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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:How Then Shall We Rest?
Text:LD 38 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 4th Commandment (Resting)
 
Added:2021-08-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Readings: Matthew 11:20-12:8, Luke 13:10-17

Lesson: Lord’s Day 38

 

HOW THEN SHALL WE REST?

  1. Understanding True Rest 

  2. Experiencing True Rest

 

  1. Psalm 122: 1, 3

  2. Psalm 92: 1-3

  3. Hymn 81: 1, 2, 4, 6

  4. Hymn 1

  5. Psalm 145: 1, 4, 5

  6. Hymn 5: 1-4

 

Words to Listen For: imitate, sabbat, 1500, peppermint, smell

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Are we far too easily pleased, or are we always searching for something more?  Why?

  2. What’s “missing” in Lord’s Day 38?

  3. What is the true meaning of Sabbath?

  4. Define “true rest”

  5. Can we achieve true rest on this earth?  How?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 Beloved church of Jesus Christ,

We are far too easily pleased.  We are far too easily pleased.

 

There was a popular book that came out in 1985, and it is truer now than when it was written.  Its title?  Amusing Ourselves to Death.  This book warns us of the dangers of viewing media and politics as forms of entertainment, and just how much we are obsessed with this idea of amusement.  Everything we do is in service of this idol.

On the one hand, we are far too easily pleased.  We will take whatever comes to us and we ingest it.  But on the other hand, because we are filling our minds and our hearts with nonsense, we still have a hunger for greater things.

We are WILLING to be fed a steady diet of what amounts to cotton candy.  We put a big smile on our face as it dissolves on our tongue, but our stomach is never truly satisfied.  There is an aching, a longing, for true food.

But we shrug it off, and take greater and greater fistfulls of fluff, all with that smile on our face.  We are far too easily pleased.

It is, as C.S. Lewis famously stated: It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too STRONG, but too WEAK.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.

 

We are far too easily pleased in where we look for pleasure and amusement, and we are far too easily pleased in where we look for rest.

As you probably know, I just returned from 2 weeks of holidays.  I had a wonderful time, exploring this beautiful province.  It was a relaxing 2 weeks, spending some time on the Island, some time here, and some time on the Sunshine coast.  It was relaxing, it was restful, but those two weeks aren’t a good example of what rest truly is.  Those two weeks weren’t  the ultimate rest.  They weren’t the pinnacle of rest.  Because true rest is not just physical.  It’s more than that.  It’s richer than that.  Deeper than that.

Ironically, what I am doing right now, right here, with you, is CLOSER to that “ultimate rest” that God promises than my vacation.  Even though this is WORK for me, even though it is difficult to ascend this pulpit twice on a Sunday to bring the gospel...what I do for work, what I do as my job…

THIS is closer to God’s idea of rest than my holidays on the coast.  THIS, right here, right now, is a small picture of that holiday at sea, as C.S. Lewis put it.

It is strange, it seems contradictory, but this is the heart of rest.  This is the heart of the fourth commandment, and so this is the question before us this afternoon:

HOW THEN SHALL WE REST?  First, we must 

  1. Understand True Rest and then we  

  2. Experience True Rest

 

Understanding True Rest

When I teach Lord’s Day 38 to the catechism students, I always begin by asking them “What seems to be missing from this Lord’s Day?”  So I will ask you too...what’s MISSING here?  Think about it for a second.  What’s missing?

 

What’s “missing” here is an exhaustive list of “THOU SHALT NOTs.”  And this is how we traditionally think of the 4th commandment, don’t we?

The young people have picked up on this traditional view among their older relatives, and will jokingly imitate them with the dutch phrase “Op Sundach??” “On Sunday??” , referring to anything that was TRADITIONALLY not allowed to be done.  Niet op Sundach!  Not on Sunday!

You’re going to the beach after second service?  OP SUNDACH?

You’re wanting to change out of your Sunday clothes between services?

You’re driving 30+ kilometers to join a friend’s Young Peoples?  OP SUNDACH?

 

This is traditionally how this commandment is understood.  There is a big list of what we should NOT DO on Sundays.  But is this really the heart of the commandment?

When children are young, these rules can be important...but when we grow up, when we mature, we begin to realize that it’s not about what is FORBIDDEN OP SUNDACH, but what is COMMANDED.

