“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
In my last blog post, we looked at the historical and theological implications of the Sabbath. First, we saw how God created Sabbath as a way for His people to join in his holiness and to imitate him with their lives. Then, we looked at how Jesus challenged the religious rigidity of the Sabbath that had evolved through centuries of religious traditions by defying “the rules” in order to heal and restore life. We recognized that Jesus is the fulfillment the Law, who now connects us directly to Our Heavenly Father.
Connection. Connection is an intrinsic part of the Sabbath, and Jesus points us to that truth in his conversations with the disciples on the night before he was arrested, tortured and crucified:
“I am the true vine,” Jesus says, “and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:1-2,5, 11)
Wait, what? What do grapes and gardening have anything to do with the Sabbath?
As we discussed in the historical and theological study of the Sabbath, we see that Jesus desperately wants to bring us back to the heart of the Sabbath – to connect with the holiness of Our Heavenly Father, which brings wholeness, healing, and restoration. Jesus tell us that we can experience that blessed connection that through acts of abiding – the first lesson of the Sabbath that we can apply to our own lives.
THE SABBATH THROUGH A PERSONAL LENS
After all our study – and I know it’s been a lot! –, we finally reach this essential question: How can I observe and enjoy the Sabbath in my own life? Here are five key principles to help you and your family do just that.
1. ABIDE – Abide in the Spirit.
As we have just seen, the most important concept that we can takeaway from this spiritual discipline is that Sabbath was designed to connect us with God. It is space for us to breathe in the holiness of our Heavenly Father and to exhale the stresses of life. To absorb his undying love, his forgiveness, his grace and mercy. To cast out our fears, our selfishness, and the darkness that exists in this fallen world. To abide in the Spirit.
But what does “abiding” mean and how do I do that? Thankfully, we have Jesus to show us! As we see throughout all the Gospels, Jesus sought out quiet places to commune with the Father regularly, probably daily, and he encourages us to do the same.
Practically speaking, we can do this through reading the Bible and through prayer. As Jesus explains in John 15, to remain in him, we must obey God’s commands and follow Jesus. The Word of God is alive and relevant, and as we saturate our lives with Scripture, our hearts are more attuned to hear what God is saying to us. Thus, we can experience a “complete joy,” which comes from being secure in our identity in Christ.
2. PLAN – Be intentional with your time.
Our calendars reflect what we really care about, because they show where we spend our limited time and resources. To practice Sabbath, we must make space for it. We must set aside time to disconnect from our busybody world and to reconnect with God.
If observing Sabbath is something new for you, start small. Block out just a portion of one day a week, even just an hour or two if it’s all you can afford, and put it on the calendar!
Again thanks to the freedom we have in Jesus, our Sabbath day doesn’t always have to be the same day of the week. However, if you establish a regular rhythm for the Sabbath, you will set yourself up for success. As you begin to reserve specific times for rest, you can confidently step into the grace that God offers you there.
3. RESTORE – Understand what restores your soul.
The Sabbath is about enjoying rest and restoring our souls to enjoy a measure of God’s goodness and holiness. However, because we are uniquely made, “rest” means different things to different people. For example, sitting alone in prayer or reading a book are rejuvenating activities for some people, while activities like gardening, bike riding, or having coffee with friends are more life-giving than staying seated to others. For this reason, it is paramount to understand what restores your soul.
I’ve learned that my heart comes alive when I am surrounded by nature. For it is in the majesty of the mountains, the harmony of birdsong, and the radiance of the night sky that I connect with God immediately. I hear his voice as I walk in the woods. As a deer pants for water, my soul thirsts for time with God in His creation. And because I know that about myself, I know that to truly enjoy Sabbath-rest, I need to fold elements of nature into my weekly rhythm.
4. UNPLUG – Remove distractions and focus on being present.
As we are constantly bombarded by an unrelenting tide of media messaging, it’s become increasingly more different to hear God speak to us. Therefore, “unplugging” is all the more freeing, and it allows us to refocus on what’s important in our lives.
I don’t think I need to say anything more on that subject. : )
5. RETHINK – Work from rest.
We end where we began. As we read in Genesis, from the beginning, the God of the Universe introduces a rhythm of work and rest into our human existence. But what we so often miss is that God created Man the day before He rested. This is an extremely important detail!
Adam’s first day was one of resting in the presence of his Heavenly Father. He only went to work after he rested with God. Likewise, we would do well to remember that because of God’s gift of the Sabbath, we, too, can work out of a place of rest.
Sabbath. An idea, a day, a word just loaded with significance. A covenantal blessing from our Heavenly Father and an invitation to enjoy His Presence and His Peace. I pray that you will incorporate the Sabbath into your life, so that you may enjoy this beautiful gift from our God.
Making the Sabbath Personal: Reflection Questions
ABIDE: When and where do you engage with God’s Word? Have you placed regular moments throughout your day, your week, to be in Scripture and to pray? When you are alone, have you tried praying out loud? Can you fold your family into times of abiding together?
PLAN: Have you placed the Sabbath on your calendar? What might you have to give up in order to practice the Sabbath regularly?
RESTORE: What gives you rest? What little things in life bring you joy? Do members of your family require a different form of restoration from yours?
UNPLUG: Have you ever gone an entire day without your using your cell phone, computer, or other connected device?
RETHINK: What is your mindset about resting on the Sabbath? Do you slump into it after a long workweek or do you approach it as a way to prepare your body, mind, and soul for the coming week ahead? Do you need to look at the Sabbath from a new angle?