Series: The Other Hours
We’ve been spending a couple of months talking about The Other Hours. God doesn’t want to make you good at church. He wants to make you good at life, which, basically, is all the other hours. Sometimes, in church, we get caught up in talking about how to be good at church; but that’s such a small, small section of our lives when we’re showing up at the church. Church is not what Christians are supposed to do. Church is just supposed to help Christians do what they’re supposed to do, which, most of the time, happens outside these walls.
So that’s a little bit of the premise that we’re going into. We talked about relationships, which is a huge part of our “awake life.” We talked about work for a few weeks, basically the occupation, or the stuff that we’re doing to kind of make life work, whether we get paid to do it or not. The work, the labor that we have. And then we’re going to start a section today on rest.
Rest. It’s an epidemic in our society, no doubt about it: We no longer know how to rest. And one of the challenges is—this is going to be a little depressing for you maybe (it was for me)—but if you’re going to live seventy-five years, you’re going to be asleep for twenty-five of them. And that’s not the Bible. That’s just, like, eight hours a day—only twenty-four of them in a day. And some of you are like, “I haven’t slept eight hours in a hundred years.” Okay, so fine. You’re going to be asleep for twenty of them. It’s a major chunk of our lives.
Check this verse out. Psalm 127.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early [hallelujah!]
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Rest. One of God’s main desires for your life is that you will have rest. Not energy to maintain the pace that you are experiencing right now. “God, give me strength.”
He says, “No. You need rest.”
“God, give me courage.”
“No. You need to relax. You need to learn how to be still.”
God set up the world. He made creation with the cycles. He made humanity to fit in those cycles. And one of the cycles that God has made mandatory, that he wove into the fabric of creation, is rest. Christians should be professionals at rest if they want to follow Jesus.
You look at the life of Jesus through the gospels. He was good at rest, or at least carving out time for rest. They were always accusing him of breaking the Sabbath; but it wasn’t really him. He was healing someone on the Sabbath, or his disciples were eating grain on the Sabbath. We’ll read about that. It wasn’t Jesus. He practiced Sabbath, but he practiced more than one day a week Sabbath. He practiced it as a lifestyle.
And so many of those laws in the Old Testament teach us about the frameworks, the realities of life. And in the New Testament perspective, after Jesus, we’re not just trying to do the bare minimum; but we’re trying to apply those in the full aspect of our lives. Those realities, those Ten Commandments, those are things that are more than just God said, “Do this, and if you don’t do this, eh, no big deal.” They are things that, if we don’t do them, if we run up against them, we will pay the price.
And out of all of The Other Hours topics that we came up with, there’s only one that made it in the Ten Commandments. And that is that we’re supposed to remember to rest. Remember the Sabbath. It’s very precious to our God. It’s very important to him. And he exemplified that when he created the world. For six days he worked, he labored, he harnessed all the “without form and void” and made the beauty and wonder of creation. And then he, himself—God, himself, rested. Because he was tired? No. He’s infinite. Because he didn’t really know what else to do? No. Because rest is that important.
And today we’re going to talk a little bit about rest, what Sabbath is all about. I’m going to read some Scriptures that will hopefully help us begin to kind of focus on what the Bible is saying about rest and Sabbath.
We’re going have four Scriptures. They’re all pretty short. Exodus 20:8-11. One of the Ten Commandments.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. [set apart. different] 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
Some of you need to hear that word. You’re like, “I’m great at rest, man. My parents are always telling me I’m so good at rest. Maybe I’ve got this thing.” Well, you need to work six days.
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. [pretty thorough]. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Isaiah 58:13-14. This is Isaiah the prophet, speaking to the people of Israel who are not doing it right. They’re not resting. They’re not honoring the Sabbath.
“If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so! (MSG)
Mark 2:23-28. This is out of the life of Jesus.
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Notice Jesus was not doing this, but he stuck up for them.
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
So, Mark here kind of tags that little thing, “So the Son of Man is even Lord of the Sabbath.” And interestingly enough, in his gospel also he writes, “The Son of Man is Lord of the temple.” And, in Jewish society at this point, there were the two, like, “This is who we are. This is what we’re all about. We serve the temple. The temple is the big deal. And the other thing is we serve the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the big deal.”
