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I’m super looking forward to getting really practical today, but I need to start right here at the outset by making a couple things clear.
I know I haven’t done this topic the justice I want to. I know there are those of you who’ve heard what I said and are potentially more confused than you were before. I’m sorry, by the way.
There are others of you who patently disagree with me and believe that I’m wrong. Hopefully we can still be friends. :-)
And there are likely those who think I’m saying something I’m not
So, I pray that after today’s episode a lot of those loose-ends will be all tied up, and — if nothing else — I really hope that we will be able to agree on the following four points:
1. God does not command New Testament Christians to observe Old Testament Sabbaths.
Old Testament Sabbaths were a compilation of two things: 1. It was an eternal expectation for the believer’s rest, but 2. It included theocratic expectations that were unique to the Children of Israel at different times and in different ways.
However, just because the Old Testament Sabbath included point two doesn’t mean that point one has no bearing on our lives. None of that that means that God doesn’t have expectations for our rest. Therefore . . .
2. God does expect us to glorify Him in our rest.
Whether it’s an afternoon nap, quiet time, vacation, recreation, a Day of Rest, or sleep, as followers of Christ He deserves the preeminence in it all.
And . . .
3. God does command us to participate in the activities and have the motivations that we’re going to outline today.
I know that was vague, but we’ll get to them shortly.
And — as we synchronize all of this information — we should be able to agree that . . .
4. Observing a weekly Day of Rest to the glory of God is vital for disciples of Christ.
I know the jury may still be out on that one, but let’s wait to be too dogmatic until the end of the show.
And — of course — we have a link to today’s episode notes, transcript, and Day of Rest resources for you in the description of today’s episode.
So, now let’s look at the motivation for a weekly Day of Rest, what we’re to avoid on that day, what we’re to embrace on that day, and when we’re to take that Day of Rest.
1. The motivation for a Day of Rest is God’s preeminence.
My friends, this is the all-important focus we must have. Most of the Jews absolutely botched the whole Sabbath purpose because they made it about following man-made rules. They did what pleased them. But remember what Isaiah 58:13-14 said, “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, 14 Then you will take delight in the Lord, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
We quote Colossians 1:18 around here an awful lot, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”
The phrase translated “first place” refers to priority and preeminence. To be preeminent is to have paramount rank, dignity, or importance.
If we enter this discussion trying to see what we can get out of it, if we’re trying to earn brownie points with God, if we’re just trying to make ourselves feel comfortable or be able to check off some religious bullet-points, God is not going to be pleased.
Anything we do and don’t do on our Day of Rest must be to the honor and glory of God as an act of worship to Him.
So, if rest is all about ceasing, from what are we to cease?
2. What to avoid on a Day of Rest.
I originally had this point later in my outline, but it quickly became clear to me that we had to deal with this one first. But I’m not going to spend too much time on it, because — let’s be honest — God doesn’t spend a ton of time on it.
But there are four short points that will set an understanding about God’s expectations for us.
A. We need to cease everything that will disrupt our physical rest.
One day I want to share all of the medical research and scientific data that shows that God’s plan was always best. We need to rest. And there are two kinds of rest that are absolutely necessary.
We need the physical rest that allows our bodies and brains to rejuvenate. This involves healthy amounts of daily sleep as well as a one in seven rhythm of body stewardship. We are fools if we believe that God is glorified by the never-ending, body-wracking busyness of our modern existence. It’s artificial. It’s unsustainable without chemical enhancements. It’s unhealthy, and it’s biblically unwise.
Are there times we must push ourselves to the breaking point? Wars and emergencies and the occasional unhealthy sacrifice for the Gospel all have their place. We must never back down from such endeavors. But if such endeavors are the weekly norm of your existence, you are not stewarding your body well.
The other kind of rest that we need is brain rest. This is the rest required of people whose jobs require constant calculating, problem-solving, study, research, and the like. Just like our body needs rest one in seven, our brains need a one-in-seven east as well.
Please, for the sake of yourself, your family, your work, your ministry, “Come away and rest.”
But . . .
B. We need to cease everything that disrupts intentionally worshipping God.
Ceasing brain work and body work in order to rejuvenate our bodies is one thing, but spiritual rest does not arise from taking a break from spiritual things.
In fact, as we search the Scriptures we see that spiritual rest comes when we are actively trusting and actively loving.
Listen well, if we view a Day of Rest as an opportunity to engage in our own pleasures, to shelve the things of God, and do what pleases us, God is not pleased.
Resting physically is to cease from that physical work. Resting spiritually is to engage with spiritual work.
