God’s special day
Some people live for today; the Bible talks about those who say, ‘Let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’. Others live for yesterday; they look back to when things seemed better. And others live for tomorrow; they hope something better is going to turn up. But Jesus shows us how to live for eternity – in the here and now, with an eternal perspective on life.
One of the great blessings God has given to encourage us to live for eternity is a special day built into the rhythm of our lives. It happens every week, a gift from God.
When God created the world, he did it in six days. He rested on the seventh for our sakes, because from the beginning he wanted to establish one day in seven as special (Genesis 1:31–2:3). He wants us to build eternity into our timetable – not to organise God into our lives, but to organise our lives into God.
The only way to live well is to enjoy a living, daily relationship with our Maker. To help with this, God has provided us with that special day. To the Jewish nation it was the gift of the sabbath day, so that they could model it for the whole world. The Fourth Commandment says, ‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy’. All must rest from work, but also it is a special, holy day of joyful activity, with the people of God worshipping God and caring for one another (Isaiah 58:13).
This sabbath was not to be a chore but a delight. The key to its enjoyment is the exact opposite of the worldly approach which says, ‘This is my day off’. The focus on ‘me and my pleasure’ is in the end deeply dissatisfying.
In the Old Testament it was called the sabbath; in the New Testament it is called ‘the Lord’s Day’. Sunday is Jesus’ day. On this day he rose again. The early Christians loved to meet on this special day.
In Troas the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread and hear preaching (Acts 20:7). In Corinth they had ‘the collection’ on the Lord’s Day (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
The apostle John, alone on Patmos, cut off from Christian fellowship, was still keeping Sunday as the Lord’s Day. He says, ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’ (Revelation 1:10). It was then that he received that wonderful revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, with those visions of heaven.
But is the Christian Lord’s Day a sabbath? Notice three things. First, the idea of the sabbath is God’s idea; it goes back to creation. It is not just for Jews; it is for all of us, given for our benefit.
Second, it is one of the Ten Commandments. The other nine we understand to be God’s holy moral law applicable to all people, for all time. This commandment applies too, when as with the nine others it is interpreted by the New Testament.
Third, Jesus shocked the Jewish establishment by the way he kept the Jewish sabbath. He did acts of mercy in and out of the synagogue. He told people to do things the rabbis had forbidden. They had developed the sabbath law into a strict list of dos and don’ts. But Jesus went against it. He told a man he healed to carry his bed on the sabbath. He was showing what it actually means to love God and to love our neighbour.
Jesus had a radical approach to the sabbath, but he did not abolish it. He said, ‘The sabbath was made for man’ (Mark 2:27). The sabbath is for our good, our blessing. Jesus also said, ‘The Son of man is Lord of the sabbath’ (Mark 2:28); Christ stamped his authority all over the sabbath.
The early Christians, meeting for worship on the first day of the week, were recognising the Lordship of Christ. They grasped the Lord’s Day as a blessing, a gift from God, in three ways.
First, it is a day of rest. In none of the ordinary activities and interests of life can we find an answer to the restlessness of our souls. In all of them we encounter strife and disappointment. Real rest is to be found only in Christ. He said, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew11:28-30).
In knowing Jesus, we find peace, joy, satisfaction and true contentment. In believing in him are found the forgiveness of sins and true fellowship with the living God.
The Lord’s Day is given to help us consciously to enjoy and cultivate resting in Christ. Observe this day and it will help us to know Jesus. Observe this day and we will learn better how to live out our lives as disciples in fellowship with him.
Where is Christ especially present? ‘Where two or three gather together in my name, I am there in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20). Christ is known especially in the fellowship of Christians. The rest and peace we enjoy in Christ, we enjoy especially in company with other believers.
The Lord’s Day is the time for the Lord’s people to meet, worship, share, and serve the Lord together. So we experience all over again the thrill of believing in Christ, hearing from him through his Word and by his Spirit.
The early church wanted to be together. It was a new community – a fellowship, a family, a body. They found rest and refreshment in company with one another. The writer to the Hebrews saw its great importance: ‘Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching’ (Hebrews10:25).
How are you spending Sundays? Do you take a rest from the things you do on the other six days? Do you plan your week so on the Lord’s Day you can be freed up to serve the Lord?
Take a rest from thinking about your work. Forget that assignment, that problem in the office, even the examination you’ve got to take on Monday morning. Many Christians who keep Sunday special will tell you that they are so refreshed by it they are well prepared for the challenges of another week. We are given six days to timetable in everything else.
The Lord’s Day is also a day of joy and celebration. It is the day when Jesus rose from the dead; the day when he finished our salvation.
The day celebrates the defeat of Satan. With other Christians we will want to worship and praise the Lord, feed on his Word, be built up in our faith and share our burdens, joys, sorrows and answers to prayer.
We will want to find initiatives to serve the Lord in ministries of witness, evangelism and compassion. They had a great appetite for the Word of God and for Christian fellowship in Troas (Acts 20:5-12). Are we like them?
The Lord’s Day is a weekly reminder, a little foretaste of heaven. In heaven ‘[Christ’s] servants shall serve him’ (Revelation 22:3) with perfectly enhanced faculties. Richard Baxter said, ‘Use your sabbaths as steps to glory’. These days are given us to re-set the direction of our lives.
How blessed we can be by a full orbed Lord’s Day! We can say at the end of it, ‘In your presence is fulness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11); and again, ‘As for me I will see your face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness’ (Psalm 17:15).
So God beckons us to live for eternity. He gives us this special day. Give this one whole day each week to the Lord. It will help you to walk with God for another week and open up your life to new friendships and opportunities to serve Christ.
Take each opportunity Sunday gives to worship with fellow believers. Use other parts of the day for Christian hospitality, visiting and witness. Are you willing to adopt a lifestyle in which God comes first?
May God give us all a new vision of how to live for Christ in this world, and especially how to use his day for his glory!