May 5th 201: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan18Exodus 20:8-11

The American actor of the early twentieth century, W.C. Fields, was not a nice man. He was an alcoholic, an ardent atheist who was very anti-Christian. So it was a great surprise when a friend walked into his dressing room and saw him reading the Bible. Fields, embarrassed, claimed he was ‘just looking for loopholes.’ Of all the verses examined for loopholes, those we are looking at here are probably high on the list. This Commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8) is most contentious: what day shall be observed? What should and shouldn’t be allowed? Today we shall hear part 1 of a 2-part study.

  • The Sabbath is a holy day
  • The Sabbath is a day of rest
  • The Sabbath is a day of blessing.

The Sabbath is a holy day. God set apart one day in seven to be a holy day. It is God who established a pattern of a seven day cycle with one particular day set apart, consecrated, holy, for Him. God requires we set apart one day in seven in which we seek Him and worship Him. During their time in Egypt the children of Israel had been used to a ten day week and not one of those ten days was set aside for the Lord. Even before the giving of this Commandment, God re-establishes the creation cycle of one in seven. This is then enshrined in this Commandment. In the Old Testament the people observed this day on the last day of the week but in the New Testament it began to be observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), in commemoration of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 16:2). Nevertheless, whichever day it was , it was a day set aside by God in which man was particularly to worship Him, to acknowledge in a special way one day in seven (Exodus 31:12-13).

In the New Testament the title of the Lord’s Day was introduced (Revelation 1:10). The Sabbath is a holy day. God has given us six days to do all the necessary things in life. Only one is set aside to worship Him. We are to worship Him in all that we do, on all days – in our job, home-life, church life, worship Him every day. But He is to be particularly honoured and worshipped on the Lord’s Day.

However, there is a problem. People are increasingly reluctant to give Him one day. Perhaps I can be a little provocative and say it is the Lord’s Day, not just in the morning, but also in the afternoon. It is particularly appropriated to attend church gatherings and to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. If you can’t attend services for the Lord’s people, the day is still the Lord’s. It is not the Lord’s half day, it is the Lord’s Day.

We should be prepared for the Lord’s Day. Good practice is to go to bed early Saturday night so you are refreshed, alert and ready in body, mind and soul, having prayerfully sought the Lord, even before coming to a church service.

The Sabbath is a day of rest. It is very important we understand what the term ‘rest’ means here. We are to imitate God, who after six days of creation, paused to rest on the Sabbath. This doesn’t mean God was tired, for He never tires. Neither does it mean God entered into an inactive state, for He was still sustaining all He had created by His power. God rested. Having seen everything He made was very good, He ceased from His labour to enjoy what He had made. Likewise, we should cease one day in seven from all labours so we should enjoy God. Don’t make a mistake in thinking ‘work’ means paid employment. No. What is referred to is all those activities which stop us from worshipping.

The Sabbath is not a day of inactivity but a day full of worship and activity for God. The Sabbath was provided as a gracious means for everyone to draw near to God. To take advantage of the day instead of pursuing everyday pleasures brings great blessings (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Sundays are not meant to be a day of laziness, leisure and lie-ins. Sunday is meant as a day of enjoying God. It is not for catching up on the backlog of work, DIY jobs, being on the golf course. If it is, then you are too busy and need to look how you are use Monday to Saturday. If we can’t give Sundays to enjoyment of God then we are in real trouble spiritually. Tell me what you are doing on a Sunday and I will tell you what your future will be. Sunday is a family day but it is not to be spent on the beach but with the Lord and His people – the whole family praising the Lord together in church services, in the company of the Christian family we belong to.

The Sabbath is a day of blessing. It follows on that the Sabbath is meant to be a day of blessing (Exodus 20:11). God’s intention always was that this day, consecrated to Him, would bring great joy and blessing (Psalm 92). Unfortunately, later generations forgot the joy of the Sabbath and turned it into a legalistic nightmare. By Jesus’ day the Pharisees had 1,500 rules. This is why Jesus attacked them. The Sabbath should be observed in the right way for the right reasons. It is meant to be a day of rejoicing (Mark 2:27). The blessings and joys of the one day in seven also points to the Sabbath rest, fellowship with the people of God. It speaks of heaven.

