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Origins Series: The Origin of Rest
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Origins Series: The Origin of Rest

Adrian Holloway on March 14, 2010 with 0 Comments

Genesis 2:1-3 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service

SLIDE: Origin of Rest (Genesis 2:1-3)

Would you agree that the pace of life is hectic? We talk of the morning and evening ‘rush hour.’ Children get told to “hurry up and get a move on.” Work seems to expand to fill all the time that we have. How often have you heard yourself, or others say:
‘If only I had the time.”
“There’s never enough time.”
“I don’t know where the time goes.”
“How do you find the time?”
“I’m hard pressed for time.”
“I’ll try to find time.”
“Oh no, is that the time already?”
“My, how time flies!”
“Could you fit in time?”
“Mustn’t waste time,”
“I just ran out of time,”
“I don’t even get time to think,”

and we have a wide range of other expressions as well . . .
• I haven’t got a moment to spare,
• There aren’t enough hours in the day,
• There’s always so much to do,
• I never seem to stop,
• We’re flat out at the moment,
• I’ve just got to rush,
• The week’s simply flown,
• Back to the treadmill,
• No rest for the wicked,

and the revealing invitation, “you must come around some time.”

Which actually means: “Don’t come.” We all know when people say to us . . . “you must come over some time,” that it’s not a real invitation, is it!

If this is your first Sunday here with us, as a church we are currently going through the early chapters of the book of Genesis.

And today’s message is entitled “The Origin of Rest.”

If God rested one day in seven, and if God tells us to rest one day in seven, then in our non-stop 24/7 culture, we ignore that principle at our peril.

Now why is this subject so relevant to everyone here?

Well, if one dangerous extreme over here is extreme laziness, and the other dangerous extreme over here is extreme over-work, I’m going to assume that you are closer to THIS danger, than this danger. Now why would I think that? Because you chose to live in London! You didn’t have to. You could have lived in Wiltshire, or Cumbria, or Ayrshire, or Carmarthenshire in Wales, but you didn’t. You chose to live in one of the most work-aholic cities that has ever existed on the face of the earth. And so did I.

According to Professor Carey Cooper, a stress-management expert at Lancaster University, we, in the UK, are now working the second longest hours in the developed world. Only the Americans are working longer hours than us, which means we are now working longer hours than Japan. And that’s not good. Because in Japan, the second largest killer of working males is “Karoshi,” which means “death from overwork.”

Meanwhile, in the Bible, God commands us to rest. You could summarize it like this. God says: “Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. Human beings work best, when they rest one day in seven. If you don’t rest,” God says, “things fall apart.”

Before we get into Genesis chapter 2, I want to mention 4 recent trends that have really cranked up the pressure on each of us . . .

1) The invention of mobile phones and email.

Yes you could be “relaxing with friends,” yes you could be “on your day off”, yes you could be “with your children” physically, but if your emails come to your phone . . . the moment you look at that thing, you don’t even have to open the email, you just have to see who it’s from, and mentally you’ve gone there. You are already solving the problem in your mind. You could be snuggled up, reading a bible story with your three year old son, but the moment you look at that text message, you’re buzzing with work. It’s the addiction of a busy lifestyle. Is it any wonder that thousands of us complain of stress?

Technology was supposed to make life easier and take the stress out of life. We were told, “Hey good news, from now on, we’ve invented this gadget, which means, you can work anywhere. ” The result is that we now work everywhere. Technology was supposed to free up leisure time, instead it allowed work to slither into every previously private sacred area of our life.

Dads on phone at the swings yesterday –
1. Great illustration
2. Self-righteousness
3. Bethany saying: “you need to pay more attention”
4. Cigarette butt

These inventions have doubled the pace of life, and raised expectations. Everyone now expects a quick response. So that puts the pressure on us.

2) We are increasingly defined by our work rather than by our family.

In other words, in most societies in the history of the world, up until now, you got your identity, and your security from your family. You have this web of loving relationships, up to parents and grandparents, down to your children, sideways to your sisters, brothers and cousins, and then at 45 degree angles to your uncles and aunts. And you get all this security for free, you don’t have to do anything, you’re born into it. You’re born into this massive network of secure relationships, and the fact that you are in your family, that’s who you are. And, on the whole, the family has been a massive stabilizing force throughout history.

