SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
Bad Religion Says as Long as You Claim to Love Jesus Christ, God Doesn't Care How Often You Go to Church (Continued)
Print This Sermon
Sunday, August 19, 2012 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1585
Pastor Don Horban

Exodus 20:8-11 - ďRemember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. [9] Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, [10] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. [11] For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.Ē

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 - ďObserve the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. [13] Six days you shall labor and do all your work, [14] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. [15] You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.Ē

The central issue of this command was probably best popularized by the story of Olympic runner, Eric Liddell. He was a Scottish athlete who trained his whole life to compete in the 1924 Olympic games. His story was made famous in the movie, ďChariots of Fire.Ē

Most of us canít even imagine the work and dedication required to make it to the Olympics. We see the TV commercials praising the dedication of such athletes. They virtually put the rest of their lives on hold to give themselves to the pursuit of Olympic gold.

Eric Liddell did win a gold medal, but thatís not what heís now most famous for. The conflict of his life came when he discovered that the race he had prepared for all his life was to be held on a Sunday. Eric was a devout Christian and felt he couldnít participate because it would be a breaching of the command we read about in our opening text. Because of this, he switched races, competed in another event on another day, and won the gold medal. Later on, Eric Liddell became a missionary and died in the 40's in a prisoner of war camp in China.

Now, the world has changed a great deal since then. Most of us donít honestly even imagine that Eric would have done any damage to his soul had he competed in that Sunday race. He may have violated his conscience, but certainly not divine commandment.

The world has moved onward a great deal since those days. And certainly the church has changed its mind greatly over many issues since 1924. Yet, this fourth command, this command about setting a day apart for God, is the only command that begins with the key word, ďremember.Ē Weíre not told to remember that killing is wrong, or stealing, or committing adultery. But weíre told that we must resist the mindlessness that is so common about Godís day. As the world moves forward, this command calls us backward.

That word remember means there is something here I am likely to forget. Or overlook. Or conveniently justify and explain away. Parents, upon leaving the house for an evening out, never shout back to the kids, ďDonít forget to eat all the cake and ice cream!Ē They are more likely to say, ďDonít forget to do your home work!Ē Normal, healthy children rarely forget about their stomachs. But they can, very conveniently and efficiently, forget about homework.

ďDonít forget about Godís day.Ē Thatís what this command is all about. The command first addresses the way we think (remember). Then it addresses the way we act. God says we need to adjust our thinking about His day. We must re-gather and redirect our mindís natural inclinations and bring it back under Godís revealed will. Weíre going to consider 7 ideas together - two this week and five next week:

1) THE COMMAND IS TO CELEBRATE THE FAITHFULNESS AND GOODNESS OF OUR CREATOR GOD

In this sense it actually predates the Mosaic Law - Exodus 20:11 - ďFor in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Moses didnít make the day holy. God made it holy. And it didnít become holy on Mount Sinai. Its roots go back, long before the giving of the law, to the creation of the world.

The text says God ďrestedĒ on the sabbath day. Why? Was He tired? Was the Almighty just totally wiped out? Was His back sore or His hands blistered? Did God actually say, ďWhew! I just canít make one more tree. Boy am I beat!Ē

The creation account gives us some help here (and notice the seemingly literal creation assumptions in the explanation given by God Himself in Exodus 20:11). In Genesis we read that God rested on the seventh day, not because He was overwhelmed with fatigue, but to pause and celebrate the goodness of the created world - ďGod saw everything He made (He pondered it) - ďBehold, it was very good!Ē

Thatís what God did on the sabbath day. He established a pattern. And He didnít just decree a pattern. He kept the pattern Himself. He took the seventh day, separated it from the activities of all the others, and openly celebrated and surveyed His own creative greatness and goodness.

Then God said, ďThere, you do the same thing. Follow my pattern.Ē So the commandment stands as a reminder to turn from activities centered on self and expend that same energy reflecting on Godís power - His majesty over all that is - to reflect on Who made us and to Whom we will all give account.

Perhaps, before anything else, this command calls people to acknowledge a sacred focus to all of life. It is a command given to keep us from living life with ourselves at the center of everything. It calls us to remember that thereís more to us than chemicals and glands.

How our world needs this reminder today! God, in a tremendous act of life giving love, says, we must focus the direction of one day a week or we will fail to orient the rest of our lives properly.

Thatís what this command calls me to. It calls me to break with my normal routine. One day is designated to jar my earthbound patterns and wake my soul up like a speed bump on a parking lot.

So the Sabbath rest isnít just a pause to catch my breath in a busy world. In itself, that is still totally self-centered. Atheists do that. Rather, the sabbath is a pause to turn my life from self to God - from my pursuits and plans to His. And I canít properly remember God without giving Him this time.