Now, don’t twist my words to fit your delusion. I’m not defining spiritual work as the work of a pastor or executive director of some non-profit. This spiritual work is the fulfillment of the first and second greatest commandments. We are to love God and love others.
Therefore, anything and everything that would distract us from intentionally and personally investing in our adoration of God and service of others needs to be ceased.
“Yes, but Aaron, aren’t we supposed to love God and others all of the time? That’s not really something we shouldn’t be doing earlier in the week. So, what’s the difference?”
Consider I Corinthians 7. In a discussion concerning marriage, starting in verse 32 Paul explains how the unmarried individuals have an advantage in a certain regard. He says “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”
Now, we don’t have time to unpack this in any way, but we do recognize that there are certain “things of the Lord” in which married people cannot fully participate because of the concerns of the world. They have divided interests because they have a spouse for whom to care.
Are those of us who are married expected by God to love Him and serve Him and be a light in this dark world? Of course. But this passage shows us that we finite humans can only really do one thing at a time, and if I’m caring for my family, I can’t be caring for someone else the way a single person could.
What’s the application here? The point I’m making is that, yes, of course we’re to love God and others every day of the week, but the Day of Rest was specifically designed to remove most of the dividing distractions — the concerns about the things of the world — that could keep us from unencumbered love for God and others.
The Sabbath was the day that the Jews engaged in intentional corporate and personal worship in which they couldn’t engage if they were encumbered by weekly work.
Adam and Eve were created sometime on the 6th day. Eve was potentially created very late on the 6th day. That means that their very first full day was spent resting with God, talking with Him, knowing Him, and enjoying Him. How beautiful a picture!
This reality started at Creation and will continue through eternity. The idea of taking a day to set aside the encumbrances of the world in order to fellowship with God and His people is not an Old Testament Law concept. It’s a whole Bible-spanning reality of the character and purpose of our God.
So, we set aside that which will distract from physical rest and spiritual rest. And . . .
C. We need to cease everything that disrupts intentionally loving the people in our lives.
I won’t spend much time on this point given everything that was said in the last. In the same way we should specifically and purposefully set aside a day to devote ourselves to the greatest commandment, we cannot fully love God if we’re not loving others.
This means that all selfish ambition, all personal pleasure, and all prideful self-worship needs to be set aside so that we can work toward God’s best interest in the lives around us.
And, yes, what I said on the last point applies here as well. Of course, we should always be seeking to love others. There is never any time in a believer’s life where selfish ambition, personal pleasure, and prideful self-worship is allowed. But the one-in-seven Day of Rest is a specific time to set aside the cares of the world to intentionally engage in corporate worship. It’s a relational thing with God and with others.
And lastly . . .
D. We need to cease everything that distracts from our anticipation of future rest.
Focused enjoyment of God and service of others is a very snapshot of our eternal future. In a way that we cannot begin to imagine, all eternity for God’s people will be perfectly fulfilling the first and second greatest commandments.
And though there will be necessary work in glory, there will be none of the the self-fulfilling, self-protecting, self-initiated, self-required, self-providing, laborious work.
We will be free from all forms of self-worship and self-trust. None of our work will be tainted by the fall. And God desires that our Day of Rest be a tiny, imperfect, look into the glorious future He has planned for us.
We need to set aside the laborious, self-providing work that so often tempts us to take our eyes off of God.
“But Aaron,” you say, “I need to work all seven days of the week, or I’ll never make ends meet.”
First, I would say that — if that’s really true — you need to reevaluate your standard of living. But — more importantly — the Day of Rest has always been about trust. In the same way that you must trust God if you want to experience the most peaceful sleep, you must also trust God with your provision.
Yes, it’s true you may have made poor financial choices that need some extra work in order to recover from them, but who are you trusting more to provide for you? If God is Who He says He is, if God does all He says He does, and if God desires for us to rest from our work and rest in Him, then what is more important — flexing my mortal muscles or trusting the omnipotence and wisdom of God?
And that leads us to . . .
3. The Motivation for a Day of Rest is obedience.
To truly give God the preeminence in our lives, we must obey Him. It’s wicked to profess God but live as practical atheists. It’s never good enough to pay lip service while we offer our lives on the altar to self. True belief in God will always work itself out in our behavior. Living faith always produces Christ-honoring works.
And when we love Him and work according to His purposes, we know that He will work all things out for His greatest glory and our greatest good. But the key is the intentionality — the motivation. If we’re intentionally trying to obey God for the purpose of simply enjoying our day off, we’re doing exactly what the Jews did.
