Friday, September 30, 2016

The Sabbath Truth

In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we read the story of creation. During the week of creation God created material spaces on the first three days, and then on the next three days He filled those spaces with life.

On day one God formed the heavens and the earth and separated the light from the darkness, and then on day four He filled that space with the sun, the moon and the stars. On day two God formed the spaces of water and sky, and then on day five He filled those spaces with fish and birds. On day three God formed the space of the dry land, and then on day six God filled the land with animals and man. On the seventh day, God created the Sabbath and filled it with Himself. The seventh day is a unique space because it’s not a material space, but rather a space of time, and it is not filled with material things, but with God’s presence.

Genesis 2:1-3 reads, ‘Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

God did not need to rest because of physical exhaustion, but rested in the sense of satisfaction. God wasn’t tired, He was happy, He was pleased, He was fulfilled. He had been giving, giving, giving; pouring out His energy to create. Now He had completed the task and was experiencing the pleasure of His creation.

His plan for us is that we would be “blessed” first by receiving from Him rest and then that we would be energized to give of ourselves back to Him.

So God “sanctified” the seventh day. The word means set apart; that is unique or distinct. God gave us the Sabbath as a unique space in time for the enjoyment of fellowship between Himself and us, as a constant recurring reminder that the nature of our relationship with Him is one of fellowship and reciprocal love.

Human beings were created during the latter half of the sixth day, after all of God’s “work” of creation was already “finished.” Therefore, they did not participate in the work of Creation, nor did they even witness God engaging in the act of creating. Imagine the scene. Adam awakes to life, and the first thing that he sees is the face of his Creator. They make eye contact. What a moment! God says something like, Hello! Welcome to existence! I’m your Creator, and I made all this beauty for you.

Adam senses that he is loved. God then creates Eve. But he doesn’t turn to Adam and say, “Watch this,” and poof, she is created in Adam’s sight. No. He puts Adam to sleep, and then He creates Eve. She, like Adam, awakes to live by faith and Adam opens his eyes a second time to trust His Maker’s word that this most beautiful of all creatures standing before him came forth from God’s creative power.

There they stood, the man and the woman, in a beautiful garden receiving by faith, as a gift, all that surrounded them. And think about this, Sabbath was their first full day of life. They rested first, contemplating the reality of their utter dependence on their Creator, and then, energized by His love, they went to work tending the garden on the first day of the week.

The story of the Creation shows us that we human beings are creatures of rest before we are creatures of work. We are mentally and emotionally designed for receiving from God before we are able to give back to God and others. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.”  That’s the nature of the Creator-creature relationship.

Love is the fundamental principle of the character of God. It is how His kingdom operates. Through the prophet Jeremiah God declared both His heart toward us and His method of saving us: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Because God loves us, He draws us to Himself by the attractive influence of His loving-kindness, rather than to force us by His superior power or manipulate us by His superior wisdom. God’s only goal is to attract and empower us.

You and I are free to say no to God. So He has taken up the delicate task of saving us from sin while leaving our free will unmolested, intact, and operable.

Grace is the form God’s love takes in relating to sinners. The genius of grace is that it simultaneously frees me and captivates me. I realize there is absolutely nothing I can do to earn God’s favor. I am free to say No to Him and yet I want to say Yes. But if I believe, intellectually or even emotionally, any form of the salvation-by-works lie, I am morally crippled, and defeated. I labor toward God under feelings of guilt, and guilt weakens rather than strengthens my will.

There is a wonderful peace and security in knowing that my salvation is His work and not mine. That is the Sabbath rest Jesus offers. But it’s more than just rest He offers, because with rest comes energy! When I rest in Christ alone for my salvation, His grace energizes me and motivates me with the powerful motive of love as the only true basis for obedience.

Religion says: If I obey, then God will love and accept me.
The Gospel of the Sabbath says: I’m loved and accepted. Therefore I wish to obey.

On the seventh day, the day that God set apart as unique at creation, I find myself face-to-face, heart-to-heart with a God who already loves me, already favors me, already accepts me, not because I’ve done anything to deserve it, but simply because He’s good. Knowing this makes me want to please Him. And right here, right now, realizing how much God loves me and wants to save me, I rest. This is what the Sabbath truth is all about.

A few years ago my friend Richie Owens spent a year of his life writing and recording an album. I remember his enthusiasm as he would bring me new songs to listen to. Songs just seemed to pour out of him as he focused on this project. One of my favorite songs that he wrote was titled "Day of Rest." The song talks about the same themes as this blog post.

Day of Rest
Richie Owens

The three of them walked in the garden
Three figures beaming with light
One had created the others
And in His presence there could be no night

He had given them many instructions
He had shown them the things they must do
In my mind I imagined He hugged them
And said I've made one more thing for you

This is My world, and now it's yours too
And your job is taking care of these things
That I've made pure and true
Six days I've labored, the seventh I've blessed
This will always be our day of rest.

A slave driver went before Pharaoh
Fearing he's soon breathe his last
He had been given an order
But he's failed to bring it to task

He said, "Sir I have beaten them senseless
Still I can't make them work on this day
They don't seem to care that I'll kill them"
And then Pharaoh asked, "what do they say"

They say it's God's will
what He's asked them to do
Seems Moses and Aaron have told them things
They say their fathers once knew
Six days they'll labor, the seventh is blessed
They say it's their God's day of rest

Remember the Lord of the Sabbath
Remember the price that He paid
The same God that rested in Eden
Rested that day in the grave

In this world of turmoil and confusion
God has offered a haven but yet
The one day that God says remember
Is the one that the world would forget

But all the redeemed in the garden
All of the beaming with light
In the midst of them is their Creator
And for them there will be no more night

This is their world, God's made it anew
And their job is taking good care of these things
He has made, sin is through
The conflict is over, and all things are blessed
And they still keep the Sabbath
Cause Sabbath is God's day of rest

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