Overcoming Spiritual Intimidation, Part 2 (Colossians Sermon 7 of 21)
October 07, 2007 | Andy Davis
Grace, Legalism, Christian Freedom
Well, I remember when I was growing up. I used to love to watch on Saturday afternoons Wide World of Sports, because they had all different kind of weird sports and different things, not the regular ones you watch, but they had different ones. And one time they had this Chinese juggling troupe that did the most incredible things with their bodies that I'd ever seen, like making inverted pyramids on the stage and all kinds of stuff of strength and flexibility. But there's one guy in particular I remembered and just being amazed, and it was the plate spinner. This man had the ability to take a flexible rod and spin a plate up on the rod and it would just balance there. And then he would pick up the next rod and spin the next plate and the next one and the next one. Five, six, seven, eight plates spinning. By the time he got to 10, plates number one and two we're starting to wobble. And so you're kind of freaking out a little bit as you watch this whole thing and you're urging, as though he could hear you, that somehow he could spin this plate a little faster. But he knew what he was doing. 12, 14 plates, 16, 18, 20, and he seemed to know which ones needed help without even looking. It'd behind him and he was setting up a new plate and he'd turn and give it a little spin and then do some other things. It was incredible. It was just amazing.
Now, CJ Mahaney had a similar experience on the Ed Sullivan Show. He watched a plate spinner doing that. I bet you're wondering what that picture had to do with Colossians 2. I'm trying to explain that. Here is a plate spinner who's got two phones, one he's talking on and something else going on and there's this franticness to life. Now, this sermon is not about the busyness of modern life and how we need to slow down and smell the roses. That's not what it's about. This sermon is about the lethal danger of legalism. And CJ Mahaney likens the legalistic lifestyle of the Christian to the plate spinner. What happens is you hear some good themes from the Bible, some things that we ought to be doing with our Christian lives and in effect at that moment you can set up a plate and start it spinning. And then another plate gets spinning as well. And this whole concoction in your mind sets up a paradigm that's very dangerous concerning your relationship with God. The more plates I have spinning and keep spinning, the more God is pleased with me, the more fruitful my life is, the more pleasing I am to Him. If I should let any of those plates fall and crash to the ground, there may be serious doubt as to whether I'm a Christian at all. And that's the legalistic mentality that I think Paul is fighting against in Colossians 2. You know how it is, the themes, a daily quiet time, prayer life, intercessory prayer for others, concern for evangelism, concern for cross-cultural missions, unreached people groups, financial faithfulness, stewardship, the tithes and offerings, faithful attendance at church, using your spiritual gifts to minister to others. All of these themes, ministry to the poor and the needy, concern for them. And more and more and more.
I struggled with this this Summer on my sabbatical as I was looking carefully at the Christian life and all the elements that are involved in what it is to be a faithful, sanctified, mature Christian. And it's so easy to get under the pile, and for a subtle or perhaps not even so subtle shift to happen in how I see myself before God. That I've got to keep these plates going or else God will not be pleased with me and if enough of them fall to the ground I may not actually have been saved at all. This is an incredible bondage. And Paul here in Colossians 2, as he does in Galatians and in Romans and other places, seeks to liberate us from this bondage of legalism. That we would be free from it, that we would serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. That we would see ourselves as adopted sons and daughters of the living God and not as slaves on a plantation. "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free," Galatians 5. "Stand firm then and do not let yourself be yoked again with a bondage of servitude," Galatians 5. And I think that's exactly what Paul was seeking to do.
Now, let's get a little context here. Colossians 1 has established beautifully the supremacy of Christ over all things. The Colossian heresy that Paul is writing to combat, denied the supremacy of Christ, He was a created being, a spirit emanation in the world, and that God, being pure spirit, really didn't desire or want a physical universe to be created, for physical matter is evil and wicked and salvation is to somehow get away from the physical lifestyle into a purely spiritual relationship with the true Spirit God that there was. Christ being an emanation, a created being like other spiritual emanations, can help us through specialized knowledge and through a special religious pattern to be liberated from the physical life and brought into Heaven in that way. It's a heresy.
Complete in Christ
Review: The Supremacy of Christ
And in order to combat it, the Apostle Paul focuses first and foremost on the deity of Christ, on the perfection of Christ, the supremacy of Christ over all things. Colossians 1:15, "He is the image of the invisible God. The firstborn over all creation for by Him all things were created. Things in Heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities. All things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together and He is the head of the body, the Church. He is the firstborn from among the dead and by His blood which He shed He reconciled all things to the Father, so that Christ would have supremacy in all things." This is the greatness of Christ, the supremacy of Christ.
