I recently scrolled through sermons from my church in 2009 and came across one titled “Sabbath”. I decided to go ahead and listen to some of it, but honestly with hesitation. The reason for my hesitation was because I think I’ve always had a misconstrued view of the Sabbath. I’ve seen it as a sacred day of rest, a religious act, an “Old Testament” type deal. I think this is because I merely saw commands in the Old Testament as rules to follow and failed to see all of them have been fulfilled by Jesus. He Himself is our Sabbath rest. God doesn’t give us commands because He wants to rob us of life, but He desperately wants to give life. Most non-believers and some believers (if we don’t fully grasp the gospel and are honest) think God’s commands are given just because He wants to rob us. It is the complete opposite. I could (and probably will in the future) write a whole blog about the topic of obeying God’s commands, not because of our own doing, but because Christ’s initial love compels us to obey and it ultimately leads to a life of freedom and joy. Anyways, keep this in mind as you read further…
The Sabbath is a beautiful picture that we can simply “be” and not “do” as it was explained in the sermon I heard. That hit me hard. There are several life-giving reasons to take a day out of our week to rest, but we are not required to keep the Sabbath law. Why? Because Jesus has fulfilled this need. He has become our rest. Therefore, instead of taking one day aside to rest, we get to experience this reality daily. But for some who are wired certain ways, I think it can be beneficial to set a whole day aside each week to simply “be” and reflect. It just looks different for each person. As long as the intent isn’t to earn merit, it can be a healthy spiritual discipline. Let me elaborate.
Today it is extremely natural in our culture to be addicted to the need of feeling connected- whether that is through social networks, constantly having to be around people, keeping up in conversation with others, or whatever it might look like for you. The reality is, this is a shallow way to be connected to people, and quite sad. Part of the blame falls on what society has made communication to be, but much of it, I would argue, is a battle within our own hearts. It is the battle to gain approval from others- to feel loved, accepted, and worthy by them. How foolish to pursue attention from others and a need to be liked. Just so you know, I am guilty of this too, and praying that God continues to strip that ugly idol from my heart. Is Jesus’ death on the cross not enough to say that we have been accepted and loved? It seems as if we think it’s not enough due to the fact that we have denied him for lesser, worldly loves and desires, yet while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This is exactly what the picture of the Sabbath represents. It graciously reminds me to trust that I have all I need in Jesus Christ. I don’t have to live under the very weight that I have been set free from in Christ. I don’t have to rely on my strength to get me through a day. I tend to be one of those who feels it would be beneficial to set aside a day each week to clear my head, so I decided I would do it the other day. I did this for two reasons: to actively ask God what idols have been hindering me, and to enjoy and appreciate blessings that have been given to me- to actually savor my day. Basically, my day included: abstaining from social networks (which is a biggie in my down time), spending time drinking good coffee from my convenient Kourig, playing guitar on my back porch, setting my phone aside for most of the day, cooking/baking, and going out for sushi. There was something about setting aside these distractions that enabled me to get after the Lord in such a profound way. It also opened my eyes to how fortunate I am for those everyday things. Am I saying it is necessary for me one day every week? Not necessarily. But for the season I find myself in, becoming easily distracted, I definitely think it is a wise spiritual discipline for me. I can’t argue that for you because I don’t know your heart.
I would like to ask these questions (if you are a Christ follower): Are you tirelessly working at something without purpose? Is anything hindering your faith in Jesus? If so, what are you running to in place of Jesus or putting before Him? These are questions I asked myself after taking this day to reflect. The funny thing is, I was blinded to even ask these questions before I took this day aside.
For those of you who haven’t trusted Jesus as your Savior, I am so glad you have read this far. I would ask you this: What are you striving towards? An education or career so that you might rise to success? Approval from a man or woman to complete you? Are the things you are chasing and working towards in everyday life satisfying you? Like do they actually satisfy you? And are they giving you purpose? You might honestly think they are, but to be blunt- they WILL fail you. I’m not saying this with naivety. I’m saying it because I, too, have been there..and by all means am prone to run back to the very things Christ has set me free from. But by His grace alone, He is able to sustain. It isn’t to say you cannot desire a good education, a career, a marriage, or whatever your heart desires. God grants us these things. But the reality is that if these are the end goals in sight, there is really no purpose for them. You aren’t required to set these things aside. They are beautiful things, just not ultimate things. Temporary things cannot deliver what they have (in disguise) promised to deliver. You won’t ultimately be able to rest until you rest in the One who loves you more than you know. I promise you will see a greater purpose to live for than those lesser loves. And the beautiful thing is, you learn as you go. You won’t be perfect. You won’t have it all together. You won’t have it easy. And you will stumble, but in that stumbling, you will run to the Cross where it is okay to stumble and press into Jesus. And you will be able to rest in the truth that Jesus has set you free from sin and death, and He will lead you into purposeful life, not empty toiling. He has shown that he is enough, regardless. You can simply “be” and not “do” because He has done it all by living a life without sin, dying on the cross to put our sin to death, and conquered death so that we can live. If that doesn’t give us reason to rest, I don’t know what does. The invitation is on the table for you, just as you are. Christ says in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” That, my friends, is good news.