When most of us think of Lent, we immediately think about giving something up—sugar, TV, radio, you name it. Although this season is marked by abstinence, it also can be the busiest time in the church calendar. In many traditions, Lent is packed with special services and religious practices to help us focus on the life of Christ—more prayer, more devotional reading, more church services. But for what purpose?
One obvious answer: These activities help deepen our devotion to Jesus Christ. But if we're honest, we also do these things in part because we believe that they contribute to our sanctification. After all, in order to become more like Christ, you have to imitate him, right?
Amid all the devotion, however, the last thing we think of adding to our Lenten disciplines is observing the Sabbath. This is surprising, since the Bible seems to teach that rest may be the most significant and transformative activity of all.
An 'Above All' Command
It is difficult, and ironic, to imagine rest as the most transformative element in the Christian life. For evangelicals especially, transformation and sanctification are closely linked to activity. We appropriately begin with the idea that our works do not merit justification (being declared righteous by God). We can do nothing to earn our salvation. But most of us imagine we must play an active role in our sanctification, the ongoing process of becoming more like Christ. Sanctification, we assume, involves work and effort on our part.
This is good news to evangelical ears. We like activities. We conduct Bible studies, participate in small groups, and attend prayer meetings. We engage in worship services and outreach. We like inspirational books that teach us how to become better ...