In this sermon, part of his series on Travels with Jesus, Pastor Neil talks about the Sabbath Day and the Lord of the Sabbath. Here are some excerpts:
Why did God establish the Sabbath? Why did God consider the Sabbath principle so important that He would include it in the Ten Commandments? Was it because, as some of His critics have suggested, God is a cosmic killjoy who wants to keep us from having fun? No! I think the truth is exactly the opposite. God is not a cosmic killjoy. He wants us to enjoy this life as part of our “chief end” or purpose in life: To glorify Him and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism [WSC], Q.1).
Did God give us the Sabbath principle to complicate our lives and burden us with another list of “Do’s and Don’ts” to follow? No. God is not like that…
…God does not want us to live like that. Which is, in part, why He gave us the Sabbath. It is meant to be a blessing and not a curse, not to weigh us down with more and more religious duties but to liberate us from the tyranny of always needing to do more.
Does God, as the Westminster Confession asserts, require His people to devote the whole day, from morning till night, to worship and ministries of mercy? I don’t see that in the Bible.
Does God desire us to make worship and ministries of mercy a priority on the Lord’s day? Absolutely. Honoring God on the Sabbath requires us to make choices and to set and keep boundaries on how best to serve God’s purposes for us – not just on Sunday but seven days a week. Worship, both public and private, should be at the top of our list of priorities for the Lord’s day.
Does God mandate that we rest the whole day from our own works and words, and from even thinking about worldly activities and recreations? I think the interpretation of Sabbath-keeping in the Westminster Confession is too strict and, if it were to be enforced, too legalistic. I know I’m not alone, because the vast majority of my fellow Teaching Elders (Pastors) in the Presbytery of the East, and of the Ruling Elders and Deacons I know here at Faith and in other churches of the EPC, when asked if they have any disagreements with the Westminster Confession, cite this paragraph from the Confession. As do I.
I believe recreation is a gift from God to be enjoyed. I feel re-charged, re-newed, re-invigorated, re-freshed both physically and emotionally when I take time for recreation, on the Lord’s day or any other day of the week. It is a blessing from God for which I am tremendously grateful. When I’m on vacation – if, for example, we are at the Outer Banks – I think it is a gift from God to be able to go to the beach after Worship on Sunday, to enjoy the sun and sand and surf.
There is a positive, God-ordained purpose for the Sabbath. The Pharisees lost sight of it. They missed the point. So have many well-intentioned but misguided theologians, church leaders, and Christians through the centuries.
The Lord of the Sabbath. Pastor Neil has a lot more to say about this topic. Please click on the link below to hear the sermon in its entirety.