s day as a special day of reverence in your own home and among your family?
The Lord’s day is the Lord’s day, a day set aside for reflection and worship of the One True God. It is a day, a whole day; a time of several hours set aside for worshiping God and for spiritual improvement. It is not to be a burden, but a blessing. Remember 1 John 5:3, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
So why is this day so burdensome to so many Christians? Listen to John Piper here. I think he is right on this. He says:
The reason that so many people feel it as a burden is partly that we have so much leisure, we don’t feel the need for the Sabbath rest; but more important, I think, is the fact that not many people really enjoy what God intended us to enjoy on the Sabbath, namely, Himself. Many professing Christians enjoy sports and television and secular books and magazines and recreation and hobbies and games far more than they enjoy direct interaction with God in his Word or in worship or in reading Christian books or in meditative strolls.
Therefore, inevitably people whose hearts are set more on the pleasures of the world than on the enjoyment of God will feel the Sabbath command as a burden not a blessing…The measure of your love for God is the measure of the joy you get in focusing on him on the day of rest. For most people the Sabbath command is really a demand to repent. It invites us to enjoy what we don’t enjoy and therefore shows us the evil of hearts, and our need to repent and be changed.—Sermon: “Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep it Holy.”
I need that. I need to “repent and be changed” about the way I think about the Sabbath, the way I spend the Sabbath. I wonder whether some of you may feel the need to do that, too.
• Can I invite you to bow your heads?
In a moment some of our ladies are going to sing a hymn of surrender. It’s called “O Great God” and it is a call to repent.
With your heads bowed and eyes closed I’d like to just read a few lines from the hymn as we think about the way we regard the Sabbath. It goes:
O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore
Some of you this morning may be saying, “Yes, Lord. Occupy my lowly heart. Own it all and reign supreme.”
God wants to own our hearts and when He does, we have a love for Him, a growing desire to be satisfied in Him, a growing desire to see Sunday not as a “holiday,” but a “holy day.”
The next verse goes:
I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace
I wonder with your heads bowed and eyes closed whether you would say in your heart of hearts, “I want God to occupy my heart. I want to live for Jesus Christ and please God by the way I live this week. And I want Sunday to be not a “Holiday,” but a “Holy Day.” With your heads bowed and eyes closed, would you indicate that by raising your hand? I raise mine with you.
In a moment, I’ll ask you to stand as the ladies sing these lyrics and I invite you to hear them worshipfully. Some of you are here this morning and you need to repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, or you want to be sure that you have been accepted by God, sure that you will go to heaven when you die. You come while the ladies sing and meet me up front here or one of the ministers up front. You come and say, “I want God to occupy my lowly heart.”
Others of you will come this morning saying, “I’d like to join this church.” Some of you may come saying, “I need to be baptized.” Some of you may wish to pray at the altar here. You come as God leads.
Heavenly Father, as we worship you in this song of surrender, lead us by Your Holy Spirit to come as You would have us—some coming for salvation, some for prayer, some joining the church family. You work in our hearts at this moment—occupy our lowly hearts—and we will come, in Jesus’ name, amen.
• Please stand and you come as we worship.
Challenge for Next Week:
This week in SS it is “H” week. Remember REACH is Reaching Every Available Community Household—H week is the week that we all are involved in prayer and outreach. We went to encourage you to take a few of these INVITE CARDS in your Sunday School class and invite folks to come be with you next week—neighbors, friends, co-workers, students.
Also, next Sunday we’ll be giving away free “I Love Sundays” t-shirts to everyone present. You will not want to miss next week. We’ll also be giving away a special gift to every man present that will help him in an effort to make better families.
Tonight, 6 PM, special service for our children
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