Christ is Complete, We are Complete in Him
And then in chapter 2 he's arguing that, "Christ is complete and therefore we are complete in Him." We don't lack anything. We are fully circumcised spiritually. We are fully alive in Christ. We were dead, but now we're fully alive. We are fully forgiven. He forgave us all our sins, not half of them or three quarters or 99%. He forgave all our sins. We are fully free from the law and we're going to focus on that today. Fully free from the law and we are fully triumphant over Satan and his accusations, specifically his ability to use the written code to accuse us of sin. We are fully free, triumphant because of the cross of Christ. So we're fully complete in Him, but along comes Satan, the intimidating bully that I mentioned last time, and what a bully he is, and through false teachers, through false teaching, he seeks to intimidate us and to tell us we are not complete. Oh, there's something missing. Yes, Christ is good. Yes, Christ is beneficial and helpful, but He is insufficient.
I can scarcely say the words. How could the infinite God dying on the cross for us be insufficient for anything? We are full in Christ. But that's what the false teachers were saying. You needed something more. You needed human philosophy. You needed human obedience to the laws of Moses, Jewish legalism. You needed mysticism, some worship of angels and mystical experiences and you needed asceticism. These things will help complete the beginnings of the work of Christ in your life. If you don't have them, then you're really not saved. You're inadequate. You are insufficient. Satan bullying us, trying to show us that we are incomplete.
The Intimidation of Philosophy
Now, last week, we looked at the intimidation of philosophy. Remember what we said in verse 8? "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." We took time to define philosophy. The word literally means love of wisdom. But generally the way we use it, it's just the human attempt to make sense of the world we live in, to answer life's deepest questions, ultimate questions of meaning. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What happens after death? What is right? What is wrong? And why should I do the right and avoid the wrong? These questions are the purview of philosophy. There's nothing wrong with answering these questions. The problem, though, is the kind of philosophy that Paul was refuting. Hollow and deceptive philosophy which is based on human traditions and not on Christ. This is simply human philosophy that is not based on Christ. Christless, man-centered philosophy. Now, that is an enemy of the Gospel and he says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through it." Don't become a slave to that. Philosophy has a long and assorted history which we talked about last time. I won't go into it this time, but there's been literally millennia of the attacks of philosophy on the Gospel and on the church. The great danger of philosophy is that it starts with man, with man's knowledge, man's perspectives, man's issues and it does not go to the Word of God for its answers, but through our own abilities, it reasons out. But philosophy is defeated in Christ. Christ has become for us the wisdom of God, though He looks foolish. Jewish carpenter, bloody, dead on the cross. Where is the wisdom in that? But it is pure wisdom from God and all of the right answers to those questions, they flow from the cross of Jesus Christ. All of them do. He is our philosophy, Christ. But then He takes on the second bully.
The Intimidation of Legalism
And that bully is the bully of legalism and we're going to spend all our time on it today; I shifted the message a bit. I was going to do legalism, asceticism and mysticism in one Sunday and the folly of that became clear to me the more I looked at it. Can't do it. And so, instead, we're going to look at this issue of legalism. And the issue of legalism is a yoke of bondage, the law of Moses, the rules and regulations, circumcision becomes a portal, a doorway into a whole way of thinking about your relationship with God. A whole way of seeing yourself before the holy God. A way of anticipating how it's going to go for you on Judgment Day, legalism. And it's intimidating, it really is, because along with legalism comes the thought police, the religious police that come and tell you how to observe a Sabbath day, for example. They'll tell you what you're doing wrong, and there's danger to the church here. Look what it says in verses 16 and 17. "Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or with regard to a religious festival, a new moon, a celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come. The reality, however, is found in Christ."
