Our Rest in Christ
NKJDeuteronomy 5:12 ' Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
I grew up in a family that worshiped every Sunday. There was no question about it. "Busy" was no excuse. "Tired" was no excuse. But Iíll have to be honest Ė I didnít always go to worship with the right frame of mind. Once in a while I would ask to be excused to go to the rest room during the sermon. I couldnít play that card very often, but once in a while Dad would let me go. One Sunday Iíll never forget. I went down the hall toward the restrooms. After I was finished, I noticed the soda machine. I had 15 cents in my pocket, so I decided to take a little longer than usual. I pulled out a "Teem" soda (I can still remember every detail!), and I drank it. But Iíll have to be honest, it really didnít taste that great. When youíre spiritually disconnected, you really canít enjoy anything in life.
Today I want to focus on the temptation to resist spiritual rest. On the other hand I want to talk about Godís patient love and His promises to give us the rest we need.
1. Spiritual Rest Ė What Is It?
We are spiritual beings. We have a "spirit" or "soul." This is the heart and core of what we are. It is the last thing left after everything else is stripped away. It is that part of us that cannot be transplanted from someone or something else. It cannot be artificially reproduced.
Our spirits can be healthy or sick. They can be living or dying. The difference is determined by our connection or lack of connection to God.
All of us face a universal temptation to stay disconnected from God. We want spiritual independence. Thatís what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They chose to turn away from Him and to become "gods" themselves. Like a magnetic force or tidal current, everything in life naturally moves in this direction. Only God can overcome it.
2. How Do I Get Spiritual Rest?
Spiritual rest is being reconnected to God. The spiritual reconnection happens when God comes to us through His Word. Those who receive that Word receive God and experience an internal overhaul. The spirit is cleansed, reoriented, and fortified. The selfish spirit of independence is driven back. A new spirit of love for God grows and thrives.
The word "Sabbath" means "rest" in Hebrew. If you look carefully at the commandment as we have it in Deuteronomy 5, youíll see that there are two parts to the commandment. First Moses says that we should set aside a part of our time for God. We canít conduct the business of our earthly lives seven days a week. We need time for God. This is the part the Pharisees were always concerned about when they argued with Jesus. All sorts of odd interpretations and exaggerations of this part of the commandment had developed by Jesusí time. But there is a second part to the commandment. This is the part that is most important. Moses said, "Remember." We are to be reconnected to God by remembering His past acts of salvation and His future promises. Deuteronomy 5 emphasizes the Exodus Ė the miraculous deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt and their establishment in the Promised Land. In Exodus 20 Moses says that we should remember the creation of the world. The point is that God reestablishes a relationship with us through His words and deeds.
Today we are getting our "Sabbath" rest by looking to Godís greatest act of deliverance Ė the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as God saved Israel with an "outstretched arm," so has God saved the entire world through the "outstretched arms" of Jesus on the cross. We come to worship to remember and to realize what Jesus has done for us and the benefits that continue to bless us.
3. What Difference Will It Make in My Life?
As I said before, the natural condition of all people is in the direction of spiritual independence. But this is the direction of disaster. All weíre doing is using up the patience of God and squandering His gift of life. Eventually that gift will come to an end, and we will be completely separated from God.
Israel experienced this several times during the Exodus. At one point they built a Golden Calf to worship instead of God. They rebelled against Moses and wanted to go back to Egypt. When they were just on the verge of entering the Promised Land, they resisted. In every one of these choices it was clear that they did not rest on Godís promises. Rather, they chased after their own thoughts and plans. They wanted everything to determine their future by themselves Ė spiritually independent of God.
People are tempted to do basically the same thing today. They take life into their own hands. They donít stop to seek the rest that God offers. The Chinese pictograph for "busy," interestingly is the combination of two words: mind and lost. The second word, lost, can also mean "lost in the sense of dying or killing." "Busy," from the Chinese point of view, is hectic activity that causes us to "loose or kill the mind." I think that is a very astute observation of human nature. I would only add this, that "busy" means to "loose or kill the spiritual relationship God wants to have with us."
