Pastor Joe Valenti
What would you do with another day in the week? Do you have a hundred exciting things and restful things and restorative things that you can think of? Or….would you fill it up with the same stuff that the other days are filled with – because….well – there’s never enough time.
The Greeks had a way to distinguish these two types of time – two words – concepts of time that are both used in the Bible.
chronos is quantitative, exact, precise.
kairos is focused on the right or appropriate time for something.
chronos speaks to the fact that your lunch meeting with your friend is scheduled until 1:15 and then you need to leave because it will take you 10 minutes to get back to the office with a few minutes to spare for your 1:30 appointment.
kairos approaches time differently – it’s the right time to call off your next appointment and stay well into the afternoon sipping water as your friend pours out their heart through tears.
chronos tells you exactly when the sun officially sets according to scientific detail.
kairos is watching the sun set holding the hand of someone you love – sinking into the feelings of wonder and beauty and joy of the moment.
We tend to be a culture enslaved to chronos – always living in the guilt and sorrow of being so busy that we miss the best things, but God has a better way for us – a day set apart to do things differently than we do on days 1-6.
God breaks this down quite clearly:
What: Remember the Sabbath – pay attention to the sabbath and set it apart (that’s what holy means)
How: Stop doing the stuff you did on days 1-6 and do something different. (and let everyone else in your house and that works for you do the same)
Why: Because that is the example that I’ve given you, so strive to follow my example.
There has been much controversy and disagreement on the way to obey this commandment. First of all – what day is the sabbath day – Saturday or Sunday? Are modern Christians supposed to call it Sabbath if we’re not Jewish? What are you supposed to do – just go to church and then go home and make sure not to work?
If you look into latter parts of Exodus along with Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, you’ll see more detailed instructions for the Sabbath day – clarity on the type of work that was not to be done, restrictions on travel and business and worship.
4 Views on Sabbath
There are 4 primary views on this within Modern Christianity. There are surely other opinions and practices, but these are the 4 primary ones:
1. Seventh Day Observance
Some Christian denominations, like Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh Day Baptists, observe the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, in accordance with the original Jewish Sabbath. They believe that the fourth commandment’s directive to keep the seventh day holy remains binding for Christians.
2. Christian Sabbath
This view – held by many in across several Protestant denominations, including Presbyterian and Reformed churches, believe Sabbath keeping to be an enduring commandment that must be obeyed with the accompanying biblical restrictions.
Throughout the OT and into the time of Jesus, we see the Jewish people keeping Saturday as the sabbath. However, upon the resurrection of Jesus, they not only kept sabbath on Saturday but also began gathering on Sunday. As more and more Gentiles were saved, Sunday became the norm. In the 321 Constantine made Sunday a legal day of rest and had several restrictions. So, this is how we got to Sunday in a nutshell.
3. Lord’s Day View
Terms can get confusing, so instead of calling Sunday the “Christian Sabbath”, the view that we hold here at CVC defines Sunday as “The Lord’s Day. Here is the statement that we affirm from the Baptist Faith and Message.
“The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
If you want to learn more about the history of sabbath, the shift to Sunday, and the various views, I HIGHLY recommend that you visit cvconline.org/sundaysessions. Scroll down the episode list until you get to our Series on the Baptist Faith and Message and find Session #8 on the Lord’s Day. Raquel Schors taught the lesson and it is EXTRAORDINARY.
We do not believe that strict sabbath – as it is practiced prior to Christ – is an enduring demand on the Christian. Now, some people might argue “well, none of the other commandments change, why can we pick and choose?” Well, as we’ll continue to see throughout this series, Jesus surely does not abolish the law, but he fulfills it AND brings to light the heart of it. This is why, in a few weeks when we look at the commandment to not murder, you don’t get to miss church. Why, because Jesus, in Matthew 5, lets everyone know that it’s not merely those who commit the act of murder who break the commandment, but those who are slave to the underlying issue – anger.
In the same way, Jesus not only brings CLARITY to the heart of the sabbath, but also fulfills the sabbath.
