The Sabbath Satisfied: Part 2

In part 1 of this series we discussed how followers of Christ fulfill the Sabbath by faith. Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), and righteousness is no longer through obedience to the Law but through faith in Christ (Romans 10:4), so we rest from our pursuit of salvation apart from faith. Now we turn to the more practical side and answer the question “What does it look like for followers of Christ to apply the Sabbath to their lives today?” 

The word “Sabbath” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to rest.” It was practiced in the Old Testament as a pointer, both to God’s rest from His work in creation (Exodus 20:11) and to a future rest like the one prepared for the people of God after they had gained possession of the promised land (Deuteronomy 12:9). We know from the history of Israel that the rest that they gained in the promised land was only temporary, and in the New Testament we see that still “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). So the Sabbath points backwards to creation and ultimately forward to the consummation of God’s eternal plan of salvation for His people (Revelation 14:13).

Knowing then that the Sabbath was always intended to remind people of God’s future salvation, how do we apply it to our lives today? Here are a few ways that followers of Christ can put into practice the principle of the Sabbath in their day to day life:

First: work hard without fear or anxiety. God calls us to both work hard (Colossians 3:23) and not be anxious because we know our Father in Heaven cares for us (Philippians 4:6, 1 Peter 5:7). We have been equipped by God to work (Genesis 2:15), and we know that God already loves us (1 John 3:16) so our hard work isn’t to cause Him to love us any more than He already does. And this working hard without anxiety should even extend to our moral efforts as well, as Christ has bought for us the freedom to work hard at obedience in sanctification while we rest in Christ’s accomplished work of justifying us by faith alone (1 Corinthians 6:11). Working hard at obedience is something that is “built into” the genuine Christian life because God has already put His Holy Spirit within us to help us know what is pleasing to God and what is not (Ezekiel 36:27). In fact, God’s word warns us against falling away from God into disobedience (Hebrews 3:12), equating the disobedience of Israel with faithlessness (Hebrews 3:18-19). But again, for the person who has been saved by grace, they are free to rest in that grace as they continue in the path of sanctification.

Second: rest well and make the most of your rest. Our bodies are designed by God with limitations, and unlike God we need to take breaks and sleep because we run out of energy (Psalm 121:1-4). And did you know that for the believer our rest can be a powerful and persistent reminder to us of our future salvation? This is a principle I learned from reading a book called Reset by David Murray. When we lay down to sleep we should think about the joy of what is coming and praise God for His grace to promise us rest. Whatever you find hardest in this life, whether that is a struggle at work or the pains of your failing health, God will give every follower of Jesus permanent rest from the toils and troubles of this broken world and everlasting Joy.

So, in the same way that the Sabbath pointed the people of God toward God’s promise of future rest, apply that same principle to your rest and your labor so they are done in such a way that they remind you of the goodness of God and fuel you to further worship Him, because “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him!”

The Sabbath Satisfied: Part 1

In the Old Testament God commanded His people to honor the Sabbath by keeping it holy, and He further said that they must not do any work on the Sabbath day. (Exodus 20:8-11) God’s command was serious enough that He warned them in Exodus 35 that “whoever does any work on it (the Sabbath) shall be put to death,” and later a man who was discovered picking up sticks in violation of the Sabbath was put to death. (Numbers 15:32-36) With a command so serious and a penalty so severe, should we care about whether or not we as followers of Christ are called to keep the Sabbath? You bet we should! None of us should have a heart so calloused as to not care about whether or not we are faithfully keeping what God has commanded His people. And yet, when we look at the vast majority of Christ’s Church here on earth now, most do not keep a literal Sabbath day of rest, and even fewer keep that day of rest on Saturday (which would have been the original Sabbath day).

So then, we can look at this topic in two important ways: first theologically, “How do followers of Christ keep the Sabbath?” and second practically, “What does it look like for followers of Christ to apply the Sabbath to their lives today?” To start answering these questions let us also keep in mind that the Old and New Testaments are part of one Bible, meaning that it is not enough to answer the question by simply looking at the New Testament and ignoring the Old. Jesus said in Matthew 5 “do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” So in some way believers through Christ do have a relationship with the Old Testament Law. Furthermore, when the apostle Peter argues for the authority of Paul’s letters, he does so by equating them with the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, which also validates their continued role in the Church. (2 Peter 3:14-18) The God of the New Testament is still the God of the Old Testament.

