Practicing Sabbath

By Pastor Nate Powell

There are occasions when I look back on a given Sunday and go “Man, I wish I could have landed that differently.” This past Sunday was one of those Sundays. As many of you who were there know, I was preaching on the Sabbath day of creation, found in Genesis 2:1-3. In that sermon, I shared that I tend to struggle with practicing what I am preaching. I’m a guy that is too busy at points, and of late I have certainly been in one of the busiest seasons of my life. (If you want to hear what I shared in that sermon, you can listen to it here:

For me, it was a very personal and confessional sermon, and I pointed out the many problems and pressures that we face in our society to be busy, rather than take a day for rest and reflection as God designed for us. When we aren’t taking Sabbath, we are sinning against him and rebelling against his design.

If I had one piece to finish or do over again from Sunday, it would be making a true application toward all of this. I diagnosed the problem, I presented forgiveness in Jesus, but we ought not continue to walk in violation of his commands if we know what we are doing goes against his design. So how should we live in light of the design of the creator and practice abiding in the New Testament era by the 4th commandement? Here are a few ideas that I would propose, based off of the commands and principles of Sabbath found in scripture:

  • Do: Place the Lord at the center of your Sabbath rest. The original command to practice Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11) was based in a reflection on God’s goodness in creation. The repetition of that Sabbath command (Deut 5:12-16) was rooted in reflection on God’s deliverance in the Exodus from Egypt. Any time this day of rest is mentioned, it is a day that belongs to rest and reflection on God’s goodness. It’s not just a day of vain pleasure and self-centered enjoyment. Isaiah 58:13 notes that we do not honor the Sabbath if we “go our own ways, seek our own pleasure, or talk idly.”
  • Do: Prioritize gathering with God’s people to worship on your Sabbath rest. Jesus sets this pattern for us in his Sabbath observing. He didn’t just say to himself, “Well, I’m God, so I don’t really need to go meet with any other God-followers. I’ll do my own thing at the lake.” Luke 4:16 reminds us that Jesus went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, “as was his custom.” This one verse reminds us that Jesus made a regular habit of meeting, singing, reading and praying with God’s people. Just as he set a pattern for us in his baptism, Jesus set a pattern for us in his manner of living. He could have said easily thought himself to be better than everyone at the Synagogue, but he didn’t. He prioritized rest and reflection with God’s people on a Sabbath day. In the New Testament/Church era, we celebrate that day on a Sunday (e.g. Acts 20:7). Church and worship ought not be an afterthought to the believer. Gathering with God’s people ought to be of first priority to us.
  • Do: Organize/Prioritize the six days of your work week. This is one of the difficult tricks and more easily said than done when it come to your work and career. The overall pattern that is given by the Lord in Genesis 1-2 is that he is able to rest on the 7th day because he completed all of his intended work on the first six. Of course, he is the Lord. He is perfect at these things and we are not. But his intention is that our work is to be properly apportioned so that we can have that period of rest for our refreshment, because we are finite creatures. This is my own most difficult area, and organization of tasks is a constant challenge toward maintaining Sabbath space and rest in my life. We must each learn to navigate this by God’s wisdom and grace.
  • Do: Make your sabbath a day of Grace and Mercy. As Jesus said in Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath pattern & command was not given to be a club with which to beat God’s people. It is a staff with which to guide and keep the sheep within God’s fold. If we do not have weekly patterns and reminders about following the Good Shepherd, we will lose our way. Jesus constantly reminded those Sabbath legalists that the Sabbath was for rest, restoration and doing what is right. (Luke 14:1-6) When you have your Sabbath, seek and promote the rest and restoration that is available to all in Jesus Christ.

I am grateful to have a church that walks alongside me, gives me grace, and urges me to take a break when I’m weary. By His grace and by resting in God’s sabbath, my hope is to serve you for many more years to come. And I hope that I can be an encouragement toward your practice of Sabbath in your own life as well.

(Not quite) Rested, but always ready to serve,

Pastor Nate