Pastor Mark Driscoll
October 06, 2013
WE GENTILES DON’T GET THIS
All right, we’re at commandment number four today. If you’ve got a Bible, go to Exodus 20:8–11. And the theme today is Sabbath, the day of rest, ceasing from our work. And what can happen for us is we can overlook how absolutely essential and central this concept was for God’s old covenant, Old Testament people. For a few thousand years, they celebrated the Sabbath in a way that was absolutely devoted. It was the centerpiece of the week. Life orbited around it, commerce orbited around it, worship orbited around it. It was essential and central.
You and I can easily overlook that unless you’ve got some Jewish friends or you’ve been to a place that is, in large part, Jewish people. And if you have any Jewish friends that still really keep the Sabbath in a devout and strict way. They’re not going to use any electricity, they’re going to use candles or leave the lights on from the night before. They’re not going to eat any food that they cooked that day, because they had to prep it the day before to make sure they weren’t doing any work. They’re not going to travel a long distance. Even some who are very devout will not open their refrigerator to get a snack unless they’ve taken the light bulb out, because if you open the door and the light bulb turns on, that could be a violation of the Sabbath.
We Gentiles don’t get this. Most of us are not really committed to much of anything with that degree of devotion. It really hit me when I was in Israel some years ago. When the Sabbath hit, which is Friday night to Saturday night, sundown to sundown, everything was shut down. You couldn’t get a cab, businesses were closed, you couldn’t transact business, nothing could get done because everything literally stopped, everything changed.
THE JESUS ELEVATOR
I was staying in a hotel, my family and I, and we learned very quickly how this worked. Devout Orthodox Jews will not use anything that is electronic by causing it to work through the pressing of a button, and so we had this great experience with the elevator. So, we’re waiting in the lobby of the hotel, and there are two elevators. One says “Sabbath Elevator,” the other says nothing, and there’s the long line of people, way, way, way, way, way, way, way down, all these people.
So, we’re in line wondering, “Why does it take so long to get an elevator in Israel and how come nobody’s using that other elevator?” They only all pack into the Sabbath elevator. The other elevator is wide open, just sitting there. Nobody’s using it. Well, you know, curious Gentile I am, I’m gonna go check this out. Get out of line, I look out, I’m like, “Is this elevator broke?” They’re like, “No, that one works.” “Why is nobody taking it?” “Oh, that’s not the Sabbath elevator.” Apparently the Sabbath elevator is preprogrammed to stop on every floor so you don’t have to push a button.
Well, I’m a Gentile. I’m going to get in that Jesus elevator and go to my room. So, I run on over to the—“Hey kids, look, there’s our elevator.” Next thing I know, our elevator is filled with Jewish people saying, “Could you press floor number three? Could you press floor number four? Could you press floor number five?” It’s like, “Oh, I see. This is an offense to God, so I need you to do this for me. I see how this works, OK. I’m already doomed, so, there you go. Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you. New covenant, new covenant, new covenant, new covenant. Want a bite of my ham sandwich?” You know, “Hey, new covenant,” right? So, you realize, though, that boy, they’re really serious about this stuff.
So, it raises all kinds of questions. OK, should we observe the Sabbath? If so, on what day and in what way? How does it apply to us, not apply to us? Lots of questions emerge from the fourth commandment, so let’s read it together. Let’s unpack it in order. So, let’s just read it together. Exodus 20:8–11, “Remember”—and the “remember” here is to take something that is from the past so that it would be living in the present and live on in the future. It’s not just a mental remembrance; it’s celebrating and modeling that which has gone before us so that it would have a future. So, “Remember the Sabbath day.” Sabbath means cessation of work or rest. “Your day off” would be our sort of common vernacular for that.
“To keep it holy.” Holiness is a hugely important concept. The number one most frequently mentioned attribute of God in the whole Bible is that he is holy. This means he is other, he’s different from us. So, we’re sinful, he’s not, all right? We’re created, he’s eternal. We have to learn things, he knows everything. He’s different from we are, so this concept of holiness is that six days, we work. We do the same thing, we get up and go to work. On the seventh day—it’s holy, it’s set apart, it’s different. It’s different from the other six days.
So, one of the ways you know you’re violating the Sabbath is if, over and over and over, seven days keep looking alike. If that’s the case, you’re violating the Sabbath. If six days look alike and one day looks different, you might be actually obeying the principle of the Sabbath. We’ll get to that.
“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work.” Let me unpack this. A lot of people say, “Oh, this is the commandment about the Sabbath.” It is about the Sabbath, but it’s also about work, and this keeps us from twin idols. You remember the first commandment is there’s one God. The second commandment is, we only worship God—we don’t worship idols. We established that an idol is a created thing. And some of us worship our work. We worship our job. And we’ll make fun of the pagans who used to have sacrifices where they’d get an altar, and they’d lay down a person or an animal, and slaughter it to the gods.
Well, sometimes our god is called “job” and sometimes our sacrifice is called “health,” “marriage,” “children,” “family,” “Sabbath,” “church,” “Community Group,” or “day off.” Sometimes we can have job be god and we offer various sacrifices to appease our god. So, this principle in the fourth commandment keeps us from worshiping our job or worshiping our comfort.
THE TWIN IDOLS OF WORK AND COMFORT
Some of us worship comfort. We try to work as little as possible. We’re trying to be as unproductive as possible. Some of us are working too much and resting, playing, and recovering too little, and it keeps us from getting away from the twin idols of work or comfort—killing yourself for your job or not doing enough work that God is actually worshiped. And sometimes this really is where people fall.
So I’d ask you, do you fall more toward “I’m gonna worship work and work all the time until I die by burning myself out,” or are you more the person who says, “Oh no, that’s not a problem for me. I sleep in, I take naps, I take my day off, I take another day off, I take a lot of days off. I’m actually recently graduated trying to get a part-time job that pays full-time dollars because I play in a band, I’m good at Frisbee golf, and I have a lot of friends, recreational activities. I don’t think I’m going to burn out. In fact, I’m doing just fine”?
