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Bible Insights

What Should You Do on Sunday?

Celebrating the Sabbath

People have different ideas about what you can and can’t do on Sundays, how you should and shouldn’t act. This ranges from Sunday being the same as every other day to it being a solemn set-apart time when you go to church, rest, and do nothing else.

Though I have never pursued either of these options, my treatment of this special day has varied over the years, covering much of the area in between.

Old Testament Sabbath: The Seventh Day of the Week

The Bible tells us what to do and not do on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the end of the week, the seventh day—when God rested after he finished his creation.

God tells his people two key things about observing the Sabbath. First, keep it holy. Second, do no work. That’s it.

Note that he doesn’t mention anything about going to a church gathering to worship him each Sabbath.

Whatever you decide Sunday looks like for you, may you do it well. Click To Tweet

New Testament Sunday: The First Day of the Week

The New Testament describes what the early church does on Sunday, which is the first day of the week. Yet the Bible is short on instructing us what we can and should do today for our Sunday observances.

Jesus gives us the best guideline when he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When we factor in biblical concepts of rest and worship, we have a framework from which to form our Sunday routines.

There is no one right answer. We are each left to contemplate this on our own and determine a Sunday practice that is true to what God calls us to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Mark 1-4, and today’s post is on Mark 2:25-28.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Sabbath Day

Sunday Should Not Be a Day of Restriction but a Day of Freedom and Celebration

In the book of Exodus, God and Moses have a face-to-face meeting. That is significant. How cool would it be to have a direct conversation with the Almighty? Certainly, we’d remember what he told us and be careful to follow it completely.

One of the things God tells Moses is to only work for six days and then take a break. Many people today view this as an outdated command. They think God is trying to restrict what they do, limit their freedom, and force them to be bored for twenty-four hours.

That isn’t God’s intent at all. In fact, God wants to give them—and us—a break from our routine. Remember, these people are coming out of enslavement. They never had a day off. Every day was the same: work, work, work. From sunup to sundown and probably even more.

One day would blur in to the other, doing the same old same old thing day after day.

The Gift of the Sabbath Day

By telling them to rest on the seventh day, the Sabbath day, God was giving them a mini vacation from their labors. And what better thing to do on that day of rest then to focus on God and thank him for this amazing gift of a break.

If this idea of resting on the seventh day seems a bit familiar, go back to the creation account. God takes six days to form the reality in which we live and then he takes a break from his labors to consider the results.

He did something amazing and then takes time to rest from his work and marvel at what he has done (Genesis 2:2–3). In this he gives us an example to follow, and later, through Moses, insists we do so.

In case we miss this idea of the seventh day being a gift from God, Jesus reminds us. He says, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath is a gift from God to us and that should change everything. Click To Tweet

In this he confirms we aren’t beholden to the Sabbath Day, held captive by it, or restricted in any way. Instead, the Sabbath is for us to enjoy.

This means we must shove aside legalistic ideas of what we may and may not do on Sunday, which we adopted to be our Sabbath day. Instead we must embrace our seventh day for the freedom it gives us. How we do so is left for us to determine.

Viewing the Sabbath as a gift from God to us should change everything.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 32-34, and today’s post is on Exodus 34:21.]

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Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Why Should We Go to Church on Sunday?

Discover What to Do on the Sabbath

Most Christians have a practice of going to church on Sunday. Some people even go twice. Why do we do that? Why do we go to church every Sunday?

The quick answer that most people would give is that’s what the Bible says to go. But I don’t see that in the Bible. Yes, it does say that we should not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), but this says nothing about church or Sunday. It just says to pursue spiritual community.

Why Sunday?

It’s always perplexed me why we meet on Sunday and not Saturday. Granted, Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on Sunday. And his followers happened to be together on that day, but they were hiding out of fear, least they too be captured and crucified (John 20:19).

And Paul did tell the people in Corinth to set money aside on the first day of each week for a special collection for the people in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:2). But this was a command to one church for a short-term initiative.

