Call the Sabbath a Delight (Isaiah Sermon 70 of 80)
November 20, 2016 | Andy Davis
Abiding in Christ
Andy Davis preaches a verse by verse expository sermon on Isaiah 58:13-14. The main subject of the sermon is how we, as Christians, are to enjoy the Sabbath.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
In 1577, English privateer and explorer, Sir Martin Frobisher, led the first English mining expedition in Canada, on the rocky and freezing Kodlunarn Island in Baffin Bay. Now, on an earlier voyage to that same part of Northern Canada, he was looking for the Northwest Passage through to the Orient. Didn't find it, but found this island, went on it and found there a mysterious, large, black rock that had gold specks all the way through it. And he was intrigued. And he took it with him back to England, and brought it to an assayer that he knew about, who studied it and told him that it was gold. Whereupon the Crown, the English Crown, funded a massive mining expedition back to Kodlunarn Island. And they extracted over 1,000 tons of similar black rocks, and sent them back to England, the largest shipment ever, as far as I know, of iron pyrite, also known as fool's gold. Completely worthless.
Needless to say, Frobisher's reputation took a beating. I would think the assayer that told him it was gold, his reputation would take a beating. But the fact of the matter is, it became a display of a well-known slogan, "Not all that glitters is gold." And just because it glitters, does it look... Does it actually turn out to be the genuine article?
The assaying of the ore, the testing of it to determine its worth is a picture of what awaits all of us on Judgment Day. We are told in 1 Corinthians Chapter 3 that all of our works are going to be tested with fire. And they will be proven to be what they truly are. Are they wood, hay, and straw, on the one hand, or are they gold, silver, and costly stones on the other? Our own individual faith and our life practices are going to be tested. Is our faith genuine? Is it worth more than gold, or will it be proved to have been fraudulent, a deception in the end?
I. Fool’s Gold: The Deception of Religious Machinery (vs. 1-5)
Now, in Isaiah 58, the prophet exposes, I think, many religious people, Jews, in his day, who appeared to be godly, who appeared to be religious, but who actually weren't. They had heart problems. They were going through the motions of a religious system. And he calls them away from that pattern of fasting and praying and other religiosity to a genuine fast that he defines in the chapter. And we talked about a lot last week. Now beyond that, this illustration of fool's gold and the assaying of it and the testing of it could also serve a different purpose for my sermon today. And that is, our evaluation of the world as it comes to us. Not all that glitters is gold. And we can be enticed into worldly things, worldly patterns and habits that we think are going to be satisfying to us, and are really actually impoverishing our souls in the end. We can be drawn into patterns of behavior that we think are going to satisfy us and they're going to leave us weak spiritually, defective spiritually.
Now, Isaiah 58 calls on the people of God, of his time, to a Sabbath rest, a fast to some degree, from the world once a week, for the purpose of recalibrating their souls to the still small voice of Almighty God, to the delight of intimate and healthy fellowship with God. That's what I want to talk to you about today. Now, the fool's gold of their false religiosity, we went over last week. I'm not going to have time to go over in detail.
But look again at verses 1 through 5. These were religious people going through the motions. "Day after day, they seek me out, they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God." They seem eager for God to come near them. Verse 3, "'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'" These were a religious people who did the fasting thing, but on the day of their fasting, it ended in quarreling and strife and striking each other with wicked fists. That's not the kind of fasting God wanted to see. This was another example of something we've seen again and again in the Book of Isaiah, of a religious machinery that was set up. And they were just going through these religious motions day after day, but the actual heart of the matter was far from the truth.
Isaiah 29:13, And Jesus quoted this, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain. Their teaching is just rules taught by men." So we saw that last week, that was fool's gold, it wasn't genuine piety.
II. Pure Gold #1: The “True Fast” of Mercy Ministry
Instead, he calls them to the pure gold of a genuine mercy ministry. We went over this in detail last week, just want to remind you. Verse 6 and 7, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen? To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter? When you see the naked, to clothe them, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood." God calls this the fast he wants from them. This is the religion that he accepts as pure and faultless in his sight. And we saw verse 10, in particular, it was a challenging call for us to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor and needy. Not just give of our money alone, but invest our souls, our hearts in the condition of people who are suffering. That is genuine, not fool's gold, but genuine piety.