Older generations, historically, tend to worship work; younger generations tend to worship play. Some of you say, “That’s an over generalization.” An incredibly accurate over generalization—yes, you are correct. And so what happens is, like, the war generation that Tom Brokaw called the greatest generation needed to be told, “Hey, take a day off, sit down, take a nap, take a break.” Now, their grandkids and great grandkids need to be told, “Hey, get a job. Get a full-time job.”
Don’t put at the center of your life comfort, play, leisure, and recreation. Put at the center of your life productivity, the Lord, and work, because it is a sin to worship your work, but if you do it rightly, work is one way that you worship God. And so you’re actually to be worshiping God seven days a week. You worship God at work—and that can be if a student is in school, or a mother is at home with the children, or someone is off in the workplace. All of that constitutes work as well as worshiping God but in a different way on the Lord’s Day. You understand that?
So, I need to preface this, because some of you are going to hear this sermon and you’re like, “I love that ‘Take a Nap’ sermon. I’m all about that.” OK, you also need to get the “Get a Job” portion of the sermon. Some of you are lazy, you’re not hard-working, you’re not particularly devoted or fruitful. What you don’t need is more days off; what you need is more days at work.
For some of you, you’re going to kill yourself, you’re going to burn yourself out, and you don’t have room in your life for recovery and the Lord, and you need to repent by enjoying a Sabbath. And each of us comes into this with strengths, weaknesses, and proclivities, OK? And you need to know where you are and what portion of the sermon is most emphasized for you.
But I need to say that before I move on to Sabbath, because all of you guys who, you know, are up at the crack of lunch and make sure you get two naps a day and work part-time, you need to hear the work portion, amen?
Now, some of you immediately will say, “Work six days a week? Work hard? What if I burn out?” Some of you are as close to burning out as I am to getting pregnant. It’s not really something to worry about it. It’s way down the horizon. Theoretically, hypothetically, it could happen, but it’s probably not going to happen to you, amen? Hey, wake up, pay attention. I know some of you right now are like, “What? Huh?” OK, this is my point, right? You’ve got to hang in there, you’ve got to persevere through, and you’ve got to learn how to work. And some of you really need to learn how to work, OK? That’s why your mom brought you for this sermon. Mom, you’re welcome.
OK, here we go. “Six days you shall”—what? “Labor, and do all your work.” You’ve got a lot to do. “But on the seventh day it’s a Sabbath day to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” This is a good principle. So what can we do and not do on the Sabbath? Well, you can’t work. It doesn’t mean you can’t have activity, but whatever you do for the other six days, that ceases on the seventh day. “You, your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” Even people from other religions, your employees, your coworkers, visitors from other nations, everybody got this blessing.
Now it goes to Genesis 2:2 and he goes back to creation and looks at what God modeled for us. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, made it holy.”
Little free theological excursus: there’s a big debate in Genesis as to whether or not the seven days of creation—six days of creation, seventh day of rest—were actual, literal, 24-hour days. Here, in Exodus 20:11, it seems to very strongly indicate that those are actual, literal 24-hour days because God sets up a seven-day week based upon his precedent and pattern from Genesis 2:2 that he worked for six days and took the seventh day off as a day of cessation from his labor, a day of Sabbath and rest. And we’re to find our rhythms based upon God’s rhythms. That’s the big idea of the fourth commandment.
Now, what this leads to is a huge number of questions, and I’ll deal with the first two that really unpack a lot of the other issues, and then we’ll get into some very practical implications and applications of the Sabbath.
IS SATURDAY OR SUNDAY THE SABBATH?
Here’s the first question that comes up. Maybe you’ve had it or someone you know. Is Saturday or Sunday our Sabbath? OK, so if you do this, if you go to the Bible in Genesis 2:2, and it says, “God worked six days. On the seventh day, he rested.” What day was the seventh day? Saturday. It says in Exodus, “Work six days, rest on the seventh day.” What day is that? Saturday. Thousands of years, God’s people in the old covenant, they ceased their labors and worshiped their God on Saturday. What day is today? Sunday.
So, are we doing it right or wrong? That’s the question. Are we doing it right or wrong? Should we have Saturday or Sunday? Why do Christians have Sunday, and then if you have Jewish friends or Seventh Day Adventist friends, they’ll say, “It’s Saturday, Saturday, Saturday. It’s always been Saturday. It’s only Sunday; it should be Saturday. Sunday’s wrong, Saturday’s right. “You shouldn’t be taking the Lord’s Day on Sunday. It should be on Saturday.” And they’re going to take you to the Bible and you’re going to say, “You know what? That’s exactly what the Bible says.”
Everything changed when Jesus came, not just with the Sabbath, but with everything. Jesus comes after thousands of years of God’s people observing the Sabbath on Saturday. Jesus obeys the Sabbath. He doesn’t obey the religious rules that they came up with, in addition to God’s rules, so he gets into some conflict with some people, like they come to rebuke him for healing someone on the Sabbath. But Jesus does obey the Sabbath and then he dies and he rises.
Jesus dies in our place for our sins and rises as our Savior what day of the week? Sunday. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, each of the four biographies that tell the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, say that he rose from death on, quote unquote, “The first day of the week.” In the Jewish calendar, what’s the first day of the week? Sunday. It was like our Monday. It was the day that they all went back to work after their day off.
John, in Revelation, calls it the “Lord’s Day,” so it’s the day for the Lord Jesus Christ. The early church started meeting not on Saturday but on Sunday. Acts 20:7 gives us one occasion. It says, “On the first day of the week”—which is what? Sunday. In the Jewish calendar, that’s Sunday. “When we were gathered together.” So, it talks about the church getting together on Sunday.
So, for those of you who are curious or questioning the resurrection of Jesus from death, here’s one line of compelling evidence that Jesus rose from death. God took Saturday off. God’s people took Saturday off for a few thousand years, and then they all started taking Sunday off. Why? Cause, effect—why? Jesus rose from death. They had to reorient their entire business, their entire week, their entire social structure. They had to alter the way they had governed themselves for a few thousand years. You’re not going to get that kind of massive change unless there is some cause that results in that effect, and the cause was Jesus died and rose, and he rose on a Sunday.