 

And so, I am not going to give you a big long list of what is and what isn’t okay.  I’m not going to say that 30km for Bible Study is okay, but 31km is unnecessary travel.

I’m not going to tell you that a WALK enjoying God’s creation is okay, but if that WALK turns into a RUN, then you’ve become selfish and broken the commandment because you’re working out.

That FORESTS are okay, but BEACHES are forbidden.

I’m not that kind of minister...this is not that kind of commandment...and God is not that kind of God.  This isn’t the point, and so I won’t spend any more time on it.

 

So then the question remains...what IS the point of this commandment?

Here, our readings help us out, because Jesus taught us the true meaning of this commandment.  The true meaning of Sabbath.

In our reading from Luke 13, we met a woman in distress.  She was oppressed by an evil spirit who caused her a lot of pain.  She was bent over, unable to straighten up - essentially crippled.  And she was like this for 18 years.  For at least a third of her life, she was oppressed.

And Jesus, having compassion on her, calls her to Him, and He heals her.  Just like that.  It is so matter-of-fact.

When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 

It is said so simply.  Jesus said it, and it happened.  He laid His hands on her, and IMMEDIATELY she was made straight.  There was oppression, there was pain, there was despair...for EIGHTEEN YEARS.  And in an instant, with a word and touch, she was healed.

 

THIS is what the Sabbath is about.  Sabbath is exemplified in what JESUS did, and Sabbath is exemplified in what THE WOMAN did.  More on her later.

 

We see that the Pharisees did not like what Jesus did here at all.  Essentially they were saying Op SabbatOn the Sabbath?

    “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”

And it is interesting how Jesus responds.  It is interesting what Jesus says.  It’s subtle, but important.

We might expect Him to respond that the freedom and health of the people is MORE IMPORTANT than the Sabbath...but as our Saviour always does...He does not ABOLISH the commandments, but FULFILLS THEM.  That subtle distinction is here too.  For what does He say?

Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

It is FITTING, it is RIGHT that this woman is healed on the Sabbath.  This is the EXACT KIND OF ACTIVITY that SHOULD be done on the Sabbath.  

 

And who is Jesus telling this to?  Who is the immediate audience for this lesson?  It is the PHARISEES!  The DEFENDERS OF THE SABBATH!  Those who have devoted their entire lives to the legalistic understanding and keeping of the law...the ones who made and enforced these rules...they missed the whole point.  For all their love of the law, they missed its HEART.

“Ought not this woman...be loosed from this bond ON THE SABBATH DAY?”

This is exactly the right day for it, and Jesus showed that this was the true meaning of the sabbath.  This is true rest - being freed from the power of sin and Satan.

It is, as the catechism says, a day to experience a foretaste of the eternal Sabbath.  To take a rest from our evil works, and to take the time to focus on how the Lord works in us through His Holy Spirit.

This is what true rest is - true REST is about GOD, because true BURDENS, true WEARINESS, true BONDAGE comes from SATAN.  True rest is deeper than we think.  True rest is something spiritual.  Rest, for the Christian, is so much more than lying on a beach.  Rest, for the Christian, is so much more than reading a good book, or spending time cultivating your garden.

True rest is not just about the body, but about the soul.  And so, there is only one true source.

We heard this in our reading from Matthew 11: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and

lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

Rest, in the eyes of our Saviour, isn’t about worldly things - true rest is only found in Him.

 

This rest that Jesus promises contrasts with the curses immediately before.

Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum received a CURSE instead of a BLESSING, because they rejected the source of true rest.  They rejected true food for worthless fluff.  They rejected the holiday at sea for the mud pies in the slums.

Look at these towns.  Each one of them had what the world considered to be the keys to rest and contentment...but not one of them actually achieved it, because they were looking in the wrong places.

  • Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were the places where most of Jesus’ miracles had been performed, and yet they refused to repent.  They refused to believe.

They were under the grip of the traditionalism of the Pharisees, or they were taken in by their own pride and wickedness, and refused to listen to the gospel of true rest.  They were content to make mudpies in the slums, because they didn’t understand the offer of a holiday at the sea.  These towns REFUSED the promise of rest, content in their bondage and slavery.

 

These towns were then compared to ancient cities who were well-known for their depravity - worldly pleasures, not knowing true heavenly rest

  • Tyre and Sidon - Port cities, known for their power and wealth

    • Power and wealth do not lead to true rest.

  • Sodom - The center of sexual depravity

    • Perverse sexual behaviour and bizarre pleasures do not lead to true rest.

