I Miss Mayberry (Christian Sabbath)
by Aaron Binion
Country music artists Rascal Flatts sang, “Sunday was the day of rest, now it’s one more day for progress; and we can’t slow down ‘cause more is best, it’s all an endless process.” Like Rascal Flatts, I miss Mayberry where things were black and white.
Is there any wonder why the world gets increasingly wicked while churches continue to diminish in power with increasing Biblical illiteracy when God’s people break the Sabbath? The disappearance of the blue laws (mandatory Sunday closings) that made Mayberry great provided options for Christians to either worship on Sunday or treat Sunday like any other day of the week. What does Sabbath breaking say about our commitment, love, and dedication to God? God’s commandment was to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). The Westminster Confession of Faith reads, “The fourth commandment requires of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as He hath appointed in His word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian Sabbath, and in the New Testament called the Lord’s day.”
So here are some excuses for breaking the Sabbath:
1. OT Sabbath laws were ceremonial, given to the Israelites, and as such they have passed away with the sacrificial system. The problem with that excuse is that the 10 commandments are a part of God’s moral law. It is still wrong to erect idols, kill, murder, lie, and etc. There are 10 commandments not nine. If the Sabbath were only for the Jews, then why did God sanctify it 2,000 years before He gave the law to Moses? The Sabbath was instituted before the fall of man, meaning the law is still binding.
2. Sabbatarians (strict Sabbath observers) are pharisaical and legalistic. People will cite passages like Romans 14:5 or Colossians 2:16-17. This mistake comes from confusing the ceremonial sabbaths (instituted under Moses for the purpose of pointing to Christ) with the weekly Sabbath law (a creation ordinance). John Murray wrote, “Why should insistence on the Sabbath observance be pharisaical or legalistic? The question is, is it a divine ordinance? If it is then adherence to it is not legalistic any more than adherence to the other commands of God.”
3. There are no consequences of not keeping the Sabbath. The penalty for working on the Sabbath in the OT was death (Numbers 15:32-36). An example of ceremonial Sabbath breaking was the Israelites who every seven years were to let the land rest. They didn’t keep the law, and as a result they had 70 years taken from them (Leviticus 26:28-35). Don’t think God won’t do that today. Though the ceremonial law is not binding anymore, the Lord’s Day is still binding and there will continue to be consequences. It’s quite interesting as a general rule the people who break the Sabbath to work are often the ones who struggle the most with their finances. Do they struggle so they have to work or are they struggling because they refuse to give God what belongs to Him? There have always been consequences for Sabbath breaking. It was on the Lord’s day that the Apostle John received the vision of Revelation. Good thing he wasn’t too busy on Patmos to observe the Sabbath. “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14). There are three parts of the verse; honoring the Sabbath, not doing thy pleasure (any action that might be right on the other six days but not on Sunday), and speaking words or idle talk where God is forgotten or ignored. Nehemiah had a manly boldness in regards to the Sabbath sadly lacking today (Nehemiah 13:21).
4. Jesus didn’t command us to observe the Sabbath. The Pharisees got on to Jesus for working on the Sabbath. Jesus worked on the Sabbath so why can’t I? Listen to Jesus’ saying: “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day. My Father works even until now and I work” (Matthew 12:12). Jesus was proving to the Pharisees that the Sabbath wasn’t characterized by idleness. It’s not work that we should abstain from on the Sabbath –it’s our secular work. The Sabbath is not just a day of rest from work; it is a day of rest in order that the people of God may devote themselves to God.
5. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath. When the Jerusalem council met in Acts 15 they didn’t impose Sabbath keeping on Gentile believers. The Apostle Paul lists many sins in his epistles and breaking the Sabbath was never one of them. Well, I could be wrong about this but I think the reason we don’t see the command is because it wasn’t needed. Giving God one complete day is a basic principle of stewardship. He gives you six days to get your work and recreation done. Keeping one day “holy” to worship God, is a quota below the common practice of the New Testament church and is far less than a tithe (Acts 2:46).
