It is one thing to acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, but it is quite another thing to figure out our personal responsibility towards the Sabbath day because he is the Lord of that day. I don’t profess to have all the answers to this quandary, but I can provide some food for thought that might help your class shed some light on how we can better keep the Sabbath day more holy, because Jesus is the Lord of this day.
The first step is to acknowledge that without Christ we would have no Sabbath day at all. He is the one who instituted the Sabbath at the creation of the world.
Before I go any further with this explanation, please remember that when it comes to what Christ does or doesn’t do in the plan of salvation, everything in the plan is orchestrated by our Father in Heaven. It is implemented by Jesus as our Redeemer. All aspects of the plan’s execution fall under his responsibilities as our Savior. He created the universe that holds all the planets on which God’s children reside, and all the systems that will house us in glory or in punishment in the hereafter, and he did this all before the earth was populated with Adam and Eve.
The Savior is responsible for the redemption and salvation of all of God’s children who kept their first estate and gained the right to come to earth to continue their development. His work is still not finished, and won’t be until he is able to report to our Father that he has kept all the Father’s commandments and has finished every last assignment given to him by our Father in Heaven. That certainly won’t happen in our lifetime.
So when I say that Jesus gave us the Sabbath day, it is with the understanding that it was given to us by God, our Father, and that all aspects of this day and how we observe it is under the direction of our Savior. Jesus is the God/Creator of this universe, and hence this day of rest symbolizes the completion of that grand act.
The Godhead is completely unified in all they do. We cannot single out a wish or desire for one member that is not shared by the other two. They are one/unified in all things, so to speak of one member’s actions is to speak of all three. But their individual responsibilities still exist. The Father governs through the Son, bearing witness of the Son. The Son bears witness of the Father and has performed the atoning sacrifice to bring about the redemption of all mankind, and the Spirit bears witness of them both and acts as our personal tutor and guide in all things spiritual.
In the beginning, at the end of the last day of creation, the Lord declared a day or period of rest from all their labors. And as in most things spiritual, there is an earthly equivalent. This time of rest from our labors is what we observe each Sunday as the Sabbath. It is the Lord’s day, and is sacred and different from all other days of the week.
Purpose of the Sabbath
We are to labor for our physical support six days each week, but the seventh day is the Lord’s day. It is our day of rest from our regular earthly labors. But that isn’t all. We may not be doing the work that puts food on our table and a roof over our heads, but that doesn’t mean that we are to spend our day in lethargy and in pursuit of mind-numbing nothingness.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the Lord has a purpose for declaring a day of rest from our earthly cares. That purpose has to do with our need to physically and mentally rest from such pursuits, but it also includes the much greater need for us to pursue our efforts to become perfect, which the Lord has commanded us to become time and time again. The definition of perfect means to become whole and complete. If doesn’t mean we are not allowed to possess faults. It means that we become healed of our spiritual infirmities and that we are spiritually healthy and robust, exercising faith and all good spiritual gifts in our lives. Here is an article I wrote on Grace vs. Works.
Path to perfection
As the Lord of the Sabbath, Christ has told us to come unto him. But how does coming unto Christ help us better honor the Sabbath day? How is the Sabbath supposed to effect the changes within us that we need to experience so we can become more Christlike in our attitudes and behavior? In other words, how does becoming more Christlike help us become perfect? This is a lot to accomplish in just one day of the week. But we actually only get started on those changes on Sunday. The rest of the week should be our practice field where we put into action what we learn and discover on the Sabbath.
I would like to try something here. I will give you the original text from several verses from Moroni 10. Once you have read these verses I will paraphrase two of them, substituting alternate meanings for some of the words being used by the prophet. See if it helps you gain any more meaning from the verse over the original version.
The words I will substitute are perfect, deny, sanctified, and grace. Instead of perfect, think “to be made whole or complete.” Instead of deny, think of “to reject.” To be sanctified is to be made pure, which is what constitutes holiness. So to be sanctified is to be made holy, free of any blemish or taint of evil act or desire. Finally, instead of grace, think “enabling power.” Grace not only means a favor or gracious gift, but it also acts as a force for change. It is God’s grace that enables us to comprehend spiritual things, that changes the disposition of our hearts from stubbornness to subjection, and from rebellion to obedience. Here are the original verses in Moroni.
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.
7 And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.
30 And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
That is a lot of doctrine in a small space. If you need to then take the last two verses one phrase at a time and compare each phrase with what follows below. Here are the last two verses with my word substitutions. Take some time to think about how these substitutions may change the meaning or how they may help make the meaning more clear.
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be made whole in him, and reject from your lives all ungodliness; and if ye shall reject all forms of ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace and enabling power sufficient for you, that by his enabling power ye may be made whole or complete in Christ; and if by the enabling power of God ye are complete in Christ, ye can in nowise reject the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the enabling power of God are made whole in Christ, and reject not his power, then are ye purified or made holy by grace, that enabling power of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
I hope you take some time and read and reread these verses in both forms and see if the process of coming unto Christ makes any more sense to you now than it did before.
One last note on my definitions. To become whole or complete (perfect) refers to the process we all go through to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and performance. We may know to do many things, but may only keep certain commandments. When we do not measure up to our knowledge by matching our behavior with what we know about righteousness then we are incomplete, and not whole. Only when we are actually doing what we know we should do, and we do it for the right reasons, can we be considered whole. Christ heals us as we submit to His will and keep his commandments. His grace changes the disposition of our hearts, helping us to find joy in obedience and increasing our desire to be more like Him.
Recap then onward
Here is what we have looked at so far:
Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath day. He has given us the day as a day of physical and spiritual rejuvenation.