And so, the old covenant is fulfilled, the new covenant has come, everything that was anticipatory and preparatory for the coming of Jesus is now satisfied in the resurrection of Jesus. And the whole world is changed, and everything is new, and all things are made new, and all things are in the process of becoming new through the resurrection of Jesus, and so we need a new day to represent the new reality that is brought into being through the resurrection of Jesus. So, it shifts to Sunday.
And for them, this would have been a great sacrifice because in their culture, it was probably still a work day. Imagine if we had church on Monday. I mean, just imagine all of the decisions that you and I would need to make to correspond our life with meeting on Monday. It probably means they met early in the morning or late at night. You’re talking a massive, massive adjustment, change, and sacrifice to honor the resurrection of Jesus.
So, is Saturday or Sunday the Sabbath? Well, for us it is Sunday. It’s the Lord’s Day. It’s the first day of the week because we don’t just concern ourselves with when we worship, we concern ourselves with who we worship. We worship Jesus, and Sunday is the day that we have chosen based upon the teaching of the Bible to be the day that we gather together.
It continued that the Sabbath day was, generally speaking, on Saturday until the Roman Emperor Constantine allegedly converted. There’s debate about that point. He was the ruler of the Roman Empire, the most powerful nation on the earth in its day. And he then took Christianity from being forbidden to being legalized, and around 321 A.D., he declared that Sunday was the new day off, it was the new Sabbath day. So then it shifted in the Roman Empire from Saturday, which the Jews had adhered to, to Sunday, which the Roman nation adhered to.
Then 1,400 and some years later, the United States of America comes into being and we have a big debate. “Should we take Saturday off or Sunday off?” And they couldn’t decide, so we got both. If you ever wonder how we got a two-day weekend, that’s how we got it. But, that’s very new. Again, the Exodus was written to former slaves. They probably never got a day off. So, for them, a day off, it’s like, “Really, a whole day? What a gift from the Lord. He must really love us to give us this great gift.” Americans tend to get two days off.
So, I want you to see that this is very unusual in the history of the world. It’s not biblically mandated. And I have worked—we’re coming up on our eighteenth year of ministry. I have tended to work six days a week, sometimes seven and just about kill myself, which was wrong and I’ll get to that later, but six days a week. I have not taken a two-day weekend, why? Because I don’t think that that’s the precedent in the Bible. But some of you need to understand how blessed you are because you get more days off than God. You get more days off than God decrees or demands. Even a two-day weekend is a massive blessing. That means you’re getting double the days off a year that God even said you get. That’s a lot.
So, start with this understanding that we live in a very unique place in history. And some of you have careers that give you more time off than God even decreed for you, so you’ve got to be good stewards of that. What am I going to do with that time? How will I use and invest that time? And that’s where even sometimes those who give a day of volunteer service to ministry, still have a day off and they’re taking that extra day to use it for service to the Lord, in addition to the day of rest with the Lord.
So, on your way out, as you’re picking up your kids and see our ushers, our greeters, or those who are serving, know that they are giving you one of their days off, and God is still giving them a day off and so they’ve used that in a very ministry-minded, God-honoring way. And I want to publicly thank all the volunteers who, though they may get two days off, they give one to service at the church, amen? That’s a real gift, so thank you.
IS THE SABBATH BINDING ON CHRISTIANS?
OK, so this leads to the next question. Is the Sabbath binding on Christians? OK, here’s the debate. So, there are Ten Commandments. Nine of them are mentioned expressly and commanded in the New Testament. There’s one curious omission. It’s the fourth commandment, our area of focus today, it’s the Sabbath. So, is it still binding or not binding? That’s the question. It is not binding on us as it was those who lived in the Old Testament.
Here’s how Romans 14:5–6 says it. “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind, The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.”
Here’s what he’s saying. Saturday, that’s fine. Sunday, that’s fine. How many of you have a job, Tuesday’s your day off? That’s fine. Some of you, Thursday’s your day off. That’s fine. What God is saying is, it’s more about who we worship than when we worship. It’s more important that we get a day than argue over which day it is.
Now, this leads to a bigger issue, and that is, how should we as Christians deal with the Old Testament law? And the Ten Commandments are in the middle of the first five books of the Old Testament. Jesus calls them the law because there are 613 laws contained therein. How many of you think that the Old Testament laws are no longer binding on us—we don’t have to pay attention to them? But then if I tell you what about murder or stealing, you’re like, “Yeah, let’s keep those.” So, you’re like, “OK, let’s get rid of the Old Testament law, but let’s keep a few of them.”
How many of you say, “No, it’s no longer binding on us?” How many of you would say, “Yes, it’s all binding on us?” And then immediately somebody says, “So, you can’t eat shellfish. You can’t wear certain shirts that have multiple kinds of fabrics.” You’re like, “Well, I didn’t actually read all of it. I just, you know, sort of—I sort of tapped out around Leviticus. You know, I don’t know.”
And it’s a very confusing and complicated thing for Christians because it’s like, well, we want to obey the whole Bible, right? We want to obey the whole Bible. We don’t want to go to the Bible and say, “That’s weird, gone. That’s weird, gone. That’s weird, gone.” But are certain things applicable to us or not applicable to us?
NOT TO ABOLISH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS BUT TO FULL THEM
It’s all applicable to us, but let me explain to you how. Jesus says, “I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” He says this in Matthew 5:17. So, the whole law is fulfilled by Jesus. Something radical happens with the law when it comes to Jesus. This is why Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the end of the law, all right? So, think of it in this way: Paul uses an analogy in a letter to a group of people called the Galatians, and he says that the Old Testament law is like a school teacher.
Any of you remember going to school? The whole point of school is to teach you certain things so that you can graduate and move on with the rest of your life. So, school’s very good, school’s very important, but school’s not forever, amen? I’m glad I’m graduated. I think my degrees are done for a while.
Think of it in this way: To use Paul’s analogy of education, I graduated from high school. I know it seems shocking to some, but it’s a fact. And when I went to high school, we had—let’s just use the biblical language—we had laws. You had to show up at a certain time. You had to be there so many days. You had to sit so many hours in class. You had to get a certain grade point average. You couldn’t, you know, smoke indoors. You couldn’t kill anybody. You couldn’t steal anything. You couldn’t park in the teacher’s parking lot, right? There’s all these rules.