Now, however, for the first time, we are defined by work. So you’re at some social event, you meet a total stranger, in a traditional society, the stranger would ask you: “Who’s your father?” But you and I never get asked that question! If we’re at some social function, we get asked: “So what do you do?” And when we’re asked that question . . . if we are totally honest . . . we would quite like the other person to be impressed with what we do.

So here in the West, we are now breaking new cultural ground. For millions of people, what you do, is who you are. We now self-define by our job rather than by family, and that really puts the pressure on doing. We have moved from being to doing! That’s a huge cultural shift.

3) The nature of work is more transitory than ever before.

Jobs have never been so insecure. If you stopped 100 Londoners at random and asked . . . “Do you think you’ll be in your job a year from now?” We all know, loads of them would answer: “I hope so, but I’ve no idea, a year’s a long time.”

If you asked then them as a follow up question, “do you feel like your employer actually cares about you as a person?” We all know that many would answer: “You’ve got to be joking!”

So if we’re under pressure and we don’t feel supported, the last thing we’re going to do is rest, instead we’re likely to try even harder because we’re trying to earn our employer’s approval. And that really is pressure!

4) The widening gulf between top and bottom earners.

The gap between the best paid and the worst paid in society has grown dramatically. So the top earners can’t rest, because they are just expected these days to put in the most enormous hours.

Meanwhile, the bottom earners in society, they got left behind by this wealth explosion. And so . . . many of them work two jobs, or sometimes even three jobs, just to make ends meet.

And the amazing thing in London . . . is that you get the very rich and the very poor living right next to each other. Tomorrow morning at 7.00am, you’ll see two Londoners standing next to each other at the same bus stop going to work. One is a top earner who is under so much pressure that they can’t even think of rest as a realistic option, the other is earning so little that they also can’t think of rest as an option, because they’ve got to work really hard to make ends meet.

So this is the world we live in.

Does the Bible have anything to say to us that would actually help?

The answer is a massive YES!

And we’re going to look at these three verses.

SLIDE: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:1-3)

And so verse 1 says:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.”

When was the last time I stopped and studied the heavens above? When was the last time that I got out into the countryside on a clear night, and just gazed upwards at the stars in the sky, a night sky that puts me into perspective?

The fact that God created the universe does establish God’s credentials to speak to us about rest.

Whatever our religious beliefs, it is a fact that the universe had a beginning.

Thanks to Edwin Hubble and Albert Einstein, we now know that the universe is not eternal. It had a beginning at a finite point in the past.

If I heard a bang, I’d assume that the bang had a cause. How much more if I heard a big bang! And if the result of the big bang was the creation of a finely tuned universe that couldn’t possibly exist if any of the numbers on any of the dials were adjusted even very slightly, I’d assume there was some intelligence behind that creation event. I’d suspect it was the work of an intelligent designer.

Can you hear the hint of wonder in verse 1? “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in their vast array.” The sheer vastness of the universe, its sudden and dramatic arrival, its grandeur, its beauty, its complexity, it’s ingenuity, and in particular, its’ fine tuning, demand some sort of explanation.

Verse 2 says . . .

SLIDE: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)

Last month we looked at the question of ‘were these creation days, seven literal 24 hour days? And we saw that the Hebrew word “Yom” which is translated as “day” is used elsewhere to refer to a long period of time. So it’s at least possible that God made the earth in six long periods of time, and that, for what it’s worth, is my personal view. But, as we’ve just seen, our passage starts with the world already created.

And in verse 2, God rests. Why? Was God worn out? Had he overdone it? That can’t be right because the Bible says that God never grows tired. So why would God rest? Well, this is the rest of achievement not of inactivity. God rested to enjoy his creation and us! Chapter 1 says that what God had created was very good, so He enjoyed it. And because God loves us, he tells us in the 4th commandment to rest one day in seven just as God rested on the seventh day of creation. God wants us to enter into His rest.

At this point, you should be thinking . . . oh good, this sermon is going to be all about how God wants me to rest because I’ve been working too hard. You’re right. It is. God cares about you. And that’s why he wants you to rest. God wants you to enjoy His rest. He wants you to rest from your work, just like God rested from his. But the Sabbath is more than just a suggestion.