And, while that is true, something profound has changed. In the Old Testament God commanded a Law that no one could perfectly keep, but that God’s people very much so had the responsibility to obey. Nehemiah recounted that God “came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments.” (Nehemiah 9:13) Their inability to keep God’s Law was not because God’s Law was at fault, but because people are simply that broken. (Romans 7:13-25) God is good, and He commanded good things, but we are sin-bound and unable to follow His commands perfectly, including the command to keep the Sabbath. So how then will we keep the Sabbath if they couldn’t? Again, the answer comes in knowing what has changed from then to now.

The thing that has changed from the Old Testament to the New is that Christ has come. Not only did Jesus die on the cross to pay the penalty we deserved for all of our sins, but Jesus also kept the Law of God perfectly and we who put our faith in Him gain His righteousness. (Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31) Moreover, as Paul says in Romans 10:4: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The righteousness of God, which none could earn through keeping the Law, is now gained by faith in the living Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is himself the Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:8) And alongside that, for those of us who are in Christ, God has put His moral law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and we fulfill the Law through loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-34; Galatians 5:14) In fact, it is actually wrong for those who have faith in Christ to try and satisfy the Law’s demands as it was intended to be obeyed in the times of the Old Testament. (Galatians 5:4) 

So then, now that Christ has come, this is how believers satisfy the Sabbath: by trusting wholly in God through faith in Christ for his perfect righteousness and by resting completely from trying to add anything of our own to merit salvation. Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath in obedience to the Law far better than we ever could, and we rest in what he has already done.

How to Make the Most of Movies: Part 2

In the previous post we spent some time looking at how storytelling is the foundation of a movie and that our consumption of stories through movies should be filtered with wisdom. There are more obvious ways we can filter our movie selection to guard our hearts and minds from what Scripture and our Spirit-filled consciences would label as objectionable content, but outside of categories that are more clearly avoidable, there is also great wisdom in recognizing that the storyteller behind a film often has an agenda that does not take the best interests of the viewer to heart. With that in mind, two questions were posed that can help us analyze the content of the movies we watch: “What is the purpose of the story?” And “What does the storyteller want me to believe?”

But now that we are more aware of the dangers and how to be cautious with movies, is there anything actually good that can come from watching a movie? Can God be glorified through our experience in the theater? I believe so, and it starts with the profound reality that in Christ our minds are to be different than they were before. Paul issues us a command in Romans 12:2, saying “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” As followers of Jesus, God has put his moral law on our hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10) and we are to leave both our former way of life and our former way of thinking (Ephesians 4:20-24). And although watching a movie can be a relaxing experience, we should always be diligent and alert with our minds (1 Peter 1:13, 5:8). So, equipped with wisdom from God’s Word, here are at least three practical ways to honor God by putting your renewed mind to work when watching a movie:

  • Through the gift of prayer watching a movie becomes time with God. By faith in who Jesus is and what he accomplished, we have direct relational access to God the Father and we are invited to talk with Him through prayer (Matthew 6:8-15; John 16:22-28). In fact, because the Spirit of God dwells in the believer, our lives should be filled with more time in communion with God through prayer than not (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This means that we are free to dialogue with the Creator of the universe even as we watch a movie, and dialogue with Him about the content of the movie. Seek to take advantage of this opportunity.

  • With more and more of God’s Word in our mind, celebrate the things in movies that are true to life. When we we see a soldier in Hacksaw Ridge risk his life to save fallen comrades, we see heroism and love for one’s neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). When we see the bravery and dedication of women in Hidden Figures push against both racism and sexism, we see people living out the reality of their God-given dignity and value (Genesis 1:27-28). Celebrate with God about what the movie you see got right.

  • When a movie seeks to make something look incredible, meditate on how much greater Jesus is than whatever the movie tries to make look great. I remember watching one of the recent Superman movies and for a moment as I saw him fly through buildings to battle his rival I felt genuinely impressed with what he was capable of and the power he displayed. Then I began to use that opportunity to think about how much greater Jesus is than Superman. Here are just a few examples of the thoughts a person can have: A. Superman flying through buildings gets the attention of people in that city, but when Jesus comes back all of creation will at once know he is back (Matthew 24:23-31). B. Superman cares a lot about one woman, Lois Lane, but Jesus cares more deeply for his people than anyone else could, as he not only made them but also saved them (John 1:1-3, 15:12-14). C. Superman may be impressive as a conceptual character, but Jesus is real, and one day everyone will know it (Philippians 2:9-11).

Whether it is one of these methods or another, strive to make the movies you watch more than just your entertainment. Let us put our minds to use and seek to glorify God in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).