And basically, what they had done, is that they had said, “We need to make sure and serve these things,” instead of what God intended, that they are holy, they are important, but they are supposed to serve humanity. The temple was to be a place, not where people would come and give money and they’re time and attention to lift it up. They were supposed to come there and the temple was supposed to serve them, and lift them up, and restore them.
And, likewise, the Sabbath was supposed to be something not that you had so many rules and regulations that you and your family and your kids were like this on the Sabbath: “I can’t move my arm, I can only move my left arm.” They had so many rules about it. And Jesus was saying, “You’ve got it all wrong. The Sabbath was made for mankind, to be something that serves mankind.”
And then we have one more Scripture coming from 2 Chronicles 36:21. Now, this is a deep, elaborate study if you want to dive into this more, but I want to touch on it for a specific reason.
To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths all the days of its desolation, it kept Sabbath until seventy years were completed. (NASB)
So, basically, as you follow the timeline of Scripture, there was a time in Israel’s history where God sent them into exile. He took them from the land of Israel, the Promised Land, and he basically had a king, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, come, and they took all the people of Israel away and into exile as slaves in Babylon. And they were there for seventy years.
And Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel, they all write about this. They picked up on this reality: that the reason that this was happening was because for four hundred and ninety years, the people of Israel neglected the Sabbath rules for the land. And God is saying, “Well, they are my years. This is very important to me. You’re not getting it. So I’m going to give my land seventy years of rest by getting you off of it, making you go into exile.”
The chronicler is writing this recap of what everyone would have understood. And then it says of Nebuchadnezzar that
he plundered The Temple of everything valuable, cleaned it out completely; he emptied the treasuries of The Temple of God, the treasuries of the king and his officials, and hauled it all, people and possessions, off to Babylon. He burned The Temple of God to the ground, knocked down the wall of Jerusalem, and set fire to all the buildings—
Listen to this. Listen to this word:
everything valuable was burned up.
And if you don’t get Sabbath right, I promise you, at some point in your life, you will be able to look and see everything of value burned up. And this message and this series, I’m hoping will be stopping that from happening to somebody.
Any survivor was taken prisoner into exile in Babylon and made a slave to Nebuchadnezzar and his family. The exile and slavery lasted until the kingdom of Persia took over.
21 This is exactly the message of God that Jeremiah had preached: the desolate land put to an extended sabbath rest, a seventy-year Sabbath rest making up for all the unkept Sabbaths. (MSG)
By neglecting the Sabbath instead of remembering it, we think we’re getting ahead. But it’s not true.
Frank Seekins, who’s the dad of our youth pastor, he’s a bit of a luminary in our time. He was sharing on the Ten Commandments one time. I think it’s just so profound. He was saying to think of them as realities. So picture yourself in this big, 18-wheeler, semi truck. [A bucket list item for me, and I know for most of you, too. Right? Like (gear noises).]
It’s so fun. And you’re driving this thing, you’re driving out to California. And you’re heading past the turnoff for Gila Bend and, all of sudden, you get to where there’s this sign for a bridge and it says “Height Limit 16 Feet” and you know that your sweet semi truck that you’re driving is 18 feet. And you’re like, “Eh. Why does God put these rules on me? You know? 16 feet limit. How do they know what’s going on? They don’t really know. They haven’t been here in a while. They don’t know me. They don’t know how good of a driver I am. They don’t know how fast I’m going. Maybe I’ll go real slow. They don’t know. They can’t just put that blanket statement out there. You know? That’s a political statement. That’s like, you know, not thinking of the tall guys. You know? That’s rough. They can’t really do that.”
And you could fight it. You could wrestle with the sign. You could have all the arguments you want. But the sign’s just kind of telling you a reality. And if you try and go against the reality, you’re going to lose. At least two feet, you know? You can come up with all the justifications, all the arguments, you can try and get rid of that law and make it impotent and not apply it to your life. You can do all of that. But if you continue down that road, you will pay the price. And remembering the Sabbath is one of those realities that God not only says, that he not only does, but we have proof in the Scriptures, very clearly, that you’re going to have to pay the price.