When it comes to Sunday, that’s about it. By the way, the word Sunday doesn’t appear in the Bible. So meeting on Sunday seems more of a tradition than anything else. I certainly don’t see this commanded in scripture.

What about the Sabbath?

The word Sabbath occurs 150 times in the Old Testament. God gives a lot of instructions about the Sabbath. Two themes reoccur.

Rest: First, the Sabbath is a day of rest (Deuteronomy 5:14 and about fifteen more places). God tells his people to do no work on the Sabbath. The other six days of the week are for work and the seventh, the Sabbath, our Saturday, is for rest.

This is what God did when he created us. Six days of work followed by a day of rest. There’s a nice rhythm to this. Work and then rest. Our rest on the seventh day gives us a break from our work. This prepares us to work more effectively for the next six days.

Holy: The second key element of the Sabbath is that it’s holy (Exodus 20:8 and about twenty more places). The Sabbath is set apart. The Bible also says to execute anyone desecrating the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14). That’s some serious stuff.

But what does it mean to keep the Sabbath holy? Though we can find some guidelines in the Bible, it’s up to us to determine what this means for us today and how to apply it.

Supporting Thoughts: Here are some secondary biblical versus about the Sabbath.

Yet to Isaiah, God also says, “I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.” This includes their Sabbaths (Isaiah 1:13). And in Hosea, God says he will stop the Sabbath celebrations (Hosea 2:11). This certainly gives us something to contemplate.

We must pursue intentional spiritual community. Click To Tweet

What Should We Do?

Interestingly, just as I’ve found no command in the Bible to meet every Sunday, I’ve yet to find a verse that tells us to meet every Sabbath.

Though some of the Old Testament’s celebrations did fall on the Sabbath, which required the people to have special observances on those days, this certainly wasn’t an every-week occurrence.

If we’re going to do things according to the Bible, the one essential command is that we must not give up meeting together. This doesn’t necessarily mean church, Sunday, or weekly.

It simply means pursuing intentional spiritual community, and though Sunday church may be one way to accomplish this, it’s not necessarily the best way.

Next, if we want to factor the Old Testament into our thinking, we should set aside one day for rest and keep it holy. That’s about it.

How we do this seems up to us to determine.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What Does God Do On Sunday?

Our Worship verses God’s Work

After God finishes with his amazing creation he takes time on the seventh day to rest. He declares the day holy. Later in the Old Testament, God reminds his people to keep the Sabbath holy and to not work. How should this inform our worship of our creator?

Yea, a day off. In the early church the first day of the week becomes their special day, and many Christians today apply the Old Testament commands for Sabbath rest and holiness to Sunday.

As we rest on God’s holy day and worship him, what’s God doing?

Our Worship

I always assumed God was resting along with us, sitting back and receiving our worship. I imagined him being recharged by our adoration of him, even to the point that the more engaging our worship, the more energized he would become.

That just as we needed to take a break, I thought he did, too. He, along with us, would take one day out of seven for a mini re-creation. Then we would both be ready for Monday.

Although that is an imaginative idea, none of it is supported by the Bible.

How does God receive our worship on Sunday? Click To Tweet

Jesus, after he heals a man on the Sabbath, is confronted by his detractors. Jesus tells them plainly that just as his Father God is always at work, so too he is always working.

God’s Work

There’s no mention of Jesus and his Father resting on Sunday, basking in the glory that results from our worship. No, as we rest and worship, God is working. And I’m okay with that.

If God were to rest, just for a day, what would become of us? I need him every day, so I’m glad he doesn’t take a break, even though that is exactly what he tell us to do.

[See Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, and John 5:1-17.]

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Why It’s Important to Obey God

Follow God’s Command

When the people of  Israel were in the desert, God provided manna for their daily sustenance. He gave them some basic instructions about collecting the manna, but some people didn’t listen—or at least they didn’t obey God and do what he said.

He warned them not to stockpile the manna and try to save some for the next day. Those who did, found their hoard had become smelly and infested. I think the lesson was to rely on God for their daily bread, in this case manna.