Jesus is not diminishing the importance of the Sabbath – he never says that. However, he is communicating the HEART of the fourth commandment, namely that it is MADE FOR MAN, not the other way around. The physical, mental, emotional, and most of all spiritual wellbeing of humanity is the point. Sabbath rest and refreshment is not intended to be a burden, but a blessing. And, since he is Lord the Sabbath, what he says goes!
But there is more to Jesus being Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbath – along with circumcision, eating of kosher foods, and other laws were markers of Jewishness – signs of being in the covenant. But those signs all point to Jesus. As we move further into the NT, following the ascension of Jesus, there is a constant battle over whether or not the non-Jewish people need to do the same things to be marked as those who belong to God.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a drawn out defense against trusting in anything but Christ to be brought into God’s family. Similarly, Paul says this in Colossians chapter 2.
Paul is arguing that keeping sabbath doesn’t make you any more a member of God’s family than not keeping sabbath. It is a matter of heart and faith in Christ, not circumcision and sabbath-keeping.
So, at CVC we hold this 3rd view – the the Lord’s Day should include public and private worship and other activities commensurate with with your conscience UNDER THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS.
Sabbath is an opportunity to worship and enjoy the presence of God. Sabbath is an opportunity to remember that you’re not slaves anymore. Sabbath is an opportunity to restore your relationships with one another. Sabbath is an opportunity to show mercy to those in your household and workplace. Sabbath is an opportunity to trust God to provide for you and your family.
My worry is that most of us fall into the 4th view. A view that Donald Whitney, Professor at Southern Seminary, calls the Oblivious View.
4. Oblivious View
These believers go to church, but beyond that they’ve never considered whether the Bible has anything to say about what else they should or shouldn’t do on Sunday. They make their decisions about these things based far more upon cultural influences than upon the Bible or anything else. The “culture” that influences their actions may be their church culture or the general culture, but the primary influence is culture nonetheless. If just about everyone in their church commonly shops for groceries or goes to the mall on Sunday afternoon, then they will probably feel comfortable doing the same themselves. And if most everyone in the culture at large seems to be watching football on Sunday, then they won’t think twice about turning on the game after Sunday dinner.
My hope with the remainder of this sermon is to try to help you think more purposefully and biblically about how you spend your sabbath, or Sunday, or whatever day it is that you choose!
I’m going to keep using that word – sabbath – in the more general sense of the word – ceasing – specifically from the type of work that is done in days 1-6. But I don’t mean specific rules and regulations, I don’t mean Saturday, and I don’t even necessarily mean Sunday.
I work on Sunday, so I have to find a different day in the week to sabbath – the cease from my normal work of days 1-6 and do something else.
Let’s look again at the fourth commandment before we jump to Genesis to see the early roots of sabbath.
The Roots of Rest
God gives the commandment and instructions in verses 8-10, but then he ROOTS it all in the creation account. I’d like you to turn with me to Genesis chapter 1 so that you can follow along. If you follow the creation narrative of Genesis 1, you’ll notice that from the beginning God creates time – each day closes with the phrase “and there was evening and there was morning”. Each day has a beginning and an end. A specific time dedicated to the specific work done that day in creation. On the 6th day God creates the first humans. We see the short version in Genesis 1:26-31 and a more detailed narrative of day 6 is expanded in chapter 2, verses 5-24. And God is very careful to tell us what Adam and Eve are commissioned to do in the garden. The work – apparently – is “good” just like everything else in the creation. Work had not yet become burdensome and tarnished. It was holy, good, a vital role of humanity.
The whole world has been created, beautiful and yet wild and untamed. In a place called Eden God creates a garden – a place or order, and provision. Adam and Eve have been created and have been given purpose – WORK: they are to work and keep the garden. MULTIPLY: multiply his image bearers in the world. Fill, subdue, have dominion: take the garden and push the order and beauty out of Eden and into all of creation.
Then, we see what happens on day 7…
Is God tired? Of course not, God doesn’t get tired. So – what was he doing on the 7th day? And what were Adam and Eve doing? The Hebrew word used here is sabat. Sabat does not mean to fall asleep, it means to cease. So, God didn’t take a nap – he finished the work of creation and began the work of relationship – communion – proximity. God desires proximity to his people – closeness – intimacy – communion.
