Pastor’s Sermon

Pastor’s Sermon

The Lord is with Us!
Photography by Don Blais

Celebrating The Lord’s Day                                                                                                                by Pastor Judy Rasmussen

October 24, 2021

The Word of God says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I shared with Jerry this past week that a matter of common concern has been brought to my attention more than a few times in our congregation over the past few months. And even though I have given individuals Scriptural support and confirmation along the way, it seems to need additional clarification for our entire body.

I pray that for all of us, this will be received as a teaching and training in righteousness, as the Scripture calls it, and that it will prove to be helpful for equipping all of us to serve God better together. As Christians, our freedom in serving God together in unity is given to us by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit has encouraged me in that the direct approach is the best approach. I want to affirm for you and proclaim, as our Scriptures do this morning, that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. I also declare to you that today, this first day of the week, being Sunday, is The Lord’s Day.

The question that has been raised is about whether or not we’re meeting on the wrong day of the week to worship God together. Some of you say, “shouldn’t we be coming to church on Saturday instead of Sunday?  Isn’t Saturday the true Sabbath? We know other church denominations that meet on Saturdays; maybe they’re right and we are wrong. Are Christians today supposed to keep the Saturday Sabbath or is Sunday now the Sabbath Day?  Are we breaking the Law by not keeping a Saturday Sabbath and all of its rules and restrictions? Or are we falling into the trap of legalism by judging one another when we disagree about which day to gather together in worshipping God?” What are the answers to these many questions?

I understand your frustration and I know that the reason some of you are struggling over these issues is because you want to be in the Lord’s will, and you don’t want to be sinning against God. I commend each of you for your sincerity of heart in bringing these questions to light, and as we look at the Word of God, I hope it will clear up the confusion.

Romans 14:1 clearly tells us that whether we are those who are weaker in our faith than others, or those who may have strong opinions and beliefs, we are not to entertain doubtful disputations, or arguments, or to pass judgment on one another for our differences of opinions or practices when it comes to our personal preferences, customs, or traditions in serving God.

If you will oblige me, I pray that Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. and ease your mind as we confirm the facts of the Word together. I pray God’s peace and joy over each of you through the knowledge of His Word. Perhaps we err in asking the question when we say, “on which day should we celebrate the Sabbath”, Saturday or Sunday? The answer to this one is actually quite simple because these two days of Resting in the Lord, as referenced and ordained by God in the Scripture, are not one in the same day. The Sabbath Day and The Lord’s Day are not synonymous, and the confusion about this within our body of believers, whether we are aware of it or not, is because some of us are using these terms interchangeably. Yet this is in error, as the Scripture will reveal to us.

The Sabbath, as God ordained it for Israel, is in fact, on the Seventh Day of the Week, which is Saturday; and the Christian observance of The Lord’s Day, as described in the Scriptures, is on the first day of the Week, which is Sunday.

These two days have two different origins and are based on two different relationships with the Lord our God. I believe that confusion often arises when some people use the term Sabbath for both the Jewish Sabbath Saturday celebration of Worship and the Christian celebration on Sunday of the Lord’s Day of Worship interchangeably. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the first one to say that we are free to identify our day of worship as we wish. We are not to judge one another over what we choose to call our day of Worship to our Lord, as long as we don’t confuse the true origin and intent that is given in Scripture. This is where some of us have gotten twisted up in our conversations when sharing about our personal opinions, beliefs, and traditions, as opposed to what the Word of God says.

It is not a matter of choosing one day over the other, but rather a matter of freedom to celebrate our time with our Lord as we desire. But we must do so with the understanding that Christians are under no obligation to observe the Saturday Sabbath, but we have the freedom to do so if we wish.  Now, if we all agreed on this premise, I could stop talking right now and step down and we could all go to lunch early. But I suspect I may have stirred up some additional questions, or “Yea buts”, in the minds of some folks here, so let’s go deeper into the Word for some of the evidence of what I have just shared with you as Holy Spirit desires to give you confirmation and closure on this matter.

Sabbath- means to desist, to cease, to rest. Resting on the Sabbath means taking twenty-four hours off every seven days. Historically, The Sabbath was instituted in the Beginning as God closed the story of Creation in Genesis (1:1-2:3) with an account of His hallowing of the seventh day, because on it He rested from His creative labors. There is no express mention of the Sabbath-keeping being practiced from Adam to Moses. Not until the Exodus 16 account in the Old Testament when God gave the Israelites manna from heaven to sustain them in the Wilderness of Sin. A double supply of manna was given on the sixth day of the week, in order that the seventh day might be kept as a day of rest from labor.