We need to engage in a Day of Rest because we’re purposefully trying to please the Lord. Everything that follows is simply the blessing on the cake.
Giving God the preeminence demands obedience to His commands and His example. That’s it. That’s the motivation.
Therefore, don’t cease from laborious work just to cease from work. Cease from the work that grows from trust in self because that’s what God commands. Let’s obey Him in our resting.
And now, the big question on the table is . . .
4. What to embrace on a Day of Rest.
On the past couple of episodes we’ve repeatedly seen that the Sabbath was designed to accomplish three major things. First, mankind has a legitimate need for physical rest. Second, God wants us to rest spiritually, and third, it gives us an opportunity to anticipate our future rest.
So . . .
A. We need to embrace rest for our bodies.
Now, this where the Rabbis messed up. In order to make sure everyone knew exactly what it was to rest their bodies, the Rabbis made a list of subjective rules and demanded universal compliance.
My friends, I refuse to do that to any of us.
Long ago I had a pastor say from the pulpit that men need to love their wives by opening their car door for them. What’s really funny is if I did that for my wife, that would do anything but communicate love for her. She would hate that
Should I love my wife? Yes. Should other men love their wives? Yes. But does that mean that we all must communicate that love in the same ways? Nope.
And a Day of Rest is very similar.
Let me give you a broad example. As was already mentioned, the Hebrew idea of rest simply referred to ceasing. Most specifically it referred to ceasing from certain kinds of work we mentioned previously.
But the idea of taking a break from one thing in order to engage in another does not inherently mean that the activity has to be — in and of itself — restful.
For example, my job is exceptionally sedentary. Though I use a standing desk and often walk on a treadmill when I write, I never break a sweat or get anywhere near 10,000 steps in a day. I need to make those physical disciplines happen because they do not happen over the course of my job.
That means that a break from my work often involves me getting out and doing something physically active. I work in the garden, I tend the bees, I hike with my family, I swim. I’m resting from my work by taking a break, but I rejuvenate and re-create by engaging in dissimilar activities, not merely more sedentary activity.
Now, you may be saying, “Yeah, but Aaron, I though the point you made on the previous episodes was that we often push ourselves too hard, and we need to learn to be less physically active.”
Well, that’s true for a lot of people. I don’t know how many people listening to the sound of my voice are workaholics who don’t give their minds or bodies a break. Some stock analysts burn themselves out by never taking a break from number-crunching and research. Many construction workers never give their bodies a break from overtime.
And both kinds of stress — brain stress and body stress — have a negative impact on our lives. We’re not stewarding our bodies well when we don’t have appropriate rhythms built into our weeks.
On one hand, I can definitely counsel a surgeon that she needs to get away from the hospital and engage in physical activities that stimulate her muscles, but at the same time an MMA fighter needs to get off his feet.
Now, while my life accommodates body restfulness nearly every day, being a biblical counselor can be mentally taxing. Ceasing from my work often needs to be an endeavor that doesn’t require deep meditation or carrying heavy spiritual burdens.
On the other hand, those whose brains aren’t as exercised as their muscles could use a rest that involves significant brain exercise.
Here’s the key — healthy rest is a rest from our usual. We need a break from the norm. Consider your most productive work of the week — for many it will be their jobs, for others their school, and for others their homes. Your Day of Rest will be most physically healthy when you take one day in seven to cease from that work and find rest in something else.
Now, the immediate question that arises is from the stay at home parents. If tending your home and caring for your children all week is your productive work, you can’t very well take a break from parenting. How do people in that category rest?
Well, let me say that it would be inappropriate for anyone to stop caring for those who cannot turn to anyone else.
If it would be unthinkable for a farmer to refuse to water and feed his animals once a week — and it is — if it would be wrong to leave a man in a pit simply because he fell into it on a Day of Rest — which Jesus says it would — then it is never acceptable to stop doing the things that we must always do . . . loving the people in our lives.
Now, before I clarify the role of parenting on a Day of Rest, I will say that it’s completely appropriate and healthy and wise — if you’re a stay at home parent — to avoid unnecessary chores on your Day of Rest. Vacuuming and laundry and cleaning the bathroom generally don’t have to be done every day of the week, and when care is given to schedule such things around the Day of Rest, it’s quite easy to make sure that none of the chores have to be done on the day.
And I can say, as a man who has worked from home for over 8 years, this can and should be done for all the same reasons a restaurant manager or a mechanic or a CEO needs to rest one day in seven from their laborious work.
Now back to the question of whether such people get a break from parenting.
B. We need to rest our spirits.
Here is the integral reality of utter-importance that we must believe. When we talk about physical rest, we refer to a ceasing of work. But when we talk about spiritual rest, we’re not talking about taking a break from spiritual things.
