10 Affectionate Sabbath-keeping

By John Thiel, Godly Affections That Motivate Series, mp3

Scripture reading: Isaiah 63:7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, [and] the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. … 9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments, and because it is, it is often looked upon as a legal expectation, and people fall into the danger of coming to the Sabbath as to something which is expected of them, and they see it as a bit of a burden. So many long-time Seventh-day Adventists, people who have grown up in Adventism, look forward to the end of the Sabbath so that they can do what they want and what they like. This has been a burden in my heart over the years, because I was myself brought up in the Seventh-day Adventist church. I grew up with Sabbath-keeping and I saw this sad experience among Adventists as I grew up among them. When the Sabbath came to its end and Saturday night came it was just about a celebration that Sabbath was over – they could now go out and enjoy themselves. But for me Sabbath became an ever-developing and deeper joy, and I wondered what the problem was.

So it has developed in my mind to the point of sharing the subject from a totally different viewpoint than merely that of legal commandment-keeping. Having contemplated over the several weeks past that our affections are to be the motive force for doing whatever God wants us to do, I thought it a valuable thing to also bring the Sabbath into our affections. God has reached down into this world by a love that is absolutely indescribable – a multi-dimensional love.

1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.

These words solicit our meditation; they invite us to think upon the love that is in God: We who are doomed to die have no future except one of death and decay on this planet, so God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him, and not perish. This is love, that God would do this for people who didn’t love Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us. We love Him only because He first loved us. Those who contemplate this love of God respond. But it is only if we contemplate this love. That is why there are multitudes of people who still don’t love God, although Jesus died for them. But only those love Him who actually open their hearts to this amazing love of God.

As we examine the word of God more deeply in reference to God’s love we see that He gave us His Son because He wanted to have fellowship with us. This source of love triggers our love. This is the lovingkindness God has to us:

Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them:

This is Jesus. Whatever afflictions you can bring up in your mind that you are afflicted with, he also was afflicted by. Here is the kindling of our affections, if we will really embrace this. In all our afflictions He was afflicted. He became at one with us, so that whether it is the afflictions of sin or of the consequences of sin, Jesus partook with us of our sinful flesh so that He could be afflicted in everything that we are afflicted with. And it took Him right down to the cross, where He was afflicted like a sinner. He was made to be sin for us.

God wants us to reflect upon His lovingkindness in giving us this dimension of His love. He, God with us in Jesus, was afflicted and loved us for the purpose of dwelling with us in eternity and giving us life, so that we would not suffer the consequences of our sin. He suffered the consequences of our sin so that we don’t have to suffer. He desires us to have fellowship with Him. He is willing to blot out our transgressions; and for what purpose? That we would return and be with Him.

Isaiah 44:22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.

Only those who meditate upon the atonement of Jesus can appreciate the meaning of these words. He has redeemed us by the atonement. He has by the atonement been able to blot out our transgressions and sins. As we let this penetrate our minds He comes to us with another tremendous statement and says, Return unto Me. Adam and Eve, and the whole human race, were separated from God through sin; but now God says, I want you back with Me. Please, I have redeemed you; return unto Me. What an amazing dimension of love – God expresses here a desire that is within Him. He wants to have us return to Him that He may spend time with us in harmony and love.

The Father gave all honor to His Son, seating Him at His right hand, far above all principalities and powers. He expressed His great joy and delight in receiving the Crucified One, and crowning Him with glory and honor. {OHC 53.2}

Here we see Jesus, the one who has come down and become one of us, crucified. And when He was finished with His work to redeem us the Father gave honour to His Son, seating Him beside Him in His throne again, because Jesus had been separated from Him on this planet of sin. So the Father expressed His great joy and delight in receiving the Crucified One.

And all the favors He has shown to His Son in His acceptance of the great atonement, are shown to His people. {Ibid.}

The affectionate bond that the Father has with Jesus, the joy and delight of having Jesus back with Him again, the favour that He shows to His Son in accepting the atonement He made for us, the Father shows the same to His people, the same affectionate bond.