 

And it is no accident that Jesus Christ offered true rest in Himself a few verses before He was accused of breaking the Sabbath with His disciples, just by eating a few heads of wheat.

 

You can almost see our Saviour shaking His head sadly at the Pharisees - You don’t get it, do you?  TRUE REST isn’t found in a list of rules as long as your arm.  You don’t TRULY REST if you count your steps, making sure you’re not going over 1500.  You don’t truly rest if you spend the whole day trying to remember what IS and ISN’T allowed in all the extra rules invented by the Pharisees.  True rest is found in the LORD, not in the LAWS OF MEN.  I can give you what you seek...but you have to be willing to see it.

So, is this what we want?  What about us?  Are we happy with how we experience rest?  Either with our list of OP SUNDACH, or with our holidays at the cottage?  Our lists will disappoint us, and the rest we experience at the cottage can evaporate at the first sign of traffic on the highway home.

I know that I had to constantly remind myself, again and again, to “take a deep breath” when it took over 2 and a half hours to get home from the ferry after my holidays.  When the highways looked more like parking lots.

This is a very PRECARIOUS and TEMPORARY rest that we experience in our own strength.  So...do we want something more?  Do we want something better?

Do we want to follow CHRIST and experience true rest?  Are we willing to see it?

I know that’s what I want.  I hope you want the same thing.

So WHAT EXACTLY is this true rest, then?  I can hear you saying “You’ve said “true rest” 20 times by now...but what exactly is it?  “Can I get a definition?” I hear you asking.  “Can you give me something to write down and run with this week?”

Even though there are many definitions of rest out there -  both sacred and secular - I think keeping it simple is best.

 

True rest is: Being communally in the presence of God, celebrating who He is, and accepting who He says we are.

I’ll say that again.  True rest is being communally in the presence of God, celebrating who He is, and accepting who He says we are.

This is the WHAT.  And it sounds glorious, doesn’t it?  It sounds like something that we long to have...something JUST out of our reach, and something very “at odds” with our Sunday worship services.  True rest is that green pasture, just on the other side of the hill.  But when we get there, it’s brown and prickly.  We’ve tried, and no matter how hard we try, we are disappointed.  So when can we experience true rest?  Is it just a pipe dream for this life?  Our second point.

Ask any parent if Sunday mornings are restful, and they will simply stare at you.  Some might start to laugh, and say that they need a rest from their day of rest.

Getting the children out of bed, and fed, getting them dressed in their Sunday best, making sure that the loonies for the offering plate aren’t lost in between the seats of the vehicle, or aren’t eaten halfway through the service, mistaken for a peppermint...trying to get small children to be quiet at the right times, and make sure that they NEVER say “is it over yet?” when the minister is still preaching...it’s almost as much effort as working during the week, isn’t it?

 

Church services are strange, there’s no denying it. We put in all this effort to look our best, to follow the written and unwritten rules...we put in all this WORK so that we can properly celebrate the day of REST. 

This day, we say, this day of pressure to look good and say exactly the right thing at the right time, to sing all the right notes...it revolves COMPLETELY and TOTALLY around rest.  Something doesn't add up.  All this WORK...in order to REST.  We’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.  Maybe true rest is just one of those things that we have to wait until heaven for. 

But that’s not true.  That’s not what Jesus promised in Matthew 11.  Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and WHEN YOU DIE, I will give you rest.  No!  IT’S REAL NOW!

True rest is within our grasp, even if it will not come in it’s completeness until Christ returns.  It may not be complete here, but it is true here.

 

Going back to the catechism...even though this Lord’s Day doesn’t give us a long list of “THOU SHALT NOTs” there are a few instructions found here.  Central to this foretaste of the rest we are promised to one day experience in fullness is the first instruction- diligently attend the church of God.

This is the first part of the definition of true rest - being COMMUNALLY in the presence of God.  We CAN worship God individually.  We CAN and we SHOULD do this...but there is an essential element of the Lord’s Day that involves BEING TOGETHER.  Meeting together with the people of God, gathering for worship is an essential part of our weekly worship.  It is essential for our rest.  This gathering here, right now, is a small foretaste of the great multitude before the great throne of God.  True rest involves other people.  True rest is not just “me and Jesus.”  That’s not rest, and that’s not heaven.

The other instructions fit under the first and fill out the “how” of the definition.

