30 Oct 2016

Sabbath – The Christian Holi-day


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We are grateful that we can look forward to our new home in about five weeks' time. It is really fast don't you think?  It's five weeks away and we will no more be here now if we indeed will be able to complete a building construction in time then in five weeks' time, please don't come here, ah you'll just meet with the hotel staff, but do join us in Punggol as we look forward to a new home and a new mission field to shine the light of the Gospel. I know some of you right now must be thinking wah, how far this is man?  My traveling time will go up 30 minutes, 45 minutes, it's so inconvenient, err… how am I going to fit my child's piano lessons, my tuition class, my ballet class, how am I going to fit all those things in, in Punggol. So this morning, I want to encourage your heart with the Word of God. I pray not only will you be encouraged from Scripture in our move to Punggol but you would also be having that heart that is like good soil, so that when the seed of God's Word will fall in, you will not just be hearers but you will do, you will obey, so I pray that all of us today will have an obedient heart. So this topic today, I think is very relevant for many people, you're struggling about time, you're struggling about the travel, I want to alleviate all that stress and tension for you by sharing with you about the Sabbath, in particular the Christian Sabbath. This is not often taught, I suppose, in our church, I checked and the last time I preached on Sabbath was eight years ago, now that's a long time. Some of you have not even been in Gospel Light then or I would suspect most of you would have forgotten what I said eight years ago, I'm sure. I forgot myself, huh, so what is the Sabbath and why is it so important, what relevance does it have for our move to Punggol?

Well let's look at what the Bible says. In Exodus 20, God tells us remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. The Jews understood what it meant to keep the seventh day as a Sabbath to the Lord, their God. The Sabbath, therefore, for the Jews are kept on Saturday, that's the seventh day, the first day is Sunday, according to the Jewish calendar but today, you say, why don't we observe it on Saturday. Well, that's because with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the early church made the special day now Sunday, the first day of the week, that's why we read in the Bible that it is a special day kept by the early church.  On the first day of the week in Acts 20, on the first day of the week in first Corinthians 16 and it is called the Lord's day in Revelation 1 so the principle of one in seven is observed, although to commemorate and to remember the resurrection of our Lord, it is shifted from Saturday to Sunday so we have what we would say, a Christian Sabbath today.  According to Moody, he says the Sabbath was binding in Eden, God rested on the Sabbath on the six, seventh day and has been in force ever since. This is the fourth commandment in the ten commandments. It is also the longest commandment in the ten commandments but it is probably the most forgotten commandment in the ten commandments. I like to start now by having a little demonstration, give me one minute, will you?

Now, looking at the build and the size and the macho-ness of both men, let me ask you, if I were to ask both of them to carry the chair for a minute, who do you think would find it easier to carry? Jonathan or Tommy? Tommy. So you think he will last longer right?  O.K. let's put it to the test. So Jon and Tommy, what I need you to do is to hold the chair, not just up like this, but with outstretched arms and I'll give you one minute, alright but my treatment of the both of you may not be the same, let let's see what it means, alright, so can you please lift up the chair one minute, alright, straight out the arms, must be straight, one minute alright. Let's see, don't embarrass yourselves in front of the whole church, stay there. Now, Jonathan you can lower your chair for a while, let's see how long Tommy lasts, one minute ah, it's ah… 25 seconds now.  Now Jon, you can take up the chair now. O.K, Jon you can put it down now.  Tommy, you can give up you know, you can, yes hah, hah, hah, alright, let's give them a round of applause, thank you guys, thank you.

Well, the demonstration didn't quite work but I didn't want to torture Tommy further. But you know if I had set that at five minutes, I think Tommy would have struggled and would have let go but Jon Chong might be able to last five minutes because he had rest. See the difficulty of tasks today is sometimes related to the fact that we didn't take a break, didn't have rest, so you asked what is the purpose for the Sabbath, I say according to Scripture, it is for rest. After all the words Sabbath in the original meaning, really means to cease, to pause or to rest. Some of you are struggling through life, you're tired, you are weary, you feel like you've been working for a long, long time and that's what you need folks, rest. According to Exodus 23, God says, six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, maybe refreshed. God's wisdom is that His people need rest. In fact, I believe humanity is created with a certain rhythm, the Genesis rhythm, we are made to work six days and we need a rest on the seventh, that's your rhythm, that's the way He made you. Some of you don't believe it because you have watched too much advertisement  and you think you're like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps going on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on, you think you're battery-operated but you aren't.  You are made by God and your Creator knows what's best for you, in fact, this so important that God Himself modelled it for us. The Bible tells us that God worked or created the world in six days and then He rested on the seventh. Now let me say this, God is omnipotent, He doesn't need to rest, our God never sleeps nor slumbers, He doesn't need the rest, but He deliberately paused on day seven to convey the importance of rest to humanity.