Those who have united their interests in love with Christ are accepted in the Beloved. {Ibid.}

As we see the great gift of Jesus in the atonement and our interests and affections are united with Christ, we are accepted together with Christ in heaven.

They suffered with Christ in His deepest humiliation, and His glorification is of great interest to them, because they are accepted in Him. {Ibid.}

As Jesus suffered they suffered, and He suffered as they suffered. And now, as we believe that Jesus has taken us into Himself and suffered with us and is raised again,

God loves them as He loves His Son. {Ibid.}

Christ was welcomed upon the throne with the Father. The Father’s love for Jesus is so great, and because Jesus has become one with us, if we will put our interest in this story of God’s love, we will be taken into the same affectionate bond that exists between the Father and the Son.

Christ, Emmanuel, stands between God and the believer, revealing the glory of God to His chosen ones, and covering their defects and transgressions with the garments of His own spotless righteousness. {Ibid.}

Can you feel the rising of your affections to Him within your own heart as you open yourself to this? God has bound us to Himself in such a way that He can say, I have covered your transgressions through Jesus. Just permit yourself to think for a moment about yourself and what a sinner you are. Look back at your sinful life and your weaknesses, and now embrace this amazing statement. Jesus has made you part of Himself and has imparted to us His own spotless righteousness, covering our defects and transgressions. Let it sink in. What does this do to us? It fills us with an affectionate bond that so many people in this Laodicean time in which we live have lost. They are lukewarm. There is no fervency of love for God and for Jesus because of what He has done for us. So we have to pull ourselves out of this lukewarm state and wake up to it and realise that the intensity of love has been stirred by the manifestation of this mercy of God. And God reveals to us that He wants us to be close to Him, because He wanted Jesus to be close to Him. And in Jesus we are brought close to the Father’s heart, so that He actually says, I have redeemed you, return unto Me, I want you.

Do we embrace this? God wants you, as He wants Jesus. O to believe that. And the desire in the heart of the Father and the Son is expressed in scriptures that we often read without actually picking up this great desire for union that God wants us to have with Him.

John 17:4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

Referring to the deep and intimate relationship that existed between the Father and the Word, the Godhead, Jesus is saying, I have done what You sent me to do, now I want to be back with You.

John 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 

Do you understand what He is saying here? We need to contemplate the fact that through Jesus those who embrace Him as their personal Saviour are His; they are at one with Him, and He is at one with them; and He says, All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, Thou hast given them me, for they are Thine. This expresses an intimacy.

John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

Where? The joy of Jesus with the Father is to be experienced in ourselves. This is what He wants – the joy of communion, the joy of the love that exists between Him and the Father.

John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

I want them to enjoy the glory. I want them to be with us, Father. And the Father wants Jesus to be with Him, and us with Him. This is the lovingkindness of God that we need to contemplate and really believe and let sink deep into our souls, that the glory and joy that exists between Father and Son might in us. This is the intimate desire of the Father towards Christ and those that are Christ’s:

Jeremiah 32:40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. 41 Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.

This is God speaking. He makes an everlasting covenant, and what is the covenant? He says, “I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me.” “I don’t want them to depart from Me; I want them to stay with Me.” “Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good,” just like He rejoiced over His Son. And with what intensity does God want this? He says, “With my whole heart and with my whole soul.” This is God speaking. As I open my heart to these dimensions of God’s expression to me my heart trembles with affectionate love. “What are you saying, God? Your whole soul, Your whole heart wants me?”

Yes, indeed. Wherever there is this true affectionate love that God has, there is a deep desire to spend time with one another, to rejoice in one another.

It is this affectionate bond that existed in the Godhead that is to be extended to the human race through the gift of Jesus. It is this affection material which the marriage symbolises. People get married because their affections have been drawn to one another and they want to be together. They want to spend their life together. This is a symbol of the relationship of the heavenly family. Marriage is a parallel to God and His people, an affectionate experience. Not just because this is the right thing to do. This is an affectionate bond.

