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Holy Day or Holiday? (Part 2 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 27, 2022 4:00 am

Holy Day or Holiday? (Part 2 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 27, 2022 4:00 am

The idea of a Sabbath rest is often considered old-fashioned and obsolete. After all, the world has changed dramatically since God’s law was given to Moses. Why does one day matter so much? Find out when you join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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The idea of a Sabbath Rest is often considered old fashioned or obsolete. After all, God's law was given to Moses thousands of years ago.

Life has changed dramatically since then. Does it still matter if we set aside one day a week? We're continuing our study of the Sabbath on Truth for Life weekend.

Alistair Begg is teaching from Exodus chapter 20 and we're in verses 8 through 11. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. In other words, sanctify the day. The phrase here means two things. It means, first of all, remember the Sabbath day by setting it apart. That's what it means to keep it holy.

It means to set it apart. Now, the immediate reaction to that on the part of some is to say, but you don't understand, or maybe not so forcibly, but to say, well, what about the fact that every day is the Lord's day? Well, there's a sense in which that's true. We ought to serve the Lord every day, and we ought to serve the Lord every moment of every day. And the way in which we do our work ought to be a service to the Lord. John Murray, the late John Murray professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, says to obliterate the difference between one day and the other six. To obliterate the difference may appear pious, but it is piosity, not piety. It is not piety to be wiser than God.

It is impiety of the darkest hue. The Sabbath day is different from every other day, and to obliterate this distinction in thought or practice is to destroy what is the essence of the institution. Now, there is a wealth contained in that statement.

Let me summarize it for you. The recognition of the distinction of the day is indispensable to its observance. The recognition of the distinction of the day is indispensable to its observance. So that unless you and I be convinced that God has distinguished this day for all of time, and that because he has distinguished it in this way, we must live within the framework of what he has laid down, then any attempts at keeping the Sabbath day will simply be as a result either of legalistic externalism, or as a result of a kind of time-honored tradition, or as a result of the reinforcement of what has become customary for us.

Okay? Now, I grew up, as a child in Scotland, in exactly that position. And all children must. For if we ask a child whether they like the idea of a different day on the Lord's Day, the answer is, no, I do not, frankly. So we wouldn't ask them. We would tell them.

This is the framework. And any child, unredeemed, unregenerate, is going to buck the system, say, I don't like this, and I don't like this day, and I don't want to do this, and I don't want to worship, and I certainly don't want to do it twice, and I'm not going in a choir, and I don't like the Sunday school, and I'm sick and tired of the whole operation. That's fine, honey. I heard you.

I've been there. Now let's go. Let's just continue, just as we said we were doing.

We're on our way. Okay? Now, unless the day dawns, when God by his Spirit redeems that child, and in the heart of that child, what to that point has been simply the observance of custom, and it now becomes the conviction of their tiny life, then from that day everything changes. Because once they have become convinced, once they have ownership of the principle in their own lives, then they no longer do things simply as a result of constraint, but they do them as a result of an internal conviction.

Now, as true as that is of children, it is true of us all. And that is why many of us continue to buck the idea of the Lord's Day. Because it is a conviction about its distinction which creates relevance to its observance. And since we have never come to a conviction about its distinction, any time anyone suggests to us that this is what may comprise the Lord's Day, our answer is, Who do they think they are to tell me what I'm going to do with my time?

It's not your time, and it's not my time. Every breath I breathe is a gift from God, and he is in charge of my time. And he who created time and parceled it in the way that he intended intends that the utilization of time shall bear testimony to the distinction of his creative handiwork and shall bear testimony to the fact that we are his covenant children. You see, the same thing is true of any commandment. If you take the commandment, for example, in relationship to adultery, if you and I are only going to keep the commandment regarding adultery on the basis of its pragmatic usefulness—well, it's a good idea, you know, you get yourself in a lot of trouble—but not as a result of its rightness, not as a result of divine authority, not as a result of an internal conviction, then we are left to the winds of circumstance to blow upon us.

Then we're in a situation, and somebody says, Why not? And since the commandment is simply a kind of practical accretion for us and is not an internal conviction for us, then the smell of the perfume or the heat of the evening or the drive of the passion may be enough to take us right into total sin. Because we'd never internalized the command. God's law had never been written upon our hearts. We had never said, I'd delight to do your will, O Lord. We'd never settled this issue, I am the Lord your God, you shall do this. We had never bowed there. We had never internalized its truth.

And so as soon as the circumstances went against us, we were swept into chaos. That is exactly, I put it to you, what is happening with the Lord's day in the continental United States and in the Western world at large. We have vast numbers of people who have never become convinced of the distinction of the day.

They have no internal conviction about the day, about its abiding relevance. And so when somebody says, Why don't we do this? Why don't we go there? Why don't we do whatever it is?