What is legalism? How do we understand it? Well, I love CJ Mahaney's definition of legalism in his wonderful book, the Cross-Centered Life. By the way, that is a great book. I've already alluded to it this morning. It's great for a number of reasons, mostly because it's great to be centered on the cross of Jesus Christ. It's also great to be able to finish a book. So, 82 pages, small, big print, you can get through this, you can do it and what a good feeling to read that final page. If you're kind of a starter and not a finisher, it puts it in succinct language, but he does an excellent job. Maybe one of the best things he does in the whole book is defining legalism. He gives us that image of the plate spinning, but then he gives us a good definition. "Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God." That is one of the best. It's just so clear. Let me read it again. CJ Mahaney: "Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God." It's really any attempt to rely on self effort either to attain or maintain our justification before God through self effort. Either to get it at the beginning or to keep it going once you have it. And it's a subtle change that comes over the brain and you start thinking, "I got it and it's been so good but I have to hold onto it now. I have to hold onto it to make progress. I've got to hold on to Jesus." And Paul, writing in the Book of Galatians, he says, "After beginning with the Spirit are you now completed through the flesh?" After you started by the power of the spirit through simple faith in Christ, are you going to finish your journey through your own efforts? It's so pernicious, so dangerous.
John Piper advances the definition a little bit and I think his distinctions are helpful too. He speaks of two different kinds of legalism in the Christian life. One is individual, personal legalism that infects the brain of an individual Christian and hinders their ability to see their relationship with their Father properly. And the second is a more of a community legalism that comes over a group in which man-made rules are brought in to discern who should be a member of that group and if they're in good standing. The first individual, Piper writes this, "First, legalism means treating biblical standards of conduct as regulations to be kept by our own power in order to earn God's favor," those are key elements. "A law kept by your own power to earn God's favor." That's legalism. In other words, legalism will be present wherever a person is trying to be ethical, to be good in their own strength, that is without relying on the merciful help of God in Christ. Simply put, moral behavior that is not from faith in Christ is legalism. Anything that does not come from faith is sin. Here we're labeling this kind of effort as legalism. That's individual. Then there's that community or corporate legalism. Piper said the second meaning of legalism is this, "The erecting of specific requirements of conduct beyond the teaching of scripture and making adherence to them the means by which a person is qualified for full participation in the local family of God, the church." This is where an unbiblical exclusivism arises. In other words, the community agrees that this is what we're going to do and be, and you are not a Christian, frankly, if you don't keep these standards and the standards that are erected aren't coming from scripture. But they're man-made.
So those are two different kinds of legalism, both of them deadly in the life of the church and the individual Christian. It crushes the joy of the Christian life, crushes it. As a matter of fact, Paul uses joy like I talked about a few weeks ago, as the canary in the coal mine. He is looking at joy and saying it's a fragile thing and when joy goes, one of the things that can kill it is legalism. "What has happened to all your joy?", he says in Galatians, "Where did it go? Don't you remember how it used to be? How sweet it was to know that He forgave us all our sins? To feel like a child of God, adopted and safe and secure." It crushes joy and it leads to a constant effort to earn God's favor. Over and over and what a yoke of bondage that is, how crushing it is.
You know the story of Martin Luther, how he tried to earn his forgiveness through Roman Catholic legalism during the Middle Ages, at the end of the Middle Ages. For him, it was a matter of being a monk and fasting, and praying and spending long nights on the floor and all of these things, and thinking that by obeying to the nth degree all of God's laws, he could do enough to cover his sins and not spend eternity in Hell or hundreds of thousands of years in purgatory. That's legalism and it was awful for him. It was awful because you know why? There's never any enough. There is never any enough. What's enough for the eternal, infinite God, perfectly holy? What's enough for him? And so, as he confessed sin after sin to Staupitz, his father confessor, and just kept coming back to confess more. Sacramental system, you had to confess your sins, or if you died with unconfessed sin that was X number of years in purgatory. It was a terrible bondage for him.
And he kept going back. "Oh, I forgot something." The man couldn't get any work done, Staupitz, and he's like, "Look, go do something real and come back and tell me about it." It was just inclinations and issues of the heart. And he said, "You're making it too complicated. You just need to love God." He said, "Love God? I hate Him!" Well, that's blasphemy. There's no doubt about that. But that's what it leads to. It kills joy in the Christian life. It makes you insecure, and you can begin well, understanding the Gospel, but soon you're oozing over into this whole way of living.
Think about the story of Anne of Green Gables. And Anne Shirley, she was an orphan girl who was taken into a family on probation. How would you like that? "We'll decide whether we'll adopt you or not by how you behave." That's tough. It's not right. It creates a works relationship that is not like a parent-child relationship. Brothers and sisters, we have been adopted. It's done. We are in the family. "A slave has no permanent place in the family," Jesus said, "But a son lives there forever and if the son makes you free, you'll be truly free. Free from the bondage of sin." And Jesus has that kind of power to free us from sin and to bring us as full members into the family of God, sons and daughters of the living God. Now, that's the joy out of which I want to serve God. I don't want to be wondering whether I'm on good standing with Him, and maybe if I do a few more good things I'm in better standing. That is legalism. It is bondage.
