The Lord’s Day is like a beautiful park that was once full of flowers, neatly groomed trees and bushes, and comfortable benches, but has become completely overgrown, dirty, and uninhabited due to neglect.
The Lord’s Day is what the Christian church has historically called Sundays since Christ’s resurrection. It is the Christian Sabbath day. This is evidenced by John referring to it in Revelation, and Paul referring to gathering with the saints on the first day of the week for hearing God’s word and fellowship over and over in his writings. It is a day set aside for the worship of the Lord, resting in His promises, and doing acts of necessity and mercy.
Many churches today do not teach the importance of the Lord’s Day or do not understand its doctrinal significance. In Reformed churches, it is explained in our historic Confession of Faith which keeps us focused on what we believe.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession states:
Chapter 22 Paragraph 7 & Paragraph 8:
As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he has particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him,28 which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s Day:29 and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.
The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe a holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations,30 but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.31
To many who are not aware or not accustomed to this practice, it sounds restrictive. This brings about questions of legalism and push-back is given. This is an understandable concern because of our secular culture, but this was not a concern for centuries past when the Lord’s Day was observed by most people in our society. This is not a made-up command that we are trying to obey to justify ourselves before the Lord (which would be legalism) but it is joyful obedience to the 4th Commandment (the moral law still being in place) for those whose hearts have been transformed by the gospel.
Further, the Lord’s Day is a gift to us and should be viewed as a delight rather than a restriction. The Puritan pastor John Bunyan called the Lord’s Day “The Market Day of the Soul.” It’s a time to enjoy meditating on the promises of the Lord and setting aside our worldly thoughts, concerns, and duties. It’s a time for corporate worship, private worship, prayer, and reading/listening to things that edify the soul. It’s a day that we set aside talk about work, talk about politics, doing laundry, completing a task for our jobs, getting on Facebook, and other worldly activities to set our minds on things that are above, where Christ is. This is not a cold, restrictive doctrine. It’s a doctrine that is beautiful, freeing, and refreshing.
The key to the day going well is preparation. I take time to prepare each Saturday by getting drinks and snacks ready for the kids (who attend all or most of the worship service with us), laying out clothes, having a plan for breakfast and lunch, having the diaper bag packed, having our Bibles, notebooks, and pens ready to go. There’s gas in the car, and any weekly tasks that needed to get finished (paying bills, grocery shopping, errands, etc) are done.
Inevitably, this causes question about what should be done and not done on the Lord’s Day. I believe there may be some freedom here, but we must remember the principles we’re given. It is a day set aside for rest and worship. Other acts we should do are acts of necessity and mercy. What is certainly required is attending corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. We are called not to neglect this, and this is what the Lord has ordained to strengthen us and build up our faith (the preached word, corporate prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism).
Our family attends corporate worship each Lord’s Day unless someone is too sick to attend. The Lord’s Day is the pinnacle of our week, so nothing else gets scheduled or takes the place of corporate worship. We prepare so that we can have a great day that runs smoothly. Even if we are on vacation, we find a gospel-centered church to attend on Lord’s Day. It’s a priority.
After worship, we usually enjoy a time of fellowship with other believers especially those in our church family. We love hosting lunch at our house as much as we can, but many times others host us as well. We try to keep our conversation on the sermon and the things of the Lord, but this is certainly not perfect. When we get home, we like to have some physical rest by way of a nap or reading a book. Our children enjoy watching either “Pilgrim’s Progress” (animated version), Owlegories (theology for kids on Amazon), or Torchlighters (stories of missionaries and heroes of the faith on Amazon). We will also read them a book that is focused on the gospel or another Bible story. I will do some very basic cleaning up from whatever messes the day has brought due to breakfast, lunch, etc but no more and no special cleaning projects. In the evening, we attend our church’s evening prayer service.
Works of necessity include cleaning up after ourselves, driving our car to worship, cooking and preparing meals, and the like. Works of mercy would be caring for a sick family member or taking them to the hospital, visiting someone who is sick, preparing and delivering a meal to a family in need, volunteering and helping the poor, going on a walk with or visiting an elderly friend, and other charitable acts. We do these acts when we are aware of them.
Understanding this doctrine and putting it into practice was definitely an adjustment for our family, but we can now see the fruit of it. We truly are refreshed and ready for what the week holds when we take an entire day to worship and focus ourselves on the Lord. We are able to truly rest and receive by faith all that God has promised us in Christ. We can now call the Sabbath a delight.
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
*The BEST book I’ve read on this which goes through all of the passages about the Sabbath and making a case for the Christian Sabbath- “The Lord’s Day” by Joseph Pipa
Don’t Blame the Mud: Only Jesus Makes us Clean by Marty Machowski
The Prince’s Poison Cup by RC Sproul
The Moon is Always Round by Jonathan Gibson
Follow Me: Bible Stories for Young Children by Liesbeth Van Binsbergen