On the day before the Sabbath, God said to collect enough for two days, because the next day was a day of rest. Those who ignored his instruction found no manna on the Sabbath and presumably went hungry. The lesson was for them to rest as God commanded them to do.

God provided for the people, but only those who obeyed him completely realized his full provision.

I wonder how often God does the same with us, trying to provide what we need, only for us to miss out because we don’t do what he says. When we fail to obey God, we may fail to receive his blessings.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 14-16, and today’s post is on Exodus 16:16-31.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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How Should We Observe the Sabbath?

God Intended for Us to Take a Day of Rest Each Week

The Old Testament talks a lot about the Sabbath. God wants his children to work six days and then rest on the seventh. In fact, he commands that they observe the Sabbath. But lest we think this is an Old Testament thing, God says it’s a lasting covenant for generations to come.

That makes it sound like it applies to us today, that he expects us to observe the Sabbath too.

Let’s unpack what this entails.

The Sabbath Is Holy

First, God says that we are to observe the Sabbath because it is holy. He doesn’t state why it’s holy. He merely decrees that it is. He’s sovereign, so he can do that.

Because the day is holy, it’s sacred, belonging to him. We are to regard it with reverence, a day deserving our respect. Many of us have lost sight of this fact. It’s time to reclaim the Sabbath as holy.

The Sabbath Is a Day with No Work

At the time when God says to observe the Sabbath, the Hebrew people have just ended a time of enslavement, working continuously, toiling every day without a breather.

Taking a break would emerge as a welcome respite, giving them a chance to recover from the week that was and recharge for the week that will be.

The Sabbath Is a Day of Rest

Though slavery still exist today, most of us aren’t under its evil grasp. Yet many in the modern world still act like we’re enslaved. We’re a slave to busyness. We need a break from our jumble of continuous activity. We need a Sabbath rest, a day set apart from the other six.

Those Who Don’t Observe the Sabbath Deserve Death

So that we know how serious God is about this, he says that everyone who doesn’t observe the Sabbath deserves to die. Yikes! We can debate if this is an immediate physical death or an eventual spiritual death or something else, but that discussion misses the point.

God wants us to know he takes observing the Sabbath very seriously.

What the Sabbath Doesn’t Entail

Though I’m still looking for it, I haven’t found a verse where God commands his people to go to the temple (church) on the Sabbath (Sunday).

Yes, he does prescribe certain religious observances where the people go to the temple, and some of those days fall on the Sabbath. But I haven’t found a verse where he tells them to go to the temple every Sabbath—only special ones.

How Can We Observe the Sabbath Today?

How can we apply God’s command to observe the Sabbath to our life today? This is up for each person to determine. We have three biblical principles we can use to guide us.

1. Holy

First, it’s a holy day, set apart from all others. What should we do to treat the day as holy and not like the other six days of the week?

2. No work

Second, we are to do no labor on the Sabbath. What constitutes work is up for us to determine. A task that gives us joy is not work and may be an opportunity to worship God on this holy day.

3. A Day of Rest

Third, the Sabbath is a day of rest. What constitutes rest? Taking a nap? Spending time with family and friends? Going to church? Any activity that recharges us may apply as rest.

We need to reclaim the Sabbath as a holy day of rest without work. The details of how we do this are up for us to decide.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 29-31, and today’s post is on Exodus 31:14-16.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Significance of Synagogues

Discover the Origin of Having a Local Place of Worship

Another interesting word that occurs only in the New Testament is synagogues. Appearing sixty-six times, it’s in all four gospels, a lot in the book of Acts, and twice in Revelation. That’s it. Notably the word synagogue does not appear in the Old Testament.

Where did it come from? Why did something nonexistent in the Old Testament become a place of prominence in the New?

The Old Way

In the Old Testament God establishes the tabernacle and later the temple as the only place to worship him. It’s a center of their national religion: one place for the whole nation. To encounter God, the people go to the temple, which they believe is his earthly residence.

