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God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
The second, then, is it became a law. Exodus 20:8 through 11. You know, He just told them to do it and then when the Ten Commandments are given, He says, this is going to be something that is a part of Israel’s daily, weekly rhythm.
One out of seven days. It’s a law. It will be enforced. This is a part of the theocracy. God is the King and my people will do what? One out of every seven days, you take off.
Third, it’s going to be a sign. Exodus 21:12 through 17. And as He explains the Sabbath here, it’s a testimony to pagan nations. It’s almost like a wedding ring. You know, like, I wear a wedding ring so people know that there’s someone that I’m connected to and it’s a sign, an outward, visible sign, of a relationship that I have with another person who happens to be my wife.
The Sabbath, as you study that passage carefully, Exodus 21, about four or five times, the word, sign, sign, sign, sign pops up.
Well, you say a sign to whom? It’s a sign to the unbelieving world. Can you imagine being a Canaanite farmer? And these Israelites come in. And you are busting it. And it’s time to harvest the grapes and harvest the wheat.
And you bust it and you work, and you work, and you work. And you look over at your Jewish neighbor. And he works six days and he stops. And you’re thinking. It’s harvest time. If it rains, they’re in big trouble.
I mean, you better. What you know as a farmer is, when it’s harvest time, you better get it when you can.
And you’re working like crazy, around the clock. And they go right up to the sixth day and they stop. And you make fun of them and you sit around the Canaanite supper table thinking, you know, those Jews are nuts. They are crazy. I don’t know what’s going on.
And then at the end of the harvest time, you go and look at your barn. And your barn is about this full. And then you look at their barn. And their barn is about this full.
And God has just made a sign to say, my people do something unusual. They dedicate one day to Me, in which they have the freedom as a gift from me to rest. And when they rest, I’m a faithful, providing God as a testimony to the pagans around them, that they belong to Me.
That’s the history of the Sabbath with Israel.
What happened, however, over time, people being, kind of, what we are. Is the Sabbath became, instead of, a gift, it became a burden. Became abused.
But the time of the Pharisees, there were, I forget how many hundreds of specific laws written about the Sabbath. They actually had thirty-nine different categories about what you could do and couldn’t do on the Sabbath.
And you read the literature. I mean, it’s, I mean. Quick, quick example. If you were a tailor, on the Sabbath, if you took two needles home with you, that was a violation of the Sabbath and work. But you could take on needle home, in case of an emergency.
If you walked so many steps on the Sabbath, that would be okay. But if you took one more step then that would be a violation of the Sabbath.
They had rules for everything imaginable. In fact, even to this day, it goes on. I was in Israel a few years ago and, you know, they keep the Law.
And so, you know what they have? They have timers on everything. They set all the elevators in a way where no one has to push the button so we’re not working.
They take all the food and they put them in certain things and they have them all on timers so everything gets cooked, their lifestyle doesn’t change, but they, quote, don’t break the law.
And that’s what had happened by Jesus’ day. The Sabbath became a heavy burden. And all these rules and all these lists. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t do that.
Six different confrontations. Study Jesus’ life. Six different times He takes them on centered around the Sabbath. He ate grain on the Sabbath. He healed on the Sabbath.
And what you have is Jesus’ statement about the Sabbath is Mark 2:27. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
In summary, Jesus taught, the Sabbath is a gift to man, it’s not a burden. It ought to be a spirit of joy. It’s not a forced Sabbath. It’s a time of rest and celebration.
It’s a time where Jesus said, the Creator of the world understood your human tendencies toward accomplishment, and task, and push and getting overworked, and losing the joy, and losing perspective.
And how you so live in the future and so live in fear and being so anxious. I’m going to build something in to the economy of God, as you work with Me, where you will be forced to stop and get spiritually refreshed, physically renewed, emotionally recharged so the person that shows up the next six days brings more to the table than everyone else who’s working all around the clock.
And Jesus said, that’s the purpose and that’s the way it needs to stay.
The church in the Sabbath is where most of the controversy comes in and I didn’t give this to you but I’ll give this to the office and I have a, kind of, a supplemental hand out for some of you that may have backgrounds where people. This is not an issue to argue over. Let me just tell you that. But people do.
For the Jewish nation, the Sabbath was a law and it was test and it was a sign. For the church, which is distinct and separate from the Jewish nation. The Sabbath was a law that was fulfilled by Christ.
Remember, Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, 18? I didn’t come to destroy the Law. Not even a jot or a tittle. But to fulfill it. And He did.
