September 8, 2019

Exodus 20:8-11: A Break from the Busyness

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Series: The Ten Commandments Scripture: Exodus 20:8–11

Exodus 20:8-11: A Break from the Busyness

Please turn with me in your Bible to Exodus 20. If you’re using one of the Bibles we provide, that’s on page 49. We’ve been working through the Ten Commandments one by one, and this morning we come to the fourth commandment, which is found in verses 8-11 of Exodus 20.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 

If there’s one thing that just about everyone in our society has in common, it’s that we’re all busy—and most of us would say really busy. One author named Wayne Muller says this: “As the founder of a public charity, I visit the large offices of wealthy donors, the crowded rooms of social service agencies, and the small houses of the poorest families. Remarkably, within this mosaic there is a universal refrain: I am so busy. It does not seem to matter if the people I speak with are doctors or daycare workers, shopkeepers or social workers, parents or teachers, nurses or lawyers, students or therapists, community activists or cooks….Their work in the world rarely feels light, pleasant, or healing. Instead, as it all piles endlessly upon itself, the whole experience of being alive begins to melt into one enormous obligation. It becomes the standard greeting everywhere: I am so busy.” 

Is that not an accurate description of just about all of us as modern-day Americans? I mean, you would think that with all of the technology we’ve developed over the past few centuries and the time-saving devices we have in our homes that we’d be less busy than human beings have ever been at any time in history. But it seems to be the opposite, doesn’t it? So often, it feels like we’re drowning in responsibilities and activities and obligations and work and other forms of busyness. 

Yet the fourth commandment shows us the path of life. You may remember that I said at the beginning of this series on the Ten Commandments that God didn’t give us these commandments because he’s trying to ruin our fun. No, he gave us these commandments because he loves us. And in his love, he wants to show us the best way to live—the way to live that will allow us to flourish the most. I love how David puts it in Psalm 16:11. He says, speaking to God, “You make known to me the path of life.” “You make known to me the path of life.” That, I believe, is a reference to the law, summarized in the Ten Commandments. Through the law and through the commandments, God makes known to us the path of life. And this fourth commandment is a perfect example of that. God knows that we have a tendency to get ourselves in a place where we’re drowning in our busyness. And so he tells us in the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” That’s what we’re going to focus on this morning. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” And I’d like to use the rest of our time together to answer two questions related to this commandment. Number one, how should Christians understand the fourth commandment? And number two, how should Christians respond to the fourth commandment?

How Should Christians Understand the Fourth Commandment?

So first, how should Christians understand the fourth commandment? This commandment was pretty clear for the Israelites back in the Old Testament. It was a simple command not to do any work on the seventh day of the week. We see from various passages in the Old Testament that this included both agricultural work and commercial activity. It also included things like traveling, carrying a burden, and even making a fire. All of these kinds of activities were prohibited. 

The basis for this, stated in verse 11 of our main passage, was that God himself rested from his work of creation on the seventh day. Genesis 2:2-3 tells us, 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Now the question that’s often debated is this: “Is the Sabbath still binding for Christians today?” Do we, as Christians living in New Testament times, still have to keep the Sabbath? I mean, we don’t sacrifice animals or observe Jewish food laws, so is observing the Sabbath in that same category of things in Old Testament that we don’t have to do anymore? 

And there’s a lot of additional explanation I would love to give if we had more time, but I’ll just get straight to the point and tell you what I believe. I believe that the Sabbath is no longer binding for Christians today. We’re not obligated to keep the Sabbath. There are two biblical passages that lead me to say that. First, Romans 14:1, 5. Paul writes, 1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions…. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. What kind of “day” is Paul talking about? I think it’s fairly clear he’s talking about the Sabbath day or at least that what he’s talking about includes the Sabbath day. I don’t see how the Sabbath could be exempt from Paul’s teaching there. He basically says, “If you want to observe the Sabbath, go for it. But you certainly don’t have to. You’re not obligated to observe the Sabbath as a New Testament believer.” Then another passage that speaks to this issue very clearly is Colossians 2:16-17. Paul says, 16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. So here he mentions the Sabbath by name and says that we’re not supposed to let other people judge us based on whether or not we observe the Sabbath. He then states that the Sabbath is “a shadow of the things to come.” As you know, a shadow is temporary. It only lasts for a few hours. Likewise, the Sabbath was a very temporary thing in God’s plan for his people. 

So, the Sabbath is no longer binding for Christians today. However—and, yes, as you may have suspected, there is a “however” here—the New Testament does tell us about something called the “Lord’s Day.” In Revelation 1:10, the Apostle John writes, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet….” So what is this “Lord’s Day” all about? Well, the expression itself seems to point to the fact that it was a day uniquely set apart to the Lord. Of course, we’re supposed to be devoted to the Lord every day, but the very existence of the expression “Lord’s Day” implies that there was something special about this day. It was a day set aside for Christians to focus their attention on the Lord more so than usual. Also, we learn from Acts 20:7 that the Lord’s Day was on Sunday, rather than Saturday, and that it was the day of the week when the early Christians gathered for worship. 