Remember, we rest from work, but we rest in (or to) God. This means that all of the commands in Scripture about loving others still stand.
We need to continue evangelizing and discipling. Parenting falls under these categories just like every human relationship. I don’t get to stop loving my wife on my Day of Rest. It’s not about avoiding those who need help. That would be selfish.
I need to one-another and serve and invest in and disciple and parent and prefer others above myself.
A Day of Rest isn’t “me time.” It’s not about “self-care.” Will it result in renewed physical and spiritual vitality? Definitely! But that’s not the goal; it’s just the benefits. The goal is to love others.
So, yes, the Levites continued to offer sacrifices and people helped animals out of pits and doctors treated emergencies and pastors tended spiritual emergencies in the flock.
A Day of Rest is not a day to selfishly ignore the needs of others.
And why do we do this?
As was mentioned earlier, spiritual rest involves setting aside those things that would distract us from serving others, but — most importantly — we need to rest our spirits by removing the distractions that would keep me from worshipping God.
Now, as we’ve said so many times, everything is an act of worship to God or self. Therefore, six out of seven days God should be worshipped with our work. But He doesn’t want that worship on our Day of Rest.
And, yes, caring for others and resting or exercising my brain and body should be offered as an act of worship to Him. But it’s also a good idea to increase our personal devotion. Time in prayer, time spent in the word, time spent praising God, and time spent in corporate worship follows the pattern the Scriptures lay out for us.
And not only does God deserve this, and not only does this provide all the benefits of resting from work and in God, but it also helps us look forward to our future rest in Christ.
The return of Christ is to motivate all we do.
In II Peter, Peter takes the first third of his letter to explain who God wants us to be, the second third to explain who God doesn’t want us to be, and the third third to explain the motivation for the first and second thirds.
Starting in II Peter 3:10 we read, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”
A Day of Rest is designed to have us stop and dwell on the joyous realities of our future with God!
Okay, so far we’ve talked twice about the motivation for a Day of Rest, and we’ve looked at some general principles of what we shouldn’t do on a Day of Rest and what we should do, and I have three more points to discuss.
5. The motivation for a Day of Rest is conformity to Christ.
In order to give God the preeminence, we must fully obey Him — not merely in word and deed, but most importantly in our heart.
And as we obey Him by doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason and in the right power, we are being conformed to the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another. It’s the beauty of progressive sanctification — striving to be practically conformed to the image of Christ as we are positionally conformed to the image of Christ.
Again, having the right motivation informs our Day of Rest. As I become like Christ, I’m reminded of the future day that I will be glorified as He is glorified. We will be sinless — like Jesus, and what a glorious day that will be!
Obedience is a necessary part of our becoming holy. Holiness is setting something apart for a specific purpose.
In the same way that God commanded that the Day of Rest be set apart for all the things about which we’ve been talking for the past three weeks, participating in a weekly Day of Rest (specifically) and all true obedience (generally) is further setting us apart to God.
Now, we’ve already hit on this, but I want to touch back to one reason that many Christians believe that the idea of Sabbath rest is no longer necessary for followers of Christ. I believe it was John Calvin (along with others) who argued that there was nothing unique to the Sabbath that Christians shouldn’t be doing or enjoying every day. If I remember correctly, He had a similar view about holidays. Why set aside a day to celebrate God’s goodness when we should be celebrating it every day?
And though I agree that we should be growing in our sanctification every day, I believe the Day of Rest was designed to afford us undistracted time to emphasize that worship and growth.
Now, aside from a burning desire to have a clear, itemized list of what you “not allowed to do” and what you’re “allowed to do” — which neither I nor God are going to give you — the remaining question on most of your minds is . . .
6. When to have a Day of Rest.
A. There are those who argue for Saturday.
I can see the value of continuing the seventh day format God established in Creation. I’ve been intentionally taking a Day of Rest for about 5 years now, and half of the time our family has chosen Saturday to be our Day of Rest.
But for the first half of the time that my family has intentionally observed a Day of Rest, it was impossible for my to do it on Saturday because of my schedule at Victory Academy for Boys.
B. There are those who argue for Sunday.
Since many people believe that Sunday has replaced Saturday as the best day to corporately worship the Lord, I can completely see the value in observing a Day of Rest on Sunday.
However, again, for the first half of the time that my family has intentionally observed a Day of Rest, it was impossible for me to do it on Sunday because of my schedule at Victory Academy for Boys.