Jeremiah 3:14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you:

In the descriptions I have painstakingly sought to bring to our attention here we need to grasp hold of the affection-drawing love of God, that our hearts may be drawn out to Him. This is what it is all for. It is hard to put into words. I wish we could really pick this up in our own souls so that, just as a married couple wants to be together, we might cherish the same desires for God and Jesus, because the thoughts of God and of Jesus are the same as that of a husband to his bride. And who are we? God’s church, His bride. And as husbands and wives function together they have duties to perform, they function by doing things together, but many times, in their responsibilities, they can’t continually devote undivided attention upon each other. I have often expressed it myself, I wish I wouldn’t have to go, I wish I could stay with you. But responsibilities sometimes call for us to be separated in order that we may fulfil our responsibilities. The desire to be in each other’s company is actually heavenly. God was happy to have Jesus next to Him; He wanted to spend time with Him. And He wants to spend time with us.

So because there are duties to perform there are many times situations where we can’t be in each other’s presence, enjoying each other’s affections continually; but to keep a marriage alive you must spend time with each other. So a marriage that is going to stay together is one where husband and wife will devote time for each other after all the duties and responsibilities have been taken care of. And as we have seen that the relationship of the Father toward us is the relationship of the affectionate love He has to His Son, does God also say to us, We have to spend quality time together to enjoy each other? Do you see where this leads? What is the Sabbath?

Quality Time

God says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Why? “Because I have created you, because I want you to be with Me.”

Exodus 20:10 But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God:

What is this saying? “It is My time with you. It is My day to have time with you, because I love you so much I want you to return unto Me, and I want you to remember that the Sabbath is My time that I want to spend with you.” It is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.

When we read these scriptures from the right perspective it changes the whole experience.

Isaiah 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words: 14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].

In the light of what we have delved upon in the amazing love that God has to His Son, and to us through Him, we now hear Him saying, Look, I have set aside this day for us to spend with each other. If you have your own pleasures through the week, your own activities, that’s fair enough; you are doing your duties, I am doing Mine; but here is a day that belongs to Me with you.” It is His motive of wanting to spend time with us. And if we who are on this planet, doing our own thing, don’t respond to the love of God, we will do our own pleasures, speak our own words, and we will do it during the Sabbath as well. And God is missing out. But He says to us, “I want you to delight in Me like I delight in you. By what Jesus has done in taking you into Himself, and then I having received Him back to sit with Me in My throne, I now want to enjoy Him and you, and while you may go about your weekly duties, like we go about the caring for the whole universe, yet on the Sabbath it is time for you and Me.”

Can you see here a different interpretation of those words to the one we usually have in mind? We often hear, “It’s God’s day and He wants us to keep it holy.” But wait a minute; it is God’s day so that we can spend time with each other like a married couple, affectionately connected with Him.

God wants this not only for this present time of earth’s history, but He wants us to have it eternally – a day every seventh day on the earth made new.

Isaiah 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. 23 And it shall come to pass, [that] from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.

This is going to happen throughout eternity. We will have special time specifically designed to admire each other – quality time – into eternity. What is actually contained in these thoughts?

He who gave us six days for our temporal work has blessed and sanctified the seventh day and set it apart for Himself. On this day He will in a special manner bless all who consecrate themselves to His service. {6T 361.5}

So He wants us to spend time with Him; He has set it apart for Himself so we can satisfy Him, and He will satisfy us. He will bless us with a deep fellowship, which He wants to have with all His heart and with all His soul. When two people speak really warmly to each other, are not their affections stirred for one another by that? Doesn’t it warm your heart when someone says something nice about you? and you then say something nice to him. This is what God wants the Sabbath for. He has set it aside for that purpose.

All heaven is keeping the Sabbath, but not in a listless, do-nothing way. On this day every energy of the soul should be awake, for are we not to meet with God and with Christ our Saviour? We may behold Him by faith. He is longing to refresh and bless every soul. {6T 362.1}

So is it not a strange thing that people just about celebrate when the Sabbath is over? They’ve missed the whole point. This is the point that I want to indelibly imprint into our minds: that relationship of affection is what God has generated by creation and redemption, and if we will open our hearts to it, then the Sabbath will mean something more than simply a legal expectation. It is an affectionate time, an entire day to adore Him, and for Him to love His people.