And so, what the early church did is, Jesus fulfilled the law. In fact, 2 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul will say, “Those things that were etched in stone, they’re a thing of the past. They were fulfilled by Christ.”
And so, in the early church, contrary to many Christians in our day, the Sabbath did not change from Saturday to Sunday. Sunday became the Lord’s day, to worship, celebrate the resurrection, but was never a substitute for the Sabbath.
The ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath, things that pertained to dietary laws, and special plans, and festivals were fulfilled. And the church, early church, made no attempt to continue observance of the Sabbath.
Not the festivals, the dietary laws, or sacrificial offerings. The New Testament and earliest Christian writings, the Didacte, that was in, Didacte, 14-1 and AD 100. Ignatius in AD 110, and the church fathers all made it clear, Sunday is the day of worship.
And the Sabbath, as a law, was not binding on New Testament believers. And the evidence here is, Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. Jesus appeared on Sunday. The Emmaus Road. Pentecost occurred on Sunday. The early church worshipped on Sunday.
And by the way, about eighty percent of the early church were all slaves. They got up early and they worshipped and then went to work. It was not a Sabbath day.
The Jerusalem Council, in Acts 15, when they tried to figure out, this early church going to the Gentiles. What is cultural and what is moral? What part has to stay as the gospel moves forward? There’s no mention, whatsoever, of the Sabbath.
There’s not one New Testament mention or command in the Epistles, concerning following a Saturday Sabbath. In fact, you’ll notice on your notes. Colossians 2:16 and 17 and Romans 14:5 and 6 make it clear.
The Sabbath principle is to be honored but there is no specific day that’s set. It’s a matter of personal faith and conviction.
Let me read for you, Romans 14. Follow along on your handout: “One person thinks that a certain day is more important than others, while someone else thinks that all days are the same. Each one should firmly make up his mind, whoever thinks highly of a certain day does so in honor of the Lord.”
And you know what? I have great friends that are Seventh Day Adventists or Seventh Day Baptists, who have very strong convictions that they should worship on Saturday.
You know what the New Testament teaches? Praise the Lord. Press ahead brother. Do it on Saturday. Great. For some, Monday. Man, that’s the day.
We had a Saturday night service at our church. We didn’t do it because we were trying to, you know, be innovative or cool. We just did it because we ran out of room. You can only, you know, were doing four services on Sunday. We did one on Saturday.
I don’t think God cares. In fact, this passage says, God doesn’t care.
The issue is, the timeless principle, that one out of seven days is to be honored. It wasn’t until three hundred years later under the emperor Constantine, that Sunday was made an official day to be observed.
And are you ready for this? It wasn’t until the 8th century that a theology grew up in the church that identified, with the state came together, that Sunday was viewed as a Sabbath.
I mean, we’re in the 8th century before Sunday and the Sabbath was ever put together.
The Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin both refused to identify the Lord’s day and the Sabbath as the same thing. And our common view of Sunday, as you hear people talking about the Christian Sabbath, was not popular until the 17th century under the English Puritan branch of the church, and was a strong part of the Westminster Confession.
And the Puritans had great theology. And the Puritans did a lot of great things. The Puritans missed it on this one. Okay? And guess what they did. Once they said, Sunday is the Sabbath, guess what grew up out of that.
The same thing as the Pharisees. They came up with a list of rules as long as your arm. And so you had all these kids growing up, “You can’t do this on Sunday. You can’t do this on Sunday. Can’t do this on Sunday. Can’t do this on Sunday. Can’t do this on Sunday. Can’t do this on Sunday. If you do this on Sunday, you know, you’ll go to hell.”
Weird stuff grew up. So guess what happened to the boundary? Instead of being a day, a gift from God to refresh the spirit, renew the soul, rest the body, meet God deeply, have fellowship and get restored so you can walk with Him more powerfully the rest of the week, it became a duty, a burden, and an abuse.
That’s the story of the church.
And now what I’d like to talk about, by way of summary, is that the ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath as law are not binding on New Testament believers. The enduring principle, however, of one out of seven days for rest and worship and re-creation are moral aspects of the fourth commandment and are binding.
The believer can choose which day best allows for that to occur but to honor God and recognize that we must stop from our work, worship deeply in our heart, and refresh our souls and body is a command of the Lord of the church.
That’s what He wants for us.
Now with that, and I know that raises a number of questions and issues that we can kick around, maybe, after the meeting tonight. Is, let’s talk about the practice of the Sabbath.
