I’ve habitually been breaking one of the Ten Commandments.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Am I the only one who treats this commandment like it’s a suggestion? Like it doesn’t mean nearly as much as the others?
How to Keep the Sabbath According to the Bible
I don’t know whether it’s Satan or culture or flesh or some combination of all three, but I’m starting to believe there’s a systematic and subtle (but major) attack on the idea of Sabbath. And if that’s the case, there must be something about Sabbath that is very dear to God and very good for God’s people, or else I don’t think it would be such a struggle. (And I don’t think it’s coincidental that we often don’t even realize it’s a struggle.)
The interesting thing to me as I’ve been pondering this is that from all appearances, I honor the Sabbath just fine. I’ve been worshipping faithfully with my local church, although I’ve come to realize that even that has become more duty than delight, if I’m being painfully honest. (*cringe*)
And any work that I do on Sunday afternoons is the sit-on-the-couch-and-work-on-the-computer kind of work. I’ve been telling myself that it’s restful because it’s not really laborious, but it turns out that I’ve been telling myself a lie.
I don’t know about you, but I suspect it’s time that I give some serious consideration to how to keep the Sabbath according to the Bible.
First, let me speak briefly about just a couple of the reasons why God initiated a Sabbath in the first place. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these reasons have been especially pertinent to my own situation.
Why God Created the Sabbath Day
1.)To remind us of our limitations. God is utterly self-sufficient, with no needs whatsoever, least of all the need for food, water, or rest. I am not self-sufficient in the slightest, needing food, water, and rest. I need to press pause on my life and redirect my gaze upward and remember that He is God and I am not. Observing a Sabbath reminds me that I am limited, which is a very good thing because it compels me to worship my God who is limitless.
2.)To put us in our place. God is supremely sovereign, and apart from Him, nothing in existence would ever see the light of day. He is utterly essential to everything that is and was and is to come. I am utterly non-essential by comparison. Observing a Sabbath reminds me that He is the center of THE universe, and He belongs at the center of MY universe.
What Are We Supposed to Do on the Sabbath Day?
One thing I don’t want to do is advocate legalism about what Christians are or are not allowed to do on the Sabbath. While the principles are universal, the specifics I’m sharing with you are only for you to consider whether there may be parts of it that apply to your situation.
But maybe your situation is very different from mine. It could be that you need to observe Sabbath differently, whether that be honoring it on a different day or in a different manner. The way you honor the Sabbath is between you and God, but here are a couple of helpful principles from Matthew 12:
1.)Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.
2.)It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
The second one is especially meaningful for me as someone who is very active in my local church. It’s not unusual for me to serve in the nursery, play in the orchestra, and teach the kids’ choir all on the same Sunday.
Which brings me to my next question.
How Should We Keep the Sabbath If We’re Involved in Ministry?
This is a question that has plagued me for years, and I’ve finally sensed the Lord leading me toward some guidelines I am establishing for myself based on these questions.
1)Is my ministry work, or is it worship? If it’s worship, it’s part of Sabbath.
Now I think ministry is often both work and worship, and this is especially true for church leadership and staff. It’s not wrong for ministry to be work, but this means you would benefit from having a Sabbath that is separate from a day of ministry.
I’m not on church staff, so as a layperson involved in ministry on a volunteer basis, I believe my service in the church should lean more toward worship than work, and if that’s the reality of my ministry, it is still part of a holy Sabbath.
2)Is my ministry prideful and self-driven, or humble and others-driven? If it’s humble and others-driven, it’s part of Sabbath.
It’s pretty simple, really. Ministry should always be about God first, and then others. It shouldn’t be about me at all. Since that’s what Sabbath is about, too, ministry on the Sabbath doesn’t have to be an oxymoron.
3)Does my ministry compel me toward self-sufficiency, or thrust me to God for His provision? If it thrusts me to God for His provision, it’s part of Sabbath.
This is a big one for me. If Sabbath is intended to remind us of our utter dependence on God (and it is), then any act of service I perform that is divorced from His provision is also divorced from His gospel and divorced from Sabbath. Ministry should thrust me to God for His provision every single day, not only on the Sabbath. And ministry conducted out of His provision and not my own can be Sabbath ministry.
Practical Changes to Honor the Sabbath
Here are some practical changes I’m making to better honor the Sabbath in my own life:
- Start the Sabbath properly by preparing my heart for it the night before.
- Maintain a posture of worship, humility, love, and trust in ministry.
- Cast off a mindset of striving, pride, and self-sufficiency in ministry.
- Put aside non-essential tasks.
I know God still has so much to teach me about the Sabbath, but I’m thankful for these fresh insights He has granted, and for the way I can trust Him to keep leading me like the patient Shepherd He is. He is Lord of the Sabbath after all, and He’s never unwilling for the earnestly seeking heart to draw nearer.
May you and I and all of His people honor the Sabbath, and honor the Lord of the Sabbath always.