III. Pure Gold #2: The “True Fast” of Delighting in the Sabbath
Now we come to pure gold number two, verses 13 and 14, the true fast of delighting in the Sabbath. This is a second condition in the text, not just caring for the poor and needy, but honoring the Sabbath. Look at Verse 13, "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, and if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words." This is the "if," it's the condition, and he's defining, it seems in the old covenant, a true, genuine-heart Sabbath observance, what it means for God to observe the Sabbath, that's what... How God is defining it. God calls the Sabbath, in this text, "My holy day," and also, "the Lord's holy day." So he calls it holy twice, and he commands the people to call the Sabbath a delight. And it would be a weighty or honorable or massive thing, this Sabbath observance. "It's a weighty thing," he says. "I want you to think of it that way," he said to his people.
Now, the word "holy" here, I think means, "set apart unto God as His own prized possession." The word "holy" is a very important word in the Bible, in the Old Testament. So in effect, it's like... It feels like this to me, like God is saying, to the Jews, "Although all nations on Earth are mine, you are my holy people, set apart unto me for my own pleasure." And again, in the Old Covenant "Although all the Earth is mine, this holy ground, this temple is my space, set apart unto me to be my Holy Place, where I will meet with you. And although all time is mine, this day, this seventh day is set apart unto me as holy, belongs to me." I think that's what he's saying, it's holy ground.
Negatively: Do Not Break the Sabbath!
So negatively, he commands on them to not break the Sabbath, that they would not violate the Sabbath with their footsteps. "Keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath" I think would be a better translation there. Daily lifestyle choices, almost like the Sabbath is holy ground and you're supposed to, "Take off your sandals, for the place on which you're walking... " So "Don't just tramp on my holy day. "And not doing as you please," he says, very challengingly to us.
We're going to take this concept over to some of the confessional statements in the New Testament. But it comes, I think, right from this verse, not just doing whatever you want or not doing your pleasure. I think, specifically, what it means here is not... It's not talking about sin, we know that's out, it's not like God's saying, "Six days you may sin but the seventh day is a holy day, on that day you must not sin." We know we're not talking about wicked things that we should not be doing, but good things, things that bring us pleasure usually, things that are usually delightful, that we would not do those things. That seems to be what it means, not doing your own pleasure. And not speaking idle words, doing whatever you want and speaking idle words.
And then, in the end, the "then statement," he says, "These are what your rewards are going to be, this is what will happen if you do that, if you meet this condition." Then Verse 14, "You will find your joy in the Lord. And I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the Lord has spoken." Wow, it's an amazing promise, if you do what verse 13 says, if you meet those conditions, then you will learn, you will find your joy in the Lord. It's almost like the psalmist in Psalm 73. You remember the one who was so jealous of those prosperous wicked people, and he wanted to become like them, remember? Until he went into the temple and understood their final end, and he said, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire beside you." It seemed like the Sabbath, for them, was a time to say that to God. "There's nothing else I want here, but you. You're what I'm going to... " You're going to find your joy in the Lord and not in earthly things.
And he says, "I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land." So I get the picture almost of being up on Mount Pisgah and looking out over the Promised Land, and you can see the beauty of it, a land flowing with milk and honey, that Old Covenant blessing language. And you're going to be enriched, you're going to be made rich by the inheritance of your father, Jacob. I would actually go even back to the inheritance of your father, Abraham. Remember how he turned away from the loots, after the defeat of the kings, and the King of Sodom and Gomorrah and all that, just turned away from that, didn't want any of it.
And then the Lord appeared to him and said, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." It's about a powerful thing, and then, in that, in Genesis 15, he shows him the covenants and all that. So you're going to feast on the blessings of the covenant, which ultimately is the blessings of God, you're going to feast on your inheritance, God himself. "The mouth of the Lord has spoken." What a great way to end the chapter. In other words, "Take this seriously." Or like in the Book of Revelation, "Write these words down for they are trustworthy and true." This is just the true statement here. So that's the chapter, walking through it. The phrase "call the Sabbath a delight" is very provocative isn't it? Very intriguing for us.
