Sunday and the Sabbath Rest

This week I was reading a post on Ligonier, The Sabbath Day Brings Real Rest and Refreshment, that said:

We who trust in Jesus … find rest for our souls Sunday by Sunday

This got me thinking.

The idea that Sundays are likened to the Sabbath rest may be easy for some people to understand, but as a pastor it can be hard. Sundays feel like almost anything but rest. From the moment one arrives at the church building to the moment one leaves it (and maybe beyond the leaving), there are duties and demands. This feeling may also be shared by the many faithful volunteers who serve on Sundays. When did the house of worship become the house of service?

It has always been this way, because service is worship. Jesus worshipped the Father by being about the Father’s business in the Temple. We worship the Son by serving him on Sunday. Our greatest worship is often realized through acts of service.

Therefore, the Sabbath rest is not a rest from Jesus, but a rest in Jesus.

I am tempted and guilty of confusing the two. A rest from Jesus means I don’t need to serve, shouldn’t have to serve, and really wish I wasn’t serving. In thinking this way, I have just boarded a flight destined for self-indulgence and it’s a scary place for a Christian to be heading. A rest in Jesus means that though I am tired and spent, my flesh and strength are weak, and I don’t feel like I can carry on, I look for strength in Jesus, not in myself. Sundays are amazing opportunities to proclaim that we are serving in his strength, not our own. We rest in Jesus!

A rest from Jesus also means that I might be tempted to believe I can somehow earn God’s favor apart from Jesus. If I don’t need Jesus right now, I must think I am good enough on my own. In thinking this way, I have just exited the train of life onto the platform of self-righteousness and it’s a scary place for a Christian to be standing. On the other hand, a rest in Jesus means I am accepted, not because of my inherent goodness (which I lack), but because of the goodness of Jesus. I stand a sinful man, who has been redeemed and reconciled by Jesus, dressed in the splendid and pure robes of Jesus, and regenerated to a new life through Jesus. Sundays are amazing opportunies to proclaim our position in Jesus. We rest in Jesus!

Now that I am finally beginning to understand what the Sabbath rest is meant to be (and I still have a lot left to learn), I am finding greater joy in thinking about Sundays and my opportunity to affirm my rest in Jesus.

Serving will still be hard, but I have a weapon at the ready to fight against the temptations to self-indulgence or self-righteousness. I rest in Jesus!

The first half of this video from our Wednesday night studies on the New City Catechism addresses the Sabbath rest.