If God really wants twenty-four out of one hundred and sixty-eight hours designated for Him to give back to you as a gift, what’s it look like?
And I’m going to suggest that there are three things that this gift of the Sabbath should protect.
First, the Sabbath is a gift from God to protect our body from wearing out. And I wrote a word here. It’s called “rest-oration.” But you notice how it’s hyphenated? Do you notice the interesting word in restoration? The first part of that that is called “rest.”
It’s a novel idea for Americans. Rest. Like, it’s legal to take a nap. It’s legal to sleep in. It’s legal to say, “I’m tired. My body needs some rest.”
Ecclesiastes 10:15 says, “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.”
God knows the power and the reward that work can bring. God knows the more we work, it can give you power, money, success, prestige.
And we can get lots of strokes and many of us can hide in our work from the intimacy and the leadership and the issues in our marriage and our homes that God wants to address.
Many people work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work not because they want to provide for their family but they’re hiding from their family.
And mothers can stay busy all the time and men can be on the go all the time. Because I’ll tell you what, it gets strange and crazy and uncomfortable when people sit, and stop, and don’t have anything to say because no one’s been investing in relationships.
Because no one’s laying across the bed, you know, and just hanging around so that your teenager has someone to talk to.
Because I’ll tell you what, they don’t come in and say, “You know, I’m facing a really big issue right now and I think my whole values for the future are probably going to change and I just happened to feel like talking about it right now. Could we sit down and have that really big talk?”
I got four of them and they’re all grown. It doesn’t happen like that. You just gotta hang out. You gotta be around. And on their timetable as God works, man, if they gotta be in the car with you where you’re driving from here and there.
And you gotta be, you know, shooting horse out in the driveway and just talking and you gotta have, at our house, I’ll tell you what. You eat together. And the TV’s off and the music’s off and you sit around and you ask, “How did your day go? And what’s going on?”
And then you push the plates to the middle and say, “What’s one thing we could pray for you? Where are you feeling pressure?”
And often that elicits forty-five minutes of a conversation then you join hands and you pray together. But you gotta stop. You gotta rest. You gotta re-create.
By way of specific application, you know, for some of you, my Sabbath, I sleep in. I like to get up really early, so, you know, I sleep in til, like, six, six-thirty and, you know, it’s great. Here’s the deal. I don’t have to get up. But that’s my Friday. And you know what? Then I can do whatever I want to do.
For some, you know what? It’s Sunday. Obviously Sunday doesn’t work for me. I work on Sunday. So my Sabbath is Friday. And it’s been Friday for, probably, twenty years.
And, I get up when I want to get up, I go out to breakfast with my wife and we have two, three, four hour talk. We can take a walk that day. We align the day so it’s filled with fun, family, time with God, time with each other.
I don’t take voice mail, I don’t check my email, I’m not trying to solve any…I stop. And I haven’t had any of those necks getting locked in and haven’t awakened in the middle of the night for the last twenty years all sweaty and a doctor telling me my liver’s not working.
And this means you can take a nap Sunday afternoon. It means you keep your briefcase closed. It means you turn your computer off. You know, it’ll be there tomorrow. All those problems, they’ll wait for you. They will! They’ll just wait.
And you worrying about it and jumping in and never stopping. A less competent person will show up to solve them. You know that laundry? Let it lay. Do it on Monday. Or whatever day is your non-Sabbath.
The average MBA graduate works eighty hours a week in the United States. The number one prescription filled in all of America is Valium. The number one drug prescribed after Valium is anti-depressants.
We have a group of people that are intensely running and chasing their own tail like a cat or a dog over, and over, and over, and over. And escalating the speed of life because they will not obey the fourth commandment. And the fourth commandment is, stop it! Lighten up! Rest! Give your body a break.
And not just your body. Give your spirit a recalibration. The Sabbath is a gift from God to protect our body from wearing out, restoration, and our spirit from tuning out.
Notice, he said, “Remember.” Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together.” Psalm 122:1 says, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Your spirit, have you ever been driving through the mountains and you’re listening to a radio station and you really like it and it’s either a song you really like or someone speaking and it’s, you know, happens to be one of those really good messages and God’s speaking to you and you go around a mountain and, [makes static noise].
And then you try and dial [makes static noise]. And then, you know, then you get part of it [makes static noise]. And then you just, after a while, you just can’t get it and so you just turn the station.