The New Way

In the New Testament, the temple still exists as the national destination for religious celebration, but local synagogues also exist. It seems there’s one in every city that has a Jewish population. The people meet at their local synagogue on the Sabbath.

On Paul’s missionary journeys, he often first goes to the synagogue to talk to the Jews in that area. If they don’t accept his message, then he goes to secular locations to talk to the Gentiles.

The Transition to Synagogues

The Bible doesn’t explain why they’re synagogues in the New Testament. Nor does it explain the shift of emphasis, which makes each synagogue a local gathering place for Jewish worship.

However, history does provide an explanation. Babylon conquers Judah and forcibly relocates the people. They can’t go to their temple anymore. It’s too far away. In its stead they establish a local meeting place in each city they find themselves in.

This becomes the focal point of the Jewish community: a synagogue in each city.

When they receive permission to return to Judah seventy years later, they take this idea of having a local meeting place with them. When they get back, they go about building synagogues in each city. And they meet there each week on the Sabbath.

God’s Commands

God never commanded his people to build a local place of worship in each city. Of course, he never prohibited it either. What he did command is a central place of worship for the nation, the temple.

Though I’m still looking for it, I’ve not found any place in the Bible where God commands his people to worship him on the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath. What he does say about the Sabbath is that we are to keep it holy and not do any work (Exodus 20:8-9).

I don’t see anywhere where he says we need to go to church. Instead, this practice seems to have emerged as a manmade tradition.

God says to keep the Sabbath holy and not do any work. He doesn’t mention going to church. Click To Tweet

Though the temple was a place of worship, it was for various festivals and celebrations that God established. Indeed, going to the temple each Sabbath would pose a hardship on most people who would have to travel long distances to get there.

Though God’s people built synagogues and went there each Sabbath, it wasn’t his idea. He gave no command for them to do so.

Today this tradition persists. We build local houses of worship and go there each week to worship God. I wonder if we should instead focus on God’s command to honor him by keeping the Sabbath holy and not doing any work.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Why Getting a Sunday Sabbath Rest Is Essential

Something Is Wrong If I Wake Up Monday Morning Unprepared to Embrace My Week

The Old Testament talks a lot about the Sabbath, the final day of the week. God—through the Old Testament writers, especially Moses—tells us to keep the Sabbath holy and to rest. But this is an Old Testament thing, and Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament, right?

It’s true that we no longer set aside the seventh day of the week for our faith practices. Instead we’ve made the first day of the week our special day. This may be because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on what we now call Sunday.

In this sense, Sunday is now our Sabbath, our Sunday Sabbath. Should we treat this Sunday Sabbath as holy and set it aside as our day of rest?

Some would say “yes,” and others would say “no.” The first group claims that it’s biblical, while the second asserts that it no longer applies, that it’s archaic.

However, I don’t align with either group.

A Sunday Sabbath

I see no point in pursuing my Sunday Sabbath with legalistic fervor over what I can and cannot do. This feels like a punishment and not a reward. Let’s make Sunday a gift from God. Remember that Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

Yet I don’t dismiss Sunday as just another day of the week, albeit with a church service squeezed in. Sunday must be different. It must be set apart.

I want Sunday to retain a spiritual holiness, just like the Sabbath in the Old Testament. And I need Sunday to serve as a day of rest, just like the Sabbath in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament a day of rest was practical. The people needed to set aside one day a week from their labors. To survive, they work from sunrise to sunset, six days a week. Their bodies required rest on the seventh day to prepare them for the six days of toil that followed.

Most of us no longer work six days a week from sunrise to sunset. We now work 9 to 5, Monday through Friday—or a bit more, but seldom close to the eighty, ninety, or more hours a week that ancient man toiled to survive.

Even so, we still need to take a break, not so much from our work, but from our busyness.

We must treat our Sunday Sabbath as different from the other six days of the week. Click To Tweet

We Need a Sunday Sabbath Rest

In today’s culture, we work hard (usually), and we play even harder. We pack every minute of every waking hour with activity, often multitasked, mind-numbing busyness.