The answer is, Yeah, why not? Because after all, the only lingering notion that we have of any abiding relevance of the command is that it has something to do with not lighting fires and not riding your bicycle or not doing a bunch of stuff that we've picked up from somewhere along the line. But we don't have any notion of it in our hearts. So, if I can express it as clearly as possible, observance of the Lord's Sabbath quickly becomes obsolete if it does not spring from the sense of sanctity generated and nourished by the fact that God set apart this day for our good. So it's not irksome. It's not a punishment.

It's a phenomenal, liberating privilege. But until we understand the distinction and apply it, we will internalize any expressions of it as either anachronisms or quirks of human personality. That's the first element in the sanctifying of the Lord's Day. It is a setting apart. It is a making a difference of one day from the rest. God distinguished one day from the rest.

He distinguished it himself by what he did and what he didn't do. The second element to it is—and it's just the other side of the coin—that keeping it holy makes clear to us that the difference which God has ordained in this day is a difference of a specific kind. The day is not simply a day set apart from other days, but it is a day set apart to the Lord. So the key to the Sabbath is not inactivity. The key to the Lord's Day is not just waking up and lying in your bed till about eleven o'clock or half past twelve and saying, Well, it's a day of rest, therefore I did it.

That's not it. And see, this is where people say, Well, I don't know why we have all these services. For goodness sake, isn't it supposed to be a day of rest? Well, tell me about it, would you? See, you don't understand. Neither do I.

But this is it. The rest which God has ordained is a rest from labor and a rest to him. The day of rest is a day which has a positive dimension and focus towards the Lord our God. It is not simply kept from our everyday routine, but it is kept for the Lord. It is a rest of another kind of activity. We rest from the ordinary activities of the other six days. Why? Because we might be released into the worship and contemplation of the glory of God. That's why!

Now, the fact that some people don't do this and don't do that and don't do the next thing because they're a bunch of legalists, that's their problem. But the fact of the matter remains that if we would remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, we distinguish it from all the other days, and we do so by distinguishing it by exercising our hearts in the religious exercises of worship and of study and of prayer and of piety and of acts of mercy and of kindness and so on. I recognize—and I can disassociate myself from this—that I have the benefits of a Scottish heritage. Amazing benefits in relationship to this. The danger in it, though, is that you go, it's cultural.

He's just coming off with a bunch of that stuff from across the sea. That's why you and I have to think it out together. But I was brought up to understand this. That's why we visited old ladies in the hospital on Sunday afternoons.

Why? Because it was a great day for acts of mercy. That's why the Pharisees tried to tie Jesus up in knots with a man with a shriveled hand. The guy with a shriveled hand comes, the Pharisees say, Hey, you're gonna heal him today? You're gonna break the Sabbath, Jesus? Jesus said, You guys don't know what you're talking about.

You can't come up with all these external rigmaroles. He said, If you had a sheep and it fell in a ditch, would you get it out on the Sabbath? They all looked shamefacedly at each other, because of course they would. He said, You crazy rascals, look at this man here. Do you not think a man with a shriveled hand is more important to God than one of your sheep lying in a ditch?

He says, The guy stretched forth your hand, he stretches it out. What was he doing? Setting aside the Sabbath? No, he was setting the Sabbath aside from the ridiculous accretions of the Pharisees, all the little bits and pieces that they added to it. The danger is, you see, that in setting aside any intrusions of Phariseeism, what we actually do is we throw the baby out with the bathwater and we're left, as so many of us, frankly, are to this point in our lives with only nine commandments. So the principle stated is such that we might enjoy the privilege of God's presence, the study of God's Word, the fellowship of God's people, uninterrupted by both employment and leisure, which draws from us a devotion to Christ in a singular way on other days. But here's the thing, loved ones, does this strike you like something you would want to do? Spend a whole day, as it were, without your newspaper and without seeing it, and without CNN, and without recreation? The answer is, no, I don't like the sound of it.

Do you know what? You don't like the sound of heaven. You don't like the sound of what it's going to be, to be in the presence of Christ for all of eternity. Six of us go away to a cabin on the lake. We go away because we love one another and we're glad of one another's company.

We're there for two and a half days, and suddenly somebody at a mealtime says, Do you want to know something interesting? We never turn the TV on. I don't even know what's happening in the world. We never read a newspaper. I didn't even call the office. Do you know what?

I never called to check on my handicap. Why? Because the context of fellowship and love and enjoyment is so all-consuming. Loved ones, I've got to say something. Whenever our experience of worship is so devalued, and our notion of the Lord's day is so disintegrated, so as to conceive of it in such a way that we believe that religious exercises are supposed to get over and done with as fast as they possibly can, so that we may, quote, get on with the day, then we stand condemned before the fourth commandment. We ought actually to be getting down on our knees and thanking God for the privilege of being brought under the orb of influence of a church that is determined on the basis of the holy Scriptures that we will give every opportunity on the Lord's day for all the things that the Lord's day was intended to mean. For worship, for prayer, for study, for fellowship, for holy contemplation. And the fact that it does not appeal to us says more about the low level of our spiritual appetites than it does about anything else. The fourth commandment makes it clear that God has provided this day to worship him undisturbed by personal business or pleasure. And the question is, what should we welcome so much as a day of worship and service to God, uninterrupted by the routine and the rush and the scramble of work and recreation? That's the principle stated.

