What a blessing our time at MTI has been. Not very many people have the opportunity to "step out of life" for a period of four weeks to learn about God, yourself and how you interact with others. This weekend I have the privilege to meet with four other men that have been part of my growth group and have them tell me one weakness they have observed and 3-4 strength areas. I have the opportunity to share the same with them. What a privilege!
Last Friday we spent the day thinking a lot about the Christian Sabbath. It was a very helpful time rethinking through why we set aside the Lord's Day for worship, hospitality, fellowship, acts of mercy and rest. It was a bit convicting as to how we, as a family, have slacked lately. We haven't been as purposeful and intentional about how we spend the Lord's Day. So instead we end up spending the time for our own purposes and not the Lord's.
The discussion got a bit lively as we talked through what the Lord's Day Sabbath means for believers today. All of us here come from different Christian backgrounds, different denominations, and different understandings of Scripture. Some have been part of traditions that have a more developed view of the Sabbath and some don't. But, we are all part of the family of God, adopted sons and daughters, called by God to serve Him throughout the world.
It is interesting to me though, how the modern church has lost sight of the Sabbath. The culture around us gave up on the Sabbath long ago. Now, we go to soccer practice on Sunday, watch football all day, and if we feel like it, actually go to church.
I find it curious that we often act like there are only nine Commandments. We read in Scripture that Jesus came to fulfill the law. While that has many applications, one is that we understand that the ceremonial and sacrificial law don't apply to us as New Covenant believers. For some reason, we also throw in the Sabbath as part of that ceremonial law that doesn't apply to us.
But I wonder if we can think about it differently.
What did Jesus do in the Sermon on the Mount? He didn't eliminate the application of the ten commandments, he broadened them. He broadened them to apply to more than our deeds and externally, but to our inward thoughts, heart and mind.
The day of rest was initiated at creation (Genesis 2:1-3). God applied Sabbath principals when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and collected enough manna on the sixth day for two days (Exodus 16:22-30). Both of these were before the Ten Commandments were instituted. The principal of the Sabbath rest was instituted before the Ten commandments, was included in the Ten Commandments, and applies to believers even today.
Take a look at Isaiah 58. In the first five verses God is chastising the Israelites for their faith without works; for their inward focus and their neglect and abuse of those under their care. He then goes on to tell them in verses six through twelve what true faith and fasting looks like: outward focused, feeding the hungry, freeing the oppressed and sheltering the homeless. If they pour themselves out for the hungry, "the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places. . . ." (v. 10, 11)
And then here's the part I haven't understood until a couple months ago. The last two verses of that chapter address the proper observance of the Sabbath. Why are there verses regarding the Sabbath in this section in which God tells Israel the proper way to fast unto the Lord?
"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken." Isaiah 58:13-14
I think the only way we can have a faith that is active, outward focused, and selfless is to find rest in the Sabbath of God. The only way we can work with all our might in our God given vocations and also live a life pursuing the mind of Christ, is to ground it in the Sabbath rest of God. If I can't trust that God will provide for my needs, my schedule, my to-do list, how can I trust that He is sovereign over all of our lives? It takes faith. But where else should we place our faith than in the Creator of all the Universe?
So next time church contemplates canceling service so people can stay home and watch the football game (which some churches did in Seattle when the Seahawks played in the playoffs), or even the next time I contemplate turning on the Mariner's game on a Sunday afternoon (which for me is not healthy, but may be fine for you), ask whether you are "doing your pleasure on my holy day" or pursuing after God?