Walter Chantry wrote a book in 1991 about it, about Sabbath observance for Christians, and he chose that as the title. It's very intriguing, it should draw us in, and it's going to be worthy of our full attention for the rest of the afternoon, so...Yeah, you missed that one, didn't you? Just want to see if you're paying attention. This is an elaborate, difficult, complex, theologically weighty issue that we're about to walk into here. I'm not going to stand up here and make simple pronouncements and make a bunch of assumptions that I don't support and just say, "This is what you all should do." That's not how I'm going to preach this. And that's what took me so long to work on this this week. And so let me lay out plainly what I think we're going to do now with this time.
I believe that learning in some spiritual way that connects with the truth of the New Covenant, that we've learned in Jesus, to call the Sabbath a delight and to cheerfully and willingly refrain from work and secular pleasures, not because you have to in a legal sense, but because you want to, will give you power, spiritual power, a level of intimacy with Christ that you haven't known before. And will greatly enrich and empower you the rest of the week, in a way that you will in no way regret. But I cannot come so far as to say that the Sabbath observance should be handled the rest... The same way the rest of the nine commandments of the 10 Commandments are handled. I can't go that far, so I'm laying my cards on the table. I do not think this is a legally binding command like the rest of the 10 Commandments are, but I really do respect others that do think that.
So in the end, I'm going to say to you several times in here, "You will have to make up, O church, your own mind on this. But I'm going to give you some principles that I hope will enable you to make a wise decision by what you do on Sundays.
IV. Understanding and Delighting in the Sabbath
So let's try to understand the Sabbath, what are we talking about? What do we mean by the Sabbath? Well, this Hebrew word literally means to cease or desist or stop or rest. The focus then is on stopping something. That's what the word... The Hebrew word means. And of course, the first time this comes in in the scriptures, right at the beginning of the creation account, in Genesis 1 verse 31, it says, "God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And it was evening, there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."
Then Genesis 2:1, "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. And by the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it, he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." So that's where it first comes in. That becomes a very significant weighty pattern for us to consider as we look at the Sabbath. That's where it all starts. Now, obviously, we should not imagine that God rested on the seventh day because he is, in any way, depleted or drained by all the work he had done, He wasn't tired, God is omnipotent. He does not grow weary, ever, Isaiah 40, he never gets tired. So we shouldn't imagine that.
The resting of God here, I think, is some kind of a display of his total, complete satisfaction in the world that he had made. He loved it. He thought it was very good, he delighted in it. Other theologians have, I think, helpfully given us the picture of God moving through his creation, both spiritual and physical, and going up where the throne is, turning around, looking at his creation and then sitting on the throne. So it's an enthronement-image for some of the theologians. I like that. It's the idea of God sitting in rulership, over all the things that he has made, in a final resting of God on his throne.
Now, after the Exodus, after the Jews were delivered from bondage, from slavery in Egypt, where their lives had been an unending blur of slave labor. There was no difference from one day to the next to the next to the next. Seven straight days without a rest they were made to feel the lash of the taskmaster. Then God brought them out with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, brought them through the Red Sea, and brought them to Mount Sinai where he gave them the law, the essence of the Old Covenant, law, at Mount Sinai. And the fourth commandment, reads this, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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. Neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates, for 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." So that's the fourth of the 10 Commandments that are so well known.
Then 40 years later, when they're about to enter the promised land, in the book of Deuteronomy he gives the law a second time. And the fourth commandment is stated similarly but a little bit different. I won't read the whole thing, but I'll pick up in the middle of it, Deuteronomy 5:14-15, "On it, you shall not do any work, neither you nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox or your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien that is within your gates so that [now this is new] your manservant and maidservant may rest as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day."
Now there, he links it to redemption. So here we have these two glorious, massive theological themes, creation and redemption, both of them linked to the Sabbath observance. It's very powerful. Now the Sabbath regulation that we're describing here is an old covenant law, a rule for Israel. It was also for them, something that was a mark of the Covenant, it was a way you marked the Jews out in the city, they had the Sabbath rhythm. And on the Sabbath day, they would meet together in the synagogue and study the Scriptures etcetera. They were, the Jews, to labor for six days, but on the 7th they were to cease, they were to stop laboring. That's the essence of the Hebrew word.