And for these Israelites who didn’t remember the Sabbath, they went through seventy years where everything of value was burned up. And we’ve seen it time and time again in our lives.
I remember Mark Buckley took me to a pastor’s conference when I first starting working here in 2001. And there were probably like 25 pastors in a circle and they were all a lot older than me. And they were going one by one and sharing about what was going on. They were catching up with each other. And every single one of them was sharing what had happened since their breakdown. I’m not joking. Every single one of them.
But for me, as a twenty-three year old, I was like, “Whoa. I’ve got to get out of this job. This is no good.” And then it came around to me, and the only thing I could say was, “I’m just trying to figure out how to avoid a breakdown. I wasn’t before I came to this meeting, but now I’m pretty sure that is the new goal of my life. To figure out how I can avoid or soften the blow of my breakdown.” And they all laughed.
But it’s serious. You know these pastors who know this stuff, they’re as guilty (if not more guilty) as anybody else, at being bad at rest, at neglecting something that is so important to the heart of God.
So we’re going to talk about Sabbath for a few weeks. I broke it into four different things that I think are important that I’ve learned in my life, that I want to share with you guys, that hopefully, one of them you can grab onto—maybe all four of them. Maybe one of them will connect with you right now and you can start to build practice— a little bit of routine for it in your life.
There are four of them. The first one is Sabbath is for resisting. The second one is Sabbath is four rejoicing. The third is Sabbath is for recharging. The fourth is Sabbath is for reuniting or realigning. We’re going to go through each one of these briefly.
This whole topic of Sabbath is deep waters. It’s been around since the beginning of creation, recorded history. The whole concept of a six-day work week, forty hours a week, all of these things, it’s very interesting where they come from. I just want to talk to us about Sabbath because it is a biblical word for rest. Rest is the broader concept, for sure.
When I talk about Sabbath, I’m talking about it definitely in the context of the Old Testament as a one in seven day, 24-hour period. But I think in the New Testament, obviously, the Spirit of God is using those principles to teach us life skills and life principles. So, it doesn’t necessarily have to be one in seven. It could be one in seven hours a day. It could be whatever it is in your life, where you’re putting these practices in place to make sure that you are honoring God in that way, honoring rest so that you can live your fullest life. And you don’t have to go through times where everything of value is burned up.
So, first of all, Sabbath is resisting. I connected a little bit with that, Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments where he said, “Don’t do work, you, your male servants, your female servants, sons, daughters, even your donkeys. Nobody’s allowed to work.” Stop working, striving, trying to impose your will on the world, at least once in a while.
I’ve said it many times before. There’s a gravity in Phoenix—and I’m sure in other cities, but this is the one I live in—that is constantly pulling on us, pulling its into superficial and artificial busyness. Where we wake up one, five, ten years down the road and we realize that we’ve only been existing or maintaining a semblance of a life that we don’t really like, instead of really being fully alive at all.
And this never became so apparent to me as when I moved my family from Phoenix, Arizona down to a village called Gales Point, where there are about 400 people and 250 of them are kids. And there’s no running water. There’s power, we had pretty good power most of the time.
But I realized something very profound after I was there for a month ,and then two months, and then three months. Something began to seep into my soul—and then four months, and five months, and six months and on and on. After we were there, I realized that I had lived all of my life in fifth gear. And then I would go on vacation for fourth gear. And then I was right back up into fifth gear, and down to fourth gear. And maybe, if I was sick enough, or broke enough bones or something, I might have gone down to third gear. But I don’t even know, not mentally, but maybe physically.
And there in Gales Point—some of you, a lot of you, there’s probably been a hundred people in our church that have been there now—all of a sudden, I found out what first gear was. And it wasn’t a wrong thing. It wasn’t a bad thing. It was actually a very important thing.
Remembering the Sabbath is resisting the flood and the fury of our society. It’s resisting the war inside of us to try and somehow become something that we could be proud of. And settling down all the way to a gear called neutral. For those of you who have grown up in America, and in particular, a city, you’re going to have a lot of trouble finding it. Like the truck when I’m driving, trying to find that gear. I don’t know where it is, I just keep grinding until I find it.