SLIDE: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3)

Verse 3 says that God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. In other words in verse 3, we go beyond “God rested 1 day in 7 as an example to us” and we graduate towards, “God made IT holy. In other words, verse 3 is not saying that God is holy, although He is. Verse 3 is saying that God made something else holy, in this case, a day! We should pay attention to any thing that God makes holy. Here God makes a day holy.

And there are four questions we want to ask . . .

1. Why do we need to Sabbath?
2. Which day of the week is the Sabbath?
3. Where do we get rest from?
4. How do we Sabbath in a non-stop culture like London?

1. Why do I need to Sabbath?

Because God has a divine timetable. There’s a pattern. Six days work, one day of rest. God created the human race to bring everyone to a place where they could enjoy His rest.

Now clearly God told us to rest thousands of years before the invention of the internet. So the Sabbath can’t simply be God’s response to a 21st Century challenge. There must be a deeper reason, an original reason for creating the Sabbath. There is . . .

And it’s spiritual. Which is why the Sabbath is described as “holy.”

Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

When Jesus said that, he was clearly addressing a spiritual need for rest.

When Jesus told fish mongers, tax collectors and farmers “I will give you rest.” Jesus was offering them something better than a day off. He was promising them spiritual rest. Rest for your souls. A deep rest! A deep stillness! A deep joy! The end to a life of striving!

Rest from what?

Well Jesus called himself “The Lord of the Sabbath.”

And that’s a clue right there. You see if you were Jewish, you had to obey all these Sabbath laws. So life was a constant effort to be good enough, to meet the demands, to achieve, to prove yourself to be good enough. But there were so many laws you could never keep them all, you were bound to fail, and that was incredibly wearying!

Then Jesus came along and started healing people on the Sabbath. The religious people, the lawyers said: “That’s outrageous, you’re not allowed to do that on the Sabbath.” Jesus replied, effectively, ‘I can heal people on the Sabbath because I am Lord of the Sabbath.’

When Jesus said “Come to me and you will find rest for your souls,” he was saying: “All you weary people, I’ve got good news . . . you don’t have to work any more to try to be good enough. Because I am good enough. I am the Lord of the Sabbath. Just follow me.”

This is brilliant news for workaholic London. It’s one of the reasons why this church, and others like it, are growing. It’s why we’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of people begin to explore Christianity on our Alpha Course.

You see, why are we working such long hours? Is it really so that we can get a bigger house, a new car and more CDs? Are we really slogging our guts out just so that we can buy even more electrical goods? No! That’s not the whole answer is it?

Is it then parental expectation? ‘I’ve got to make it as an XYZ otherwise, even if they never say it, I know in my heart that unless I get this or that qualification, I know I’ll be a disappointment to my parents.’ Well, that’s part of it, but it’s not the whole answer.

Is it peer pressure? Is it that I’ve got to keep going, because when I meet up with my university friends and they ask me what I’m doing, I know in my heart, that what I’m doing isn’t good enough. I feel like a failure. And that embarrassment is what’s driving me.’ That’s part of it, but that’s not the whole answer either.

We are driven not so much by the expectations of others. The truth is, it’s us who is driving us! It’s you who is driving you! We want to prove something, not so much to others, but to ourselves! It’s not our parents or our friends who are our sternest critics, we are our sternest critic! No-one is actually telling you, you’re a failure, you are telling you that you’re a failure. No one is actually telling you to work harder, try harder, become someone or get somewhere, we are putting all these demands upon ourselves! And we never ever quite satisfy our own demands. What we have achieved so far isn’t quite enough. And so we work harder, but we’re still not satisfied. Our dream still hasn’t come true, so we think, “oh, well I guess I’ve just got to keep going,” and that kind of work is incredibly wearying.

Whether you are a 1st century Jew trying to obey the Sabbath laws, or a 21st Century lawyer trying to make the grade in London, Jesus comes to you and says:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Otherwise there’ll always be another person to phone, another email to send. Our work is never finished!

And that is incredibly wearying until you meet The Lord of the Sabbath.

I heard a story about this that I found very funny . . .

There was a rich business man who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting on the quayside beside his boat and the rich businessman said to him, “why aren’t you out there at sea fishing?”

The fisherman said “because I’ve caught enough fish for today.”

“But why don’t you catch more than you need?” the businessman asked.

“What would I do with them?” the man replied.

The rich businessman said: “You could earn more money, so you could buy a better boat so that you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch bigger fish and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and you’d be rich like me.”

Then the fisherman said “then what would I do?”