Now, the implication would... There would be worship in that time, there were... It was consecrated to the Lord, so they would turn their hearts, their minds to God, and they would consecrate that day and make it holy by worshipping and focusing on God. Because the commandment begins with the word "remember" they were to look back at God's creation, "remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy." They were also to look back, "remember that you were slaves in Egypt." So you're supposed to think back in the old covenant observance and remember it. I think the Sabbath also had a vertical looking up aspect because it's consecrated to the Lord, you're looking up to God and thinking about God enthroned, God the King.
I think also we should notice in the commandment that there's a special focus on leaders on heads of households, fathers kings masters employers to be sensitive and aware to what's going on with their sons and daughters and their manservants and maidservants, and to set up the system so that they can rest. Not just you. So that brings us into that social justice theme of Isaiah 58. Don't just fast yourself while your workers are having to slave away. You need to extend that rest to them as well, so that they can rest as you do.
How Does the Sabbath Translate to the New Covenant?
Alright, now this is an old covenant regulation and Christians have had long and rancorous debates on whether this is still binding for us, so we come to the issue of the law in the new covenant, how are we to understand the law of Moses in the New Covenant? Well first, in Christ, thank God we have been delivered in some mysterious sense, from the law we've been set free from the law and then we're told that in multiple places like Galatians 2:19, "for through the law I died to the law, so that I might live for God."
That actually is stated also in Romans 7 and Romans 8. We have died to the law. In some sense, it says that. Roman 6:14 says it a little differently, it says, "Sin shall not be your master, because you're not under law, but under grace." So where you're now in some sense, delivered from the law. We're not under the law, etcetera.
We also know that forgiveness of sins can never, does never come by observing the law. We know Galatians 2:16 a person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Christ because by observing the law, no one will be justified. Our sins are forgiven by faith in Jesus. We're actually really ultimately trusting in his law-keeping not in ours. We're saying he actually perfectly kept the law, and then substituted himself under the law's penalties for us who didn't perfectly keep the law so that there's that beautiful transfer of our wickedness to him and he dies, his perfect righteous law-keeping to us, and we live in that righteousness, forever. So that's how we get saved. So, if I can just say simply none of us is going to be saved our eternal destiny, is not going to depend on what we do on a Sabbath day, or a Lord's Day.
So that's, in some sense, it means that we're free from the law. I think we all agree with that. We're free from the fact that the law has the power to send us to hell, we're free from that. Christ nailed that to the cross. The law is not going to send us to hell. Praise God. It could have, apart from Christ, it would have. But we're free from that. However, there are some other things we need to say about the law. There are aspects of the law as we look at, that we know are obsolete, there are details in the law that we know we don't have to do anymore. There's a whole thing in Galatians and in Acts on how we don't need the circumcise our boy babies on the eighth day, we're done with that there is no spiritual reason to circumcise a baby anymore. That's done it's been fulfilled.
Also there's the dietary regulations, Jesus declared all foods clean, so we can eat. We can eat bacon, praise God, we can eat ham, we can eat pork. We can do that even though there's clear prescriptions against it in the old covenant. We know that, we're free from that... And then there's obviously, quintessentially the sacrificial system, the animal sacrificial system with the Levitical priesthood that whole thing has been fulfilled, that's one good word. And another powerful word in Hebrews 8, it's obsolete. So not only is it true you don't have to offer a lamb or a bull or a goat for your sin, you better not, thinking that God's going to accept it. What an insult to Jesus. So we're done with that.
Furthermore, we know that there are national laws that had to do with the life of the Jews in the promised land, that we don't need to do anymore, like the three-time annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem, which would be very costly. We don't need to do that. There are parts of the taxation system and the kingship and all that that are fulfilled, it's done, we don't need to do that anymore. Yet we know that there are, what some theologians call the "moral aspects of the law", that are going to be binding till Jesus returns. Like, "I'm the Lord, your God, You shall have no other gods before me." Tt's not like, "Well thank the Lord now that we're Christians we can have as many gods as we want". And we can take the name of the Lord in vain, and we get to do that now that we're free from the law. And now that we're free from the law we can dishonor and disobey our parents. Kids, that's not what I'm saying. We don't have the freedom to do that, we must honor and obey our parents when we're minors and then honor them, the rest of our lives, we know that those other 10 Commandments, we understand that they're binding, we're not free now to murder, free now to commit adultery.