And then at some point, I met all the graduation requirements, and once I met the graduation requirements, I was free to move on. And most of those laws are no longer binding. So I don’t need to go to school tomorrow. I don’t need to study sociology tomorrow. I don’t need to take a test tomorrow. But some of the laws are still binding. I still can’t kill anyone, pull a fire alarm, smoke indoors, stuff like that. So, all of the laws are fulfilled, and some of them still apply.
Here’s how it works for us. Jesus comes without sin. God becomes a man, lives a perfect life in full, complete, total obedience to the entirety of the law. He goes to the cross, substitutes himself, suffers and dies in our place for our sins as our Savior. He rises from death on Sunday, and Jesus gives us his righteousness.
To use my analogy, Jesus hands us his report card. To use my analogy, Jesus gives us his transcript. So, when we stand before the Father, we don’t come with our report card or our transcript saying, “I’ve met all the demands of the law. I have not sinned.” We come saying, “I bring Jesus’ report card. I bring Jesus’ transcript. He’s my perfection, he’s my righteousness, he’s obeyed the entirety of the law, and he’s my living, sovereign Lord,” and there are some things that he still tells me I can’t do, like murder people, or commit adultery, or steal, or lie, or worship false gods. Make sense?
The law was anticipatory; it was preparatory. It was to show us our sin and our need for a Savior so that when the Savior came, we would realize that apart from him, we’ll never meet the demands of the law.
So, that being said, the Sabbath is not binding on Christians because it’s fulfilled in Christ. Jesus says it this way: “Come to me all you who are burdened and heavy-laden. I’ll give you”—what? “Rest. I’ll give you Sabbath.” He says, “For my yoke is easy, my burden is light, and in me you’ll find rest for your soul.” So, our rest today is in Jesus. Jesus fulfills the law; we rest in Jesus Christ. He is our Savior. He is our Sabbath.
So, the day is no longer binding upon us, but let me do one thing: let me take this from the realm of law and move it into the realm of wisdom. In addition to the category of law, there is, in the Bible, the category of wisdom. This is like Proverbs. So, what I would say is that the Sabbath is no longer binding as a law, but it is good wisdom. Proverbs is filled with stuff like, “Hey kid, do you see”—it’s a dad talking to his kids—“that guy over there, moss all over the roof, weeds growing up, the siding falling off the house? He’s killing his equity.” There’s a truism, there’s a principle. So the moral of the story is, don’t defer maintenance on your property. “Little by little, a wise man makes his money grow.” “Hey kid, do you want to get rich?” “Yeah.” “It’s going to be 70 years, and money doubles every seven years if you invest it wisely. So, let’s do some numbers here. Let’s look at the fact that if we put this much in the bank today, and you add to it over time, and it doubles every seven years, where will you be at retirement?” “Oh, that’s a good idea, Dad.” “Yeah, that’s wisdom.”
See, a church would never bring you up for discipline because you didn’t cut your grass or put enough money in your retirement account, but if you don’t, you’re going to hurt yourself. So, it’s less about law and it’s more about wisdom. It’s less about, “You have to do this,” and it’s more about, “This would be a smart thing for you to do.” Does that make sense?
I think with the law being fulfilled in Christ and nine of the Ten Commandments still abiding upon us today, I believe this is the one that shifts from the category of law to the category of wisdom. And I’m not telling you, “You have to get a day off.” What I’m telling you is, if you don’t, you’re going to hurt yourself.
Again, the context here is that they’re gathered at the base of Mount Sinai, God pulls them together, and like a father giving instruction to his children, he’s telling his kids how to live their life. They just came out of slavery working seven days a week. They are not getting their day off. They are burning themselves out. Dad sits them down and says, “I love you. You guys really need to take a day off because you’re going to hurt yourself.” And there’s wisdom in that. True or false, today, there’s still a lot of wisdom in that? There’s a lot of wisdom in that. But it’s not a law; it’s an issue of wisdom.
7 REASONS WHY WE SABBATH
So, what I want to do now is I want to transition into that which is very, very, very practical. OK, we’ve dealt with the theological. It can be complicated. I’m going to deal with the practical. Seven reasons why we Sabbath, and seven ways we kill the Sabbath. Seven reasons why we Sabbath.
- TO REMEMBER JESUS’ WORK
We stop our work to remember Jesus’ work. True or false, Christians believe that we’re saved by works? You knew it was going to be a tricky question. Some of you are like, “I’m not going to say.” True or false, Christians are saved by works. True—Jesus’ works, OK?
See, because what happens is sometimes the preacher will get up and say, “You’re saved by grace, not by works.” No, you’re saved by Christ. You’re saved by grace from Christ, and it’s Christ’s works, not your own. Again, meeting the demands of the law, Jesus met the demands of the law.
So, when God became a man, lived without sin, endured temptation, went to the cross, suffered and died in our place for our sins, got buried, got up three days later, evidences resurrection, I think Jesus would tell you that was work. That was a lot of work to atone for the sins of the world.
So, what we do on the Sabbath day is something different from every other religion, because every other religion teaches, if you want to be saved, you need to work. You need to reincarnate, pay off your karmic debt, you need to be a good person, live a moral life, your good deeds outdo your bad—whatever it is. Christianity does not teach that we work for our salvation but that Jesus worked for our salvation, and we trust in his finished work. That’s why on the cross he says, “It is finished.” All the work’s done. All the work’s done.
Once the work is done, all that remains is that we trust in his finished work. So, on our Sabbath day, what we’re remembering is my relationship with God did not begin with what I’ve done, it is not sustained by what I do, and it is not guaranteed to the end by my effort or work. I am saved from beginning to end by Jesus’ work. He saved me, he walks with me, and I will stand before him in the end.
So, it allows us to cease from our work and it reminds us that our salvation is not by work. It’s by Jesus’ work and the grace that he gives to us because of his finished work. Does that make sense? Sometimes some of you are doers. You’re do, do, do, do, do, and you need to realize what’s been done, done, done, done, done.
- TO CONNECT WITH JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE
Number two, we connect with Jesus and his people. The Sabbath forces us to spend time with the Lord and his people. This is time for Bible reading, prayer, silence and solitude, going for a hike, talking to the Lord, whatever, playing your guitar, singing out loud, whatever it looks like for you to connect with the Lord Jesus and his people.