Legalism’s Long Sordid History
Now, legalism has a long and sordid history. It's been around forever, from the Old Testament right on through the New Testament. The Judaizers, the Pharisees, that some of them perhaps became Christians or at least outwardly professed to be Christians, they dogged Paul’s steps on this. They were sent to spy out freedom of the Gentiles, trying to make them obey a bunch of rules and regulations. And finally, they were openly teaching false doctrine. In Acts 15:1 it says, "Some brothers came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers, unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Well, that's a wonderful example of legalism. You have to have Christ plus circumcision. Christ's accomplishment on the cross is not enough. And circumcision, I told you, is a doorway into a whole way of living. A whole way of living before God. It has to do with dietary regulations. What you eat, and what you drink, and religious festivals, and how you dealt with the Sabbath, and all the things he mentions here in Colossians 2. Well, the Apostle Peter stands up at that council, just gives a stirring speech, beautiful speech on this. He said, "Brothers, you know that some time ago, God made a choice among the Gentiles, that God, that they would hear, the Gentiles would hear from my lips the message of the Gospel and believe, hear, and believe, and be saved, that's all. God who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them for He purified the hearts by faith. Our hearts are purified by faith," and so it continues. "He made no distinction between us and them," said Peter, "For He purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke, that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No, we believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved just as they are."
Why would you want to be slaves on that plantation again? Earning God's favor by doing His laws, keeping His laws, bondage, and the council rightly decided against it. Paul wrote the whole Book of Galatians to combat this error as they were teaching the same thing there to the Gentiles. And he says this, "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the law rather, because the righteous will live by faith. The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘the man who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hung on a tree.'" So there it is, that's bondage. He's saying Christ has freed us from that. He became a curse for us. We're serving in a new way now, of the Spirit, and not the old way of the written code.
Well, it wasn't just during biblical times, but after that, in the Roman Catholic era and in the Middle Ages, little by little, more and more laws, and man-made regulations, and canon law, and traditions started coming on one after the other, and you had to do all these things in order to be saved. They would teach outside the church, there's no salvation, and then they would define what it meant to be in or outside the church. And it meant the sacramental system, it meant having your infants baptized, and then the sacraments all the way through, including confession and taking the communion and all of those things. It was legalism. And after Luther's insight concerning justification by faith alone, that we are made righteous in God's sight by simple faith. You just look to Jesus. You just trust that He is the Son of God, and He shed His blood on the cross. You just look to Christ and you'll be forgiven. Luther discovered that that is the Gospel. It could be that that's why God brought you here today to hear that simple message. How can I stand before a Holy God on Judgment Day and be forgiven? The answer is not through legalism. It's not through good works. It's through simple faith in Christ. That's the discovery of the Gospel, rediscovery. And Luther found it and the other reformers, the Catholic Church rejected it. And at the Council of Trent they re-established this statement, "Justification: If anyone says that we are justified by faith alone, apart from works of the law, let him be anathema, let him be accursed." So, there you go, right back into legalism again. It's there all the time. But you know, it's not just the Protestants, I mean, the Catholics, the Protestants have had it as well. Baptists have it. There are some groups, Anabaptistic groups, that became schismatic and broke off, and they were free church movements under no authority of the state or any other group. And they practiced extreme separation from the world. And they were very concerned about worldliness. And they made up rules and regulations about what worldliness was. And a fight against worldliness is one of the most subtle in the life of a church. It is a real threat. But you don't fight it by setting up rules and regulations. And so, groups like the Amish and others, they define worldliness in terms of buttons, and use of modern equipment, technology, and other things like that, these rules are not found anywhere in the Bible. We are four or five steps removed from any passage of scripture. But if you are not involved, if you don't assent to it and you act differently, you are shunned, disciplined from that group, you're not part of the group. That's the second definition of legalism that Piper gave us. It's a community coming up with man-made rules and regulations by which they discern who's in and who's out. And other baptistic groups have done that as well.
