Do I Have To? (ATP)

What is the sabbath meant to be as God commanded as opposed to how the Jewish leaders saw it in Jesus’ time? Are we still to keep the sabbath as Christians? How would we do this now? 

Mark 2:24 (NIV)

The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Mark 2:27 (NIV)

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

These two verses give the contrast between how the religious leaders look at the things of God and how God looks at the things of God. This is a very clear and stark contradiction, one we would do well to thoughtfully consider.

Man, since the beginning of time, has been looking for the easy way out of doing what they should. We have become experts at looking for ways around what is best for us to do. The law, although God’s intent was good, ended up being used as a tool for the enemy to bind us once again. The law’s main purpose was to expose sin and show us what righteousness truly is.

When we get to this part of the gospel we see all things beautifully played out. I want you to keep in mind as we go forward, (consider all thoughts of this Faith Fix through this) how one views religion is how they will view God. When you understand that, why the enemy desires to utilize religion becomes woefully obvious. If God’s rules can be seen in a light that creates bondage, then people will view God in this same light.

I have seen this way too much! Even well-meaning Christian leaders, left to their own devices, can get off course. When people embrace rules above relationship, they lose sight of the fundamental attributes of our Heavenly Father. Holiness, for us, is about being in God’s presence. 1 Peter 1:16 (NIV) says, “For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” This is not an arbitrary rule, just because God sees it this way. We were created in His image. Therefore, the sinful nature is not what God designed us for. It, because of its essence, separates us from Him. Sin makes us lose our imaging quality of our Heavenly Father. 

When they tried to trap Jesus here Jesus explained through a rebuke, “Man was not made for the sabbath!” God’s purposes for the law and specifically here the Sabbath, had nothing to do with following certain rules, but for the blessing of humanity. Yet, humans don’t always like to listen and so God makes it a law. Why? Because man’s obedience to God’s directions and as well as to natural processes is necessary to fulfill His plan for using humanity. Long life will not be had by someone who never learns to rest. Effective service will not be done by one who doesn’t learn to rest. Have you ever tried doing something strenuous or important on very little sleep? 

To take this idea of rest further is something we see that we should be doing in this New Testament era. In a busy life, we need time to rest in God’s presence. We need to reflect on both what He’s done and what He’s doing. Rest makes us slow down to hear that still small voice. Yet, people seem to have a very hard time with doing this. 

We see the Sabbath differently in the New Testament because we have light on it that they didn’t have. We see that it isn’t about following a certain set of rules, but that it can be more flexible as long as we understand and embrace the heart of it. The Sabbath, though observed on a certain day, was not about a certain day. It was about the heart of separating a day. Devotion to God is a sacrifice. It is in part about giving that time (significant to most) its proper place in our lives so that we remember God, remember His people, and endeavor to grow in relation to them both. 

So is a believer required to keep the Sabbath? It depends on what you mean by that. If you mean a specific day of the week where you can’t do anything, my answer would be no. Should a Christian maintain the heart of the Sabbath? Absolutely yes! I love what a pastor friend of mine said to me once in a conversation. I don’t go to church because I have to. I go because I am blessed to do it!” I will take this further. We aren’t blessed to do it because we expect some sort of gift. We are blessed to do it because God made His people and allowed us to do it. If we get too overly concerned with following the rules we will miss God’s heart on it.

I’m going to sum up my views on the law of God with a silly and simple illustration. Have you ever been bowling? If you have then you’re probably aware of the bumpers that they sometimes put in the gutters for the little kids when they’re bowling. These bumpers keep the ball on the right course down the alley. Though they are there to keep the ball out of the gutter, if the child is to learn to bowl accurately they will need to be taught to try and do that anyway. The sure strike doesn’t come because the ball can’t go in the gutter, it comes when one learns the principles of where to roll the ball. Though the bumpers are fine when children are having fun, notice they are never used in a professional bowling game.

Some people choose to stay infants in the things of God. These are certainly those who will perpetually need rules to guide them. God’s heart is that we would be governed by our conscience, renewed in His truth and by His Spirit. To grow in maturity means that one learns to not just look at the rule, but the heart of the rule. One thing is clear in scripture, the heart of man cannot be governed by rules. If that’s our goal, we will always miss His.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff