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How Did We Get Here: Remember The Sabbath Day

One of the deficiencies of fallen man is that we forget. Our memories fail us, skills and facts we once knew fade and if we do not refresh our minds, the problem is only compounded. God knows this about us and it is precisely why He blessed us with the Sabbath day.
The commandment which concludes the first table of the law, the fourth, is simply ignored by most Christians. The majority perspective is that it has been abrogated or does not apply to modern Christianity, is legalistic, or is adhered to by simply attending church on Sunday mornings. This divine command—this moral command—is rarely given a second thought, and this fact has as much to do as anything with the broken culture we find ourselves in.

A Right Relationship With God

To restate the issue that this series has been addressing: the second table of God’s moral law (which governs how man is to behave towards one another) is crumbling all around us, and this is very largely due to the church’s own failure to acknowledge and revere the first table of the law. The first table is to ensure our right relationship with Almighty God—and if there is no concern about right relationship with God (first table), eventually there is no reason to strive for right relationship with God’s image bearers (second table).
So think logically: a loving relationship with God, which is the aim of the whole law for the Christian, is only possible if we know who God is. If we do not know God, how can we rightly worship and adore Him (Rom. 10:14)? It is in this light that the fourth commandment “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…” (Ex. 20:8) binds together the entire first table of the law, and by extension, the whole law itself.

For His Glory, For Our Good

God’s commands are never arbitrary whims—His law flows from His own character, which is perfectly just and perfectly loving. Therefore, the aim of the commandments is not only the glory of God, but also the good of mankind (Deut. 10:13). In fact, from the beginning, God’s very first blessing was a command which would lead to flourishing (Gen. 1:28).
The blessed nature of God’s law can clearly be seen in the fourth commandment—the Sabbath is a gift. One of the deficiencies of fallen man is that we forget. Our memories fail us, skills and facts we once knew fade and if we do not refresh our minds, the problem is only compounded. God knows this about us and it is precisely why He blessed us with the Sabbath day. Paul acknowledges the necessity of being continually reminded of truths we have known (Ph. 3:1) and that is one of the primary purposes for this day—it is a day of remembrance.
Our lives are full of genuine obligations, time constraints, and the exhausting grind of our daily labors. Because we never have a shortage of ways to occupy ourselves, God commands that we dedicate to Him one full day out of seven on which we meditate on Him alone. We are to remember God’s magnificent glory, ponder His might, consider all of His perfection. We remember His excellent work of redemption (Deut. 5:15), and give thanks to Him for the mercy He has shown us.
God grants us respite from our daily obligations in order that we may partake in spiritual rest by meditating on His person and work, and if we do not intentionally and conscientiously seek to keep this blessed commandment, we will forget. Our clarity regarding God’s character will begin to fade, our gratitude for His grace will be diminished, and we will become ever more casual and flippant regarding the things of God. Sooner or later, the rest of the first table will begin to fall.

Time With God Is Neglected

As Christians have become more and more saturated by the culture, the time God requires of us has been severely neglected. We fill our Lord’s Day with activities, chores, entertainment, and other events which rob God of our wholehearted devotion. This has several notable effects, and one of them is that so few Christians actually devote serious time to studying the Word and to prayer. It is alarming how little many professing Christians know about the teaching of Scripture. Misunderstanding abounds, many portions of the Bible go unstudied, and the result is a huge portion of Christians whose faith is built on a handful of proof-texts. That is a foundation easily shaken.
In addition, there are many Christians who are disinterested in the grueling practice of prayer, besides the obligatory giving of thanks before a meal. Granted, these are areas in which most every Christian would do well to improve by the power of the Holy Spirit, yet we do ourselves no favors when we throw away the time God has set aside for these very things. There is a direct correlation between ignoring the Sabbath and neglecting the means of grace with which God has blessed us. The result is biblical ineptitude, spiritual dryness, and an impotent church. When Christians are not biblically minded, we are not able to seriously engage with the culture, and therefore not able to effect it.
The Sabbath command is a fitting place to wrap up this series because it most clearly illustrates the lack of concern many Christians have when it comes to having genuine fellowship with God. When the first four commandments are ignored by the church, the result is hollow moralism, with no foundation, and therefore unsustainable. We must be serious about all of God’s law, beginning with His ordinances regarding our relationship with Him. However, there must also be the understanding and clear teaching that we, of ourselves, will never be able to meet the requirements of the first table of the law, and thus never be able to maintain a right relationship with God. And it is in this realization of our own sin that we run to God With Us, Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh.

The One Who Kept It Perfectly

He is the one who mediates peace between us and God (Rom. 5:1) by keeping the full law perfectly, and subsequently suffering the curse of the law, which our disobedience deserves. And not only does Jesus obey the law on our behalf, He is also the fulfillment of God’s law. He is the only one who is holy and worthy of worship, He is the very image of God to which we bow down, His name is set above every other name and is then given to us, and He delivers us into final, eternal, reverent rest in His own presence forever.
If we are not serious about having a right relationship with God through the work of Christ, according to the first table of the law, then we should have no expectation of effecting the depraved culture around us because we will have nothing to offer them. If we are not demonstrating proper fellowship with God, ultimately there is no separation between the church and the world. Our mission is to bring people into fellowship with the God who made them, by preaching the gospel of Christ and living obediently by the power of the Holy Spirit. A restored relationship with the living God is what we offer to the world around us, and this alone will bring true transformation.
Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA. Click here for more RCSH Blog posts.
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