Now, I'm sure you know that God didn't actually cease from doing anything else, He continues His sustaining work, He continues His redemptive work, but He did stop for creation work and that's to convey to you and I that we need to follow a Genesis rhythm. You have been carrying this chair and if you burnt out, exhausted, it's taken a toll on your life, you're emotionally high strung, you are stressed, you're tensed, you're unpleasant to people around you, you know why, because you're so burnt, exhausted. What you need today is to believe in what the Bible says, you need rest.

Vance Havner, a preacher of time past, who is known for short powerful statements, he says, you must come apart to rest, or we come apart, no break and you will break that's what he is saying. You need to have that break, you need to have that rest so maybe some of you today, you're running on empty, struggling through life, miserable life, no joy on your face, your family is scared of you because you're always so stressed,  people avoid you, say what's the problem because you're not following your Creator's instructions for your life, you are not following his manual for your life,  you think you're Energizer Bunny, but when we are anything but.  You say Pastor, how then can I provide for my family?  I mean, I need to work hard and if I, I, if I don't work on Sunday, I would lose my clients, I I can't finish my work, I've so much to study, my O Levels, A-levels, aiyoh, I need to work hard. I say yes but the formula God gave to us is that you labor for six days, do all your work in six days so if you really want to rest on the Sabbath it means that you must work hard for six days you, you don't say I'm going to rest on Sabbath and therefore I can also rest every other day and be slack about my life, no, you work hard on six days and you trust God that even if you don't work on the seventh, He will provide.  It's like the farmer, the farmer in those days, he must be thinking if I till the ground every day I will have more crops but he understands God says six days that's all you need, trust me, seventh day rest.

Maybe some of you today are already a workaholic. You know we today in our humanity, human society we frown upon alcoholism, wa, addicted to alcohol it’s a bad thing. Do you know that workaholism is an addiction too, and it's equally bad. Singaporeans, we are such performance-driven people. We pride ourselves that we work hard, now laziness is not good, according to the Bible, sure but being overly busy is also equally bad and we are addicted to workaholism and being proud of it.  God says no you can trust me, work hard for six days, don't be lazy but trust me that I will provide. This has great relevance for me when I was younger, of course, till today, it is still very important in my life. I, I came to Christ at 18 years old and I was about to enter university and it must be through the preaching of the church, I I got to understand and learn about the ten commandments, I learned about the Sabbath. So early on in my life, I decided I will honour the Lord in keeping the Sabbath and so determined not to study on Sunday. In med school, it's a highly competitive environment, I'm sure some of you might know and err you always feel a tinge of “kiasu” [hokkien:afraid to lose out] that you didn't study and someone studies and you always think they are trying to catch up so on Sunday, I will go to church, I was staying in the hostel then and on the way back in the evening, I will  walk by the medical library and I'll see all my friends studying and mugging in the library like “lian-gong” you know, [Chinese: 练功  practise work/skill] wa, practising martial arts in the library, in their cave and I'm, I'm out there and you feel a little in balance, aiyoh, am I going to lose out then I go back to the hostel, there's a study room, there, I will go to the study room, not to study medicine, but to study the Bible and again, you feel the pressure around. I still remember it was the final exams, one year, the seniors were very kind, they went all around the library, the study room and they wanted to give us little supper, a little bit of things to encourage us and when they came to my table, they saw me, what you reading huh, I say, I'm reading the Bible, are you crazy, it's exams tomorrow, but it was clear to me six days shall I labor and do all my work. Now I think I've some classmates here, and they will know that I study hard from Monday to Saturday, but Sunday is a beautiful day of rest for me for all that all those years of studies five years of studies, I've never felt shortchanged. Now, there is temptation as I walked past the library, but after the exams, during the exams, I never felt that aiyah, I should have studied one day more, I would have gotten a better grade, no never once. In fact every Monday I enter into the school week, with the verve and joy and energy. I see all my friends walking like that one huh, like walking dead zombies, all around. They are so haggard, study until so “chum” [Hokkien:pitiful] I say, I don't have to be so “chum” what a joy to work six days and trust God.  See God designs us in this rhythm that we may trust Him, we may rest in Him and you know what that marks you out as a people of faith. The world has no one they could trust so they work with all their might. They work themselves to the bones but the child of God declares his faith in the Sabbath, he can rest.