The Word of God also makes it quite clear in Exodus 31: 12-17, (PG. 137 Pew Bible) that Sabbath observance was a special sign between God and the Nation of Israel as it says: “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”  Forty years later, in Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (PG. 282 Pew Bible) Moses reminded the Israelites of this command from God as Diane read to us earlier saying:Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.Among the Hebrews the Sabbath was associated with the idea of rest, worship, and divine favor. With the development of the synagogue during the Exile, the Sabbath became a day for worship and the study of the law, as well as a day of rest.

The Sabbath was given to Israel, not to the Christian church. The Sabbath is still observed and celebrated on Saturday, not on Sunday, and that has never changed. The Sabbath runs from Friday night at sunset to Saturday night at sunset. The Sabbath is part of the Old Testament Law and as a result most Jews, including Ancient Israel and even a few Orthodox Jews, still keep Saturday as the Sabbath. Some Christian Jews and modern day Christian Churches also choose to Worship on The Sabbath Day instead of on The Lord’s Day on Sunday. The Sabbath command was given to the nation of Israel as a sign and symbol of God and Who He is, but this was never given to the Gentile nations, aka Christians, at any other time.  Not even once were other nations commanded to keep the seventh day Sabbath. The Sabbath command, directly from God, was given specifically to Israel as the Fourth Commandment in remembrance of their freedom from Egypt.

Christians are free from the bondage of the Mosaic Law and thus free from worshiping on the Sabbath, as Romans 6:14 says: “…for sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace”. The first day of the week, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, celebrates the New Creation, with Christ as our resurrected Head. We are not obligated to follow the Mosaic Sabbath of resting; but instead, we are now free to follow the risen Christ in serving one another on His behalf.

Jesus Christ resurrected on a Sunday – the Easter Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus is most critical for the salvation of humanity and very central in our entire Christian life and our beliefs and practices. Therefore, instead of celebrating the Sabbath on a Saturday as the Jewish people did during the Old Testament times, most Christians choose to celebrate this wonderful day of rest and worship on Sundays to honor Christ and to mark the glorious day that He secured our salvation. Other Christian groups or denominations do choose to continue to follow the Jewish tradition and worship on Saturday and that is a freedom afforded to them by Christ as well.

Ephesians 2:14-22 reminds us that as Jews and Gentiles we were Reconciled Through Christ Jesus and that together we are now the body of Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

I love studying the Jewish traditions of all of the Feasts of the Lord, and I have participated in them over the years and even officiated at them a time or two as well. I find even greater joy in teaching about them as the foundations of our faith. This is the blessing we have as Christians, of being grafted in as the One New Man with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Our reality is now found in Jesus Christ regarding how and when we celebrate His victory for all of humanity- both for Jews and Gentiles and all of the nations of the world. It is the Cross of Calvary that affords us such vast freedom in our worship of Our Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul said in Romans 14:5-6 that each individual Christian should decide whether to observe a Sabbath rest, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the LORD. Whoever eats meat does so to the LORD, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the LORD and gives thanks to God.”

We are to worship God every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday. If we choose to celebrate and enjoy the Jewish tradition of honoring the Sabbath, then so be it. That is our choice. If we choose to worship King Jesus on the first day of the week, as a New Creation in Christ and in the tradition of the Christian Church, that is our choice as well. Whether some churches keep the Saturday Sabbath, or some observe The Lord’s Day on Sunday is not something that we need to be or should be judging others over.  We can do whatever we feel led to do by Holy Spirit in accordance with Scripture in regard to spending time with Our Lord and at the same time we can be at peace with the personal choices that others make in this regard as well.

In Galatians 5:1-6 (PAGE 1815 PEW BIBLE) Paul exhorts us on the nature of our Freedom in Christ. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…verse 4: “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Paul understood that trying to strictly observe the Mosaic Laws was becoming a stumbling block and enslaving believers rather than enriching their lives. In verse 7 & 8 Paul goes on to say to the Christians there, that whoever it is that has cut in on you, trying to persuade you and keep you from obeying the truth, is not from the one who calls you. He says that “the one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.” Paul reminds us in Galatians 5: 13 that we are called to be free and that we are to demonstrate that freedom by serving one another in love. And then he warns us that if we keep on biting and devouring each other, we will be destroyed by each other. We need to be careful not to suggest that our choices & traditions are factual obligations when they are simply individual preferences and not commands from God.