The rich business man said: “you could sit down and enjoy life!”

The fisherman looked placidly out to see and said: “what do you think I’m doing now!”

We need to rest. We are designed to rest one day in seven. So first, WHY do I need to Sabbath? Because God wants me to rest.

Next . . .

2. Which day of the week is the Sabbath?

The Jewish Sabbath was Saturday. But because Jesus lived a perfect life, because Jesus fulfilled all the very rigorous requirements of the law, we don’t have to.

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 14:5 that a Christian can “consider all days alike” if he wishes. In other words, it doesn’t have to be Saturday, or any particular day. The first Christians chose Sunday because it was the day that Jesus rose from the dead, so it was the obvious day for churches to gather together to celebrate.

So in Romans 14, one person is saying: “It’s got to be this special day, say, Saturday” someone else in the church is saying: “No, it can be any day, it could be Wednesday.” Paul’s response is either is fine. He actually says: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” As long as you’ve thought it through, either is fine. In other words, the implication seems to be . . . it’s the principle of one day’s rest in seven that matters rather than the actual day.

Sunday is a great day to take as the Sabbath. In my case, I work on Sundays, so I do Sabbath on Monday. Romans 14:5 seems to be saying that’s OK.

In Colossians 2:16, the Christians at Colossae are told: “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival . . . or a Sabbath day.” (Colossians 2:16)

Conclusion? As long as you’re having a Sabbath rest, we shouldn’t be judging each other as to which day someone else takes.

3.Where do we get rest from?

When Jesus said: “I am the Lord of the Sabbath,” he wasn’t saying, ‘the Sabbath is now obsolete, you can forget about it.’ He was actually saying, ‘I am what the Sabbath is all about. I am rest. Rest is what I give out. I’ve got enough rest for everyone. I’ve got enough peace for everyone.’ Jesus said: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

You see you can’t get deep rest for your soul simply by stopping work for a day. You can’t get deep rest for your soul, simply by going ski-ing for a week. Because after two months back at work, you’ll be as stressed as you ever were before.

If you need rest for your soul, you can’t fix that by going snow-boarding. You’ve got a personal need, you need to go to a person – a person who will give you rest, as a gift. That’s what the Lord of Rest does.

We need to get deep rest, soul rest.

And so all through Genesis 1, at the end of each day of creation, God looked at what he’d created and said it was good, and at the end of the sixth day, he looked at the whole thing and said it was “very good.” That’s why God is able to rest. Because what he’d made was perfect. He is totally satisfied with what He’s done.

And that’s what we’re striving for, that feeling, of “Hooray! Look what I’ve done! I’ve achieved everything I wanted to. I’m not disappointed in the least.” But we never quite get there . . .

We’re never able to quite do what God did on the seventh day, and rest, knowing, “it’s perfect.” No, our work is never finished, until we meet Jesus.

So here’s an amazing verse. The Bible says:

“For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:10)

You can rest from your own work, just as God did from his. You can be as totally satisfied with your life living in London in 2010, as God was satisfied with his work on the seventh day of creation!

You can be as at peace about your life on the tube tomorrow morning, as God was at peace looking at his perfect creation. Why? Because there’s nothing more to be done! Jesus did it all for you! Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law. Which is why at the very end of his life, when he died on the cross, Jesus announced: “It is finished!”

Now this is such good news for us, that it almost sounds too good to be true. If you’ve been told all your life . . .
‘If you want to get this qualification, you need to study longer.
If you want to marry this person, you need to look better,
If you want to own this property, you need to work harder,

Well, when it comes to getting into to heaven, we suspect that we’re going to have to earn it, or at least work for it, instead, we’re told to do nothing. It’s all been done for us. Jesus said: It is finished!

The message of the New Testament is: ‘Don’t try to earn God’s approval. Christ has already done it for you. Christ was acceptable to God, so just join yourself to Christ, and you’re home safe and sound.’

You gain eternal rest, in heaven, by doing nothing other than reaching a point in your life where you stop trying, and just trust in Christ who is good enough. We’ll never be perfect enough for a perfect heaven, but Christ is, so we just trust in him and we get into heaven on the basis of his finished work, not ours.

And that is what takes the pressure off!

What an amazingly liberating experience, to be able to look at your own life and be totally satisfied. “I am totally accepted through Christ. There’s nothing else I need to do. I am the righteousness of God in Christ. It is finished!”