But Sabbath, you have to have a very strong dose of resistance in order to find neutral. In order to find that place where you’re okay with what is undone in society, you’re okay with what is undone in you; and maybe for the first time in your life, you’re going to allow Jesus to really be enough. For him to cover everything. Because all of our lives, we’ve been taught, like Rocky, you’ve got to prove that you’re not a bum.
“Why do you fight, Rocky?”
“Because I’ve got to prove to myself that I’m not a bum."
And we have been spinning and striving, working so hard to prove to ourselves and others that we’re not bums. And God says, “One day a week, I want you to just be a bum.”
Even saying that right now, you’re like, “(gasp) No!”
Yeah. That’s what God wants. One day, just realize that you are a bum in a lot of ways. “But my grace is sufficient. My love does not change at all in that place.”
And you put down all the walls, all the shields, all the armor that you’ve taken on, because the world has been so overwhelming. And you just, for a moment, you sit in that place of being totally overwhelmed by all of the pain in the world, but also all of the love of Jesus. Sabbath is all about resisting.
And I wrote this down:
Sabbath is a punk rock, hard core, stick to it, stick-it-to-the-man type of resistance. It’s saying, “No. I will not be caught up in the flood and fury of mind-numbing activity, incessant accumulation and constant comparison. Instead, when I look at Instagram and see all of the wonderful, awesome people out there doing such wonderful, awesome things; and while my life seems so lousy and lame, in that moment, I will stop and I will choose to rest. I will Sabbath. I will surrender. I will seek first God’s kingdom, God’s face and God’s perspective; and I will let that be enough, at least one day per week. At least one day a week.”
And if you’ve got the disease real bad, you might need to do it more often than that. Our society is caught up in this thing where, if someone says, “How are you doing?”—and if you don’t say, “Well, I’m just really busy,” then you’re not important. And that is such a lie.
Corrie ten Boom said, “if the devil can’t make you bad, then he’ll make you busy.” That’s his go-to.
So Sabbath really takes resistance. That’s why the command is so strong there. Remember the Sabbath. That should be easy. We love weekends. Weekends are not Sabbath. It’s resisting this constant urge for mind-numbing activities for incessant accumulation and constant comparison.
“We are running out of time. Let’s do one more and we can postpone the rest for later.”
Number two: Sabbath is for rejoicing. Sabbath is for resisting and Sabbath is for rejoicing. In Isaiah 58, remember, it’s supposed to be a delight. It’s not supposed to be for you to get an advantage. It’s supposed to be something you celebrate.
On the seventh day, God rested. And what did he do on that day? He looked and he saw that everything was good. God basically just sat back after all the work and said, “Hey, man. That’s pretty good. I like this. I’m going to sit now and enjoy the labor.”
It is so awesome that the God we serve, that that’s what he wants us to do. To, every once in a while, stop and just notice all of the good. Six days you’re supposed to notice all the injustice and wrong in the world, and you’re supposed to work to make it right. And then one day, even in this world that’s fallen in our depraved state, with entropy all around, you’re supposed to stop and just look at the progress. Sometimes that will be easier to celebrate and rejoice in. Sometimes it will be really hard.
My mother-in-law, in her Instagram—just because I was making fun of Instagram, now I’ve got to say something nice about it so Instagram doesn’t have hurt feelings—she does this thing called Beauty for the Day. And what she does is, she’s trying to cultivate in her heart and mind, “I’m going to notice something every day and I’m going to post about it for myself.” And it helps other people too, I know. Sometimes it’s easy to see these momentous, beautiful things each day; and sometimes it’s so minuscule that, if she wasn’t trying really hard, she’d miss it. But that’s the heart of our Lord. Every once in a while we should just stop and enjoy the progress.
And I’m bad at this. This is what the Lord convicted me of as we’re sitting here. Because we’ve started to really kind of carve out from Friday night sundown to Saturday night sundown; because Saturday night sundown I start to turn into a monster thinking about Sunday morning. But for that time, I just carve this out and we’re trying to have Sabbath and all these things in our family. One of the things I know Im supposed to do is I’m not supposed to work on my children that day. Like, I’m good at not working here. I’m good at turning off the cell phone. I don’t even like cell phones.