This is why – even after sin enters the world – God provides pathways back to communion with him, sacrifices, the tabernacle, the temple – and of course, Jesus himself who made the once-for-all sacrifice that imputed his righteousness to us and tore the veil to the most holy place to represent that intimacy with God had been accomplished. This is why Revelation closes by pointing us to the picture of what eternity in the new heavens and new earth will be like – the dwelling place of God with man. From beginning to end we see the best and most blessed place to be is unhurried in the presence of God.
Sabbath day communion between God and man IS the pinnacle and it is not supposed to end! It’s curious. The Bible doesn’t tell us everything, but there are some interesting things to consider. Adam and Eve’s first day with their new tasks is – the 7th day. There doesn’t seem to be an end to the 7th day – no, “and there was evening and there was morning.” Adam and Eve still have things that they have been commissioned to do, but the intimacy, the relationship, and communion with God that begins here on the 7th day is the ideal. This is what we’re being pointed to.
A kairos season of doing everything with meaning and purpose and pleasure in the presence of God. Yes, there was work to do, but the work was not yet tainted and cursed. Sure the clock would still run. Sure there would be evening and morning – but the intimacy was not intended to stop. But then sin enters the world, the intimacy is lost – both with one another and with God, and the work becomes cursed. No matter how much you like your job, you and I know that sin and brokenness still hangs on it like a 1 million point weighted blanket.
Now, he goes on to say, “doing our work is often like trying to build something with the wrong tool: sawing wood with a hammer, turning screws with a tape measure, pulling nails with a crescent wrench. Frustration is coded into the very structure of the fallen creation.”
If, after studying the Scriptures and asking for help from the Lord, you find it best to lean towards the strict observance of a day of rest – that’s okay. As long as you’re not elevating the regulations above the relationship. If you can best worship, rest, and restore with a more disciplined approach – that’s fine.
If, after studying the Scriptures and asking for help from the Lord, you find that a more loose approach is best for you and your family, that can be okay too. But just as we cannot mistake regulation for relationship, we must not mistake sabbath for vacation. Is the best way to spend Sunday drifting in and out of sleep all day long on the couch while missing opportunities to reconnect with family, friends, the Lord, and the very good gifts that he can given us? I think you’ll be as equally hard-pressed to find that approach in the Bible as you will focusing on rule keeping over restoration.
My prayer as your pastor and as one on this journey with you – is that the Lord would help us learn to sanctify time. That’s really the aim of all of this isn’t it? that we would learn to sanctify – set aside – be purposeful with time. God invites you out of the hurried, choatic slavery to chronos and into the peace and presence of kairos. God gives you permission to slow down and INVITES you to enjoy HIM and all of his very good gifts…to enjoy the unique and supernatural things that happens when his people gather – his presence is especially present among us.
He bids us to spend time with our family that chronos seems to rob from us all week. Between homework and soccer practice and dance performances and angry birds, all too often we go to bed on days 1-6 without deep connection, without learning something new about that child or grandchild that seems to keep growing up too quickly. Bake something, make something, ask something, eat something without letting chronos ruin it. Be fully present – live in the kairos – restore the relationship.
This day – the day that we worship, rest, and restore – whatever you like to call it – is meant to cause us to stop long enough to see that maybe – just maybe – you’ve been filed down as thin as a cheese slicer wire too. And maybe it’s time to trust that God knows what is best. Maybe it’s time to trust that he’s enough for us and that we don’t need to keep on grinding through all seven days as if we need to take care of ourselves because he can’t.
Maybe it’s time to take him up on the offer of sabbath, rest, worship, the restoration of relationship, body, mind, and spirit. This day is meant to give us a little glimpse into the future – to make us long for heaven – to give us a little taste of what Eden was like before the mess and what eternity will be like in the new heavens and new earth without the mess. Where we won’t have a care in the world about chronos.
The time is coming when kairos will be all that we know. When the Eden ideal of unhurried presence, and work, and adventure, and life will be all that we know.