2) THE COMMAND IS TO CELEBRATE GODíS REDEMPTIVE DELIVERANCE OF HIS PEOPLE

This emphasis becomes particularly clear in the recording of the commandments in Deuteronomy chapter 5:

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 - ďObserve the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. [13] Six days you shall labor and do all your work, [14] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. [15] You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.Ē

So now the idea of remembering the Sabbath is getting more flesh on its bones. The light of progressive revelation is growing. Exodus tells them to remember. Deuteronomy tells us in more detail what they are to remember. From our first point, we saw that this one day was set apart right from the creation of the world. It really has nothing to do with mere Old Testament law. Moses didnít establish the pattern on Sinai. God established the pattern Himself at the beginning of creation. We need one day carefully and systematically devoted in its entirety to reflecting on the One who made everything - the One who is in charge - to consider where the resources for life itself come from - and to Whom everything returns.

Because God is Creator, my days and my hours come from His hand. They belong to Him - not just symbolically, but literally. And one day is devoted to the re-establishing of that truth in my life. I need one day to keep myself from clawing my life back out of His hand.

This second point expands on this idea. And this second point is the best place to focus on the change from the Sabbath in the Old Testament to the Lordís Day in the New Testament. And the reason is very important. Now weíre just starting to see that there is movement beyond the mere idea of God resting from activity, to a very specific day for remembering, not Godís inactivity, but a very great activity - a delivering activity.

We now have revealed that Godís people were to reflect on one aspect of Godís goodness and power in particular. God was a delivering God. He had brought them out of a captivity from which they could never have freed themselves. God brought them out of bondage from which they could never, ever deliver themselves.

And this is the point very specifically picked up on in the New Testament. The New Testament develops a theology of this very idea for a church age understanding of the Sabbath commandment for believers:

Hebrews 4:9-16 - ďSo then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, [10] for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. [11] Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. [12] For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. [13] And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [14] Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. [15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Ē

Look again at verse 10: ď....for whoever [speaking to the New Testament church] has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.Ē This verse makes a direct link between God resting after His creation work and Jesus resting after His redemptive work. Then, the first nine words of verse 11 call each of us to enter into that rest of Christ - ďLet us therefore strive to enter that rest ....Ē

And please note the seemingly contradictory ideas in those verbs striving and entering. They lie at the very core of the New Testamentís understanding of how the Old Testament Sabbath was ultimately finding its fulfillment for the church.

We celebrate the Lordís Day on the first day of the week, because it celebrates our standing in a finished work. We start our worship on the first day because it pictures a rest of faith that was never earned by any preceding works of merit. Every Lordís Day we are saying that we stand in a work done for us. It comes before any of our own works. Thatís what the Lordís Day pictures at the beginning of the week rather than at the closing of the week.

The Lordís Day is related to the Sabbath in the same way the cross and Resurrection is related to the death of animals offered in the sacrifices in the OT. The Lordís Day doesnít contradict the sabbath. It completes and fulfills it. On the Lordís Day we rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

This also helps us understand the kind of rest the Lordís Day is designed to provide. The Lordís Day is a day of rest. But not in the way many people think. Itís not the rest of lying on the beach or barbecuing burgers on the patio. You donít strive after that kind of rest. Thatís just relaxation.

And, more importantly, contrary to what most people think, thatís a very legalistic, old covenant understanding of the Sabbath. Itís a pre-New Testament picture of what that Sabbath commandment is all about.

Hereís what Iím trying to say. And hereís what I think the New Testament teaches. God didnít have to stop His creative work in order to focus on the goodness of His work. He is infinite in His power and intellectual capacity. He could easily work and ponder at the very same time.

So why did He stop everything else to reflect on His own greatness? He did that in example to us. Unlike our Creator, we need one whole day separated from everything else we usually do, if we are going to know God deeply. The riches of our redemption in Christ Jesus arenít light truths. You canít savor them while laughing at the sexual innuendos on Modern Family.

The Lordís Day celebrates, and reflects on, and praises God for, the rest of sins forgiven, the rest of a life focused on the freeing power of praise and worship, the rest of joyful obedience to commands that are not a burden because of the new life of the Holy Spirit in the soul, the rest of a redemption that is safe and sure in Christ Jesus.

And most of all, the Lordís Day, is the day for celebrating - remembering - these great realities undistracted by the concerns of self, pleasure, leisure, and the activities of the rest of the week.

How shall we apply all of this to our lives. Admittedly, the New Testament doesnít give a detailed check list of how many times Christians must attend church. And pastors surely know people are easily turned off by reminders of coming to worship services. It sounds almost self-serving for preachers to tell people they need to come and listen to them.

But Iím still willing to risk it. Iím still willing to stand here and tell you flat out that most Christians will do far better spiritually with more church rather than less. Iím still willing to tell you that, precisely because God wonít send a plague of frogs or locusts on your house when you stay home, we are easily duped into thinking He just doesnít really care what we do with the Lordís Day.

But it matters, people. It matters more than all the other days put together. I donít mean God doesnít care about Monday through Saturday. I mean how you love and follow Him on those days is more tied to what you do with Sunday than you can ever imagine.

More on this next Sunday.