Do you understand that when you don’t take one day out of seven, is that the antennae of God and His spirit that wants to speak and give direction and give you a nudge and say, don’t make that business deal, do this one.
Your daughter needs a little time with you right now. Mmm. Time to back away and reevaluate what’s going on with your family. What happens is, you get going so fast, you’re going over all these mountains and all these hills and God is beaming down through the Holy Spirit and His word. All this reception but you get going so fast and you don’t stop.
You know what happens is? You start breaking up. And now you’re, sort of, guessing. And now you’re, kind of, hunching and pretty soon, you don’t hear His voice.
And we’re the only animal that I know of that, when we’re lost and don’t know it, what we do is, we go faster. We don’t know where we’re going, and we don’t know how to get there but if we go faster, it makes us feel like, at least we’re making progress.
And God says, your body needs a rest but your spirit, you need to remember, you need to re-calibrate.
It’s like barnacles on a boat. It’s like a car that needs an oil change. I mean, if you didn’t change your oil for, like, five years and it broke down, would you go, “Boy, hon, just can’t figure out what’s wrong with this one.”
Or if you had a boat and you never took it out of the water once a year and cleaned it off. What happens? You can’t see it but what happens underneath of it? You have all these interactions and you don’t have time to deal with all of them.
And so what happens, it’s a little attitude here, it’s a little pride here, it’s a quick moment of lust here. It’s a hurry here. It’s an insensitivity here. And you can’t deal with it all and so that builds up and there’s a little layer of guilt.
And the Spirit, He’s saying, “Hey, hey, we need to deal with this one.” “Yeah, I will later, you know, like, I’m really in a hurry right now.” And then another day, then another day, then another day.
If one out of every seven days you stop and you, in an unhurried way, do a Psalm 139, “Dear God, test me and know my heart. Search me.”
And you know what it’s like when you bow your head to pray and you can’t quite get through, right? And you know where there’s, just something that’s not quite right and so what’s the temptation? Go to the refrigerator or turn on the TV. Correct?
Because it’s not quite right but you don’t want to deal with it and you have this vague sense that it’s not quite right because something’s probably not quite right with you. And so we eat. Or we play. Or we watch a movie. Or we…
Have you noticed, by the way, if every time you get in the car, if you gotta push a button and get noise around you all the time, it means you’re not comfortable with being alone. And you’re not comfortable with being alone because when it gets real quiet, God speaks.
And once every seven days, obviously we do it each day in smaller bits, He wants you to take a protracted time, not to be down on you, but to get the transmitter realigned and connected where it can, instead of whispering, He can shout.
And that’s why, one of the things on Friday, I mean, I keep a journal every day, every couple three, I’m really writing. But on my Friday, I get away, get a cup of coffee and just, I think through and I write out what’s going on in the week.
And when I have those unsettled feelings, sometimes I’m not sure where to go. But you know what? I don’t have to be anywhere on Friday. I don’t have to get anything done. I don’t have to check my email. I don’t have to get any…
And I can say, “Lord, I need my spirit recalibrated with what is on Your heart for me.” And often, He’ll bring to mind, yup, I better write a note to that guy.
And, you know, I think I’ve been, you know, a little insensitive or I think, you know, one of my kids, sometimes in those times I’ll sense, because now, you know, they’re grown and they live. I think so and so needs a call from me.
And see, when, it’s just built in. It’s a gift from God so your body can get rested. And so your spirit can get realigned with the tower and you can get the radio station and the communication with your heavenly Father, beaming in really strong.
And where you can read some extended time out of the Scripture and the prayer time doesn’t have to be just intercession for everyone. It might be taking a walk, it might be looking at flowers. It might be just rejuvenating your heart and life in the re-creation of what God’s doing.
That’s the purpose of the Sabbath. To protect your body from wearing out, your spirit from tuning out, and finally, your soul from burning out.
And the way you do that is you re-create. You know, the tragedy of Psalm 23 is we only hear it when people are dying or dead. You know, it’s because it’s on plaques everywhere but this is a song.
And what did Jesus say? Given by the Spirit of God to the Psalmist David, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
And notice it’s re-creation. It’s not recreation. It’s re-creation.
What we’ve come to believe is the lie and the lie is hedonism. And the lie is that I’m going to live and do my work so I can get to the weekend because I’m really going to have fun because fun refreshes me and pleasure does.
So, I watch five hours of football and I play as hard as I work. I take no time for my body. And I push, push, push, push, push. And then I’m kind of tired so I eat three bags of chips, watch four ball games, and wake up Monday morning going, “Boy, I’m ready to go.”
