christmas series

We are in a series about Joy. Last week, Sam was awesome opening our series. If you missed it, you have to find it and read it. What did he say? Joy is one of the defining marks of a disciple of Jesus. Scripture says,

…for the joy of the LORD is your strength! NLT Nehemiah 8:10

That doesn’t mean you are happy when it’s 5 degrees out and you get a flat tire. That means, I am so aware of God’s grace in my life, it has so impacted me, it has so transformed me, it gives me spiritual passion, spiritual energy, spiritual power.

What did Jesus say?

When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! NLT John 15:10-12

The point is Joy. To be so in love with God that it gives you spiritual passion, energy and power.

Then Sam defined the difference between JOY and HAPPINESS.

Today I want to read for you one of the commands of God.

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. NLT Exodus 20:8-10

When I read that to you, what do you think? Do you role your eyes? Does it just bug you hearing about ‘Sabbath’? Is it just an irrelevant rule to you? I grew up in a family that tried to live this out. It was definitely a rule. It was the thing we didn’t really talk about, we just knew that we didn’t do much on Sunday. The exception to the rule was attending church, travelling long distances and family get-togethers. Outside of that, we did nothing. We didn’t work on the house, we didn’t work on the yard or the car. And we definitely didn’t go shopping. All that stuff was reserved for the week, not Sunday. I couldn’t even play any sports, like baseball, because there might be a practice or a game on Sunday. Sabbath to me growing up was a rule. And here is the big point, there was no connection or understanding about the Sabbath or rest that produced joy. None.

When I was single I never really gave Sabbath much thought. I slept in, at Stromboli from Jo Jos in Mechanicsburg and watched football. When I was married with kids, things just kept popping up on Sundays but again, never gave it any thought. All I knew was that it was a rule and it seemed impractical.

What makes it worse is this verse, Jesus said,

The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath. MSG Mark 2:27-28

What does that mean, can I mow my yard on Sunday now?

I think today the topic of Sabbath is viewed as old school and irrelevant. It’s a rule we try to get around to get things done. We jam our Saturdays with so much activity we are exhausted on Sunday and sleep in to rest. Or club sports fill up our Sunday schedules. Or school activities fill up our Sunday schedules. And as grand-parents, where do you end up? Following the grand kids. We pay the fees to the clubs, drive off to the field and say, ‘It’s not a big deal.’

We end up tired, over worked and stressed.

All of this proves that we haven’t a clue about Sabbath. And because we don’t fully understand it, we cannot find joy.

What is Sabbath? I think Jesus said it best.

I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. MSG Matthew 11:28-30

Four things we need to know.

First, you rest your body so your spirit can catch up. You experience this right? Your body is so non-stop busy that you have no ability to connect with God. You go on vacation and right when you begin to relax, you have to go home again. Busy, busy, busy. Your body can be so busy you never allow your spirit to catch up. What do we tell others? ‘I’m so burned out.’ ‘I’m fried.’ ‘I’m so stressed.’

Second, you rest your body which means you take a break from activities and people. When you are trying to connect with Christ, activities and people are a distraction. You must take a break from activities and people [even if you like people].

Third, you rest your body which means you pray and play. Did you notice yet that each point begins with, you rest your body? We will talk about that more later. You pray because it is one of your only sources of spiritual power, energy and creativity. You play because you have to learn not to take yourself so seriously. It helps you be human.

Last, you rest your body which means you go to bed relaxed.

When God worked for six days in creation, scripture says this after every day, …there was evening, and there was morning. NIV Genesis 2:31

What does this mean? It means there is a rhythm to how God works. When you go to sleep, God begins to work. Our rest, our sleep is us getting out of God’s way. It’s is the beginning of entering into the ‘rhythms of grace.’

When you wake up, we are allowed to join God in what He is already doing in your family, in your work place, in your church and in your community. We wake up in a world that we don’t deserve.