But for some reason, when I wake up on Saturday morning and I walk out, I’m like, “Why did they make this mess? Why are doing that? That door is open. Why is this…” And I try to suck it all back in and say, “Hi, everybody! It’s the Sabbath.”
When I walk into my house now, my kids are all like, “Oh! Is the door open?” Like cockroaches ready to squirm into the darkness. And this is me. Not them. This is me. I have a problem. And I really need to cultivate celebrating and rejoicing. Because they are making progress. You know? But it’s doing that.
I lived one year with my brother Jon when we went to college. We were three boys growing up and we just fought. They were both state wrestlers and I played basketball, so I lost every fight. And it was so interesting, because we were separated for a while, probably about three or four years. Then I was eighteen and done with high school and he was twenty-three or twenty-four, twenty-two, I don’t know. We ended up moving in together in this apartment and going to school together. It was so fun for me because now we got to know each other as adults and we really liked and appreciated each other in some neat ways.
One of the things I remember is that my brother is the best rejoicer. He’s the best celebrator. He’s very deep. He carries a lot of weight and heaviness and pain. He always has. But he has cultivated rejoicing. He would come home and be like, “This is the last Tuesday that I will ever be in that class for the rest of my life. Let’s go celebrate!” You know? “This is the last Friday that I will ever have to talk to that professor. Let’s go celebrate!”
He could find anything to celebrate. And I got caught up and I was like, “This is good.” And my wife’s awesome at that too. She’ll turn anything into a celebration. I just love that attitude. And that is our Lord’s heart. That is God’s heart for you. And you’re going to have to resist trying to fix everything. You’re going to have to sit back and know that Sabbath rest is for rejoicing—and cultivate that in your life. It’s a very important practice.
I’ve got some more and we can get to that in the next couple of weeks. But I want to close with a little time of prayer and quieting ourselves before the Lord. I want to take us through a short, little practice of maybe how we can connect with the Lord and start to quiet our souls and meet him where he is. The Lord is very clear in the Scriptures on how we’re supposed to approach him. It’s not a flippant thing. He’ll take us no matter how we come, but there are right ways to come.
So if you will bow your heads with us, we’ll have the ushers come and pass out communion, the bread and the cup. You can hold on to it and we’ll all take it together. But just take this time now in the quiet of this place, with the Spirit among us in this place. God is here with us. He’s with you. This is a chance for us to resist. But to do this, to resist thinking about the challenges. Try to picture a way God feels and what he might be saying to you. We’re told to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.
So right now, just go ahead and find something to be thankful for, to thank God for. Come into his presence with rejoicing and celebrating. If it’s easy to think of, think of some more. You could praise him for an attribute or characteristic that he has been in your life. Or you can thank him for something that has shown up, or something that’s happened.
After we come with thanksgiving and praise, we are supposed to confess—confess our sins, to cast our cares on him. So now, just take a moment and do that. Be honest about your brokenness. Be honest about your failings. Lay those at his feet. Tell him you’re sorry.
And in that same place of confession, we also have to confess our forgiveness. He died on a cross because he’s not put off by you or your sin or your wickedness. He died on a cross so that he could apply it to you and your sin and your wickedness. So confess that you are forgiven. Say it in a whisper to yourself, to your own heart, to your mind, to the accusers, to God. Confess that you are clean, you are whole, you are new, you are washed.
Thank you, Lord.
Just like Jesus in his word teaches us to remember the Sabbath, he also said he wants us to remember what he did for us on the cross—to remember his broken body. He was broken so we could made whole. He can connect with our brokenness. He understands it because he was broken.
And so Jesus, as we hold this bread in remembrance of you, we take and we eat, asking and praying that you would continue to do your work in us. That, Lord, you would fill the gaps and you would make us whole. Let’s take the bread.
And, Jesus, you told us to remember your blood that flowed—to remember that there was a price to be paid—to remember that your innocent, perfect, sinless blood flowed so that we could be washed clean. And, Lord, I pray that there would be a profound sense of righteousness, of cleansing, of holiness that permeates deeper into our souls than ever before, as today we remember your blood that was shed. Let’s take the cup. Thank you, Lord.
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