Resting (and Working) to the Glory of God
This week in our series over the Ten Commandments, we focused our attention on commandment number four; God's command that we, his children, should rest. However, before we dig deeper on rest, and why it is vital to our physical, emotional, and even our spiritual health; I want to begin where God begins...with a commandment to work. Verse 9 begins, "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work..." In fact, the principle of rest necessarily implies a precedent of work.
While it is true that we may be a culture of people who often fail to rest well, we are likewise, in many ways, a culture of people who fail to work in accordance with God's commands as well. "Not me," you may say, "I put in an honest 40 hours every week! I'm a hard worker." But God's command isn't simply that we work; rather, it carries with it an expectation of how we are to work. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians writes:
"Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:22-24).
In other words, the way that we work and our attitude towards our labor matters to God. So, does the command mean that we should enjoy our job? Or is it that we must have a certain type of job? Or maybe we need to attain a certain level of success in our work in order to please God? I don't think that any of those are necessarily true, and yet each of them may carry with it some level of truth.
It is important that we work at our vocation with a positive disposition. It is also true that what we do needs to be honest, respectable, and that we must work with integrity and in a manner that is honoring to God. Finally, we should work in order to provide for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. Those things are true and good. Still, I believe there is more to it. I believe that God's command that we work goes beyond simply our vocation. Even beyond simply caring for the family, friends, or loved ones for whom we are responsible. I believe that ultimately what is in view here is not less than that, but it is much more. God's command is that we spend our lives laboring for his glory and his kingdom.
You see, often our quantity of work is not lacking, but it is the quality which is deficient. Would we say that a man or woman who devotes long hours to climbing the corporate ladder in order to become successful and wealthy is working to the glory of God, or for the glory of self? The answer seems rather clear doesn't it? But what about the pastor who burns the candle at both ends in order to grow a larger following for his ministry? This may seem much more honorable and yet finds at its center the same sinful pride.
Working to the glory of God includes working diligently at our vocation, diligently at our responsibilities at home, AND diligently at the work of growing God's kingdom here on Earth in obedience to Christ's Great Commission. It is often this last task which seems to fall through the cracks or find its way to the back burner in the hustle and bustle of our business. This isn't what God intended for us. Moreover, it is a rejection of the purpose for which we have been called as children by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:10).
And yet, is not the Fourth Commandment concerned with our rest? We labor painfully as a result of our sin and the fallen nature of the world in which we live (Genesis 3:17-19). For this reason, we should see God's concern for our rest as what it is, an act of grace to us. We are commanded to rest well because this too brings honor to God.
The Pharisees of Jesus' day lost sight of why God had given the Sabbath. They developed an elaborate system of rules and regulations that served not to produce rest or thankful worship, but rather a heavy burden for God's people. This is the antithesis of Jesus call to come and find rest in him. Rather in Christ, we find eternal rest from our toil.
You see, the Fourth Commandment foreshadows the restoration of the peace that was to come in Christ. Sinclair Ferguson writes, "We rest in Christ from our labor of self-sufficiency, and we have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). As we meet with Him, He shows us Himself, His ways, His world, His purposes, His glory. And whatever was temporary about the Mosaic Sabbath must be left behind as the reality of the intimate communion of the Adamic Sabbath is again experienced in our worship of the risen Savior on the first day of the week - the Lord’s Day." He continues:
"But we have not yet reached the goal. We still struggle to rest from our labors; we still must 'strive to enter that rest' (Hebrews 4:11). Consequently the weekly nature of the Sabbath continues as a reminder that we are not yet home with the Father. And since this rest is ours only through union with Christ in His death and resurrection, our struggles to refuse the old life and enjoy the new continue.
But one may ask: 'How does this impact my Sundays as a Christian?' This view of the Sabbath should help us regulate our weeks. Sunday is 'Father’s Day,' and we have an appointment to meet Him. The child who asks 'How short can the meeting be?' has a dysfunctional relationship problem—not an intellectual, theological problem—something is amiss in his fellowship with God.
This view of the Sabbath helps us deal with the question 'Is it ok to do … on Sunday?—because I don’t have any time to do it in the rest of the week?' If this is our question, the problem is not how we use Sunday, it is how we are misusing the rest of the week.
This view of the Lord’s Day helps us see the day as a foretaste of heaven. And it teaches us that if the worship, fellowship, ministry, and outreach of our churches do not give expression to that then something is seriously amiss.
Hebrews teaches us that eternal glory is a Sabbath rest. Every day, all day, will be 'Father’s Day!' Thus if here and now we learn the pleasures of a God-given weekly rhythm, it will no longer seem strange to us that the eternal glory can be described as a prolonged Sabbath!"
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Part 4 - The Fourth Commandment
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. What does Sabbath mean?
2. What keeps you from a weekly sabbath?
3. What's the purpose of a sabbath?