Or just take the summary of the law that Jesus gave us so beautifully, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." That's the law, we're not free from that, we are now able to do it finally by the power of the Spirit, we can actually love God with all of our hearts and we can love our neighbors ourselves. So, we're not free from that. The question then comes is the fourth commandment binding on the Christian so that we now must say "I am not permitted by God to work on the Sabbath/Lord's Day?". That's the question that's in front of us.
Christian Views of the Sabbath
Now, there's been lots of debates on this. I greatly shortened this part of the sermon right here, you're welcome. Don Carson and some others that wrote with him, DA Carson wrote a book that basically said they see... What they call transference theology. Moving from the seventh to the first day, clearly articulated in the New Testament. Neither do they say a world-wide trans-cultural command of the Sabbath? He doesn't see that. He says basically Christians are free to do what you choose to do on that... Whatever it is that's DA Carson and others that wrote with him.
John Calvin a little I would say a little stricter. He said that there were three lasting principles about the Sabbath for Christians to listen to. First, the Lord meant for his people in every generation to have a day of spiritual rest in which they lay aside their earthly work and let God work in their souls. So spiritual rest, stop working and God can work in your soul. So that's personal, you and God. Secondly, he wanted his people corporately to assemble together for worship, corporate worship, and for the hearing of God's word, there's a practicality to that. We need a time we can gather together for corporate worship. And then thirdly, he wanted to make provision for laborers and those under authority to cease from their toil as well. Just simply to... So for them not specifically a worship aspect, but it was there.
Now, of course, those labors, free from needing to come work for your company are also now free to come to your church. You can see why Chick-fil-A and other companies have done this, "I can't really require you to work on Sunday morning and schedule some workers there and then also ask if you would come and visit my church" because the person's lost, you're trying to reach them. So they just saw it better to shut the business down on Sundays.
Now my professor at Gordon-Conwell, Meredith Kline, taught this about the Sabbath, basically essence of the command was ceasing. It was stopping work and that's the fundamental... He's not saying, he's against worship or any of the worship themes, he's saying it's not intrinsic to the word or to the command. So for him it was just rest, physical rest, taking a long nap going for a refreshing walk in the woods, a nice bike ride... Whatever would renew you. That would be meeting the Sabbath regulation, Meredith Kline.
The Puritans on the other hand, were what we call strongly Sabbatarian, and no one articulated Sabbatarian thinking better than they did, especially in the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is what they wrote: "as it is the law of nature, that in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God. So in his word, by... " listen to this, "a positive moral and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he has particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath to be kept holy unto him. Which from the beginning of the world, till the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week. And from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which in scripture is called the Lord's day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as a Christian Sabbath, this Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts and an ordering of their common affairs beforehand."
So you get your heart ready and you get your house and everything, ready beforehand, like on Saturday. When you do that, do not only observe a holy rest all the day from their own works, words and thoughts about their world employments and recreations but are also taken up the whole time, in the public and private exercise of his worship and in duties of necessity and mercy. That is your full-on Sabbatarian statement. Well thought out, like everything the Puritans ever did.
The Baptist faith and message, which is the Baptist statement of faith or confession of faith, that we had as a church, First Baptist Church had as a church when I came here in 1998 was Sabbatarian. Bet you didn't know that. So you all were Sabbatarians, I guess. Now this what it said, 1963 Baptist faith and message. This is what it said "The first day of the week is the Lord's day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed an exercise of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements and resting from secular employments works of necessity and mercy only being accepted". Baptist faith, and message 1963 First Baptist Church's statement of faith until the year 2000.
In the year 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention convened and changed a number of aspects of the Baptist faith and message including this statement on the Lord's day. This is what it now reads, "The first day of the week is the Lord's day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, that's all the same. Now listen, "activities on the Lord's day, should be commensurate with the Christians conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ". So that's a very different statement. Basically, whatever your conscience tells you to do on the Lord's Day, you are free to do.
Alright, so what applications can we take from all this? Well, first, let me just begin as I always do by proclaiming the Gospel to you who are lost. But in the context of what I'm saying now, it doesn't really make a difference what you do on Sunday it doesn't make a difference actually, what you do, any day of the week if you have not yet come to Christ. This is the work of God for those that are as yet unconverted, believe in the one that God sent. And by believing in Jesus alone are all your sins forgiven and if you will trust in him and turn away from your wickedness, turn away from sin, you will receive the gift of the forgiveness of sins and not only that but you'll receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and then you'll be given an exciting life to live.