That takes you from feeling like: “Oh man, I can’t win”, to feeling like: “Thanks be to God, I can’t lose!”

Because you’ve just inherited something better than a day off work, you’ve got deep soul rest! You’ve got the Lord of the Sabbath living inside you!

Hey, everybody is trying to get their identity out of something. Their work, their appearance, their art, their sporting prowess, their achievements. At which point Christ walked up to us and said, ‘if you make me your identity, if you become a Christian, you’ll have deep soul rest, absolute rest.’

It means that the only God you will ever have to prove yourself to, the real God, has already said of you: “this is my beloved Son, with him I am well pleased.” You’re in Christ. It is finished. Deep rest is yours today and every day.

And so finally . . .

4. How do I Sabbath in a non-stop culture like London?

Objection: “If I take time off, if I rest, I risk falling behind in my career.”

Yes, that is entirely possible. It may be that if you start taking appropriate Sabbath rest, that a colleague who doesn’t will be promoted instead of you.

SLIDE: Pics of Gary Grant and The Entertainer

On the other hand, let me just tell you about Gary Grant. He owns one of the fastest growing retail chains in Britain, The Entertainer Toy Stores.

Now here’s the funny thing. When Gary Grant became a Christian in 1991, he just decided I’m not going to open on Sundays. That was 19 years ago. It was no big deal because there was hardly any Sunday trading in 1991, and he only had a couple of shops.

Then the laws changed. Everything opened on Sundays. Except Gary Grant’s shops. So all his competitors in every shopping centre have been open 7 days a week for 15 years. And all Gary’s shops are shut all-day Sunday, and they’ve been shut every Sunday since Sunday trading came in, back in the mid-90s. And yet, The Entertainer is growing and many other chains are going out of business. Gary has now got hundreds and hundreds of staff and 47 stores.

How come?

Now this is just an opinion . . . but surely it’s got to have something to do with the staff. Gary Grant is sending a massive signal to all his employees. Gary’s saying to his staff: “I care about you, so I am going to give you ALL every Sunday off, forever to be with your family and friends. As long as you work for me, you’ll never have to work Sundays.” I can only imagine that Gary’s staff feel tremendously valued. And so they hit the ball out the park six days a week and take Sunday off.

So, rather than falling behind, doing Sabbath has helped Gary get ahead. I met Gary Grant two years ago, he said to me, “the thing is,” he said: “Business is a marathon not a sprint. And doing Sabbath Rest has turned out to be a smart business decision in the long run.” And who knows if you do Sabbath Rest now, if you discipline yourself to take a day off now, you might find in 20 years time instead of being burnt out, you will find someone like me giving you free publicity on a West End stage.

Second objection . . . If I am going to take appropriate rest, I might as well quit my job, move out of London, and do something completely different.

If you really embrace the Lord of the Sabbath, you don’t have to leave London.

You don’t have to move out of London to get rest, deep soul rest, because you can get deep soul rest from the Lord of Rest here.

If you’ve got deep Sabbath Rest in your soul, why not raise your family in London?

“But surely the moment your wife got pregnant, you should have put your house on the market and got out of London.”

Not necessarily.

Because if it’s deep soul rest you’re looking for, that comes from Jesus and not from the countryside.

So practically, I want to encourage you, discipline yourself to take a day off. Take a day to tell yourself the story of who you really are

The reason we can’t rest is because we’re not sure if we’re ok.

But the Sabbath is an act of liberation. In Deuteronomy 15 it says ‘remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that I brought you out with a mighty hand, therefore observe the Sabbath day.’ Isn’t that interesting?

Why would God say ‘you were slaves, now you’re free, now observe the Sabbath day’. I’ll tell you why, slaves didn’t have a day off. If you don’t rest, you’re a slave.

So go ahead, choose your Sabbath Day. Do something that you’d never normally do, bake a cake, unless you’re a baker, kick a football, unless you’re a footballer, sing a song unless you’re a singer. Do your thing to the glory of God! Get some rest. Hug your mother, paint a picture, pick up a tennis racquet, and say out loud:

‘this is an act of liberation, my work does not define me, Christ defines me. I am not defined by how many customers I get, how much money I make, how well I’m doing, how expert I become, I am taking time off today because I am not a slave’.

Let’s worship God together . . .