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 However, many people dismiss this as outdated, as irrelevant in our modern, on-the-go, 24/7 reality.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

When is the Best Time to do Good?

Helping others is one of many ways to worship God

When is the Best Time to do Good?I like the stories about Jesus helping people in need, such as by feeding them and especially by healing them. Even more I like it when Jesus confronts the religious practices of the day. We have so much to learn from his example.

It’s a bonus for me when in one action Jesus does both: helps someone and challenges religious conventions. Such is the case in today’s reading when Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath, the Jew’s holy day of rest.

A religious authority, intent on preserving his devout heritage of keeping the Law of Moses, is quick to criticize Jesus for his miraculous act of compassion. Though Jesus does the right thing for the right reason, the Jewish synagogue leader can only see Jesus as breaking one of their long-held rules and deviating from their all-important tradition.

The church today has many rules and expectations for us to follow. Some are well intended and others are unexamined, but I suspect there are exceptions to each one, such as by helping a person in dire need.We worship God when we help someone in trouble. Click To Tweet

What about skipping church to come to someone’s aid? Some people would never consider such an act, while others would never question it. What is important to remember is that we can worship God in church by singing to him and we can worship God in our community by helping someone in trouble.

Which should we choose? Perhaps the one that benefits others. And what better day than Sunday?

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 13, and today’s post is on Luke 13:10-14.]

Don’t Be a Baby Christian

Learn how to eat spiritual food and feed yourself

Don’t Be a Baby ChristianThe author of Hebrews (who I suspect was Paul) warns the young church, the followers of Jesus, that they need to grow up. Though many of them should be mature enough to teach others, they still haven’t grasped the basics themselves. They persist in drinking spiritual milk when they should have graduated to solid food.

When most people hear about this passage, they assume the baby Christians, those subsisting on milk, are other people. They reason that this verse couldn’t be a reflection on their own spiritual status – or lack thereof. The truth is that I fear the church of Jesus is comprised of too many spiritual infants.

If you don’t believe me, let’s unpack this analogy. In the physical sense, babies drink milk and are wholly dependent on others to feed them. As babies grow they graduate to solid food and begin to feed themselves, first with help and then alone. This is how things function with our physical bodies and how things should function with our spiritual selves.

So when people go to church on Sunday to hear a sermon, they expect their pastor to feed them. They subsist on spiritual milk. Instead they should feed themselves and don’t need to hear a sermon every week in order to obtain their spiritual sustenance.

When pastors feed their congregation each Sunday, they keep their people in an immature state (albeit with more head knowledge) and help justify their continued employment. Instead pastors should teach their church attendees how to feed themselves, to not need a pastor to teach them. If ministers do this, they could work themselves out of a job. But that’s okay, because there are plenty of other churches in need of this same teaching.Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday. Click To Tweet

Some might infer this means that the mature Christians, those who can feed themselves, don’t need to go to church. This is only half correct. Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday, but they do need to meet together and be in community with other believers.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 5-7, and today’s post is on Hebrews 5:12-14.]

[This is from Peter DeHaan‘s August newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.”  Receive the complete newsletter each month.]

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What Does God Do On Sunday?

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. 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.

What Does God Do On Sunday?As we rest on God’s holy day and worship him, what’s God doing?

I always assumed he 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.What does God do on Sunday? What do we do 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 is he always working. There’s no mention of them 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.

What does your Sunday look like? Do you apply the Old Testament commands for a Sabbath rest to your weekly schedule?

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

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What Do You Do On Sunday? What Should You Do on Sunday?

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 Sunday being a solemn set-apart time when you go to church, rest, and do nothing else. Though I have never practiced either of these, my treatment of Sunday has varied over the years, covering much of the area in between.

What Do You Do On Sunday? The Bible gives us hints of what to do and not do on the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week – when God rested after he finished his creation). The New Testament describes what the early church does on Sunday (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 home in on a Sunday practice that is true to what God calls us to do.

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

What are important elements of your Sunday practice? Is there anything you’d like to change? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Mark 2:25-28]

What Time is Church?

When my wife and I started our journey of visiting fifty-two churches in a year, one variable seemed trivial at first but had wide ramifications. That item was service times. With church starting times as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 11:30 a.m., our Sundays looked quite different each week.

As bedtime loomed each Saturday night, the common question became, “What time is Church tomorrow?” The answer determined when we got up in the morning, how much free time we had before church, when we could expect to eat lunch, and what we had time to do in the afternoon.

Factor in services lasting between one hour and two and half hours, with up to two hours of informal community afterwards, we had no idea when we might return home. Including drive time, our Sunday morning church experience would take between seventy minutes and three and a half hours.

For a person who likes the rhythm of a regular schedule, my Sunday routine was thrown into disarray. While assaulting my status quo wasn’t all bad, sometimes my time with God was the casualty of this ever-changing timetable. Isn’t that ironic?

[Read about our journey of visiting 52 churches.]

I Scream Sunday

I don’t listen to music much anymore. I find it more distracting than helpful. But when I did listen, my preferences fell a bit out of mainstream. The band, One Bad Pig, proves my point. Let’s just say their music is an acquired taste. (They were an 80s, Christian, punk, screamo band – and I liked them!)

Their classic song “I Scream Sunday” is a lament over the shallowness of Sunday-only Christians, while offering hope for something more. In fact, they insist there’s something more, if only Jesus’ followers are willing to see it and embrace it – or as they say, to dream.

On many a Sunday, this song was my pre-church anthem – maybe it still is. The words draw me to God, crying with him over what is, while yearning for what can be, for what should be. For me, it’s a powerful call to repentance and an imperative push for a deeper, nonconventional commitment to the savior of the world and our life within the world he created.

Today, as “I scream Sunday,” I reject status quo religion and pursue a vibrant Jesus faith in action. Will you join me?

[For those open to alternative musical styles, check out the lyrics or listen to the song; focus on the chorus, and sing along with me.]

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?