Psalm 118:24 This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

It is the day that the Lord has made for time together – quality time. This expresses the true meaning of Sabbath-keeping. If you love God very dearly, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you yearn to spend undivided attention with Him, the Sabbath is the allotted time, and we need to prepare ourselves for that allotted time. We are not going to let anything spoil it, nothing.

Heavenly-minded Preparation

Think carefully. There is much written about Sabbath-keeping in the Spirit of Prophecy. But read it from the perspective of what we have been contemplating in regards to the affectionate relationship that is God’s heart for us. We will watch carefully that as the Sabbath day approaches we are completely ready for it, having done everything that needed to be done, so that it can all be taken care of by itself because we’ve prepared so thoroughly, and so we can spend the entire day unaffected by anything that we have to do through the week.

On Friday let the preparation for the Sabbath be completed. See that all the clothing is in readiness and that all the cooking is done. Let the boots be blacked and the baths be taken. It is possible to do this. If you make it a rule you can do it. The Sabbath is not to be given to the repairing of garments, to the cooking of food, to pleasure seeking, or to any other worldly employment. Before the setting of the sun let all secular work be laid aside and all secular papers be put out of sight. {6T 355.3}

Can you see why we are to do all this, in the light of what we have been studying? So that none of these things are going to spoil the focus of our affections totally upon the One whose affections are strong for me. The moment I become distracted by something of this world’s responsibilities my relationship joy is muddled up. But this is a day not to be spoiled at all.

There is another work that should receive attention on the preparation day. On this day all differences between brethren, whether in the family or in the church, should be put away. Let all bitterness and wrath and malice be expelled from the soul. {6T 356.2}

Through the week certain things happen and embitter us, but if we take it into the Sabbath what will happen? It will spoil our love fellowship.

We should jealously guard the edges of the Sabbath. Remember that every moment is consecrated, holy time. {6T 356.1}

Every moment. The moment that the sun sets that is time for concentration upon Jesus. Watch the edges. Why?

…around the family altar all should wait to welcome God’s holy day, as they would watch for the coming of a dear friend. {ST, May 25, 1882 par. 9}

The Sabbath is coming, My dearest friend. And not only a friend, but the intimacy of the love of the Godhead is there for us to enjoy. I’m going to look forward to it with great joy. And I am not going to permit anything to get in between; nothing, not even conversation that would be distracting me from concentrating on the One who is the supreme object of my affections. Is He not the supreme object of our affections when we consider His great love? We say, “The Sabbath is my special time; the supreme object of my affections is now. I’m not going to let anything spoil it.” Can you see the difference between the legal approach and this one? “I can’t wash, I can’t iron my clothes, I can’t cook, I can’t do this, I can’t do that… All those expectations!” Wait a minute, when you are affectionately bound to the Creator of the universe who has affections for you, are you going to look at it that way? Never. You will say, “I am preparing everything. Everything’s going to be right, so that when it comes to my time with the Lord, nothing is going to spoil it.” This is what it’s about, and it is essential that we see it this way, otherwise Sabbath is a burden. In fact, what does the Bible say about carrying burdens on the Sabbath?

Burdens

Jeremiah 17:21 Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring [it] in by the gates of Jerusalem;

We read this many times in regards to just carrying a heavy load. For example, when the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda was healed and carried his bed with him, the Pharisees said that he was breaking the Sabbath. They had misunderstood it, hadn’t they? If you carry any burden in your heart on the Sabbath day, can you really enjoy the precious intimacy of God with you? We are to bask in His wonderful love; we are to enjoy an intimate fellowship that is beyond all human fellowships.

