Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He did.”
Jesus said he patterned everything he did after his heavenly Father’s example. He told people in John 5:19, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees the Father do, for whatever things He does, these things the Son also does, in the same way.” So, if we are going to be like Jesus, we’re going to follow the Father’s example and do things His way. Some may complain that living that way amounts to imitating someone, but what is wrong with imitating a perfect example? Paul exhorted the saints to “be followers of God” (Eph. 5:1), and those who heeded Paul’s counsel found perfect peace and joy.
In truth, everybody on earth is imitating others, and that is perfectly normal. One way we can tell if a person is from a culture different from ours is that he imitates, in clothing or mannerisms, others from his own culture. So, where is the harm in imitating God, or in imitating those who are close to him? Aren’t we exhorted to follow the faith of those who follow Christ? “Follow me,” said Paul to the saints, “as I follow Christ.”
How God Kept the Sabbath
What did our heavenly Father do on the first Sabbath day? And then, what did He tell us to do on the Sabbath? In the beginning, after God had finished His six days of creation, “He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He did”. Thousands of years later, when He established the Old Testament with Israel, God told them, “Six days shall you labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to Jehovah your God. You shall do no work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male slave, or your female slave, or your livestock, or your foreigner who is in your gates. For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and He rested the seventh day. Therefore, Jehovah blessed the Sabbath day, and sanctified it.”
So the weekly Sabbath day was given to men as a day of rest. It was not originally intended by the Creator to be a day of worship. The question is, if we are to be like our heavenly Father, and He rested on the Sabbath day, what are we supposed to do? His later commandment to Israel let us know: we are to rest, just as He did!
Men transformed God’s Sabbath from a day of rest to a day of worship, and then, as their worship rituals became more elaborate, rules concerning the Sabbath became tools of oppression and left people with no day of relief. When Jesus came, he found that God’s people had taken their eyes off God; they had ceased from following God’s good example; consequently, they were in deep bondage to religious works. Jesus never stopped following His Father’s example, and that is the basic reason religious leaders hated him so much and killed him. Jesus told them at one point, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!” But they would not hear. His liberty to follow God’s example was a threat to their control of people’s lives.
In Western Culture, one result of men transforming the idea of a weekly day of rest into a day of religious activity is that it left no day of rest for man. Consequently, wanting their rest but afraid they would offend God if they did not devote themselves to worship on “His holy day”, men designated another day for rest. So now, we have a two-day “weekend”. Our weekends give men five days to work, one day for rest, and one day for God.
Years ago, I realized that Jesus is not a Christian, even though I claimed to be one myself. I wondered aloud, on several occasions, why I was something that Jesus was not. But since everybody I knew in the Lord claimed to be a Christian, I assumed that was what I was supposed to be. But in May of 1993, Jesus let me know that he wanted me to be like him instead of being like people, even his people. He called me out of Christianity and delivered me from being a Christian so that I could serve the Father “in spirit and in truth” instead of after the traditions of men.
Do we really believe that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts? Jesus said, “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.” When God reveals to us what He thinks about some of the things we regard as holy, it can be frightening. His thoughts really are not our thoughts! One sister testified that when God first started calling her (she was a dedicated Christian at that time), He spoke to her heart and revealed to her that everything she had always thought about Him was filth. (You can read her testimony at www.pastorjohnshouse.com/donnanelson.html). It was a stunning word from God, but it brought her relief, too, because she was already beginning to understand that she did not really know God (in spite of her college degree in Christian Education). But such a revelation is frightening only as long as we cling to our superstitions rather than simply trust whatever God says. When we do that, His word brings us peace.
The same is true about this revelation from Jesus to me concerning God’s original purpose for instituting the Sabbath day. We need not be afraid to rest if God’s will is that we rest! All we need is faith. When our loving heavenly Father gave us a day of rest, He commanded us to rest, not to worship, on that holy day. He loves us! Let’s obey Him! To have rest for our bodies and our minds is essential to sound physical and spiritual health. With oppressive religious activity, Satan has robbed God’s people a million times of much-needed rest. But God gives us rest; He does not take it away. This is one of the reasons that the Father is calling to all His children, “Come out of her my people!” He is calling us to come rest with Him!
The simple truth is that if we live God’s way, including resting whenever He says rest, we will have no time left over for anything false or evil. And if we work when he says work, we will be prepared to rest when His rest is offered.
There Remains a Rest
In Hebrews 4, we are told that there still “remains a rest for the people of God.” In that verse, the author is referring to the rest we will find on the New Earth which God has prepared for those who love Him. But in truth, there remains in this life a rest for the people of God, a rest which they have forgotten about, the spiritual rest of walking in the Spirit of God instead of in the traditions of men. Long ago, God lamented through the prophet Jeremiah that His people had “forgotten their resting place.” The same is true today. God’s people have drifted away from the life of the Spirit in order to fit into a form that is not of God and to help to carry on Christian traditions that are not of God. Their souls are tired. They are being used up. They need God’s rest.
One young saint from Louisville visited a Christian place of worship not long ago, and she said that as she sat there and watched the religious forms being carried out, all she could think was, “What about God?” and, “What about the Spirit?” The ceremonial worship she saw being offered to God there could have been performed if the Son of God had never even come to earth. There was none of God’s rest in what those worshipers were doing, and she was glad to go home, where she knew she could find it.
Being Like Jesus
If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be Christians, but we will all be good in God’s sight, and happy. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be “heavily laden” with the doctrines of men, but we will be excited and zealous about growing in the knowledge of God. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will be confused as to what is right and wrong, but none of us will be proud and overbearing with the truth we know. If we will all just be like Jesus, none of us will live in fear, but none of us will be careless in our attitudes or speech. To be like Jesus is to have rest in our souls. And to have rest in our souls is to be holy and pure and to enjoy the true Sabbath of God.