One of the things that I have come to appreciate about OSP churches and theology is the emphasis on the LORD’s Day. I didn’t become a believer until my freshman year in college (can anything good come out of the University of Texas?) [grin]. After the Lord saved me I started learning all sorts of new things, however it did not include keeping the Sabbath Day holy (or “wholly” for that matter either). I knew that I should worship during the “appointed” hour from 11-12, but that was just a short break on what was otherwise MY weekend. I still recall beginning to make practical application of the theology that I loved. As I grew in my understanding of the Reformed faith and more importantly, of God’s word, I began to notice some deficiencies. One of the first things that “dawned on me” came from the first part of Psalm 24: The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. In these words I noted God’s universal claim on all of creation. On all Space and ALL TIME. He owned everything and everyone by right of creation. I saw here part of the reason for tithing (it’s all God’s anyway, so we need to acknowledge that by giving Him a portion of what He has first given to us). I also suddenly realized that all of my Time was God’s too and that I needed to acknowledge that by giving Him some of it. What did He want though? It became very clear: One WHOLE day out of every seven belonged to Him. God through His Word had suddenly reoriented my view of not only my money but also my time. All of it belongs to Him, but He asks that we honor Him with just a portion of it, the rest He graciously gives us to use for lawful pursuits, work, rest, etc. When I realized that it was God’s DAY and not just an hour or two at church, I started making changes. At first it seemed all about lists. What can I or can’t I do. But even that started to change when I came across the following in my Bible reading: Isaiah 58:13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken. Here is what I was looking for. The proper motivation. This is what I truly love about warm, experiential calvinism! Who wouldn’t want to find their Joy in the Lord! I know that someone’s personal story is just that,… a story. It doesn’t carry the same weight or authority as the Word of God. However, I want to bear my small personal witness that the LORD keeps His word. When I began to live according to this pattern (one whole day out of every seven given to the Lord), when I began to call the Sabbath a delight and saw it as God’s Holy Day, the Lord gracious kept His word and I began to find my delight and Joy in Him! Where before it had been a struggle to even get out of bed on time to make it to an 11 o’clock service, now I actually anticipated and looked forward to the LORD’s Day. This is not legalism, or Old Covenant shadows wrongfully imposed on New Covenant realities and the host of other objections to giving our loving and gracious God one entire day out of every seven to worship and serve Him. The question is never first and foremost about what may or may not be done as if we were a bunch of Pharisees straining out a gnat. The question comes down to what does God’s Word say (the Sabbath is rooted in creation and not merely the Mosaic covenant) and what does God promise (joy and delight in Him). The Sabbath, rather than being a burden, is a blessing. God knows my heart, that if He did not command me to rest, if He did not command me to set aside a given amount of time, all sorts of things from my life would intrude and keep me from Him who is the delight of my soul! God has graciously given us a “port protected” (as the hymn says), to leave behind our regular chaotic lives and come apart to seek and enjoy Him uninterrupted. I agree with J.C. Ryle when he says: “I am no admirer of a gloomy religion. Let no one suppose that I want Sunday to be a day of sadness and unhappiness. I want every Christian to be a happy man: I wish him to have “joy and peace in believing,” and to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” I want everyone to regard Sunday as the brightest, cheerfulest day of all the seven; and I tell everyone who finds such a Sunday as I advocate a wearisome day, that there is something sadly wrong in the state of his heart. I tell him plainly that if he cannot enjoy a “holy” Sunday, the fault is not in the day, but in his own soul.” I now find that what was said by Robert Murray M’Cheyne is true in my own experience: “A well-spent Sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth. For this reason we wish our Sabbaths to he wholly given to God. We love to spend the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is taken up in the works A necessity and mercy. We love to rise early on that morning, and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God.” Those final two words are critical. It is not just a long day for a long day’s sake, but a long day WITH GOD! Heaven is described in the Bible as a never ending Sabbath with God at the center of never ending worship and praise. If we take no delight in the earthly Sabbath, what makes us think we will enjoy Heaven?
O DAY OF REST AND GLADNESS
O day of rest and gladness, O day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright:
On Thee, the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
Sing holy, holy, holy, to the great God Triune.
On Thee, at the creation, the light first had its birth;
On Thee, for our salvation, Christ rose from depths of earth;
On Thee, our Lord, victorious, the Spirit sent from heaven,
And thus on Thee, most glorious, a triple light was given.
Thou art a port, protected from storms that round us rise;
A garden, intersected with streams of paradise;
Thou art a cooling fountain in life’s dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah’s mountain, we view our promised land.
Today on weary nations the heavenly manna falls;
To holy convocations the silver trumpet calls,
Where Gospel light is glowing with pure and radiant beams,
And living water flowing, with soul refreshing streams.
New graces ever gaining from this our day of rest,
We reach the rest remaining to spirits of the blessed.
To Holy Ghost be praises, to Father, and to Son;
The church her voice upraises to Thee, blessed Three in One.
Some helpful resources:
Call the Sabbath a Delight by Walter Chantry
The Lord’s Day by Joseph A. Pipa
Celebrating the Sabbath by Bruce A. Ray