We have an example in the story of Mary. Mary loved Jesus. He had done such a wonderful thing for her. And hasn’t He done wonderful things for us? She was going to die, she was going to be stoned, and He caused those who were about to stone her to disappear. Mary was devoted to Him, she loved Him, and when He was there speaking, she just sat at His feet, while Martha was carrying on and started to complain. She said to Mary, What are you doing? Come on, we’ve got to do some work to give Jesus some food. And what did Jesus say to Martha? O Martha, Martha, you worry yourself so much about these things, but Mary is doing the right thing here, she is concentrating on that which is most important. That is Sabbath – to sit there like Mary, just adoring our Saviour, listening to every word He has to say, having our hearts filled with joy. This is Sabbath-keeping, to have our hearts aglow with love for God and of God.

All conversation is to be relevant to that. But how many times in our conversations on the Sabbath we are distracted from the One whom we love. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. And I am often pained when I see souls who want to keep the Sabbath holy but whose minds are running away with their thoughts. So even our thoughts come into the equation. But unfortunately we often speak the thoughts that come inside of us, instead of chasing the thoughts out and replacing them totally with our focus and our thoughts upon Jesus.

Those who are not fully converted to the truth frequently let their minds run freely upon worldly business, and, although they may rest from physical toil upon the Sabbath, their tongues speak out what is in their minds; hence these words concerning cattle, crops, losses, and gains. All this is Sabbath breaking. If the mind is running upon worldly matters, the tongue will reveal it, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. {2T 703.2}

We come to a point in our experience where we rejoice that we have reached something, but then we fail. And on the Sabbath day, when you have failed, are you going to carry the burden and wallow around in your guilt, thinking to yourself, Oh no, I’ve broken the Sabbath? You have just spoiled your joy. If you and I have failed to honour our Beloved, shall we fall dejected in our spirit? No, come straight into the arms of the One you love, O Lord, I’ve just failed You, please forgive me. And you know He loves you. He has already demonstrated that He has covered you by the righteousness of Christ. So instead of feeling dejected when you fail, just flee straight back into His arms. Make the Sabbath a joy, not a burden.

Will He cast us off when we have failed to honour Him on the Sabbath but we come flying back to Him with sorrow for our failures? No, He will not cast us off. He will embrace us again. So each Sabbath that comes along we may enjoy more and more as we get to know Him more and more, and as we obey the desire He wants for us.

Deepening Sabbath Glory

And as we progress towards the kingdom of heaven, until we finally enter into the beauty of the New Earth, our experience of the Sabbath will deepen.

I saw that we sensed and realized but little of the importance of the Sabbath, to what we yet should realize and know of its importance and glory. I saw we knew not what it was yet to ride upon the high places of the earth and to be fed with the heritage of Jacob. But when the refreshing and latter rain shall come from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power we shall know what it is to be fed with the heritage of Jacob and ride upon the high places of the earth. {Mar 245.3}

That is when the Holy Spirit gets poured out in the latter rain. And are we not living in the time of the latter rain? So now as we open our hearts to this we will see something more than we have seen before.

Then shall we see the Sabbath more in its importance and glory. But we shall not see it in all its glory and importance until the covenant of peace is made with us at the voice of God, and the pearly gates of the New Jerusalem are thrown open and swing back on their glittering hinges and the glad and joyful voice of the lovely Jesus is heard richer than any music that ever fell on mortal ear bidding us enter. [I saw] that we had a perfect right in the city for we had kept the commandments of God, and heaven, sweet heaven is our home. {Ibid.}

Then only will the Sabbath be seen in all its glory. We know that what we have had in the Sabbath in the past has not been as perfect as what it can be. So let us go forward and truly understand that this is not a legal expectation, but an exercise of affectionate relationship, and the Sabbath will take an entirely different dimension in our life – a joy, a pleasure, something which I don’t want to pass – so that when the sun sets on Sabbath evening we may feel within ourselves, I wish we could stay here a bit longer; because it is so precious to be with our loving God in affectionate bonds. This is affectionate Sabbath-keeping. What we read in the Spirit of Prophecy in reference to true Sabbath-keeping is to be seen from the perspective of the affections that bind us together with God. May God grant this to us.

Amen.

Posted on May 4, 2017, in Divine Service Sermons, Godly Affections That Motivate Series, Sermons by John Thiel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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