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Going Deep With Sabbath Rest

Blog: Going Deep

By JR Vassar

Healthy men pastor healthy churches. One of the keys to spiritual health and spiritual vitality is Sabbath rest.

Four Reasons to Sabbath

1. Sabbath rest will refresh our whole selves. When we Sabbath, we lay aside the demands and pressures of life and enter intentionally into a season of rest where we cease from our work. We cease from what is duty and we allow God to provide delight and new life to our souls.

2. Sabbath rest refreshes our hearts toward God. The Sabbath is a day to the Lord. It is a day tenaciously directed God-ward. In pastoring, it is easy to become a tour guide of places you have never visited, serving up meals you have not savored. God can be objectified – made an object of theological inquiry and discussion instead of a personal Being to be loved. Sabbath recalibrates our hearts to God relationally. On Sabbath, we give our attention to God in a more focused and sustained way. As you observe Sabbath, pray, read the Scripture or a devotional book, take a contemplative walk, sit in solitude and silence, or drop into the sanctuary of a beautiful church in your city.

3. Sabbath rest reorients our lives to grace. In Deuteronomy 5, God grounds the Sabbath command in Salvation. When God rescued Israel from Egypt, it was to show them that salvation is from the Lord, not man (Exodus 14:13-14). The Exodus prefigured a greater salvation: Jesus alone would save us. When we Sabbath we are saying to ourselves, “It is not my work that counts, but Christ’s work that counts.” I can rest from my work because my value, meaning, identity and joy are not rooted in what I do or accomplish, but rather in what God has done in Christ to save me. Jesus is our Sabbath. He is our rest from working to earn God’s favor and from the constant effort to establish our identity.

4. Sabbath rest refreshes our hope. An ultimate Sabbath rest is coming. When Christ returns, the Kingdom of God will be consummated. All sickness, sin, injustice, poverty, suffering, and death will be banished from this world. Mark Buchanan explains that Sabbath is a rehearsal of that coming rest. When we rest in the midst of a broken world and with our broken lives, we are rehearsing and reminding ourselves a day is coming when God will heal all that is wounded and He will raise up all that is fallen and He will restore all that is broken. This is why Jesus performed so many healings on Sabbath (like the man with the withered hand). Jesus is saying in essence, there is a final Sabbath coming that will bring glory to Me. I am showing you a glimpse now. Sabbath fuses hope into us because it reminds us of God’s story and our glorious future that He will bring about and that he wants to unleash more and more in the present.


Keeping the Sabbath Holy

1. Repent of neglecting the Sabbath. It is interesting how we talk about implementing Sabbath rest, but we don’t talk about implementing marital faithfulness or any of the other Ten Commandments. We don’t need to implement; we need to repent.

2. Prepare and Practice – Plan out how you are going to spend the day. What will you read? What will refresh and recharge you?

3. Remember that there is a cumulative effect to the Sabbath and to neglecting Sabbath. It might not seem like much when you spend a day in rest, but the results of a rhythm of work and Sabbath rest can be very rewarding.

4. Model dependence upon Jesus for the leading of your church. As a pastor, you model where the church is dependent. Is it in your ongoing work or in His finished work?

Listen to JR's boot camp session on Sabbath Rest.