Pastoral Letter February 2014

…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together… 

– Hebrews 10.25

 

Dear Friends,

The Lord our God provides for all of our needs. He gives to us not what we think we need, but what we actually require. God’s laws function in the same way, and are designed not for suppression or restriction, but for our ultimate happiness and protection. The Ten Commandments stand as a plain expression of God’s eternal moral law, and there is no area of life which they do not touch.

The fourth commandment, regarding the Sabbath Day, has always been a matter of controversy for some Christians. Does God require us to keep one day in seven special for Him? The New Testament sheds more light upon each one of the Ten ‘Words’ and helps us to realise that the keeping of them is a far greater task than Israel ever faced. Israel was to cease from all work for one day, and there was a solemn penalty for breaking the Sabbath precisely because it was the sign of the Covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai. To reject the Sabbath was to reject Almighty God.

The letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that the fourth commandment still applies to us – see chapter 4 and especially verse 9, but it also explains that our ultimate rest is in Christ. The ultimate keeping of this commandment is by resting in Christ, yet we understand plainly that God’s plan for us is to rest from work one day in seven – and if we do not do this, we suffer, as not just experience, but many scientific studies have shown.

In Revelation 1 John writes to the churches that he was ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’. He does not have to explain what that is, he assumes that they will know. We firmly believe that he refers to the day on which our Saviour rose from the dead, and the day that the Spirit came at Pentecost, further, the day that the church met together and brought their offerings (see 1 Corinthians 16.2).

My simple question to you is: What do you think of the Lord’s Day? In our culture there remains a privilege attached to this day so that most do not have to work, and we are free to meet and worship. If you respond ‘well, there’s no longer any particular day to be kept’, then I won’t make it my primary cause of debate with you. Some will recoil in horror at this, but please allow me to finish, because what does not follow from a difference of opinion about particular days is the liberty to be absent when the Church meets.

I believe that if you follow the New Testament expansion of the fourth commandment you will find that you are, as a believer in Christ, required to rest in Him. To seek to know more of Him. To gather with His people to worship Him. He has given us by example a particular day to do it, and by circumstance, two wonderful opportunities in our morning gospel and evening teaching meeting.

Some may be kept away from one meeting or other quite legitimately by frailty, age, or duty. But might you be putting the things of this world above the things of God? What do you really think of Jesus Christ? Are you truly resting in Him, or is He an occasional comfort to get you through the week? May the Lord grant us all grace to examine our lives, our comfortable traditions, and our practices, solely in the light of His Word. Don’t forsake our assembling together. You may rest your body one day in seven – but have you rested your eternal soul upon Jesus Christ?

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