Sometimes, we get so busy that we have time for things and not people. We’re so busy working on the house, the car, and the job, that we forget people. And I’ll tell you what, there’s only one thing you’re going to take with you into the kingdom of God, and that’s the people of God. All the other stuff is going to stay here. The people of God—we go together forever. People are most important. Things matter, but people really matter. Jesus died for people, not things. Jesus can replace things, but you can’t replace people.
You and I should be people who seek not to live with regret. “I never got with them. I never followed up with them. I never had a meal with them. I didn’t pursue a friendship with them because I just didn’t have time because the things in my life pushed out the people in my life.” This is time to connect with people.
So, what does this look like for you? Is this getting together with old friends, getting together with family? Is this throwing a big party or a meal? In our family, you know, it’s sitting down for dinner together. That’s what it is. It’s a sacred time, and it’s an important time for the people who love each other to actually be with each other. And it’s including other people in your life and leaving margin for hospitality, relationship, friendship, and getting to know people that you don’t even know yet but God wants you to get to know. But it’s going to take some time to make that possible.
Our day is so superficial and shallow. I mean, most of us, what we know about people is primarily what we read off their posts on the Internet, and that’s not really who someone is or really how they’re doing. It takes that face-to-face time to really grow the relationship, and the Sabbath affords, enables, and enforces that.
- TO PREPARE FOR ETERNAL REST
Number three, we prepare for the eternal rest. In Hebrews 4:8–10, he likens heaven to an eternal Sabbath. It doesn’t mean there won’t be work, but the work won’t be cursed so it will be easier. We won’t have to do everything seven times. It’s so frustrating when you’re trying to do something, it breaks, it never works, it never comes together. In heaven, we will have work, but it won’t be cursed. And if you can’t take a nap, if you can’t take a day off, heaven’s going to drive you nuts. It’s just going to drive you crazy. So, the Sabbath day is the day to sleep in. It’s the day to sleep in.
Some of you say, “But, I’m supposed to serve the Lord.” Serve him by sleeping. Not every day, some of you need to stop sleeping in, right? But for those of you who get up and go to work, sleeping in is an act of worship and it’s your way of saying, “I believe that when I am asleep, God is still sovereign, and I don’t need to get up and control everything because the one who is in control actually has it covered.” Sometimes it’s taking a nap.
- TO MIRROR THE RHYTHM OF GOD
Jesus took a nap. You sometimes need to take a nap. I took a nap yesterday. God was as glorified in my nap as he is in my sermon, maybe more so, depending how this sermon ends up, all right? But how many of you don’t think of taking a nap as glorifying God and an act of worship? How many of you don’t think it’s sleeping in or taking a day off? It is. So, we worship God six days by working, we worship God on the seventh day by not working. It’s all worship; it’s just worshiping the same God in different ways. We worship by mirroring the rhythm of God.
We’ve examined this. In Genesis 2:2, it says that God worked for six days, took the seventh day off. Worship is where we mirror God. God’s our Father, we’re his kids, we’re to follow our Father’s example, we’re to imitate his pattern of living for us. He worked for six days, took the seventh day off, and we’re worshiping him by taking a day of Sabbath. And if people ask, “Why do you do that?” Well, this is what God does, and he loves me, and he told me that I need to take a day off, and so I do. What’s interesting is that it seems to be that this is the way that God created the world and the human body, and they correspond in rhythm together.
It’s interesting today. I mean, we live in a world in which a lot of people don’t believe in the God of the Bible, but they still observe a seven-day week. There were two experiments historically, one in France, one in Russia, where, with Communistic, atheistic revolutions, they tried to do something other than a seven-day week because they didn’t want any of their culture built on the instruction of the Bible.
Guess what happened? It failed, and they went back to a seven-day week. It just seems to be the way that God has wired and rhythmed us, and it seems to be the groove that our soul settles into because that’s the way that God is. God made us in his image and likeness, and we work best when we are congruent with the way that God is and created us to be.
- TO SAVE OTHERS AND OURSELVES FROM OURSELVES
We save others and ourselves from ourselves. I’ll just be honest with you. The most destructive person in my life is me. I push myself in ways that no one would ever push me. I push myself in ways I would never push my children—never. I tend to be my own pharaoh, slave driver, slave driver, slave driver, slave driver, slave driver. How many of you are like that? Now, some of you are not like that, but how many of you are like me? You are type A, driver, doer. How many of you are like that?
Here’s the big idea: If you don’t take a break, you’ll just break. If you don’t take a Sabbath voluntarily, you’ll take a Sabbath involuntarily. We call it stress, depression, ulcer, burnout, heart attack, hospitalization. The question is not, are you going to stop? The question is, are you going to stop joyfully or painfully? That’s the question. And you can drive yourself, and when you drive yourself, you drive everybody in your world. If you’re a parent, you’re going to drive your kids. If you’re an employer, you’re going to drive your employees. Then everybody’s going to have to march along to death to keep up with you.
Man, I’ve learned this the hard way. And some of you say, “Well, I’m glad you’ve learned it.” Still learning it, OK? We always put the hypocrites up front so they’re good illustrations, right? On this one, I’ve had blown adrenal glands, I’ve had major fatigue, I’ve had an intestinal ulcer. I have really fried myself out. Sometimes we need to be saved from ourselves. And some of you are not as gracious, loving, wise, or merciful as God your heavenly Father, and you would be driving and the Father would say, “Sit down. Take a nap. I didn’t tell you to do that. Let somebody else figure it out or let me take care of it.”
God tends to be more gracious to some of us than we are to ourselves. And I’ve failed at this, and I’m still working at this, and there are times I get this wrong and I go backward. And for those of you who are like me, it’s something to constantly be aware of and constantly be repenting of, because all of a sudden, productivity becomes idolatry. “I can get more done!” and God says, “Well, one of the things that’s most important to me is time with you.”
Think about this. I mean, I have five kids, I love them with all my heart, and what I don’t want them to just do is all their chores. I want them to get time with me. All right, one of my highlights every day lately, I lay on the couch, Gideon and Alexi, the two younger ones, they lay on top of me for upwards of an hour. Some of the other kids are pretty big so they’ve got to sit next to me, otherwise they knock the wind out of me.