Now, now some Christian denominations like to use the phrase “Christian Sabbath” to refer to the Lord’s Day. The most famous example of this is the Westminster Confession. And if you’re a hard-core Christian Sabbath person, you don’t do any work on that day. You don’t cut your grass, you don’t go shopping, you don’t do anything like that. I had a friend in college who had a strong conviction about the Christian Sabbath and wouldn’t go out to a restaurant with us after church because of that conviction. But to be honest with you, I’m really not a big fan of the idea of a Christian Sabbath because it’s never specifically mentioned in the Bible.  The Bible nowhere identifies Sunday as a new Sabbath or a Christian Sabbath. As we saw from both Romans 14 and Colossians 2, the Bible simply says that we’re no longer obligated to observe the Sabbath, period. 

Instead, we observe the Lord’s Day—which, granted, is similar to the Sabbath, but it’s still distinct. It’s kind of like the difference between tennis and racquetball. There are a lot of similarities between tennis and racquetball. They both involve hitting balls with rackets and timing your swing and hitting the ball in the right place. But there are certainly other things that make tennis and racquetball quite distinct: different sized balls, different racquets, a different way of swinging, a different kind of court that’s used. So tennis, though similar to racquetball, is quite distinct. Likewise, we might say that the Lord’s Day, though similar to the Sabbath, is distinct as well. And one thing that makes it distinct is that, unlike the Sabbath, there’s no absolute requirement that we abstain from all work during the Lord’s Day. In fact, there are hardly any absolute requirements for the Lord’s Day. We simply see in the Bible that a day called the Lord’s Day existed in the early church and was the day when Christians met for worship. That’s it. 

How Should Christians Respond to the Fourth Commandment?

So that raises a very legitimate question as we think about the fourth commandment. And it’s actually the second major question that I put forth earlier. The first question was how should Christians understand the fourth commandment? And now the second question is how should Christians respond to the fourth commandment? Please understand that, even though the Sabbath isn’t binding for us, the fourth commandment is still incredibly relevant today. And I believe it’s relevant in three primary ways. So let me give you three habits we should develop in response to the fourth commandment.

  • Set aside the Lord’s Day for spiritual refreshment

First, let me encourage you to set aside the Lord’s Day for spiritual refreshment. Like I said, I don’t believe the Lord’s Day is the New Testament equivalent of the Sabbath, but that doesn’t mean there’s no carryover. The principle of us needing rest and refreshment is a timeless principle. So please understand that there’s strong biblical precedent and immense spiritual benefit in setting aside the Lord’s Day for rest and spiritual refreshment. If you’re looking for a summary statement view the Lord’s Day, that’s a good sentence to write down. There’s strong biblical precedent and immense spiritual benefit in setting aside the Lord’s Day for rest and spiritual refreshment. 

Also, notice that I said “spiritual refreshment.” That seems to be what the early Christians viewed as the purpose of the Lord’s Day, and I believe we also would do well to pursue that. The Lord’s Day isn’t just a day to do whatever we want to do that technically isn’t work. Rather, it’s a day to engage in activities that bring refreshment to our souls. So…binge watching Netflix probably doesn’t qualify. Although you may not be “working” as you binge watch Netflix, I’m not sure I could see it bringing you spiritual—or even emotional or mental—refreshment. And to be honest, the same goes for other forms of entertainment. Entertainment is something that occupies us, not something that refreshes us. It’s kind of like the fillers you might find in a fast-food hamburger. It’s there, and you can consume it, but it’s not really doing anything for you and actually has the potential to be harmful at times. So sitting on the couch all day watching Netflix or scrolling through your Facebook feed isn’t what I mean when I talk about spiritual refreshment. I’m talking about activities like—first and foremost—gathering with other believers for worship, as we’re doing now. Also, engaging in Bible study and prayer on your own and reading other things that feed your soul and spending face-to-face time with your family or friends or perhaps taking a nap or engaging in a hobby that has a refreshing effect on you. These are the kinds of activities that seem to most naturally fit with what the Bible tells us about the Lord’s Day. 

Now, as you may be thinking already, what I’m suggesting does indeed require a high level of intentionality. A restful and refreshing Lord’s Day doesn’t just happen. It requires planning. You’ll have to take care of certain practical responsibilities on Saturday rather than Sunday. Also, it requires prioritizing what you’re going to be involved with. You may not be able to squeeze in all of the activities and clubs and projects you’d otherwise be able to squeeze into your weekend. And finally, a restful and refreshing Lord’s Day requires faith. You have to believe that God’s going to take care of you and your career even if you don’t a spend a few extra hours working on that project or immediately answer those emails that keep showing up in your inbox. Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances, but in general, you just have to trust God with all of those things if you’re going to have a restful and refreshing Lord’s Day. In fact, I would even say that exercising faith in that way is in itself part God’s design for the Lord’s Day. He designed it so that you’d have to exercise faith to observe it. He wants to be worshiped and trusted in that way. 

