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!”