Greg Laurie is the author of 12 inspirational books, which are available online.
Most of us are always in a hurry. Have you noticed that life seems to move faster and faster every day? We keep trying to cram more and more living into our increasingly limited lives. Many of us are constantly living on the edge … our schedules are jam-packed, and suddenly one day we wonder how so much of life passed us by!
Our homes are filled with laborsaving devices that are supposed to make our lives easier than ever, and yet we have never worked harder! No wonder we are stressed out!
In this age of instant information, we are always communicating. We have our computers with e-mail, of course. But then there are portable devices we can use to e-mail, IM, etc. Then when we are not e-mailing or talking, we have our ear buds on as we listen to our iPods. Are we trying to drown out something that we all need to hear? That something is a Someone who wants to speak to you right now. It’s the Lord.
I wonder if He wouldn’t say to us in our hurried, rushed, stressed out pace, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Even Jesus took time off from His ministry:
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:30-32)
Our emphasis always seems to be on doing, but God is interested in our rest. And He knows we need it. To show you this, consider how hard your body will work in just the next 24 hours:
- Your heart will beat 103,689 times;
- Your blood will travel around 168,000,000 miles;
- You will breathe 23,040 times;
- You will inhale 438 cubic feet of air;
- You will eat 3 and a half pounds of food and drink 2.9 quarts of liquid;
- You will speak 4,800 words;
- You will move 750 muscles;
- You will exercise 7,000,000 brain cells.
No wonder you’re tired!
That is why God has given us a commandment about this.
In a previous article, I listed God’s “Top Ten list” of all time, the Ten Commandments, and now we’ll consider the fourth commandment on God’s list:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
Sadly, this commandment has produced more confusion, misunderstanding and hard feelings than any of the others. Let’s find out what it’s not, and then discover what it is.
First, we need to remember that this commandment was originally given to the Jewish people as a sign of their special covenantal relationship with the Lord (Exodus 31:13). It was intended, among other things, to set them apart as His chosen people among the nations by giving them the seventh day as a time of total rest.
But for Christians chosen from among every nation to live under grace given through Jesus Christ, we need to keep some “fast facts about the fourth” clearly in mind:
- This is the only commandment that is not repeated in the New Testament. Every other commandment of God’s Top Ten List is repeated (and most are made even more stringent), but of all the sins listed in the New Testament, “breaking the Sabbath” is never mentioned even once. That’s because the Sabbath was given to the Jews as a sign, and not to the non-Jews.
- Jesus never taught His followers to keep the Sabbath. In fact, the New Testament reports that Jesus actually “broke” the Sabbath law as it was observed by the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 12:1-14). These self-styled leaders had so twisted the meaning of the Sabbath that they considered it a crime if someone did a good deed on that day! For instance, when Jesus healed on the Sabbath day, He was accused of being a lawbreaker.
- Jesus reminded these religionists that “man was not made for the Sabbath, but Sabbath for man.” Isn’t it sad how religion often takes the place of a relationship with others and with God? It becomes all about going through rituals and rules without giving much thought to loving God or others at all.
- The Apostles never taught anyone to keep the Sabbath. In fact, they began meeting on the first day of the week, Sunday, because Jesus rose on Sunday morning. Moreover, they spoke against turning the Sabbath into a religious law for Christians:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
The Apostles taught that the Sabbath was a shadow because the true Sabbath is found in the reality of Jesus Christ!
So there is a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For all who enter into God’s rest will find rest from their labors, just as God rested after creating the world. Let us do our best to enter that place of rest. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
Other religions say “do,” while Jesus Christ says “DONE!” Just as we no longer approach God through animal sacrifices in an earthly temple – since these were “signposts” pointing us to the sacrifice of Jesus – so we no longer rest from our “works of righteousness” since we rest in the finished work of Jesus as our righteousness before God.
Now that we know what the Sabbath is not, does it have any message for us as Christians today? Yes, I think it does.
First, since the weekly Sabbath was to be a day of rest, God wants us to understand that we need at least one day off out of seven to “rest and recharge.”
As our Creator, God knows that we need a day to be “recharged” both physically and spiritually. For many, Sunday is that day. Now Sunday is technically not the Sabbath, but it’s a good day to honor the principle that we all need to take time and rest.
Sunday also provides us with a special time to get together with fellow Christians to worship, pray and consider the truths of Scripture together. As a day set apart to become more spiritually attuned and rejuvenated, this time is a real necessity for us, since otherwise we’ll soon find ourselves casualties in the “race of life.”
Second, Jesus provides us lasting rest from our feeble attempts to please God. Not only did He die for our sins upon the Cross, but His finished work – a life of perfect obedience before the Father – is credited to us when we put our trust in Him.
If you are still trying to find favor with God by being “good enough” or “cleaning up your act,” look to Jesus as the One who can give you lasting peace with God.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)
So take a day off this week and refresh and recharge.
And don’t forget – Go to church this Sunday!
You will be glad you did.