Have you ever contemplated that a Sunday is intended to be a foretaste of heaven? The thrill of His Resurrection power that we know is at work in our own lives?  We should know such blessing of our souls as we gather around His Word, seek Him in prayer and praise. The blessings that we experience on the Lord’s Day are a little bit of what awaits us in heaven. If you don’t like Sundays, you won’t like heaven.

Sundays are to be enjoyed, not in the pleasures of this world, but by experiencing and anticipating the blessings of God that will one day fill our lives. Those who believe Sundays are boring are radically wrong. Perhaps we have forgotten how to enjoy God, failing to appreciate His blessings. Keeping the Lord’s Day is about separating ourselves from normal daily activities to be in fellowship. Blessings of a Sunday can be only known by those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and whose place in heaven is secure. They have great joy in their souls not only because they’re forgiven but because they know Him who died for them at Calvary. These are the blessings because Christ has secured them for us. If we value these things then the Sabbath will be special to us. Christ is our Lord and Saviour. The Sabbath – a holy day, a day of rest and a day of blessings.

September 2nd 2018: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlesmist-Aug 18Hebrews 4:1-13

What are you seeking, dreaming of? Thomas Moore had the concept of Utopia, a desire to explore the idea of a perfect society. Today, the dream still pervades. This is probably different for each one of us. Perhaps it’s memories of better times, happier days?

What is your greater Sabbath?
We are a restless people. On the seventh day God rested from His creation. Sabbath is the seventh day. God rested from all His work. What does that mean? He put His feet up because He had worked really hard? He had a snooze? Our God could have created a billion universes in one moment if He wanted. We are His interest – men and women. The Lord’s rest was not inactivity. The universe is held by His power. He’s been active ever since. God is intimately involved in creation and our lives. It’s good to rest. Creating men in the image of God was not the end of His work – His purposes were not fully achieved, there was more to be unveiled. The purpose of rest is to point us to the eternal rest. The Saviour was a shadow of the things to come, the reality is found in Christ (Colossians 2).

The promise of rest requires a response (verse 1). The promise of rest for Israel was more than entering the Promised Land. It’s a promise that still stands. Disobedience, grumbling, complaining – refers  to the knowledge God has of our hearts. God knows our heart. He knows if we are believing or unbelieving. He knows some could attend church just to prove a point, He knows if we are not going to listen. He knows some will open the Scriptures but will not listen. In the end God will expose it all.

In verse 2 we are given the reason for the Israelites’ unbelief. Even though the gospel was proclaimed, it was met with unbelief. They perished. The gospel invitation goes out though churches and ministries all the time – to receive rest in Jesus Christ. It is a command of the sovereign Lord, come to Him. Great things have been done. Jesus Christ has come, become man. His miracles proved His deity. All has been done for you to believe. Turn to Him today. Rescue has been demonstrated. Jesus really died and really rose again. He lives! Look to Him. Believe in Him.

Will you believe? The promise is there, the invitation stands. Have you repented, confessed your sins? The time for that response is now – today.

The nature of rest (verse 8). Jesus is compared with Joshua leading the Israelites into rest in the Promised Land. However, this is far inferior to the work of the Jesus. Jesus provides us with eternal rest for our soul. Psalm 95 is quoted again. God’s promised Israelites would come to a land of milk and honey, a land where they were free to worship God. Yet the people go through a time of turmoil because they were not trusting in Jesus but doing what they wanted. David wrote a warning in Psalm 95 as well as a promise – it is possible not to enter God’s rest. The Canaan rest is just a shadow of the promise to come.

The nature of the rest involves ceasing from your own work, trusting in the work that has been done. It is a rest in the Lord, He has done it all. Trust in Him. Rest in His goodness, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28). Ultimately, the promise is of eternal rest.

We are again and again encouraged. He will give us strength ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:13). The life I live, I live by faith. Learn to function from a position of rest and truth, to avoid burnout. Utopian dreams will fail. Rather, listen to the word of God and obey. Be thankful for the Sabbath rest, remembering Jesus has done it all.