I would be very discouraged, grieved, and saddened if my children never came and sat with me. “Well Dad, I’ve got to do the dishes. Now I’ve got to pull weeds. Now I’ve got to do homework. I’m going to wash the car, and I’ve got to clean the garage, and I’ve got to, got to, got to—” “You know what, I’m your dad. You do need to do your chores, you do need to do your homework. But you also need to spend time with your dad because it’s good for you. And your dad loves you, and your dad wants to spend time with you. Your dad wants to make memories with you.”
I want you to hear this, not in terms of a lawgiver giving a law, but a father giving wise counsel to children, a dad who’s looking at his kids and it’s like, “You kids are—you’re going to fry yourself out. Come sit on the couch with Dad.” “We don’t have time.” No, trust me, you do. You do. It’s saving yourself from yourself.
- TO HAVE FUN AND MAKE MEMORIES
Number six, we have fun and make memories. Religious people are not fun. They’re not. They’re not fun. So, Jesus shows up and kids run around him, want to be with him. You know why? He’s fun. I don’t know if you know this, kids tend to pick adults who are fun over those who are not. Have you noticed that? How many of you, say you’re married and you got kids, one of you’s fun. The kids want to be with that one. The other one, not fun. I mean, kids still love you, but it’s more work, OK?
God’s a Father who likes his kids to have fun, so when Jesus shows up, the religious people get jealous because Jesus gets invited to parties and the religious people don’t. And what religious people do then, they always go, “There must be something wrong with Jesus.” Really? There’s not another possibility, that maybe you’re not fun and so they didn’t invite you, so maybe there’s something wrong with you. OK, you know you’re on to something when non-Christians invite you to hang out with them and it’s not to go do something nefarious. They just like you, find you to be somewhat enjoyable.
Jesus was like that. People liked to hang out with him. That’s why people would invite him to parties, hang out with him, come around him, and spend time with him. Part of it was his teaching, and his miracles, and all of that, but part of it was, I think Jesus is a guy that when you get to the kingdom of God, I think if you’re hanging out with Jesus, you’ll be like, “That was a good day. That was fun. That totally beat going to the dentist. That was a good day.” No offense to dentists, but, you know, that was a good day.
Part of getting the Sabbath day is sometimes we’re working, working, working, and we need to do a little bit of playing.
Now again, back to my first point. Some of you are playing, playing, playing, you need to get back to work. But for those of us who are prone to work, we need to learn to play. You say, “Well, I don’t want to waste time.” Sure you do, because that’s one of the things that God asks you to do is waste a little bit of time doing something kind of fun.
What’s fun? Sabbath is for fun. It’s for play, it’s for rest, it’s for rejuvenation, it’s for recharging the batteries, it’s for making memories. This is what I love to do. I like to be with my kids. I find them very life-giving. I like to plan fun things and then take photos of it so that I can revisit with them. “Remember when we went there? Remember when we did that? Remember when we did this? Remember when we did that?”
It could be little things, could be big things. I don’t know what your thing is, but what’s fun for you? What’s enjoyable for you? What’s a memory for you? Who can you share it with? How can you capture it, praise God for it, and make that an act of worship? You know what, I love it when my kids do the chores, but what I love most is to hear them laugh in my house. Parents agree with me? When you hear your kids laughing, like, that’s just a gift to the soul. If my kids never laughed and always worked, I’d be glad that they were productive and hard-working, but I’d be worried about their soul. God’s a Father who wants his kids to work, and he wants them to laugh, have fun, and make memories.
- TO LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TIME AND ENERGY MANAGEMENT
In addition, we learn the difference between time management and energy management. I got this from my friend Rick Warren some years ago. There are things that take a little bit of time, but a lot of energy. There are things that take a long time, but don’t take a lot of energy. It’s not just time management.
We live in a day when everybody’s like, “Manage your time, manage your time, manage your time.” I would say what is more difficult but more important is to manage your energy. If I told all of you right now, “All right, run as far as you can,” some of you’d get to the door, because you’re smokers, it would be over. You know, you’re like [gasping for air]. Some of you would make it a mile. Others, five, ten. Some of you’d run a marathon right now.
But at some point, every one of us will run out of energy. You can only go for so long and then you have to recover. What goes up must come down. Like plugging in your technology: your battery winds down, you’ve got to recharge it. And when we Sabbath, when we have a different day, it’s not a work day, all of a sudden we get new perspective on this other six days. “That was a waste of time. That was a waste of energy. That exhausted me so I’ve got to find a way to get enough energy to do that or to endure that. This is something I really need to find a way to do. This is something I need to find a way to stop doing.” And it teaches us not just to manage our time, but our energy.
Let me just do a little experiment. How many of you are introverts? Introverts are not people who don’t like people, they’re just people who are not energized by people. You could love people, but then you want to go home and be alone. OK, how many of you are extroverts? You’re energized by people. If you’re feeling tired and burned out, you go get some friends. We’ve got to go do something. OK, how many of you married the other person and you drive each other crazy? That’s what tends to happen, right?
So, it’s managing your energy. So, if you’re an extrovert, you’re going to go out into a crowd or go out with a bunch—“Whoo! Wasn’t that amazing?” They’re like, “No, I need to go home and go to bed. I’m exhausted.” Right? Vice versa, “Hey, it’s our Sabbath day, I’m going to read a book. You read a book.” “Read a book?” You’re sitting there reading. You’re like, “I can’t sit anymore. I cannot read no more. I’ve got to go see somebody. I’ve got to go do something. I need to be active. I’m not a contemplative person, I’m an active person.”
What I don’t want to do is turn this into a bunch of laws, but I want you to figure out how this works for you, other people figure out how it works for them, we learn from each other. Some of us need to work more. Some of us need to rest more. Some of us need to manage our energy better. Some of us need to manage our time better. And this is going to be a lot of your discussion in Community Group this week.
7 SABBATH KILLERS
That being said, seven Sabbath killers. Here’s how we kill it.