Historians and theologians throughout the ages have tried to credit various rulers down through history with changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. But that is a twisting of the truth of Scriptures, for as we just read earlier in God’s Word in Exodus 31, that no man can change this because the Sabbath Covenant was ordained by God to stand for the Jewish people forever.

When we consider the question of what day the early church met for worship, the New Testament scripture never mentions any Sabbath, or Saturday gatherings by Christian believers for fellowship or worship. On the contrary, in the New Testament there are many clear passages that mention the first day of the week in regard to fellowshipping together as Christians. For instance, Acts 20:7 states that “on the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” In 1 Corinthians 16:2 Paul urges the Corinthian believers “on the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” Historically Sunday, not Saturday, was the normal meeting day for Christians in the church, and its practice dates back to the first century. Because Jesus arose from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week, those early Christians called it “the Lord’s Day”, and they regularly met for their Christian worship on Sunday.

When non-Jews began to convert to Christianity in the days of the early Church, there was much dispute about whether Gentile Christians had to observe the Jewish laws about circumcision, dietary restrictions, Sabbath observance, and so forth, before they could become Christians. The Book of Acts has record of this. About 20 years after his conversion, Paul, Peter, James, and other Church leaders met at the “Council of Jerusalem” where its purpose was to determine whether the Gentiles who become Christians must adhere to the old Jewish customs. And it was decided that it was not a requirement for Christians to observe the Sabbath rules and other Jewish laws, which included the Covenant Mandate regarding the observance of the Sabbath.

The Council’s Decision is recorded and says in Acts 15:28-29: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.They were not held to the keeping of the Sabbath Day or any of its restrictions.

I encourage you to examine the New Testament Scriptures on your own, and I pray that Holy Spirit will draw your eyes often to the many references to The Lord’s Day. After Paul states, “From now on I will go to the Gentiles” in Acts 18:6, the Sabbath is never again mentioned. Instead of suggesting adherence to the Sabbath day, the remainder of the New Testament confirms that there is no obligation for the New Testament believer to keep the Sabbath.

Jesus Himself regularly attended worship in the Synagogue on the Sabbath, as Luke 4:16 tells us that “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Jesus followed the traditions and customs of His family and His nation, Israel. Jesus knew the value and importance of spending time with God the Father, and He desires that we spend time to rest in Him as well.

And just as some of you have felt personally confronted or challenged, Scripture tells us that Jesus was also challenged many times by the religious leaders about the Sabbath.  They claimed that He violated the Sabbath many times, but the truth is He never did.  The religious leaders had created or added their own Sabbath laws…numbering in the hundreds, which were never given in the Mosaic Law.  They had made the Sabbath a burden instead of a delight.

On two occasions the Pharisees criticized Jesus for doing what they thought he should not do, which was to forgive sins and to be associating with sinners. And then they criticized Him for not doing what they thought He should do. Jesus and His disciples weren’t fasting and praying as much or as often as the Pharisees and their followers, and they weren’t observing the Sabbath according to their Judaic traditions and rules. For this He was being judged and criticized! Can you imagine that! Criticizing Our Lord Jesus!

Matthew 12: 1-14 (PAGE 1514 IN PEW BIBLE) “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So, he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”

In His very own words, Jesus points out the purpose of the Sabbath and He actually gives them examples from the Old Testament Scriptures to prove His point that the Sabbath was made to meet the needs of man, and not the reverse! Jesus goes on to point out that the person of the Sabbath is none other than, Himself, The Son of Man, and that He is Lord even of the Sabbath.

It was because the Pharisees did not grasp the true concept of who Jesus was in His fulfillment of scripture that they continued to demand adherence to the strict laws of their forefathers. Because of their spiritual blindness, the Pharisees were judging the Lord Jesus according to their human traditions and manmade laws. They didn’t recognize that Jesus was the Messiah, the Sacrificial Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world once and for all.  In our attempts to serve the Lord, we can also get stuck in our traditions and personal preferences and customs and become swayed so subtly toward legalism. We must take care to avoid this at all cost, least we condemn ourselves, or cause our brothers or sisters to stumble as well.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians and the Laodiceans, he actually describes the practice of legalism as false teachings in verses 2:8 and 2:16-23. We need to be careful how we approach one another or express our personal opinions and beliefs and our manmade traditions to one another. Instead, we should take care to teach only what the Word of God actually says on any given matter. And where the Word is silent, we should keep silent as well.