It would be easy to blame the culture: Radio, TV, computers, recorders, newspapers, magazines compete for our attention. I have to work so hard to buy a bigger house, newer car, better vacation, bigger TV that I just donít have time for spiritual rest. I have to take my kids to athletic programs that meet all weekend: Soccer, baseball, softball, hockey. Or, after all these activities, Iím just too tired to take time for spiritual rest. But in each of these scenarios nobody is forcing us. We are making the choice. Donít be misled. This is one of the most series choices any human being can make. This isnít just a choice between one thing that is good and another that is not as good. This is a choice between good and evil. To deny ourselves and our children of spiritual rest is to choose the burden of sin. As I heard one person put it: BUSY stands for "Being, Under, Satanís, Yoke."
For all who will listen and reflect upon this longest of all the commandments, there are many blessings. When I repent and reschedule for spiritual rest, many wonderful things begin to happen to me. Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for manÖ"
The Bible says that "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1). This is one way of picturing our spiritual rest. Sin is like invisible dirt that clings to us spiritually. It poisons the spirit and weakens it. The more it accumulates the harder it is to remove. This might sound a little odd, but think about Jesusí death on the cross in this way: When He died for our sins, it is as though a "super strength" spiritual cleansing solution was created. Stains that were never before removable, the kind of stains that caused us to just throw away the garment, were now capable of being cleaned. You didnít have to throw it away. Now you donít have to just throw away your life or drown the bad memories. Now you add that cleansing power to your life on a regular basis when you meditate upon Godís Word and receive the power of His promises in Holy Baptism and Communion.
Do you wonder, "Why do I keep making stupid choices?" "Why did I say that?" "Why did I do that?" I have found that when God is closer to me in spiritual rest, I donít make as many stupid choices. Spiritual rest reorients and reorganizes our thoughts and desires according to Godís will. Jesus said, "Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden. Take My yoke upon you and Ďlearní from MeÖ" (Matthew 11). The spiritual forces of temptation are weakened when we are constantly looking to Jesus. Iím not saying that you will totally stop sinning. Satan doesnít give up that easy. He throws his temptations our way constantly, and they can temporarily knock us off track. But the faster I allow God to put me back on track, the less damage is done, and the less likely that my stupid choices will come back to me with compounding interest. Also note that "reorientation" is all about "timing." A lost driver who gets back on track soon will lose less time getting to his or her destination. This commandment is also about timing. Spiritual rest is something we seek on a timely basis every week.
Are you sometimes frustrated with life? Do you struggle with impatience? Do you find yourself sometimes saying, "Iím just sick of all this?" Notice that the commandment does say, "Six days you shall work." Work was part of the original creation. Work in itself is something very good. But sin did something to us when it came to work. What should have been joyful and satisfying became difficult and frustrating. Our efforts sometimes seem to do no good. This is especially true when it comes to the things God really wants us to do like loving sinners and trying to help them. But spiritual rest, reconnecting with God, definitely changes that. Energy for life is not just found in better nutrition and rest. Energy for life comes from the Author of Life Himself. Jesus said, "I have come that they (the sheep) may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10.10).
A London talk show came upon the topic of worship. One man called in and complained that worship was a waste of time. He had gone to church every Sunday for the last 20 years. "My wife made me attend," he said. "But for the life of me I canít remember a single sermon." A few minutes later another man called in. "Iíve been married for 20 years," he said. "And my wife has been cooking me three meals a day ever since weíve been married. And you know, for the life of me, I canít remember a single one of those meals. I canít remember what I ate just a few days ago. But if I hadnít been eating those meals, I would have been dead a long time ago."
In a few minutes Pastor Hoft is going to conclude this Sabbath, spiritual rest, with a benediction. I will guarantee you one thing: Those who came here today to remember God will feel better when they leave than when they first came in. (And it wonít be just because this hour long service is finally over!) Youíll feel better because youíve gotten some needed rest. Youíll feel better because youíve been with Jesus. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18.20).
Dear God, thank You for the opportunities we have to receive this spiritual rest. Continue to keep us connected to You, that our lives would be enriched and that we may be able to serve You. Amen.
Pastor Michael P. Walther
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2006
|HOME||BACK TO SERMON INDEX PAGE|