- A POOR WORK ETHIC
Number one, a poor work ethic. If you don’t do your work during the week, you’re going to end up doing your work on your day off. You’re disorganized, you’re lazy, you’re late. You’re trying to squeeze play in all week and then your day off is eaten up. You work hard, rest well.
- RELIGIOUS RULES
Number two, religious rules. Religious people like to make rules about everything and they ruin all the fun. Some of you religious people are like, “Well, I’m just trying to get it organized.” That’s the problem, OK? You don’t need to organize a gift, you need to play with it. All right, the Sabbath is a gift for God’s children to enjoy.
Jesus says in, I think it’s Mark 2:27, “Man was not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for man.” What he’s saying is this: the most important thing is not the Sabbath and it rules over you. It’s a gift that God gives you to make your life more enjoyable. And what can happen is if you start making
This is where I want to be careful. I don’t want to send you back to your Community Groups and your homes for discussion, and all of a sudden you make a lot of rules and you’re judging each other. “Well, did you work? Did you sweat?” Because it gets really weird really fast, so let’s take it out of the category of law. It’s all fulfilled in Christ. Let’s leave it in the category of wisdom. Let’s leave room for the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, instruct, and direct you.
What happens with religious people is they want to remove the Holy Spirit and replace him with their rules, and their rules never work because we’re not to be filled with rules, we’re to be filled with the Spirit who helps us to obey the word of God. For some of you, your day off is going to be looking different than other people. And you can make rules for you, “This is how it works for me,” but you can’t impose your rules on anybody else because you didn’t write the Bible. You have no right to make rules that are imposed on other people.
I’ll give you a weird example. So, one of the big debates historically on the issue of the Sabbath was if your grandmother is walking through the field on the Sabbath, so granny’s going for a walk, and granny trips and falls, OK? So, down goes granny. So, here’s granny in the field. The big theological debate was this: does it constitute work and violation of fourth commandment if we help granny up and walk her to the house? OK, then it led to a huge debate. Well, is granny going to die? If she’s going to die, then maybe God would be OK if we picked up granny and carried her to the house. But if granny isn’t going to die, maybe we should leave her in the field until the Sabbath is over, OK?
Only a religious person could get into that place, right? The Holy Spirit would never get you in that ditch, like, “Well, I don’t know. Should we pick her up? Should we not pick her up? I don’t know. Granny, are you going to die? Did you break a hip? Are you bleeding out?” You know, and you can tell for sure that granny wasn’t on the committee, amen? I mean, it would not have been a long debate.
The moral of the story is that the Sabbath is a gift that God gives, and when we impose too many rules on it, it no longer becomes a blessing but a burden. So, for you and for the people you know and the people you love, let the Holy Spirit direct you. Take all these biblical principles, but even be careful with the principles I’m giving you, because you can just turn them into another form of law. Don’t do that.
- OBSERVING A SABBATH DAY WITHOUT A SABBATH HEART
Observing a Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart. How many of you know what I’m talking about? You get your day off but you’re still anxious, you’re stressed, you can’t sleep, you can’t sit down, you can’t enjoy. You’ve got too much to do. You’ve got too much to do. Your heart isn’t able to Sabbath.
This is a big deal for me. I live in my mind, I study all the time, and I’ve got some responsibilities. I’ve got great help with those responsibilities, but with five kids and everything else, there’s always something that I’m thinking about.
So, I’ll give you a couple things that have helped me. I always carry a notebook, and any time something comes to mind, I write it down so that if it is my Sabbath day, I can collect all my work and get to it later. Otherwise, I try to keep everything organized in my mind and it becomes distracting. Sacred ritual’s important. Some of you need to chop wood and start a fire. Some of you need to go for a walk. Some of you need to put on a pot of coffee. Some of you need to read your Bible. Some of you need to start a new book a certain day every day of the week. Some of you need to just get together with loved ones for a meal a certain day of the week. It’s sacred ritual. It’s putting in those mile markers in life that are life-giving.
For some of you as well, you need to understand that if you work with your mind, you’re going to Sabbath with your hands. If you’re a person who’s an accountant, or an engineer, or someone who’s sitting at a desk thinking all week, for you, Sabbath is probably going to look like weeding, woodworking, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, or something with your hands.
For those of you who work with your hands, you’re probably going to want to Sabbath with your mind. You’re probably going to want to read, sit down, not being doing a lot, and get a day of Sabbath and rest, and it’s going to look different for everybody and that’s OK in the grace of God.
Another thing, as well, is sometimes to change your pace, you need to change your place. Sometimes to change your pace, you need to change your place. How many of you can’t rest at home because you’ve got too many projects?
This is my wife. My wife, she has this desire to get all the laundry done. Our children have this desire to ensure that that never happens, OK? So, sometimes it’s like, “Let’s go out to breakfast. Let’s go for a walk. Let’s go somewhere else. Let’s get out of the house,” because in the house tends to be all the tasks, right? But it’s acknowledging whether or not you have a Sabbath heart. Resting is not just out there. Resting is also in here. It’s in the soul.
- A PHARAOH
A pharaoh. Now, they had a pharaoh who literally ruled over them, and our pharaoh today tends to fit in our pocket. Always ever-present, dominating our whole life, interrupting at any time, we call it the phone. I would submit to you that one of the great killers of the Sabbath today is the phone. E-mails, social media, articles, people get a hold of you. I mean, it’s e-mail, it’s social media posting, it’s phone calls, it’s texting, it’s multiple ways for people to crash into your life in an instant.
Some of you say, “Oh, it’s very important, though.” No, it’s not. Most of your stuff is like Angry Birds, cat photos on YouTube, and shenanigans. OK, it’s just not that big of a deal. I dropped my phone in the lake this summer, to the glory of God, and I didn’t replace it for two weeks. Yeah, it was—and now I have it again, and I’m sad.
Some of you say, “Oh, so we shouldn’t have a phone?” I’m not saying you should, I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I’m not saying that we’re going to make a law, but I believe in the providence of God. Mine went in the lake, OK. And I praise God for that. The first couple days without your phone, true or false, you freak out? Because if you lose your phone, it kind of feels like you lost a kid. All right, and then you realize, not such a big deal. OK, technology can kill you.