We were trying to do ministry in Haiti, and there was a group that wouldn't formally do any ministry with us, because we were part of the Southern Baptist Convention, and we do not practice enough separation from the world for their group. So, we are the liberals in their eyes and we are the ones not strict enough, etcetera. To other people, we're exactly the opposite. Isn't it interesting on that? And that's the whole thing.
Legalism’s Great Danger
When you're setting up your life in front of a bunch of human judges, you're always going to find people to your right and people to your left. I would say, if there's no one to your right or no one to your left, you're probably not a Christian. You are the extremist of all the extremists, either in legalism or license, but you're always going to be able to find somebody who can judge you. And so, Paul says very, very plainly here, "Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or by religious festivals, new moon festivals or even what you do on a Sabbath day. It's freedom. Don't let anyone judge you." Now, what does he mean by that? Well, legalism leads you to look away from the cross. You're looking first inwardly to yourself, right? You try to save yourself. You're given a bunch of rules and regulations.
You're looking inwardly to yourself and either, friends, you're doing well or you're doing poorly. If you look inwardly and you're doing well, you are going to become arrogant and insufferable and pretty soon you will be one of the judges. You'll be probably appointed by the church to be one of the Sabbath judges or whatever, because you're looking inward and doing well. You will become arrogant. You've lost the sense of grace. If you look inward with the law and you do not find that you do well, you will despair. You'll become discouraged. You will fall away from any efforts to continue growing in the Christian life, because you think it's too hard. That's the danger, is looking inward. The next thing you do is you start looking at other people to try to see how you're doing, and that's very dangerous. Don't let anyone judge you. Now, it's interesting a command. I really can't obey it and literally. How can I stop you from judging me? “Don't let anyone judge you.” You're judging me now, stop it. I wasn't, I really wasn't. Yes you are. I really don't know how you literally obey it, but I think what Paul is saying is, at least this much, don't take their judgmentalism to heart and don't let their judgmentalism take root in the church. So individually, you are not standing or falling before them. They are not your judge, and don't let their rules and regulations take over the life of the church. I think that's what he means, when he says, "Don't let anyone judge you."
Legalism Defeated in Christ
Legalism is defeated in Christ. It says in Verse 17, "These are a shadow of the things that were to come.” The reality, however, is found in Christ. Christ's blood shed on the cross is the only way to wash away our sins. Christ's righteousness imputed to us by simple faith is the only thing that's going to survive the scrutiny of Judgment Day, perfect righteousness. Ceremonial laws like the sacrificial system, the eating laws, temple worship, annual pilgrimage and I believe the Sabbath were meant to point us to Christ. They were the shadow. The reality is Christ.
The Difficult Case of the Sabbath
Now, I want to take a few minutes and talk about the difficult case of the Sabbath, alright? This is a challenging issue, very challenging. Paul is talking here about what you eat or drink. We know that Jesus declared all foods clean. I don't know many people that struggle with this, with the issue of meat sacrifice to idols and all that. Some struggle with the issue of drinking, and I'm not going to address that today. There's plenty of things to be said about that, many things, and I don't want to do a half-hearted job on it, so we have to do it more thoroughly another time. But here he's saying at least don't let anyone judge you based on these things, or on what you do on a Sabbath day. Now, you've heard the story of Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire, years ago, that movie came out. He was a Scottish missionary, his parents were missionaries in China and he eventually became one. Served to great effect in China and died of a tumor toward the end of World War II. Just a great man of God. He also happened to be a great runner, in 1920 he won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Paris in the 400 meters. Now, usually he was a sprinter, but he had to change, because it turned out that some of the heats for the sprints were on Sunday and it was against his Scottish Presbyterian convictions to run on the Lord's Day. He based it on the 10 Commandments and many people who are Sabbatarians, strict Sabbatarians, will say, "Look at you folks, what you're saying is in effect you believe in all nine of the 10 Commandments." We don't have to do that one, okay, but the other nine are still good. And they will point to Genesis 1 and 2, the creation ordinance. God created the universe in six days and He rested on the seventh and He set the seventh day aside and made it holy and sacred. And they will even point to the language of the 10 Commandments, the fourth of the 10 Commandments. This is what it literally says. "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, your manservant or maidservant, 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 and therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." That's what the Commandment says. Now, the ultimate legalism on Sabbatarianism is coming from the Seventh Day Adventists, who in a pure form say this, that the Lord's day worship that we're doing today is the Mark of the Beast, that if you worship on the first day of the week and not on the seventh day of the week, you have received the mark of the beast.
