If we’re honest, breaking the Fourth Commandment is one we might be not feel as bad about as breaking the other nine. Certainly, if you kill, commit adultery, or make a carved image, you should and usually do feel guilty. But, at least by today’s standards, breaking the Fourth Commandment — keeping the Sabbath — doesn’t usually require a trip to your local psychologist.
Yet breaking this commandment does produce stress in your life, because the whole commandment relates to our work. Work is stressful; we absolutely lean on work to provide for our needs. For some of us, we find our identity and pride in work alone. Thus, work remains one of the highest stressors in the average person’s life.
The Fourth Commandment provides a “why” and a “what” to those who fear God. The “why” is practical because we all need physical rest. The why is also practical because we need to refocus on the God of the Bible — the one true God. We need to reset and refocus because we, indeed, have short-term memories to the things of God. In the midst of family, work and life, we forget what God has called us to do (glorify Him), what our mission is (become more like Christ and share the Gospel with others), and what the point of it all is (to bring praise to God’s name).
The First Commandment (“have no other gods before Me”) sets up the rest of the commandments. The Fourth Commandment is given to us to help us make sure that our work (which we do for dozens of hours a week) doesn’t overtake Almighty God as our primary means of sustenance, security and identity. In other words, God wants us to make sure that it is His nature and character, not our work, that remains our rifle-like focus, source of trust for the future, and source of our identity now.
Friend, your work isn’t your identity. Being changed by the power of the Gospel means the “here’s your identity” comes before the “here’s what you do.” Obedience is rooted in a biblical understanding of your identity in Christ. As a believer, you will struggle and suffer many failures, yet your identity and the direction of your life will reveal Christ’s mastery over you (read 1 John)!
And, remember, too, that the more you work, the easier it is to trust your ability to provide over God’s ability to supply all things. If God is our patron, He will provide. If He does not, we should not exist. He has never failed. You can trust this omnipotent God to provide everything you need (Psalm 68:19; Phil. 4:19), and you can trust Him enough to rest.
But Are We Still Obligated to Keep the Sabbath Today?
The New Testament teaches that Christ freed us from the demands of the Law because He has completely fulfilled it (Matt. 5:16; Rom 10:4, etc.). All of the laws of Israel were given to point us to a greater reality that has come in the God-man, Jesus Christ. Ceremonies, special days, and dress codes of the Old Testament all pointed forward to His coming. When Jesus literally and bodily resurrected three days after His death (1 Cor. 15), He fulfilled the Sabbath law. Thus, Christians changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. In short, the point is that Christ is Himself the Sabbath (Heb. 4) and, if we are resting and rejoicing in His resurrection, we have fulfilled this commandment
You may say, “Okay, that’s great. But you still haven’t answered the question. Am I still required to keep the Sabbath?”
Friend, you should still keep the standard of the Sabbath. While we are freed from the technical law-keeping of the Sabbath itself, we are still sinners just like the Israelites were. This means that we should take the Lord’s Day (Sunday) to do a few things.
First, we should, literally, rest. No, this doesn’t mean you sleep all day. Be active in your local church on the Lord’s Day. Take a nap. Go to bed early. Avoid the trap of playing “catch-up” on your school work, laundry and house work.
Second, we should remember the mighty work of God in the Gospel. Why? Because, ultimately, the Gospel is our identity in what Jesus Christ has done for us. In Jesus, we’re totally loved and totally established by the only God whose opinion really matters. The self-improve and self-justification project many call their Christian life is quicksand.
What’s more, the Gospel is our security. I know that if God saved me, He’ll take care of me. If God gave up His Son to rescue you from slavery, do you really think He won’t help you to pay the light bill? Finally, the Gospel reminds us of our God-given purpose. When you look through the Gospel lens, everything starts to look different — your job, the people around you, your family.
Finally, take time to recalibrate your focus on God Himself. As humans, though created in God’s image, we are like a car out of alignment or a battery that must be recharged. You need — you must! — take one day to truly refocus your heart. God gave us His church to do that! It’s not about you. There’s only one glory and audience to live for — and that is God!
What do you trust in for your identity, security and provision? If you truly trust God, it will be shown if you obey Him (1 John 5:2-3). If you really trust Him, you obey Him knowing that He is responsible to meet your needs. Resting on His day is proof of this, too.
And what do you delight in? What do you rest in? What one thing are you most excited about? What does your heart most naturally gravitate toward?
If it isn’t resting in the all-providing God, you may be breaking this commandment.
Will you trust Him alone today?