- NOT PLANNING YOUR SABBATH—IN PENCIL
A couple other things. Plan your Sabbath in pencil. For some of you, your problem is you don’t plan your Sabbath, so your day comes, and you’ve got no idea what you’re going to do, and it’s just a wreck. Others of you plan it so much it’s no longer fun. It feels like another kind of work. Have you been on vacation with those people? You meet them at the airport. You’re like, “What’s that?” “This is your binder. I put together our vacation.” “Oh, wow, really? Is there a day in here where I kill you and burn the binder? Because this isn’t going to work for me. You have this so organized we’re not going to have any fun.” OK, so it’s planning in pencil, a little flexibility, a little spontaneity, make adjustments as you go.
- RESTING FROM YOUR WORK INSTEAD OF RESTING FOR YOUR WORK
Number six, resting from your work instead of resting for your work. In Genesis, here’s the pattern of God. It says there was evening and morning the first day, evening and morning the second day, evening and morning the third day. In that day, there’s no electricity, agrarian society. When the sun goes down, you go home and your day is done. You eat dinner by candlelight, you hang out, read by the fire maybe, go to bed, and you sleep. You don’t have all the technology to keep you up all night.
God’s pattern is that our day starts at sundown, which means the most important first part of your day is not in the morning. We tend to think, “My day starts in the morning when my alarm goes off.” No, actually, my day starts in the evening with my dinner and my bedtime.
Some of you need to organize dinner and bedtime a whole lot better because that will replenish. So, it’s fill your bucket, empty your bucket, fill your bucket, empty your bucket. God designed the world, and the way he sees a day is differently than we do, so that we fill our bucket at night and empty it the next day at work. If you start by emptying your bucket, then you’re dead. You’re dead. You’re a person who is trying to work themselves until they break and then try to recover. That’s not the way to live.
It’s a change of mind; it’s a change of rhythm. The average person needs eight to nine hours of sleep a night. The average person gets six to seven hours of sleep a night, which means the average person is sleep deprived. When you’re younger, you could sort of push it. As you get older, it gets harder, right? How many of you are on this side of forty? You realize that your energy levels are not the same.
- STIMULANTS INSTEAD OF SABBATH
And what we do then is we violate Sabbath principle, point seven, we use stimulants instead of the Sabbath. I don’t have the energy to do the work that I have to do today, so I start the day by having a cup of coffee, or cups of coffee, and then more shots of espresso, and “Can you put chocolate on that—and crack, and methamphetamine? What else you got back there?” Right?
And then you go to your day and you’re like, “Man, I’m feeling a little, you know, tired,” so I’m going to eat simple carbohydrates because it quickly turns into glucose and sugar in the body. And now I’m going to be stressed out, and I’m going to use technology to keep me on.
Now the adrenaline’s firing and now I need more sugar, so I’m going to eat more garbage, and I’ve got a thing of M&Ms, you know, on my desk, and I’m just going to be snacking away all day. And now, boy, three or four o’clock hits, and I have a crash. My body is saying, “Hey, we’re done.” And you’re like, “No we’re not.” You know, here’s a Monster, here’s a Red Bull, here’s more coffee. “Oh, now I feel fine.”
Now I’m going home eventually, and I’m in traffic, and I’m stressed out, and my phone’s ringing. And I’ve got a pop that’s big enough for a small child to take swim lessons in, and I’m going to drink the whole thing on the way home.
Then you get home and you’re like, “Man, I am so tired, but I cannot go to sleep. I do not know why I cannot go to sleep,” right? Any of you that—“Oh, I’ll watch TV. Oh, that didn’t help because it stimulates my mind. Now I’m going, now I’ve got to surf the Internet.
Now I’m up all night, now I’m freaking out. You know what I’ll have? I’ll have a drink.” So you have a drink, and then you go to sleep, but then the alcohol turns into sugar, three hours later you’re—now you’re wide awake again, right? Now you’re a caffeinated, drunk, grumpy, phone-answering, Sabbath-violating wreck, and we call it “America.”
It’s not working, right? It’s not working. Some are like, “Well, you’re depressed.” Well, I think I know why, because my whole life is put together very poorly. Some of you say, “These are tremendous insights,” because I’ve done this, OK? Last week, OK. So, it’s something I’m still working on, but God’s way is a better way, amen? And I don’t want to turn it into law, I want to turn it into wisdom. God the Father is saying, “Look at your whole life. Look at your whole life, and see if it is put together in a way that is fruitful and joyful, that you get things done, and one of those things you get done is resting in me and enjoying time with me, the life that I’ve given you, and the people that I’ve surrounded you with,” amen? That’s the heart of the Sabbath.
For those of you who are not Christians, I want you to realize this: your rest is only to be found in Jesus Christ. Whatever you’re doing to get your life together, the first thing you need to do is just bring your life to him, and let him be the one who forgives you of sin, changes your heart, and starts to rearchitect your life.
For those of us who are Christians, it is about asking ourselves, “Am I prone to worship work or comfort? Am I prone to kill myself for my job or am I tending to put play at the center of my life to where I’m immature and irresponsible? And what does repentance look like for us?”
God, I pray for those who are working too much and they really need to learn how to Sabbath. You’re worried about them and we’re worried about them. God, for those who Sabbath too much and work too little, I pray this would be a corrective for them as well.
And Lord Jesus, we thank you that we find our rest in you, that we don’t do anything to be saved, that you do everything that we might be saved. Thank you, Lord Jesus, that today we’re not going through 613 laws and trying to figure out how to do it all perfect and right, that instead we know that you already have and we trust in you, and we thank you for being our report card, we thank you for being our transcript. We thank you for sending the Holy Spirit so that we can live by wisdom and that we can enjoy the life that you’ve given us, to work hard six days a week as an act of worship, and to rest well one day a week as an additional act of worship.
And Jesus, as we come now, please refresh us. Help us to find our rest in you. And as we leave here today, help us to do nothing. Help us to do nothing and may that be a time to enjoy you, and the life you’ve given us. In your good name, amen.
Some of us worship our work, while others of us love being lazy. Keeping the Sabbath keeps us from those twin idols, and reminds us that Jesus’ has finished his redemptive work, allowing us to enter into his rest. This sermon explores 7 reasons we Sabbath and 7 ways we kill it.
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