Saturday and Sunday were my busiest days. And though I took the boys to church on Sunday, given the nature of life with at-risk teens, Sunday was definitely laborious work.
I would say many of the same things could be argued for a pastor.
And that’s why I’m going to argue for this last point . . .
C. There are those who argue for Anyday.
Again, a Day of Rest where we exercise our trust in God by removing the wordily distractions in order to love Him, love others, and engage in healthy rhythms of rest is the expectation.
Did God want the ancient Jews as a nation to observe this day on Saturday? Yes. Is it okay for modern believers to take a weekly one-in-seven rest on Sunday? Yes.
But one-in-seven is the expectation from God. In fact, if we’re getting really specific, there were many weeks on the Jewish calendar where they had more than one Sabbath. There was always a weekly Sabbath, but there were a number of High Days on the holiday calendar that were extra Sabbaths. That means that the idea of rest didn’t only ever have to fall on Saturday. There was flexibility for a number of them.
And I believe that flexibility is just as free to us today.
When I worked at the boys home, my only day off was Monday. So, guess what? Monday was my family’s Day of Rest for the first few years.
Now, personally, I like the idea of Saturday for its symbolism, but I love the idea of Sunday since most modern believers already meet for corporate worship on Sunday. But it doesn’t have to be on Sunday. We can worship corporately in many ways whether we’re at church or not. Wouldn’t it be cool to have more times of corporate worship during the week?
Now, if you are going to encourage your local body of believers to observe their Day of Rest on Sunday, then I believe the church needs to reevaluate how they go about some of their programs and structure.
Unfortunately, we’ve already used some much time today, I can’t dive into that now. Perhaps, it will have to be a future episode.
So, allow me to recap and then share one last thought.
As we make God’s expectations, character, and deeds our only motivation, we’re going to want to set aside one day in seven so that we can cease from our worldly distractions — namely the work we do that’s required to keep our world spinning — in order to embrace the work it takes to undistractedly love God, love others, give our physical selves the necessary rest we need, and look forward to the day we get to Sabbath with God for all eternity.
And that leads to our seventh and final point for the day.
7. The motivation for a Day of Rest is evangelism.
Points one, three, and five all brought our minds back to the most important concept of our weekly rest — why are we doing it? What are we trying to accomplish?
Point one set the foundation that God is to have the preeminence in all things. Point three developed that concept by reminding us that God will never be preeminent in our lives if we’re not obeying Him. Then point five unpacked the idea of sanctification — as we give God the preeminence in our lives by obeying Him, we will be conformed to the image of Christ.
And so our final piece comes from Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The only reason God leaves believers on this earth is that He wants to use us to draw others to Him. Our devotion to God that produces obedience needs to cause the world to think differently about our God. And as we are matured into the image of Christ, our light becomes brighter, our salt saltier, and our obedience more glorifying.
Our Day of Rest plays into this in a beautiful way. When God’s people intentionally participate in a God-motivated, counter-cultural, and counter-intuitive Day of Rest, it should cause the world to stop and think.
Let’s be honest, a Day of Rest dedicated to resting from laborious work and resting in God will look weird to the world.
“Why do you not ___________? And why do you __________?”
Those questions give us opportunities to magnify God and introduce them to Him.
Therefore, in conclusion, the motivation for a Day of Rest is the same as everything else we do. God deserves the preeminence in our lives, therefore we must obey Him, be conformed to His image, and point the world to Him.
And I believe that though I haven’t done it the justice it deserves, we’ve seen that God’s core expectations for a one-in-seven Day of Rest are just as relevant and alive as they were on the seventh day of Creation.
He wants us to steward our bodies in a healthy way. He wants us to steward our spirits in a healthy way by giving special weekly attention to loving Him and loving others. And He wants those experiences to focus our minds on the glorious future He has planned for all His people — which in turn stokes the fire we have for continuing to give God the preeminence in all things.
In order to accomplish this, we simply need to cease from the work that is necessary for life. That includes the jobs which provide the money or materials necessary to live as well as the daily tasks that keep our little worlds spinning.
As we set these aside, we not only have more time to focus on truly resting in God, but we exercise our trust in Him.
And then we get to engage in all of the work necessary to rest in Him.
I hope this has given you a lot about which to think. I pray that you will continue to study this. I pray that you will be open to knowing God’s mind on the subject. And I pray that you too will learn to appreciate and take advantage of the rest God wants for all of His people. It’s not just a future rest. It’s not just a spiritual rest. It’s also a weekly physical rest designed to conform you to the image of Christ and draw the world to Him.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so that other disciples of Christ can be challenged with this study, and join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing how to worship God in July.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.