Posted by: Susan Gaddis | March 11, 2009

Celebrate the Journey

Susan Gaddis

Father’s House, 3/8/09 sermon notes

Stop my life, I want to get off!


Hectic days, car pooling, 24-7 schedules, 9 to 5 jobs, kid’s sports, busy weekends, bills piling up, school events, church activities, family obligations, chores that never seem to get done, life commitments—our culture seems so off kilter! We have become modern day slaves to the daily grind of life. Sadly, our Christianity can become just another part of the grind.


At Creation, God instituted a weekly holiday or “holy day” for us. This holiday is called Sabbath. The word “Sabbath” literally means to “stop” or “cease.” We might call it our stop-day.


“Even before God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath was built into the rhythm of their lives, even as a nomadic people fleeing slavery. God had given them the Sabbath, even before He gave them the law.” –Keri Wyatt Kent in Rest, Living in Sabbath Simplicity


So why did God feel He needed to make stopping one day out of seven a command? Why do we need to be commanded to take a holiday?


God knew that we wouldn’t “stop” unless commanded to do so.


He knew that we would find our source for our personal value and worth in our work and performance rather then in Him unless we were given one day a week to focus on Him as our provider and our source of life and self-worth.


He knew that we would drift back into bondage if we didn’t remember, reflect and celebrate at least once a week the freedom found only in Him.


Kingdom culture is a culture of freedom


“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey, or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day,” (Deut. 5:12-15 NIV). 


Observe means to “keep, celebrate, guard, give heed, protect, and preserve.” We are to do this (observe the Sabbath) by keeping it holy. The Hebrew word for holy means, literally, “set apart.” One of the purposes of Sabbath is to create a rhythm of work and time “set apart”—holy in the sense that one day a week we set apart to celebrate the Lord in different ways then on our work days.


One day a week is to be a “Sabbath to the Lord your God”—His day—His time—and for His honor. And on this special day we are to rest, not work; to hope with faith and not worry about the other six days. In failing to live a Sabbath that is different from our other six days, we ignore the command to keep the Sabbath holy.


The reason that we are to observe this day, according to Deuteronomy 5:12-15, is that we are to remember that we were once slaves, but are now free. The Jewish people were to remember that they had once been slaves in Egypt. We are to remember that we are no longer slaves to sin, but are now free to live outside of sin’s dominion. Our lives are ruled by God, not sin or our daily grind. Sabbath is a celebration of that freedom—a day set aside to guard that freedom—a day set aside to preserve that freedom—a holy, or set apart, day that focuses on our freedom bought through the sacrifice of Christ.


Celebrating the gift of freedom


Matthew 12—The Lord’s radical approach to Sabbath included things that were God connecting, life giving and brought freedom to people: healing, casting out demons, worship, teaching, and community. (For more examples of Jesus’ Sabbath practices see Mark 1, 2, & 3, Luke 13, and John 5.)


Jesus did not abolish the Ten Commandments, but fulfilled them for us (Matthew 5:17). Does that mean that we don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments? No, it means we obey them because we now have the power and the heart to do so through Christ—that’s called grace!


In fact, Jesus made the Ten Commandments harder than just simple statements of action such as “Don’t commit adultery.” He connected the commandments to heart attitudes, “Don’t even look at a woman to lust after her.” Sabbath keeping is not about a list of rules, but all about a heart attitude—an attitude that focuses on God and His grace-filled, life-giving freedom.


The Pharisees focused on a set of rules and so missed the heart of God that on a Sabbath they plotted the murder of Jesus. Apparently murder wasn’t on their Things Not to Do list of Sabbath rules!


Jesus commented on the harsh Sabbath laws when he was criticized for picking grain in a field on the Sabbath by saying, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:27 NIV).


Observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy. Preserve, protect, and celebrate the Stop-day by keeping it set apart. This isn’t about rule keeping. This isn’t about regulations and do’s and don’ts. This isn’t earning brownie points for God. This isn’t a time to plan murder. Sabbath is about our heart attitude towards God and the freedom He bought for us. Sabbath is all about Jesus!


Paul stated, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ,” (Colossians 2:16, 17 NIV).


Jesus practiced Sabbath keeping in its original intent, and so did His followers. By His work on the Cross, He redeemed Sabbath. He restored Sabbath to the original purpose that it was designed for by God—a day set apart to rest and celebrate the freedom that God has provided for us for all eternity. For most of us, that day is the Lord’s Day, Sunday. However, “do not let anyone judge you…with regard to…a Sabbath day”—if you work on Sundays, choose another day for your “stop-day,” your Sabbath.


Like many other spiritual practices, Sabbath is tied into our growth as sons and daughters of God. “Spiritual practices don’t justify us. They don’t save us. Rather, they refine our Christianity; they make the inheritance Christ gives us on the Cross more fully our own. . . . Practicing the spiritual disciplines does not make us Christians. Instead, the practicing teaches us what it means to live as Christians.” –Lauren F. Winner in Mudhouse Sabbath, An invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline


Guidelines for a weekly Sabbath holiday  


Remember: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 NIV). How can we make this day a day of remembering?


Remember from where He has brought you—the Egypt you were delivered from. You could not save yourself then and you cannot save yourself now. Sabbath calls us to remember and reflect on this fact. Sabbath is usually a day we gather with others to worship the One who set us free and celebrate together our freedom. 


Sabbath isn’t just one day out of each week, but Sabbaths are also other days we call feasts of the Lord, or our religious holidays. Easter is the main one—the feast day that is focused on Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. On Easter, we plan special meals, family celebrations, and join with our church family to worship and celebrate—all a part of remembering that we have been set free from our slavery to sin and a life defined by busyness and self provision.


Observe: What does it mean to set this day apart, to make it special, to use it to preserve our freedom from sin and from being slaves to a busy life? How are we to celebrate that freedom?


Make this day different from your everyday, work-a-holic life. Sabbath should not be a day just like any other day. The whole day should reflect something different then the other six days of your week. Do things that bring you God’s life—attend church, worship, take a walk in His creation, pray, read your Bible, play with your children, initiate intimacy with your spouse, enjoy a special meal, take a nap in the afternoon, join with friends for fellowship, or serve in some sort of ministry. Avoid things that might be bondage for you and anything that causes you to feel driven or a slave to your life obligations. “Slaves cannot skip a day of work, but free people can.” –Dorothy Bass in Receiving the Day


Celebrate, worship, feast, and play! God is our focus on this day and He loves to celebrate, feast and play! He loves to laugh and dance! He wants you to just enjoy, for one full day out of seven,—His freedom, His goodness, His provision, His Lordship. Sabbath is a day to enjoy the life God has given us through relationship with Him, our family, and others.


Sabbath is the balance beam in our imbalanced lives. We practice Sabbath so that our stopping will balance our going the other six days.


How would a weekly holy-day/holiday improve your faith journey, your family life and your other relationships? What can you do this week to institute the practice of Sabbath into your week? How can you make your Sunday special—a holiday with the Lord?


Sabbath doesn’t make me a Christian; it teaches me how to live as a Christian.


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