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Having grown up in a mainline church and having taken pride in faithfully attending Sunday service week in and week out, I must admit that I was a bit taken aback during my freshman year of college when one of my hallmates asked me to attend a Sunday evening worship service with him. On the one hand, I was shocked that there even was such a thing. But then also, when I looked into the face of my friend, I could see plainly through his smile that no one was forcing him to go but that he actually wanted to go back to church. “I get to go back to church” was a phrase that I distinctly recall my friend’s uttering.

I was blown away. I didn’t understand what he meant by that phrase or the delight he had in going to a second worship service on Sunday. I would not understand until two years later when I became a Christian. Now, by the grace of God and to my great joy, I get to go back to church to worship my Lord and Savior.

As we consider the subject of holiness and specifically how it applies to the Lord’s Day or the Christian Sabbath, I would like to approach our discussion from just this angle: “I get to go to church.” In other words, we Christians have an immense privilege to worship the Lord on Sunday, and we should delight in doing so.

If delight is at the heart of God’s Sabbath rest, should it not be in ours as well?

The reason that we lead with delight is not only to spare us from the traps of self-righteousness and legalism but also because it was in this way that the Lord God first rested at the creation (Gen. 2:1–7). When the Lord ceased from His work on the Sabbath, He did not do so out of exhaustion or because of some self-imposed edict. Rather, the Lord God ceased because He had finished His work, and “behold, it was very good” (1:31). Therefore, as the theologian Geerhardus Vos once said, God’s rest is more akin to the “joy and satisfaction” attendant to the completion of wonderful work accomplished. God rested in delight. So if delight is at the heart of God’s Sabbath rest, should it not be in ours as well?

Yes, but tragically—like Adam (Gen. 3) and the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings (Heb. 4)—because of our present ongoing “work” of sin and unbelief, we are often barred from entering that delightful rest. Shall we throw off hope? Never. Instead, we should heed today the invitation of our Lord not to harden our hearts in sin but to hear His voice calling us to repentance and faith. We are to believe in the God who sent His beloved Son to accomplish a greater “good work” to redeem us from sin and the curse of the law. And to the praise of His grace, this our Lord Jesus completed once for all, that we might by faith gain everlasting life in Him.

But this juncture is where we come crashing back into our larger topic on holiness and the worship of God on the Lord’s Day, for this is exactly what delighting in God is. It is seeing and loving the God of our salvation and therefore out of the joy set before us setting apart a day, the whole day that He has appointed, to worship Him. Rightfully, we have the holy duty of delight to clear and align our day so that we may best rest in our Lord. This rest is accomplished not through laziness or isolation but with a holy vigor, as we earnestly pursue the service of God in both private and public worship. Indeed, the psalmist, anticipating this joyful service, speaks for all of God’s people when he says:

I was glad when they said to me,
     “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet have been standing
     within your gates, O

Jerusalem—built as a city
     that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
     the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
     to give thanks to the name of the Lord. (Ps 122:1–4)

Or you could just say what my college hallmate said: we “get to go to church.”

Holiness of Body and Soul

A Warning concerning Holiness

Keep Reading The Holiness of God and His People

From the July 2024 Issue
Jul 2024 Issue