HOW do we celebrate who God is?  HOW do we accept who He says we are?

By making use of the amazing gifts He gives us in the worship service.

 

1) We hear God’s Word preached

When the gospel is faithfully preached, we will hear the story of Jesus Christ.  We will hear about our desperate state.  How we were lost in sin.  How we were drowning beneath the waves.  We will hear the BUT GOD of the gospel.  The light shining in the darkness, revealing our weaknesses and His awesome strength. We hear the truth about the love of God being more powerful than the hatred of Satan.

We hear the sobering truths about us.  About who we were before the light shone upon us.  About who we still are in our weakness.  About how God sees us.  As more than conquerors.  As people He SINGS OVER.  As a new creation.

 

2) We use the sacraments

Alongside the preaching, God has given us signs and seals.  He appeals to our other senses.  Not only do we HEAR the gospel proclaimed, but we SEE it demonstrated.  We see the water of baptism, showing us the promise of the washing away of sins, and the entranceway into a new life.  We SEE the bread broken, and remember that Christ’s body was broken for us.  We SMELL and TASTE the wine, and remember that Christ’s blood was shed for the complete forgiveness of sins.  The same truths are shown in different, powerful ways.

 

3) We call publicly upon the Lord

After hearing who God is, and who we are, we respond in worship and adoration.  This is what the woman who was healed did.  Remember?

When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”  And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.

THIS is a picture of what heaven will be like.  This is a picture of what heaven is now, and what the new heavens and the new earth will be like one day for us. We will be reminded of the awesome creating work of our God and call out:  Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.

We will be reminded of the awesome saving work of our God and call out: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!

 

4) And finally, we give Christian offerings for the poor.

When we realize just how much has been done for us, we will not want ANYTHING standing in the way of others experiencing the same amazing grace that we have received.  If there are any financial barriers, if there are those struggling to make ends meet, and so are distracted from the spiritual realities of God’s work by the physical realities of putting food on the table, we want to help them over that barrier.  If money is needed for food, or rent, or rehab, or Christian schooling...we give out of the abundance that God has given to us.  

We give from our physical blessings, so that they can receive spiritual blessings without interference or distraction.  We give so that nobody will be hungry or thirsty anymore, but all will be satisfied.

 

THIS is what is required in the fourth commandment.

 

So.  If we have all of these checked off...if we meet with the church twice a Sunday, every Sunday, if we sit under the preaching, partake of the sacraments, pray, and give our money...then we will receive TRUE REST?

NO!  NOT AT ALL!

The fourth commandment IS NOT about a list of rules or instructions.  It is not about the THOU SHALTs anymore than it is about the THOU SHALT NOTs.

True rest is found in Jesus Christ, and Him alone!  These instructions are not an end in and of themselves.  They are here to point you to Christ.

These instructions are just like me.  Who am I, standing here, Sunday after Sunday?  I’m nothing more than a signpost, I’m a flashing arrow saying LOOK AT JESUS!  DON’T LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT HIM!!

There will be those, Scripture says, those who, when Christ returns, will say to Him - “but we diligently attended the church of God!  We heard the gospel preached, we took the sacraments, we praised in your name, and gave offerings for the poor in your name!”

And He will look at them sadly and say “depart from me, I never knew you.”

You can do all the right things, wear a three piece suit, never sing out of tune, always have your loonie ready for the offering bag, and you can still miss out.

Let no-one in Cloverdale say, on that last day, “We did not know!  We weren’t warned!”

You DO know.  THIS is your warning.

True rest, everlasting rest, the eternal Sabbath...it only comes for those who truly know Jesus Christ.  It only comes for those who sit at His feet and drink in His Word.  It only comes for the humble in heart who know that they do not deserve salvation, but still know that they have it.  BY GRACE.  By grace alone.

 

A few years ago, I was asked: “What is heaven?”  I thought long and hard about it and responded in this way:

Everything good comes from God.

And there are people who, by faith,

Worship God every day of their lives.

They want an eternity spent with Him,

And in His love, He will give them exactly what they want.

 

If your life is spent yearning, longing, desiring fellowship with Jesus Christ...if you want nothing more than to be with Him forever, to look upon His face always, to never leave His side...then the desire of your heart will be granted, and you will spend eternity with your Lord and Saviour.

 

This is the true meaning of rest, and the true promise of our Saviour.        AMEN. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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