Some of you will say, wa Pastor, this is good man, this sermon, in fact someone came in early this morning pastor, you're talking about rest, wa, sounds good because the idea we have maybe is that when we talk about rest, it means to sleep lah, to laze or in Hokkien here we would say to “ zobo” or to “nua” sit there and rot, wow what a beautiful, especially today, so, so cool aah wah feel like sleeping huh, Sunday is a great day to sleep.

Well let me say this, the Bible's understanding or teaching on rest is not for us to be in inactivity but the second purpose of the Sabbath is for us to remember.  To have a remembrance of God, who gave us the Sabbath. Remember what about God? Well, back to Exodus 20 the Sabbath is to the Lord your God is not to “zhou-gong” “zhou-gong” Chinese means to the sleep, to the to sleeping, no, I don't think Sabbath is for sleeping, Sabbath is for remembering but you need to rest from your work in order to remember so God wants us to observe the Sabbath, that we may remember God to have a God-centered, God-focused rest, a true rest to the soul, a true rest to your spiritual life. What do you remember about God, you remember that He's the Creator, the mighty God who created the heavens and the earth with His mere words, not only do you remember His creatorship, you remember His salvation. In Deuteronomy it is said, you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore look at this, therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. Why do I keep the Sabbath, oh because I am to remember it is God who saved us, we were slaves, helpless, abused for 400 years until God stepped in and the Sabbath is a great opportunity for me to remember that, you know, the Sabbath is for you today to remember how He made you and how He saved you, how we were all steeped in our sin, helpless and hopeless until God sends His Son Jesus to die for us and therefore the Lord says it's a great day to remember the redemptive story, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Exodus 31, above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I the Lord, sanctify you.

What is the Sabbath for?  To chain you, to restrict you? no, it's a beautiful blessing to rest and to remember. Some of you look like this you know that, buried in a ton of work. Wa, so much to do, so many clients to meet, so many exam papers to go through, I know the exams are just over folks. Primary school, secondary school, just over so now today you're in church lah!  Maybe for the past few weeks you have not been in church and your mom has also not been in church. Why? Also working with you, wahlau (local slang=oh dear), do your maths lah, you're working very hard no for your exams, Monday to Sunday. You know is that really what God thinks is important?  Now don't, don't misunderstand me, I think it's important to study hard but is your studies more important than your relationship with God?  I mean, when you go to heaven are you going to talk about eh, my PSLE,  got 275 leh I mean, are you going to talk about that,  does it really matter or is your walk with God priority. Sunday is a beautiful day to create space. We all need space.  It's terrible, living in a house where there is no space, you can't do anything, if you want to do something you need space, you want to walk close with God, you want to have intimacy with Him, you really want to worship Him and know Him and serve Him, you need space. You say pastor, I have no time, I have no space, I tell you six days you labor and on the seventh, remember it, to keep it unto the Lord, that's your space, beautiful God-given space.

There's a story told about mules, these are the animals that work underground in mining coals. They work deep down and is very, very dark and one day a passerby came and they saw that there was a whole line of mules in the fields walking, just circling round and round not sure what they're doing, they are just walking round and round and so they asked the people there why are the mules out here walking round and round and not down there working. The people say oh, the mules have been working underground for six days a week and if they do not come out into the light, they may lose their eyesight so they take that one in seven, to prevent themselves going blind. I'm afraid many Christians are not as wise as these coal miners. We've allowed ourselves to go blind spiritually because every day is the same and you don't have the space to remember God.

Sunday is such an important day for My Spiritual life as I've said Sunday is a non-negotiable for me not just to attend services on Sunday, but to pursue Him in the Scriptures, studying myself and also to serving Him and I never have the stress and pressure of saying oh, I have to rush back now, because my pathology has not been done or my anatomy, I have not studied that that, that arm and that blood vessel no, Sunday's the Lord's, be relaxed with God's people, be attentive during the service, be joyful in ministry, no need to hey, please rush, say faster, I got no time to talk to you lah, absolutely beautiful.

