The contrast seems almost profane, but yet our evangelical culture allows this profane contrast to sound sensical. While sports can be important and should play a role in our lives–I speak as a lover of sports–our priorities must never be confused. Over at Reformation 21 the ever prolific Mark Jones offers some thoughts:
I think it is important, in all things, for our children to learn from their parents that from the time they come out of the womb to the time they leave the home the Lord must come first. Following Christ demands that we even renounce our family if we have to (Lk. 9:57-62; Lk. 14:26); how much more should we renounce sports for Christ’s sake? We are always to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).
Giving up worship for sports is not an option for Christians. In fact, to miss worship because of sports is positively wicked. Your children will not likely be converted on the field or on the court or on the diamond. In God’s house, with God’s people, they are in the most important place for their never-dying souls. They are in the place that shapes their living for the week, week after week, year after year, decade after decade.
The most important thing Christians can do in this world is worship God in the corporate assembly of his people on the Lord’s Day. Think about that. We enter into the heavenly places when we worship. We commune with the triune God and his people. Through faith, we receive grace upon grace, and we offer praises to the living God. And would we rob our children of this inestimable blessing for a game?
While I have written about this in my little book The Trinitarian Fatherand have written about it elsewhere, the conversation seems to be in constant need of being stressed. This is not merely a question of to be or not to be sabbatarian. I know many like myself who would take a clear exception to the Westminster Confession in favor of the continental view who still sees this element as binding. Jones asserts that this compromise is positively wicked and can have a negative affect on the religious education of our own children.
It is the mind and will of God, that the first day of the week should be especially set apart among Christians, for religious exercises and duties. . . . This is a doctrine that we have been generally brought up in by the instructions and examples of our ancestors; and it has been the general profession of the Christian world, that this day ought to be religiously observed and distinguished from other days of the week.
The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998), 93,94.
The only redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.
In this third Sunday of the Advent Season, Americans will sing of an impotent Jesus. Instead of a Messiah that came to bring His indisputable claim of Lordship and His glorious kingdom of grace to earth, the world will pay homage to a Europen-like Jesus who is seeking to fulfill your greatest dreams. Whatever happened to the Jewish Messiah? The One who was to be the Savior of the world; who came to bring true peace and to call us to repentance?
Our catechism question teaches us that the only Redeemer of God’s elect is true God of true God; light from light eternal. He is not an impotent Messiah. The Lord Jesus is our only Redeemer because for our sake He became like us; in the fullness of time from all eternity the Son of God came to earth to redeem a people unto Himself of His own pleasure. The little Lord Jesus is the powerful Judge; the little Lord Jesus is the Redeemer of sinful men; the little Lord Jesus is the King of angels; the little Lord Jesus is both God and man. O, Come and Let Us Adore Him.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The Sabbath is nigh and it is important to think through my deeds this week. The reality is once again that I have failed my God in word and in deed. I have failed to honor His law, by spitting in His grace. I have robbed him of my obedience by shutting my ears to His revealed word. How is it possible then to prepare for such a holy day as the Sabbath? Repentance, says St. Peter. Repentance, again and again and again.
The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigor during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbor). Today, some people give up something they enjoy, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.1 Prayer, fasting and almsgiving; these are the three central elements of Lent. Though there is no particular obligation to maintain these elements for forty days from a Biblical view, we are to be reminded that all these elements are Biblical. The pattern of 40 days follow many examples in both Old and New Testament. Furthermore, the church has faithfully celebrated this time. We are not in need of an explicit reference in the Scriptures to celebrate something that the Scriptures itself demands.
I have been reminded of the weakness of my prayer, the poverty of my giving, and my non-existent life of fasting. This is why we need Lent. This is why we need to keep Lent Holy.
Sabbatarianism ought not to be a hindrance to Lent. I firmly believe that both can go hand in hand. In fact, as we fast weekly, the Sabbath can serve as a day of feasting from that which we have fasted. Presbyterians generally look down upon Lent.2 Though I understand the reasoning behind it, we are to look at Lent as a Holy time to reflect upon our sinfulness and our careless endeavors to please God. These need to be days of wilderness wanderings. Even Christ himself went through the wilderness3 and taught us that His faithfulness is our faithfulness.
The Sabbath is a day of great joy to me. It was not always so! In the past it served as a day to glorify my own desires. 1 Over the years God has given me a new vision of the Sabbath, not as a day of drudgery, but of pure rest.
This day we heard the people of God sing with great joy. Our confession was simple but yet profound:
O Divine Lawgiver, I take shame to myself for open violations of Your law, for my secret faults, my omissions of duty, my unprofitable attendance upon means of grace, my carnality in worshiping You. I confess and bewail my deficiencies and backslidings: I mourn my numberless failures. I have light enough to see my darkness, sensibility enough to feel the hardness of my heart, spirituality enough to mourn my want of a heavenly mind; but I might have had more, I ought to have had more. You have always placed before me an infinite fullness, and I have not taken it.
I was reminded that God has placed all His riches for us to enjoy and to grow in our walk, and yet, we spit on His promises and despise His Holiness. May God grant me eyes to experience His infinite fullness in Christ Jesus.
Bishop J.C. Ryle: The Sabbath is a Day to Keep
There is a subject in the present day which demands the serious attention of all professing Christians in the United Kingdom. That subject is the Christian Sabbath, or Lord’s Day.
It is a subject which is forced upon our notice. The minds of many are agitated by questions arising out of it. “Is the observance of a Sabbath binding on Christians? Have we any right to tell a man that to do his business or seek his pleasure on a Sunday is a sin? Is it desirable to open places of public amusement on the Lord’s Day?” All these are questions that are continually asked. They are questions to which we ought to be able to give a decided answer. Read the rest…
This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their wordly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy. CHAPTER XXI – Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath-day