And understand that by giving us the Lord’s Day, God is really giving us an amazing gift. Like we talked about before, God isn’t imposing this on us in order to ruin our fun. Rather, he understands our tendency to get ourselves in a place where we’re drowning in busyness, and so he gives us the gift of one day each week, known as the Lord’s Day, which he encourages us to use for rest and spiritual refreshment. Kevin DeYoung describes it as “an island of get-to in an ocean of have-to.” That’s what the Lord’s Day gives us space to enjoy—“an island of get-to in an ocean of have-to.” I’ve also heard it said that the Lord’s Day allows us to live as human beings rather than simply “human doings.” So even though using the Lord’s Day in this way isn’t an absolute requirement in the Bible like the Sabbath was, there’s still strong biblical precedent and immense spiritual benefit in setting aside the Lord’s Day for rest and spiritual refreshment, and I as your pastor encourage you to take advantage of it. 

And I understand that some people do have to work on the Lord’s Day. I’m actually one of those people—in addition to police officers and doctors and nurses and people like that. So if you’re one of those people, that’s okay. Thank you for what you do to serve our society in that way. I’m so thankful that when my wife Becky gives birth in a few weeks that, even if the birth were to happen on a Sunday, we can be confident there’s going to be a doctor at the hospital to deliver our baby. Praise God for that—because I don’t know how to deliver a baby. I mean, I use YouTube to figure out how to do a lot of things, but I do not want to use it to figure out how to deliver a baby, alright? So praise God for people who serve our society by working on Sundays. But if that’s you, my advice is to just do what you can to establish a regular pattern in your life of setting aside time at some point during the week for rest and spiritual refreshment. 

  • Make being here for worship the priority it should be

Also, a second habit we should develop in response to the fourth commandment is this: make being here for worship the priority it should be. And the reason I list this as a distinct habit from the first habit of observing the Lord’s Day is that I said that resting on Lord’s Day isn’t an absolute requirement. It’s something we see commended in the Bible but not necessary commanded. However, gathering with other believers for worship is, in fact, commanded. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. That’s why, if you’re a member of our church, we expect you to be here on Sundays—unless you’re traveling or sick or something like that. Attending consistently on Sundays is an expectation for membership. While we encourage you to set aside the whole day as the Lord’s Day, we expect to be here on Sundays unless there’s some kind of extenuating circumstance. Please understand that gathering for worship isn’t something for us to “squeeze in” to our weekend. It’s something for us to view as a non-negotiable fixture in our life so that we plan our whole weekend and indeed our whole week around it. This time is precious, and it really should be the highlight of our week. 

  • Look to Jesus as your ultimate source of rest 

Then finally, the third and most important habit we should develop in response to the fourth commandment is to look to Jesus as your ultimate source of rest. Look to Jesus as your ultimate source of rest. Colossians 2:16-17, which we looked at earlier says, 16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. So again, the Sabbath was a shadow of what was to come. It was a temporary command that pointed forward to an eternal reality. And that reality, verse 17 says, is Christ. The Sabbath was the shadow, while Christ is the substance, it says. So the Sabbath is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. That means the ultimate way we keep the Sabbath, as New Testament believers, is by looking to Jesus as our Sabbath rest. 

You see, our greatest problem isn’t that we’re overworked with our job or generally too busy in life. Rather, it’s that we’re on the hamster wheel of working to earn God’s favor and make ourselves acceptable in God’s sight through our own efforts. And that’s impossible, because the Bible says in Romans 3:20 that “by works of the law no human being will be justified in [God’s] sight.” That means nobody can ever be good enough to get into heaven through their own efforts or their own supposed morality. Instead, the Bible says that we’re thoroughly sinful and hopelessly condemned before God. However, Jesus took that guilt and condemnation on himself as he died on the cross. He suffered the wrath we deserved on the cross and then victoriously resurrected from the dead. And so the way we become right with God isn’t by isn’t by striving or working but rather by resting—resting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. That’s the ultimate kind of rest God invites us to. 

And that invitation is not only for those who aren’t Christians yet but also for those who are already Christians. Rest in Christ. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Let me ask you something: are you experiencing that rest on a daily basis? Or have you slipped into a performance-based mentality, thinking that God’s love for you is somehow dependent on how well you perform or how good of a Christian you manage to be on that particular day? That’s not the gospel. The gospel is that, as a Christian, you’re already dearly loved and entirely accepted by God through Jesus. And until you learn to rest in Jesus in that way, you’ll never be able to truly be at rest. J. D. Greear once said that “Without Christ, we will work even while we are resting. And with Christ, we will rest even while we are working.” Isn’t that good? “Without Christ, we will work even while we are resting. And with Christ, we will rest even while we are working.” You see, until we learn to rest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, even the nicest vacations and the most enjoyable hobbies won’t allow us true rest. Instead, they’ll function more like a drug, providing temporary distraction but no true remedy. Only in Christ do we find true rest. As J. D. Greear concludes, “In Christ, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, [and] nothing we have done that makes Him love us less.”

other sermons in this series

Nov 24


Exodus 20:17: You Shall Not Covet

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: Exodus 20:17 Series: The Ten Commandments

Nov 3


Oct 20


Exodus 20:15: You Shall Not Steal

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: Exodus 20:15 Series: The Ten Commandments