Originally this article was found here at Tabletalk Magazine.
In the United States, we have twenty-one federal and other holidays each year. This does not include religious and cultural holidays such as Christmas, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. There are also those modern special days that range from World Autism Awareness Day to Talk like a Pirate Day. We go out of our way to create special days that hold significance for our communities. Such days may be marked by joy or mourning, spiritual services or raucous parties, education or celebration.
And yet Christians, despite the significance of their most holy day, given to them by the Lord, often treat it as a good option so long as there isn’t anything better going on that day. We have called this weekly holy day the Lord’s Day since the first century when Jesus rose from the dead. But as Keith Green sang: “Jesus rose from the grave. And you! You can’t even get out of bed!”
The significance of the Lord’s Day cannot be overstated. Each Sunday, the church gathers in local assemblies to celebrate and proclaim Jesus’ resurrection, His victory over death, and the salvation He accomplished for all who believe. It’s a day that demonstrates the unity and diversity of the people of God as we gather to confess with one voice our one Lord, our one faith, our one baptism, and our share in one Spirit. This is the day and these are the gatherings that God has historically used to bring revival to the church.
Just as significant in a negative sense is our apathetic treatment of the Lord’s Day. This tells the world a lie that we believe. It tells the world that even if Jesus rose from the dead, it has little impact for us and no relevance for others. We tell this lie when we put worldly (even if good) responsibilities before the gathering of God’s people on Sunday. From NFL games and our children’s sporting events to yard work and homework, we are inundated with temptations to do many other things than worship corporately.
Going to church might sound like a small thing to some, but our keeping of the Sabbath by gathering with the church on Sunday is a testimony to the world that needs to be heard. When we do not forsake the assembly but call the Sabbath a delight (Heb. 10:25), we testify to various realities.
THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST
Our allegiance to Christ is rarely tested in modern American culture as it is on Sunday. When we say no to the world and all of its offerings on the first day of the week, we are demonstrating the lordship of Christ not just in a general sense but in a very personal way. We are telling the world that Jesus is our Lord, that His reign extends into our very lives. Because Jesus has died and has risen from the grave for us, we are eternally His. His glory is our passion and His Word is our rule. The consequence is a radically different set of priorities that pushes back against the values of the world. While Jesus has called us to be in the world but not of the world, He does call us to separate ourselves from it on Sunday.
OUR CITIZENSHIP IN HEAVEN
When we rest from the world and worship our triune God on Sunday, we are showing the world that our citizenship is in heaven. This world is not our home. We are sojourners here, living under the reign of our King in heaven, whose glorious return we await. We are not just a countercultural people but a kingdom people at war with the god of this age and at odds with the corruption of the world. When the church gathers on the Lord’s Day, heaven itself is breaking in to the darkness in which we live and the light of Christ is made manifest. What we do on Sunday as Christians is a testimony to what we live for as well as to what we call home.
THE PASSING OF THE WORLD
By rejecting the perverted priorities, the busyness, and the chaos of the world on Sunday, we are testifying to the passing of this world. This world, with all of its desires, is passing away. The temporal will pass into the eternal; the temptations will be swallowed up in righteousness when Christ returns. As Christians, we live not for the here and now but for what awaits us in the future. We keep the Sabbath because we cannot keep the world. It does not last. Each day, the world is giving way to corruption and corrosion while the kingdom of God remains uncorrupted.
OUR NEED FOR GRACE
When we gather with the saints on Sunday, we are admitting that we remain a people in need of God’s grace. We are not yet free from sin and corruption ourselves. As we rest from work and the world, we are seeking rest for our souls, which continue to struggle with sin. On Sunday, we shut our ears to the world and listen to the Word of God preached. We confess our sins, rejoice in our salvation, and sing the praises of our Maker and Redeemer. We cannot afford to put the world and its agendas before Christ and His call to His people to gather, for in the gathering the means of grace are offered in a concentrated form for us sinner-saints.
What we do with Sunday matters. It will either be the day set aside by God for His people to rest and worship in a way that shows their distinction from the world, or it will be just another day of the week, no different from any other.
Rev. Joe Thorn is founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Ill., and host of the podcast Doctrine and Devotion. He is author of several books, including Note to Self and The Heart of the Church.