When I started to work as a doctor we would sometimes have to do weekend duties, I mean, somebody's got to be in the hospital to take care of patients er, most of the time we work like in weekends will be 24, 36 hour shifts around there, and most of us would choose to be working on Sunday, rather than on Saturday. Reason is very simple if you work on Sunday, you get to go on an early off on Monday, I mean you work so long they let you off in the afternoon for Monday but if you work on Saturday, it's the worst day you get off on Sunday but that was supposed to be off day anyway so nobody likes to work on Saturday but whenever I get a call on Sunday, I will always swap with a friend who is working on Saturday and they will be very happy to swap with me they are delighted,  because they at least get the Monday off, but the reason why I wanted to swap is simply this- that I would have the privilege together with God's people in the church to worship Him and to fellowship with His people. That's that's all there is so I will wake up early on Sunday morning, I work throughout the day on Saturday, I wake up early on Sunday morning, maybe 6am before my senior doctors will come, I'll go through the patients, I'll do all the changes, paperwork, take blood, do it, do it all so that when he comes and he makes the decisions, I would have done most of the decisions and whatever is left, I will quickly have it done and rush to church. I'm sure when I got to church I remembered those days, I will be very tired, Pastor Paul might recall this guy nodding away in the sermon, wa, why he agrees so much…ah I I probably would have been sleepy and tired I'm sure but you know what, even in the midst of those sleepy periods, I could still hear God's Word, I could still sing unto Him, I could still after that, talk to God's people, I I love the fact that this Sunday is a day for Him.

So my friends, are you going blind spiritually because you have made it such a low priority in your life and you wonder why am I not walking close to God, why am I struggling my Christian life?  Maybe you have no space so the Sabbath today is not just a holiday, it's a great holiday by the way, many of you are thinking, wa, I want to go Bali, I worked so hard this year,  I want to go Bali.  No need to go Bali, every week also have holiday one, provided for you know, work six days, and God will bless, honour me and I will honour you, but it is not just a holiday is a holy day, today onto the Lord so what's the purpose of Sabbath?

Well number one, it's for rest. Nothing wrong with that we are made to rest, so do something different from what you usually do, it might even involve some kind of sports, it might involve some kind of a time at the beach, by all means no problem with rest but let it not just be inactivity, but also remember Christ, remember your Saviour, that's why the church gathers on the Lord's day, we keep it unto the Lord but thirdly and lastly, I believe this commandment is not just for us, it's not for selfish gains alone but thirdly, it is for relief.  Where do you get this, well, it's straight from Jesus, he said, so it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, amazing statement, because it was spoken in the context of questioning people, the Jewish leaders were coming to Jesus and say… eh eh how could He heal someone on Sabbath and then the Jews were all fixated about a list of dos and don'ts, cannot do this, cannot do that, cannot do this, cannot do that, so when they saw Jesus do something, heal someone, how could you do that? Jesus then gave them a very simple illustration, if your ox falls into a ditch, what would you do?  Save the ox of course.  Then Jesus says then why is it wrong to heal, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath day like I said about God, He did not stop all work. He stopped creation work, but he continued with sustaining and redemptive work. Likewise, when we stop our normal work on Monday to Saturday there is nothing wrong with serving God on Sunday. Nothing wrong with visiting the poor on the Lord's day. Nothing wrong with helping the sick on this day, it is lawful to do good, beautiful to do good, quoting from Hosea 6:6, Jesus says, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, I want you to show mercy, I don't want you to just legalistically keep the Sabbath and do nothing, it's designed for you to show good works, that's why when you go to Punggol, it is a great thing for you to work as a traffic marshal, wa very hard work ah, Pastor I need to rest, yeah it's also for relief, it's okay for you to, it's great for you to teach Sunday school, it's beautiful for some of our ladies, many of our ladies will be cooking a storm, hard work but still rest you know, different work and rest in God so Sabbath is a joy and a delight. I hope you will not walk away from this place thinking wa! this Sabbath is such a cruel command, tsk tsk tsk tsk… cannot work. No no I hope you will walk away with that.  It is not a cruel command. It is a gracious gift. The Sabbath is not a burden, but a blessing, when you understand it.  I hope you'll also not be legalistic about this, er there are people who ask hey Pastor how about those who work in the service industry, they work on Sunday, are they sinning against God?  Not really I think you can observe the principle of one in seven.  There are churches that have worship services on other days as well. It's not, not meant to chain you, but to bless you.

