Troublesome Topic: Freedom, Flexibility and Toughness

God Gives Us Freedom to Be Flexible in How We Apply His Principles

If we are honest and genuine about trying to apply God’s principles, we will reap the benefit of a closer relationship with Him even if we do not apply them perfectly. If we choose to ignore God’s principles and justify doing so with some lame excuse, we will only harm ourselves.

I cannot tell you what your day of rest should look like. You need to decide how to apply the Bible’s principles about rest. But do something; don’t just keep going with the flow, because the flow of culture is heading in the wrong direction. You are responsible before God to clearly understand the principles of His word and apply them to your situation. Don’t be like so many other believers who have ignored God’s commands about resting one day a week and justified it with one scheme or another. Apply the principles to your life even within our secularized society and you will reap the corresponding rewards. Even if no one around you is doing this, apply these principles anyway—someone has to start the cycle of change.

Although the Former Covenant was heavy on regulations, and the New Covenant grants flexibility to apply principles, they are not that different in the end. Under the Former Covenant someone who violated the Sabbath suffered the immediate punishment of death; under the New Covenant someone who does not connect with God as God has designed will likely suffer spiritual death as a consequence. Although one was immediate and one is delayed, although one was a direct punishment and the other is a natural consequence, they both end up with the same final result—death. In plain English, violation of God’s Sabbath principles results in death one way or another.

However, God is not an angry old man with a whip waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us, it is simply that connecting with God is so important that God knew He needed to emphasize it strongly. In the Former Covenant God was teaching them what is important, hence the regulations with their strict punishments. In the New Covenant God is teaching us to follow the Holy Spirit, hence the flexibility to follow principles, and consequences instead of punishments. In reality both covenants are equally demanding. We mistake flexibility for the freedom to do what we want. We cannot do whatever we want, but we can apply God’s principles in the way we see fit, keeping in mind that the better we apply those principles, the better the results will be.

So make your day of rest fit who you are, but make it about connection. Don’t use the flexibility God gives you as an excuse to do your own thing and not connect with Him.

You cannot afford to have an “I’ll do the bare minimum” attitude about your day of rest. The spiritual condition of many people who call themselves Christians is characterized by that “bare minimum” attitude and they wonder why they have a weak, unfulfilling relationship with God. Many think that showing up at a worship service for one hour on a Sunday morning means they have connected with God and thus their obligation is fulfilled. That is definitely a “bare minimum” mentality, and it won’t get you very far.

We reap what we sow, and in regard to what I call modern “Churchianity,” we are reaping an artificial type of spirituality that does no one any good. Remember that the more you work at applying the principles of rest to your life the more benefits you will reap.

Be Tough on Yourself

Here is another angle to consider: God knows best, we can trust Him, and, although He gives us the flexibility to apply His principles as we see fit, it is the better part of wisdom to do so as closely as possible to how He told others to do it before us. Although we are not punished by God if we do not stay at home, if we fail to prepare ahead, if we work on Sunday or eat out on Sunday, there were good reasons He gave the regulations He did. The ancient Israelites learned God’s lessons through obeying such regulations. We should consider that we too are likely to learn the principles of Sabbath by observing our Sabbath in ways that follow His pattern closely rather than following the culture around us. I repeat, you are not forced to do it any certain way, and God looks at the heart, but if you are wondering what you should do or not do, I suggest erring on the side of being tough on yourself rather than easy on yourself; I suggest trusting God rather than trusting your instincts; I suggest you work from very little flexibility to greater flexibility as you mature spiritually, rather than adopting an “anything goes” attitude from the beginning.


In the end the admonition to all of us is the same: Connect! It’s not about working or refraining from work, eating out or eating at home, it’s about connecting.

The next lesson is Make It Holy