I have a confession – I used to celebrate “Super Bowl Sunday” up to a few years ago, but I have repented of it, and in God’s grace been forgiven for doing so. There were many reasons, but the greatest was this: it is “The Lord’s Day” and we are commanded by our God, and particularly Jesus Christ, to keep it holy. Scripture has shown clearly that the Old Testament Sabbath [Saturday], and the Fourth Commandment relating to it, was not destroyed as an obligation to keep under the New Covenant, but fulfilled [Matthew 5:17-19], redeemed [Matthew 28:1-6], and renamed [Revelation 1:10] by Christ, to proclaim the glory of our Saviour accomplishing our eternal rest [Hebrews 4:4-10]. God’s Word calls the new Christian Sabbath [Sunday] “The Lord’s Day”, do you?
Jesus declared “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” [Mark 2:28]. As He did on the seventh day of creation – hallowing that day - He has hallowed the Lord’s Day for his glory. He hallowed the Day: (1) By making it the Day of His resurrection, accomplishing our full salvation; (2) By choosing that Day to pour out the Holy Spirit upon the Church, fulfilling the Old Testament Sabbath celebration of Pentecost; (3) By commanding us to take this Day to be remembered and kept holy to his glory, making it a moral precept codified by a definitive Law; (4) From Creation making the one Day in seven a blessed holy Day where he would especially draw his people into his presence. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, not us; He made the Day for us, not us for the Day; and regardless of legalism that overtakes the Day, and antinomianism that undermines the Day, none of us are justified in doing whatever we please on His day.
It seems many Christians ask the wrong question concerning the Lord’s Day, and what activities are acceptable on it: “Are we allowed to do such and such on Sunday?” or “Is it right for Christians to play sports on Sunday?” These are really awful questions because they seek to treat the day like every other weekday. It is the “Lord’s Day” and the right questions need to be: “What has Christ commanded and called us lawfully to do on His Day?” and “What does God’s Word stipulate as statutes and precepts for keeping the Day holy?” and “Are you keeping the Lord’s Day holy as God commanded?”
- Worshiping the LORD God with His people [Psalm 92, 96, 100; Luke 4:16,31]
- Keeping it holy and remembering to find your rest in Christ [Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Hebrews 4:4-10]
- Guarding the Day against worldly conduct that is lawful the other six days [Nehemiah 13:17-18,22]
- Not defiling the Day by putting your hand to evil [Isaiah 56:2,6]
- Keeping your feet from doing as you please so you may delight in the LORD [Isaiah 58:13-14]
- Humbly doing what is necessary on that Day [Matthew 12:1-8]
- Graciously doing good to others on that Day [Matthew 12:9-14]
- Willingly showing mercy to others on that Day [Matthew 25:37-40 with John 7:23-24]
Are you doing these things in respect of the Lord's Day?
I saw on Facebook several Christian Families posting pictures of their children winning awards and participating in weekend sporting events that occupied their Sunday. In the mix was a news post about Peyton Manning praying, not for a victory, but “to keep both teams injury free, and personally, that I use whatever talent I have to the best of my ability.” And he went on to play and win the Super Bowl, and a few Christians hailed him as a role model for their kids.
How different from the convictions of a man a century ago whose faith in Christ and love for the Lord shook a nation, and stirred the world, when he refused to play sports on the Lord’s Day. He often gave praise to the Lord for his athletic abilities, and was praised internationally for them as well. Yet, when it came to performing on the Lord’s Day he refused. His name – Eric Liddell. And the stakes were no different – Olympic gold medal or Super Bowl Trophy.
Here is what a friend said of Eric Liddell: “Even in the Weihsien Internment Camp, where he was in charge of all sports and athletics, he refused to be responsible for planning Sunday sports.” When high British officials tried to get him to reconsider his principles, suggesting to him that the ‘Continental Sabbath’ was only to midday [meaning ‘you can still go to church and then participate in the Olympics’], he responded “My Sunday is all day.”
Here is what Eric Liddell said: “Obedience to God’s will is the secret of spiritual knowledge and insight. It is not willingness to know, but willingness to do, to obey God’s will that brings certainty…As Christians I challenge you. Have a great aim; have a high standard; make Jesus your ideal…make Him an ideal not merely to be admired, but followed.”
I think I know what role model I would want for my children and grandchildren!