Without a moment to catch our breath, our busyness—often under the guise of recreation—leaves us worn out and exhausted. That’s why we need to embrace rest as our Sunday Sabbath practice.

By taking a much-needed break from our perpetual busyness, we rest on the first day of the week to prepare us for the six days that follow. Our bodies require it, our souls depend on it, and our spirits demand it.

What does the Sabbath Sunday rest look like?

I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out. But I know that we must treat our Sunday Sabbath as different from the other six days of the week. I also know that if I wake up Monday morning unprepared to embrace the coming week that something is wrong.

I know that I missed my Sabbath rest.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Considering the Sabbath: Are You Free or a Slave?

Don’t be a slave to the Law or to legalism, but be free to accept Sunday as a gift from God

The fourth of God’s Ten Commandments tells us to not work on the seventh day of the week and to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). Nowadays, some people make an attempt to follow this command, albeit with adjustments.

However, many people dismiss this as outdated, as irrelevant in our modern, on-the-go, 24/7 reality.

Though many people do not actually go to work on Sunday, to them it is a day like any other, and they may do as they please. It is enough if they happen to squeeze church into their Sunday schedule, but the rest of the day is theirs to do whatever they wish.

They point out that Jesus comes to fulfill the Law. He says so. Consequently, the Ten Commandments and all of Moses’s Law no longer apply. But in the same breath, Jesus first says he does not come to abolish the Law (Matthew 5:17). Therefore, perhaps the Law still stands.

Which is it?

Consider the timing of when God gives all these rules to his people.

They have been slaves for many generations. He releases them from their servitude. He provides them with rules to guide them as a free people. One of the instructions is to not work on the seventh day and to keep it holy.

As slaves, the people worked every day and never got a day off. They had no weekend. They enjoyed no rest. Their masters (that is, their slave drivers) saw to that.

Then they become free and God gives them a day off, a day to rest where they don’t have to work. And to guide them in this day off, he shifts their attention from endless labor to him. Make this day holy, he teaches.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man,” (Mark 2:27). It’s so we can rest as a free people.

Legalistically, some people don’t work on Sunday. They’re slaves to the Law, not free in Jesus. Click To Tweet

In our practice, we shift the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first, the day we call Sunday.

Some people are slaves (either in actuality or in practice) and must work on Sunday. Other people are slaves to the Law. Out of legalistic fervor, they don’t work on Sunday.

The people who are truly free navigate the middle ground.

We are not slaves to work or slaves to legalism. Sunday is a day of freedom for them. We are free to rest and to have a day that is different from all others. We are free to worship God and honor him on a day set apart, a day that is holy.

How to do that is for us to decide. God gives us the freedom to do so.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What Should Sunday Look Like?

For some people, Sunday is a day like any other, while for others, their regimented list of dos and don’ts reduces it to boring idleness. I want neither extreme, hoping for a happy middle ground. Yet what that looks like eludes me.

From a practical perspective, I need a periodic break from the routine; from a spiritual standpoint, I need a Sabbath rest. While I do take my break and seek my rest, I feel I do Sundays badly.

Though I think I’m on the right path, I’m far from my destination, missing what the day can offer. Mired in something that’s okay, I fail to grasp the grandness that awaits.

Most of what I think Sunday should look like comes from my upbringing, with biblical support from Old Testament Law. Though the answer to my quest for a God-honoring Sunday likely resides in the New Testament, I can think of nothing that applies.

My Sunday typically starts out like the rest of the week: writing, exercise, and time with God. Then there’s church. After lunch is TV, a nap, and then wondering what to do next, which typically defaults to more TV.

The evening is usually a couple hours spent with friends, often followed by even more TV. I generally end the day in frustration over squandering time, anxious for Monday so I can do something meaningful.

This isn’t the Sunday God expects or the day I want to offer him, but I’m clueless in how to improve it.

What suggestions do you have? What makes your Sunday special?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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