When you live out each day, we live in faith and do our best. Our human effort is honored and respected by God.

When you go back to sleep, you can relax. It doesn’t have to be this never ending exhausted frustration of not getting things done. Why? Because God is about to take over.

Sabbath isn’t an irrelevant rule that keeps us from getting things done. Sabbath is about entering into the rhythms of grace. It’s about resting your body long enough to allow your spirit to catch up and get out of God’s way.

What is our reality in life? We think we are on our own. In other words, we don’t have enough faith in God. We have faith that He will get us into heaven but we don’t have faith that He will take care of our daily lives. For those who enter into the rhythms of grace, God loves to give them rest. Listen to this:

If GOD doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks. If GOD doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. 2 It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves? MSG Psalms 127:1-2

Our reality is, we believe that God will get us to heaven somehow but we struggle to believe He is with us today, right now. So we think we have to play the role of God in our lives. We take control of everything. We do more, worry more, stress more, never let down, work longer, stay up later, feel terrified of tomorrow and blame everyone around us for letting us down. We live frustrated, exhausted and angry.

As we search for joy, we wonder, why cant I find it? We think Sabbath is a rule we need to get around. What do we add to our lives to find joy? More activities, more events, more people. What do we ignore, what don’t we have time for? Prayer, play and rest.

We take ourselves way too seriously. We are helicopter parents with insurance and attorneys lined up to slam anyone who challenges our kids.

We compare ourselves to others constantly. Strive to get ahead, strive up the corporate ladder, strive to be noticed. We care way too much about our image, our car, our house. We become prisoners to being people pleasers. It ruins us.

We see people [neighbors, spouses, kids, employees, pastors, employers] as what they can do for us and fail to understand who they are and how we are supposed to treat them. It ruins us. All this is taking place and we live in a culture that is moving faster and faster. The advancement of technology that enable us to do more and stay connected 27/7. It becomes odd that you are not instantly available to everyone all the time. It ruins us.

We live in a godless culture that demands no limits, no boundaries and anything that stands in the way of our pursuit of sin is called judgmental or hateful. It ruins us.

Over time of no rest, we lose joy. We are run down. The Sabbath ‘thing’ is irrelevant so we jump into our culture an we move faster and faster.

We lose our sanity and look for any way we can break this vicious and relentless way of living that is shredding our souls. So we veg out, we binge on tv, sports, alcohol, whatever. We get religious. We blame our husbands for not being better spiritual leaders. We blame our wives for volunteering for everything.

Over time, it destroys our humanity. We fail to understand what it even means to be human. We don’t’ know who we are. We don’t know how to treat others and how to treat God. We become so spiritually sick, we become preoccupied on getting.

God’s says,

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. NLT Exodus 20:8-10

We think, that’s an impossible rule. We ignore the Sabbath and it ruins our ability to be human. How do we know? We are so preoccupied with getting. We view others as people who should get us what we want. We go to church and wonder, is there a book to read, a course to take, a prayer to read that will fix me? The answer is no. Do you want joy? Do you want break the vicious and relentless way of living? It’s called Sabbath. It’s about entering into the rhythms of grace. It’s about resting your body long enough to allow your spirit to catch up and get out of God’s way.

So what did I say today?

It’s about resting your body long enough to allow your spirit to catch up and get out of God’s way.

The biggest take away would be understanding that entering the rhythms of grace begins with your physical body resting. What you do physically leads to what you experience spiritually.

Did I give you a rule to follow this morning? No, it’s bigger than that. It’s realizing God is great and we need to get on His page.   To do that, we need to enter into God’s way of doing things.

What this all comes down to, is this: do you trust God enough that you can rest or do you try to be God and live in unending frustration?

If you want Joy this Christmas season, look at your calendar and put a black X over the days you will decide to rest. There are two Sundays between now and Christmas, try it. What is your other option? Busy busy busy that leads to never ending frustration. Is Sabbath irrelevant or is it invaluable?