The Sabbath is a day in which we can focus our attention on all things that are good, especially those things that will make us spiritually and physically whole and complete.
We are to come to Christ on the Sabbath. The activities we choose to engage in on the Sabbath should help us carry the Spirit and love of God into the rest of the days of the week.
We are to reject or deny anything that is evil or unclean. This includes anything that will divert our attention away from the Savior, for he is the source of all things that are good.
Choosing what to reject
The Brethren have told us not to turn the Sabbath into a list of does and don’ts. So in a spirit of cooperation I would like to ask you some questions.
- When you choose an activity on Sunday do you choose that activity because you hope it will bring you closer to Christ? If the answer is “I don’t know” or “No” then how will choosing it bring you closer to Christ, which is the purpose of the Sabbath?
- When considering the merits of an activity for Sunday do you anticipate that it will increase the joy and peace in your home? All things that are good come from Christ, and therefore should, in the end, produce opportunities for happiness or joy. Is the happiness that comes from your chosen activity fleeting and temporary, or is it a happiness that should last for years to come?
- Is the activity you want to participate in one that is just for entertainment or will it provide you with some kind of spiritual growth? Will it bring you closer to your Heavenly Father, as well as your friends or neighbors? Even solitary activities, like journaling, are for the benefit of others as well as yourself. All the records we enjoy in the form of scriptures came because someone wrote in a journal of some sort. Most of what we know about our ancestors came because someone wrote about what happened in their lives in a journal or in letters. Not all activities produce their good benefit in the same way or as quickly as some other activities, but as long as good comes of it then it is worthy of your time and attention.
- Can you name the redeeming virtues or spiritual benefits of the activity you have chosen? We need to recognize that in today’s society if the world approves of the activity for the Sabbath, chances are very high that it is not an item that is something the Lord would have put at the top of His preferred list of activities for us to do on his day.
- Can you name several activities that will benefit your family, your relationship with friends, the community in which you live, or your personal relationship with the Spirit?
- Finally, how do any of these activities help you to personally come unto the Savior? What is the reward or benefit of such activities that will carry over with you into the rest of your week?
We spend all week seeking after our own welfare. We labor to care for our children and our spouse, our place of residence, our community, and we pursue our hobbies and leisure. But what are we to focus on each Sabbath day?
How can focusing our time and attention on the Lord of the Sabbath change what happens to us throughout the rest of the week? As a partial answer to my own question, may I observe that righteous living has residual effects. When we consistently read the Book of Mormon the prophets have promised us that we will find ourselves more consistently making wise choices each day. It is the nature of righteousness that it affects more than just one part of our life. It has a pervasive quality about it that blesses all parts of our daily experiences.
For example, if we choose to seek to be closer to the Spirit on the Sabbath day by spending some time studying the scriptures or visiting relatives to deepen our relationship with them, do you think that the spiritual benefit from such activities will only help us understand the scriptures better or only help with the relationships in that one family? Goodness by definition is viral. It spreads itself abroad and manifests itself in the most unlikely of places. All it needs is the initial boost to get it going.
The secret to choosing wise Sabbath-day activities is that the activities are deliberately planned and chosen for their benefits and their ability to bring us closer to Christ. When we are deliberate about our spiritual progress amazing things will happen to us. It isn’t enough to just choose good things to do on the Sabbath. If we are going to draw closer to the Lord of the Sabbath then we must also reject (there is another one of those words of deliberate action) those activities that will draw us into ourselves or draw us away from the spirit of worship that should exist in everything we do on His holy day.
In Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-29 we are told that the good we do needs to be deliberate and self selected. We are supposed to be using our moral agency to choose to do good of our own will and choice. If we wait until the Lord has to command us to do good then we will forfeit our eternal reward for sheer laziness. Here are the verses.
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
This is the essence of our Sabbath day worship. We need to be deliberately choosing to do those things that help us to draw nearer to Christ. When we abandon ourselves to laziness and slothfulness on the Sabbath then we lose our reward that would have been ours if we had chosen to keep the day holy through “righteous living” – dare I say “righteous works?”
Using Christ as our foundation
In Helaman 5:12 we are told that placing Christ at the center of our lives, or basing our lives on Him and his doctrine, creates a safe and secure foundation for our lives. This solid foundation enables us to weather any of life’s storms that will arise.
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
This is one of those wonderful and mighty scriptures that talks in riddles. What is this sure foundation? What does he mean by the devil sending “his shafts in the whirlwind” or “when all his hail and mighty storm shall beat upon you?” Each of us face these storms on an individual basis. When I am facing my own trials in life you may be experiencing smooth sailing. But it is true that all of us will have to weather rough times when we doubt our testimony or when we are unfairly treated or rejected by those who should have been supporting us. It is in these times that our only sure defense against the hopelessness and loneliness we face is found in the faith and testimony we have developed in our Savior. And much of this foundation for our lives is what is supposed to be happening on the Sabbath day.
As we take charge of our Sabbath worship and choose to use this one day a week to intently worship the Lord of the Sabbath, our lives will improve every day of the week. We will come to feel safe in our Savior’s love and in our relationship with the Spirit. His grace will strengthen us so when we face our trials, which always come unexpectedly and at the worst times, we will have the resolve and faith we need to grow and become even stronger from the tests we face.
I will finish this by requoting from Moroni 10:32.
… if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ …
This is our hope. This is our promise. As we come unto Christ and deliberately do all in our power to draw closer to the Spirit each Sabbath day, Christ’s grace will enable us to make the changes we need to make to become more like Him. And by His grace we can become whole and complete – perfected – in Christ.
Goodness by definition is viral. It spreads itself abroad and manifests itself in the most unlikely of places. All it needs is the initial boost to get it going.