And the fact of the matter is, most people have to recover from their weekend. And God says, “No, I want to restore your soul. I want you to take a walk. I want you to read a good book. I want you to get some exercise that restores and refreshes. I want you to think. I want you to look at nature. I want you stop saying someday, someway, I’m going to do those things that really matter to my family, and to my heart, and to my life.”
And you know what? You got twenty-four hours. It’s a gift. Once every seven days, why don’t you start planning in some of those things?
Renew your mind. Renew your body. Renew your heart.
Isaiah. I love, he says, “In quietness and trust is our strength.” In quietness and trust. If you find anyone is growing in the spiritual life, if you find anyone whose life is attractive and you say, there’s something special and holy and winsome. I will guarantee that solitude, silence, and Sabbath are a part of their rhythm and routine.
I have never met a man, I’ve never met a woman, I’ve never met a person who, there is the fragrance of Christ. There’s a sense of love, a sense of affirmation. A sense of direction from God. A family where there’s a sense of connectedness and encouragement.
I’ve never met a man, never met a woman who, a part of their rhythm and life, is not built in silence, solitude, and Sabbath. Because we’re living in a hostile environment of hurry, and rush, and information overload, and expectations, and conflict.
And the only way to sort it out is to receive the gift of Sabbath. Once every seven days. “Lord, restore my mind and my heart. Lord, I think I’m just going to take a nap this afternoon because it just feels illegal and it feels amazingly good. And then I’m going to take a walk. And I’m going to observe on my walk. And I’m not going to plan in rush.
And all those voicemails and all those emails and I’m going to choose not to worry for these twenty-four hours. I’m going to believe that the jar of manna in my life, as I take this day off, when I get up on Monday morning or, for me, when I get up on Saturday morning, I’m going to trust that the God who could make it okay for the Israelites, is the God who knows all my need.”
And one of the most precious gifts in the world is the gift of Sabbath.
There are three stealers and I just want to jot these down. You mentally decide which one of these is stealing the Sabbaths in your life.
First, is workaholism. That’s the lie that your value has to do with what you get accomplished. And for some of us, that is deeply inbred. It will take time to learn how to Sabbath.
The second is legalism. Don’t get hung up on, well, what can I do? It’s a Sabbath. Should I do this or shouldn’t I do that? Tell you what. Ask the question, what renews your heart with God? What renews your body? And what restores your emotions?
And then say, “Lord, that’s what I want to…” It’s a gift, okay? So, if you need to work out, work out. You need to take a nap, take a nap. You need to take a walk, take a walk. You need to read long portions of Scriptures, read long portions of Scripture.
But do something that’s spiritual, something that’s physical, and something that’s emotional, that’s restorative.
Don’t get into a bunch of rules. They’ve killed as the Law kills, the Spirit gives life.
And then third is hedonism. It’s the belief that pleasure and play can refresh you. And I don’t know about you and, boy, I keep learning this, and learning it, and learning it.
But when I am tired, and when I’m worn out, and whether it’s an evening, or whether it’s a Friday, or at the end of a week, I don’t know what it is but there’s something that tells me, initially, that if I can just turn on that TV and vegetate, and if I can get something to eat, I know I’m going to feel better later.
And I’ve done this experiment, I think probably, several hundred times, now. And one hundred percent of the time, so far, watching TV for two or three hours to unwind, and eating food that I don’t really need at a time that, as soon as you eat it, I think it just turns to fat cells as you go to bed, I’m not sure.
But it doesn’t work.
And often the thing you need to do the most is the most counterintuitive. Sometimes when you’re tiredest, you need to go take a walk or get a workout.
Sometimes when you feel least like praying, just tell God, “I don’t want to pray, I don’t want to be with You right now, and I understand that’s not a good place to be. So I’m going to take a long walk around the block and I’m going to start talking. And I’m really praying that You’ll show up as I start talking because I need You.”
And you know what happens is, something changes inside. But I’ll guarantee that the lie of hedonism, the pleasure, and am I saying, is it always wrong to watch TV? Of course not.
Am I saying it’s wrong to, you know, enjoy some food? No. What I’m saying is, we medicate ourselves with food. And we medicate our minds with mindless TV.
And we pay a very high price for it. And God says, “I created a boundary. I love you. Would you please honor the boundary of the Sabbath so I can give you the very, very best life possible?”