Colossians 2:16-23(PAGE 1834 IN PEW BIBLE) says: 16 therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, (Which is Christ Jesus) from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

With His crucifixion on the cross, Christ Jesus set us free from the law and the restrictions that the law had imposed on mankind down through the ages. The Jewish Sabbath was abolished at the cross where Christ “canceled the written code, with its regulations.” As we just read. This is because, as the Word tells us, Jesus fulfilled all the Law. Paul’s focus and the topic of his exhortation is the same as what Jesus taught: encouragement to be free from legalism, and to live according to the heavenly values that Christ set forth, rather than the limited and perishable values of the world. I exhort you to do the same.   God leaves out a lot of the details of the “how” we worship Him as Christians. As long as we are worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth, following the leading and guidance of Holy Spirit, we can be grateful for the freedom we have to worship Him, and even more grateful for the enjoyment of His presence in our midst. God simply requires that we love Him, and that we love one another.

At creation, God set aside the seventh day to rest from work and He used His creation of The First Sabbath as a prototype to point to the true rest that would come to Christians only through our relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He is Lord of the Sabbath meaning that He was the originator of the Sabbath as Creator, and as such, He is the only one who has the authority to change it.  Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, indicating that it was of good intention for man to rest but not that man was “made for” or to be held captive by the traditions of the Sabbath.  Since Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, the implication is that the Sabbath was for man and for healing purposes, not for restricting what he can and cannot do.

As Jesus ascertained for Himself, it does not matter whether we, as Christians, worship Him for a Sabbath day of rest on Saturday as our Jewish brethren do or if we celebrate our Lord’s Day on the first day of the week, Sunday, or if we desire to do both. We are free to choose! Jesus is available for us as Christian believers each and every day of the week to spend time with Him, to call on Him, to worship Him, and most importantly, to set aside time to rest in Him. To be available to serve Him: that is our calling and purpose for life.

I don’t know about you, but as the chaos of the world increases, so does my desire to just get away for a quiet rest with Jesus each and every day. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28: “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the rest that He is calling us to.

Even Jesus needed a time away to rest from his ministry of teaching and healing. We see in Luke 15:16 where Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” I need that time of rest with Him to calm my soul and clear my mind for what the next day might bring. Whether it be joyous news that brings sweet celebration, or concerns or prayer requests from my family or our fellowship of believers, I am ready, because I have been with our Lord.

We must be careful not to become self-righteous in our attempts to impose our beliefs or to influence others to our way of thinking when it is not based on Scripture. Denominational differences and personal preferences, customs, and traditions afford us the opportunity to go to the church of our choice, where we can worship Jesus with like-minded believers, while still showing respect to those who choose to celebrate their relationship with Jesus differently.

No one comes to Jesus because they worship on Sunday instead of Saturday or on Tuesday instead of Friday. It doesn’t matter if I practice fasting and prayer as often as you do, as long as I do it as unto the Lord, and with a pure heart. Our calling as Christians, is to be Jesus to the World; that’s it. To shine the light of salvation to others; it is not to be the voice of judgment and condemnation to our brothers and sisters; we get enough of that from the world.

Remember Paul’s words in Colossians 2:13-15He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He, Jesus, has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

God’s plan for Israel as we approach the End of Days still includes worshipping Him on the Sabbath, as His Sabbath Covenant with Israel stands forever. But His plan for the Christian church is different. His plan for you and I allows us, as believing Christians, to worship on any day that we so choose. I know that God is delighted when we also take the time to celebrate the Jewish traditions of His chosen people Israel, and I commend those of you who do. For in Genesis 12:1-3 the Word of the Lord in His Covenant Promise to Abraham says: “I will bless those who bless you, (Israel) and whoever curses you, I will curse and all people on earth will be blessed through you.”

We all come to Jesus, as we worship Him in our own way, each and every day of the week, just as we are, none of us better than another, all of us are sinners, saved by Grace. I encourage you to review the scriptures for yourselves, mull them over in your minds and hearts, and in the end, give all the Glory to God for reminding you of His Great Love for You and the freedom You have in Christ!

I will close with the words of Psalm 92 that we shared together this morning, which was in fact written as a song for the Sabbath Day: 1 “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High,proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!”

And: Isaiah 58:13-14 proclaims “… if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way … then you will find your joy in the LORD…”                                                       God Bless you all!