Now, let's talk about the Sabbath or Lord's Day aspect of that life. First of all, can we just look again at the text at Verse 13? Do you see the delight aspect, call the Sabbath a delight. Look again at Verse 14, "then you will find your joy in the Lord." If I can just say right at the beginning, the whole issue here is one of delight and joy. So friends let us not drag our feet into this theological discussion with groaning, and rolling of eyes and a sense ultimately coming down to some drudgery that God did not intend. This is meant to be about delight.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. Then you sell everything you have and buy that field out of joy in the treasure. Now I got to tell you something, I thought about this this morning. I was like, for many years, I thought, "Hey I got a good deal where I can kind of gain the whole system here." Sell everything you have to like a pawn shop, go buy the field, now you got treasure, take a portion of the treasure and go buy back everything you had. Good deal, huh? I think that misses the point of the parable, don't you?
It sure doesn't work with the pearl. Remember, you're selling everything and buying a pearl. What, are you going to cut off a portion of the pearl and get your possessions back? It would destroy the pearl. So the treasure and the pearl are supposed to be what delights you. So the real question I want to ask is, "Oh, friend, what delights you? What really delights you? What really makes you happy?" That's the question.
So now, second, is the Sabbath... "Dear pastor, is the Sabbath a binding commandment on Christians today in the new covenant?" I'd like to ask that you would turn to Romans 14, and we're going to finish up there but, let me weigh it on one side. First, this sabbath commandment is a weighty thing. It is a weighty thing that God rested on the seventh day of his creation, and basically took his throne over that and set apart the seventh day and called it holy. That's weighty. It's not to be taken lightly. It is a weighty thing that clearly the other nine of the 10 Commandments are still binding on the hearts and souls of Christians, that's weighty. It is weighty to me that in no clear way does Jesus ever abolish the Sabbath. He just defines it and makes it clear how it's best to be spent. He didn't set it aside, he doesn't declare all foods clean when it comes to the Sabbath and say, "Hey you don't need to do the Sabbath anymore."
Yet on the other hand, it's also significant that after the book of Acts, basically the Gospels and Acts are still in the old covenant era. Jesus is still operating under the old covenant, and then as the Gospel spreads out and goes from city to city, they're going on the Sabbath to Jewish synagogues to preach. But after that, the word Sabbath doesn't appear again in the New Testament except in two places, in Colossians 2, 16 and 17, we're told, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to religious festival and New Moon celebration listen or a Sabbath day. Don't let anyone judge you by what you do on a Sabbath day.
So what that means is, I think elders, the leaders of a church can never set up a church discipline system connected to the Sabbath. It's therefore definitely going to be a matter of private conscience. It's never going to be a matter of sin that we're going to say, because we can't judge anyone by what they do on a Sabbath day. Then he goes beyond that and says, "These are a shadow of the things that were to come, the reality is found in Christ."
That's exactly the kind of language that the author to Hebrews used about the whole Old Testament. Then in Hebrews 4:9-11, it says, "There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For anyone who enters God's rest, also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience." Lots of ways to interpret that statement, but the home base of that is, by faith in Jesus and coming into our salvation in Christ, we have entered our Sabbath rest. In some beautiful full complete sense we have rested from our works in Jesus. We have a perfect righteousness, can't be improved on, and we rest in that. That however doesn't mean we shouldn't have a Sabbath observance.
So Romans 14 seems a powerful and helpful guide. Now understand Paul is writing, Romans 14 to a mixed assembly of Jews and Gentiles. So that means that the Jewish Christians would have had a regular pattern of one day in seven, worship in the Synagogue, right? The Roman Christians, the Gentiles would have had no such pattern at all. So what are they going to do now as a local church? How are they going to do that? And so he writes Romans 14 to talk about various issues of meat sacrifice to idols and other debatable issues.
Look at verse five and six. "One man considers one day more sacred than another. Another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." That is where the Baptist faith and message 2000 statement got its doctrine from. You need to be fully convinced in your own conscience, what the Lord wants you to do on a Sabbath day. That's all. Now let me tell you something, if verse 5, Romans 14:5, I think, this is my opinion, If Romans 14-5 is in fact talking about the Sabbath, that settles for me whether that commandment is treated differently than any other commandment of the 10 Commandments. The answer is, it is. Because you're not going to say similar things about any of the other nine commandments. You're just not. So clearly, it's just treated differently if this is talking about the Sabbath. I think it is, others don't. Other think it's just one of those Jewish ceremonial type days.
