Sunday, February 12, 2012

How do we keep the Lord's Day?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 2:23-3:6

TO CHEW ON: "And He said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.'" Mark 2:27-28.

We don't make much of Sabbath-keeping (or Sunday-keeping) in our church culture, let alone in society at large. How much that has changed even in the last several hundred years was brought home to me when I recently read the Puritan Jonathan Edwards' 73 Resolutions and came across #38:

"Resolved never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive or matter of laughter on the Lords Day" - from "The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards in Categories."

In our reading today the Pharisees twice confront Jesus about his non-keeping of their Sabbath rules. First they butt heads over whether it is okay to do the work of harvesting heads of grain to feed themselves (Mark 2:23-28). Then later, in the synagogue when Jesus heals the man with a withered hand, that act steels the Pharisees' determination to destroy Him (Mark 3:1-6).

So what is appropriate Lord's Day-keeping behaviour? Should we as 21st century Christians be concerned at all with Sabbath/Sunday/Lord's Day-keeping? Here are some principles we find as we look at Scripture:

  • God set aside one day in seven as a day of rest as early as creation (Genesis 2:2).
  • God told the Israelites the Sabbath was to be a day they kept holy or separate from work (Exodus 31:15) and to Him (Deuteronomy 5:12).'
  • A heart-felt keeping of the Sabbath came with the promise of a rich reward (Isaiah 58:13,14).
  • Jesus and Paul observed the Sabbath by attending places of worship (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2).
  • Some of the activities that happened at "church" on the Sabbath were:
- Prayer (Acts 16:13).
- Getting acquainted with fellow believers (Acts 16:13).
- Reading Scripture (Luke 4:16).
- Teaching (Matthew 6:2).
- Apologetic reasoning from the Scripture with the goal of persuading people to put their faith in Christ (Acts 17:2; 18:4).
  •  Doing good on the Sabbath is allowed. Jesus lived His statement, "Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12) when He:
- healed a man with a withered hand.
- healed a man with a 38-year sickness (John 5:1-9).
- healed a man of blindness (John 9:6,16).

Jesus' statement here: "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath" makes me think. Perhaps it is saying, don't look at Sabbath/Sunday/Lord's Day-keeping as a burdensome, rule-generated obligation but as a privilege and benefit.
- It is permission to relax from work.
- It is a day to nourish relationships with God and people.
- It gives us an entire day to focus on God—the highest and best.
- It is an opportunity to demonstrate, by our lifestyle, our devotion and loyalty to God.

PRAYER: Dear God, I have not been strict with myself about observing one day in seven as holy to You. Help me to view doing this as a privilege and benefit. Amen.

MORE: A book about Sabbath-keeping

Canadian author Mark Buchanan has written a book about keeping the Sabbath: The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. I have not read the book but it seems like a worthwhile read, judging from this excerpt from Tim Challies' (4-star review of it:

"Sabbath-keeping is grounded in a stark refusal we make to ourselves. We stand ourselves down. We resist that which six days of coming and going, pushing and pulling, dodging and weaving, fighting and defending have bred into us. What we deny ourselves is our well-trained impulses to get and to spend and to make and to master. This day, we go in a direction we're unaccustomed to, unfamiliar with, that the other six days have made seem unnatural to us." If the grass needs to be cut because you did not have a chance to do it on Saturday and you have a busy week approaching, leave the grass. But if the grass needs to be cut and this is one of your favorite, most relaxing chores, than by all means, cut the grass on the Sabbath."

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