I hope that in this church, you'll also not walk around with legalistic eyes, eh look at the brother Sunday every time go home so early, ungodly man la, don't want to spend time in church, always go back and do his business. I hope we don't go around with that mindset too.  You see this is a blessing for you, it's not for us to criticise others about but here is what God says, I have blessed the Sabbath, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. Therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and made it holy. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath so this is not meant to be a chain, a prison, a jail. This is a blessing.

Henry Ward Beecher says a world without a Sabbath would be like a man without a smile, like a summer without flowers and like a homestead without a garden. It is the joyous day of the week.  Voltaire, an atheist who hates God, he says, I can never hope to destroy Christianity until I first destroy the Christian Sabbath. Even the unsaved know how important Sabbath is to the church.  How about you?  Tell me what the young men of England are doing on Sunday and I'll tell you what the future of England will be.  Let me say this.  Tell me what you are doing on Sunday and I'll tell you what the future of Gospel Light will be.  Punggol, great test for us, at the same time, a great facility for us, I mean, we are so used, after all these years of nomadic traveling to rush off after church and you know what plan our kids, piano, swimming, sports, ballet, meet my client, finish my office work, we're so used to that.  Maybe it's a lack of understanding of what the Sabbath really means and what it is to be for your life but I think this is a great place, a great place where you can really worship, fellowship, serve with joy and freedom with people all around you and be able to say this is a beautiful day in the house of the Lord.  I pray today you will not look at the watch and say Punggol thirty minutes more, because it's not about thirty minutes it's about day unto the Lord. It's about creating that space that you may live in poise and elegance and grace not be rushed and hurried through life, you can take time to be holy you can take them to serve Him.  You say I really want to serve God but I've no time but the Lord’s day is your time and let me encourage you lastly with this with this verse. If you turn your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable, if you honour it not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly then you shall take delight in the Lord and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth, I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father for the mouth of the Lord has spoken, the burden of blessing you is not upon me, it's upon God, the mouth of the Lord has spoken, will you listen, will you obey?

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.  My friends, are you overworked and stressed out and nasty?  Are you saying to yourself, I've no time, I wish I could serve God more but I can't find any slot in my schedule.  Are you yearning for a deeper intimacy with Him?  Are you contented with the way your Christian life is going?  If your answer is no, then maybe one of the best decisions, one of the most life changing decisions you can make in your life this year, might be this, I will remember the Sabbath to keep it holy unto the Lord.   I will keep it, so that I will be freed from the slavery of overwork.  I will keep it, so that I will have a vibrant worshipful life with God.  I will keep it so that I can be full of good works reaching to the needy and poor around. I don't want to rush my life through this world. I don't want to be a hamster running on the wheel.  I want a meaningful worshipful life.

God in His infinite wisdom has created this rhythm in your soul.  He has given this provision in the Scriptures. He has given you His promise.  My friends, would you trust Him?  Would you have faith in Him to make this choice?

Maybe some of you are here for the first time and you're wondering what is the Christian message about, let me say this, the Christian message, amongst many things, is about rest, do you realise that?  It began in Genesis and it is the message throughout the Bible. the Bible tells us there remains a rest for the people of God because some of you today are in turmoil you're struggling, you're saying I'm a sinner, but I want to be saved. I I want to know God but I can't seem to find that rest in God.  What do I do?  Then hear the words of Jesus when he says, come ye who are heavy laden, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, come to me and I will give you rest. Jesus is the rest that we need because Jesus has done it all and paid it all on the Cross. Your search for God, my friends will end when you come to Jesus Christ, because He paid the price for your sins so this morning I just want to give you this time. I think this is a very important decision. It is, it was a life-changing moment for me, 20 over years ago.  It is my Spiritual life line, I will not be where I am today I will be far worse than what I am today if not for God's grace in helping me keep the Christian Sabbath. I believe your life will never be the same again, if you keep the Christian Sabbath. If you keep it to the full intent of what God has designed for you, you will change, you will be blessed, your family will be enriched, so take time to be holy.

Father this morning we are thankful for Your Word.  As we've begun I pray that we'll not just have ears that are itching to hear some new things but we will have hearts that will say, Lord, help me to do, help me to obey, even if I've heard this many times, but help me now to obey you so I want to pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ, that our lives will be improved and changed as we obey your formula and as you put our trust in you. I pray that friends and guests were here today for the first time, would realise that there is rest in Jesus, rest from our own efforts to save ourselves and finding that He has done it all on the Cross so bless each one this morning, we thank you and we ask all this in Jesus Name, amen.

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