So you need to be fully convinced in your own mind. At the end of the chapter, Verse 23, it says, "Everything that does not come from faith is sin." So you have to be fully convinced in your own mind and be sure it's done in faith, and that means tied to the word of God. So the one application I can give you is, don't blow this thing off, that's all. Just, if you can just take that from Romans 14, don't just blow it off. But take it seriously. Be fully convinced that the Lord does or does not want you to get in some extra work at the company on Sunday afternoon. Be fully convinced that Lord does or does not want you to watch NFL football, on Sunday afternoon. Be fully convinced that the Lord does or does not want you to take part in a soccer league that has Sunday games. Just be fully convinced, work it through. Be sure that you're operating in faith.
Then in verse 7-8, it says that whatever you do, you're going to give an account to Jesus. It says, "None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord" and verse 10 and following says, "We're all going to stand before God's judgment seat. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." So whatever you do, not just in general, but specifically, you're going to give an account to Jesus. Be sure it's real gold and not fool's gold, that's all I'm saying. At the time of us saying, when your works are tested with fire, be sure that it will survive. It was gold, silver, costly stones. So stop, pray, consider, ponder. Is the Sabbath regulation a binding one, like all the rest of the 10 Commandments? I will not give you an answer. I say, you have to be fully convinced in your own mind, work it through.
Thirdly, we are never allowed to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Corporate worship needs to be part of our lives, the rest of our time as long as we are able-bodied. As long as we are able to get around, you're able to go do shopping, you're able to go to work during the week, you're able to play golf on Saturday, as long as you're able to do these things, you should be in corporate worship. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as some are in the habit of doing." Now, does that mean every single Sunday? No, there are some times in which necessity, you can't be in corporate worship. The issue there is forsaking and habit, that's the issue. So as long as you are alive and able-bodied you need to be there.
Fourthly, you need rest. "Nah, I can crank it out with the best of them." You're over-estimating yourself, you need rest. And you don't just need physical rest, you need soul rest. I love the songs that we sang, there's so many resting, like, "Jesus, I am resting, resting and my soul finds rest in God alone." That was beautiful, wasn't it? You need rest, you can't keep going forever under the lash of perhaps even your ambitions or desire for money, or even a company or boss that's driving you hard. And if you want to get ahead in this company, you're going to be at that Sunday afternoon meeting. You can't relentlessly drive yourself or your employees, you have to consider your manservants and maid servants, which translates now to people who are responsible to you, your sons and daughters, and your employees forcing them to work. And your souls need to be refreshed, you need time alone with Jesus.
Psalm 62:1, "My soul finds rest in God alone." Listen to this, this one came alive a little for me this morning. "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want." What's the next part, remember? "He makes me lie down." Ponder that one, just spend the rest of the afternoon pondering that. "Makes me"... You mean against my will? No, hopefully not, but he's like, "You need to rest." Stop, rest and lie down and be refreshed. There's a practical side to it, "Come away," Jesus said in Mark 6, "And get alone and let's have some time of refreshment."
Fifthly, let's consider not merely, what am I permitted to do? What is it lawful for me to do? But what is it best for me to do. Alright. Look, Martha was lawfully permitted to make 17 different dishes to serve to Jesus when Jesus came to visit that day. Mary was lawfully allowed to sit at his feet and listen to him. But I think Jesus says effectively that Martha chose a good portion but Mary chose a better portion. So it's just good, better, best in the Christian life.
So over the next 10 years if God lets you live, you may have over 500 Sundays and you get to decide what to do with them. Let's assume you're going to go to church, let's just start there, that you agree with what I just said, you're going to get home around 1 o'clock or maybe today around 2 o'clock. Alright, so you're going to get home, and so in general, you're going to have eight hours of discretionary, what do I do with it, time. And you say, "We have home fellowship." That's a choice you make, I think it's a wise choice but it's a choice you make, you don't have to go. It's not like you lose your church membership if you don't go to home fellowship, you're just making choice about your time. So, you'll have about 4000 hours. You could spend all 4000, I'm convinced... Well, no, no, there's a season end, but you could spend all 4000 watching spectator sports. I was about to say football, but the season does end in February or March or whenever it ends. And there's three football games, one after the other, after the other now, it wasn't always that way, but there's the 1 o'clock game, the 4 o'clock game and the 8:30 game. Now, you could do that. The question is what's best for your soul? Not what am I lawfully allowed to do? But what would it be best? At the end of those 4000 hours, what will I be glad that I invested in?