Well, I don't know if you've read the Book of Revelation, but the Mark of Beast leads straight to hell and there's no escape. There is no rest, day or night. The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for any who receives the Mark of the Beast. Well, that's a very good example of legalism. If we don't agree with them about the seventh day Sabbath, then we are going to Hell. That's what they teach. The question is, is this commandment still binding on the conscience of Christians today and what should we do about it? Well, there's different ways to look at it. Legalism has one extreme, license says the other. Legalism is you got to keep it, got to keep it, got to keep it, and you've got Sabbath police and we'll have to start a new committee here in this church to judge what you do on the Lord's day, etcetera. That's legalism, okay? License is, this matter doesn't mean anything. We're totally free. We could worship on Tuesday if we wanted. We could worship every other week. We could do all kinds of things. We're just totally free in the matter. It has no impact on my life whatsoever. There's nothing here for me at all. That's license in this matter.
And then in the middle there's another error, and that is the Malachi 1:13 error, in which you do what you think is right but you sniff at it and say, "What a burden," and you grumble under it the whole time. That's an error too. How shall we come at this issue of the Sabbath? Well, first of all, let's understand the Sabbath is clearly called a shadow here in Colossians 2. The reality is what? The reality is Christ. Hebrews 4 is the extended treatise on that issue of reality and shadow. And it says, "If you have come to faith in Christ you have entered your Sabbath rest. You have ceased from your work just as God has ceased from His." And that's an incredible thing. That's Hebrews 4:3. "Now we who have believed enter our rest." So, when you come to faith in Christ, the Sabbath, friends, for you is fulfilled. And therefore, we are free from careful restrictions concerning what we do on a Sabbath day. Now, is the Sabbath a perpetual regulation? Well, I don't think that we can understand it that way. I think the Sabbath was a sign of the Mosaic Covenant. There's no clear example in the Old Testament of anyone observing the Sabbath before Mount Sinai. We know that it's recorded that on the seventh day the Lord rested in Genesis 1 and 2. And I know it's an argument from silence. But I think it's significant that it is openly and clearly called in Exodus 31, "It is a sign of the covenant I am making with you today." And so, therefore, it is a sign of the Mosaic Covenant. We are not saved in the Mosaic Covenant and, therefore, the sign is not binding on us today. Christian practice almost universally has been to move from the seventh day to the first. The scriptural basis for this is this is the day that Jesus was raised from the dead. And Jesus showed Himself on the first day of the week to His disciples. The first Sunday evening service, friends, was when Jesus showed Himself that evening to His disciples. So you don't want to miss home fellowship, friends. You want to be involved in whatever the church is doing on Sunday evening. Some of the best things happen Sunday evenings.
And Thomas missed it, to his great regret, but the Lord did show Himself on the first day of the next week. And so, you see a regular pattern there. First day of the week. First day of the week. Friends, I think there's a theological principle here. The seventh day Sabbath looks backward at physical creation, for in six days God made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. The first day observance looks ahead to the new creation. And Jesus' resurrection body is the first new creation stuff there is in the universe. It will never die. It will never perish, spoil or fade. All the other stuff is obsolete. It's aging. It's going away. So, we are forward-looking by worshipping on the first day of the week.
So, what? Well, I want to ask a strict Sabbatarian a key question. If I do not agree with you, what does that mean for me? They must answer that question. I respect Truett Cathy who won't open a Chick-fil-A on Sunday. I respect it. I just want to know what the reasoning is. And some of it could be delightfully wonderful and spirit-led and some of it could be terribly legalistic. I just want to know the motive, the reason. And if their answer is, "It's the Mark of the Beast and if you don't do it our way you go to Hell," I think that's pure legalism right there. If the answer is, "This is what we have chosen do with our time so that we can give ourselves to holy endeavors, to reading the Word of God, that just takes time, and if I'm going to watch a football game or if I'm going to go to Golden Corral, Heaven forbid... Well, I'm sorry, other restaurant, wonderful restaurant... " Is this being taped? I always forget that.
But if I go to this place or that place and you're thinking, "Is this wrong, I'm making somebody work on the Sabbath, or on the Lord's day, I'm sinning, I'm making them sin and there's a whole bondage there," I need to know about that. Romans 14 deals with this in the matter of freedom. It says, “one man considers one day more sacred than the rest and another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” At the end of that same chapter, Romans 14:23, it says, "Everything that does not come from faith is sin." So practically, I want to ask you this. How do you spend your Sunday and why? Why? We need a practical day we get together. We can't have a rotating schedule. You guys would be and so would I be hopelessly confused. You'd definitely have to look on the website to find out what day of the week and time we're meeting.
