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How to Be Most Blessed by the Sabbath (or Lord’s Day)

In the first century, the Pharisees took God’s good gift of the Sabbath and added to it so many ridiculous rules and regulations that it was no longer a blessing for God’s people; it became a burden (Matt. 12:1-14). What God meant to refresh His people had become a troublesome chore of remembering countless dos and don’ts which emptied the Sabbath of its delight.

I think today the Church is more in danger of profaning the Sabbath than demanding too much on the Sabbath (demanding too much is also profaning the Sabbath). What I mean is this. It seems that Christians today underestimate how good the Sabbath is for them, and they fail to understand how God intends them to use the Sabbath to maximize its goodness. Libertinism has led many Christians into doing what they desire on the Sabbath (e.g. sports, work, projects around the house, etc.) without giving much attention to what God desires and determines is good for them on the Sabbath. We have become so accustomed to using the Lord’s Day in whatever way appeals to us that when we hear Biblical restrictions or Biblical suggestions to improve our Sabbath observance for our good we quickly cry, “Legalism!” (which shows we don’t understand legalism either). Our libertinism has prevented us from experiencing much good on the Lord’s Day and has added more burdens to our lives in ways we may not immediately realize.

So how can we be most blessed by the Sabbath? How can we maximize the good we receive from the Lord’s Day? The following eight things are based upon Dr. Zacharias Ursinus’ thoughts in his marvelous commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism.

How can we be most blessed by the Sabbath?

  1. We consistently and joyfully attend the public worship of God in the church. Attending corporate worship together is one of our greatest blessings of this life. Poor church attendance, then, is one of the best ways to profane the Sabbath and to turn from God and His good gifts.
  2. We preserve and delight in the ecclesiastical ministry. God raises up preachers to proclaim to us publically the glories of God and His will from Holy Scripture and to administer the sacraments, all for our good. The Word and sacraments are great delights and blessings for us. Ursinus concluded, “This is a most important end, on account of which the Sabbath was instituted, inasmuch as the public and ordinary preaching of the gospel, in connection with the offering up of prayer, thanksgiving and the use of divine rites, are public exercises, exciting and cherishing faith and repentance in the elect.” How good of God to give, sustain, and strengthen our faith through the Word and sacraments ministry of our local church.
  3. We experience it as a taste of our eternal rest in Christ. The Sabbath or Lord’s Day is meant to direct us to rest in Christ. Utilizing the Lord’s Day to rest in Christ is really good for us. What a blessing!
  4. We remember that God created the world in six days and that Jesus Christ rose from the dead – He is alive! The Sabbath used to be on the sixth day as God commanded. The Sabbath reminded the Old Testament Church that God was Creator as they meditated on His omnipotent works. Today, the Sabbath is observed on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, the day which our Lord resurrected from the dead. Every Lord’s Day is Easter! Every Lord’s Day is a glorious opportunity for you to celebrate the wonderful works of your God with fellow believers/worshippers.
  5. We serve others who are in need. As Ursinus believed, “works of charity, liberality and kindness” should be “performed towards our neighbor on this day.” We all have needs. The Lord’s Day is a great opportunity to serve one another. Perhaps we visit the sick or encourage the brokenhearted or feed the poor or help someone gather up their cows that have escaped the pasture. To do this properly, we need to spend time together on the Sabbath.
  6. We rest from our servile labor. The Sabbath is a type of vacation. We cease our servile work, and we rest and rejuvenate. We also give “Sabbath vacation” to our spouses, children, and employees. The idea is to physically rest, spiritually rest (in Christ), and to free up time to devote ourselves to the worship of God. This is often where many people lose out on the goodness of the Lord’s Day. Sabbath rest allows us to focus on the things of the Lord and to continue in our sanctification instead of bearing the “burden” of our normal labor.
  7. We encourage others in piety and worship. This is often a point we don’t think about. How we observe the Lord’s Day communicates something to our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we delight in the Sabbath as God intends for our good, we encourage other believers to delight in it as well. When we profane the Sabbath, we encourage others, by our carelessness, to trivialize the things of God and to walk away from Him and His good gifts. Our example on the Sabbath says a lot about how we think about and value God and His good gifts.
  8. We distinguish ourselves from the unbelieving world by identifying with the saints in the public worship of God. To habitually attend to the public worship of God with the saints is to identify with God and His Church and to distinguish oneself from idolaters and blasphemers. To habitually neglect the public worship of God is to identify oneself with an unbelieving world. Going to church and rightly observing the Sabbath is to testify to an unbelieving world that they should be with us and that their inattentiveness to God is a serious offense. [1]

There is more to be said about the Sabbath, but one thing is certain, the Lord’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to worship God and to be with our brothers and sisters in Christ. To neglect the Lord’s Day is a serious sin, but we need to realize once again that sin works against our joy, happiness, contentment, peace, rest, and comfort. Sin never enhances our lives. Never.

Without falling back into the rigidity of the Pharisees, evaluate how you observe the Sabbath. Think about it. Are you maximizing the Sabbath’s goodness by striving to find your rest in Christ? Are you taking full advantage of God’s gracious Lord’s Day gifts meant to give faith to you as well as sustain and strengthen it? I promise you that if you sincerely seek the Lord by the Spirit and honor the Lord’s Day, God will bless you in unforeseen ways and lead you into greater rest in Christ.

[1], 999-1000.

About the author

Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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