6. I’m just too tired. I’m on vacation. A person who stays up late and misses public worship, or who comes to church so fatigued that his attention is not focused upon God and His Word, has violated the Lord’s Day. When you are tempted with being too tired, remind yourself of the humiliation and immense suffering Christ endured for the salvation of your soul. Too many people are like the people in the Old Testament who say, “What a weariness this is” (Malachi 1:13). During the summer months, the biggest excuse for missing church on Sunday is a vacation. Nothing in the Bible suggests a vacation is a valid reason for not keeping the Sabbath. In Mayberry days, people would take their vacations but be back in time for church on Sunday. Visiting other sound churches may be a viable option but a church member can miss being at their home church too much to the point where they are no longer a member in good standing with the local body where they hold membership.
7. What about the kids? Either my kids will miss out on the fun stuff the other kids are doing or going to church every Sunday is child’s play. In Mayberry, sometimes parents were so strict in setting the example for their kids that going to church became about the kids instead of the parent’s personal obedience to God’s command. As a result, many children that grew up in church no longer sensed a need for it. That scenario has changed the past couple of decades. Today’s generation faces traveling ball teams, dance teams, etc. that practice or compete on Sunday. Children who are taught that it is ok to compromise on keeping the Sabbath will unfortunately be apt to compromise on other issues as well.
8. Nothing in the Bible commands that the church hold Sunday night services or requires me to be there if it does.Even among churches that have Sunday night services most people think these services are optional or not beneficial and as a result attendance is severely lacking. The Sabbath is called the Lord’s Day, not the Lord’s hour. The first Sunday worship service happened on resurrection morning. Luke 24 tells us the women went to the tomb on Sunday to anoint the body of Christ. They didn’t go on Saturday because of the Sabbath law. If there were a good excuse to break the Sabbath it would be to anoint the body of Christ. Try comparing that reason to the excuses people try to use today. If you follow the story of the first day of Christ’s resurrection you’ll find that they had a Sunday night service. It was on Sunday night that Christ gave the Great Commission. The fact that the church was commissioned on Sunday night explains why it’s the core of the church who come back on Sunday night. On a Sunday night, Jesus came to His disciples, taught them, commissioned them, and promised the Holy Spirit. Between services they had a meal. A disciple named Thomas missed out. Perhaps he didn’t understand the importance of the Sunday night service.
For many people church is a task to get out of the way on Sunday morning so they can focus on chores, errands, sports, or other interests. Sunday night services help to keep priorities straight. If the New Testament doesn’t specify a pattern of two worship services held weekly on Sunday it was only because they were meeting for worship more than that. Instead of meeting more than Sunday, many churches are moving away from a pattern of two worship services on Sunday to meet for worship much less than that. There’s a tragic difference. While there may not be an explicit command to have two services on the Lord’s day there is a clear Scriptural pattern of “morning and evening” (Genesis 1-2). God commanded the daily offerings in the tabernacle to be made once in the morning and then again at night (Numbers 28:1-10, Exodus 29:38-39). Psalms 92 (identified as a psalm for the Sabbath) reads, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High, to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.” Morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day has been the norm all through church history. Eusebius wrote in the fourth century, “For it is surely no small sign of God’s power that throughout the whole world in the churches of God at the morning rising of the sun and at the evening hours, hymns, praises, and truly divine delights are offered to God. God’s delights are indeed the hymns sent up everywhere on earth in his Church at the times of morning and evening.”
One of the main reasons why the evening worship service has been greatly neglected in our day is because of a generally low view of preaching and worship. Instead of going to church on Sunday night it’s much more fun to watch football, spend time with the family, or watch movies. A lot of pastors don’t have the time, desire, energy, or commitment to prepare two sermons, but they don’t necessarily have to. Young preachers and Bible teachers would love to have an opportunity to preach or teach. However, because church members may not attend these services the lessons may lack quality from a lack of preparation, further complicating the problem. Malachi condemned the priests of his day who sniffed at their service of the Lord and complained about how tiresome they found it to be. In their judgments about corporate worship God saw judgments about the state of their own hearts. There is something wrong. A church whose lights only work on Sunday morning might want to check and see if they have a candlestick (Revelation 2:5). The doctrine of the church, if it means anything at all, means that when the church gathers on Sunday (morning and evening) every member needs to be there. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together (Hebrews 10:12).
Do you love God 100%? Can you really say that you put Him first, if you disregard His day? Ultimately we will answer to God for what we do on His day whether we live in Mayberry or not.