I think it's best to set a time, don't you? And to follow the pattern of the resurrection of Christ, let's do it on the first day of the week. If we don't, are we going to Hell? No. That's done. That was nailed to the cross. That whole way of thinking is gone. But there are practical sides here. We need to have a time when we can assemble ourselves together and worship together and it's the first day of the week. The Sabbath was set up, also Jesus said, for us. Man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for us. Well, in what sense? We can't go on endlessly working, friends. I was reading Bill Gates. He said he doesn't have time for church on Sunday. I don't know what he works on, I wouldn't say 24/7, but lots of hours on Microsoft things. It's what he does. We can't do that endlessly. You're going to break down. You need some time to get away and to be refreshed spiritually, and that's what the day is for.
Call the Sabbath a Delight
Furthermore, I do have questions. If somebody is working 24/7, isn't there a danger that there's some idolatry, some covetousness that's come in there? That's what's motivating them, and that is dangerous. If there's an idol in the heart, if there's covetousness in the heart, it may be that Christ isn't there, but not because they're not following the rules, it's because there's covetousness in their heart. And Christ drives that away. Who is the Lord of your heart? And practically speaking, don't you need time to read the Bible? Don't you need time to be with your family to have family worship? These things take time. We have bodies. We can't deny it. So we need to rest, we need to be recuperating ourselves, we need to be refreshed, and this is a good way to do it. And so, what could you do? Well, I would urge you, like in the language of Isaiah 58, "Call the Sabbath a delight." Call it a delight, not because you must, but because you are willing as God wants you to be, quoting from another place. 1 Peter 5, talking about elders. “Not because you must, but because you want to.” And so the question, the practical questions, you start to answer in that way, "Can I watch the Super Bowl on a Sunday? Super Bowl Sunday, can I?"
I don't want to say yes or no. I want to say, "Can you watch by faith?" If you can watch the Super Bowl by faith then do it. Frankly, I think you could sin by not running on the Sabbath, on the Lord's day, etcetera, in that you're not understanding the cross rightly, and somebody else could be feeling God's pleasure and glorifying Him by running on a Sunday. I want to know what's going on in the person's heart and I never really can. But you can know better than anyone else what's going on in your own heart. Why would you choose to watch the Super Bowl instead of doing X, Y, and Z? That's all. You have to answer that. You be convinced in your own mind. And then some other practical things can come in to help you. Like some suggest that people do their cooking on Saturdays, not because you must, but because you're willing. And not every week. Some Sundays you can cook. But just try it sometimes. Try getting all your meals ready, all your clothes ready, everything ready, and then just resting on the Lord's day. But not just having a nap. There's nothing wrong with a nap, friends. Nothing wrong with a nap. We need to sleep, okay? There's nothing wrong with that. But instead of doing that, why don't you go pursue the Lord? Psalm 73, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And Earth has nothing I desire besides you."
Use it as a time to renew your love relationship with Christ. Pick your favorite Psalms, a good Christian book, gather your family together if you have one, if you're married and you have children, focus on Christ. But again, not because you must, but because you're willing. Because you want to get closer to Christ. So you're saying, "Pastor, I'm confused." Well, come talk to me afterwards. We're almost done with our time here. I can't go through all the case studies. I say this, we are freed forever from the legalistic requirement to keep the Sabbath. We will not go to Hell based on what we do or don't do with the Sabbath day. And we are not going to set up Sabbath requirements in this church that if you don't meet those requirements you are not a member in full standing or could be disciplined from this group. Instead, what I'm going to do is do something even harder, I'm going to challenge you to say, "What's going on in your heart?" Are you loving Jesus with every thought in your heart, every moment of the day? Are you doing the best things? Are you choosing the excellent things? And if part of that is enjoying watching a football game or playing Ultimate Frisbee or doing something like that, I'm not going to judge you, it's not my place. I don't want to to be on the other side of Colossians 2:16, doing the judging. I'm not going to not do that. But instead, I want to challenge all of us to call the Sabbath a delight, because if you look at that Verse, in the end, it's Isaiah 58:13 and 14, read it later. It says, "Then 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." Close with me in prayer.