The pattern applied we'll go on to consider. Let me just give you a flavor that, again, either falls into the realm of anachronism or falls into the realm of something to which we might approximate. This is a description by a guy whose name was Donald McDonald. He was the minister of Greyfriars Free Church of Scotland in Inverness for many years.

He died in 1975. Addressing the issue of the Lord's day and how it might be profitably shared, he says, I shall cherish the memory of it as long as I live, the Sabbath in my native island of Lewes in my boyhood days. This is his experience as he grows up as a child in the Outer Hebrides.

Don't let us allow geography to put us off. The Ten Commandments don't apply any better in the remote parts of the western isles of Scotland than they apply in the heart of the continental United States. He says that the Sabbath day was prepared for on Saturday evening.

All the household work was finished earlier than usual. Tomorrow's meals, as far as that was possible, were prepared, and by 10 p.m. the family gathered, and, quotes, the book was taken. In a Scottish Highland home, to this day, if you are there for a meal, the host in the home may at one point towards the end of the evening say, Shall we take the book? You may be forgiven for thinking that he's referring to the Sears backlog or the Yellow Pages or something, but he's referring to the Bible.

And so he says the book was taken. However late with their household work, some might be on other nights, on a Saturday there would not be one light in a hundred to be seen at twelve o'clock midnight. The Sabbath itself began with family worship. Public worship began usually at twelve noon. Hundreds of people made their way to the house of God. The only way to get there was by walking, yet almost everyone who was able to go attended, although many lived several miles away.

Evening worship was at six o'clock, and again everyone who could go was there. Particularly impressive was the complete silence that prevailed throughout the day. Not a stroke of work was done. There was no noise of car or cart. Between church services, no one was seen outside his own house, except those who had to take their cattle to drink.

Should anyone be seen going up or down the main road, people would come to their doors to ask one another if they knew who it was, being absolutely certain he was going for medical aid for some ill person or to deliver an urgent message. Inside the house, no books were read but the Bible and religious books. All other books were put away on Saturday night.

Conversation about worldly things was not allowed. Frequently relatives and friends who had a long distance to walk to the church came into my parents' home between services, and their conversation was always of a religious kind. As a rule, they discussed points made by the preacher in the morning service. This was the way the Lord's Day was observed, as I remember it.

That, he says, of course, was in a country place. Unhappily, it is now impossible to get a quiet Sabbath similar to that which I have described. Wherever we go, Sabbath desecration has penetrated to the most isolated hamlets and homes. Sunday newspapers, radio, television, and pleasure-loving tourists have left no corner, however remote, untouched. Yet in spite of all of this, it is possible for believers to enjoy the blessing of God in his day, and now I shall explain how they can obtain it.

When we return, we will try and tackle in this very different geography, some twenty years on, the practical applications of the observing of the fourth commandment. Is the Sabbath a distinctly different day in your household? A day of worship? A day of service to God? This is Truth for Life weekend.

Alistair Begg returns to close today's program with prayer in just a minute. At Truth for Life, it's our desire to see as many people as possible have access to Alistair's teaching. We are grateful for the generous donations that come from listeners like you. The ongoing support we receive from our truth partners, whose monthly giving makes it possible for us to bring Bible teaching to you through many different viewing and listening options. For example, you can watch Alistair's most recent sermon and listen to the program by streaming through your Roku device or your Amazon Fire TV service.

Just search for the Truth for Life app in the App Store, or you can find information about Roku and Amazon Fire TV at slash tv. Now let me also mention that this is the last weekend we'll be offering the book titled God Is. It's a devotional guide to the attributes of God. This is a book that will help you study and understand God's attributes so you can grow in your relationship with him. Each chapter of God Is explains one attribute. It shows how it's displayed in Jesus.

It provides practical application for your life. In all, you'll explore 26 different characteristics of God, things like his sovereignty, his mercy, and his faithfulness. Find out about the book God Is when you visit our website at Now here is Alistair to close with prayer. Our God and our Father, now we realize why the Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. As we gaze into the mirror of your law and see ourselves, we know we need a Savior. And I pray today that you will convict and convince of sin in the lives of some, that as our service ends they may not be able to leave but to come and pray and settle the issue of faith, believing in Christ. That others of us who by our disregard for your law live life's pragmatically pleasing ourselves, that you will catch us, that you will consume us with your grace and your goodness, that you will create within us convictions so that we are not suffering under external rules, nor routine customs, nor buffeted by the expressions of the culture of our day. Remind us that we are a holy nation, a chosen people, a people belonging to God, that we might declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Write your Word upon our hearts, we pray, that we might live to your glory. And may grace, mercy, and peace from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be the abiding portion of all who believe today and forevermore. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. The fourth commandment compels us to be intentional about one day each week. What would happen if we applied that principle in our society today? How would things be different? Find out as you join us again next weekend. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-05 04:31:34 / 2023-03-05 04:40:08 / 9

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