Six. We have to avoid legalism and judgmentalism on this topic. The quickest thing that groups tend to do is define work, once you start defining work, welcome to Pharisee land. Calvinistic reform traditions have struggled with this for years. I remember here Joel Beaky talking about this, he saw some other reform guy and they're both in an airport on a Sunday and they're like this...Both feeling ashamed, they're violating their churches' prescriptions. I don't think churches should make those kind of prescriptions on what is work, what isn't work. I think that's where you head to legalism. Furthermore, some of you are probably going to come to stricter convictions on this topic than others. Easiest thing to do when you come to a stricter conviction on a certain matter of Christian freedom is to export that through judgmentalism, and you start saying, "Oh, you do that," and start judging people.
Seventh. This is a chance for you to evaluate what you really love, what really brings you pleasure. And if the answer is honestly, the world, you're in danger spiritually, that's all. If you would consistently rather watch an NFL football game or binge watch on Netflix or some other secular amusement, if you would consistently rather do that than spend time in prayer, singing praise songs, rich Christian fellowship, reading good Christian books, or just walking through the woods and looking at the foliage and thanking God for it. If you would really rather do the one than the other, shouldn't you be afraid of worldliness in your soul? "All things are lawful for me," 1 Corinthians 6:2, "But not everything is profitable." All things are lawful for me but I will not be enslaved, let's put it that way. I will not be enslaved by anything. How can you tell whether you're being enslaved by something? Fast from it. Just try one Sunday say, "I'm not going to do X." If it's inordinately difficult, you're sweating, like you're having DTs, and like its the afternoon's crawling by, and it's like, "I can't wait till next Sunday, I can go back to my usual pattern." Just be afraid of the state of your soul, that's all I'm saying.
Eighth. Practical steps for those who want to do this, you say, "I actually would like to do something different." Okay, just some different things. I would suggest work harder, days one through six, the first six days. Set your clothes... Get them ready and hang them up like a fireman. I think that's a symbol, I think about the firefighters, and they have their coat, and their boots, and the door of the fire engine is open and everything's lined up for a quick getaway. So just get your church clothes ready like that and let that be a symbol. I'm going to try to clear out the day as much as I can. So women that cook for a home fellowship make simpler meals, make them on Saturday. It's not a requirement, it's not lawful, it's just so that you can rest. It's not like, "I'll be breaking the 10 Commandments, so I don't... " it's just... I want to try to have a spirit of a simplicity on Sundays.
Consider the possibility of electronic fast or maybe even electronic reduction. I'm not going to feed on this stuff, I want some time to have my soul refreshed in Jesus. I want to go to a beautiful place, I want to see nature, I want to go look at lakes, I want to walk through woods, I want to reconnect with my family, I want to spend time with my kids, husbands and wives, praying together, walking together, talking about Jesus together. Taking Ephesians 1, Ephesians 3 and praying over those rich prayers that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened so that you would know the hope of your calling, and that you would know how wide and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ for you, and you end the day saying, "I know more now than I did before this day started, how much Jesus loves me."
Final word to fathers and mothers, parents, heads of households. You may be saying, "Do I have the right to say, As for me and my house we're going to do X." You do. Now, the earlier you do that in your kid's developmental process, the better. If they're infants they're not going to have any idea, but if they are well-attuned or accustomed to like teenagers or whatever, accustomed to certain secular patterns on Sundays, it may be very hard to change. What I would do is I would just start by saying, "Let's just talk about our souls, let's talk about soul inventory." Maybe give older kids freedom to choose but say, "Look, We are going to do this. I would urge you to do it." rather than setting the law, but others may say, "I think for me and my house we're going to do this." And you have the right to do that, but if you do that, be sure that you as a father enrich that day, think about it, how to make it fascinating, how to make it delightful, how to make it a joy in the Lord. Close with me in prayer.