What Might Be Missing From Your Sabbath

Kellie, what’s a ‘sabbath’?” chimed the twelve year old in the back seat of my jam packed car on the way to summer camp. “How do I explain what a sabbath is to a pre-teen?” I thought to myself. For a moment, I had a glimpse of what parents meant when they told me that their kids keep them on their theological toes with random questions. I’ve heard sermons, read books and articles mentioning the Sabbath but never in terms for someone who hasn’t even graduated middle school. And how do I give her a short answer? There’s so much to say about the sabbath. As I stumbled for the right words I began to just word vomit. “Well, you remember when God created the earth and He rested on the last day? He showed us that it is important to set apart time to rest. Not for us just to say ‘no’ to working but to actually think upon what Jesus did for us, rest because He is God and we aren’t, and to give thanks for all that He has done for us.”

As I thought upon the random explanation that came to mind, I was prodded by the Holy Spirit with a gentle conviction. It wasn’t a conviction for never resting— I loveeee a good nap, I love me some alone time, I love scheduling some peace and quiet to recharge (hellooo 9s on the enneagram who can relate). But the alarm of conviction that was ringing true in my mind while we continued to break down what a sabbath is on that long and windy road to a camp in the middle of no-where was the worship behind my sabbaths— or lack thereof.

In my early twenties I was crazy busy and rarely took time to slow down. Like seriously, I don’t know how I made it out alive. When there are so many exciting opportunities before you and you haven’t learned how to say ‘no’ to things, it can get pretty overwhelming. When I was taught to see that God actually calls us to take a sabbath I thought “Yeah, this would be a great idea for my mind, body, and soul, I need rest! If I don’t help myself to rest I won’t be able to help or refresh others!” And honestly, part of that is true but where I was missing the bullet was when I only saw the sabbath as a means to “recharge”.

If you are finding the time to take a sabbath, why are you resting? Or here’s a better question, what are you resting in? Because what we find rest in points to what we worship.

Keeping the sabbath does not earn us right standing with God. Keeping the sabbath should be a delightful response to Christ’s sacrifice which has already secured us right standing with God. See, the sabbath isn’t about us rewarding ourselves rest from a long week of hard work or busyness. The sabbath isn’t just a day set aside for us to ‘recharge’ so that we can continue to depend on our own strength to live out what we have been called to. The sabbath should be a day where we deny our flesh to work or be in control as we dwell upon and rest in Christ’s finished work and sovereignty. The sabbath should point us to continue to depend on the strength of the holy spirit, not ourself.

When you carve out time for a sabbath, maybe set aside a Sunday to not do any work or check any emails, maybe you even shut off social media- do you do this to take a break from the noise and veg out? Or do you deny other things on the sabbath so you can position your heart and soul to deeply rest in the Lord? Whether I’m binging Netflix or doing super healthy things for my mind and body, if the day of sabbath is only spent on consuming things that don’t stir my heart to give thanks to the Lord, I’m missing it. With a false sense of rest, my sabbath is missing the worship that only belongs to God.

When it comes to what our sabbath worship should look like, J.V. Fesko says it best in his book on the ten commandments…

“What is the best way to observe the Lord’s day? A simple way to answer this is to ask, ‘Does my activity promote or hinder my celebration of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ?’ Corporate worship, reading the scriptures, prayer, singing psalms and hymns, meditating upon Christ, fellowshipping with the body of Christ, visiting the sick and attending the needs of others help us celebrate Christ’s work. Watching ball games, shopping, doing homework, and working around the house do not promote our celebration of Christ’s work because these are activities that we do every weekday. They do not help us meditate on the completed work of Christ. We should observe the Lord’s day not out of duty or obligation but with joy, celebration and love for our triune God. So many people consider Sabbath observance as an obligation to be preformed, yet they look forward to birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other special days. If we can rejoice in earthly celebrations shouldn’t we rejoice even more on the days that celebrate the work of Christ and our redemption?” - J.V. Fesko

Friends! We get to set aside time to relish in the beauty of Christ’s finished work. We get to worship Him! The One who has given us life and true deep rest by His sheer grace, not because of our efforts. We can rest because Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father. The work is finished, He has overcome. As we long for His return He will empower us with all the grace and strength required for the work that we are called to. May we encourage one another to look to Christ daily and to savor and celebrate all that He has accomplished in the sabbaths we may partake in on this side of Heaven. May the sabbath we set apart point us to depend on and rest in Christ, not ourselves or other things. In our sabbaths, may He alone be the One worshipped.

Kellie Martin